Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Reading

Out-Trumping Trump — Amy Davidson in The New Yorker on the rest of the GOP candidates’ attempts to be heard over the din of Donald.

It’s hard enough to be heard in a crowded room without having to compete with a man who ended the week in Laredo, Texas, so that he could inspect the border, professing, “They say it’s a great danger, but I have to do it.” (He added that, once he is elected, “the Hispanics” are “going to love Trump.”) It’s harder still when you’re trying not to offend his supporters. After Trump insulted Mexicans last month, Bush said that he was personally offended, but others were more cautious. Christie commented that although some of Trump’s remarks may be “inappropriate,” he is “a good guy.” Cruz said, “I think he speaks the truth.” But if Trump weren’t around would the other Republicans behave that much more responsibly?

There is a serious discussion to be had over the Iran deal, yet the G.O.P. contenders seem willing to shatter years of diplomacy in the name of grandstanding. Cruz announced that “the Obama Administration will become the leading financier of terrorism against America in the world,” and Graham thought that the deal looked like “a death sentence for the State of Israel.” Rubio, in a Trump-like move, said that Obama lacked “class.” Bush and Walker got into a fight about whether they’d renounce the deal and start planning military strikes on Inauguration Day or wait until the first Cabinet meeting. Saying it’s Trump who’s wrecking the Republican Party ignores the ways that he embodies it.

Trump is not going to be elected, but he is intent enough on staying in the race to have filed financial-disclosure paperwork with the F.E.C.—a step that many observers thought he would stop short of—and he promptly put out a press release stating his worth at “ten billion dollars.” (Forbes estimates four billion; the biggest discrepancy comes from Trump’s assertion that his name alone is worth three billion.) In this election, the post-Citizens United financing mechanisms have fully matured, effectively removing the limits and the disclosure requirements for individual donations to campaigns. The money may have to be laundered through a super PAC, but that is just a formality. This distorts the process in both parties and might help explain the large assortment of candidates. Cruz may seem like a preening opportunist, unpopular among his colleagues, but, having attracted more than fifty million dollars in contributions, he is a credible candidate. The Times reported that a significant portion of his early money came from a single donor: Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund executive who is so private that one of the few traces of his personal life in the public record is a lawsuit that he brought against a toy company that installed a model train set in his home and, he felt, overcharged him—by two million dollars.

To mount a Presidential campaign these days, you need just two people: a candidate and a wealthy donor. Or, in Trump’s case, just one: he is his own billionaire. And he is the unadorned face of American politics.

Gun-Running — When it comes to loose gun laws, Gov. Bobby Jindal has led the way by making Louisiana the place to be.  And now he’s shocked and saddened when a mass shooting happens in his state. Zoë Carpenter at The Nation reports.

“We love us some guns,” Bobby Jindal once said of his fellow Louisianans. Two of them were killed, and nine others wounded, on Thursday night when a man walked into a movie theater in Lafayette, sat for a while, and then fired more than a dozen rounds from a .40 caliber handgun.

“We never imagined it would happen in Louisiana,” Jindal said afterward, though the state has the second-highest rate of gun deaths in the country, more than twice the national average. Louisiana also has some of the laxest firearm regulations, for which Jindal bears much responsibility. During his eight years as governor he’s signed at least a dozen gun-related bills, most intended to weaken gun-safety regulation or expand access to firearms. One allowed people to take their guns to church; another, into restaurants that serve alcohol. He broadened Louisiana’s Stand Your Ground law, and made it a crime to publish the names of people with concealed carry permits. At the same time Jindal has pushed for cuts to mental health services.

Jindal treats guns not as weapons but political props. On the presidential campaign trail he’s posed repeatedly for photos cradling a firearm in his arms. “My kind of campaign stop,” he tweeted earlier this month from an armory in Iowa. After the Charleston massacre, he called President Obama’s mild comments about gun violence “completely shameful.” The correct response then, according to Jindal, was “hugging these families,” and “praying for these families.”

On Thursday night Jindal hurried from Baton Rouge to the parking lot of the theater in Lafayette and again called for prayer. “Now is not the time,” he said when a reporter asked about gun control. It is the time, he said later, to send the victims “your thoughts, your prayers, your love.” Meanwhile, Jindal’s campaign staff were reportedly contacting people commenting on Twitter about Louisiana’s gun violence problem and telling them to “put politics aside.”

“When it comes to the Second Amendment, no governor in the last four years has done more to protect our freedoms than Bobby Jindal,” an NRA official said of Jindal during his reelection campaign in 2011. Few have done as much on behalf of the NRA, certainly—and as little to protect their constituents.

Listen to the Laughter — What Barack Obama could have learned from watching Jon Stewart.  Sophia A. McClennen in Salon.

Much is being made of President Obama’s candid interview with Jon Stewart on one of the final episodes of his “Daily Show” tenure. It’s the end of an era for Obama too: He appeared as a guest seven times over the years.

While the revelations of the interview are interesting—Stewart continuing to press Obama on what he still has left to do, Obama chuckling that the GOP must love Trump because he “makes them look less crazy” – the last interview brings up one compelling question: What if Obama had actually watched the show more? Would he have learned more about the Republican mind? Would he have had a better grasp on the political challenges facing our nation, and his presidency?

Some will say that the president had better things to do with his time than watch a show on Comedy Central. Stewart, who loves to call himself just a comedian, might be one of them. That might make sense—except for the fact that his was no ordinary comedy show.

Stewart, like his colleague Stephen Colbert, had insight into U.S. politics Obama never seemed to understand.  “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” were one of the main sources of truth telling about U.S. politics and the nature of the Republican Party before and during the Obama presidency. Their hosts were more trusted than most reporters, and their viewers were more knowledgeable about current events than those of cable news.

But most important, audience knowledge came from satire.  Stewart and Colbert not only exposed fallacies, flaws in logic, and misrepresentations spun by politicians and the media, but they also encouraged critical thinking.  They didn’t just report that Fox News lied: They gave viewers a glimpse into the twisted thinking, hubris, disdain for large segments of society, and closed-mindedness that forms the common, core mind-set of Fox viewers.

Long before Obama launched his presidential campaign, Colbert and Stewart were well aware that extremist Republicans who regularly consume Fox News live in an alternate reality world, where facts “come from the gut” and where it makes sense to blame misfortune on the misfortunate.  Most important, Stewart and Colbert were aware that Fox News Republicans are immune to the force of reason. In fact, as interview after interview revealed on both shows, they simply live in a fantasy world.

Now it may seem to be an over-generalization to suggest that Fox News Republicans create their own reality absent both facts and reason, but we have significant evidence that this is indeed a social epidemic. Chris Mooney cites polls, scientific data and other evidence of what he calls the “Fox News effect”—“explaining how this station has brought about a hurricane-like intensification of factual error, misinformation and unsupportable but ideologically charged beliefs on the conservative side of the aisle.”

Stewart knew Fox News viewers were overwhelmingly misinformed.  Back in 2011 he spoke with Fox News host Chris Wallace on media bias. Stewart commented: “The most consistently misinformed? Fox, Fox viewers, consistently, every poll.” The problem with misinformed viewers is that they can’t be reasoned with because they already hold false beliefs.  As research by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler explains, there is a vast difference between an uninformed public and a misinformed one. An uninformed public is ignorant and can be educated; a misinformed one is delusional—and that’s far more dangerous.

Doonesbury — The gift horse.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Easy Target

I’m all in favor of the folks in South Carolina suddenly getting on board with removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol; I’m happy to hear that Walmart will no longer sell stuff with the Confederate flag on it; and it’s nice to hear that the Speaker of the House in the state of Mississippi is calling for the removal of the emblem from the state flag.

Those are good — if not long overdue — actions to take, and I suppose we could praise them were it not for the fact that it took a massacre, not common sense and an awareness of history, to make them happen.

The Confederate flag is an easy target compared to what really needs to be dealt with: the rampant and horrifying ease at which people can get guns and commit mass murder.  But no one seems in any hurry to do anything about that.

So until the South Carolina legislature, Walmart, and the Speaker of the House in Mississippi deal with that with such rapidity and surety, I’ll withhold my applause.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

And Again

Here we are again with another mass shooting.

This time it’s a church in Charleston, South Carolina.  I’ve already provided links for the details.  Now comes the inevitable introspection, the ready-for-soundbite releases from the gun lobby and the politicians who keep them happy and the guns on the street.  Now comes the “now is not the time to talk about gun control” and the excuses that it’s too soon.  It’s always too soon until it’s too late.

Look, there I go, launching into my own cliches.  All right then, here’s Charlie Pierce who outdoes me and most other people armed with a keyboard.

What happened in a church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday night is a lot of things, but one thing it’s not is “unthinkable.” Somebody thought long and hard about it. Somebody thought to load the weapon. Somebody thought to pick the church. Somebody thought to sit, quietly, through some of Wednesday night bible study. Somebody thought to stand up and open fire, killing nine people, including the pastor. Somebody reportedly thought to leave one woman alive so she could tell his story to the world. Somebody thought enough to flee. What happened in that church was a lot of things, but unthinkable is not one of them.

What happened in a Charleston church on Wednesday night is a lot of things, but one thing it’s not is “unspeakable.” We should speak of it often. We should speak of it loudly. We should speak of it as terrorism, which is what it was. We should speak of it as racial violence, which is what it was.

We should speak of it as an attack on history, which it was. This was the church founded by Denmark Vesey, who planned a slave revolt in 1822. Vesey was convicted in a secret trial in which many of the witnesses testified after being tortured. After they hung him, a mob burned down the church he built. His sons rebuilt it. On Wednesday night, someone turned it into a slaughter pen.

[…]

This was not an unspeakable act. Sylvia Johnson, one of only three survivors of the massacre, is speaking about it.

“She said that he had reloaded five different times… and he just said ‘I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.'”

There is a timidity that the country can no longer afford. This was not an unthinkable act. A man may have had a rat’s nest for a mind, but it was well thought out. It was a cool, considered crime, as well planned as any bank robbery or any computer fraud. If people do not want to speak of it, or think about it, it’s because they do not want to follow the story where it inevitably leads. It’s because they do not want to follow this crime all the way back to the mother of all American crimes, the one that Denmark Vesey gave his life to avenge. What happened on Wednesday night was a lot of things. A massacre was only one of them.

And they will keep happening.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Second Amendment Rites

Were they good guys with guns?

The violence erupted shortly after noon at a busy Waco marketplace along Interstate 35 that draws a large lunchtime crowd. Waco, Texas police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said eight people died at the scene of the shooting at Twin Peaks restaurant and another person at a hospital. He told the Waco Tribune-Herald that the nine killed were all members of biker gangs.

Another 18 people were taken to hospitals with injuries that include stab and gunshot wounds. Some victims are being treated for both, he said.

“There are still bodies on the scene of the parking lot at Twin Peaks,” he said. “There are bodies that are scattered throughout the parking lot of the next adjoining business.”

I blame a lack of social cohesion and absent fathers.  Maybe President Obama should go down there and hold a summit with both sides.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Good Guys Without Guns

Want a definition of irony today?

Time for the NRA annual convention which will be held April 10-12 in Nashville, Tennessee. The ruby red state of Tennessee has gun laws among the most lax in the country. Just a few days after Sandy Hook, the state proposed a Guns In Trunks law, making it easier to carry weapons on school property, and it passed a half a year later.

Wow, I’ll bet the convention’s going to be a real shoot’em-up, right?

All guns on the convention floor will be nonoperational, with the firing pins removed, and any guns purchased during the NRA convention will have to be picked up at a Federal Firearms License dealer, near where the purchaser lives, and will require a legal identification.

Well, if you can’t trust NRA conventioneers with working guns, who can you trust?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Short Takes

ISIS is being beaten back from Tikrit by Iraqi forces.

The Israel election is next week and getting close between the rivals.

The University of Oklahoma expelled two students connected with the SAE racist video.

President Obama signed the “Student Aid Bill of Rights” law.

Stocks fall on strong dollar worries.

Gun ownership is down in America.

Friday, January 16, 2015

In Their Sights

Digby notes an interesting phenomenon: certain people get hysterical when there’s an attack that is labeled as terrorism (i.e. Charlie Hebdo).  They want to declare war against international Islam and shred up the Constitution to protect us.  Yet when there’s a school shooting (i.e. Sandy Hook) these same people get all cautious about a rush to judgment and very protective of civil liberties.

Why is that?

I can think of two reasons.  First, to them any connection to Islam — even if it’s tenuous or done by a fringe splinter offshoot of some tiny faction — makes it The Gravest Threat to America.  So the shooter could have dated a girl whose brother once bought a car from a guy who lived next door to a man named Mustaffah and all of a sudden he’s a jihadist.  Or he could claim allegiance to a radical group that is says it is rooted in Islam but is made up of three other guys who are holed up in a studio apartment in Niwot, Colorado, and making meth on the side.  It doesn’t matter; he’s a believer in Islam, therefore all Muslims are terrorists and they should be hunted down.  By that logic, all Christians should be hunted down because David Koresh at Waco claimed to be a Christian.

A school shooter, however, goes in with a gun he bought at a gun show and gets his ammo over the internet.  He shows up at a campus and slaughter ensues.  But it happens in America and he has a copy of American Rifleman sitting on his coffee table when the CSI team shows up to gather evidence.  Now he’s a lone wolf acting on his own using weapons he purchased legally, and while Wayne LaPierre says it’s a tragedy, there’s no reason to suggest that there’s any need to question his right to own thirty rifles, their barrels shined to a steely glow, and any attempt to prevent such future tragedies will destroy America’s dearly-won freedoms.  Just because he — and it’s always a he — was a card-carrying member of the NRA doesn’t mean that all gun owners are capable of mowing down school kids at thirty bullets per second.

So if it’s wrong to demonize an entire community based on the actions of one person or small group of believers, why does that apply to the NRA but not to Islam?  It shouldn’t, but then it’s a lot easier to demonize Other People than it is to piss off the base of a political party and the largest lobbying effort in Washington.

That’s the second reason.  If elected officials weren’t terrorized by the NRA, we’d have Newt Gingrich and the rest of the Chicken Hawks on cable TV demanding that Congress do something about the guns, and if the NRA doesn’t like it, well, they’d have to realize, just as Pope Francis says, that there are limits to freedom.

Short Takes

Horrifying — Boko Haram is using scorched earth in Nigeria; cities destroyed, people massacred.

Two dead, one injured in Belgium counter-terrorist attack.

Trade and travel restrictions against Cuba are being relaxed as of today.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoes concealed-carry bill.

Here are the very white and very male Oscar nominations.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Short Takes

The Taliban slaughter students in school in Pakistan.

Hostage situation in Sydney, Australia, ends with two of them and the gunman dead.

Newtown families plan to sue maker of the gun used in the massacre two years ago.

Supreme Court turns down Arizona abortion law case.

Senate finally approves Surgeon General nominee.

Greenland melting models may be wrong… and bad for Florida.

Frozen director apologizes for “Let It Go.”  (Too late.)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Armed and Ready

Via TPM:

Local news outlets on Wednesday reported that Veronica Dunnachie was arrested and charged with shooting and killing her ex-husband and stepdaughter.

Authorities were not able to state whether she was a good person with a gun stopping a bad person with a gun or vice versa.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ready Or Not

Via TPM:

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said the shooting occurred Friday night in the city’s downtown area. Sources briefed on the investigation told CNN that a police report identified the victim as 26-year-old Becca Campbell.

Oh, Karma, thou art a heartless bitch.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gun Show

Gun sales in the St. Louis vicinity are through the roof.

Gun stores near the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson have seen sales zoom as the area awaits a grand jury decision on whether to indict a police officer for shooting unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

John Stephenson of Metro Shooting Supplies in nearby Bridgeton said he normally sells 10 to 15 guns a day. But for the last three weeks, he said he has been selling between 30 and 50 guns daily, a nearly 300 percent increase.

The grand jury’s decision was initially expected by mid-November and law enforcement authorities have been training in case the jury’s ruling triggers another spasm of violent protests.

This assumes that the grand jury will not indict the officer and that the black population will riot in the streets, so all the white folks are arming themselves to the teeth.

Does it occur to any of them that the grand jury might indict the officer and the white folk might react in a negative fashion?  Or that even if they don’t, that there aren’t some white people who feel that Michael Brown was murdered and the policeman should stand trial?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Backfire

Amidst the rubble of the mid-terms, there was a glimmer of good news for gun control advocates in Colorado.

Even as Coloradans elected a Republican senator for the first time in a dozen years and handed Republicans control of one chamber of the state legislature, voters did an abrupt about-face when it came to the recalls. The two pro-gun Republicans elected during the recalls were handily beaten this month by Democratic candidates — one of whom once worked for the gun-control group founded by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City.

What won the races was turn-out.

Analysts said the whipsawing results were a lesson in how turnout can vastly change the landscape of the politics in this state, which has an independent streak. The dynamic seems to have empowered conservatives in the low-turnout recall vote last year, but rewarded Democrats this month in a midterm election in which mail-in ballots and a contested Senate race helped Colorado defy a nationwide pattern of sagging voter participation.

Proving once again that good people win when enough people vote.

Friday, October 31, 2014

He Had Other Plans

Via TPM:

Federal agents reportedly found a supply of the explosive ammonium nitrate, along with a pile of guns and ammo, when they searched the hotel room of a leader of a Texas border militia member earlier this month.

The San Antonio Express-News reported on Wednesday about court records that showed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives dispatched agents to a hotel in Brownsville, Texas where Kevin “KC” Massey had been staying before his Oct. 20 arrest on weapons charges.

Along with a box containing the chemical, the officers found “an AK-47 with six loaded magazines, a loaded handgun, a ballistic helmet and several cameras,” according to the Texas newspaper.

As the Express-News noted, ammonium nitrate is the substance used by the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in the attack that killed 168 people.

Massey belonged to the paramilitary group “Camp Lonestar,” and was described as a “CO,” or commanding officer, in a September profile in the Texas Observer.

Yeah, I don’t think he was down there just waiting to catch some kid from El Salvador crossing the border carrying Ebola or bales of marijuana.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

Second Amendment Solution

Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst — she of the pig castration fame — says she’s ready to stand her ground.

In a newly released video from a 2012 National Rifle Association event, Iowa Republican senate candidate Joni Ernst said that she would use a gun to defend herself from the government.

“I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important,” Ernst said at the rally, which was held about a month after James Holmes allegedly murdered 12 people in Aurora, CO.

I get the part about defending herself against an intruder, but from the government?  Does that mean she’s going to pull a gun on a cop that gives her a ticket for a busted taillight?  Draw down on the census taker or the IRS?

Paul Waldman asks the same question.

The problem with this new quote is that it borders on anti-democratic. I don’t care how many times you praise the Founding Fathers or talk about your love of the Constitution, if you think that the way to resolve policy differences or personal arguments with the government is not just by trying to get different people elected or waging a campaign to change the laws or filing suits in court, but through the use of violence against the government, you have announced that you have no commitment to democracy. In the American system, we don’t say that if the government enacts policies we don’t like, we’ll start killing people. It’s not clear that Ernst meant this, but it’s fair to ask her to explain what she did mean.

There’s a real chance she could be the next senator from Iowa.  Do the good people of Iowa really want someone who thinks the best way to protect themselves is by having gunshots flying?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Today’s Karma

Buying that new gun to prevent crime?  I hope you have better luck than this dude.

GRESHAM, OR (KPTV) – A man openly carrying his new handgun was robbed on a Gresham street by a man with a gun of his own.

Police were called out to the area of 172nd and Glisan Street at 2:10 a.m. Saturday.

Investigators said the 21-year-old victim bought a handgun earlier in the day and was openly carrying it while talking to his cousin.

They said a man approached them and asked for a cigarette. Talk eventually turned to the victim’s new purchase, before the robber pulled his own gun from his waistband and said, “I like your gun, give it to me,” according to police.

The victim handed over his gun and the suspect ran away.

Heh.