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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Too Many Guns

The Daily Escape:

“Don’t tell me tomorrow isn’t the appropriate time to debate gun violence. If you’re a political leader doing nothing about this slaughter, you’re an accomplice.” – Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)

Can we get politicians to deal with gun violence? Politicians like to reframe the problem, like saying that we need more “good people” with guns. But, there were two armed police officers stationed at the Parkland FL school. Upon hearing that, the gun absolutists might argue: “If only the teachers and students had their own weapons, it probably would have worked out just fine…

At Trump’s inaugural, in the “American Carnage” portion of his speech, he said that “Your child isn’t going to be shot” on his watch. But after 18 shootings just this year, it’s clear that Trump has no plan to stop gun violence. Attacks like this can’t be eliminated, but Trump could have done something, other than blame the students and neighbors who didn’t turn the shooter in. That, and last year, he made it easier for mentally ill people to buy guns.

And we are getting numb. The LA Times editorial asks: (emphasis by Wrongo)

When does an epidemic stop being an epidemic and become just a basic part of regular life? It’s been 19 years since the nation was horrified by the carnage at Columbine in suburban Denver. It’s been just over five years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Quick: What was the most recent mass shooting incident (at least four wounded) at a school before the one on Wednesday? Here’s the sick part: There have been so many school shootings that it takes a bit of work to answer what should be an easy question.

Who remembers clearly the particulars of the last school shooting? Not Wrongo, and probably not you. We have grown weary of being outraged after so many shootings. We’ve become numb to the sensations of outrage and pain for the victims and their families. It’s official. Guns have more rights than humans in our 21st Century America.

We have to control guns if we want to turn the tide. Consider this chart from the Tewkesbury Lab that graphs gun deaths by gun ownership:

There is a clear relationship between gun access and gun violence, and the US clearly has the most gun violence and the most guns. We might ask why some countries are above the trend line, and others are below it. When your country is above the line, your citizens not only own more guns per capita, they also have a harder time keeping their guns pointed away from other people.

Trump and Congress should have a goal of minimizing the risk of gun deaths. The best way to accomplish this is reducing access to guns. If you want to reduce your personal risk from gun related violence, you can move to a state or a country where gun laws are stricter and cultural norms surrounding guns are more progressive.

If you can’t or don’t want to move, you need to work to pass stricter gun laws where you live.

Politicians can argue about details, but the fundamentals are clear. It is like smoking. If you want to reduce smoking, you make it harder and more expensive to smoke. Only the tobacco industry and the politicians they had purchased really argued with that logic.

Why should it be different with guns?

We are unique in our worship of guns. The Second Amendment provides a big blanket of excuse for gun lovers to wrap themselves in, but Second Amendment rights shouldn’t be superior to the right of your kid to return home from school alive.

We need to control the number of guns. We need to make sure guns are being used for the right reason eg. hunting. My friend hunts and he told me about long range scopes reviewed, I can see why people enjoy shooting as a hobby but guns can also be very dangerous. Special care needs to be taken with guns. We also need to figure out how to change our acceptance and glorification of violence. It is young men like the kid who killed 17 in Parkland FL, who avoid mental health advice, because they don’t want to look weak. They are the same ones who are perpetually angry. They pick up a gun, and they let their gun do some punishing. And guns do that quickly and efficiently.

We have to stop them. Republicans are owned by the NRA. So first, we need to regain control of the House and Senate. We also need to have the gun control legislation ready for when that time comes.

We need better ad campaigns ads that spell out about what America loses with every shooting.

We can’t stop every wacko from harming people, but we can sharply reduce the percentage of wackos that have guns!

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Why So Fearful?

The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil menPlato

Following on yesterday’s thoughts about how our presidential candidates are busy soiling their underpants over the possible threat of “Radical Islamic Terrorism” (say it Obama! What are you afraid of??), we heard Trump call for banning Muslims from visiting the US. Cruz and Rubio are merely for registering all of them.

This is a good time to take a look at the rates of homicide in America and our perception of the rates of homicide. Here is a chart from Gallup that shows the actual rate has fallen steadily and dramatically since 1992. The graph demonstrates that starting in 2001, we saw an increase in the number of Americans who thought violent crime was rising (the dark green line), even though the actual violent crime rate (the light green line) continued to fall, and remains roughly 75 points lower than it had been at its early 1990s peak. It’s clear that the perception of that crime rate tracked closely with the actual rate until 2001, when they began to diverge:

Galllup Violent Crime rate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition, Pew asked Americans in 2013 if the number of gun crimes had: gone down, gone up, or stayed the same over the past 20 years. Bear in mind that the gun murder rate is half what it was, and the rate of non-fatal gun crimes is about a quarter of what it was 20 years ago, but only 12% said gun crimes were down, 26% said they were the same, and 56% said they’ve gone up.

This, despite the fact that the homicide rate/100,000 people in this country is lower than it’s been in 50 years, falling from 6.6 in 1981 to 3.6 in 2010. That’s not all. Ian Reifowitz at the Daily Kos offers more data:

Violence in schools has dropped dramatically in the past two decades
• The overall rates of physical and sexual abuse of children is down
• The rates of rape/sexual assault and violence against intimate partners in the US is 25% of what it was a couple of decades ago.

We live in an environment where all politics is designed to ramp up fear and outrage. Where our media, both mainstream and Internet, awefulize about nearly everything, where people have short attention spans, and fail to understand nuanced problems.

The current “be afraid” broadcast coverage of San Bernardino is another opportunity to instill fear in the public about mass shootings. It sells commercials, but misinforms the public. The press and most politicians characterize these mass shootings as either the work of misguided crazies if they are Americans, or terrorists if they are not.

And then the media complains about the public’s ignorance, and basks in the fact of peoples’ acceptance of extreme political views, followed by hand-wringing about why people are so angry, frightened and cynical.

Polls show that Americans are afraid of Muslims. A 2014 Pew survey asked Americans to rate various religious groups on a 0 to 100 scale, with a higher score indicating more positive feelings.

• Republicans (including people who lean Republican) gave Muslims a rating of 33, on average — one point lower than atheists and far lower than any other religious group.
• Democrats had more positive feelings toward Muslims, but were still chilly; they gave Muslims an average rating of 47, slightly above atheists and Mormons and below other religious groups.

According to a Public Religion Research Institute poll conducted earlier this year, 77% of Trump supporters believe “the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life,” versus 72% percent of other Republicans, while 43% of Democrats said the same.

After fifteen years of non-stop war against the Muslim world, it may make sense that Americans are insecure about Muslims. But, it is the media, and the 2016 Republican candidates who have ginned up this fear, against the reality of our actual experience.

It shouldn’t be difficult for either the candidates, or the media, to put public safety in a context of the past 20 years.

The facts above show that we are safer than at any time in the last 50 years, but that doesn’t mean we are safe, or that we do not have a problem with potential terrorist acts at home. We do, and we need to be vigilant. We also need to develop better techniques to identify potential domestic terrorists, and to teach citizens how to react in a potentially threatening situation.

Restrictive gun control wouldn’t hurt either.

The quantifiable improvement in crime and homicide rates in particular, should give us some hope that we can do better. But none of that happens unless we chose facts over fear.

Or, if we let fear drive us from our long-held values as a people.

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Is The Second Amendment Now a Security Threat?

San Bernardino brings to the front burner an ignored reality of our open society: Bad guys (and gals) don’t need to use bombs or planes to cause terror in the US; they can use small arms fire in a crowded place. And Mr. Obama, in his Sunday speech, underlined that America was indeed attacked by terrorists, using guns that anyone can purchase at Wal-Mart and thousands of other stores.

This creates an issue for the Second Amendment absolutists. Last week, the epidemic of gun violence in the US transcended being just another crime. Now, it’s become a matter of national security.

Mr. Trump and the other GOP presidential nominee wanna-be’s have been pandering to the fear that terrorists could be among us, in sleeper cells, waiting to spring an attack. In effect, they are saying, “all you terrorists, off my lawn!

But, American voters know that any terrorist, Atheist, Christian or Muslim, can go shopping for guns and ammo, and then be ready to get busy terrorizing. Now it HAS happened here.

And it is a paradigm shift from our efforts to make America safe from terrorists that fly planes into buildings. No matter the size of a 9/11-type catastrophe, we would be crippled emotionally but not economically. But, imagine what the economic consequences would be of a series of attacks on shopping malls (or supermarkets) around Christmas. Who would be brave enough to shop?

An amendment before the Senate last Thursday would have enabled the US Attorney General to deny the issuance of firearms to known or suspected dangerous terrorists, like those on the terrorist watch list.

But Senate Republicans voted against it, and the amendment was defeated. The Republican position is that any citizen has a right to their day in court before those rights can be suspended. Fair enough, but there are only about 8,400 American citizens on the list, so there must be a bigger GOP agenda at work here to torpedo the watch list amendment.

Republicans understand that Democrats could use this vote against them in 2016. They must know that as much as they think that they stand to gain politically from a fearful public, there will be more Planned Parenthood type shooters, and that ANY terrorist attack will be even more proof of the need for gun control as a matter of national security.

If voters can accept the “national security” arguments for limitations on the 2nd Amendment, maybe gun control has a better chance of limiting use of weapons in public places than we think. Perhaps, banning those on the terror watch-list from acquiring guns, an assault rifle ban, and large-capacity magazine ban would make even Republicans feel safer.

From David Atkins at WaMo: (brackets and emphasis by the Wrongologist)

[We have] already made a number of concessions to the clear wording of the 1st and 4th Amendments in the name of national security. The 2nd Amendment is explicit about its call for a well-regulated militia. It’s beyond time that if we as a people are going to be serious enough about stopping terrorism to invade countries halfway around the world…and set up…a mass spying agency against ourselves, we at least take seriously the imperative to regulate the terrorists’ latest weapon of choice…

A major problem is that the meaning of the 2nd Amendment has already been decided by the Supreme Court. SCOTUS has ruled that there is an individual right, unconnected with association with a militia, to possess firearms in the home for purposes of self-defense and that right applies to state regulations as well as federal regulations.

So, walking back recent Supreme Court decisions will be tough. How tough? Well, here is a video of Justice Scalia saying that rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) are probably permitted under the 2nd Amendment:

(those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here)

RPGs. A weapon of choice for terrorists. And Scalia thinks it is ok for Americans to own them. Think this guy is going to vote to limit the 2nd Amendment? Doubtful.

Of course, with 300+ million guns already in circulation, it will take decades for gun control to impact public safety, so why even try to do it?

Yet, you can bet that in a few weeks, some Christian we fail to call a terrorist, will shoot up a mosque. After all, how far are we from: “if you see something, shoot something?

Then we can read these arguments all over again.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – Moar Terror, Moar Gunz Edition

COW Moar Prayer

 

The argument has already started: “They were Arabs, and no amount of gun control would have stopped them.” The OMG, they were Muslim Terrorists (!!) yelp obscures two problems: America has 300+ million guns in the hands of 320 million citizens. We’ve allowed guns to become ubiquitous. Second, the vast majority of American deaths from guns do not involve Muslims. The NYT reports that there’s been a mass shooting of four or more people in America every day in 2015. Including San Bernardino, a total of 462 people have died and 1,314 have been wounded in such attacks this year. Republicans tell us that this is the cost to water the Tree of Liberty.

Wrongo has no problem with gun ownership. If people wish to own guns for hunting or self-defense, fine. If people hunt for food, fine. If they hunt for sport, they should examine their consciences, to see if they can find one.

But no one needs dozens, much less scores of guns. No one needs semi-automatic, or worse, automatic weapons, other than to kill lots of their fellow citizens. You can defend your house nicely with a pump-action shotgun with ‘00 buckshot. You don’t need a 30-round magazine and a semi-automatic AR or AK rifle. The legitimate reasons to have a gun are:

• You are a cop
• You are registered in an organized, regulated militia
• You hunt for food
• You feel the need for home protection.

These purposes can be accommodated within a framework of reasonable laws. But unlike freedom of speech, or assembly, or religion, where most people see rational limits for other Constitutional rights such as: you can’t threaten a person’s life and claim a 1st Amendment privilege, or form a lynch mob. But, when it comes to the 2nd Amendment, people make the most extreme demands for freedom to own any weapon.

We cannot stop terrorist attacks on our soil. Despite our federal surveillance and the training of local police, more attacks are coming. It only takes a few people to pull off such attacks, weapons are easy to obtain in the US, and the materials to make explosives are everywhere.

We will see more virulent Islamophobia, and more restriction of immigration. What we won’t see is more restrictions on who/how many guns people can own, despite the fact that we could make it more difficult for those who want to commit these atrocities.

One shooting victim we’d like to see:

COW Shooting Victim

 

In other news, it’s beginning to look a lot like Trump:

cOW Good Kisser

 

New poll has The Donald at 36% among Republicans:

COW Bad Dog

 

The Zuckerberg donation: A good thing, or a PR thing?

COW Zuckerberg

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Our Summer of Dickitude

(You may have noticed our sporadic blogging. Wrongo is nearing the end of a year-long project that will be operational in Chicago during the week of August 9-15. During these days leading up to the project’s start, it has been all conference calls and negotiations with 3rd parties. Regular blogging will return during the week of 8/16.)

Let’s look at the one part of the American summer that is seeing rapid growth, that of rampant Dickitude. We start with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) saying about the Iran deal:

If this deal goes through, the Obama administration will become the leading financier of terrorism against America in the world…I’ve heard this referred to before as the ‘Jihadist Stimulus Bill’.

Expect full blown, uncensored, nuclear Republican crazy until after the Fox debate.

You probably didn’t know that Ted Cruz is a sci-fi/comic book fan, a fact highlighted in an interview published last week by The New York Times Magazine. Mr. Cruz told Fox News that his top 5 superheroes are: (see below from a tweet by Andreu Aitch)

Cruz heros

Rorschach, who you may not know, is one of the main characters of Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Rorschach is a man who gives lip service to living by a morally unassailable, black and white code, but who nevertheless picks and chooses much of what he considers to be right and wrong entirely based on his own prejudices. Rorschach is the kind of person who murders people for the “greater good”.

Rorschach’s epitaph is:

Never compromise, not even in the face of Armageddon.

Doesn’t that seem like Cruz’s philosophy, where he’s willing to publicly fight his party’s leadership and shut down the federal government in order to spare his country from the impact of Obamacare? You might find a guy with a philosophy that prioritizes principle over peace, even though it might bring nuclear war, to be a risky person as your president.

BTW, why do our newsies want us to pick our president based on what cartoon character he likes best?

Speaking of Dickitude, what about Walter Palmer, the lion-killing dentist? The unauthorized killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, apparently was a poaching. This recalls that Palmer pleaded guilty in 2008 to the poaching of a black bear in Wisconsin, so Palmer is a serial poacher. And, in 2009, Palmer agreed to a settlement with the Minnesota Board of Dentistry over allegations that he sexually harassed a receptionist. Without admitting guilt, Palmer settled and paid $127,500 to the woman, who also was his patient.

Let’s hope he does time in Zimbabwe.

Moving on, The Hill reports that Federal prosecutors charged Rep. Chaka Fattah, (D-Pa), Wednesday in a 29-count indictment with racketeering, conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud. The FBI and IRS launched its probe of the Congressman’s activities in March 2013. The indictment alleges that, in connection with his failed mayoral bid in 2007, Fattah and his associates borrowed $1 million from a wealthy supporter and disguised the funds as a loan to a consulting company. He then created sham contracts and made false accounting records, tax returns and campaign finance disclosure statements.

In another alleged scheme, beginning in 2008, Fattah lobbied individuals in the executive branch in an effort to secure an ambassadorship or an appointment to the US Trade Commission for 69-year-old lobbyist Herbert Vederman, for which Vederman paid Fattah an $18,000 bribe.

Want to bet he is re-elected?

Finally, Rick Perry said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana show that gun-free zones are “a bad idea”. He said he believes people should be able to take their firearms to the movies:

I think that you allow the citizens of this country, who [are] appropriately trained, appropriately backgrounded, know how to handle and use firearms, to carry them. I believe that, with all my heart, that if you have the citizens who are well trained, and particularly in these places that are considered to be gun-free zones, that we can stop that type of activity, or stop it before there’s as many people that are impacted as what we saw in Lafayette.

Imagine adding guns to a dark, loud environment. What could possibly go wrong? Especially if some sort of escalation were to occur, and a group of true heroes packing handguns are there to intervene. Hundreds of people in a dark theater shooting at the same time to “defend” themselves.

OTOH, we have zero interest in actually dealing with the problem:

Layfayette debate

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Monday Wake Up Call – July 27, 2015

The Connecticut Democratic Party has decided to change the name of its “Jefferson-Jackson Dinner”. Apparently prompted by the national controversy over the Confederate flag, the state’s Democratic Party last week voted unanimously to change the name of its annual fundraising dinner and remove the names of two slave-owning American presidents.

The clear implication is that there’s something wrong with Thomas Jefferson which puts him in the same category as the Confederate Flag. The Hartford Courant reported this quote from the state Democrats’ resolution:

As members of the Democratic Party, we are proud of our history as the party of inclusion. Democrats have led the way on civil rights, LGBT equality and equal rights for women…It is only fitting that the name of the party’s most visible annual event reflects our dedication to diversity and forward-looking vision.

Wrongo doesn’t care if the Democratic Party stops naming their fundraisers after Jefferson and Jackson.

What is bothersome is the implication that Jefferson is a pariah. Andrew Jackson is another matter, despite the fact that the symbol of the party is the donkey, or jackass. “Jackass,” stood for Andrew Jackson. It came from an 1837 political cartoon referring to Jackson as a “Jack-ass.” Jackson thought it was funny, and used it to his advantage. Democrats embraced the symbol, and it has stuck for nearly 180 years.

What message does the CT Dems public disowning of Jefferson send? Do CT Dems understand history? We owe a debt to Jefferson. It’s easy to say that Jefferson did things that were wrong, but he wrote the Declaration of Independence, managed our relationships with France during the Revolutionary War, and was a highly successful president. It is a huge mistake to invalidate his accomplishments because of his personal foibles. He was a man of his time, and did what he did. But, without him, our revolution would have been different.

Making perfection the enemy of great is wrong-headed. It places the CT Dems in a similar intellectual place as Donald Trump, who says McCain isn’t a war hero because he was captured, or that John Kerry wasn’t a good negotiator because he fell off his bike.

Maybe we could all be adults? The effort at political correctness by the modern Democratic Party is fine, but we should remember that Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a perfect man. African-Americans know that, but Dr. King is still revered by almost all Americans.

And the fact that today’s GOP embraces Abraham Lincoln does not make the modern GOP a racism-free party, regardless of how often the GOP invokes Lincoln’s name to claim credit for his greatness. Judging our founders, or our heroes by today’s standards, would condemn almost everyone past and present. Maybe, Democrats in Washington, CT, named after George, will want to change its name, since George Washington owned slaves.

Yes, there are egalitarian threads in both the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian traditions that resonate with Democrats today—but both men based the equality of some men upon the subordination of others.

Since CT Democrats are determined to replace Jefferson and Jackson as patrons of these events, and are holding a meeting to decide the new name of the event in September, without question, FDR-JFK could serve pretty well, despite each man’s foibles. Or maybe, Joe Lieberman?

Are you the one American without personal foibles?

So, wake up Connecticut Democrats. To help with their wake-up, here is #4 in our songs of summer series, “Summertime Blues”, the great Eddie Cochran tune done here by Brian Setzer on MTV, recorded live for the ‘La Bamba’ concert. It reminds that there was a time when MTV was watchable:

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can see the video here.

Monday’s Hot Links:
Foreign Policy reports that back in 2000, the NSA intercepted a call to Bin Laden’s operations center in Yemen from a 9/11 hijacker in San Diego. They failed to follow-up, which should set off warning bells. Now 16 years later, the NSA denies they knew where the calls originated. That’s bullshit two ways: In 2000, the telephone network’s technology automatically provided a digital equivalent of caller ID to every phone switch, including NSA’s. And former NSA people like Tom Drake and William Binney say there’s no way the NSA wouldn’t have tapped this line.

Dark matter is the stuff that cosmologists think makes up some 85% of all the matter in the universe. A new theory says dark matter might be a known particle. If true, that would open up a window onto an invisible, dark matter version of physics.

Turkey launches war on Islamic State’s worst enemies – The Kurds. This blog site, Moon of Alabama, can be decidedly anti-American, but this is a must read article.

Gun deaths will surpass automobile deaths in the US this year, says The Atlantic. Car crashes killed 33,561 people in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Firearms killed 32,251 people in the US in 2011, the most recent year for which the CDC has data. The young are most at risk: CDC data show guns will kill more Americans under 25 than cars in 2015. Surely, a small price to pay for our Second Amendment freedoms?

Marilyn Tavenner, who served as the chief administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services from 2013 until February, is now in charge of an insurance industry lobby. This tells us all we need to know about where insurance companies see their next pot of gold. It is the Medicare Advantage program, which over the past several years, has become an increasingly important revenue stream for the country’s insurers. Revolving door much?

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