Doing nothing in the face of evil…

From Reuters:

A Chinese man who hacked to death seven young children and two adults in the latest in a series of deadly assaults on schools lashed out after an argument over a kindergarten lease, neighbors and state media said.

Bystanders fled and hid from the man, armed only with a cleaver, as he exploded in apparent rage over a rent dispute with the kindergarten:

Wu Huanming, the owner of the two-storey building with a walled, concrete courtyard, wanted the kindergarten to vacate the property when the lease ran out in April, Xinhua news agency said. Wu Hongying wanted to keep the school running until the summer.

In rural China, villagers often have the same surname, but may not be closely related.

Wu Huanming ran back into his home to grab a cleaver and onlookers were too afraid to stop him, said one villager.

“I saw him holding a cleaver up in his right hand. I ran out, there was shouting everywhere,” Li Yufen, a resident of rural Nanzheng county, told Reuters.

“Then a few women came out, but we were not enough, so I went back into the house. The killer walked straight past me. He glanced at me but walked on and I closed the door and stayed inside.”

Wu Huanming hacked five boys and two girls to death with the cleaver, and also killed Wu Hongying and her 80-year-old mother. He returned home and committed suicide, Xinhua news agency said.

It’s tempting to draw facile and presumably superficial conclusions from events like these — I just erased a couple hundred words of the beginning of one — but I find myself with the nagging notion that even beyond the all too typical human fear to be the first to act in such circumstances — something we’ve seen the perplexing, seemingly perverse evidence and tragic results of here in the west — the Chinese state apparatus’ carefully maintained image of social control and ultimate omnipotence has further hobbled the impulse of individual bystanders in such cases to break the ’social surface tension’ to act out to protect themselves and others.

And it may also be overly facile to point to the incidents aboard Flight 93 on 11 September 2001 — the heroism of those who, even knowing they themselves were doomed, banded together to attack the hijackers and bring down the plane, ending their own lives but saving countless others on the ground — as a turning point, a moment of sea change.

Yet as I look back on the US’s own history of terrible public attacks, mass-shootings and attempted massacres, I can’t help but see the effects of new attitudes and a greater willingness to initiate action, even in the face of very real and menacing danger. 20 years ago such an event often went the gunman’s way — people cowered, unwilling, afraid or simply unable to act for reasons they couldn’t express — today, on the other hand, while we still, sadly, have far too many such incidents, many of them are stopped early rather than late, when bystanders overcome what some researchers have described as a form of social intertia to act against the attackers. The impulse to act is presumably individual — but quite often, as we’ve continued to see, others immediately follow suit and, while good samaritans are sometimes hurt or killed, greater tragedies are often averted.

We all must balance pure self-interest with various social or altruistic impulses in many instances of our daily lives.

But there *is* an enlightened self-interest in many of these seemingly most dire circumstances in the impulse to do the right thing.


A rend in the equity money continuum…

It was a sleepy afternoon here in Cali until I glanced at the Google News headlines and saw what appeared to be signs of sudden freefall in key equity markets — and some pretty amazing futures activity, not surprisingly.

The post-morta are flying back and forth, worries about the Greek bail-out, spiraling international debt, the tendency for computerized “algorithmic” trading nodes to act like a covey of quail with a rock thrown in their midst… but one item that stood out starkly was what should have been a wee typo from a trader who was trying to put in an order for 19 odd million bucks worth of futures but slipped three extra zeros in, putting in an order for 19 billion worth of what were, in essence, bets against the future of the target company.

Other traders — and their cybernetic robo-trading sidekicks — apparently figured that the presumably newly jobless trader must have known something they didn’t know and the rest is Chicken Little and the “wisdom of the crowd” crushing each other in a rush to sell, sell, sell that would make a South American soccer riot look tame.

Shipping is a buy

The last time Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano spewing a cloud of fine, volcanic dust into the airstream — and shutting down air traffic across Europe (imagine flying your jet or turbine engine plane through a cloud of pumice, the volcanic stone derivative sometimes used for some industrial grinding and polishing) — erupted, back in 1821, it darkened northern hemisphere skies for two years.

CNN: Experts: No end to volcano ash in sight

Teacher teaches lying to get what you want

An Oregon middle school teacher, acting, he says, in his private time (although there are some questions about that), has pledged to disrupt tea party movement gatherings with a posse of people he says he’s collected to infiltrate the meetings and disrupt them by acting out what he claims are the worst aspects of the tea party movement.

Any reader of this blog knows its writer is increasingly wary of some pretty nasty traits among some members, and some depressingly predictable traits among what appear to be most. (Read my thoughts on the recent survey of tea party attitudes in my most recent post here.)

But — this — this is just so out of line.

Just because you don’t like someone or his/her policies, willful exaggeration, distortion, or outright lies about that person degrades the democratic process, deprives people of their right to the truth, and plants a seed of corruption and wrongdoing in the heart of those doing the lying.

Of course, that is a sword that cuts both ways.

Read more from Portland TV station, KATU.

Addendum: but — if you’re gonna go ahead and do it anyhow, this guide from Gawker offers some on point but nonetheless pretty hilarious ‘tips’ for would be agents provocateurs. KS2 Problema’s favorite, rather arch piece of pointed advice:

Guns: If you are planning on crashing a tea party event, be aware that many people will probably have guns. If you don’t want to be shot, you should also bring your gun. If everyone has a gun then no one will be shot. That’s how it works, right Teabaggers?

Gawker: Some Advice For the Tea Party Crashers

Tea party poll: tell me something I don’t know…

The New York Times and CBS pooled their allowances and bought a little public opinion survey targeting the media’s favorite population sector of the moment: those who identify with the various tea party movements — which turns out to be about 18% of Americans in this poll.

What did they find out?

That those who identify themselves as tea party members or sympathizers are richer, older, and whiter than most US citizens. They are no more afraid of losing economic position than other Americans. Surprisingly, perhaps, they mostly think they are taxed fairly.

Yet they are fervent in their demands for smaller government — even though they are equally dead set against giving up the entitlements of age: Social Security and Medicare. Two of the most expensive non-military items in the US budget — but don’t try to take them away, because then they’ll get really mad.

Tea party folks consider themselves conservative — they are considerably more conservative by most any measure than most Republicans — and they consider President Obama very liberal.

They also — in large part — either believe Obama was not born in the United States — despite everything from the assurances of Hawaiian state government, the Hawaiian paper that printed Obama’s birth announcement nearly a half-century ago, the news division of Fox News, the conservative Annenberg Foundation’s — who have investigated the issue up one side and down the other, even going so far as to inspect the actual physical certificate — or they are uncertain(My favorite frequent quote from the tea partiers who flood the news blogs and newspaper comment sections: “Well, if he’s a citizen, why doesn’t he just show us his birth certificate?” It boggles the mind.)

So… most tea partiers are well-off, white, selfish, willfully ignorant, logic-challenged, and just a wee bit irrational.

Tell me something I don’t know already, huh?

Predictability personified

Win-at-all-costs strategy drives GOP leaders

This just in (yawn):

McConnell criticizes financial regulation plan

You know, I used to actually pay attention to what Republican lawmakers had to say about the current administration’s policies. I do not agree with everything the administration does, by a ways, and I would have liked to have been able to rely on GOP senators and congresspeople to supply meaningful, well-considered alternative views and analyses…

Sadly, it’s become clear that individual Republican legislators have all but abandoned the responsibility to provide a thoughtfully loyal opposition. Instead, they have embarked on a crass, win-at-all-costs political strategy that sells out principles of responsible democratic opposition in order to undermine all efforts of effective governance by the current president and his administration.

This policy has led to the mind-boggling situation of GOP leaders attacking the current president for supporting a health plan in large part strikingly similar to plans that Republican legislators put forth in the 1990s as an alternative to the Clinton health care proposals.

The Obama administration must have thought that floating a plan so close to that proposed by key members of the GOP would have been safe…

But apparently nothing is safe from the slash-and-burn, party-victory-at-all-costs GOP sell-out of the principle of putting the good of the nation ahead of the good of the Party.

Accused Pelosi stalker’s mother blames Fox News for son’s aberrant behavior

The mother of the man accused of a series of more than four dozen often threatening phone calls to the offices and home of US Senator Nancy Pelosi has blamed Fox News and others with “radical” political points of view for leading her 48 year old son astray.

Gregory Giusti’s 83 year old mother said he’d long had what she described as mental problems but did not think he was emotionally capable of carrying through on his violent threats against Pelosi and others.

San Francisco TV station KGO-TV quoted Eleanor Giusti:

“Greg frequently gets in with a group of people that have really radical ideas and that are not consistent with myself or the rest of the family, which gets him into problems,” Eleanor Giusti said. “I say Fox News, or all of those that are really radical, and he, that’s where he comes from.”

KGO-TV also provides more detail on Giusti’s run ins with the law and his campaign of harassment against the Baptist church he was forced to leave in 2005:

In 2004, Giusti was convicted of criminal threats. The San Mateo District Attorney’s office says he was trying to evade the fare on a Caltrain, and when the conductor tried to kick him off, Giusti started yelling and threatening the conductor’s life. As a result, Giusti was sentenced to one year in county jail and three years supervised probation. He was also ordered to undergo mental health counseling.

There is also a lawsuit filed in February by Hamilton Square Baptist Church in San Francisco. It says, “Giusti has engaged in and continues to engage in a campaign of harassment” against people at the church.

More: Accused man’s mom blames Fox News for behavior