January 16, 2015

Professional thoughts on #CharlieHebdo, #1stAmendment

You may have already read my earlier blog post, with my thoughts about all that's wrong in how so-called social justice warriors attempted to hijack the aftermath of the recent killings of staff at French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Now, below, is a an edited version of my own most recent newspaper column, which covered the attacks and issues of free speech — not in France but here in the US.

It would be nice if all were forgiven. Or, if USA Today
would have run other Charlie Hebdo cover art.
The recent attack on the French satirical tabloid newspaper Charlie Hebdo are a reminder that freedom of speech, including satirical speech, is a commodity with an insecure purchase in our world.

It’s also a reminder that journalists, the professional practitioners of freedom of speech, don’t always have the safest jobs in the world. Per the advocacy group Reporters without Borders, in 2014, 66 journalists were killed, 11 assistants were killed, and 19 citizen journalists were, too. Numbers were about the same in 2013.

Charlie Hebdo’s work may not seem “fun” to fundamentalist Muslims, but free speech is free speech, and recognized as such in most of the “developed” world, including but not limited to the United States. (It should be noted that the French magazine doesn’t only skewer Muslims; one cover had the Pope and a Jewish rabbi, as well as a Muslim imam, all demanding the magazine be veiled.)

That said, while the Western world may not totally like Christian and Jewish beliefs and stances getting skewered, it doesn’t generally try to prevent such satire from being published by the media — or from being talked about by the general public.

That’s not quite so true for Muslim-majority nations. Four years ago, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council finally swatted down an attempt to get member nations to criminalize blasphemy. Previous such motions regularly passed the predecessor body to the Human Rights Council, but the United States, followed by the European Union, eventually recognized the free-speech issues that were at stake and voted no.

Various forms of freedom of communication are surely as protected in the U.S. as in modern Europe, are they not? After all, of the 10 original amendments to our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, the First Amendment safeguards exactly these issues.

On paper, yes.

In reality, maybe not so much.

In a country where we have had presidents and congressional leaders of both parties want to control the flow of news, usually on some vague  “national security” grounds, we shouldn’t assume that the First Amendment, and what it’s supposed to protect, is on 100 percent terra firma inside America. If anything, we should operate on a deliberate assumption that the First Amendment is not on such firm ground.

And, it’s not just political leaders; many of the people that make up “We the People” say the same thing. In the past two years, the annual “First Amendment Survey” conducted by the Newseum Institute shows that a full one-third of Americans think the First Amendment’s protections go “too far.”

This is probably a good time to pull up the famous statement by the French literary giant Voltaire:
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
It’s also a good point to remind people that the First Amendment has five freedoms. We’re talking about freedom of the press. Many people know about freedom of religion, which most often results in court cases, and, especially over questions about what Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation” meant. This, outside of ideas that the press “abuse” their freedom, is usually the area where people think the First Amendment goes too far.

Also worth noting is that African-Americans and Hispanics are actually more likely than Caucasians in thinking that First Amendment freedoms go too far. So too, per the 2013 survey, the younger people are, the more likely they are to think that the First Amendment goes too far. (Whether this is related to their having grown up in an "always on" world, and if so, whether that's a cause of, or a result of, them being more willing to surrender First Amendment rights and related civil liberties, I don't know. But, it is a good issue, and as ever more people enter adulthood from an "always on" world, one to keep an eye on.)

But, those are just two of five freedoms of the First Amendment.

Beyond that, the amendment also guarantees freedom of speech in general. If I as an individual, not just as a newspaper editor, want to say something like what Charlie Hebdo does, or utter obscenities, or whatever, I can do that. And so can you.

There’s also freedom of petition. We can write our presidents, members of Congress, governors and legislators, and ask them to undertake specific political actions.

And, there’s freedom of assembly. That includes unionizing, voter registration drives and other public organizing work. More controversially to some, it also covers protest marches by anybody from the Ku Klux Klan to the New Black Panther Party and more.

(I chose precisely this because Marlin, Texas is about 50 percent African-American and about 35 percent Caucasian — many of that number being older, and not fully "reconstructed" whites — and thus knowing that one or the other of the two groups would be offensive to about everybody here.)

I presume that Voltaire would also defend to the death our right to assemble, to petition, and to engage in protests.

If Voltaire is not good enough, then we — and those who think the First Amendment goes “too far” — should remember Nazi-era German Lutheran minister Martin Niemöller and his famous poem:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
“Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
“Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”
If we remove free speech, assembly, religion or petition rights from others, or we think the press goes too far in using its freedoms and try to restrict it, there may eventually be nobody to speak for us.
It’s the same story George Orwell tackled in “Animal Farm” — free speech belongs to all of us and should be defended by all of us, for all of us.

Even unpleasant or antagonistic speech.

That's why I don't like public or private university hate speech codes here in the U.S. Even though I think Steve Salaita is not all that, I still don't like him being tripped up over such codes. Humorous issues of schadenfreude that such codes produce at times, including for tripping up so-called "social justice warriors," when we get to serious brass tacks, I don't like them. And, they're not needed on college campuses anyway. Students who are intimidated by a professor have grievance channels. (And, since as much as 75 percent of teaching staff at the average modern higher education outlet today is part-time adjunct instructors, students are quite likely to win such grievances.)

Unfortunately, the American media has surrendered much of its own playing field on this issue in the last decade or so.

Look at the semi-cowardice with which it has self-censored American battlefield deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or, now, self-censored in refusing to print any Charlie Hebdo covers, even ones like the one at left that skewer all three monotheisms at once, not just Islam. Or, in one case we know of, where an American newspaper pixelated a picture of somebody in New York reading Charlie Hedbo, pixelating the issue's cover, and only the cover.

Back to my introduction to this column and the issue of unwarranted assumptions.

"We the People" should not assume that the mainstream media will remain a reliable guardian of the First Amendment. We shouldn't assume that it always is one today. Certainly not of the spirit of the First Amendment.

We also, as courts continue to look at the issue of bloggers and such as journalists, shouldn't limit our scope as to who is a member of the media, in part due to the paragraph just above.

#JeSuisCharlie.

#IAmMedia.

1998 now No. 4 on list of hottest years on record

The climate change denialists all like to say some version of "But, 1998 was the hottest year on record."

First, that hasn't been true in a decade.

First, 2005 passed it, in modern records.

Then, 2010 passed 2005.

And now, 2014 has taken the crown.

There’s also this added measure of concern about last year’s record setting:
With the continued heating of the atmosphere and the surface of the ocean, 1998 is now being surpassed every four or five years, with 2014 being the first time that has happened in a year featuring no real El Niño pattern. Gavin A. Schmidt, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, said the next time a strong El Niño occurs, it is likely to blow away all temperature records.
And, that is a concern.

On Twitter, I said, “Cue the climate change denialists in 3, 2, 1.”

Well, per the story, they’ve already cued themselves, basically reshaping the “1998 was the hottest” claim:
John R. Christy, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who is known for his skepticism about the seriousness of global warming, pointed out in an interview that 2014 had surpassed the other record-warm years by only a few hundredths of a degree, well within the error margin of global temperature measurements. 
“Since the end of the 20th century, the temperature hasn’t done much,” Dr. Christy said. “It’s on this kind of warmish plateau.”
Well, there’s some Grade A bull.

Per an essay by philosopher Massimo Pigliucci about thevarieties of denialism, this isn’t a surprising head fake, though.

Peak Oil denialists point to our current “beta peak” on US oil production to claim that King Hubbert was wrong about peak oil. And, our passing Saudi Arabia for any extended period of time isn't likely.

First, that beta peak is still several percentage points short of the original 1970 peak.

Second, several oil shale fields were set to peak themselves in 2016; the current supply glut probably pushed that back a year, maybe two.



January 15, 2015

Cardinals lock up Lance Lynn for medium term; what's next?

Lance Lynn
I had suggested that the St. Louis Cardinals avoid arbitration with No. 2 starter Lance Lynn, and also buy out his first year of free agency, with something like a four-year, $50 million contract. The Cards' Derrick Gould hinted a few days ago that a deal was near, but thought 4/$50 might be too low.

Well, we were both a bit wrong.

Lynn apparently didn't want to sell out any of his free agency years, and the team didn't want to take any arbitration risks. So, they agreed to a three-year, $22 million deal, that could go to $23.5M if Lynn hits 2016 and 2017 performance benchmarks.

On Lynn's side, since he didn't get quite enough first-year play time to be a "Super 2" player, I can't blame him for not wanting this contract to include the first year of free agency.

From GM John Mozeliak's side, it still provides three years of contract benchmark, and lets him think about the longer-term future of Adam WainwrightCarlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Marco Gonzales and other members of the rotation, as well as now calculating how much money the team has to spend on keeping Jason Heyward in a Redbirds uni past this year.

On that issue, let's remember that Mo front-loaded Jhonny Peralta's contract, and that the team has just two years of Matt Holliday left. Especially if the Cards' hitting staff works a few kinks out of Heyward's bat that Atlanta staff reportedly helped put in there, I think that he will be worth $20M a year or more, and given his relative youth, should be paid it. It's possible that, like some pitching contracts, it could include performance-based money, at least on the stick side.

Or, it lets Mo think more about signing Max Scherzer right now. I disagree with the move, whether at 7/$175 or something that could go higher. But,  if Mo wants him, it does give him more room to think. Or to further ponder trading for Cole Hamels, which I like more.

Half a cheer — baseball minor leagues to get pitch clock

Over at Hardball Talk on NBC, Craig Calcaterra, who's usually sensible and level-headed, just cannot wrap his head around the idea of owners likely having AA and AAA baseball adopt a visible pitch clock for 2015 to enforce rule 8.04, or a modified version of it.

He, waxing nostalgic, talks about the mythos of baseball not having a clock, along with a lot of nonsense.

This paragraph by Craig is the biggie:
It would be a visual distraction. Broadcasters would be flashing it on and off the screen and talking about it all the time. Managers and players would use replay challenges or, at the very least, argue about when it was started and stuff. Technical glitches would happen. Less concretely, it would put lie to the old — and good — saying about how baseball doesn’t have a clock. There’s just a football element to it that I don’t much like.
And it's largely nonsense.

The visual distraction?

First, I'll quote from Rosenthal's piece:
Multiple players and coaches told FOX Sports recently that they found the pitch clock to be effective and not disruptive to the flow of the game.

Evidence! 

In the early post-shot clock years, the NBA did NOT have digital clocks in multiple places on the baseline (or above both backboards). The original was much less intrusive.

So, years after the NBA shot clock was in place, later players had to get used to the seeming distraction of actual clocks, especially large digital ones.

Ditto in the NFL. It had a play clock for decades before the large digital devices were put in both end zones.

And, in both those leagues, players adjusted. As did, it seems, those in the Arizona Fall League. 

The rest can be easily dismissed by analogy to other pro sports.

Do NFL announcers, or NBA ones,talk about their clocks "all the time"? Of course not. Only when there's about to be a play clock or shot clock violation.

Do NFL coaches use replay challenges on exactly when a play clock expired? Of course not. They save them for more serious incidents. Managers would do the same.

"Technical glitches would happen." Yeah, once in a great while, but not regularly. And, in the NFL and NBA, when they do, they work without the clocks running, but officials counting time, until they get them fixed.

As for the idea that "baseball doesn't have a clock"?

Rule 8.04 already mentions a specific length of time. Therefore, baseball already has a play clock. Unfortunately, as currently written, it only applies when bases are empty, and has no time limit in play when a runner is on base.

The rule used in the Arizona Fall League, and which presumably will be at AA/AAA, will have a 20-second limit, period. That's slower than the current 12-second rule, but it's something. Maybe we can cut it to 15 second by the time it gets the MLB level OK.

And, speaking of, let's hope that everything goes swimmingly at AA/AAA and we get that clock (and maybe at 15 seconds, not 20) in the majors, and by 2016.

It does not have a game clock, and nobody is proposing one.

Otherwise, a pitch clock isn't the only way to speed up a game. Jayson Stark offers more ideas.

$40 oil, or why Glenn Hegar could be even wronger than rain

I've already dissected how I think Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar's biennial budget estimate is probably $2 billion too high, if not more. (See new poll on right to vote on where you think oil will be on March 31.)

That said, that was based on the possibility that oil would not get above the low $50s in the first half of this year, and not break the middle $60s before the end of the year.

Well, what if even THAT was too optimistic?

What if oil sits in the low-mid $40s for 4-6 months, and doesn't break a flat $60 on a regular basis until the end of the year? That's especially if market psychology (as well as general first-quarter lulls) says  "keep it there."

The EIA has also weighed in, expecting the average 2015 price to be about $55.

What if even THAT is too optimistic. What if, per new estimates by British Petroleum, oil stays below $60 for three years?

Oops in spades. And that's the starting point of this post and some speculative thinking.

Add in that even more flush U.S. shale oil operators may not have money to buy out the weakest, at least not right away. Add in that major banks, both Texas-based and even bigger national players, are likely to tighten lending wallets, especially on "market mentality."

Add in that it, per the first link, with more info here, could take 4-6 months to soak up most the current excess supply.

That's especially true when, per the first link, nobody in the US has actually started sopping up any excess yet:
Oil output, however, is still at a record level. In the week that ended on January 2, when the number of rigs also dropped, it reached 9.13 million barrels a day, more than ever before. Oil companies are only stopping production at their worst wells, which only produce a few barrels a day – at current prices, those wells aren't worth the lease payments on the equipment. Since nobody is cutting production, the price keeps going down; today, Brent was at $US47.43 per barrel and trends are still heading downward.

So, yeah, 4-6 months is probably the correct time frame, for, let's say, mid-40s prices. Well, the state of Texas, Glenn Hegar, and even more so, the one responsible adult running Texas government, Speaker Joe Straus, had better hope that 4-6 months — and not something worse — is the correct time frame.

Because we haven't tackled one last point. 

And, the biggest issue. Financial reserves, not monetary ones.

The petrostates of the Middle East, in general, are flush with cash and can afford to burn money for some time. And, Saudi Arabia can really afford that much burning. Plus, some of the Gulf states have lower per-barrel prices than it.

Russia is also a petrostate, but cannot afford such money-burning.

The US is not a "petrostate," even if it's producing as much or a bit more oil than Saudi Arabia.

Publicly traded companies have shareholders to whom to answer, and debt to service to third parties — those Texas and national banks. Privately traded companies still have debt to service.

Yes, both of them also have leases to keep active. But, smaller companies, per my note above, may have to take a hard look at their lack of financial reserves, and negotiate lease buyouts.

Or, like subprime home mortgage holders facing balloon notes, some of the smaller oil companies may have to swallow even harder and do the equivalent of tossing the front door keys on the kitchen counter or in the mail slot.

That's what could be afoot. And, if that's what's up?

Well, in that case, Hegar's biennial revenue estimate could be off by $3 billion, not $2 billion. Beyond a deepened loss of oil and gas revenue will be lost sales taxes from oilfield-related businesses. And, there will be new unemployment claims, as the layoffs are already starting. And less retail, dining and entertainment spending.

Meanwhile, a note to the American Petroleum Industry: now is not the time to be greedy on a wish list.

That said, I'll end this with one last thought. Older Texans remember the savings and loan debacle of the 1980s. I'm not saying that this will be anything like that. But, as compared to previous oil price slumps, because shale oil requires more investment, political leaders should not bank on any "rosy scenarios" offering easy relief. And, they should doubly not bet on frivolous tax cuts that are based on "rosy scenarios."

POSTSCRIPT: What if what I wrote above is itself still too optimistic? There are summer 2015 futures contracts out there, already, for $20/bbl oil.

Meanwhile, Boone Pickens, per this piece, either has a "trick oil knee," or onset of some age-related mental decline or something else, if he really thinks oil will get back to $100 within 18 months, let alone 12.

Pickens has probably also been trumped by the biggest drop in active rigs in six years. The fact is that this is different than 2009, where the Great Recession cratered economies. Yes, there seems to be new signs of slowing growth in both Europe and China. But, not THAT slow. This is still mainly due to an industry-created surplus that's been building for six months. It's going to take 3-4 months to cut the spigots back enough to where that surplus can be mopped up over another likely 6-8 months. So, that's 9-12 months out before we're back to June 2014.

And, Texas Monthly is now weighing in, saying there's a fair possibility of a 1980s-style full oil bust.

January 14, 2015

Empower Texas is limper than Battleground Texas

Hey, Scott Turner? At least Wendy Davis broke 35 percent against Greg Abbott. You couldn't even break 15 percent against Joe Straus. Even if we limit it to your own party, you barely broke 20 percent in the Texas Speaker of the House race.

Apparently a lot of GOPers agree with Straus:
“Small members sought to divide us up with misleading and personal attacks,” Straus said. “But you cannot effectively govern this House by dividing it.

Heh, heh. "Small members." 

Actually, Robert Garrett at the Snooze notes Straus was probably referring in part to two non-members, Michael Quinn Sullivan, the infamous "Mucus," and Tim Dunn.

So, big fail for Empower Texas, which was the pusher behind the Speaker's challenge.

That said, Turner should be one more reminder to state and national Democrats that they don't necessarily have a lock on minority voters.

Next: Seeing if Joe Straus believes Glenn Hegar on how much money the Lege has to spend, or if he believes reality, which is a couple of billion less.

Straus has, in his previous terms as speaker, generally belonged to the reality-based community, at least its slender GOP wing.

January 13, 2015

Obama's legacy: Historians take a first crack; so do I

President Barack Obama —
how much is he actually like
Supreme Court Associate Justice
Clarence Thomas
If Charles Pierce considers George W. Bush our "C+ Augustus," where does that leave Barack Obama, who is arguably a better president, but primarily due to that Bush phrase "the soft bigotry of low expectations"? Since Obama actually — deluded not-too-liberal of liberals and "projections" aside — "delivered" even less on what he actually promised or semi-promised than did C+, too, in terms of any "base" of support, just how should we rank Dear Leader?

Well, at New York Magazine, a coterie of professional historians, ranging from from quasi-reactionary to left-liberal, give it their shot. (Clickable links lead to full reviews of DL by each historian.)

A fair amount of more liberal to left-liberal ones appeared to have, like me, "seen through" Obama at least by 2010, if not during his 2008 campaign. As for that group, I have no idea how many of them still voted for him anyway, rather than voting Green or Socialist or whatever.

Anyway, here's a roundup of the few best insights from left of center:
"His contributions were sometimes remarkable, but Obama’s primary legacy is his destruction of political idealism for the foreseeable future. He proved an impressive steward of the traditions of his party since the 1970s. Where Obama differed was his brief but unforgettable achievement of a surprisingly large consensus around a belief — or delusion — that Americans rarely entertain. Put simply, it was that American politics could and must fundamentally change. The energies he conjured will not reappear soon and are less likely to do so because he summoned them for so ordinary and predictable a set of policies." – Samuel Moyn
Those of us semi-idealists who "saw through him" before the 2008 general election haven't had our semi-idealism destroyed, or ditto on full idealists like me, because we never invested it in him in the first place.

Other than that, Moyn is totally right on Obama being a "worthy" steward of neoliberalism. As for Obama's "consensus"? Maybe Obama never intended that fundamental change. Either that, or a point I've hammered into the dust is true here, too — Dear Leader thought the mellifluous dulcet tones of his voice (sarcasm alert) would work fundamental change all along.

What about Obamacare? This is not a bad observation:
“It might very well be insurance exchanges, rather than the expansion of coverage, that stands as the most significant aspect of the Affordable Care Act. That is especially the case if the exchanges work and therefore lay the foundations for privatizing or ‘“marketizing” Medicare and Medicaid. As much as some called him a socialist, he might well be remembered as someone who de-socialized public health care.” – Alexander Gourevitch
Gourevich? I'm not sure if he means that in a good or a bad sense. It could be in a bad sense, as he is a left-liberal type. If so, I'd totally agree. It's hard to tell from his whole set of responses, but, since he is some sort of left-liberal, I'm going to take it he means it in a bad sense.

I certainly look at O-care that way myself. Sometimes, the good is the enemy of the best, and I fear that is very much the case here — he wrecked political capital, per Moyn, for a non-fundamental change which he chose as his target all along.

Next, let's look more directly at the myth of The Great Communicator 2.0:
“Talk to us — tell us what he is aiming at, what our challenges are, especially abroad. He may be our mutest president.” – Mark Lilla

Indeed, whether deliberately Sphinx-like, or simply unable to move much beyond TelePrompTer 101 on a regular basis, the allegedly divine powers of Obama here were often not displayed.

That said, regular readers won't be surprised by my allegedly. Obama as Great Communicator 2.0 was a flop, a lie, and a social construct all three. As for political oratory, he's never been close to Reagan.

His legacy? One of the historians said that he currently puts Obama at the top edge of the bottom one-third of presidents, but thinks he will rise in the future, and into the bottom slice of the top one-third of presidents. See my take below the fold.

January 12, 2015

Manning, Elway, Shanahan, a Broncos philosophical triangle?

Peyton Manning
OK, it's not Gödel, Escher, Bach (link to the book provided for the unaware).

But, Mike Shanahan reportedly still lives in Denver, and with John Fox just getting the boot, Denver needs a new head coach.

So, let's ramp these rumors up!

Shanahan as a coach seemed to get along at least reasonably well with the man who would be his boss, his überquarterback of the time, John Elway.

However, Elway, somewhat a loose cannon as a player, apparently has, or had, something in his craw about Shanahan. Whether that's now changed, with Elway holding the Broncos reins, I don't know. Also, if that link above is true, whether Shanny's learned his lesson after the DC Daceys, I don't know.

Shanny got fired six years ago more, even much more, for his failures as a GM while wearing two hats than his coaching. And, Elway apparently thought he was a control freak.

Meanwhile, Peyton Manning seemingly has indicated some degree of discontent with Fox's coaching. If that helped push Fox out, Elway would certainly double-check his own coaching list with him.

Could that be enough to get Peyton to redirect his ruminating? Start the speculations!

My own speculation? About a 20 percent chance of this happening. See poll at right for a chance to vote yourself.

At a minimum, I do think it's more likely than Jack Del Rio getting moved up from the D-coordinator spot.

Especially since Del Rio and all other assistants were reportedly also canned.

Hmm. That means that Gary Kubiak could be Shanahan's offensive coordinator, if he doesn't tab his son. (Some reports say that Kubiak doesn't want a head coaching job right now.)

Texas faces 15 percent state oil revenue ding

New Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar
already looks as wrong as rain on oil prices.
The Texas Lege can expect about a 15 percent ding in oil and gas revenues from previous expectations, or so says new Comptroller Glenn Hegar. So, if Lite Guv Dan Patrick wants to cut any taxes, what’s he going to do, go after public school revenues? (See new poll on right to vote on where you think oil will be on March 31.)

The financial figures are from Hegar’s biennial revenue estimates.

And per the Statesman's take, they appear to come from fantasyland.
Hegar’s approximation – formulated, he has said, under much and diverse advisement – showed that state lawmakers, who convene at noon on Tuesday, will have $113 billion in general revenue to spend on the 2016-17 budget. It assumes oil prices – currently at less than $50 a barrel – will be $64 per barrel on average for current fiscal year, which ends Aug. 31, and to nearly $70 per barrel by the end of 2017.
If oil is still at a flat $50 by the end of February, and $55 by the end of April, and $60 by the end of May, it’s going to need to be $80,  or better, by the end of the year.


And, that just ain’t happening.

Goldman Sachs says Glenn Hegar is off by $30 a barrel.
In a wide-ranging note to clients, Goldman Sachs slashed its forecast for oil prices. It now estimates that that crude will average $50.40 a barrel this year, far below its previous forecast of $83.75. It also trimmed its forecast for Brent crude, a type used in international markets, to $70 a barrel from $90. 
More here. GS has its 12-month-out price on West Texas Intermediate at $65. So, no way in hell, if GS is even halfway right, that oil prices average $64 for the year.

(Update: What if even Sachs was too optimistic in its original estimates? What if oil sits at $40 for months? See my newer post here.)

If the Texas Lege isn't listening to somebody else, we're really, really up shit creek.

By press release, here’s the details. Actual release and more analysis below the fold.

January 11, 2015

If god delivered you, then why ....

I don't do this often, because I'm not a Gnu Atheist, but I get tired of these "God put me in the right place" types of nuttery. Among the latest is one from Austin, and the nutbar would-be bomber Steve McQuilliams. Officer Johnson, if god were really involved, then why didn't he prevent Steve McQuilliams from getting his guns and bombs in the first place?

And, it's not just Christians, it appears.

Chandra Susanto, if he's from Indonesia, is likely to be thanking Allah for not boarding the recent Air Asia flight that crashed and killed all 162 on board.

The mainstream media don't help on things like this when, even before survivors use the word, they talk about someone "miraculously" surviving a crash of some sort. 

And, "true believers," whether in Jesus, Allah, Metatron (or Megatron?) or any other variety of an omnipotent deity, please do NOT trot out the "inscrutability of god" issue. I've covered the Psychological Problem of Evil here more than once.