Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ask Them This

In the wake of yet another mass shooting and the endless cycle of “thoughts and prayers” emanating from elected officials and the perpetual “now is not the time” excuse for avoiding anything to do with gun control, it is time to change the focus from the abstract to the specific: who is paying them to utter their “thoughts and prayers”?

I have resolved to ask every elected official running for office from here on out, regardless of party and regardless of office, how much money they’ve received from the NRA or any other gun lobby.  Then smile and patiently wait for their answer.

It’s a simple question, really, and they should know the answer.  And it should be a matter of public record so if they fudge, we can pull it up and tell them how much they’ve gotten from them.  Then ask them what they plan to do with it.

Asking them where they stand on gun control invites weaseling and mumbling about “defending the Second Amendment.”  What they’re really saying is that being on the payroll of the NRA is more important than actually representing the rest of us who would rather not have to contemplate yet again another somber week of burying children because it’s easier in Florida to buy an AR-15 than it is to buy medicine to control diarrhea.

So ask them: “How much money did you get from the NRA?” and vote accordingly.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Reading

Four Truths About the Florida School Shooting — Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker.

Onto the continuing tragedy of American gun violence are now piled many kinds of grotesquerie, not least the e-mails, sure to come to any parent with kids still in school anywhere in the country, offering “tips on talking to children about violence” and promising that your child’s school “has been performing lockdown drill protocols that our security team and consultants have recommended to ensure that we are prepared in the unlikely event that an incident occurs.” We have normalized gun killings to the point that we must now be reassured that, when the person with the AR-15 comes to your kid’s school, there’s a plan to cope with him. (That the planning is almost worthless is proved by the killings in Florida, where the murderer may have taken advantage of his knowledge of the lockdown protocols in order to kill more students.) Here, though, are four simple truths worth saying again, in the aftermath of the Florida massacre, about gun control and gun violence.

1. The gun lobby, and the Republican Party it controls, have accepted as a matter of necessity the ongoing deaths of hundreds of children as the price that they are prepared to pay for the fetishization of weapons. The claim of this lobby’s complicity in murder is not exaggerated or hysterical but, by now, quite simple and precise: when you refuse to act to stop a social catastrophe from happening, you are responsible for the consequences of the social catastrophe. If you refuse to immunize your children and a measles epidemic breaks out, you are implicated in the measles. If you refuse to pay money for sewers and cholera breaks out, you are complicit in the cholera. Acts have consequences. This complicity includes all of the hand-wringers and the tut-tutters and the “nothing to be done”-ers as much as the N.R.A. hardcore. Many people have predicted, repeatedly, that one gun massacre would lead to the next—and that more gun massacres would probably take place in one year in America than in the rest of the civilized world combined—and they have been proved right, and then right again. Since everyone knew that this would happen again, those who did nothing to stop it happening again—and everything they did to see that no one else could do anything to stop it happening again—are complicit when it happens, again.

2. The claim that gun massacres are mysterious or difficult or bewildering or resistant to legislation is a lie. When people say that nothing can be done because this law wouldn’t stop this one, or that law that one, they are acting in ignorance of the most significant and obvious fact: that no other modernized society experiences remotely the frequency or the horror of American gun killings. There is no mystery at all to stopping this, if there is a minimal will to stop it. A huge, repeated body of social science shows that gun control controls gun violence, and largely eliminates gun massacres, within the normal limits of human action. (People still die of infections; that is no argument against the efficacy of antibiotics. Crimes continue on our streets; that is no argument against the thousand small sanities that have so dramatically reduced violent crime in our cities.) If we had gun laws like the gun laws in Canada or in Britain, we would have gun violence at the level that it exists in Canada and Britain. There is no special American quiddity that would alter this—to insist otherwise is as irrational as insisting that American kids shouldn’t be immunized because American kids have a different kind of immunity than other kids. They don’t. Building small barriers to gun violence reduces all gun violence. The lesson of contemporary social science is that small difficulties have great effects; make crime harder and you have much less crime. Make getting guns harder and you will have fewer people using them. Merely make gun ownership as demanding as, say, car ownership, with a license to obtain and insurance to buy, and you will see a drastic reduction in gun violence and perhaps a near-end to the mass killings of children.

3. The Second Amendment is not a barrier to gun sanity. The reading, from left to right, of the amendment was—until the day before yesterday, historically speaking—that it provided no guarantee to the individual ownership of guns. The notion that it does is novel, radical, and wrong.

4. The attempt to turn the question of gun violence into a question of mental health is obscene. Of course, people who kill children en masse are crazy. That’s the given. Saying this says nothing; every country contains mentally ill and potentially violent people. Only America arms them. When Donald Trump, who last year signed a bill to end a mild Obama-era rule designed to keep mass-killing weapons out of the hands of people with certain mental illnesses, talks about reporting people who are “mentally disturbed” to the proper authorities—well, irony piles upon irony, and the only adequate tribute is contempt and silence.

Mueller’s Message to America — Paul Rosenzweig in The Atlantic.

With yet another blockbuster indictment (why is it always on a Friday afternoon?), Special Counsel Robert Mueller has, once again, upended Washington. And this time, it is possible  that his efforts may have a wider effect outside the Beltway.

For those following the matter, there has been little doubt that Russian citizens attempted to interfere with the American presidential election. The American intelligence agencies  publicized  that conclusion more than a year ago in a report issued in January 2017, and it has stood by the analysis whenever it has been questioned. But some in the country have doubted the assertion—asking for evidence of interference that was not forthcoming.

Now the evidence has been laid out in painful detail by the special counsel. If any significant fraction of what is alleged in the latest indictment is true (and we should, of course, remind ourselves that an indictment is just an allegation—not proof), then this tale is a stunning condemnation of Russian activity. A Russian organization with hundreds of employees and a budget of millions of dollars is said to have systematically engaged in an effort (code named “Project Lakhta”) to undermine the integrity of the election and, perhaps more importantly, to have attempted to influence the election to benefit then-candidate Donald Trump. Among the allegations, the Russians:

  • Conducted political intelligence-gathering activities in the United States;

  • Hid their activities by setting up virtual networks in America that masked their extra-American communications;

  • Influenced the American election by using false personas to organize rallies for Trump, criticizing Muslims and spreading allegations of voter fraud by candidate Clinton;

  • Stole American identities to create controlled accounts; and

  • Destroyed evidence of their activities.

The details of these activities are painfully explicit; the indictment cites dates, times, places, messages, posts, and specific rallies. In short, if the facts prove out, there can be absolutely no doubt—none whatsoever—that Russian actors engaged in a multi-year, multi-million-dollar campaign of influence.

From this, it seems that two things are clear. First, while the “official” purpose of this indictment is to criminally prosecute violations of American law, the indictment also has a second purpose—to inform the American public and their representatives. Let’s be blunt—none of the Russians who were indicted will ever,ever, see the inside of an American courtroom. Russia won’t extradite them and we won’t, realistically, expect them to do so. The individuals may not have as much freedom to travel (say, to the French Riviera) for fear of arrest, but otherwise the effect on them will be negligible.

Given that reality, this indictment (which prosecutors sometimes call a “speaking indictment”) is so detailed precisely because the evidence will never be presented in a court. It is designed to give as full an accounting of the known facts as the prosecutors reasonably can. Beyond prosecution, the clear goal here is to speak to the American public—and if this message isn’t sufficient, then no message can possibly sway the body politic.

The indictment is also conspicuous for failing to allege any act of collusion between the Russian actors and any Americans at all. There are no identified American co-conspirators and there certainly is no allegation that the Russians acted with the knowledge of (much less the approval of) any individuals in the Trump campaign. As far as the indictment is concerned, the Russian activity was initiated by the Russians for their own strategic benefit, and candidate Trump may only have been an incidental beneficiary of their activity.

Again, that seems an unlikely proposition. But in fairness to President Trump, we need to acknowledge that, thus far, the Mueller team has alleged no active collusion. For the Trump team, that will be the takeaway from today’s indictment.

For the rest of America, the takeaway should be much grimmer: The threat to the integrity of our elections is real. The main question that Mueller asks is not whether the Russians are guilty, but what America is going to do about it? If, faced with this reality, we continue to do nothing, then the blame for the next failure will be on us.

Ben Franklin, when asked what sort of government the Founders created, is reported to have said “a Republic, if you can keep it.” Americans must now to decide if we want to keep ours.

Breaking Barriers — Sopan Deb profiles an actor with Down Syndrome who plays the lead.

Near the end of 2015, the playwright Lindsey Ferrentino and the actress Jamie Brewer were watching clips of Donald J. Trump, then a candidate, appearing to mock a reporter with a physical disability. They were horrified — which made their work on a new play, centered on a character with Down syndrome, all the more significant.

“From that point forward, the play took on a new meaning for me,” Ms. Ferrentino said.

“Big time,” Ms. Brewer added.

“Watching you watch that video, seeing your reaction to it, you cried,” Ms. Ferrentino said, turning to her.

“I was emotional,” Ms. Brewer said.

The play, “Amy and the Orphans,” which opens March 1 in a Roundabout Theater Company production at the Laura Pels Theater, is a barrier-breaking show. Ms. Brewer, 33, and her understudy, Edward Barbanell, 40, are thought to be the only known performers with Down syndrome to play the lead in an Off Broadway or Broadway theater production.

The show is about three siblings who reunite after their father’s death, and the road trip that follows. Ms. Ferrentino, who debuted with the critically acclaimed play “Ugly Lies the Bone,” in 2015, was insistent that the title role be played by someone with the disability, even leaving a note in an early draft of the script: “Finding a talented actor with Down syndrome isn’t difficult. So please do it.”

Ms. Brewer is a veteran actress best known for her groundbreaking work on the television series “American Horror Story.” Mr. Barbanell, who goes by Eddie, played Billy in the 2005 movie “The Ringer,” starring Johnny Knoxville. He and Ms. Brewer have performed onstage for much of their lives.

But taking on such a large and high-profile theater role is a completely new challenge.

“The biggest hurdle is the amount of dialogue and stage direction that comes all at once,” said Gail Williamson, Ms. Brewer’s agent, and a prominent advocate for performers with disabilities. “When you’re doing a television show or a film, you have a scene and you can work on that one scene. Doing theater, you have to have it all down.”

At the rehearsal space for the show, Ms. Brewer was going over lines with fellow cast members Debra Monk, Mark Blum and Vanessa Aspillaga. In the scene, Amy, wearing pink noise-canceling headphones as she watches a movie on her tablet, is visited by her two siblings, played by Ms. Monk and Mr. Blum. Ms. Aspillaga portrays a caretaker. Every few minutes, after a scene would start, the show’s veteran director, Scott Ellis, would interrupt to offer notes and tweak the blocking. Turn this way. Walk that way. React more.

The stops and starts were especially important for Ms. Brewer. The more repetition, the easier the memorization, and the more the scenes would be ingrained into her muscle memory.

“That was great, Jamie,” Mr. Ellis said. “Back it up one more time,”

Another stop, more direction and then repeat. Mr. Ellis kept offering words of encouragement to the cast, while Ms. Ferrentino sat nearby, taking notes on a notepad smaller than her hand. Occasionally, she would whisper to Mr. Ellis. Throughout the rehearsal, Ms. Brewer cracked jokes; nearby, Mr. Barbanell quietly observed.

The play is based on Amy Jacobs, Ms. Ferrentino’s aunt, who also had Down syndrome and is now deceased. When Ms. Ferrentino began writing the play, her process was complicated by the limits of her aunt’s verbal skills, which made creating dialogue a challenge. In 2015, she reached out to Ms. Williamson, whose entire client roster is made up of performers with disabilities. Ms. Williamson connected her with Ms. Brewer, who had just become the first person with Down syndrome to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week. The playwright and the actress met for coffee and hit it off immediately.

Ms. Brewer told Ms. Ferrentino that when she had played characters with Down syndrome, she often had to cater to an audience’s expectations, regardless of her abilities. Immediately, Ms. Ferrentino decided that the play would be as much about Ms. Brewer as about her aunt.

“That informed how I wrote the play,” she said. She wanted to give Ms. Brewer room “as an actor, and a person, a chance to step outside that role and show the audience who she actually is.”

Ms. Brewer, an only child, grew up in Orange County, California, before moving near Houston, where she was involved with a local theater. She said she started performing around eighth grade, with her family’s support.

“Individuals with disabilities have different ways of coping with things,” Ms. Brewer said. Her way, she explained, was plunging into the arts, like her character, who must handle her father’s death.

After the play was written, the task was to find Ms. Brewer’s understudy. Ms. Williamson connected Ms. Ferrentino with Mr. Barbanell, who was living in Coral Springs, Fla.

For their first meeting, Ms. Ferrentino told him not to prepare anything; she just wanted to meet him. But Mr. Barbanell, accompanied by his mother, was ready with scenes from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Julius Caesar,” “Henry V” and “Romeo and Juliet.” At a diner, he pushed his ice cream sundae aside and insisted on showing Ms. Ferrentino his skills.

Just like that, he won her over.

“He performed the most beautiful, word-perfect Shakespeare,” Ms. Ferrentino said. And instead of finding another Amy, Ms. Ferrentino and Mr. Ellis decided that Mr. Barbanell should occasionally be given his own performance dates — and when he played the lead, the play would be “Andy and the Orphans,” with some scenes rewritten for a male lead.

On the first day that the cast rehearsed in the actual performance space at the Laura Pels Theater on 46th Street, Mr. Barbanell, urged by Ms. Ferrentino and Mr. Ellis, stood up and enthusiastically recited Romeo’s balcony speech from “Romeo and Juliet.” (“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?”)

Encouragement for this cast was not in short supply, Mr. Barbanell noted.

“Because I have Down syndrome, I’m down and I’m up,” Mr. Barbanell said. “I’m like an elevator, and they brought me up,” he added, referring to Ms. Ferrentino and Mr. Ellis.

Ms. Ferrentino and Mr. Ellis have embarked on a learning process of their own. Neither had ever done anything like this. And it turned out not to be as daunting as it seemed.

“The questions that we had, so far, are, ‘What is it like having actors with Down syndrome in our professional rehearsal space?’” Ms. Ferrentino said. “Well, we’ve answered at least that question. It’s not that different. So the next question is, what would it be like to have them in performance? Who knows what the answer to that is?”

Mr. Ellis added, “That will be the next thing.”

Being an advocate for those with disabilities is a role Ms. Brewer and Mr. Barbanell take very seriously. They both want to open doors and change attitudes. Mr. Barbanell told a story about working as a bus boy at an assisted-living center, where he constantly heard epithets from his co-workers directed toward people with disabilities.

When he found out he was cast in “Amy and the Orphans,” Mr. Barbanell had a message for them on his way out the door: “Take a look at me now.”

[Photo by Nina Westervelt/NY Times]

 Doonesbury — Twitting.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Priorities

Via The Hill:

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) early Thursday warned against rolling the conversation around Wednesday’s deadly shooting at a Florida high school into “taking away citizens’ rights” to own guns.

“There’s more questions than answers at this stage,” Ryan told Indiana radio host Tony Katz.

“I don’t think that means you then roll the conversation into taking away citizens’ rights — taking away a law-abiding citizen’s rights. Obviously this conversation typically goes there,” he added.

Translation: the rights of murderers are more important than the rights of victims of gun violence.

Thanks for clearing that up.

And then there’s Marco Rubio:

“I do think that in some circles, it isn’t fair or right to create this impression that somehow this attack happened yesterday because there is some law out there that we could have passed to prevent it,” Rubio said toward the end of a lengthy speech in which he wavered between dismissing gun control efforts and advising against saying “there is nothing we can do.”

By this logic we might as well repeal laws against murder, arson, and speeding on the interstate because someone is going to do it anyway.

This from the man who received over $3 million from the NRA.

Via Commenter jeffg166.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Close To Home

One of the first e-mails I had waiting for me when I got home from work yesterday afternoon was from my sister, who lives in Ohio, asking where Parkland, Florida, is and what I knew about the area.  My brother, who was cc’d on the e-mail, replied before I could with a link to Google Maps showing, as I did in the post yesterday evening, that it is within an hour’s drive of my home.

The massacre of seventeen people at a public school is a horrific event, and it really doesn’t matter to me that it was in the next county.  According to people who count these things, this was the eighteenth school shooting this year and it’s February 15.  At this rate, we’re going to have another 100 by the end of the year.

We have already heard from our alleged leaders that their “thoughts and prayers” are with the families of those who have been killed and injured and the community.  Well, that’s all very nice, but a Hallmark card isn’t made of Kevlar and all the appeals to a deity haven’t yet stopped a determined shooter from getting in to where they can unload their AR15.  And some bigmouth on cable TV will say, if they already haven’t, that someone at the school should have been armed and that would have ended it before it began.  The fact is that this particular high school, like most large high schools in this part of Florida, had two armed police officers stationed at the school.  They’re not hired security guards, either; they are sworn officers of the law.  But they’re patrolling a campus with 3,000 students plus staff, so basically they’re keeping watch over a small town.  They can’t be everywhere, and unlike the Rambos of the wet dreams of the NRA and the gun lobby, they don’t just fire at the first sound of gunfire.  Their first priority is to get the rest of the students and staff out of harm’s way and to safety, then go after the shooter.  Period.

We’re also going to hear gunslingers tell us it’s “too soon” to talk about gun control and banning certain types of weapons or anything else that resembles a sane approach to this uniquely American epidemic of slaughter.  According to them, we shouldn’t let the emotions of these events overwhelm us and make us do something rash or that threatens the sanctity of the Second Amendment.  What they’re really saying is “Don’t do anything until we’ve come up with some kind of argument against whatever reasonable and effective solutions, such as a national database or thorough background checks, you come up with because we haven’t worked up our counterarguments yet.”

But in a way the gun advocates have already won.  It’s been almost twenty years since Columbine, it’s been five since Sandy Hook; if killing children is acceptable to our society, so indicated by our profound lack of an ability to do anything more than think and pray, then all the black ribbons and blog postings aren’t going to make a difference; we accept them as the norm now.  The fact that this one took place in a town less than an hour from my front door doesn’t matter.  They are all close to home.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Monday, November 6, 2017

Yet Again Yet Again

It’s becoming agonizingly tiresome.

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Tex. — A gunman clad in all black, with a ballistic vest strapped to his chest and a military-style rifle in his hands, opened fire on parishioners at a Sunday service at a small Baptist church in rural Texas, killing at least 26 people and turning this tiny town east of San Antonio into the scene of the country’s newest mass horror.

The gunman was identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, according to two law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing. Mr. Kelley, who lived in New Braunfels, Tex., died shortly after the attack.

He had served in the Air Force at a base in New Mexico but was court-martialed in 2012 on charges of assaulting his wife and child. He was sentenced to 12 months’ confinement and received a “bad conduct” discharge in 2014, according to Ann Stefanek, the chief of Air Force media operations.

The motive for the attack was unclear on Sunday, but the grisly nature of it could not have been clearer: Families gathered in pews, clutching Bibles and praying to the Lord, were murdered in cold blood on the spot.

Yet again we will hear the vulture politicians who are bought and paid for by the NRA offer their “thoughts and prayers” and tut-tut that it’s “too soon” to talk about gun control of the mildest kind, or be reminded that no form of gun control will deter the criminals or the insane and then move on to wait for the next time.

“Thoughts and prayers” never stopped a bullet or someone determined to commit mayhem on their way to their suicide.  The only time it is “too soon” to talk about it is never because the next time will be too soon.

Texas has some of the most liberal gun laws in the country; by “liberal,” of course, the irony is clear: guns are allowed everywhere, even in churches, something the conservatives and the gun-whores declare to be their god-given right.  They neither deterred Mr. Kelley from his murderous mission nor ended it, so the knee-jerk conclusion we should come to is that all those open-carry laws are just as ineffective as the purveyors of guns claim the gun-control laws would be in keeping innocent people safe.

But there’s no point in trying to make sense of this because it never does.  We just accept it and go on, waiting for the next time, and lamentations are all we have.  Because as was noted all those years ago after Sandy Hook, once the mass murder of five-year-olds became acceptable, the battle to control this madness was lost.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Tiny Number

Three percent of Americans own 50% of the guns in America.

The survey’s findings support other research showing that as overall rates of gun ownership has declined, the number of firearms in circulation has skyrocketed. The implication is that there are more guns in fewer hands than ever before. The top 3 percent of American adults own, on average, 17 guns apiece, according to the survey’s estimates.

The survey is particularly useful to researchers because it asked respondents not just whether they own guns, but how many and what types of guns they own. This makes for one of the clearest pictures yet of American gun ownership, showing the concentration of most guns in the hands of a small fraction of American adults.

And yet they and their presumptive ally, the NRA, control the debate and the laws — or lack of them — that regulate them.

Bret Stephens, the token conservative columnist at the New York Times, calls for the repeal of the Second Amendment.

I have never understood the conservative fetish for the Second Amendment.

From a law-and-order standpoint, more guns means more murder. “States with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides,” noted one exhaustive 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health.

From a personal-safety standpoint, more guns means less safety. The F.B.I. counted a total of 268 “justifiable homicides” by private citizens involving firearms in 2015; that is, felons killed in the course of committing a felony. Yet that same year, there were 489 “unintentional firearms deaths” in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Between 77 and 141 of those killed were children.

From a national-security standpoint, the Amendment’s suggestion that a “well-regulated militia” is “necessary to the security of a free State,” is quaint. The Minutemen that will deter Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un are based in missile silos in Minot, N.D., not farmhouses in Lexington, Mass.

From a personal liberty standpoint, the idea that an armed citizenry is the ultimate check on the ambitions and encroachments of government power is curious. The Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s, the New York draft riots of 1863, the coal miners’ rebellion of 1921, the Brink’s robbery of 1981 — does any serious conservative think of these as great moments in Second Amendment activism?

And now we have the relatively new and now ubiquitous “active shooter” phenomenon, something that remains extremely rare in the rest of the world. Conservatives often say that the right response to these horrors is to do more on the mental-health front. Yet by all accounts Stephen Paddock would not have raised an eyebrow with a mental-health professional before he murdered 58 people in Las Vegas last week.

What might have raised a red flag? I’m not the first pundit to point out that if a “Mohammad Paddock” had purchased dozens of firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition and then checked himself into a suite at the Mandalay Bay with direct views to a nearby music festival, somebody at the local F.B.I. field office would have noticed.

The only way the Second Amendment would ever be considered for repeal would be when every non-white man went out and bought an AR-15.  Then you’d see the GOP pass every gun-control proposal ever dreamed up in an afternoon.  Until then, like the system of English weights and measures, we are stuck with an artifact of the 18th century in the hands of the very few.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Why Nothing Will Change

Former Rep. Steve Israel sums up why we’re not going to do anything about guns ever.

First, just like everything else in Washington, the gun lobby has become more polarized. The National Rifle Association, once a supporter of sensible gun-safety measures, is now forced to oppose them because of competing organizations. More moderation means less market share. The gun lobby is in a race to see who can become more brazen, more extreme.

Second, congressional redistricting has pulled Republicans so far to the right that anything less than total subservience to the gun lobby is viewed as supporting gun confiscation. The gun lobby score is a litmus test with zero margin for error.

Third, the problem is you, the reader. You’ve become inoculated. You’ll read this essay and others like it, and turn the page or click another link. You’ll watch or listen to the news and shake your head, then flip to another channel or another app. This horrific event will recede into our collective memory.

That’s what the gun lobbyists are counting on. They want you to forget. To accept the deaths of at least 58 children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends as the new normal. To turn this page with one hand, and use the other hand to vote for members of Congress who will rise in another moment of silence this week. And next week. And the foreseeable future.

Not that I’m in the mood to get all smug and say “Told you so,” but Mr. Israel is saying what I’ve been saying after every mass shooting since I started this blog: Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Sandy Hook, Orlando, and on and on.  I grow tired of this repetition; of saying it.

I almost think that instead of coming back to the same points over and over again I should just provide a link to kittens falling into boxes or squirrels being ejected from bird feeders so you’ll have a place to go to until all the politicians with their “thoughts and prayers” and stories about the lives lost have moved on to the next distraction.  Oh, look at the kitty.  But then nothing really would change.  We’d just keep doing this over and over.

I keep hoping that we will do something, and it’s beyond just hoping.  I bring this up with every politician I meet; I make it part of who I vote for or against; I make sure that people who know me know that it’s the deal-breaker.  It’s not because I wield so much influence; but no less than anyone else, either, and voices united — even against the gun lobby — will make a difference.  The part I hate the most is that it doesn’t get noticed until there are body counts.  And there are those every day.

So instead of just waiting, make your point and keep making it.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Monday, August 7, 2017

Target Practice

The NRA got what it wanted: Republicans in control of all three branches of government.  But it’s actually bad for their business.  Without a president who supported gun law reform, they would seem to have no one to rail against and use as their fund raiser.

Oh, but there is one fat target left: the media, of course.

Data from the FBI gives us a hint of why.  Since January 2009, when Obama took office, 46 of the first seven months of the year have seen increases over the prior year’s gun sales, as roughly measured by the number of federal background checks performed. (This isn’t a precise metric, but it’s a decent estimate.) That means that, in 17 of those months, there were fewer background checks relative to that month the year before.

Six of those 17 declines happened over the first seven months of 2017.

Part of this is certainly that the first seven months of 2016 saw a big increase in background checks relative to 2015, itself in part a function of the looming threat of a Hillary Clinton presidency. But even after the big increases in 2013 that followed the Sandy Hook shooting (and Obama’s reelection), sales were up in March of 2014 relative to the prior year.

The goal of the NRA isn’t directly to affect gun sales, but there’s a clearly a correlation between how urgently people want to buy guns and how urgently they feel the need to give to LaPierre’s group.

That means that there needs to be a threat that necessitates both gun sales and NRA memberships. With Obama gone and Clinton back home in Chappaqua, that role is now filled by the “violent left” and the media. Since the violent left is a bit nebulous, it seems that the media will enjoy the majority of the NRA’s focus.

The “violent left” is a dog-whistle; it really means anyone who isn’t white who owns a gun.  And attacking the media is an oldie but a goodie; it worked for Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy, and Spiro Agnew, and it will always get the pigeons fluttering.

Friday, June 30, 2017

How Is The New NRA Ad Any Different?

The NRA put out a recruitment ad in April that is suddenly going viral, and a lot a of people are concerned about its message that basically says the only way to prevent liberals from taking over is to buy a gun — lots of them — and backed it up with images that evoke Nazi propaganda against the Jews in the 1930’s.

This is nothing new from them.  In fact, compared to the rants of Wayne LaPierre, their usual mouthpiece, it’s fairly tame; instead of labeling the police “jackbooted thugs,” they just show pictures of them over the calm narration of Dana Loesch.  Perhaps that’s what’s bothering people; the NRA is trying the “chilling” approach.

Whatever.  It’s just a new ploy.  They’re still nothing more than the marketing arm of the gun industry.

Bonus Track: Charlie Pierce:

Look, free speech and all that. If Loesch and her unhinged boss want to sound like the Khmer Rouge, or like Franco, in front of the whole nation for the purposes of selling more weaponry, well, that’s a sad fact of life here in the United States of America. (Still waiting for them to get outraged at the police killing of law-abiding gun owner Philando Castile; Loesch showed more sympathy for Cliven Bundy’s cows.) But this kind of thing, from an organization with outsized political clout at all levels of the government, tends toward incitement. Also, in the immortal words of the late Charlie Skinner, “the clenched fist of truth” is some huckleberry bad writing.

 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

People Shouldn’t Get Shot

Charles P. Pierce:

Violence doesn’t “intrude” on everyday life in America. Violence is a part of everyday life in America. A little more than a week ago, five people were shot to death in warehouse in Orlando. Is a warehouse in Orlando less innocent than a Virginia ballfield? Is a disgruntled worker taking his mad vengeance less of a demonstration of a country unhinged than a home-inspection specialist who fried his brain over politics? Is somebody who wounds over politics a worse murderer than someone who kills because he got fired? I admire the ability of anyone who can make that measured a moral choice.

On the whole, people shouldn’t get shot. They shouldn’t get shot in the streets. They shouldn’t get shot in school. They shouldn’t get shot in the workplace. They shouldn’t get shot while carrying snack food in the “wrong” neighborhood, and they shouldn’t get shot while they’re trying to surrender. They shouldn’t get shot while dancing in a nightclub. And they shouldn’t get shot on the ballfield on a spring morning.

In the main, one victim is not more “innocent”—and, thus, of more value—than any other one. Their occupation shouldn’t matter. Their politics shouldn’t matter. There is a violence inherent in the country’s history and there is a wildness present in its soul and, on occasion, both of these surface more clearly than is usual. Technology has made the violence more lethal and the wildness more general. The uniquely American conflation of innocence with hubris is a luxury we can no longer afford.

While cable news was live-covering the breaking news from Alexandria, there was another mass shooting in California at a UPS warehouse.  Four people died.  Another day.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tales Of The Well-Regulated

Via the Washington Post:

A man accused of stealing guns in connection with a possible plan for an attack has been captured in Wisconsin following a 10-day manhunt, authorities said.

Joseph Jakubowski, 32, was taken into custody early Friday morning after authorities responded to a call about a suspicious person on a farmer’s property in Readstown, Wis., authorities said in a statement.

More than 150 local, state and federal law enforcement officials had been searching for Jakubowski, whom authorities suspected of stealing at least 16 high-end firearms April 4 from a gun shop in Janesville, a town not far from Wisconsin’s southern border. Police said he had written a 161-page antigovernment and anti-religion manifesto, which he apparently mailed to President Trump at the White House.

It prompted police to monitor local schools, churches and public leaders as a precaution.

“What could have happened here was a mass shooting; that was our concern,” Janesville Police Chief David Moore said during a news conference Friday afternoon, adding: “That’s not the case.”

Moore said that authorities were fortunate to learn about the manifesto, the burglary and a “very involved plan” and “prompt disappearance.”

“All of this alerted us that we needed a quick and thorough investigation,” he said.

Good work on the part of the local authorities.  Meanwhile, the Trump administration is doing all it can to keep Syrian children from coming to the U.S. because, y’know, they too might knock over a gun store, right?

Oh, by the way, notice that they don’t call the suspect a terrorist.  Who ever heard of a terrorist named “Jakubowski”?