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March 29, 2010
The Hutaree Militia bust
Posted by Teresa at 09:14 PM * 320 comments

Anent the discussion that’s been going on in the Kristallnacht Revisited thread: over this past weekend, the FBI and ATF conducted raids in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, arresting eight members of Hutaree, a Michigan-based Christian militia group. A ninth member is still at large. They’ve been indicted for seditious conspiracy, attempting to use weapons of mass destruction, teaching/demonstrating the use of explosive materials, and carrying, using, and possessing firearms in relation to a crime of violence.

Elevator pitch version: The Hutaree militia, an anti-government extremist organization, headquartered in (but by no means limited to) Michigan, advocates violence against local, state and federal law enforcement. It views them as “foot soldiers” for the federal government and a sinister “New World Order,” both of which the Hutaree identifies with the Antichrist. Government prosecutors are alleging that the Hutaree plotted to murder a law enforcement officer, set off a high-powered explosive device at the officer’s funeral in order to kill more law enforcement officers, hole up at prearranged fortified “rally points,” and issue a general call for an anti-government uprising.

Some of the riches of the web: here’s the government’s press release. TPM has the basic story plus mug shots. The BBC has a picture of Hutaree’s unit insignia. The “CCR” stands for “Colonial Christian Republic.” CBS has a photo swiped from Hutaree’s website showing members in their cammie jammies. Hutaree’s website is currently inaccessible, but their YouTube channel is still up. TPM has watched the videos, and points out that “Pale Horse,” one of the men arrested, put up a video warning citizens to arm themselves shortly before Obama was elected. The Southern Poverty Law Center noticed the video when it went up, and expressed concern. (The Detroit Free Press and the Christian Science Monitor agree with them.) Hutaree also put up a video showing them burning a UN flag. This is in line with an article that was on their site, “10 Horns of the European Super State, Mr. Europe and 7 years of peace in Israel,” which you can still find summarized here and reproduced without permission there. (I recommend the summarized version. Central argument: Javier Solana may be the Antichrist!) Here’s a partial version of Hutaree’s website on Wayback. Also on Wayback: Hutaree’s religious doctrine, which doesn’t say much about them. And Hutaree’s rank system, which is bizarre: Gunner, Senior Gunner, Master Gunner, Lukore, Bronze Rifleman, Silver Rifleman, Gold Rifleman, Arkon, Zulif, Boramander, and Radok. Jim’s not in a position to check, but he thinks the weird ones might be borrowed from the Enochian system (which as you know, Bob, was invented by Edward Kelly when he was trying to get into John Dee’s bank account and Mrs. Dee’s pants.) (Update! “Justin” in the comment thread at Language Log has this one nailed: “According to http://www.hutaree.com/forum/read.php?12,140,140 , Hutaree’s from a conlang of what I assume is one of the followers. It means ‘Christian Warrior’. I’d gather that the other ranks are from the same conlang.” He quotes an entry from the Hutaree forum by one RD-Merzonik, February 20, 2009 06:43AM, which says, “The word Hutaree, is from our own dilect, there are only about 4 people in the world that know this language, of course me being 1,lol.” This makes me feel very cheerful about having described their nomenclature (vide infra) as “bad fantasy slush names.”)

But I very nearly digress. (Did I mention that Wikipedia has referred the Hutaree entry to articles for deletion? Never mind.) Onward.

Michigan is oversupplied with militia groups, but insofar as militia enthusiasts have been heard from, they’re busily distancing themselves from the Hutaree:

Michael Lackomar, a spokesman for the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, said one of his team leaders got a frantic phone call Saturday evening from members of Hutaree, a Christian militia group, who said their property in southwest Michigan was being raided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“They said they were under attack by the ATF and wanted a place to hide,” Lackomar said. “My team leader said, ‘no thanks.’ ”

Lackomar allowed that while eight or ten Hutaree members had trained with the SMVM twice in the past three years (SMVM holds monthly “survival training and shooting practice” sessions), none of the raids had focused on his group. He also pronounced Hutaree’s alleged methods “despicable.”

How big is the Hutaree? Good question. Three datapoints: first, it was a three-state raid. Second, Telegraph.co.uk interviewed one of the neighbors:

On Saturday, agents swarmed a rural, wooded property belonging to the group, about 70 miles southwest of Detroit. Phyllis Brugger, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years, said some people who lived there were known as having ties to militia. They would shoot guns and often wore camouflage, according to Mrs Brugger and her daughter, Heidi Wood.

“Everybody knew they were militia,” she said. “You don’t mess with them.”

About a month ago, 50 vehicles showed up on the property, and the women said neighbours assumed something bad was going on.

Needless to say, that many cars implies a sizeable organization. Third, there’s this bit from the indictment (so remember to say “alleged”):
On or about February 6, 2010, several conspirators attempted to travel to Kentucky to attend a summit of militia groups convened by DAVID BRIAN STONE. … The purpose of the summit of militia groups was to facilitate better communications, cooperation, and coordination between the various militias.
The group’s exact size must remain indeterminate, but we’re not looking at a case of folie à neuf ou dix.

Are the Hutaree religious extremists or anti-government extremists? I’d say the latter. Their religious doctrine is barely there. They may talk a lot about Jesus, but their timing and plans appear to be driven by secular concerns.

The clearest account of the government’s case is the indictment itself. You can read the whole pdf here or here. Alternately, you can read the good parts version right here, because I’ve transcribed it:

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
SOUTHERN DIVISION

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

Plaintiff,

vs.

D-1 DAVID BRIAN STONE, a.k.a. “RD,” a.k.a. “Joe Stonewall,” a.k.a. “Captain Hutaree,”
D-2 DAVID BRIAN STONE, JR., a.k.a. “Junior,”
D-3 JOSHUA MATTHEW STONE, a.k.a. “Josh,”
D-4 TINA MAE STONE,
D-5 JOSHUA JOHN CLOUGH, a.k.a “Azzurlin,” a.k.a. “Az,” a.k.a. “Mouse,” a.k.a. “Jason Z. Charles,”
D-6 MICHAEL DAVlD MEEKS, a.k.a. “Mikey,
D-7 THOMAS WILLIAM PIATEK,
D-8 KRISTOPHER T. SICKLES, a.k.a. “Pale Horse,”
D-9 JACOB J. WARD, a.k.a. “Jake,” a.k.a. “Nate,” a.k.a. “Guhighllo,”

Defendants.

I’m sure there are good and necessary legal reasons why every time their names come up, they’re all-caps with a full list of aliases following them. I figure you guys can take those bits as read, so I cut out most of the repeats. Wherever I’ve included one of their names all-caps, followed by an ellipsis, you can assume I’m skipping their aliases.
INDICTMENT

THE GRAND JURY CHARGES THAT:

GENERAL ALLEGATIONS

At all relevant times described herein, there existed an organization known as the: “HUTAREE”, based in Lenawee County Michigan, which is an anti-government extremist organization which advocates violence against local, state, and Federal law enforcement.

The defendants, DAVID BRIAN STONE, a.k.a. “RD,” a.k.a. “Joe Stonewall,” a.k.a. “Captain Hutaree,” DAVID BRIAN STONE, JR., a.k.a. “Junior,” JOSHUA MATTHEW STONE, a.k.a. “Josh,” TINA MAE STONE, JOSHUA JOHN CLOUGH, a.k.a. “Azzurlin,”a.k.a. “Az,” a.k.a. “Mouse,” a.k.a. “Jason Z. Charles,” MICHAEL DAVID MEEKS, a.k.a. “Mikey,” THOMAS WILLIAM PIATEK, KRISTOPHER T. SICKLES, a.k.a. “Pale Horse,” JACOB J. WARD, a.k.a. “Jake,” a.k.a. “Nate,” a.k.a. “Guhighllo,” and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, are members of the HUTAREE. Some HUTAREE members are identifiable by their tiger stripe camouflage uniforms with a distinct shoulder patch which contains a black cross, two brown vertical pillars which form the letter “H” in combination with the black cross, two red spears, a brown V shape at the base of the cross symbolizing the supporting hands of the HUTAREE, and the initials “CCR.”

The HUTAREE’s enemies include state and local law enforcement, who are deemed “footsoldiers” of the Federal government, Federal law enforcement agencies and employees, participants in the “New World Order,” and anyone who does not share in the HUTAREE’s beliefs.

Since at least 2008, the HUTAREE has been meeting regularly to conduct military-style training in Lenawee County, located in the Eastern District of Michigan, and elsewhere. The purpose of this training has been to plan and prepare for the impending war with the HUTAREE’s enemies.

As used herein, the term “weapon of mass destruction” has the meaning set forth in Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332a(c)(2), including any destructive device as defined in Title 18, United States Code, Section 921.

COUNT ONE
(18 U.S.C. 2384 — SEDITIOUS CONSPIRACY)

(Skipped list of names.)
From on or about August 16, 2008, and continuing thereafter up to and including the date of the filing of this indictment, in the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, and elsewhere, the defendants … acting as a militia group known as the HUTAREE, did knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and other persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to levy war against the United States, to oppose by force the authority of the Government of the United States, and to prevent, hinder, and delay by force the execution of any United States law.
Various parties—Firedoglake comes to mind—have been complaining that the government is charging the Hutaree with seditious conspiracy and with trying to use WMDs, rather than calling it terrorism. I can think of one really good reason to do that. “Terrorism” is an inadequately precise and excessively exciting term that makes it hard to pin down what we’re talking about. In the years since 9/11 it’s been misused and overused like crazy. Why not go back to using the serviceable legal language and concepts that existed long before the planes hit the towers? Terrorism is a tactic. Seditious conspiracy is a definable action.
THE MEANS AND METHODS USED TO FURTHER THE OBJECTS OF THE CONSPIRACY

At all relevant times described herein, the defendant DAVID BRIAN STONE … has been the principal leader of the HUTAREE and he has organized the HUTAREE into two operational units led by himself and one of his sons, defendant JOSHUA MATTHEW STONE. … Another son, defendant DAVID BRIAN STONE, JR. … served as an explosives instructor and demonstrator, and participated in operational planning and training. The defendant DAVID BRIAN STONE … also established a HUTAREE rank structure, assigned HUTAREE names to members of the organization, and created HUTAREE words for various military formations and maneuvers.

Bad fantasy slush names. According to the Hutaree, their group’s name means “Christian warrior,” but I have yet to see anyone identify the language that comes from.

Pay attention to the next paragraph. The Hutaree plan that all the mainstream news sources are citing was only one of their ideas.

The general concept of operations provided that the HUTAREE would commit some violent act to draw the attention of law enforcement or government officials and which would prompt a response by law enforcement. Possible such acts which were discussed included killing a member of law enforcement after a traffic stop, killing a member of law enforcement and his or her family at home, ambushing a member of law enforcement in rural communities, luring a member of law enforcement with a false 911 emergency call and then killing him or her, and killing a member of law enforcement and then attacking the funeral procession motorcade with weapons of mass destruction. These acts would intimidate and demoralize law enforcement, diminishing their ranks and rendering them ineffective.
These people may be doofuses, but they have ugly imaginations, and they act on them.
The general concept of operations further provided that, once such action was taken, HUTAREE members would then retreat to one of several “rally points” where the HUTAREE would wage war against the government and be prepared to defend in depth with trip-wired and command detonated anti-personnel Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), ambushes, and prepared fighting positions. It is believed by the HUTAREE that this engagement would then serve as a catalyst for a more wide-spread uprising against the Government.

The conspirators planned for and trained for the armed conflict against local, state, and Federal law enforcement by engaging in the following means and methods, among others, within the Eastern District of Michigan and elsewhere:

a. Conspirators acquired firearms, magazines, and ammunition, explosives and other components for destructive devices, uniforms, communications equipment, supply and ammunition vehicles, and medical and other supplies.

b. Conspirators engaged in military-style training in anticipation of the planned for military operations to include firearms and explosives training, weapons proficiency drills, patrolling and reconnaissance exercises, close quarter battle drills, and “man-down” drills, and prepared defensive fighting positions, ambush kill zones, and storage bunkers. During these training sessions, each conspirator in attendance carried and used at least one firearm. This training has also included instruction and demonstrations regarding the manufacturing and use of destructive devices and weapons of mass destruction.

c. DAVID BRIAN STONE … planned the killing of an unidentified member of local law enforcement. As a consequence of this act, law enforcement officers from throughout the nation would be drawn to and gather in the Eastern District of Michigan for the funeral. According to the plan, the HUTAREE would then attack law enforcement vehicles during the funeral procession with Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) with Explosively Formed Projectiles (EFP). Subsequently, and in furtherance of this plan, DAVID BRIAN STONE … obtained information about such devices over the internet and emailed diagrams of such devices to a person he believed capable of manufacturing the devices. Also, in furtherance of this plan, JOSHUA MATTHEW STONE … and others provided materials necessary for the manufacturing of such devices at the direction of DAVID BRIAN STONE. …

EFPs are nasty.
d. DAVID BRIAN STONE … also announced to conspirators a covert reconnaissance exercise scheduled for April 2010, during which exercise anyone who happened upon the exercise who did not acquiesce to HUTAREE demands could be killed. DAVID BRIAN STONE further advised his conspirators that HUTAREE training scheduled for February and March would be devoted to preparing for this exercise.
One non-Hutaree militia type in Michigan is being quoted as saying that the government targeted Hutaree because of their anti-Muslim sentiments, but I’m not sure I believe that. I think they were targeted because they’re simultaneously the loosest of loose cannons and genuinely dangerous, and the government busted them when they did because they were about to put potentially violent plans into action.

I think the government’s been watching these guys for a while now.

e. On or about February 6, 2010, several conspirators attempted to travel to Kentucky to attend a summit of militia groups convened by DAVID BRIAN STONE. … The purpose of the summit of militia groups was to facilitate better communications, cooperation, and coordination between the various militias. In anticipation of the summit, DAVID BRIAN STONE … solicited a person he believed capable of manufacturing destructive devices to provide him with four anti-personnel Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) to take with them to the summit. Although weather conditions prevented them from reaching their destination, DAVID BRIAN STONE … identified law enforcement officers in a specific community near his residence, and one officer in particular, as potential targets of attack.
Vague plans and big talk are one thing. Narrowing it down to one group of officers, and one officer within that group, is specific intent, and they were acting on it (allegedly).
f. On or about February 20, 2010, conspirators gathered in Lenawee County in the Eastern District of Michigan and engaged in training devoted to preparing for the planned covert reconnaissance exercise described above. Each of the conspirators in attendance carried and used at least one firearm.
The General Allegations are incorporated by reference, as if set forth in full herein, all in violation of Section 2384 of Title 18 of the United States Code.

COUNT TWO
(18 U.S.C. 2332a(a)(2) — ATTEMPT TO USE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

Summary: it is alleged that they attempted to use explosive bombs, explosive mines, and other explosive devices against law enforcement officers and vehicles; and that they used “facilities of interstate commerce” (email, internet, telephones), and crossed state lines and caused others to cross state lines, in furtherance of the offense.
COUNT THREE
(18 U.S.C. 842(p)(2) — TEACHING/DEMONSTRATING USE OF EXPLOSIVE MATERIALS)
This is a separate charge covering David Brian Stone, Jr., teaching and demonstrating explosives technology, and both Davids Brians Stone distributing information about it with the intent that it be used for or in furtherance of a Federal crime of violence.
COUNT FOUR
(18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1) — CARRYING, USING, AND POSSESSING A FIREARM DURING AND IN RELATION TO A CRIME OF VIOLENCE)

COUNT FIVE
(18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1) — CARRYING, USING, AND POSSESSING A FIREARM DURING AND IN RELATION TO A CRIME OF VIOLENCE)

The last two counts are nearly self-explanatory. For those of you who aren’t familiar with U.S. law, many criminal offenses become more serious if you crossed state lines in the course of them, and most criminal offenses become more serious if you were carrying a gun at the time.

Since I have no chance of getting called for jury duty on this case, I’m free to air my prejudices. I’m glad they busted the Hutaree. They’re not criminal masterminds, but few criminals are. These guys sound like they’re competent enough to be dangerous.

Are there other militia groups out there whose plans are as wicked and as concretely plausible, if not more so? I’d say that’s a given. And I hope the government is watching them too.

Update: P J Evans and Rea differentiate counts four and five:

P J Evans @15: Counts 4 and 5 don’t involve the same people. Some of them are named in both, but some are only named in one.

Rea @32: Two different dates: Count IV is an incident in August 2009; Count V is an incident in February 2010.

And so they are. Thank you both.

March 24, 2010
Kristallnacht, Revisited
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:10 PM * 600 comments

Today, at CNN. The story is called “House Democrats report increased threats since health care vote.”

An Alabama-based blog, called “Sipsey Street Irregulars,” says it has launched a so-called “window war” against Democrats and has kept a tally of the recent incidents of damage, including ones in New York and Kansas.

Blogger Michael B. Vanderboegh of Pinson, Alabama, said Monday that in a Friday blog, he called for people to break windows at Democratic headquarters at the city and county level. He said he didn’t call for the damages to congressional offices because, “I didn’t want to be responsible for anybody breaking a federal law.”

However, “I can understand how someone can be frustrated enough to throw a brick through a congresswoman’s window,” Vanderboegh said. He said he feels the health care bill is “unconstitutional and tyrannical.”

“My answer is violence, by getting their attention,” he said, adding, “If we can get across to the other side that they are within inches of provoking a civil war in this country, then that’s a good thing.”

Terrorism is the use of force or violence against persons or property in violation of the criminal laws of the United States for purposes of intimidation, coercion, or ransom. I do wonder what the Homeland Security folks are doing about these guys. (Probably nothing, since they aren’t named Mohammad, don’t dress funny, and aren’t brown.)

There’s another name for what the Tea Baggers are doing. I’m waiting for a group of them to get together in a beer hall to install the Permanent Republican Majority.

The ongoing campaign to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment
Posted by Teresa at 11:34 AM *

I don’t know whether you spotted the story amidst all the noise and fluster of getting Health Care Reform passed, but Texas congressman Louie Gohmert proposed that one way to fight health care would be to abolish the direct election of senators, and go back to having them be appointed by the good ol’ boys in their state legislatures. It’s remarkable how many rightwingers have redefined “democracy” as “the Republicans automatically win,” and how quick they are to denounce democratic institutions that don’t produce that result.

However, Gohmert’s attempt to link repealing the Seventeenth Amendment with right-wing fury over health care reform isn’t so much random as it is opportunistic. The Far Right’s been arguing for an end to the direct election of senators for some time now. The easiest way to see this is by Googling the search string repeal “seventeenth amendment” OR “17th amendment” -“2010”.

And what principle do they claim to be defending? States’ rights, of course!

March 23, 2010
Etc
Posted by Patrick at 04:47 PM * 88 comments

Combining this website’s preoccupations with the Netherlands and emergency services, here’s a Flickr photoset dramatically documenting the rescue today, by bystanders, of a man who nearly drowned in an Amsterdam canal.

Elsewhere:

Instant political folklore.

Merlin Mann preaches the truth, brother, truth:

Perform automated, redundant, and rotated backups as often as you can afford to lose every single bit of information that’s been changed or added since your last backup. Because it’s going to go away.

Seriously:

  • If it’s not automated, it’s not a real backup.
  • If it’s not redundant, it’s not a real backup.
  • If it’s not regularly rotated off-site, it’s not a real backup.
Finally: Having frequent meaningful conversations makes us happier. “It may sound counterintuitive, but people who spend more of their day having deep discussions and less time engaging in small talk seem to be happier, said Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona who published a study on the subject.” It “may sound counterintuitive”? Counterintuitive? On what planet?

Boomderedux
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:25 AM * 241 comments

First there was a really geeky video.

Then there was a pastiche in the comment threads.

Then there was a conspiracy.

Happy anniversary, Patrick and Teresa, with love from Making Light.

March 21, 2010
Crash on the levee, mama
Posted by Patrick at 07:13 PM *

Aware of Making Light’s long interest in floods, disaster preparation, and the Twin Cities, correspondent Elise Matthesen writes to alert us of an interesting few days on the way:

Want to see a MEANINGFUL graphic, especially to those of us in Minneapolis and St. Paul right now? Flood Water Converging At St Paul. We’re at 16.06 feet. Flood level is 14. And there’s more water to come, when the Crow River, the Minnesota River, and the St. Croix all pass along their rising burdens to the Mississipi.

It’s not just St. Paul, of course, and not just the Mississipi by any means. The region including Minnesota, North Dakota, and Manitoba has a history of some pretty impressive floods. As you may remember, Bob, the Red River and the Missouri River conspired to have some rather major flood action in 1997; I refer to the time Grand Forks burned, fell over, and sank into the swamp—OK, not exactly, but close.

Yup, I said “Manitoba.” I live in a place where some rivers drain south to the Gulf of Mexico, and some drain north to Hudson’s Bay. We’ve got the Mississippi and its tributaries including the Minnesota and Missouri and the St. Croix, and we’ve got la Rivière rouge, or the Red River — which is often called the Red River of the North around here, to distinguish it from the Red River that flows into the Mississippi. (The MIssissipi is just called the Mississippi around here, even though there’s a Mississippi River in Ontario.) And check out this excellent story with historical info and context, which mentions the facts that In 2009, flood level stayed above the official flood stage for 61 days, and that the Red River has reached flood stage for 18 consecutive years.

Meanwhile, back in St. Paul, folks are planning for the next few days, when the crest will reach us. It sounds like St. Paul is about as ready as we can get, according to the Pioness Press. There are various road closings and re-routes. Various fans of upcoming events, including Black Eyed Peas fans, might get their feet wet, but probably only if they do it on purpose by walking over to check out the flood zone and dipping a toe into it.

If you want to check out the flood zone without being in range of getting your feet wet, here: have a look at the live St. Paul floodcam.

Stay dry, Mipple-stipplites!

March 19, 2010
Empathy failed
Posted by Avram Grumer at 06:05 PM *

Peter Watts has been found guilty of being assaulted by a border guard. The actual charge was obstructing a border officer. The other charges were refuted in court, but there remained the fact that Watts, having just been punched twice in the head, did not immediately drop to the ground when ordered to do so, instead asking what the problem was. Apparently, this is a felony.

Sentencing still to come.

Update: Also, see Terry Karney. (via Nancy Lebovitz)

March 17, 2010
Open thread 137
Posted by Teresa at 06:10 PM *

Mike Ford’s bar joke:

Werner Heisenberg, Kurt Gödel, and Noam Chomsky walk into a bar. Heisenberg says, “It’s very odd and improbable that we three are in this bar together. It suggests to me that we’re in a joke, but I can’t be certain.”

Gödel says, “Well, if we were outside the joke we would know, but since we’re inside it, there’s no way we can make that determination.”

And Chomsky says, “Of course this is a joke, but you’re telling it wrong!”

(With thanks to Jo and Emmet.)

March 14, 2010
En Nu Iets Compleet Anders
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 11:12 AM * 152 comments

Tired of the wrangling over health care reform and gay marriage, the defense of torture, the Tea and Coffee parties, the endlessly binary view of politics? Well, I have a solution for you. We’re in an election cycle here in the Netherlands, after the government fell (and fell hard) in February, and it’s like nothing you’ve seen in the English-speaking world.

We have a controversial figure who tries to make the entire conversation about himself. We have two major-party resignations on the same day, both to spend more time with their families. We have parties moving left and still picking up right-wing polling numbers, witness parties both religious and animal-rights, socialists, greens and populists.

And best of all, we have someone explaining it all in clear and accessible English.

Peter-Paul Koch, known in the usability community for his browser compatibility work, has recently collected his intermittent articles on Dutch politics (which I’ve been reading since I moved here) into a separate blog. His original plan to create a comprehensive view of the subject by 2011 has been rushed by recent events, and he’s risen wonderfully to the occasion.

The best place to start is probably with his brief introduction to the history and structure of the current system. He’s planning to do a series of posts delving into the deep history of the political culture (his first one is intricate and fascinating; I await the rest with real interest). Proceduralists should check out his explanation of the rules of the game; numbers geeks and chartists might want to spend some time in the parliament composition graphs and tables of political alignments of governments. And his recently-added poll review has a neat coalition-forming game that calculates the stability of the various possible governments.

But the main politics blog is where the action is. There is an ongoing sequence of profiles of the alphabet soup of Dutch political parties, complete with a brave but doomed attempt to map them to US parties. He’s been tracking and commenting on polls and debates as they happen, watching the impact of recent local elections and party political reshuffles on the big picture, and summarizing political news in his intermittent “small fry” posts.

This is addictive, compulsive reading, even if you’re not in the Netherlands (I call PNH as a witness here; he’s begun starting IM conversations not with “Good morning” but with “Bos retired from politics? WTF?”). It’s a topic as fascinating and complex as only politics could be, explained clearly and amusingly by someone whose training as both a historian and a user experience expert pays off. In fact, the only thing I really disagree with Peter-Paul on is this statement of his mission:

he follows Dutch politics for the benefit of those twelve foreigners that are interested in such matters, as well as his Dutch readers.

Anyway, go look. Iz neat stuff.


Edited to add:
If you want to figure out where you would stand in this political spectrum, try this profiler from last year’s European elections (the Dutch politics page has an English-language option). Further interesting profilers may also be found at Kieskompas, a site I’ve discussed before on Making Light.

March 09, 2010
Apology for lossage
Posted by Patrick at 07:03 AM *

The good news is that Making Light was moved to a new and more studly server last night. The bad news is that we were down from just before 10PM (EST) until just after midnight, and when we came back to life, we’d lost a number of comments posted just before the plug was pulled. If any of those comments were yours, we’re really sorry—we didn’t delete anything on purpose.

UPDATE: Okay, now we seem to have the missing comments, but the stuff posted since is gone. Investigating now. For the moment, it’s probably best to either refrain from posting anything, or keep a copy for yourself if it’s important. We’ll sound the giant civil-alert All Clear klaxon as soon as the fabric of reality stops shaking.

UPDATE, Thursday, March 11: Honk honk ah-OO-gah, etc. It does look like we’re stable. Sorry I haven’t extracted and reposted the missing comments yet; it’s been a busy two days. Will do so soon.

March 07, 2010
Composing the rejected canon
Posted by Patrick at 04:23 PM * 361 comments

At McSweeney’s, some years back, Mollie Wilson O’Reilly posted a list of Rejected Titles for Hymns.

The Making Light commentariat is invited to, as a festive exercise*, compose one or more verses fleshing out any of the titles Wilson lists.

I’ll start:

O saints who died in gruesome ways
Thy martyrdom we see—
Beheaded, broiled, stretched on the rack
Or nailed to a tree

O saints who died in gruesome ways
We lovingly depict
Your instruments of martyrdom—
Swords, braziers, and icepicks

O saints who died in gruesome ways
Impaled or drowned in bogs,
Cut up, or skinned, or shot from guns
Or set upon by dogs

O saints who died in gruesome ways
We picture you on charms
And venerate the garishness
With which you bought the farm

O saints who died in gruesome ways
Without you there would be
Far fewer students in the field
Of hagiography

Abi Sutherland wishes me to note that, historically, it has frequently happened that multiple (very) different hymns would share the same title. So multiple versions of any of these can co-exist as well.


* In connection with whatever feast or festival you prefer. Tomorrow, March 8, is the feast day of St. Philemon of Antinoe, bound hand and foot and then drowned, c. 305 AD.

March 06, 2010
Note sent to an eBay vendor
Posted by Teresa at 12:19 PM * 88 comments

Item: VINTAGE ITALIAN DUCK WALL FOUNTAIN

Note sent via eBay:

Hi there —

I could be wrong about this, but what that looks like to me is a holy water font. If so, the water dispenser above it is a dove, not a duck.

I freely admit that it looks more like a duck, but you just don’t see a lot of ducks used as holy water dispensers.

Cheers —

No blame at all on the vendor. They pick this stuff up at estate sales. She’s not in the same league as the one I saw who’d listed a folkloric old scapular as a pincushion meant to hang round your neck while you’re sewing.

Addenda: Immediately after posting this, I clicked through on the link to make sure it worked, and found the vendor had already retitled the auction VINTAGE ITALIAN DUCK WALL FOUNTAIN holy water font. I’m impressed. That’s faster than Cory Doctorow.

More: The vendor further replies:

You may be right on the holy … but them webbed feet scream duck … thanks
Ghu! She’s right. I’d thought those brass bits were mounting hardware, but after peering hard at the large versions of the photos, I’m forced to agree that they’re webbed feet.

It’s a holy water font. With a duck.

Further addendum: Debra Doyle says it’s a lavabo, originally an ecclesiastical handwashing device.

So: it’s a lavabo. With a duck.

March 04, 2010
John Scalzi and I mouth off about managing community
Posted by Teresa at 06:53 PM * 392 comments

A few weeks back, Ron Hogan did a conference-call interview with me and John Scalzi about online community. His transcribed and edited version of the conversation has now gone up on the ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) & The Center for Association Leadership’s website.

Some previous occasions on which I or my esteemed co-bloggers have talked about this stuff:

January 27, 2005: Virtual panel participation.
October 1, 2006: The Science of Sheep.
April 17, 2007: Moderation isn’t rocket science.
May 05, 2007: CBS surrenders to racist commenters.
May 22, 2007, by Jim Macdonald: Fanfiction, Monetized.
May 23, 2007: FanLib wholly exploded.
July 20, 2007: Flamer Bingo.
November 18, 2007, by Jim Macdonald: The MySpace Suicide.
November 19, 2007: “It’s the apocalypse.” “Again?”
February 21, 2008, by Abi Sutherland: Curating Conversations.
July 25, 2008, by Jim Macdonald: Time Notices Comments.
November 29, 2009: Latin obscenities meet comment-order preferences.

I’ll add more to the list as I think of them.

March 01, 2010
The return of the wrong box
Posted by Teresa at 06:45 PM * 190 comments

Two law professors, Tom Baker of the University of Pennsylvania and Peter Siegelman of the University of Connecticut, have proposed a way to encourage adults between the ages of 19 and 29 to buy health insurance: bring back the tontine.

Someone should tell them that tontines are a plot device masquerading as a financial instrument.

This otherwise goofy proposal makes slightly more sense once you realize it was published under the auspices of the Cato Home for Strayed Objectivists Institute. Those guys are so kinky for “market solutions” that they’re still pushing for the privatization of Social Security, even after the financial crisis made it clear that their preferred solution would have been a catastrophe.

The Invisible Hand of the Marketplace: guaranteed to give you hair on your palms.

Addendum:

I just realized there’s something I forgot to explain the first time around:

Some auto insurance plans have a provision that’s similar to this tontine scheme: if you’re a very safe driver, as measured over a set amount of time, you’ll eventually get back some of the money you’ve paid for your insurance. However, safe driving is to some extent under the control of the individual who’s insured. Health problems aren’t perceived that way.

The only scenario in which healthy young adults are going to foresee themselves needing expensive medical care is if they’re randomly unlucky. If that happens, they’ll need insurance, but they won’t get back their extra bit of money. If they don’t get unlucky, they’ll get back that bit of money—a tiny payoff, in the relatively far future—but they’ll be out the much greater cost of their insurance, and they’ll have to start paying for it right now. Since both of those outcomes are outside their control, the rebate isn’t an incentive.

In the meantime, young adults who genuinely believe they aren’t going to need expensive medical care are not going to be moved by an offer to repay them some small fraction of their premiums a couple of years on down the road. If they don’t think they need medical insurance, they’ll save a lot more money by not buying it at all.

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