Browsing the blog archives for July, 2016.


Texas Open Carry and the Dallas Shooting

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firearms

Right after last week’s massacre in Dallas I wrote on Facebook,

Today the New York Times explains why the Texas open carry law not only didn’t prevent the massacre; it made law enforcement’s job more complicated.

The Dallas police chief, David O. Brown, described to CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday the amount of confusion the armed protesters initially caused.

He said the event had attracted “20 or 30 people” who “showed up with AR-15 rifles slung across their shoulder.”

“They were wearing gas masks,” Mr. Brown said. “They were wearing bulletproof vests and camo fatigues, for effect, for whatever reason.”

When the shooting started, “they began to run,” he said. And because they ran in the middle of the shooting, he said, the police on the scene viewed them as suspects. “Someone is shooting at you from a perched position, and people are running with AR-15s and camo gear and gas masks and bulletproof vests, they are suspects, until we eliminate that.”

There were also some presumably armed men staging a counter-protest to BLM at the scene. I assume they ran also. It’s a wonder it didn’t turn into a regular battle, though.

Gun nuts gun rights activists have long argued that all mass shootings take place in “gun-free zones,” even though that isn’t actually true.

In a 2014 report, Everytown for Gun Safety, a pro-gun control group, said that from 2009 to July 2014, 18 multiple-victim U.S. shootings–meaning any incident where at least four people were killed with a gun–occurred in places where civilian handguns were allowed.

Of 33 incidents in public spaces, the report said, 18 took place wholly or in part where concealed guns could be lawfully carried. Conversely, no more than 15 incidents “took place entirely in public spaces that were so-called ‘gun-free zones,’” the report said.

The gun culties gun rights activists also like to deny that the presence of armed law enforcement officers count. For example, they will tell you that military bases are “gun free zones” because civilians and non-security personnel are unarmed. But the MPs are armed.

But I don’t think even Wayne LaPierre is demented enough to try to argue the Dallas shooting happened because it was a gun-free zone.

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Update on the Dallas Shooting — No “Assault Weapon”

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Obama Administration

Following up on what I wrote last week about assault weapons — a news report said the Dallas shooter used an SKS, which is a Soviet-designed semi-automatic carbine that’s been around since the 1940s. The standard SKS has a fixed magazine rather than a detachable one, which means it doesn’t qualify for anybody’s legal definition of “assault weapon.” There are models of the SKS that have detachable magazines, however, and these are illegal in California (at least). But because these weapons lack many of the other standard features attributed to “assault weapons,” they may not be considered assault weapons in some state codes even if they have detachable magazines.

This is an excellent example of why pushing for an “assault weapons” ban is stupid. Ban semi-automatic firearms, period, I say.

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Senseless and Stupid

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criminal justice

Somebody must have locked The Donald in the basement this morning long enough to issue a statement in his name that sounds nothing like him. It was bland enough to not piss anybody off, in other words.

Except for one thing.

According to Aaron Blake, the statement included the line “The senseless, tragic deaths of two motorists in Louisiana and Minnesota reminds us how much more needs to be done.” This outraged many wingnuts, who refuse to believe  Alton Sterling and Philando Castile didn’t deserve to die. “I thought Trump supported LE [law enforcement]” mourned one guy.

It is clear that the shooter(s) was not affiliated with Black Lives Matter. BLM has issued a statement disavowing the shootings, and also saying,

Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it. Yesterday’s attack was the result of the actions of a lone gunman. To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible. We continue our efforts to bring about a better world for all of us.

Some People literally didn’t get the memo. A lot of voices — coming entirely from the Right, from what I see — are calling for escalating violence. For example

Most notably, Former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh went on a tweetstorm against the Black Lives Matter movement, and cryptically warned, “This now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives punks. Real America is coming for you.” Because apparently the president of the United States is not “real America.”…

… Naturally, self-proclaimed “Internet supervillain,” Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos, also immediately leapt into the fray, declaring Thursday night, “Black Lives Matter now gunning down police officers. Time to classify it as a terrorist organization. We need President @realDonaldTrump.” Drudge Report, likewise, swiftly announced “Black Lives Kill.” And The Blaze’s Tomi Lahren tweeted, then deleted, “Meet the new KKK, they call themselves ‘Black Lives Matter’ but make no mistake, their goals are far from equality.”

And then there’s this:

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called protesters who ran away from the hail of bullets that rained down on Downtown Dallas on Thursday night “hypocrites” during an interview Friday on Fox News.

“All those protesters last night, they turned around and ran the other way expecting the men and women in blue to protect them. What hypocrites!” an audibly emotional Patrick said.

If I believed in hell, I’d want there to be a special room where people like Lt. Gov. Patrick will be forced to write “I’m sorry I was such an idiot” on a blackboard for the rest of eternity. With bad chalk.

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More Spontaneous Public Executions

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criminal justice

Two more horrific murders of black men at the hands of police. Details are still coming to light, but it appears Alton Sterling, 37, was selling CDs on the street outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge. A homeless man called the police to tell them Sterling was “brandishing a gun,” but so far no one else who saw Sterling noticed this.  Police showed up, immobilized Sterling on the ground, and then shot and killed him while he was immobilized. I don’t see any other way to interpret the videos of the incident. Sterling may or may not have been carrying a gun, but we’re talking about Louisiana here — very lenient gun laws.

Philando Castile, 32, died in a Minneapolis hospital after being shot by police after being pulled over for driving with a broken tail light. My understanding is that Castile informed the police officer that he was carrying a concealed weapon, for which he had a permit. Then the officer told him to show some ID. Castile reached for his wallet and was shot.

Of course, Sterling and Castile were black. Meanwhile, some white yahoo in Raleigh actually shot at cops and was apprehended without injury.

But right now I want to talk about reactions. As of this writing I don’t believe Donald Trump has made any statement whatsoever about the shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. He’s still whining that people called him an anti-Semite, for some reason.

After Alton Sterling’s death Hillary Clinton issued a fairly standard this-is-just-awful statement that says a lot and nothing at the same time. Here ’tis:

“The death of Alton Sterling is a tragedy, and my prayers are with his family, including his five children. From Staten Island to Baltimore, Ferguson to Baton Rouge, too many African American families mourn the loss of a loved one from a police-involved incident. Something is profoundly wrong when so many Americans have reason to believe that our country doesn’t consider them as precious as others because of the color of their skin.

“I am glad the Department of Justice has agreed to a full and thorough review of this shooting. Incidents like this one have undermined the trust between police departments and the communities they serve. We need to rebuild that trust. We need to ensure justice is served. That begins with common sense reforms like ending racial profiling, providing better training on de-escalation and implicit bias, and supporting municipalities that refer the investigation and prosecution of police-involved deaths to independent bodies. All over America, there are police officers demonstrating how to protect the public without resorting to unnecessary force. We need to learn from and build on those examples.

“Progress is possible if we stand together and never waver in our fight to secure the future that every American deserves.”

Can’t really argue with it, except I would have said “atrocity” instead of “tragedy.” But we don’t want to piss off police unions, I guess. And the statement has a kind of boilerplate quality to it that skims the surface too much, to my mind. And how’s about making DOJ reviews automatic after police shootings? Still, it’s something, when what we got from Trump was nothing.

What was it T. S. Eliot wrote — not with a bang, but a whimper? Instead we get lots of bangs, followed by whimpering.

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HRC’s Non Indictment

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Obama Administration

FBI director James Comey’s announcement that Hillary Clinton would face no criminal charges regarding the emails actually was something of a relief. I didn’t expect her to be indicted, and I’m damn tired of the children on social media eagerly anticipating the indictment that wasn’t going to happen. It didn’t help that clickbait sites and hacks like H.A. Goodman continued to exploit the last, best hope of Bernie Sanders die-hards by promising them an indictment.

Charles Pierce has a good analysis of the email issue. Once again, Hillary Clinton used absolutely terrible judgment.  This is from FBI.gov:

 Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information. For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.

In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on e-mail (that is, excluding the later “up-classified” e-mails). None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail. Separately, it is important to say something about the marking of classified information. Only a very small number of the e-mails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information. But even if information is not marked “classified” in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.

To which Pierce comments,

Let us also state plainly at the outset that what Comey is describing above is a more than legitimate issue in the presidential campaign, and that “Hoorah! I’m Not Indicted!” isn’t exactly an inspiring Message Of The Day for your first appearance on the stump with the president.

It’s inspiring enough for Clinton supporters, who remain supremely confident that Their Glorious Candidate did absolutely nothing wrong. But in a normal election year, this would have been a serious, damning blow to Clinton’s presidential hopes, indictment or no indictment.

However, it’s not a normal election year, and Donald the Doofus is ignoring the serious issue of Clinton’s terrible judgment and is instead arguing that Clinton wasn’t indicted because the system is rigged. Well, the system is rigged, but in this case there are legitimate reasons to argue she shouldn’t have been indicted. Pierce goes into those, too.

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Enjoy the Fourth

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blogging

Went to a fireworks display last night. I’m visiting family in Missouri, where people can buy their own fireworks. While waiting for the main display to start a family was setting off fountains and sprinklers and what not right next to their car. My aunt remarked that when their car blew up it would make a good display.

What can one say but … hillbillies.

More fireworks tonight, if it stops raining. Wish us all luck.

If you want to skip the intro in the video below, start it at about 57 seconds.

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On Safari

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elections

I’m visiting family in the Ozarks. It is very quiet here. Unlike Brooklyn, there are no firetrucks or ambulances roaring by every ten minutes; no incessant construction and traffic noise. It’s like a decompression chamber.

The big event in the community today was a golf cart parade followed by a hot dog roast. But it’s raining, so I didn’t go. I hope the rain doesn’t cancel all the local fireworks displays. Otherwise it will be a few days before something else happens.

The politics ads are very depressing here. One candidate after another gets on television and swears to be a constitutional conservative who will protect our rights to guns and to refuse to bake gay wedding cakes. One guy actually shoots a gun in his ad.  They’re also big on cutting taxes and reducing crime. (When “crime” is mentioned, the ads show what appear to be videos of Ferguson.)

The Missouri state legislature, which always was crazy, spends most of its time coming up with ways to restrict abortions and gay rights and un-restrict guns. I can’t tell that they do anything else. The primary function of the governor, a Democrat, is to veto stuff. He vetoes a lot of stuff. But his second term is about to expire, and he can’t run again.

The Democratic candidate for governor, Chris Koster, is a centrist who at least is good on reproductive rights and gay rights issues. I don’t have a sense of where he stands elsewhere.  The Republican candidates are tripping all over themselves to earn the title “Crazier Than Thou.” If any of them get into the governor’s office, the state is doomed.

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