Wednesday, January 6, 2016

No Matter What, They’re Against It

Scott Lemieux in The Guardian on the Republicans’ knee-jerk response to President Obama’s modest gun-control actions:

Obama’s proposals are, in terms of gun control policy and executive branch authority, ultimately of minor importance. They’re more important for what they reveal about the Republican party in 2016 than for their substantive content.

First, the ludicrously overwrought Republican reaction to Obama’s statement shows that the party continues to refuse the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency: in that environment, utterly ordinary and plainly legal presidential actions can and will be cited as examples of a tyranny. Maybe next Republicans will start arguing that Obama is violating the US constitution and the will of the people by delivering the State of the Union address rather than letting Paul Ryan do it.

And second, it illustrates that gun control is an issue – like upper-class tax cuts and countless others – where Republican policy can be boiled down to a radical one-note ideological slogan. The effectiveness of a given policy, cost/benefit analysis and so on are all beside the point: if a proposal places any restriction on the sale or possession of guns, Republicans can know in advance that the policies are not merely bad policy but illegal. They can confidently make these assertions without even knowing what the proposed policies are.

But in 1991, former president Ronald Reagan wrote an op-ed endorsing federal gun control legislation; in 2016, Obama’s proposed to do less on gun control than even Reagan wanted is seen by Reagan-worshipping Republicans as unconscionable tyranny. The Republican race to get far to Reagan’s right makes the prospect of the GOP obtaining unified control of the government a frightening one indeed.

This is all part of a pattern that has been in place for roughly seven years: no matter what Barack Obama proposes, the Republicans oppose it.  He could have come out at the presser yesterday and said “The hell with it: from now on the federal government will give away a Glock 9 with every tax refund,” the N.R.A. and the House Republicans would have complained that he was usurping the free market by having the government get into the gun business: “Think of the small-town gun shop owners….”

The irony is that if the Republicans had actually tried to work out a sensible resolution to not just the president but to the plague of gun violence without their Pavlovian response that is based on nothing but vitriol and poorly-disguised prejudice and racism, Mr. Obama would not have had to implement these half-way measures to stanch the bloodletting.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Enforcing The Laws

Via the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Obama will announce executive actions on Tuesday intended to expand background checks for some firearm purchases and step up federal enforcement of the nation’s gun laws, White House officials said Monday, once again trying to sidestep a gridlocked Congress on a politically divisive issue.

But faced with clear legal limitations on his authority, Mr. Obama will take modest steps that stop well short of the kind of large-scale changes to the gun trade that he unsuccessfully sought from Congress three years ago. That legislation would have closed loopholes that allow millions of guns to be sold without background checks at gun shows or in online firearm exchanges.

Instead, Mr. Obama will clarify that existing laws require anyone making a living by selling guns to register as a licensed gun dealer and conduct background checks. White House officials said the president would note that criminal penalties already exist for violating those laws.

For years the gun lobby and ammosexuals have said that we don’t need any more laws restricting access to guns; we just need to enforce the laws that are already on the books.  Well, it sounds as if President Obama agrees with them; he’s going to enforce the laws we already have.  So what’s all the fuss about?

In a perverse way, President Obama is the gun lobby’s best friend.  Every time there’s a mass shooting and the president makes a statement about doing something about them, sales of guns go through the roof, either out of fear of being shot while waiting on line at the movies or the paranoia that somehow the guv’mint is gonna swoop down and take away all the guns.  (Given the efficiency and bureaucracy of the guv’mint, I have a hard time imagining that they can swoop down on a discarded candy wrapper, much less all 300 million guns in the country.  But that’s RW nutsery for you.)

Even the N.R.A. thinks this plan is pretty thin gruel.

“This is it, really?” asked Jennifer Baker, an official with the N.R.A.’s Washington lobbying arm. “This is what they’ve been hyping for how long now? This is the proposal they’ve spent seven years putting together? They’re not really doing anything.”

But that’s not going to stop them from raising tons of money to prevent the jackbooted Obama-bots from taking away that piece you’ve been stroking and oiling.

Short Takes

Iran faces more sanctions after Saudi embassy attack.

Volkswagen faces civil suit brought by U.S.

Federal forces tread lightly with Oregon VanillaISIS.

Today is the day President Obama will announce executive action to control gun violence.

GM is investing a lot of money in Lyft, the ride-sharing service.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Short Takes

Saudi Arabia cuts ties with Iran after attack.

Armed group vows to continue occupation of federal wildlife refuge center.

President Obama plans executive action on gun violence.

6.7 magnitude quake hits near India-Burma border.

Winter will finally arrive in the East as the Midwest cleans up.

Top aides to Ben Carson quit his campaign.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Mock “Mass Shooting” Gets Mocked By Farts

Via ThinkProgress:

A “mock mass shooting” held adjacent to the campus of University of Texas at Austin was drowned out by a much larger group of counter-protesters armed with fart guns.

The mock shooting was organized by a group that advocates for the open carry of guns on campus under the banner of the website DontComply.com. The group bragged that the event, which was sparsely attended, “went perfect.”

After the event, the small group held a march with “several members openly carrying real assault-style rifles.”

But the mock shooting was largely eclipsed by a large group of counter-protesters making farting sounds. The “mass farting” was organized by UT alumnus Andrew Dobbs who billed the dueling events as “a choice between fear and a little bit of good humor.”

While just a handful of people attended the mock shooting, Dobbs counter-protest attracted about a hundred people shouting slogans like “We fart in your general direction.”

Thank you, Mel Brooks:

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday Reading

Can We Do It? — Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic looks at the promises and the challenges in the Paris climate change agreement.

With the swing of a gavel on Saturday, the world’s nations adopted the first international agreement to limit the causes of anthropogenic climate change. For the first time in history, more than 150 countries have promised to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide they emit into the atmosphere and to increase these reductions over time.

If ratified, the agreement will include a greater swath of countries than any previous pact, encompassing not only the rich, northern nations that put most of the carbon into the atmosphere, but also the rapidly developing southern states whose emissions could soon dwarf the rest of the world’s.

The document also nods to a more ambitious ultimate goal than any previous agreement. While reinforcing the long-stated international aim of keeping the rise in average global temperatures below two degrees Celsius, it encourages a new push to cap warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“If adopted, countries have united around a historic agreement that marks a turning point in the climate crisis,” said Jennifer Morgan, who directs the climate program at the World Resources Institute, after the final text was announced.

In order to get to this point, national negotiating teams had to resolve many intricate and complicated issues central to international climate diplomacy. But if you have only been following the talks somewhat, you may be more interested in a de facto question posed by Venezuela’s lead climate negotiator, Claudia Salerno. Two hours into the most acrimonious public meeting that occurred during the talks, a nearly four-hour plenary on Wednesday, she described her hope for after the talks.

“I want to go back home, and look my daughters in the face, and say, ‘It’s all going to be fine,’” she told the other negotiators. “‘You’re going to be fine.’”

Venezuela, a petroleum producer, does not have a spotless climate record, and Salerno has pulled stunts at the climate talks before. But in her way, she was stating the prime question behind our roiling crisis. It was the only question that people asked me when I said I had been covering the Paris talks all week:

Are we going to be okay?

The answer is more complicated than yes or no.

[…]

Over the past half decade, more money has been committed to renewable energy than ever before, and the prices of solar and wind energy have fallen precipitously. But in order to halt climate change, many more billions will need to be expended. Research and development budgets, at both governments and companies, must quadruple or sextuple in size. And meanwhile investors must divest themselves of investment in fossil fuels.

The Paris agreement is meant to spur that great re-investment, by signaling the imminent end of the fossil-fuel business and the fantastic opportunity in renewable energy. It hopes to address the boardrooms of the world and say: Keep it up.

Which is good, because in no way are the emissions reductions that countries have made right now adequate. The carbon dioxide cuts specified at Paris will not keep the planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming; they will not even keep it to two. If these cuts were made and no more, the world would warm about 2.7 degrees by 2100. That’s better than the track we’ve been on for a long time, but it is still a catastrophic event.

Everyone knows this. Christiana Figueres, the UN’s lead climate change negotiator and the impresario of Paris, told The New Yorker earlier this year that, “If anyone comes to Paris and has a eureka moment—‘Oh, my God, the [national cutbacks] do not take us to two degrees!’—I will chop the head off whoever publishes that. Because I’ve been saying this for a year and a half.”

The hope of the Paris talks is that it will not matter, that future technological advancements and reduction commitments will get us below the line. And part of the success of the talks is that there will likely be future cutbacks. Because, in a larger sense, the Paris talks have sounded a new era in how the world—as a global system of nation-states—manages climate change.

Time To Worry About Trump — John Cassidy in The New Yorker.

For months now, there has been a disjuncture at the heart of the Republican Presidential race. The opinion polls have had Donald Trump leading handily, but the pundits and prediction (or betting) markets have been saying that it is unlikely he will win the nomination. Even today, this is true.

A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows Trump pulling further ahead of his rivals, with the support of thirty-five per cent of likely voters in the G.O.P. primaries. The survey placed Trump’s nearest challenger, Ted Cruz, almost twenty percentage points behind him. Other recent polls have produced similar results. The Real Clear Politics poll average shows Trump at 30.4 per cent, Cruz at 15.6 per cent, and Ben Carson at 13.6 per cent.

But if you go to online betting sites, where people can wager real money on this stuff, you will get a very different impression of the race. Marco Rubio, who got just nine per cent in the CBS News/Times poll, is still regarded as the strong favorite to land the nomination. At some bookies, the odds of Rubio winning are just 5/4, meaning you have to wager forty dollars to win fifty. Trump is the second-favorite, but gamblers can still obtain odds of 3/1 (or even 4/1) on him being the candidate. Predictwise, an online site that combines information from the betting markets and the polls, reckons the likelihood of Trump winning is just twenty per cent, whereas the probability of Rubio winning is forty-one per cent.

How can these numbers be explained? A bit of history is instructive. At this stage in 2003, Howard Dean was leading John Kerry in the polls by eight percentage points. In mid-December, 2007, Hillary Clinton was leading Barack Obama by eighteen points, and on the Republican side Rudy Giuliani had a five-point lead. On December 11, 2011, the Real Clear Politics poll average showed Newt Gingrich with a twelve-point lead over Mitt Romney: 32.8 per cent to 20.8 per cent. None of these leaders went onto win a nomination, which suggests the national polls shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Moreover, the arguments for Rubio can sound compelling. He’s young and fresh-faced, a good communicator, and the other contenders in the moderate-conservative lane—Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich—are all struggling. If they eventually drop out, much of their support could go to Rubio. Arguably, the senator from Florida also has the background, and political skills, to pick up some ultra-conservative voters: when he was elected to the Senate, in 2010, he was widely perceived as a Tea Party candidate. Right now, nobody else in the Republican field looks capable of putting together such a coalition.

Except for Trump, that is.

Even though early polls often turn out to be unreliable, it’s hard to ignore the fact that he’s been leading in them for five months now. If this is a blip, it is a very extended one. And during the past few weeks, two things have happened which also suggest it is time to reassess Trump’s prospects. First, more evidence has emerged that he isn’t just picking up the support of furious white men in pickup trucks who see the country slipping away from them: his support is a good deal broader than that. And second, the murderous attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have changed the dynamics of the Republican race, bringing the threat of terrorism to the fore. So far, Trump appears to be the principal beneficiary.

Take New Hampshire, where polls show Trump well ahead. A new CNN/WMUR survey of people likely to vote in the G.O.P. primary, which takes place on February 9th, shows him garnering support from virtually all corners of the Republican Party. To be sure, he gets his highest favorability ratings from men, self-identified conservatives, and people who didn’t attend college. But among self-identified moderates, forty-seven per cent have a favorable opinion of Trump, compared to forty-three per cent who view him unfavorably. Among women, forty-nine per cent think positively of Trump, and forty-three per cent have a negative opinion. Among college graduates, fifty-eight per cent express a favorable opinion of him, and thirty five per cent a negative opinion.

So much for the angry-white-guy thesis. At the national level, a recent Quinnipiac University survey of Republicans and Republican leaners produced similar findings. Trump was ahead among voters who described themselves as Tea Party members or extremely conservative, but also among those who described themselves as moderate or liberal. When the pollsters asked Republicans if there were any candidates for whom they definitely wouldn’t vote, Trump was the most popular choice. Twenty-six per cent of respondents ruled out backing him. That confirms he’s a polarizing figure, but it also implies that he hasn’t necessarily reached his ceiling.

And now there is the fear of terrorism to consider. Since the November 13th attacks in Paris, Trump’s poll numbers have risen steadily. While many commentators are outraged by his calls for religious profiling, registries of Muslims, and, most recently, an outright ban on Muslims entering the United States, Trump’s strident language clearly resonates with many Republicans, and even some non-Republicans. In the CBS News/Times poll, seventy-nine per cent of Americans said they believe another terrorist attack is very likely or somewhat likely in the next few months, the highest figure since 9/11. And eighty-nine per cent of the people polled said they are concerned about the threat of homegrown terrorists inspired by foreign extremists.

In terms of inspiring confidence on this issue, Trump ranks highest among the Republican candidates. Seventy-one per cent of Republican primary voters are very confident or somewhat confident in his ability to handle the threat of terrorism, the CBS News/Times poll found. Other surveys have produced similar findings. Asked which candidate could best handle ISIS, forty-six per cent of registered Republicans sampled in a recent national poll from CNN picked Trump. Ted Cruz came in second, but he was trailing Trump by thirty-one percentage points on this key issue.

As of yet, it is too early to say exactly how the furor over Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims will play out. The CBS News/Times poll was carried out largely before he issued his statement on Monday. What scattered evidence there is, such as a Fox News poll from South Carolina and another new poll from New Hampshire, both of which did some sampling on Tuesday, suggest Trump is maintaining—and perhaps even extending—his lead among Republicans. “The question that people have been asking this week is whether the comments that Donald Trump made earlier this week would hurt him,” said Steve Koczela, the pollster who carried out the latest poll in the Granite State for the public-radio station WBUR. “And what this poll shows is that in New Hampshire that certainly was not the case.”

Appearing on Fox on Thursday, Frank Luntz, the G.O.P. pollster who a few days ago conducted a focus group with Trump supporters that received quite a bit of attention, said it is “time for the Republican establishment to accept the fact that Trump is not only a viable candidate, but this lead is real.” Notwithstanding the fate of previous primary front-runners, the same point could be applied to pundits and everybody else. Right now the question isn’t whether Trump could win the Republican nomination; it’s: What is it going to take to stop him?

Armed and Quite Possibly Dangerous — How easy is it to get a concealed carry permit?  Tim Murphy of Mother Jones finds out.

According to the state of Utah, I earned the right to carry a concealed handgun on a Saturday morning in a suburban shopping center outside Baltimore. Toward the back, next to a pawnshop and White Trash Matt’s tattoo parlor, is the global headquarters of Dukes Defense World, a mom-and-pop firearms instruction shop certified by the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification to teach nonresidents firearm safety as a prerequisite for obtaining a concealed-carry permit.

My achievement doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons. One, I don’t live in Utah. I’m a resident of Washington, DC, a city that holds concealed handguns in roughly the same esteem as working escalators. I’ve never shot a gun. And in distinctly un-Utahn fashion, I’m nursing a hangover. Fortunately, none of that matters here. After four hours at Dukes Defense, I have a completed application and a snazzy graduation certificate for my wall. Sixty days after my application is processed, I’ll be able to carry a concealed weapon in no fewer than 32 states. It’s great for road trips.

Over the last two decades, Utah’s concealed-carry permit has emerged as a de facto national ID for handgun owners. It typifies a new era of arming Americans in public: 40 states now recognize some or all out-of-state permits, and 8 have made it legal in all or some circumstances to carry a concealed handgun without any permit at all. In April, the Senate came just three votes short of passing a measure that would have mandated reciprocity for concealed-carry permits—including the ones Utah so freely hands out—nationwide.

As part of a National Rifle Association-backed movement to roll back concealed-carry restrictions, in the mid-1990s Utah became a “shall issue” state. That means it grants concealed-carry permits unless it has a compelling reason (such as a felony record) not to do so. Licensees don’t need to demonstrate proficiency with a handgun, and they don’t even need to set foot in the Beehive State. They just have to take a class on firearm safety and pay a processing fee (approximately $50) and some of the cheapest renewal fees in the business (as little as 75 cents every five years).

The result has been a boom in out-of-state residents seeking permits and the birth of a cottage industry catering to them. As of June, nonresidents held more than 60 percent of Utah’s 473,476 valid concealed-carry permits. Maryland alone has 33 Utah-certified instructors. One, Mid-Atlantic Firearms Training, boasts “No Firearm Qualification Needed”; another, Semper Fidelis Consulting, touts its NRA ties and its convenience. (It makes house calls.)

My instructor is Kevin Dukes, a 20-year Army veteran who runs Dukes Defense World with his wife, Jenny. He’s ready for battle in cargo pants, a black polo, hiking boots, and black-rimmed hipster glasses that match his gray goatee. A handgun is on his hip. A black-and-white portrait of shotgun-pumping Hatfields—icons of responsible gun ownership if ever there were—sits in the corner. Across the room is a table with a paper invitation that will be his first topic of discussion: “Join the NRA.”

The pitch is straightforward. It costs just $35 to sign on with America’s top gun lobbying group, and membership comes with $2,500 of insurance in case anything happens to your piece. Dukes concedes that not everyone is a fan of the NRA’s politics, but in his view the group puts together smart training programs and its aim is true—”320 million people a year are being saved by guns, because they’re not being killed,” he tells us.

[…]

Utah lawmakers’ latest idea is to eliminate the requirement for a permit within the state’s borders entirely—what’s known as “constitutional carry.” In March, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed such a bill, but gun lobbyists are planning to make another push. Constitutional-carry-type laws already exist in eight states, including Arizona, where former Rep. Gabby Giffords’ assailant was exercising his legal right to carry a Glock 19 and high-capacity magazines. When I asked Carrick Cook, a spokesman for the Arizona Depart­ment of Public Safety, what it takes to carry a concealed handgun in Arizona, his response was brief: “Pretty much nothing.” (Residents in constitutional-carry jurisdictions may need to get a permit if they want to cross state lines with a weapon, but that’s usually a formality.)

As Dukes walks us through a long list of precautions, it’s clear that he’s passionate about safety. It’s equally clear that I don’t know the first thing about how to responsibly handle a firearm, let alone carry one in public. Jenny invites us to come up front to practice loading a handgun with fake rounds. When my turn comes, I struggle to load more than a few before they’re ejected halfway across the room. But that’s not going to stop Utah from giving me a permit.

A few weeks after my graduation, I call up Dukes. My application is still being processed, but a question has been nagging at me: What did a seasoned instructor think about the fact that pretty much anyone could walk in and get a Utah permit without demonstrating a lick of proficiency with a gun? While he seems disappointed that I signed up for the class with no actual desire to protect myself, he hardly hesitates: “The Constitution doesn’t say you need it.”

Doonesbury — Anybody can do it.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Crazy For Guns

Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station posted this on Facebook and I have to share it.

Bang Bang Crazy

An outfit calling itself “Come and Take It Texas” announced they will stage a “mock” mass shooting this weekend on the campus of the University of Texas.

They’re calling for volunteer “crisis actors” to play unarmed liberal students who will get “shot” like sheep in their gun-free zone by pretend perpetrators armed with cardboard weapons.

“It’s a fake mass shooting, and we’ll use fake blood,” said the event’s organizer, Matthew Short.

According to the Austin Statesman, the ammosexuals staging this idiotic event will simulate gun noises using recordings played over bullhorns, then when the fake blood is flying and they’ve convinced the students a full on slaughter is underway, the day will be “saved” when good guys with guns rush in (also armed with fake guns) to kill all the bad guys, pew! pew! pew! and thereby demonstrate to the unarmed students the foolishness of their liberal ways.

“We want criminals to fear the public being armed,” Short said. “An armed society is a polite society. We love freedom and we’re trying to make more freedom.”

We love freedom and we’re trying to make more. Yes we do. That’s why they didn’t get permission or a permit, because they’re not going to bow down to the man. Also? This mock shooting will take place immediately after the SAME people march through town with their REAL guns in a show of armed liberty.

And then there’s this: An armed society is a polite society.

Really?

Look, I love Robert Heinlein stories, the guy was a hell of a writer. He said a lot of quotable things. Some great, some funny, and some just plain stupid. And that idiotic canard, an armed society is a polite society, is manifestly the stupidest thing he ever said. Especially when quoted out of context as justification for even more idiotic stupidity – not that I expect Matthew Bang Bang Short has any idea where that quote came from, he doesn’t strike me as the reading type, other than Guns & Ammo I mean.

An armed society is a polite society, sure – if you’re a science fiction writer like Heinlein and you create the society you’re talking about for a novel where genetically engineered immortal supermen duel out of boredom. Sure. But out here? In the real world? It’s bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit. PROVABLE bullshit. I can show you armed societies, truly armed societies, we’ll start in Iraq and work our way around to Somalia then via the Mexican drug corridors through gangbanger territory in Los Angeles.

Universally armed societies are emphatically NOT polite. This is provable and repeatable as many times as you care to run the experiment. Q.E.D.

And, really, don’t we Americans make fun of comparatively unarmed societies (compared to us) such as France and Great Britain for their politeness? Canadians are so polite that it’s damned near a cliché, and yet somehow their easy going nature doesn’t seem to be at the muzzle of a gun. How is that? Because based on ACTUAL real world examples, it’s the UNARMED societies which are most polite.

If armed societies are polite societies, how do you explain Texas?

An armed society is a polite society?

What’s the logic here? Be polite, say please and thank you while kissing my ass or I’ll blow your fucking brains out?

Listen to me: Politeness at gunpoint is neither politeness nor a society.

And let’s be honest here, do you really – and I mean really – want to live in a society where social interaction is enforced by the threat of deadly violence? Really? Welcome to Saudi Arabia. Welcome to Feudal Japan. Welcome to Dodge City and Tombstone. What’s next? Do we bring back dueling? Be nice to me, or I’ll shoot you dead, fucker.

I call Shenanigans.

“Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.  With guns.” – Pogo.

HT to CLW.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Short Takes

Trump calls for complete ban on Muslims entering America.

F.B.I. talking to man who bought the guns used in the San Bernardino massacre.

Supreme Court refuses to hear assault weapons ban case.

Opposition wins big victory in Venezuela.

Global emissions of greenhouse gases were down slightly last year.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Making A List

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) says that people on the no-fly list should be able to buy guns because the list is meaningless.

“The majority of the people on the No-Fly list are often times people that just basically have the same name as somebody else, who doesn’t belong on the No-Fly list,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union. “Former Senator Ted Kennedy once said he was on a no-fly list. There are journalists on the No-Fly list.”

[…]

“These are everyday Americans that have nothing to do with terrorism, they wind up on the No-Fly list, there’s no due process or any way to get your name removed from it in a timely fashion, and now they’re having their Second Amendment rights being impeded upon,” he said.

Well, here’s a thought: fix the list so that someone who doesn’t belong on it isn’t on it, and while you’re at it, ban people who should be on it from buying guns.  I doubt that the Second Amendment would suffer irreparable harm if we insist that there is a right not to be shot by someone who can’t get through a TSA screening.

The idea that someone as thick as Marco Rubio is considered presidential material by anyone is just plain scary.

No Magic Words

I watched the president’s speech last night from the Oval Office.  It was strong and delivered the right message: freaking out about ISIS is what ISIS wants, and we’re not going to beat them by demonizing an entire religion based on the extremism of a few who claim to adhere to it.

For some strange reason, this does not sit well with the Republican candidates for president.  Apparently they would rather run in circles, scream, and chant “radical Islamic terrorism” as if that would ward off the evil-doers.  They might as well sing “Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo” and get a nice outfit for the ball in bargain.

I don’t envy the President’s task of trying to calm a nation that is rightfully frightened by the events of the last few months.  It’s a lot more prudent to talk about how to deal with the threat of ISIS in real terms of strangling them in Syria and Iraq, but when it becomes a domestic issue and then gun control gets thrown in — another trigger point, so to speak, that sets the right-wing noise machine into overload — it becomes exponentially harder to deal with both issues.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Just Another Day In America

Charlie Pierce:

I don’t even know what to say anymore. The only things that seem newsworthy about what happened in San Bernardino are the circumstances of the murders. The facts on the ground as first reported are as strange as they are garish. At the moment, we are being told that there were as many as three shooters, that they were wearing body armor, that they were carrying “long guns,” that they were wearing “tactical gear,” and that they got away, leaving a “suspicious package” lying around the Inland Regional Center conference facility where 14 people (at last count) were shot to death. All of this is, of course, subject to change. There may only have been two shooters, but there also may be more people who died. Otherwise, it’s just another day in America, another day with another mass shooting, another day in which people decided to exercise their Second Amendment rights in very inconvenient ways.

[…]

Very nearly three years ago—​damn near three fcking goddamn years ago!​—Adam Lanza shot up the Sandy Hook Elementary School, and we all were supposed to learn something. What we learned is that this country’s insane attachment to its firearms is well-nigh unbreakable. Less than a week ago, Robert Dear shot up a Planned Parenthood facility, and we were all supposed to learn something. What we learned is that the people who deal in inflammatory mendacity for their own political advantage are well-nigh unshakable. No matter what “motive” ostensibly was behind what can legitimately be called the “attack” in San Bernardino, there is no question that there is murder in this country’s heart now, not buried very deeply at all any more, and that there are people who are more than willing to act on it. This is a ferocious loss of faith in democracy, in the project of creating a viable political commonwealth. It is aided and abetted by a revolting firearms fetish that is exploited by cheap and miserable politicians. I don’t care anymore about pointing out who may or may not have blood on their hands. It’s knee-deep, and we’re all in it.

By the numbers:

Mass Shootings in America 12-03-15

The worst part of this is that we have become so numb to this. The body counts, the “breaking news,” the meaningless search for sense. We’ve gotten way past outrage and just given up.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Yet Again

Another mass shooting, this time in San Bernardino, California.

Police were searching for up to three suspects Wednesday in connection with a deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, where up to 14 people were killed and as many as 14 more were wounded, authorities said.

“The suspects have fled,” said San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan. “We don’t yet have a motive.”

At least one of the suspects was believed to be wearing tactical gear, the NBC affiliate KNBC reported.

“I know we do have some fatalities,” Lt. Richard Lawhead of the San Bernardino police told KNBC. “But I don’t know the numbers.”

It’s too late to talk about gun control.  Let’s talk about madness and mayhem.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Now They Want Gun Control

From the Didn’t Think This Through files:

A Texas state legislator wants the U.S. to stop allowing Syrian refugees into the country. His reasoning: They might be able to buy guns in his state.

Rep. Tony Dale (R) made this argument in a television interview on Monday and in letters to Texas’ U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz (R) and U.S. Reps. Michael McCaul and John Carter (R).

“While the Paris attackers used suicide vests and grenades,” Dale wrote, “it is clear that firearms also killed a large number of innocent victims. Can you imagine a scenario were [sic] a refugees [sic] is admitted to the United States, is provided with federal cash payments and other assistance, obtains a drivers license and purchases a weapon and executes an attack?” He urged the lawmakers to “do whatever you can to stop the [Syrian refugee] program.”

Well, maybe if Texas didn’t have some of the loosest gun control laws in the country this wouldn’t be a problem.  Did you ever think of that, Copernicus?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Short Takes

Thousands in Turkey protest government after bombing.

Cleveland county prosecutor says shooting of 12-year-old by police “reasonable.”

President Obama says Hillary Clinton made “mistake” on e-mail server.

Former Benghazi investigator alleges bias against Clinton by committee.

Supreme Court could take up assault weapons ban.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Reckless Endangerment

A shopping mall in suburban Detroit was the scene yesterday of a fantasy come true for a lot of folks who think packing heat makes them a hero.  And then there’s real life.

Police confirmed on Wednesday that a concealed pistol license (CPL) holder was not being threatened by a fleeing shoplifter when she decided to fire multiple shots at him in a Home Depot parking lot.

And experts interviewed Wednesday doubted the shooting could have been justified.

“It’s my worst nightmare as a CPL instructor,” said Doreen Hankins, owner of Detroit Arms, which holds CPL classes. “You have to know the entire situation before you pull that handgun out. And I don’t see that a shoplifter at Home Depot fills any of those criteria.”

The shooting happened in the store’s parking lot at around 2 p.m. Tuesday, when Home Depot’s store security was chasing a shoplifter who jumped into a waiting dark SUV driven by another suspect, said Lt. Jill McDonnell, an Auburn Hills police spokeswoman.

But when the SUV began to pull away, the CPL holder, a 48-year-old woman from Clarkston, suddenly began firing shots at the fleeing vehicle. The vehicle escaped, though one of the bullets may have flattened a back tire, McDonnell said. Police are still seeking to identify the suspects, who made off with more than $1,000 in merchandise.

The shooter remained on the scene, cooperated with police, and was released pending an investigation. But gun safety experts say the shooting details that have been released so far don’t look great for the shooter.

To use a concealed weapon in Michigan, a CPL holder needs to think that there is an imminent danger of death, great bodily harm or sexual assault, or think there is a similar danger to someone else, said Rick Ector, a firearms trainer who runs Legally Armed Detroit. He added that a gun is “truly a tool of last resort.”

So despite what you see on Hawaii 5-0, it’s not a good idea to shoot at a fleeing vehicle, and the last time I looked, using deadly force against a shoplifter is not on the books.

I hope they throw the book at her, but they’d better be careful; she might shoot back.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Try, Try Again

I will at the least give the Democrats credit for bringing up gun control in the Senate.

Senate Democrats are gearing up for another gun-control push after the massacre at a community college in Roseburg, Ore., as the chamber’s top Democrat accused Republicans of being “puppets” of the influential National Rifle Association in obstructing action on guns.

But as members of both parties pitch ideas for gun-control legislation, once again, there appear to be few areas of agreement between Democrats and Republicans.

Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday that he is reaching out to other Democratic senators on moving background checks legislation – a tall order in the Senate, where just two years ago Republicans and red-state Democrats blocked a bill when the chamber was under Democratic control. On Monday, Senate Republicans again shrugged off the push from Democrats as political and not addressing the root cause of the country’s mass shooting affliction.

“We’ll see whether the people who have no solution, who just want to keep talking about guns, are willing to meet us halfway,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who wants to focus on the link between mental health and guns. “If somebody’s got a better idea, great. But if they’re just going to rail about guns and violence without offering solutions, that’s not good enough.”

Someone has pointed out that the United States cannot be the only country in the world with a population that has a number of people with mental illness.  That’s a human condition, not just one based on where you live.  So why is it that we’re the only country that has a problem keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them?  Does Canada or Australia not have people who are unfit to own a gun?  Why don’t they have all these mass shootings?  There must be another reason we have them and they don’t…

Yes, I’m being sarcastic.  But it’s time to start hitting back at the strawman arguments against gun control.  And it’s also time to stop using the qualifier of “common sense” gun control versus some other kind.  That’s a sop to the NRA.  Between their advocacy for the gun manufacturers and the paranoids who think every law is tantamount to the guv’ment grabbing all the guns just like the Third Reich, they have no idea what “common sense” means, as if they really cared in the first place.

I doubt that Sen. Reid’s attempt will create a legislative tsunami anytime soon, especially as we head into an election year.  But at least it’s more than “it’s too soon” to talk about it.

Monday, October 5, 2015