Posted Thursday, May 9, 2013, at 6:50 PM
Texas-based Defense Distributed has received an insane amount of media attention in its quest to create an open-source blueprint for a 3-D printable gun. Vice magazine's report from the project remains the best, least-sensationalized look.
This week, Defense Distributed—which had designed a workable extended magazine during the moment when it looked like that might be banned—announced that it had come up with a workable design for a gun. It took around 72 hours for 1) reporters to notice that the gun remained harder and pricier to build than a zip-gun or a black market weapon, and for 2) the Feds to shut this down. Charles Cooke obtained the long explanation:
The Department of State, Bureau of Political Military Affairs, Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance, Enforcement Division (DTCC/END) is responsible for compliance with and civil enforcement of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2778) (AECA) and the AECA’s implementing regulations, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (22 C.F.R. Parts 120-130) (ITAR). The AECA and the ITAR impose certain requirements and restrictions on the transfer of, and access to, controlled defense articles and related technical data designated by the United States Munitions List (USML) (22 C.F.R. Part 121).
The DTCC/END is conducting a review of technical data made publicly available by Defense Distributed through its 3D printing website, DEFCAD.org, the majority of which appear to be related to items in Category I of the USML.
Category I is right here. State's basically telling the DD team that, if it has a gun that works, it needs to be studied and approved. The dream of designing something that could elide the restrictions of current gun laws (including the ban on plastic weapons, set to expire at the end of this year) has been snuffed out. Which makes this a much more disturbing story, and very soon, probably a libertarian cause.
Posted Thursday, May 9, 2013, at 5:42 PM
Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
My inbox occasionally swells with angry letters or petitions calling for the Kochs to be prohibited, somehow, from buying the LA Times or the Tribune company writ large. Just this morning I got a message from the California-based Courage Campaign informing me that "The Koch brothers want to buy the biggest paper in California and the fourth largest in the nation so they can set the debate, not cover it." (As if they're the first rich people to hunger for editorial control of newspapers.)
A few hours later I got this invitation:
W-w-what? Well, as a veteran of the Koch-funded Reason magazine, I can report that the libertarian brothers have always put their money behind immigration reform. Maybe that complicates their newfound (well, 3-year-old) role as all-purpose rich guy demons; they're sponsoring a night of debates intended to nudge along immigration reform. The announcement comes with a Kochworld quote:
"The Charles Koch Institute believes that advancing progress in our communities and the world around us begins by exchanging knowledge and ideas," said Richard Fink, Director of the Charles Koch Institute. "The importance and timeliness of the immigration debate make the need for such thoughtful dialogue imperative. Sponsoring a productive dialogue on this issue is a natural extension of our commitment to advance a free and prosperous society."
It's a major step forward from their 2011 vintage PR campaign: Irritated press releases accusing reporters of lying about them.*
UPDATE: From BuzzFeed's Ashley McCollum:
We were looking to expand our BuzzFeed Brews series and wanted to do something like this summit for a while. The Koch Institute came to us and were thinking on the same wavelength about doing an event which felt serendipitous. Immigration was the right topic at the right time and we're just happy it all came together.
*I edited the end of this item after the fact, to include that Kochworld quote.
Posted Thursday, May 9, 2013, at 4:49 PM
Good news, everyone! The House Republicans have passed a bill that "would allow limited borrowing to make payments to federal bondholders, then Social Security recipients, even if the Treasury is prohibited from borrowing to finance the rest of the government." Democrats call it the "pay China first" bill.
But why is this breaking news? This version of the bill just passed, sure, but Republicans did the exact same thing in 2011. Early on, when it became clear that they were willing to go to the endzone on a debt ceiling increase, Republicans rallied around Pat Toomey's idea to "require the Treasury to make interest payments on our debt its first priority in the event that the debt ceiling is not raised." Democrats called this "pay China first," and kept calling it that as Republicans, bitter that the president was "holding hostage" all of those nice old people and military veterans who counted on federal checks, added them into the proposal.
Honestly, I'm not sure how the media-industrial complex will survive another debt limit battle. There's nothing new to say -- it's like finding deep meaning in Grease 2 or Gary Cherone's versions of classic Van Halen songs.
Posted Thursday, May 9, 2013, at 2:01 PM
Photo by Mary Ann Chastain/Getty Images
Now that we've all moved on from his incredible psychodrama, two or three questions remain about Mark Sanford.
When will he return to Congress? I'm told he'll be sworn in next Wednesday.
Will he retain his seniority? He seems entitled to it—putting those six years he spent in Congress back onto his timecard would actually put him pretty high up in the GOP conference. But it's up to the steering committee to decide.
How will he vote? I tried to figure this out while spending time on the trail. The last actual policy question I asked Sanford, on Tuesday, was about an upcoming vote to raise the debt ceiling. He's campaigned against Elizabeth Colbert Busch's willingness to raise it, and told the Charleston Post-Courier that he couldn't imagine doing so.
That's not what Republicans want to hear. They want to attach tax reform to a debt limit hike. Would Sanford go along?
"You'd have to look at it," he told me. He took the chance to ruminate for a while.
I don't think you can 100 percent prohibit [anything]. Politics is a process of trade-off. Based on what I know now, I'd say no. That's what I have said. Would I make that 1,000 percent prescriptive? Well, it could be the best deal in recorded time. I think that I have a history of looking at things as they come down the pike, trying to be deliberative about doing so. We used to have these sort of Socratic debates, the staff would throw an idea down, whoever was the presenter would have to make case, and then the idea was to pick that person apart. It's what we did at the Virginia business school. We did that with all vetoes in the eight years I had in the governorship. At times it became cannibalistic, really overdone, but my point was: If we can't stand here, debate this idea such that people feel comfortable making that stand, guess what? When I'm talking out here to you all, and I can't defend my viewpoint, I've got nothing to stand on. It would be part of any consideration, whether it's the debt ceiling or anything else.
So the GOP gets another small-government philosopher—one who's actually been an executive, but still.
Posted Thursday, May 9, 2013, at 12:25 PM
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
Ever the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans have been trying to undo the Independent Payment Advisory Board. In PR terms, it's a cinch—who wants to defend a (death) panel that decides which health care options are affordable enough to be paid for by Medicare? When he was dreaming up the empowered MedPAC that became IPAB, Tom Daschle compared it to the Federal Reserve. The Fed is less popular than ever. Like I said, a cinch.
But it's a really well-executed Republican plot. Initially, Democrats (led by Jay Rockefeller) wanted to create an IPAB structure but keep it to five members, appointed by the executive branch. Negotiations turned it into a 15-member panel with congressional nominations. If you asked any Republican in the last three years whether they'd appoint people to IPAB, they'd tell you "no."
They meant it. Emily Pierce has the letter John Boehner and Mitch McConnell wrote to the president:
We write to respond to your March 29, 2013 letter requesting that we submit the names of individuals to serve on the Individual Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which was created in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148). Because the law will give IPAB’s 15 unelected, unaccountable individuals the ability to deny seniors access to innovative care, we respectfully decline to recommend appointments.
The rest of the letter is boilerplate about why Republicans opposed and oppose Obamacare because the White House really hadn't heard that before.
Posted Thursday, May 9, 2013, at 11:11 AM
Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images
Chris Lewis crystallizes the meme proffered by opponents of the Michigan Emergency Manager Law. Up to now, opponents of the law that allows a state-appointed bureaucrat to rule a city until certain goals are met had been criticized as "un-democratic." That it is, of course, though the residents of these cities had the chance to vote for their governor and state legislators. But the new meme, as a subhed-author puts it for Lewis, is that the disproportionate black populations of this city should disturb us. Now that Detroit's fallen under the yoke, half the state's black population is living under EMs. Taking away the Detroit resident's ability to vote for mayor? That's the "new Jim Crow."
Lewis himself is a little more circumspect, quoting the people suing or supporting the lawsuit to overturn the law.
"The overall health of a community depends on people's sense of having a stake in it," said David Bullock, pastor of two Detroit area churches and founder of the civic group Change Agent Consortium. "Emergency management just works against long-term stability and health for communities, because the people on the ground feel like they don't have any voice or value."
One problem with this: Confidence in their elected officials was collapsing before the EM came to town. Detroit's previous elected mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, won two terms on low turnout, then went to jail on a total of 26 felony counts. The city council president elevated by his resignation, Monica Conyers, went to jail, too. And the problem runs deeper than that, with a total lack of faith in city services. (Watch some of Charlie LeDuff's dispatches from the city about the length of time it takes to get cops to show up after a 911 call.) By the way, the emergency manager hired to preside over this, Kevyn Orr, is black. Does that matter? It complicates the "Jim Crow" huffing a little, doesn't it?
Perhaps the D.C. reporter's perspective on this is skewed. We're able to choose some of our elected officials. We can vote for president and vice president; we can vote for D.C. council, mayor, ANC, and and school board. But we can't vote for Congress, and Congress* retains a vast degree of control and oversight over the city. This horrifying un-democratic state of affairs has been in place during a time of economic growth, lower crime, and more movement into the city. The EMs have worked in other Michigan cities hollowed out by closed factories. Whether they work is more important than whether voters, for a few years, have the opportunity to approve of a government they don't trust.
*This originally read "contains" instead of Congress. Why? An excellent and unanswerable question.
Posted Thursday, May 9, 2013, at 10:21 AM
My riff on the Benghazi hearings, with an assist from Emma Roller, focuses on the most disturbing part of the story. If you're not overly concerned with the talking points (which even in their original version suggested that a "demonstration" was used as a cover for attacks) and you're glum about the the facts leading up to the attacks (embassy security), you might still be outraged that soldiers weren't sent in ASAP to defend the consulate. Yet as we found, DOD was admitting its reasons for not doing so a full eight months ago, before the election. The focus on whether a "stand down order" was given appeals to a sense of injustice and anger at cowardice, but it's hard to satisfy.
Posted Thursday, May 9, 2013, at 8:37 AM
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
Marc Ambinder has had it up to here with your Benghazi conspiracies, you.
Really, to suggest that the Pentagon or the White House would deliberately — and yes, this is EXACTLY what Republicans are suggesting — prevent special operations forces from rescuing American diplomats BECAUSE they worried about the potential political blowback because they KNEW exactly who was behind it (al Qaeda) is — well, it is to suggest that Barack Obama is simply and utterly evil.
Jonathan Martin reports from the Palmetto State on the waning threat against Lindsey Graham. In general Graham's at his best when he's twinning a battle with the Obama administration—Benghazi, for the moment—and a goal that alienates conservatives, like immigration.
Jeet Heer thinks hard on Niall Ferguson's gay joke about Keynes.
Kay Steiger looks at Live Action's narrative gamesmanship.
Ron Capshaw dives deep on Stephen King's gun control views, from fiction to non.
Dylan Matthews finds that the co-author of Heritage's immigration study, Jason Richwine, wrote his dissertation on innate IQ differences:
While it’s clear he thinks it is partly due to genetics — “the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ” — he argues the most important thing is that the differences in group IQs are persistent, for whatever reason. He writes, “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.”
Posted Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 4:46 PM
Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
There's no doubt the testimony in today's hearing on the Benghazi attack was riveting and emotional—two of the three witnesses choked up during their testimony while talking about the four embassy employees who were killed the night of Sept. 11, 2012. But aside from the timeline of events (which was fascinating to hear firsthand—more on that later) it revealed little new information about the State Department's supposed culpability in mishandling the attack.
Here's what I found was the most interesting exchange from the hearing: Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) prodded the witness Gregory Hicks, the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, about the State Department's "stand down" order. That's the allegation that State told a Special Forces team based in Tripoli to not fly to Benghazi to help evacuate embassy personnel there. The thing is, none of the witnesses actually uttered the magic words "stand down" in their testimony (as far as I heard), so there is some news in that Hicks is now basically saying the Pentagon lied.
First, here's what a Pentagon spokesman told USA Today this week:
Maj. Robert Firman, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday, "There was never any kind of stand-down order to anybody."
On Tuesday, Firman said the military is trying to assess the incident Hicks is referring to, but the aircraft in question wound up evacuating a second wave of Americans from Benghazi to Tripoli, not transporting rescuers to a firefight.
And here's the exchange from today's hearing, starting around the 3-minute mark:
Turner: Now, do you know why they were told to stand down? Did Colonel Gibson give you any information or understanding?
Hicks: I actually don’t know why.
Turner: Is there any reason to believe that the situation in Benghazi was over? There were a number of series of attacks, as you’ve described it to us. Any reason to describe that there was no longer any danger in Benghazi?
Hicks: No, it was every reason to continue to believe that our personnel were in danger.
Turner: Mr. Hicks, Mr. Chaffetz has given me an article that appeared in USA Today just this week. And just as early as last Monday, Major Robert Firman, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the military's account that was first issued weeks after the attacks hasn’t changed. “There was never any kind of stand-down order to anybody.” Now, that’s a pretty broad statement, “anybody.” What’s your reaction to the quote by Mr. Firman?
Hicks: I can only again repeat that Lieutenant Colonel Gibson said he was not to proceed to board the airplane.
Turner: So your first-hand experience being on the site, standing next to Colonel Gibson, who was on his way on that C-130 transport and being told not to go, contradicts what Mr. Firman is saying on behalf of the Pentagon?
Hicks: Yes sir.
Later, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) asked Hicks who gave Lt. Col. Gibson the "stand-down" order. "He did not identify the person," Hicks said. And therein lies you know what.
Posted Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 1:07 PM
I have returned from real America with this piece about the wild night Mark Sanford returned to the bosom of electoral politics. It conveys, hopefully, the sense among the people who worked for Sanford, and forgave him, that doing so was the best way to fulfill a religious case and to reveal God's grace.
The people horrified by Sanford's return to Washington have usually couched this as outrage at hypocrisy. How could social conservatives forgive such a public affair? What a lot of those conservatives told me was that Sanford had been honest -- he only fibbed and evaded the truth for a week -- and that he'd suffered enough. To me, that raises a question about a totally forgotten brand of hypocrisy. Why would a citizen politician, a guy who proudly refused to live in Washington and slept instead on his congressional office cot, feel such a need to return? Why would the approval of voters, after he personally groveled and apologized to him, be the best way to feel divine forgiveness?
Anyway, it's all in that piece.