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“You Say You Want A Revolution …”: The Right Embraces Authoritarianism

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Michael A. Cohen writes in Truth and Consequences:

At the Bulwark, Charlies Sykes has a smart piece looking at the growing embrace of dictatorship on the far right.

He cites a recent article in American Greatness, an online publication that styles itself as the intellectual home of Trumpism, titled The Salazar Option, which celebrates the reign of Portugal’s fascist dictator António de Oliveira Salazar.

The crux of the argument made by Christopher Roach, an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness, is that the right can no longer acquiesce to liberal indoctrination. “The forces of the aggressive, secular Left are not going to let any of us retreat into our own enclaves,” says Roach. “They will hunt down every last private clubpizza shop, and bakery out of mere spite. They will steal your kids and destroy your life.”

“Passive resistance” is a fool’s errand, says Roach, as he argues that history teaches that “the only thing that worked” in resisting “revolutionary leftist power …was the acquisition of real power.” Hence the reverence for Salazar, whose regime Roach describes as “undoubtedly authoritarian” … but “far less intrusive and far less damaging to society than the alternative.”

According to Roach, the brutality that defined the 1926 coup in Portugal, led by Estado Novo that overthrew a left-wing government, is a feature, not a bug. “Estado Novo and its supporters did not treat its enemies with kid gloves,” says Roach. “They were not limited by self-defeating notions of ‘principle.’ Hostile and revolutionary elements—whether domestic Communists, fascist syndicalists, internal political factions, or international high finance—were treated as equal potential dangers.”

For months now, political observers have noted the conservative movement’s increasingly authoritarian bent, so I suppose it’s not surprising that a publication devoted to promoting Donald Trump would unabashedly embrace such a message. But after reading a number of posts at American Greatness, I was struck by something even more disturbing — the increasingly existential, even eliminationist rhetoric emanating from the far right. Liberalism is presented not as an ordinary political or cultural movement. Instead, it is a clear and present threat to America’s future and the American people. To read American Greatness is to believe that America is in the last throes of liberal indoctrination, and the time is now to confront it with force, if necessary.

“First They Came For Our Putters … and I Said Nothing”

American Greatness is rife with references to “cultural catastrophe” and the “ongoing leftist cultural indoctrination of America’s future.” The usual conservative bugaboos are trotted out, such as “the explosion of violent crimes in American cities,” “disease-bearing illegal aliens,” “and the takeover of the military and education by the intersectional Left.” A former congressman from Arkansas, Thaddeus McCotter, laments the impact of the left’s “climate cult” on children because, and I’m not making this up, there is now a New York-based miniature golf course focused on the theme of climate change. “‘Fun’ is subordinate to and subsumed beneath politics and power,” writes McCotter. “Only if one has been ‘informed’—i.e., indoctrinated and submissive—will the Left let you have fun.”

Once piece compares vaccine mandates to the Shirley Jackson short story, “The Lottery,” in which a child is chosen by lottery to be stoned to death as a human sacrifice. This idea of vaccine and mask mandates being an attempt at societal control and an example of the left’s burgeoning tyranny is a recurrent theme on American Greatness.

John Conlin, who bills himself as an “expert on organizational design and change,” compares the calls from Democratic leaders for vaccine mandate to that of genocidal leaders:

Listen carefully to the Biden Administration, the Squad, and all the rest. They are tyrants in the making and if they had the power and ability, they would surely use it. From the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge, to Stalin, to Mao, to Islamist supremacists, to Venezuela and Cuba and many others, the road to tyranny—and the end of individual freedom—started with “I’ll just make them . . .”

Conlin implores his readers to “Vote and live like your very freedoms—and the lives of all you love—hang in the balance. They do.” Comparing the president and his congressional supporters to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge might also lead one to conclude that voting is the least you should do to forestall this outcome.

Roger Kimball, the editor and publisher of The New Criterion, decries the “tyrannous spirit” that is driving “lockdowns, the mask mandates, and the smug, hectoring, politically correct demands for proof of vaccination.” He says, “the weaponization of public health diktats … is simply the latest manifestation of the profoundly anti-democratic spirit” and “at some point, there will be a revolt.”

According to Kimball,

“The longer the arbitrary insanity persists, the more violent the reaction will be. The question is whether we are at or are approaching the point of crisis. Will the voters stand for another lockdown as we approach the 2022 election? Lockdowns markedly increased the opportunities for voter fraud; 2020 showed that. That is precisely why the swamp is prepping us for another go. Let’s see if we stand by grumbling impotently or if, finally, we actually do something. I am not holding my breath.”

So we’re clear, Kimball is bemoaning the fact that there likely won’t be an armed revolt in response to public health measures around COVID-19.

The Evils of Wokeism

But it’s not just vaccinations that have the writers at American Greatness so upset. Bruce Abramson, who is “a director of the American Center for Education and Knowledge, and author of the forthcoming book, The New Civil War: Exposing Elites, Fighting Utopian Leftism, and Restoring America,” has penned an attack on what he calls the ideology of “Wokeism.” He calls it “a new world religion engaged in a stealth conquest of America, the West, and the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Abramson’s criticism of wokeism is not your usual attack on socially conscious liberals. Instead, what roused him to write his jeremiad against Wokeism is a recent poll that shows a rejection of religious affiliation by a quarter of all Americans (he dubs these Americans “nones”)

“At a societal level, religion provides the basis for morality, law, and community,” says Abramson. “Without some external anchor for basic concepts of good and evil, all morality becomes situational—rendering the rule of law untenable. In short, if a quarter of America can find true fulfillment as nones, American society is dangerously unstable (italics added).”

If you detect a strong Handmaid’s Tale vibe in this language, you’re not alone.

“It’s Just a Flesh Wound”

Conrad Black, who is a prominent Canadian news publisher and author of a reasonably well-reviewed one-volume biography of Franklin Roosevelt, focuses on the “real doubt about the integrity of voting and the fairness of the vote-counting system in key parts of six swing states” and claims 2020 “wasn’t a demonstrably fair election.”

This is standard right-wing misinformation, but it is Black’s defense of the January 6 insurrectionists that stands out. . .

Continue reading. There’s more. These people are dangerous.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2021 at 2:37 pm

How Bad is American Life? Americans Don’t Even Have Friends Anymore

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Umair Haque has a somewhat gloomy piece in Medium, which includes the chart above. He writes:

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 July 2021 at 11:58 am

Is it worthwhile to do research on the leading causes of death in the US? What about doing research on No. 12 on the list?

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Nidhi Subbaraman writes in Nature:

Maeve Wallace has studied maternal health in the United States for more than a decade, and a grim statistic haunts her. Five years ago, she published a study showing that being pregnant or recently having had a baby nearly doubles a woman’s risk of being killed1. More than half of the homicides she tracked, using data from 37 states, were perpetrated with a gun.

In March 2020, she saw something she hadn’t seen before: a funding opportunity from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study deaths and injuries from gun violence. She had mentioned firearms in her studies before. But knowing that the topic is politically fraught, she often tucked related terms and findings deep within her papers and proposals. This time, she says, she felt emboldened to focus on guns specifically, and to ask whether policies that restrict firearms for people convicted of domestic violence would reduce the death rate for new and expecting mothers. Male partners are the killers in nearly half of homicides involving women in the United States. “This call for proposals really motivated me to ask the research questions that I may not have otherwise asked,” says Wallace, an epidemiologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Wallace’s group is one of several dozen funded by a new pool of federal money for gun-violence research in the United States, which has more firearm-related deaths than any other wealthy nation. Although other countries fund research on guns, it is often in the context of trafficking and armed conflict. US federal funding of gun-violence research has not reflected the death toll, researchers say.

The new money comes after more than two decades of what has essentially been a freeze on funding for the topic. And that’s left a massive knowledge gap, says Asheley Van Ness, director of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures in New York City, a philanthropic organization that pledged US$20 million to gun research in 2018, in part because of the paltry federal funding. “For decades we just have under-researched basic questions on gun violence,” she says.

Spurred by advocacy that followed some high-profile school shootings, Congress has now authorized $25 million for each of the past two years to go to the NIH and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the study of gun violence as a public-health issue. In April, President Joe Biden suggested doubling that figure.

Although researchers were initially slow to answer the funding call, studies such as Wallace’s are starting to look at how gun policies affect homicide rates. Others will investigate strategies to reduce suicides, which typically account for nearly two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States. And a handful of state health departments around the country are getting funding to collect better statistics on gun-related injuries.

The opening of the tap for federal dollars is considered an important advance, but those who have been watching the field for years say it will take more money and consistent investment to attract a committed cohort of researchers and fill in the data gaps. “That’s like turning a ship,” says David Studdert, who studies health law at Stanford Law School in California.

Meanwhile, gun violence in the United States shows no signs of slowing: 2020 emerged as the deadliest year in two decades, and the first few months of 2021 look even worse.

Control clause

Federal funds for firearms research have been heavily restricted ever since the 1996 Dickey Amendment, a clause added to that year’s annual spending bill that barred the CDC from funding any effort that advocates or promotes gun control.

Although the amendment did not explicitly ban research on firearms, the CDC saw its budget cut by $2.6 million in the year it passed — the same amount the agency was spending on the topic. CDC administrators saw the move as a message to steer clear, says Andrew Morral, a behavioural scientist at the Rand Corporation in Washington DC and director of the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research, a consortium of foundations that fund firearms research.

The amendment remained in subsequent spending bills, and researchers who continued to work on gun violence say that their work received more scrutiny. “Any research we would put forward would create just a waterfall of backlash,” says Charles Branas, an epidemiologist at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. The gun lobby would argue that the work was biased, Branas says. Lawmakers would start asking questions. “That’s not something a cancer researcher has to contend with,” he says. “I think it scared off a lot of potential young scientists.”

The result has been an anaemic level of funding for research on one of the top 20 causes of mortality in the United States. One 2017 estimate2 says that gun-violence research is funded at about $63 per life lost, making it the second-most-neglected major cause of death, after falls (see ‘Dollars by death rate’). Private foundations have tried to fill the gap, but the levels are still low. The longest-running private funder, the Joyce Foundation in Chicago, Illinois, has invested $32 million since 1993; its annual funding has surpassed $2 million only once.

Things began to change after 2012 when a gunman shot and killed 20 children and 6 staff, before killing himself, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Amid a raging political fight over gun control, then-president Barack Obama called on federal agencies to fund research on the topic, triggering a call for proposals at the NIH (but not at the CDC, where funding is more tightly controlled by congressional appropriations).

Sandy Hook set the stage for federal funding to open up, says Nina Vinik, a former programme director and now a consultant at the Joyce Foundation. Among the numerous efforts to push for gun policy, “advocates saw that the case for federal funding for research was just an easy one for people to understand and get behind”, she says.

Funding figures bear this out. According to data provided by the NIH, between 1996 and 2015 the agency spent just under $2 million per year on average on research related to firearms. A new analysis by Nature estimates that the average more than tripled to just over $6 million per year over the next four years (see ‘Gun-research funding in the United States’).

Then, in February 2018, a shooter in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and injured 17 others before police arrested him. A national firestorm erupted over gun-control policies alongside renewed advocacy for research funding. The next month, lawmakers added language to the annual budget legislation that clarified the conundrum posed by the Dickey Amendment, stating that “the CDC has the authority to conduct research on the causes of gun violence”. Lawmakers eventually authorized dedicated funding in December 2019, giving $12.5 million each to the CDC and the NIH specifically for gun-violence research. Congress approved a second round of funding for the 2021 fiscal year in December, and President Biden in his budget request for 2022 asked for $50 million to go to the agencies.

Immediate impact

In March 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic looming, the NIH put out a call for projects seeking to study public-health questions related to gun violence.

Wallace at Tulane was one of nine researchers funded through the mechanism. She says that her research on gun laws could have direct relevance to policy. Gathering evidence that rules in some states reduce deaths for pregnant people could persuade other states to enact similar measures. That would be huge, Wallace says, because it “identifies a policy that states can pass now and have an immediate impact”.

Lisa Wexler, a community-based participatory researcher at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, also answered the NIH’s funding call. She was looking for ways to involve families in her work to prevent suicides in rural Alaska. During the 1990s and 2000s, Wexler worked there as a mental-health counsellor and a community organizer, and saw the crisis faced by Alaska Native youth. Alaska’s Indigenous people are twice as likely to die by suicide as are non-native residents of the state, and it is the leading cause of death for Alaska Native men under the age of 24.

She and her collaborators at the Maniilaq Association, an Alaska Native non-profit organization in Kotzebue that provides health services to Northwest Alaska residents, are laying the groundwork to test a new approach to gun safety. At health clinics, they will give people a brief talk about the need to safely store firearms at home, and offer them a lockable ammunition box or the option to have someone install a gun cabinet. “Making the environment safer is incredibly important, and it’s sort of an overlooked part of what we need to be doing for suicide prevention specifically in this country,” says Wexler. Past studies have shown that limiting access to lethal means correlates with a decline in suicide rates3,4. Wexler’s programme, by involving all residents, acknowledges the Alaska Native values of community support and belonging — as well as the ubiquity and necessity of gun ownership in the region.

“Hunting and fishing and gathering and living close to the land and animals and sea is still very deeply ingrained in the region here,” says Arlo Davis, Family Safety Net coordinator at the Maniilaq Association, who works with Wexler. “Our challenge is how do we do this research without shaming anybody — because most households have guns.”

Any shift in suicide trends will take some years to see, Wexler says, but she hopes such an approach will be one way to reduce the death toll.

Across the country in Philadelphia, implementation scientist Rinad Beidas at the University of Pennsylvania is testing whether routine paediatric visits can be an effective time to talk with new parents about gun safety. Like Wexler, Beidas hopes to prevent suicides — the risk of death by suicide is higher when guns are easily accessible in a home. Her NIH-funded project will have paediatricians counselling parents about ways to limit gun access — for instance, by keeping firearms unloaded and locked away in their homes — alongside the conventional checklist of child-safety measures, including car seats and smoke alarms. Study volunteers will also receive locks for their guns from the programme. “Just like we made cars safer with seatbelts, we want to make homes safer around safe firearm storage,” she says.

All told, the NIH disbursed about $8.5 million to nine new proposals in 2020, short of the $12.5 million authorized by Congress. The agency attributes the shortfall to the timing with the pandemic: “We did not receive as …

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2021 at 5:11 pm

Watching the Watchmen: The Michigan Group Who Planned to Kidnap the Governor

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Ken Bensinger and Jessica Garrison report in Buzzfeed:

The Michigan kidnapping case is a major test for the Biden administration’s commitment to fighting domestic terrorism — and a crucible for the fierce ideological divisions pulling the country apart.

In the inky darkness of a late summer night last September, three cars filled with armed men began circling Birch Lake in northern Michigan, looking for ways to approach Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s three-bedroom vacation cottage, subdue her — using a stun gun if necessary — and drag her away.

One vehicle stopped to check out a boat launch while a second searched in vain for the right house in the thick woods ringing the lake. The third car ran countersurveillance, using night vision goggles to look out for cops and handheld radios to communicate with the others.

Earlier, they had scoped out a bridge over the Elk River, just a few miles away, scrambling down under the span to figure out where plastic explosives would need to be placed to blow it sky-high. That would slow police response, giving the men time to escape with the governor — who had infuriated them by imposing COVID lockdowns, among other outrages — and either take her to Lake Michigan, where they could abandon her on a boat, or whisk her to Wisconsin, where she would be tried as a “tyrant.”

“Everybody down with what’s going on?” an Iraq War veteran in the group demanded to know when they ended their recon mission, well past midnight, at a campsite where they were all staying.

“If you’re not down with the thought of kidnapping,” someone else replied, “don’t sit here.”

The men planned for all kinds of obstacles, but there was one they didn’t anticipate: The FBI had been listening in all along.

For six months, the Iraq War vet had been wearing a wire, gathering hundreds of hours of recordings. He wasn’t the only one. A biker who had traveled from Wisconsin to join the group was another informant. The man who’d advised them on where to put the explosives — and offered to get them as much as the task would require — was an undercover FBI agent. So was a man in one of the other cars who said little and went by the name Mark.

Just over three weeks later, federal and state agents swooped in and arrested more than a dozen men accused of participating in what a federal prosecutor called a “deeply disturbing” criminal conspiracy hatched over months in secret meetings, on encrypted chats, and in paramilitary-style training exercises. Seven of the men who had driven to Birch Lake that night would end up in jail.

The case made international headlines, with the Justice Department touting it as an example of law enforcement agencies “working together to make sure violent extremists never succeed with their plans.” Prosecutors alleged that kidnapping the governor was just the first step in what some on the right call “the Big Boog,” a long-awaited civil war that would overthrow the government and return the United States to some supposed Revolutionary War–era ideal.

The defendants, for their part, see it very differently. They say they were set up.


.
The audacious plot
 to kidnap a sitting governor — seen by many as a precursor to the Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol by hundreds of Trump-supporting protesters — has become one of the most important domestic terrorism investigations in a generation.

The prosecution has already emerged as a critical test for how the Biden administration approaches the growing threat of homegrown anti-government groups. More than that, though, the case epitomizes the ideological divisions that have riven the country over the past several years. To some, the FBI’s infiltration of the innermost circle of armed anti-government groups is a model for how to successfully forestall dangerous acts of domestic terrorism. But for others, it’s an example of precisely the kind of outrageous government overreach that radicalizes people in the first place, and, increasingly, a flashpoint for deep state conspiracy theories.

The government has documented at least 12 confidential informants who assisted the sprawling investigation. The trove of evidence they helped gather provides an unprecedented view into American extremism, laying out in often stunning detail the ways that anti-government groups network with each other and, in some cases, discuss violent actions.

An examination of the case by BuzzFeed News also reveals that some of those informants, acting under the direction of the FBI, played a far larger role than has previously been reported. Working in secret, they did more than just passively observe and report on the actions of the suspects. Instead, they had a hand in nearly every aspect of the alleged plot, starting with its inception. The extent of their involvement raises questions as to whether there would have even been a conspiracy without them.

A longtime government informant from Wisconsin, for example, helped organize a series of meetings around the country where many of the alleged plotters first met one another and the earliest notions of a plan took root, some of those people say. The Wisconsin informant even paid for some hotel rooms and food as an incentive to get people to come.

The Iraq War vet, for his part, became so deeply enmeshed in a Michigan militant group that he rose to become its second-in-command, encouraging members to collaborate with other potential suspects and paying for their transportation to meetings. He prodded the alleged mastermind of the kidnapping plot to advance his plan, then baited the trap that led to the arrest.

This account is based on an analysis of court filings, transcripts, exhibits, audio recordings, and other documents, as well as interviews with more than two dozen people with direct knowledge of the case, including several who were present at meetings and training sessions where prosecutors say the plot was hatched. All but one of the 14 original defendants have pleaded not guilty, and they vigorously deny that they were involved in a conspiracy to kidnap anyone. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2021 at 12:58 pm

Daft robbers

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Paul Brown writes in Narratively (and you can listen to the piece at the link):

The American gangsters entered the British bank at three minutes to closing time on a Friday afternoon. Three men — two brothers and an accomplice — arrived outside, wearing black masks and gloves, horn-rimmed glasses, and narrow-brimmed trilby hats pulled low over their foreheads. They were armed with two revolvers and an automatic pistol. It was 2:57 p.m. on June 2, 1933, and the bank was the Cattle Market branch of Lloyds Bank in the soot-black industrial city of Newcastle upon Tyne in North East England. Outside, at the Friday meat market, butchers and wholesalers closed up their stalls and rinsed blood from their cleavers. Inside, at the end of a busy week, bank clerks tallied up receipts and attended to the last straggle of customers, including apron-wearing market workers and a 15-year-old girl. The masked men pushed through the bank’s double doors and raised their guns: “Everybody stand still and put up your hands.”

The brothers were Joe and Tommy Duffy, a pair of self-proclaimed American gangsters. They described themselves as hardened villains who had run with America’s most notorious criminals and served time in the country’s toughest prisons. They claimed reputations as violent enforcers and armed robbers — and had the broken noses and gunshot wounds to prove it. Now they were bringing the bullet-spraying American bank robbery to sleepy England, where armed robberies were virtually unknown. But their gangster credentials were about to be severely tested. They had chosen the wrong bank, in the wrong city, at the wrong time, and there would be terrible consequences.

Chapter One
Mail-Order Gangsters

The Duffy brothers were American gangsters who had been born to Irish parents in Edinburgh, Scotland, two of a family of nine sons. Joe immigrated in 1923, ending up in Detroit, and Tommy followed across the Atlantic a few months later. Joe was then 20 years old and Tommy — the more rambunctious of the pair — was 18. Joe was looking for work as an auto mechanic but couldn’t seem to find any. Tommy described himself as a “regular little roughneck.” He was a fearsome brawler and hoped to become a professional boxer in the United States. When that didn’t work out, the brothers tried a series of jobs: restaurant dishwashing, skyscraper construction, railroad work. They may also have tried to become farmers. But, according to an anonymous associate who spoke to London’s The People newspaper in 1933, “They soon quit that for the rackets.”

This was the era of the gangster, the bootlegger, the racketeer. Prohibition and a thirst for illicit alcohol were allowing organized crime groups to flourish. Al Capone was waging war on the streets of Chicago. Arnold Rothstein was building a criminal empire in New York. Prominent gangsters, pictured on the covers of newspapers in chalk-striped suits and fedoras, became nationally infamous. The hit movie Underworld, starring George Bancroft as gang boss Bull Weed, was the first of a series of gangster pictures that helped turn their protagonists into glamorous antiheroes.

By their own account, it was the ease of obtaining guns that led the Duffys to become gangsters. They saw an ad in a magazine, sent off $18.73 and received two revolvers in the mail. The brothers became holdup artists, targeting stores and payroll trucks. They also ran shipments of booze over the border from Canada for bootlegging gangs and became linked to some of the biggest names in American crime.

The Duffys ran with Capone’s mob in Chicago and with Rothstein’s accomplice Jack “Legs” Diamond in New York. Tommy claimed Capone offered him a job after spotting him during a boxing match. According to their “ex-gangster” associate, the Duffy brothers always carried guns and were “absolutely callous and cold-blooded.” They also looked the part. “Both the Duffys dressed immaculately,” said the associate. “They wore silk monogrammed shirts and paid as much as £2 for ties and £10 for shoes.” (Equivalent to about $177 and $885 in 2021.)

By the summer of 1926, the brothers were living in New York in a furnished room on the second floor of a red-brick rowhouse on West 11th Street. In early 1927, they held up Nathan Wolf’s drugstore on Eighth Avenue and walked out with $60 in cash. A week later, they robbed the Beck-Hazzard shoe store, also on Eighth Avenue, and took $25. These were relatively small takes, but the brothers would later claim to have committed several more high-profile armed robberies, including at least one bank robbery.

Certainly, their activities brought them to the attention of law enforcement. New York Police Commissioner Joseph A. Warren listed the Duffy Brothers on a lengthy wanted list of holdup gangs, alongside the likes of the Laughing Gang, the Harlem Terrors (also known as the Sucker Gang), and the Headache and Aspirin Gang. Commissioner Warren promised to rid the city of this scourge.

One evening in March 1927, the brothers were  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2021 at 1:00 pm

A good question (on a T-shirt)

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Written by Leisureguy

5 May 2021 at 9:17 am

A short history of a wrong direction the US embraced

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Heather Cox Richardson reviews some of the decisions and directions that brought the US to its current situation:

America today is caught in a plague of gun violence.

It wasn’t always this way. Americans used to own guns without engaging in daily massacres. Indeed, it always jumps out at me that the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929, when members of one Chicago gang set up and killed seven members of a rival gang, was so shocking it led to legislation that prohibits automatic weapons in the U.S.

Eighty-nine years later, though, in 2018, another Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 children and wounded 17 others. In response, then-President Donald Trump called for arming teachers, and the Republican-dominated Florida legislature rejected a bill that would have limited some high-capacity guns.

Our acceptance of violence today stands in striking contrast to Americans’ horror at the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Today’s promotion of a certain kind of gun ownership has roots in the politics of the country since the Supreme Court handed down the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision, which declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. Since Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt instituted a government that actively shaped the economy, businessmen who hated government regulation tried to rally opposition to get rid of that government. But Americans of the post-World War II years actually liked regulation of the runaway capitalism they blamed for the Great Depression.

The Brown v. Board decision changed the equation. It enabled those who opposed business regulation to reach back to a racist trope from the nation’s Reconstruction years after the Civil War. They argued that the active government after World War II was not simply regulating business. More important, they said, it was using tax dollars levied on hardworking white men to promote civil rights for undeserving Black people. The troops President Dwight Eisenhower sent to Little Rock Central High School in 1957, for example, didn’t come cheap. Civil Rights, then, promoted by the newly active federal government, were virtually socialism.

This argument had sharp teeth in the 1950s, as Americans recoiled from the growing influence of the U.S.S.R., but it came originally from the Reconstruction era. Then, white supremacist southerners who were determined to stop the federal government from enforcing Black rights argued that they were upset about Black participation in society not because of race—although of course they were—but rather because poor Black voters were electing lawmakers who were using white people’s tax dollars to lay roads, for example, or build schools.

In contrast to this apparent socialism, southern Democrats after the Civil War lionized the American cowboy, whom they mythologized as a white man (in fact, a third of the cowboys were men of color) who wanted nothing of the government but to be left alone (in reality, the cattle industry depended on the government). Out there on the western plains, the mythological cowboy worked hard for a day’s pay for moving cattle to a railhead, all the while fighting off Indigenous Americans, Mexicans, and rustlers who were trying to stop him.

That same mythological cowboy appeared in the 1950s to stand against what those opposed to business regulation and civil rights saw as the creeping socialism of their era. By 1959, there were 26 Westerns on TV, and in March 1959, eight of one week’s top shows were Westerns. They showed hardworking cowboys protecting their land from evildoers. The cowboys didn’t need help from their government; they made their own law with a gun.

In 1958, Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona rocketed to prominence after he accused the president from his own party, Dwight Eisenhower, of embracing “the siren song of socialism.” Goldwater had come from a wealthy background after his family cashed in on the boom of federal money flowing to Arizona dam construction, but he presented himself to the media as a cowboy, telling stories of how his family had come to Arizona when “[t]here was no federal welfare system, no federally mandated employment insurance, no federal agency to monitor the purity of the air, the food we ate, or the water we drank,” and that “[e]verything that was done, we did it ourselves.” Goldwater opposed the Brown v. Board decision and Eisenhower’s decision to use troops to desegregate Little Rock Central High School.

Increasingly, those determined to destroy the postwar government emphasized the hardworking individual under siege by a large, grasping government that redistributed wealth to the undeserving, usually people of color. A big fan of Goldwater, Ronald Reagan famously developed a cowboy image even as he repeatedly warned of the “welfare queen” who lived large on government benefits she stole.

As late as 1968, the National Rifle Association supported some forms of gun control, but that changed in the 1980s as the organization affiliated itself with Reagan’s Republican Party. In 1981, an assassin attempted to kill the president and succeeded in badly wounding him, as well as injuring the president’s press secretary, James Brady, and two others. Despite pressure to limit gun ownership, in 1986, under pressure from the NRA, the Republican Congress did the opposite: it passed the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, which erased many of the earlier controls on gun ownership, making it easier to buy, sell, and transport guns across state lines.

In 1987, Congress began to consider the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, otherwise known as the Brady Bill, to require background checks before gun purchases and to prevent certain transfer of guns across state lines. As soon as the measure was proposed, the NRA shifted into high gear to prevent its passage. The bill did not pass until 1993, under President Bill Clinton’s administration. The NRA set out to challenge the law in the courts.

While the challenges wound their way upward, the idea of individuals standing against a dangerous government became central to the Republican Party. . .

Continue reading. And do read the whole thing. It’s good to be reminded that choices have long-lasting impact.

Written by Leisureguy

20 April 2021 at 10:23 am

Curbing gun violence in the United States

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In a post yesterday, I set out the reasons that suicide should, like homicide, be viewed as part of the serious gun violence problem the US has. What can be done to implement ways of combating gun violence? Colleen Walsh describes in the Harvard Gazette some steps that could be taken.

In the wake of several deadly mass shootings, President Biden announced a list of executive orders last Thursday aimed at reducing gun-related violence, and called for Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Biden’s orders included better regulation of “ghost guns” — homemade weapons that lack traceable serial numbers — and stabilizing braces that transform pistols into more lethal, short-barreled rifles. They also called for increased support for violence-intervention programs, and model “red flag” legislation to make it easier to get guns away from people who pose a danger to themselves or others.

Stopping gun violence will take myriad approaches, including a range of public health efforts, according to David Hemenway, professor of health policy at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, and author of the 2006 book “Private Guns, Public Health.” Hemenway, who is working on a new book about firearms and public health while the Elizabeth S. and Richard M. Cashin Fellow at Harvard Radcliffe Institute, spoke with the Gazette about what needs to be done to curb gun violence in the U.S.

Q&A with David Hemenway

GAZETTE: What was your impression of Biden’s executive orders around gun control?

HEMENWAY: Biden’s overall plan seems excellent—a response that is more than just more law enforcement — and these executive actions are good first steps to reduce the terrible problem of firearm violence in the U.S. There are various specific actions taken, such as beginning to address the issues of ghost guns (which aren’t subject to background checks), and they are all important. He could do more, but there are so many important things he can’t do by himself with executive orders. Overall, I think it’s a nice first step, but he needs Congress to work with him to do many of the most important things.

GAZETTE: What are some of those things?

HEMENWAY: Universal background checks need to be passed by Congress, but even more important than that would be universal gun-licensing laws (which implies universal background checks) and handgun registration. Just as everyone who drives a motor vehicle needs to have a license and vehicle registration, the same should be true for anyone who owns a firearm. Only a few U.S. states have gun licensing, but as far as I can tell, virtually every other developed country has some form of gun licensing, and their levels of gun violence are all far lower than ours. Licensing and registration helps keep guns out of the wrong hands.

There are so many other actions the federal government could take to help further reduce firearm violence. For example, the federal government could model what good training for gun owners should look like. In our work at the School of Public Health, we sent people out to take dozens of basic gun training classes throughout the Northeast. Some of the trainings were excellent, but some were horrible. Only half of the trainers discussed how you should store your guns appropriately, while a few said if you have kids you can just hide your guns. Almost no one discussed the role of guns in suicide, the curiosity of children, methods of de-escalating conflict, alternative methods of self-defense, or the type of continual training one needs to effectively use a gun in self-defense. The federal government could play an important role in helping to create and model rules around training.

We also need better gun-safety standards. Many children (and some adults) don’t know that when you take out the magazine from a semi-automatic pistol, the gun is still loaded, not realizing that there is a bullet left in the chamber and that if you pull the trigger you could kill somebody. This is the most common way that children are killed unintentionally with guns in this country. Even better than teaching every child or even having guns that make it apparent when they can still be fired, semi-automatic pistols can be made so the gun won’t fire when the magazine has been removed. We should also have childproof guns. Many 2- to 4-year-olds kill themselves when they find a loaded firearm. We made childproof aspirin bottles because children would find aspirin bottles and die from ingesting the aspirin, but we still make it too easy for toddlers to find guns and kill themselves.

I also think we need strict liability laws for gun owners. One of the reasons accidental pool drownings decreased in many parts of the world is because people who don’t properly fence and protect their pools became liable in the case of accidental injury, especially to children who gained access to the pool and drowned. The same should be true for something as dangerous as a gun. If you own TNT, or anything which is extremely dangerous, you have to be safe and responsible with it. Right now, that’s not the case for many guns, which are too commonly stored insecurely. Roughly 350,000 guns are stolen each year and end up in the wrong hands.

GAZETTE: Picking up on the issue of liability, Biden said during his press conference if he could do one thing it would be to eliminate immunity for gun manufacturers.

HEMENWAY: That’s certainly important. The reason the law was passed during the Bush administration was to protect the gun manufacturers and distributors who saw what had happened in the tobacco arena, and they didn’t want it to happen to them, so they got Republicans to pass a law giving them incredible immunity compared to other products. So yes, that would be a useful thing.

GAZETTE: Why do you think there is so little appetite in America, even after so many mass shootings, for any additional controls on the sale and use of guns?

HEMENWAY: I think it’s a combination of misinformation and the culture wars. I looked at Google news this morning, and the headline about the Biden initiatives was from Fox News: “Sen. Hawley: Biden ultimately seeks civilian gun confiscation while permitting rioters and crime.”

GAZETTE: What do you think of Biden’s pick to head the ATF, David Chipman?

HEMENWAY: I know David. I think he’s great. He’s very smart, very personable, hard-working, and quite experienced. He was an ATF agent for years ­— he’s certainly well-qualified. It would be good if he could strengthen the ATF’s oversight of gun dealers. The agency has been hamstrung through the years, and there seem to still be too many bad-apple gun dealers who make it too easy for the wrong people to gain access to firearms.

GAZETTE: Biden’s plan also calls for a new report on gun trafficking to be conducted by the Justice Department. In your mind, why is that data so important?

HEMENWAY: Reports are good, but perhaps even more important would be

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2021 at 12:07 pm

Suicide and impulse

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Suicide can be a considered choice — for example, an elderly person in the grasp of a painful and incurable terminal illness might decide to end his life early rather than suffer — or it can be a passing impulse — for example, a person with clinical depression who encounters a temporary setback and impulsively makes a suicide attempt.

In the US the most common suicide method is with a firearm. Consider this chart (source):

If a person has a suicidal impulse and has easy access to a firearm (not unusual in the US), the firearm is likely to be used in an attempt at suicide, and the outcome is almost always fatal. Indeed, in looking at gun deaths in the US, suicide outnumbers homicide (source):

In discussing deaths due to gun violence, some object to including suicides in the total because (they believe) “if a person’s going to commit suicide, they’ll find a way to do it, with or without a gun.” That belief is false for as impulsive suicide, and impulsive suicide is much more common than considered suicide.

If a person experiencing a suicidal impulse picks a method that requires several steps and involves time and effort, the impulse is likely to dissipate before the attempt is made, and if the method is not instantly fatal so that recovery is possible (as in taking an overdose of medicine), the person may possibly be saved and not reattempt suicide.

Years ago I read an account by a man who, walking across the Golden Gate bridge and feeling depressed about his current situation (as I recall, he had just lost his job), decided to kill himself by jumping off the bridge. He was, as he later wrote, fully committed, but he wanted to face the city lights when he jumped, and he was on the side of the bridge away from the city, so that he would be facing only darkness.

He could not cross immediately to the other side because of traffic and traffic barriers, so he decided to walk to the end of the bridge, cross there, and return to jump, facing the city. By the time he reached the end of the bridge, however, the impulse had dissipated, and he simply continued on his way home (which is why we know the story). The impulse never returned.

The Harvard School of Public Health has an article that speaks to this:

Nine out of ten people who attempt suicide and survive will not go on to die by suicide at a later date. This has been well-established in the suicidology literature. A literature review (Owens 2002) summarized 90 studies that have followed over time people who have made suicide attempts that resulted in medical care. Approximately 7% (range: 5-11%) of attempters eventually died by suicide, approximately 23% reattempted nonfatally, and 70% had no further attempts.

Even studies that focused on medically serious attempts–such as people who jumped in front of a train (O’Donnell 1994)–and studies that followed attempters for many decades found similarly low suicide completion rates. At least one study, published after the 90-study review, found a slightly higher completion rate. This was a 37-year follow-up of self-poisoners in Finland that found an eventual completion rate of 13% (Suominen 2004).

This relatively good long-term survival rate is consistent with the observation that suicidal crises are often short-lived, even if there may be underylying, more chronic risk factors present that give rise to these crises.

The relationship between suicide attempts and completions is a complex one.

  • Most people who die by suicide in the U.S. did not make a previous attempt. Prevention efforts that focus only on those who attempt suicide will miss the majority of completers. An international review of psychological autopsy studies found that approximately 40% of those dying by suicide had previously attempted (Cavanagh 2003). The proportion was lower (25-33%) among studies of youth suicide in the U.S. (Brent 1993, Shaffer 1996). A history of previous attempts is lower among those dying by firearm suicide and higher among those dying by overdose (NVISS data).
  • Most people who attempt suicide will not go on to complete suicide. [Though if a gun is used, the suicide attempt almost always results in death. – LG]
  • Still, history of suicide attempt is one of the strongest risk factors for suicide. 5% to 11% of hospital-treated attempters do go on to complete suicide, a far higher proportion than among the general public where annual suicide rates are about 1 in 10,000.

Footnotes and sources are found at the link. The big problem with guns is that a suicide attempt using a gun is almost always successful.

This came to mind this morning as I read a New Yorker article by D.T. Max, which includes this passage:

Suicide is often a response to extreme personal struggles, but the immediate catalyst can be little more than a bad grade on a test or a weekend when a student’s friends have gone out of town. A widely cited 1978 study of some five hundred people who were stopped from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge suggests how impulsive the urge to kill oneself can be: only about five per cent of the subjects later died by suicide [that is, 95% did not later commit suicide – LG]. (Studies such as this helped lead to the now ubiquitous signs on bridges with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number: 1-800-273-8255.)

In the past two decades, the suicide rate in the United States has risen by some thirty-five per cent, and the problem is especially acute among the young. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by 2018 suicide had become the second most common cause of death among Americans between the ages of ten and twenty-four, exceeded only by accidental death. Experts describe as precipitating factors everything from mounting economic pressures to the broadcasting of distress on social media. At the University of Pennsylvania, more than a dozen students have died by suicide since 2013, and in late 2019 the director of the school’s mental-health services jumped from the seventeenth floor of a building. A 2018 study by researchers affiliated with Harvard University found that one in five American college students had had suicidal thoughts the previous year. Will Newman, a professor of forensic psychiatry at Saint Louis University, told me, “The percentage of freshmen seeking mental-health services is on a steady incline, and universities have to quickly adjust to keep up.” Meanwhile, the covid-19 pandemic has deepened the isolation of many Americans. More than ten per cent of respondents to a C.D.C. survey last June said that in the previous month they had seriously considered killing themselves.

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2021 at 3:08 pm

Puddles: Tears, butterflies, and the shootings in Atlanta

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Sabrina Imbler writes in Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club:

This past week, I have been trying to figure out if a puddle is a body of water.

According to Wikipedia, a body of water is defined as a significant accumulation of water, such as an ocean, a sea, or a lake. When geographers map out bodies of water, they include oceans and lakes, perhaps even ponds, but not puddles. A puddle is defined by a small accumulation of water on a surface. I have to wonder, is “small” significant? What about “very small”? How much water must you hold to be considered a body of water?

As a mixed Asian American person, I have spent a lifetime trying to understand how small something like an experience can be and still be considered significant. How small I can be and still be significant.

I have been thinking about puddles because they are the only bodies of water I see nowadays. In Brooklyn, where I live, puddles accumulate by sidewalks and surround intersections, meaning you have to look down to know where to step. Sometimes, after rainfall but before the murk and trash sets in, you can see a glimmer of yourself, or how you are seen.

Last spring, amid a first wave of lockdowns—after my mom sent me an email cautioning me, an Asian asthmatic, not to cough in public—a man spit at me, maybe. I wasn’t sure. He was standing on a corner and I had just walked past him on the otherwise empty street. His spit landed on my shoe, and I faltered for a second but kept walking. When I looked back, I saw him watching me. When he didn’t say anything, I figured I was assuming too much, that I had been the one to intrude in his pre-planned spitting, that it was ingloriously vain of me to assume that he meant to spit on me. A few blocks away, surrounded by brownstones and shuttered shops—no storefront glass in sight—I looked at myself in a puddle as if this could answer my question. I saw a face mask and a beanie and then the only part of my face that was exposed: my eyes. I returned from my destination—a Japanese restaurant converted into a grocery store—and passed by a mailbox with a directive in Sharpie: Go back to China! As I walked home, I wondered, was this significant?

I have been thinking about puddles this past week because I have been crying, in fits and bursts, leaking enough tears and mucus that I could form a very small, probably insignificant, puddle. I did not cry when I learned about the shooting at the spas in Atlanta—where a white man shot eight people, six of whom were Asian women—but I cried later that night, while I was brushing my teeth. I am not a woman, but I am reminded constantly by strangers that I am seen as a woman, objectified as an Asian woman. I thought about the images I’d seen in past months of Asian elders shovedassaulted, and slashed, many of whom lived in towns near where my own grandparents live. My grandpa, a 98-year-old man who wears flat caps and speaks mostly in Mandarin these days, walks around his neighborhood for an hour each day. I wondered, should I ask him to stop?

I do not mean to equate my Asian American experience with the experience of the women killed in Atlanta. Asian massage workers face violence, racism, and sexism every day, Elene Lam, the executive director of Butterfly, a support network for Asian and migrant sex workers in Toronto, told The Cut. Their work is stigmatized, precarious, criminalized, and overpoliced, regardless of whether they are sex workers. They may lack legal protections or be excluded from other jobs due to their immigration status or language barriers. “Those women were assumed to be sex workers & therefore not worthy of safety,” tweeted the writer and social worker Kai Cheng Thom in a thread about the shootings. I felt frustrated at the futility of my tears; they were not helping the victims or the families left to grieve the losses of their daughters, mothers, grandmothers.

When I was in high school, I learned that puddles, bereft of flow, could become vectors of disease. Standing water is dangerous because it is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that spread diseases such as malaria and dengue. I did not learn until much later that when Chinese women began immigrating to California in the 19th century, white health professionals and legislators cast these women as a threat to American morality and a contagion to public health. The president of the American Medical Association warned of a (completely fictitious) sexually transmitted disease that was only carried by Chinese women, Mari Uyehara writes in The Nation. In 1875, the US passed the Page Act, which effectively banned Chinese women from immigrating.

Puddles may not be significant to geographers, but they are significant to wildlife, particularly butterflies. Adult butterflies can only consume liquids, which they imbibe through their spiraling proboscises. They subsist almost entirely on a diet of leaves and nectar, foods rich in sugar but devoid of sodium. Butterflies must seek out sodium elsewhere in liquid form. So they resort to what’s known as puddling, seeking out minerals in water and damp substrates. Shallow puddles are safer havens for such small creatures than the surging currents of rivers or depths of a pond. Butterflies in Sulawesi, . . .

Continue reading. The conclusion is powerful.

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2021 at 11:35 am

Elite panic

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I have observed, as perhaps you have as well, that wealth seems to make people fearful, and as wealth increases more and more stringent forms of security are embraced. Rebecca Solnit has an interesting Facebook post on this pathology. She writes:

The marauding hordes of the underclass is a topic of constant fantasy among elites, so much so two of the sociologists I cited in A Paradise Built in Hell labeled this delusion “elite panic.” It often justifies what you could call marauding hordes of the overclass — suppressing the people they assume are bestial but also at some level they acknowledge are legitimately resentful of social inequality, which they [the overclass] are willing to use violence to perpetuate.

In a way the premise of white supremacy is “your imaginary violence is the justification for my real violence,” and here’s Graham trotting that out as “the violence I imagine could happen in extreme situations is my justification for pushing instruments of extreme violence into everyday life.”

Those sociologists also demonstrate that most people are altruistic, generous, resourceful, and helpful in disasters. Note the alignment of racist fantasies here — gangs, cops, white people with weapons of war. But what that violence from elites and authorities is really used for is to maintain the status quo, and there’s a way mass shootings do so, as attacks on women, immigrants, people of color, perceived enemies to be punished by people who have allocated the right to punish unto death.

From the book Disasters: A Sociological Approach, sociologist Kathleen Tierney, who directs the University of Colorado’s Natural Hazards Center, gave a riveting talk at the University of California, Berkeley, for the centennial of the 1906 earthquake. In the talk she stated, “Elites fear disruption of the social order, challenges to their legitimacy.” She reversed the image of a panicking public and a heroic minority to describe what she called “elite panic.” She itemized its ingredients as “fear of social disorder; fear of poor, minorities and immigrants; obsession with looting and property crime; willingness to resort to deadly force; and actions taken on the basis of rumor.”

In other words, it is the few who behave badly and the many who rise to the occasion. And those few behave badly not because of facts but of beliefs: they believe the rest of us are about to panic or become a mob or upend property relations, and in their fear they act out to prevent something that may have only existed in their imaginations. Thus the myth of malevolent disaster behavior becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophesy. Elsewhere she adds, “The media emphasis on lawlessness and the need for strict social control both reflects and reinforces political discourse calling for a greater role for the military in disaster management. Such policy positions are indicators of the strength of militarism as an ideology in the United States.”

From their decades of meticulous research, most of the disaster sociologists have delineated a worldview in which civil society triumphs and existing institutions often fail during disaster. They quietly endorse much of what anarchists like Kropotkin have long claimed, though they do so from a studiously neutral position buttressed by quantities of statistics and carefully avoid prescriptions and conclusions about the larger social order. And yet, they are clear enough that in disaster we need an open society based on trust in which people are free to exercise their capacities for improvisation, altruism, and solidarity. In fact, we need it all the time, only most urgently in disaster.

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2021 at 10:57 am

Trump Complains Government Is ‘Persecuting’ Capitol Rioters

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The situation in the US is actively getting more dangerous because Donald Trump is leading and fomenting an already-violent insurrection against the government — against the administration, really, to force someone — Congress, Georgia Governor, Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence… anyone — to provide an election “count” sufficient to put Trump back in the White House. And he’s not going to shut up until he is in the White House. He’ll butt into every situation he can. As we’ve seen, he has zero sense of shame and zero decorum.

Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

One of the most dangerous, long-lasting changes effected by Donald Trump is the rightward extension of the Republican coalition. A wide array of far-right militias and cults was either created or inspired to join the Republican Party by Trump’s racist, paranoid, and authoritarian rhetoric. Now those groups are the subject of regular apologias in party-aligned media.

The new reality was driven home in Trump’s interview with Laura Ingraham Thursday night. At one point, the Fox News host, whose “interview” was more like an exchange of talking points, brought up a new report that the Homeland Security Department will be giving more attention to right-wing domestic extremism. “The idea is to identify people who may, through their social-media behavior, be prone to influence by toxic messaging spread by foreign governments, terrorists, and domestic extremists,” Ingraham noted. “Mr. President, their DHS is going after people who may be your supporters.”

It is worth pausing for a moment to record that Ingraham’s reaction to a description of people “prone to influence by toxic messaging spread by foreign governments, terrorists, and domestic extremists” is hey, they’re talking about us!

Trump, taking the cue, denounced federal authorities for charging his supporters with crimes. “They go after that, I guess you’d call them leaning toward the right … those people, they’re arresting them by the dozens,” he complained.

Ingraham did not follow up by asking who was being arrested by the dozens. But Trump’s answer became clear a few questions later. Ingraham prompted him with a safe question about the security fencing around the Capitol, a precaution even Democrats have deemed excessive long after the insurrection ended.

Rather than simply denounce the fencing, Trump launched into . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2021 at 2:14 pm

That right to bear arms — what does it mean, exactly, to “bear arms”?

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Heather Cox Richardson discusses some history regarding guns in the US:

Ten more people in Boulder, Colorado, died yesterday, shot by a man with a gun, just days after we lost 8 others in Atlanta, Georgia, shot by a man with a gun.

In 2017, after the murder of 58 people in Las Vegas, political personality Bill O’Reilly said that such mass casualties were “the price of freedom.”

But his is a very recent interpretation of guns and their meaning in America.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution is one simple sentence: “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” There’s not a lot to go on about what the Framers meant, although in their day, to “bear arms” meant to be part of an organized militia.

As the Tennessee Supreme Court wrote in 1840, “A man in the pursuit of deer, elk, and buffaloes might carry his rifle every day for forty years, and yet it would never be said of him that he had borne arms; much less could it be said that a private citizen bears arms because he has a dirk or pistol concealed under his clothes, or a spear in a cane.”

The path to today’s insistence that the Second Amendment gives individuals a broad right to own guns comes from two places.

One is the establishment of the National Rifle Association in New York in 1871, in part to improve the marksmanship skills of American citizens who might be called on to fight in another war, and in part to promote in America the British sport of elite shooting, complete with hefty cash prizes in newly organized tournaments. Just a decade after the Civil War, veterans jumped at the chance to hone their former skills. Rifle clubs sprang up across the nation.

By the 1920s, rifle shooting was a popular American sport. “Riflemen” competed in the Olympics, in colleges and in local, state and national tournaments organized by the NRA. Being a good marksman was a source of pride, mentioned in public biographies, like being a good golfer. In 1925, when the secretary of the NRA apparently took money from ammunitions and arms manufacturers, the organization tossed him out and sued him.

NRA officers insisted on the right of citizens to own rifles and handguns, but worked hard to distinguish between law-abiding citizens who should have access to guns for hunting and target shooting and protection, and criminals and mentally ill people, who should not. In 1931, amid fears of bootlegger gangs, the NRA backed federal legislation to limit concealed weapons, prevent possession by criminals, the mentally ill and children, to require all dealers to be licensed, and to require background checks before delivery. It backed the 1934 National Firearms Act, and parts of the 1968 Gun Control Act, designed to stop what seemed to be America’s hurtle toward violence in that turbulent decade.

But in the mid-1970s, a faction in the NRA forced the organization away from sports and toward opposing “gun control.” It formed a political action committee (PAC) in 1975, and two years later elected an organization president who abandoned sporting culture and focused instead on “gun rights.”

This was the second thing that led us to where we are today: leaders of the NRA embraced the politics of Movement Conservatism, the political movement that rose to combat the business regulations and social welfare programs that both Democrats and Republicans embraced after World War Two. Movement Conservatives embraced the myth of the American cowboy as a white man standing against the “socialism” of the federal government as it sought to level the economic playing field between Black Americans and their white neighbors. Leaders like Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater personified the American cowboy, with his cowboy hat and opposition to government regulation, while television Westerns showed good guys putting down bad guys without the interference of the government.

In 1972, the Republican platform had called for gun control to restrict the sale of “cheap handguns,” but in 1975, as he geared up to challenge President Gerald R. Ford for the 1976 presidential nomination, Movement Conservative hero Ronald Reagan took a stand against gun control. In 1980, the Republican platform opposed the federal registration of firearms, and the NRA endorsed a presidential candidate—Reagan– for the first time.

When President Reagan took office, a new American era, dominated by Movement Conservatives, began. And the power of the NRA over American politics grew.

In 1981, a gunman trying to kill Reagan shot and paralyzed his press secretary, James Brady, and wounded Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy and police officer Thomas Delahanty. After the shooting, Representative Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced legislation that became known as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, or the Brady Bill, to require background checks before gun purchases. Reagan, who was a member of the NRA, endorsed the bill, but the NRA spent millions of dollars to defeat it.

After the Brady Bill passed in 1993, the NRA paid for lawsuits in nine states to strike it down. Although until 1959, every single legal article on the Second Amendment concluded that it was not intended to guarantee individuals the right to own a gun, in the 1970s, legal scholars funded by the NRA had begun to argue that the Second Amendment did exactly that.

In 1997, when the Brady Bill cases came before the Supreme Court as Printz v. United States, the Supreme Court declared parts of the measure unconstitutional.

Now a player in national politics, the NRA was awash in money from gun and ammunition manufacturers. By 2000, it was one of the three most powerful lobbies in Washington. It spent more than $40 million on the 2008 election. In that year, the landmark Supreme Court decision of District of Columbia v. Heller struck down gun regulations and declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.

Increasingly, NRA money . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2021 at 11:05 am

America’s gun problem, explained

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German Lopez has a Vox explainer about the US gun problem. It begins with a (somewhat dated) Youtube video from 5 years ago:

Lopez then dives in, and the entire article is worth reading. It begins (and it includes some good charts):

On Monday, it happened again: a mass shooting in America. This time, a gunman killed 10 people at a Boulder, Colorado, grocery store.

Already, the shootings have led to demands for action. “Now is the time!” the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence tweeted.

But if this plays out like the aftermath of past mass shootings, from Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 to Las Vegas in 2017, the chances of Congress taking major action on guns is very low.

This has become an American routine: After every mass shooting, the debate over guns and gun violence starts up once again. Maybe some bills get introduced. Critics respond with concerns that the government is trying to take away their guns. The debate stalls. So even as America continues to experience levels of gun violence unrivaled in the rest of the developed world, nothing happens — no laws are passed by Congress, nothing significant is done to try to prevent the next horror.

So why is it that for all the outrage and mourning with every mass shooting, nothing seems to change? To understand that, it’s important to grasp not just the stunning statistics about gun ownership and gun violence in the United States, but also America’s unique relationship with guns — unlike that of any other developed country — and how it plays out in our politics to ensure, seemingly against all odds, that our culture and laws continue to drive the routine gun violence that marks American life.

1) America’s gun problem is unique

No other developed country in the world has anywhere near the same rate of gun violence as America. The US has nearly six times the gun homicide rate of Canada, more than seven times the rate of Sweden, and nearly 16 times that of Germany, according to 2012 United Nations data compiled by the Guardian. (These gun deaths are a big reason America has a much higher overall homicide rate, which includes non-gun deaths, than other developed nations.)

To understand why that is, there’s another important statistic: The US has by far the highest number of privately owned guns in the world. Estimated for 2017, the number of civilian-owned firearms in the US was 120.5 guns per 100 residents, meaning there were more firearms than people. The world’s second-ranked country was Yemen, a quasi-failed state torn by civil war, where there were 52.8 guns per 100 residents, according to an analysis from the 2018 Small Arms Survey.

Another way of looking at that: Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they own roughly 45 percent of all the world’s privately held firearms.

That does not, however, mean that every American adult actually owns guns. In fact, gun ownership is concentrated among a minority of the US population, as surveys from the Pew Research Center and General Social Survey suggest.

These three basic facts demonstrate America’s unique gun culture. There is a very strong correlation between gun ownership and gun violence — a relationship that researchers argue is at least partly causal. And American gun ownership is beyond anything else in the world. At the same time, these guns are concentrated among a passionate minority, who are typically the loudest critics against any form of gun control and who scare legislators into voting against such measures.

2) More guns mean more gun deaths

The research on this is overwhelmingly clear: No matter how you look at the data, more guns mean more gun deaths.

This is apparent when you look at state-by-state data for gun ownership and gun deaths (including homicides and suicides) within the United States, as this 2013 chart from Mother Jones demonstrates.

And it’s clear when you look at the data for gun ownership and gun deaths (including homicides and suicides) across developed nations. Data compiled in 2018 from GunPolicy.org shows the United States is an extreme outlier in both categories. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and the above extract does not include the (highly illuminating) charts that accompany the text. Just one of the charts is shown below.

The problem is the US Senate. The House has passed measures that would help — for example, better background check protocols — but the Senate will not act.

Written by Leisureguy

23 March 2021 at 12:06 pm

A common theme in the US

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The NRA and gun enthusiasts accept the carnage as just the price we pay for having guns freely available, and they think it’s worth it. Others disagree.

Written by Leisureguy

22 March 2021 at 9:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Guns

More about discrimination against Asians: Some recent history

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

On Tuesday, in Georgia, a gunman murdered 1 man and 7 women, at three spas, and wounded another man. All three of the businesses were operating legally, according to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and had not previously come to the attention of the Atlanta Police Department, although all three had been reviewed by an erotic review site. The man apprehended for the murders was 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, who is described as deeply religious. Six of the women killed were of Asian descent.

Yesterday, at the news conference about the killings, the sheriff’s captain who was acting as a spokesman about the case, Jay Baker, told reporters that Long was “pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.” The spokesman went on to say that the suspect “apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction,” that had spurred him to murder, and that it was too early to tell if the incident was a “hate crime.” Long told law enforcement officers that the murders were “not racially motivated.” He was, he said, trying to “help” other people with sex addictions.

Journalists quickly discovered that Baker had posted on Facebook a picture of a shirt calling COVID-19 an “IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA.”

As Baker’s Facebook post indicated, the short-term history behind the shooting is the former president’s attacks on China, in which he drew out the pronunciation of the name to make it sound like a schoolyard insult.

The story behind Trump’s attacks on China was his desperate determination to be reelected in 2020. In 2018, the former president placed tariffs on Chinese goods to illustrate his commitment to make the U.S. “a much stronger, much richer nation.” The tariffs led to a trade war with China and, rather than building a much stronger nation, resulted in a dramatic fall in agricultural exports. Agricultural exports to China fell from $15.8 billion in 2017 to $5.9 billion in 2018.

To combat the growing unrest in the agricultural regions of the country, where farm bankruptcies grew by nearly 20% in 2019, Trump paid off farmers hurt by the tariff with subsidies, which made up more than one third of U.S. farm income in 2020. In June 2019, he also begged Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win the 2020 election. He told him that farmers were important to his election prospects, and begged Xi to buy more soybeans and wheat from U.S. farmers.

In January 2020, Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed a deal that cut some U.S. tariffs in exchange for Chinese promises to buy more agricultural products, as well as some other adjustments between the two countries. On January 22, Trump tweeted: ““One of the many great things about our just signed giant Trade Deal with China is that it will bring both the USA & China closer together in so many other ways. Terrific working with President Xi, a man who truly loves his country. Much more to come!”

But, of course, the novel coronavirus was beginning to ravage the world.

On January 24, Trump tweeted: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”

Five days later, at a signing ceremony, he said: “I think our relationship with China now might be the best it’s been in a long, long time.”

On February 7, Trump called journalist Bob Woodward and said of the coronavirus, “This is deadly stuff. You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed…. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.” Still, on February 10, he told supporters in New Hampshire that the coronavirus would “miraculously” go away when the weather got warmer, and in mid-February, he defended Xi’s handling of the epidemic, saying China was working hard and “doing a very good job” and that they “have everything under control.”

Shortly after the U.S. shut down to combat the pandemic in mid-March, Trump began to turn on China. On March 22, after 33,000 Americans had tested positive for the virus and 421 had died of it, Trump seemed to think better of his praise for Xi. He insisted that China had not told him about the deadly nature of the virus, and began to call it the “Chinese virus,” or the “Chy-na virus.”

By April 17, a Republican strategy document urged candidates to deflect attention from the nation’s disastrous coronavirus news by attacking China, which “caused this pandemic by covering it up, lying, and hoarding the world’s supply of medical equipment…. China… has stolen millions of American jobs, [and] sent fentanyl to the United States.” Democrats would not stand up to China, the document told Republican candidates to say, but “I will stand up to China, bring our manufacturing jobs back home, and push for sanctions on China for its role in spreading this pandemic.”

In May, Trump announced the U.S. would leave the World Health Organization because it had been too easy on China in the early days of the pandemic.

To undercut his own association with China, Trump somewhat nonsensically tried to link his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, to China. He claimed—falsely—that China had paid Biden’s son, Hunter, $1.5 billion. He and his appointees Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, Attorney General William Barr, and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, all claimed—again falsely– that China was interfering in the election to help Biden.

This week, the intelligence community reported that, in fact, China did not try to influence the election because it did not “view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk getting caught meddling.”

As Trump politicized the pandemic and attacked China, hate crimes against Asian-Americans began to rise; there were about 3800 of them between March 19, 2020 and February 28, 2021. In cities, hate incidents increased by 150%.

In this context, the suggestion of a police spokesman who had posted pictures celebrating a shirt that called Covid-19 the “VIRUS IMPORTED FROM CHY-NA” that a gunman had killed six women of Asian descent because he had had “a really bad day,” along with the officer’s apparent acceptance of Long’s statement that the killings were not racially motivated, outraged observers.

That seemingly cavalier dismissal of the dead while  . . .

Continue reading. And do read the rest — it’s good to know (or to refresh one’s memory).

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2021 at 4:32 pm

American Battlefield: 72 Hours in Kenosha

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Doug Bock Clark writes in GQ:

Kyle Rittenhouse was sprinting away from the scene of an apparent crime when he phoned a friend and choked out, “I just killed somebody. I had to shoot him.” Then he hung up. Men in masks were beginning to chase him. Rittenhouse kept running, his heavy cowboy boots clomping against the pavement, uncertain if he’d have to fire his gun again. He was 17, and for much of his life he’d toyed around with guns and dreamed of being a cop—of keeping order. That was what he’d been seeking to do last August when he carried an assault rifle into downtown Kenosha, Wisconsin, swaths of which had been razed during previous nights of rioting. That was what he’d been doing moments earlier, as midnight neared, when he’d confronted a group of vandals and arsonists wrecking a car dealership. He had been trying to get them to stop. One, with a red T-shirt wrapped around his head so that his eyes showed through a slit, had charged the teenager, and Rittenhouse had fled.

“Fuck you!” the man had yelled. Rittenhouse turned to face his pursuer. The man lunged, and Rittenhouse fired at point-blank range. Then he stood over the twitching body, his first aid bag dangling unused at his side. Even before bystanders began futilely trying to plug the dying man’s wounds with a T-shirt, Rittenhouse took off up Kenosha’s main drag.

Three blocks to the north, he could see a line of four armored police personnel carriers: safety, it seemed to him. Rittenhouse huffed along for a block and a half until he encountered a group of racial-justice protesters streaming south, drawn by his gunshots. At first, the throng didn’t pay much attention to the kid weaving through them: With his baby face and his backward American-flag baseball cap, he looked even younger than he was. But soon shouts relayed news of the shooting through the crowd. The barrel of the Smith & Wesson AR-15-style assault rifle he gripped was still hot.

“What’d he do?”

“He shot someone!”

“Get his ass!”

By the time Rittenhouse was within a block of reaching the police, roughly a dozen men were chasing him. One threw a right haymaker, knocking off the teenager’s baseball cap, before peeling away, perhaps intimidated by the rifle. Rittenhouse was a few steps ahead of the pack when he tripped. He slammed down on the asphalt and rolled onto his back, whipping his weapon toward his pursuers.

A tall Black man tried unsuccessfully to drop-kick him, then dashed onward. Rittenhouse seems to have fired twice as the man hurdled over him—and somehow missed, despite their proximity.

Then a white man in a dark sweatshirt, hood up, smashed Rittenhouse with a skateboard gripped in one hand as he tried to grab the rifle with the other. That time, Rittenhouse couldn’t miss—the muzzle of his gun was practically jabbed into the man’s belly. After the blast, the skateboarder staggered a few steps, clutching his chest, trying to keep his life from pouring out.

Now a tall white man loomed over Rittenhouse. His baseball cap read “PARAMEDIC.” In his right hand, he held a pistol. But Rittenhouse, with the bigger weapon, had the drop on him. The man backed up, hands in the air, the pistol’s muzzle pointing skyward. Abruptly the man stepped forward. Rittenhouse squeezed the trigger. The biceps of the arm holding the pistol exploded into gore. The handgun clattered to the street.

A fourth man was backing away, hands raised. Others were ducking behind trees and cars. The hooded skateboarder lay facedown in the street. The man whose arm had been blown open was kneeling nearby, shrieking for help.

As Rittenhouse stood, the lights of the police vehicles illuminated his face—red, white, and blue—and he hustled toward them. He had some minor cuts and scrapes, but he was essentially unhurt. He approached the hulking personnel carriers with his surgical-gloved hands held high and his rifle dangling from a military-style body sling. He wasn’t sure how many people he might have just killed. Certainly, one. Probably, more.

Though portions of the shootings had been captured on at least eight video recordings, Americans who dissected the footage in the coming days wouldn’t agree on what they saw—and the question of what had truly happened that night would become a point of bitter debate in a divided country. Many conservatives would lionize Rittenhouse as a hero, defending property and then himself against a mob. Many on the left would vilify him as a murderous white supremacist. The truth, however, was even more tragic than either side allowed.

This story draws on dozens of hours of video footage, including a comprehensive timeline of crucial events created by syncing 11 livestreams; countless photos; dozens of interviews, including some with participants speaking for the first time; previous reportage; and extensive police and court records. It is the most complete investigation and reconstruction yet of how American order imploded for three nights in Kenosha, until citizens were warring in the streets, and what that breakdown might tell us about the United States’ deepening divisions.

Two days before Kyle Rittenhouse fired his weapon of war, Kenosha police responded to a call from a woman reporting that the father of her children, Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was causing a disturbance at her home. When a white officer named Rusten Sheskey arrived, he saw Blake put a child into an SUV; the officer’s lawyer later said that Sheskey believed that the boy was being abducted. A warrant for third-degree felony sexual assault was out for Blake, stemming from allegations made by the same woman earlier that summer, and so Sheskey tried to arrest him. Within minutes, Blake, Sheskey, and two other officers were wrestling on the lawn as a crowd gathered. Videos captured Blake struggling free and limping around the front of the SUV. Sheskey followed a step behind, his service pistol aimed between Blake’s shoulder blades. As Blake opened the driver’s-side door, Sheskey grabbed a fistful of his white tank top. The fabric stretched as Blake leaned inside the vehicle, still facing away. Sheskey fired seven times. The vehicle’s horn blared unrelentingly as Blake’s body draped across the steering wheel. In the back seat, Blake’s three young children screamed.

According to the police, Sheskey fired his gun after seeing Blake twist toward him, short-bladed knife in hand. (Blake would later tell investigators that he was putting the knife away when Sheskey shot him.) The aggressive action that Sheskey alleges isn’t discernible on the videos, however, in which Blake is partly obscured by the car door. Indeed, what many people saw was a retreating Black man gunned in the back by a white police officer. “You did not have to shoot him, bro. He was getting in his fucking car,” a bystander who’d been filming the altercation shouted at Sheskey. “I’m posting this shit on Facebook.”

A few minutes later, that video popped onto the Facebook feed of Nick Dennis, a 37-year-old Black Kenoshan who lived nearby. He immediately drove to where Blake had been shot. Soon the normally quiet stretch of low-rent apartment buildings became crowded with locals chanting for justice. By evening, several hundred people, Black, white, and brown, surrounded police officers cordoning the crime scene, and some began challenging the officers to take off their badges, put down their guns, and fight.

Relations between Kenosha’s largely white police force and its minority residents had long been tense. “I think society has to come to a threshold where there’s some people that aren’t worth saving,” the region’s white sheriff had mused two years earlier, when four Black people accused of shoplifting were arrested following a high-speed car chase. “We need to build warehouses… and lock them away for the rest of their lives.” The sheriff later apologized for the comments, but residents like Dennis resented the police force for what they felt was a long history of abuse, especially officers shooting people in questionable circumstances without facing charges.

For most of Dennis’s life, he’d tried to avoid confronting the police. In his twenties, he’d racked up multiple charges for dealing marijuana. But after finishing 18 months in prison in 2013, he trained as a machinist, got a good job, and focused on his sons. He received only traffic violations from then on, and even if he felt like the stops were petty harassment, he endured them, believing that a tall and muscular Black man like himself was always one misinterpreted gesture away from having his life derailed. He felt powerless to challenge the system. But earlier that summer, the death of George Floyd beneath the knee of a white police officer, and the subsequent nationwide racial-justice protests, catalyzed a profound transformation in him. “I felt myself crying,” Dennis said of watching video of Floyd’s murder. “I hadn’t cried in years. I could only think if it was my sons.” That’s when Dennis began joining Black Lives Matter marches.

Now he’d come to the site of Blake’s shooting, hoping to join a peaceful demonstration. But as the evening dimmed into night, he watched as people pushed past flimsy police tape and men began jumping on the hood and windshield of a police cruiser. After one cop was knocked out by a thrown brick, the rest retreated, and Dennis marched with the crowd through residential neighborhoods toward police headquarters, chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” As the protesters neared the police station, they found the roads crammed with cars bearing still more protesters, some waving Black Lives Matter signs. Authorities had parked unmanned municipal garbage trucks sideways in the streets, creating a hasty barricade, but the masses overran them and made their way to the three-story station. Wearing a black face mask decorated with a fist raising its middle finger, Dennis recorded himself on his phone amid throngs of protesters, declaring, “We’re gonna turn this bitch up!”

In front of the police building, several dozen cops in riot gear, most of them white, formed a wall with shields and batons. At first the crowd only insulted them; then someone got to throwing small firecrackers. Soon people began to lob bigger incendiaries, which made explosions that sounded to Dennis like artillery fire, and the police retreated inside. He was furious, too, but wouldn’t participate in violence.

With the police bottled up, there was no one to check the crowd. It rampaged into the neighboring Civic Center, a square of neoclassical governmental edifices arranged around a tree-filled park, built before Kenosha’s once prosperous factories had been decimated by offshoring, and which now seemed grandiose for such a small, hardscrabble city. People busted windows at the courthouse. They tried to set the Register of Deeds building on fire. They tore down a statue of a dinosaur outside a natural history museum. It seems a young white man set the garbage truck barricades on fire with rolled towels soaked in gasoline.

Dennis livestreamed much of what was happening from his cell phone. As he saw it, he was confronting America with the wages of what the police had wrought, in their shooting of Blake. In immersing himself in the next three nights of chaos, he would regard himself as a witness and an activist. When he could, he tried to prevent illegal acts and keep others safe; he warned people away from the burning garbage trucks, afraid they might explode. But he realized that something more powerful than himself had been unleashed.

Videos showed hundreds of people of diverse ethnicities and ages packing the park. Though probably dozens of them engaged in vandalism and arson, most, like Dennis, were simply bearing witness; some were even cheering, seemingly celebrating. It wasn’t just fury at the shooting of a single man that fueled the destruction: It was

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2021 at 1:54 pm

The Boogaloo Bois Have Guns, Criminal Records and Military Training. Now They Want to Overthrow the Government.

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A.C. Thompson, ProPublica, and Lila Hassan and Karim Hajj, FRONTLINE, report in ProPublica:

Hours after the attack on the Capitol ended, a group calling itself the Last Sons of Liberty posted a brief video to Parler, the social media platform, that appeared to show members of the organization directly participating in the uprising. Footage showed someone with a shaky smartphone charging past the metal barricades surrounding the building. Other clips show rioters physically battling with baton-wielding police on the white marble steps just outside the Capitol.

Before Parler went offline — its operations halted at least temporarily when Amazon refused to continue to host the network — the Last Sons posted numerous statements indicating that group members had joined the mob that swarmed the Capitol and had no regrets about the chaos and violence that unfolded on Jan. 6. The Last Sons also did some quick math: The government had suffered only one fatality, U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, who was reportedly bludgeoned in the head with a fire extinguisher. But the rioters had lost four people, including Ashli Babbitt, the 35-year-old Air Force veteran who was shot by an officer as she tried to storm the building.

In a series of posts, the Last Sons said her death should be “avenged” and appeared to call for the murder of three more cops.

The group is part of the Boogaloo movement — a decentralized, very online successor to the ­­militia movement of the ’80s and ’90s —­ whose adherents are fixated on attacking law enforcement and violently toppling the U.S. government. Researchers say the movement began coalescing online in 2019 as people — mostly young men — angry with what they perceived to be increasing government repression, found each other on Facebook groups and in private chats. In movement vernacular, Boogaloo refers to an inevitable and imminent armed revolt, and members often call themselves Boogaloo Bois, boogs or goons.

In the weeks since Jan. 6, an array of extremist groups have been named as participants in the Capitol invasion. The Proud Boys. QAnon believers. White nationalists. The Oath Keepers. But the Boogaloo Bois are notable for the depth of their commitment to the overthrow of the U.S. government and the jaw-dropping criminal histories of many members.

Mike Dunn, a 20-year-old from a small town on Virginia’s rural southern edge, is the commander of the Last Sons. “I really feel we’re looking at the possibility — stronger than any time since, say, the 1860s — of armed insurrection,” Dunn said in an interview with ProPublica and FRONTLINE a few days after the assault on the Capitol. Although Dunn didn’t directly participate, he said members of his Boogaloo faction helped fire up the crowd and “may” have penetrated the building.

“It was a chance to mess with the federal government again,” he said. “They weren’t there for MAGA. They weren’t there for Trump.”

Dunn added that he’s “willing to die in the streets” while battling law enforcement or security forces.

In its short existence, the Boogaloo movement has proven to be a magnet for current or former military service members who have used their combat skills and firearms expertise to advance the Boogaloo cause. Before becoming one of the faces of the movement, Dunn did a brief stint in the U.S. Marines, a career he says was cut short by a heart condition, and worked as a Virginia state prison guard.

Through interviews, extensive study of social media and a review of court records, some previously unreported, ProPublica and FRONTLINE identified more than 20 Boogaloo Bois or sympathizers who’ve served in the armed forces. Over the past 18 months, 13 of them have been arrested on charges ranging from the possession of illegal automatic weapons to the manufacture of explosives to murder.

Most of the individuals identified by the news organizations became involved with the movement after leaving the military. At least four are accused of committing Boogaloo-related crimes while employed by one of the military branches.

Examples of the nexus between the group and the military abound.

Last year, an FBI task force in San Francisco opened a domestic terror investigation into  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much, much more.

Later in the article:

The Marine Corps is working to root out extremists from its ranks, a spokesman said.

“Association or participation with hate or extremist groups of any kind is directly contradictory to the core values of honor, courage and commitment that we stand for as Marines and isn’t tolerated,” Capt. Joseph Butterfield said.

No reliable numbers exist about how many current or former military members are part of the movement.

However, military officials at the Pentagon told ProPublica and FRONTLINE that they have been concerned by a surge in extremist activity. “We are seeing an increase in concerning behavior,” said one official, stressing that military leaders are “very actively” responding to tips and are thoroughly investigating service members linked to anti-government groups.

Experts worry about people with military training joining extremist groups.

Boogaloo Bois with military experience are likely to share their expertise with members who’ve never served in the armed forces, building a more effective, more lethal movement. “These are folks who can bring discipline to a movement. These are folks that can bring skills to a movement,” said Jason Blazakis, director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Written by Leisureguy

1 February 2021 at 12:44 pm

The crazy is still intense: QAnon Believes Trump Will Become President Again on March 4

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David Gilbert has a report in Vice that includes two brief videos of astounding (albeit insane) claims calmly made by two women (see earlier post on women’s roles in extremist groups). It’s definitely worth clicking the link and watching the videos just to see how weird and extreme some people have become. (And their ignorance is amazing — in the second video, the woman explains that the Bill of Rights is the first 10 (“or so” — no, it’s exactly 10) “articles of the Constitution” (no, they are the first 10 amendments to the Constitution). But it is evident that they are not only comfortable in their ignorance, they seem almost proud of it.

The report begins:

Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 19th president of the United States on March 4, 2021.

This is the latest conspiracy that QAnon followers have embraced in the wake of President Joe Biden’s inauguration last week, and extremist experts are worried that it highlights the way QAnon adherents are beginning to merge their beliefs — about the world being run by an elite cabal of cannibalistic satanist pedophiles —with even more extreme ideologies.

The latest claims being made by QAnon supporters echo those of the sovereign citizen movement, a group of people who believe they are not governed by the same laws as everyone else. That belief has led to violent confrontations with law enforcement have viewed them among the top domestic extremist threats facing the country.

“There was some crossover between QAnon and the sovereign citizen movement before, but I’ve seen sovereign citizen ideas about the United States being a ‘corporation’ become more popular within QAnon and beyond in January,” Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher, told VICE News.

“It’s concerning because it means QAnon is borrowing ideas from more-established extremism movements.”

Sovereign citizens believe that a law enacted in 1871 secretly turned the U.S. into a corporation and did away with the American government of the founding fathers. The group also believes that President Franklin D. Roosevelt sold U.S. citizens out in 1933 when he ended the gold standard and replaced it by offering citizens as collateral to a group of shadowy foreign investors.

Sovereigns use indecipherable legal filings based on arcane texts to separate themselves from the legal entities the government has supposedly created in their name in order to sell to investors.

When that doesn’t work, followers of the sovereign citizen movement have reacted violently. In May 2010, for example, a father-son team of sovereigns murdered two police officers with an assault rifle when they were pulled over on the interstate while traveling through Arkansas.

Now, QAnon followers have latched on to the theory and adapted it to suit their needs. . .

Read the whole thing. And watch those videos. I’ve included one above (it’s at the link in the tweet).

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2021 at 4:11 pm

Self-styled militia members planned on storming the U.S. Capitol days in advance of Jan. 6 attack

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Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, and Devlin Barrett report in the Washington Post:

Self-styled militia members from Virginia, Ohio and other states made plans to storm the U.S. Capitol days in advance of the Jan. 6 attack, and then communicated in real time as they breached the building on opposite sides and talked about hunting for lawmakers, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

While authorities have charged more than 100 individuals in the riot, details in the new allegations against three U.S. military veterans offer a disturbing look at what they allegedly said to one another before, during and after the attack — statements that indicate a degree of preparation and determination to rush deep into the halls and tunnels of Congress to make “citizens’ arrests” of elected officials.

U.S. authorities charged an apparent leader of the Oath Keepers extremist group, Thomas Edward Caldwell, 66, of Berryville, Va., in the attack, alleging that the Navy veteran helped organize a ring of dozens who coordinated their movements as they “stormed the castle” to disrupt the confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory.

“We have about 30-40 of us. We are sticking together and sticking to the plan,” co-defendant Jessica Watkins, 38, an Army veteran, said while the breach was underway, according to court documents.

“You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud,” a man replied, according to audio recordings of communications between Watkins and others during the incursion.

“We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades, they are fricking shooting people with paint balls. But we are in here,” a woman believed to be Watkins said, according to court documents.

[U.S. v Thomas Edward Caldwell, Donovan Ray Crowl and Jessica Marie Watkins]

A man then responds, “Get it, Jess,” adding, “This is . . . everything we f—ing trained for!”

The FBI said it recovered the exchange from Zello, a push-to-talk, two-way radio phone app.

FBI charging papers against Caldwell, Watkins and a third person, former U.S. Marine Donovan Crowl, 50, allege that Caldwell and others coordinated in advance to disrupt Congress, scouted for lodging and recruited Oath Keepers members from North Carolina and like-minded groups from the Shenandoah Valley. The group claims thousands of members who assert the right to defy government orders they deem improper. The plotters both anticipated violence and continued to act in concert after the break-in, investigators alleged in court documents. FBI papers also say that Caldwell suggested a similar event at the local level after the attack, saying in a message: “Lets storm the capitol in Ohio. Tell me when!”

The three are charged with five federal counts of conspiracy against the United States; obstructing an official government proceeding; impeding or injuring government officers; and destroying U.S. property, entering restricted grounds and disorderly conduct at the Capitol. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Later in the report:

In charging papers, the FBI said that during the Capitol riot, Caldwell received Facebook messages from unspecified senders updating him of the location of lawmakers. When he posted a one-word message, “Inside,” he received exhortations and directions describing tunnels, doors and hallways, the FBI said.

Some messages, according to the FBI, included, “Tom all legislators are down in the Tunnels 3floors down,” and “Go through back house chamber doors facing N left down hallway down steps.” Another message read: “All members are in the tunnels under capital seal them in. Turn on gas,” the FBI added.

Other arrests Tuesday also underscored law enforcement’s concerns about threats to elected leaders, particularly because so many of the participants in the Jan. 6 chaos are still unidentified.

In New York, a Queens man who worked in the state court system was accused Tuesday of making threats to murder Democratic politicians, including suggesting another attack on the Capitol timed to Biden’s inauguration. The man was not at the riot on Jan. 6 but made threatening remarks about Democratic politicians beforehand that intensified in a video he posted two days later, which was titled “KILL YOUR SENATORS.” In the video, he encourages people to return to the Capitol and take up arms.

“If anybody has a gun, give it to me, I’ll go there myself and shoot them and kill them,” the man said, according to the FBI.

And also this:

The FBI said without elaboration that it also recovered a document titled “Making Plastic Explosives from Bleach,” redacting the instructions in a photo exhibit.

We have to recognize that this was a serious and determined effort at insurrection, and that the punishment should fit the crime.

Written by Leisureguy

23 January 2021 at 11:51 am

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