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

Friday, October 2, 2015

Nothing Will Be Done

Despite President Obama’s crie de coeur (see below), this yet-again shooting will not change anything.  Oh, there will be the obligatory vigils, the interviews with the families, the speculation on the motive, the tugs at the heart, but in the end, the politicians will shrug and say that freedom isn’t free, and then they’ll be off to a fundraiser hosted by the NRA.

Charlie Pierce:

I will tell you when I knew that the latest mass murder by gunfire in the United States wasn’t going to matter very much in relation to this country’s insane attachment to its firearms. It was the moment when one of the two CNN anchors felt obligated to mention that the campus of Umpqua College was a gun-free zone. For the record, Oregon is an open-carry state generally, but the courts there have ruled that colleges could ban weapons from campus buildings, and that is only going to make the inevitable rhetoric worse. Judges are going to be blamed. Academics are going to be blamed. The people turning a buck on our regularly scheduled carnage know how to duck when the blood coats the breeze. If only all the students were strapped, 13 of them wouldn’t be dead because the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, and so forth, forward into a general grave.

“I heard at least nine shots,” he said. “There’s a door connecting our classroom to that classroom, and my teacher was going to knock on the door,” Mr. Winder said. “But she called out, `Is everybody O.K.?’ and then we heard a bunch more shots. We all froze for about half a second.” “We heard people screaming next door,” he said. “And then everybody took off. People were hopping over desks, knocking things over.” All the classrooms in the building open to the outdoors—there are no hallways, Mr. Winder said—and “as we were running away, I think there were more shots, but my brain was kind of panic mode, just focused on running as fast as I could.”

See, this is what we have to understand. The full and free exercise of Second Amendment rights can be dreadfully inconvenient to the academic process, not to mention anyone who wants to live to be 25.

Mr. Grogan said students were evacuated to a local fairgrounds. “The police searched everybody,” Mr. Winder said, “searching their jackets and bags for weapons, before putting them on buses.”

See, there’s the barn. See how the door is locked. And over there, disappearing over a high and distant hill, that’s the horse.

And that’s the way it will always be.

“Our Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough”

President Obama responds to the shooting in Oregon.

“America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love,” Obama said. “But as I said, just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America.”

Obama has had to respond to multiple mass shootings in his tenure. In his speech Thursday, he said that laws have been put in place to prevent other disasters — but not gun violence.

“When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we work to make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them. To reduce auto fatalities, we have seat belt laws because we know it saves lives,” Obama said.

“So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations. Doesn’t make sense.”

Amen, Mr. President.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Reading

Drop the Guns — George Zornick in The Nation on why Walmart decided to end the sale of assault weapons.

For many years, you could walk into America’s most ubiquitous retail store and walk out with a military-style assault rifle. That will soon be impossible. Walmart announced this week that it will discontinue sales of “modern” sporting rifles, which are often fashioned to look like military weapons. It will also cease sales of any other gun that can carry high-capacity ammunition rounds.

The store claims the shift is a response to sales; a spokesman told Newsweek simply that “customers weren’t buying them.”

But there are serious reasons to question that justification, and instead to see a notable moment in evolving American views and standards on gun control.

Nationwide, gun sales are going up, not down, according to FBI data on background check requests. That’s the most reliable barometer of gun sales nationwide. While it doesn’t capture online sales or others where background checks are not required, Walmart does run them.

Analyses of the gun industry consistently show that assault rifles are a popular choice for consumers. The National Sports Shooting Foundation said in congressional testimony last year that there were 5 to 8.2 million assault rifles in the United States. Gun shop owners explained that if assault-rifle sales tail off at all, it’s because customers most likely owned one at some point. “The market is saturated. The market is flooded with them,” one gun merchant toldUSA Today late last year.

Walmart doesn’t report detailed sales numbers, and it’s possible there’s something idiosyncratic about Walmart gun customers that makes assault rifles unattractive. That would make them unlike gun customers nationwide—and Walmart is the country’s largest gun retailer, as we reported in detail in late 2012.

We also know gun sales are a big moneymaker for the retailer. A Walmart executive vice president told shareholders in 2012 that gun sales were a staple of improving sales numbers, and that gun sales increased 76 percent over the 26 previous months.

That’s all to say: Walmart’s explanation for stopping assault-weapons sales is not terribly convincing. More likely, the store is responding to increased concerns about gun control, and realizing that selling military-looking weapons three aisles over from diapers is untenable in a country where mass shootings continue to increase, and where more than half of shooters use assault weapons or high-capacity weapons. When I was working on the 2012 story, I contacted Walmart to request comment on the fact that they were selling the same gun Adam Lanza had just used during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The gun quickly disappeared from Walmart’s site, only to reappear later.

But Walmart executives had to be worried about another similar scenario—maybe even where the shooter buys their gun from Walmart directly.

People are often (and rightfully) frustrated with the lack of progress on gun control at the national level, but smaller victories at the state and municipal level are often overlooked. Several states from Washington to Connecticut instituted tougher gun laws since Newtown, and it’s become an increasingly potent message for big-city mayors.

This is the new reality Walmart is probably responding to—especially since the store’s new growth plan involves pushing into urban centers where, until now, there haven’t been many Walmart stores. (That may also explain Walmart’s quick decision to do away with Confederate flag products after the massacre in Charleston.)

Mayors often used Walmart’s gun sales as a reason not to approve a location, even if the company pledged not to sell weapons at that particular prospective store. New York City is even considering divesting from Walmart because of its weapons sales.

So while Walmart still remains the country’s largest gun retailer, their self-imposed assault-weapons ban can fairly be seen as a small victory for gun control advocates: It’s a new world Walmart finds itself selling in.

You Wanna Talk Katrina? — Cheryl Wagner in TPM on what it cost to stay after the flood.

…My returning neighbors and I slowly but surely stabilized the deserted blocks. Those of us who lived on-site in trailers or in the upstairs of flooded and gutted houses served as watchmen against house strippers and copper thieves. We sat with the elderly who returned to their ruined homes and listened to their stories. We planted gardens. We shared tools and helped each other carry heavy things. We intervened when children returned without adequate adult supervision bounced on moldy curbside mattresses and became the targets of drifter grifters’ stolen goods schemes. We conferred about insurance and Road Home problems and spent years of our lives untangling snafus. We picked through rubble and high weeds and weird and awful garbage and peeked in abandoned windows to help catalog the blight. We met with city officials when neighbors had family members gunned down in front of their houses by patrons of seedy, makeshift bars. Reading it now, the list is as incomplete as it is long and absurd and exhausting.

Despite these efforts, the vantage of 10 years has made it easier to see rebuilding’s true and total cost to me and others. Not only did years of our lives get sacrificed to a bureaucratic and literal quagmire, but also there’s an awful lot that, as the joke goes, can never be unseen. So in my head movie of the rerun of my life, sometimes I cue the reel where I pull a Homer Simpson. His platform when he ran for Sanitation Commissioner becomes mine. “Can’t someone else do it?”

Some of my mixed feelings stem from the mixed results of the rebuild. A good bit of what some neighbors and I had hoped for in the endless series of civic planning meetings never materialized. Simple things like safe neighborhoods and affordable housing and easier paths for former New Orleanians to return to their former homes for many never became a reality. New Orleans and Louisiana is now full of people who, for various reasons, don’t like to talk much about the flood. And now I’m one of them.

Facebook has become a minefield of Louisianans barking at each other to either stop talking about the flood in the way they are talking about it or to just stop talking about the flood, period. Angry diatribes about the production of commemorative Katrina snow globes battle old photos of friends in white hazmat suits cleaning out their flooded houses. Memes circulate of a vintage comic book Batman bat-slapping Robin under the words “Ten years after Katrina? SHUT THE HELL UP.”

Some of this is Katrina fatigue from the are-you-still-chewing-that-old-bone? crowd that did not flood, but it’s also that people who suffered greatly don’t want their wound constantly poked at with a media stick. What don’t they want to be reminded of? You name it. Loss of family or friends that died in the flood. Loss of family and friends from stress or rebuilding accidents or suicide in the flood’s prolonged aftermath that no one ever counted among the official dead. The financial shitstorm the flood opened up in their lives that they are still trying to ride out. All the K-splainers who have moved to town. The cheesy disaster art and music. Their vanished photos and clothes and books and records they know was “just stuff” but used to give them tangible proof of who they were and where they had been anyway. How they don’t trust the government or insurance companies quite the same anymore. Why they can’t afford to rent or live in their old neighborhoods. How places like New Orleans East and Chalmette and the Lower Ninth Ward and elsewhere still look pretty bruised. That some contractors came to town to try to rip them off and succeeded. How that wall looks crooked and that tile seems a little warpy and guess what? It is—because they had to repair it themselves.

What I don’t particularly care to talk about or remember is both little and big. Escape holes cut in roofs. Mattresses and clothes scattered on the sides of elevated highways. Mold and fetid refrigerators and creepy clouds of plaster dust that billowed up the street. All the women sitting on their front steps with their heads in their hands. My basset hounds swallowing roof slate and wire from having to live with me in the disaster zone. And I don’t want to be reminded that my friend was murdered in the aftermath and no one ever got caught or punished for it and she and her memory evaporated, like much of what happened, into time and smoke.

But sometimes being willing to talk moves the conversation forward. And what I do want to talk about is this: everything my Mom was worried would take its toll and was unable to communicate to me when I was caught up in the fight-or-flight of the moment. We don’t choose our disasters, but when disasters happen, should we lean in and ride them out to their wild conclusions—or just get the hell out of the way?

Vin Scully Goes For 67 — The long-time Dodgers broadcaster will return for one more season next year.

On the surface, the most impressive thing about Scully is his longevity. When the 21-year-old redhead from The Bronx broadcast his first Dodgers game in 1950, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Bob Feller were active. Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle had not yet started their careers. Cy Young, a 19th century star whose name is synonymous with pitching greatness, was still alive. The Dodgers’ own Jackie Robinson had broken baseball’s color barrier just three years earlier—and the majority of the league’s 16 teams had still never employed a black player. No city west of the Mississippi River would have its own team for eight more years, when Scully accompanied Brooklyn’s Dodgers west to Los Angeles.

But Scully is more than just an announcer who happened to stick around for a long time.

He’s also probably the best baseball broadcaster to ever live, and a man whose influence is felt across the American sports landscape. Scully began his career in an era when the vast majority of baseball games were not televised, and his style—conversational rather than kinetic—was perfectly suited to the medium.

Baseball is a game of stillness, where slight, almost imperceptible shifts carry great consequences. A Scully broadcast includes the standard description of home runs, ground ball outs, and intentional walks. But you also learn that the glare of the afternoon sun caused the right fielder to misjudge a fly ball, or that the pitcher shook off the catcher’s sign three times before throwing a slider in the dirt.

As with other broadcasters, Scully tells you what each player’s batting average is. But you’re also told that the center fielder’s father was a country doctor in Indiana, or that the shortstop toiled in the minor leagues for a full decade before earning his chance in the majors. It is these details that, whether you’re lying in bed with the radio on or stuck in traffic on the 405, turn each Scully broadcast into a vivid work of art.

More importantly, Scully also knows when to be silent. Consider one of his most famous broadcasts, that of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game on September 9, 1965. As the great left-handed pitcher struck out batter after batter in the later innings, Scully expertly conveyed the sense of excitement and wonder permeating Dodger Stadium. But when Koufax retired Harvey Kuenn to preserve the rare feat, Scully said nothing—the crowd’s reaction was all the color he needed. The remarkable conclusion to the 50-year-old game is preserved here:

As televised baseball spread in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, Scully was frequently assigned to the sport’s grandest events, and throughout his career he would cover 25 different World Series. These days are long gone—nowadays, Scully limits himself to Dodgers games on the West Coast. But to those fans lucky enough to listen to his broadcasts, it’s clear that the octogenarian isn’t coasting on his reputation. Scully knows the game’s contemporary players as well as the tens of thousands he’s described in the past, and is never caught unprepared. And in an age when announcers increasingly resort to forced folksiness or blatant homerism, Scully’s quiet professionalism remains as vital as ever.

Scully has intimated that 2016 will likely be his last season. He said last night, “I do feel in my bones … that will be enough.”

Doonesbury — Old timers.

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.