The Mahablog

Politics. Society. Group Therapy.

The Mahablog

Choosing Guns Over Children

Eleanor Kilbanoff writes in the Texas Tribune:

Yes, which doesn’t leave us much space in which to compromise. Oh, and as of this morning there have been eleven mass shootings in the U.S. this Memorial Day weekend.

The Texas Tribune article is very much worth reading. It tells a story that begins with the Luby’s Cafeteria shooting in Killeen, Texas, in 1991. One of the survivors, Suzanna Hupp, came away from the experience convinced that if she had been allowed to carry a firearm into the cafeteria she could have saved a lot of lives. So she began a crusade to loosen gun laws, especially to allow concealed carry. Since then active shooter incidents have become a lot more common, not less.

For years, the Right has argued that more guns equals less crime. A lot of these arguments go back to John Lott’s highly discredited 1988 book, More Guns Less Crime. Since 1988 a huge amount of data has been gathered that shows more guns do not equal less crime of any sort, and in fact more guns correlate directly to more gun homicides as well as others kinds of deaths by firearm.

Of course, the NRA talking points always use the word “crime” instead of “deaths,” the idea being that only crimes are a cause of concern and that deaths by accident or suicide don’t count. (Apparently, homicide doesn’t count, either.) “Crime” connotes a “criminal” who is doing something bad to “law-abiding citizens.” NRA rhetoric always separates humanity cleanly into “good guys” and “bad guys,” although in the real world the line of separation often is pretty damn blurry and is easily crossed.

Lott is also the originator of the claim that mass shootings only take place in “gun-free zones,” even though that’s hardly ever been the case in recent years. You can’t even say that Robb Elementary School was a strict gun-free zone. There was supposed to have been an armed security officer there, and Texas has programs that enable public school teachers and other staff to carry guns in the school, although I haven’t heard that any Robb Elementary staff had taken part in that program.

I wrote back in 2016 about a mass shooting in Dallas that took the lives of five police officers. This had been at a demonstration against police shootings, and a number of protesters and counter-protesters showed up armed with AR-15s and wearing gas masks and bullet-proof vests. When the shooting started (by a sniper from a perched position) they all began to run, and police later complained the number of armed suspects at the scene created chaos. But that was hardly a gun-free zone.

I found a 2020 Rand study that said there are “no qualifying studies” showing that “gun free zones” in the U.S. are safer or less safe from gun violence than other zones. Some of the claims about there being more mass shootings in gun-free zones were based on data that cherry picked what qualifies as a “mass shooting” and how “gun free zones” are defined; for example, for some reason, the presence of armed guards or law enforcement may not disqualify a zone as gun free.  .

For that matter, how often has an armed citizen stopped a mass shooter? Hardly ever.

[E]xpansive research out of Stanford University found states that passed right-to-carry (RTC) concealed handgun laws saw between a 13 to 15% increase in violent crimes in the 10 years after. The data spanned stats from the 1970s up until 2014.

Yep, that says increase, not decrease.

“There is not even the slightest hint in the data that RTC laws reduce overall violent crime,” Stanford Law professor John Donohue stated in the paper.

Previous research on this topic came to similar conclusions, though noted not enough data was currently available.

In 2019, KXAN News in Austin worked with the ALERRT Center at Texas State University to compile data on 316 mass shootings in Texas between 2000 and 2019. The data showed that citizens stopped shooters 50 times out of 316 but only 10 of those instances were by using a gun. The other 40 times, the citizen used either their hands or another weapon.

It seems to me that what the data are telling us is that when citizens are more and more armed in public there is more and more shooting in public. The increase in shooting fatalities and injurites overwhelms the tiny number of shootings prevented or stopped by an armed citizen. More often than not, when citizens stop mass shooters they don’t use a gun to do it. The numbers tell us that all this arming of citizens makes us less safe, not more safe. 

Even this week, at the NRA convention in Dallas, Trump and other gun apologists were calling for an end to gun free zones. No one was allowed to be armed in the conventional hall where this was said, I understand.

Let’s look at I’m from Uvalde. I’m not surprised this happened. by Neil Meyer in the Washington Post:

First, you would be challenged to find a more heavily armed place in the United States than Uvalde. It’s a town where the love of guns overwhelms any notion of common-sense regulations, and the minority White ruling class places its right-wing Republican ideology above the safety of its most vulnerable citizens — its impoverished and its children, most of whom are Hispanic.

Note that Ulvade appears to have above-average crime rates in spite of all these guns being carried by the law-abiding citizens. Go figure.

Yet, in spite of all the data, the “more guns” people are in control and write the laws. Republican state legislatures push harder and harder to eliminate any barriers to owning and carrying whatever firearm one wants. Every time there’s another attention-grabbing mass shooting they trip all over themselves to prove their loyalty to guns by loosening the gun laws even more.

Why are we all so helpless to stop this? A big one is the anti-democratic Senate, which not only overrepresents rural voters but also keeps the filibuster rule that allows those rural voters veto power over what the majority of Americans want. See The Real Reason America Doesn’t Have Gun Control by Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic.

And the other reason is that our gun laws were not built rationally; our gun laws were built on fantasy and terror, says Paul Waldman.

[T]o imagine something different, we have to understand the ideology that created our current legal regime. It was constructed on a foundation of fantasy and terror, one that elevates imaginary threats and decrees that our response to those threats can only be confronted by each of us alone, never through the institutions we create or the government that represents us.

No, only the isolated, heavily armed, perpetually terrified individual can hope to keep his family safe — so don’t even think about changing the laws, unless it’s to put more guns in more people’s hands.

Keeping them afraid is also very good at getting them to turn out to vote for Republicans.

What kind of fantasies are we talking about? The most important is that the U.S. government — the one designed by those sainted Framers whose genius conservatives praise so often — is always moments away from devolving into totalitarian oppression, and all that keeps it from happening is its fear of an armed populace ready to start killing soldiers and cops.

So after the killings in Uvalde, Tex., a Florida state representative tweetedan explicit threat to kill the president of the United States: “I have news for the embarrassment that claims to be our President — try to take our guns and you’ll learn why the Second Amendment was written in the first place.”

Of course, being perpetually ready to overthrow the government has nothing whatsoever to do with why the Second Amendment was written in the first place. That’s a fantasy.

This idea of a world of chaotic violence saturates conservative media (where antifa and Black Lives Matter are forever burning down cities and coming to destroy your community) and the rhetoric of gun groups and gun enthusiasts. It’s absolutely central to that message that no collective or governmental response will protect you and your family. The cops won’t get there fast enough, laws don’t stop “the bad guys,” and in the end you are atomized and alone, left to either kill or be killed.

So people keep guns in their homes for “protection,” which makes them more and not less likely to die by firearm. But you can’t tell the fearful people that.

There’s a lot of untruths about gun laws in circulation, like the Chicago Myth that says Chicago has the nation’s toughest gun laws and the highest firearm homide rates. Neither assertion is true. Today I ran into a guy ranting that “Democrat cities” like St. Louis are the cause of all the firearm deaths. St. Louis may be the firearm homicide capital of the nation right now. It may have a Democratic mayor, but its gun laws are just about identical to those of Texas, courtesy of the righter-then-right Republican state legislature. And the state legislature won’t allow the city to pass stricter laws.

On top of that, I believe that all the fear-mongering, all the rhetoric that pits us against them, also pushes people toward more violence. To keep power, Republicans are causing the violence they want voters to fear. And it keeps escalating.

Next: Getting smarter about gun violence.

More Republican Excuses for Gun Violence

The narrative about how Uvalde police responded to Tuesday’s shooting keeps changing. It may be another week before we have the whole story. At the moment it appears they just plain royally screwed up.

In the meantime, the Right is coming up with more excuses for why gun control laws are still off the table. Media matters compiled a list of excuses offered on Fox News. These included a lack of booby traps around the schools (seriously), a “lack of discipline” in schools, the decay of “Judeo-Christian principles,” and blaming the children by claiming they didn’t call 911 for fear of being a “snitch.”  We know at least one ten-year-old girl, Amerie Garza, was killed while trying to call 911, so that last one is especially cruel.

Regarding the decay of “Judeo-Christian principles,” Paul Waldman pointed out yesterday that the United States is far and away the most religious of the world’s wealthy countries, yet our homicide rate is 7.5 times higher than the homicide rate in the other high-income countries combined, largely attributable to a firearm homicide rate that is 24.9 times higher.

“Many of the least religious countries, on the other hand, are also the ones with the lowest rates of homicide,” Waldman wrote. “To take just one example, in the Netherlands, 20 percent of people say religion is very important to them, compared to 53 percent of Americans. Yet their homicide rate is one tenth of ours.”

See also Fox News’ Coverage of the Uvalde Shooting Was Sickening by Ryan Bort at Rolling Stone.

And see Erik Wemple, Fox News is your HQ for post-Uvalde thoughts and prayers. Wemple writes that Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick got on Tucker Carlson’s show — “We’ve got to unify in prayer, we have to unify in faith. We have to unify in who are we?” Patrick said.

You might remember Dan Patrick as the guy who thought the elderly should agree to die of covid to save the economy. Last year Mr. Unify also accused Democrats of allowing illegal immigrants into the country to “take over our country without firing a shot.” Not exactly a beacon of peace and love.

There are many reports today about how Texas had already “hardened” schools to prevent mass shootings. This is from the Texas Tribune:

…“This concept of hardening, the more it has been done, it’s not shown the results,” said Jagdish Khubchandani, a public health professor at New Mexico State University who studies school security practices and their effectiveness.

Texas law already allows teachers to be armed, btw.

Next: Choosing guns over children.

The Many Republican Excuses for Gun Violence

Behold the bullshit:

Since Tuesday’s massacre of children, Cruz has spoken several times of his grand plan to keep schools safer — we need school buildings with only one door that can be guarded by armed security officers. Just the thing if there’s a fire or bomb threat and the building must be evacuated quickly.

But let’s look at the many excuses Republicans make for U.S. gun violence.

Excuse #1: The Shooter Was Evil

I douldn’t find a transcript, but you’ve probably seen the video of the news conference in which Greg Abbott went on and on about how the shooter was evil and the shooting was senseless. He did so in a manner that almost looked like a shrug, as if the presence of evil and the senselessness of the act rendered him helpless to prevent it. He was trying to exonerate himself from blame. Here’s something I wrote a few years ago after another evil, senseless mass shooting:

Of all the labels being attached to Paddock, “evil” is the most useless. Calling something or someone “evil” is an avoidance strategy, in my opinion. It’s a way of absolving oneself or one’s culture, society or nation of responsibility for something. IMO our proclivity for sorting humanity into “good buys” and “bad guys” bins — we are always one of the “good guys,” of course — is the cause of most of the atrocities of the world. I’ve written about this in the past. Very few of the atrocities of human history were carried out by people who were fully aware they were doing something evil.

Calling the shooter “evil” doesn’t exonerate anyone. Same thing with calling them “crazy.” It doesn’t solve any problems. It serves no purpose. It provides no solutions.

And the fact remains that the U.S. hardly has a patent on evil, yet we have somehow cornered the market on school shootings. It’s a uniquely U.S. problem.

Excuse #2: The Shooter Was Mentally Ill

Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the Uvalde school shooter had a “mental health challenge” and the state needed to “do a better job with mental health” — yet in April he slashed $211 million from the department that oversees mental health programs.

In addition, Texas ranked last out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia for overall access to mental health care, according to the 2021 State of Mental Health in America report.

Prediction: Abbott will make no move to replace that $211 million. In a few weeks people will quit asking about it. We really do need better health services for people with psychiatric illnesses in this country, but I’m not seeing a big rush to supply such services coming from Republicans.

The “mental health” excuse may or may not have a basis in fact, but even if there were a law that prevented people with a diagnosed “mental illness” from purchasing firearms, it would make little difference because very few perpetrators of gun violence have a diagnosed mental illness at the time they obtained the firearm, whether legally or illegally, and when they committed the violence. I’ve written about this before, too. A lot.

Most of the time, mass shooters don’t have a definable “mental illness.” They do tend to have a similar complex of common personality and behavioral characteristics, however. They tend to be hotheads. They tend to be impulsive. Often they are socially awkward in some way; women may call them “creepy.” They don’t tend to have successful relationships, in other words, although sometimes they are married. Very often they have histories of domestic violence and animal abuse. They probably hoard several firearms and have for a while.

Guys like this are as common as toast. What they don’t have is any kind of brain or medically defined psychiatric illness that accounts for their decisions to kill people. They are not psychotic; they are not hearing voices in their heads or imagining that the nice people in the church are really space invaders.

And there is no way for the psychiatrists to know whether this or that creepy hotheaded asshole is the one who might be a mass shooter, or not.  Further, there is no medical treatment for being a creepy hotheaded asshole.

When I say that most perps are not mentally ill I don’t mean that mental illness is never a factor. A couple of our famous mass shooters — James Holmes (Aurora) and Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook) could both have qualified as mentally ill at the time of the shootings, I believe, according to their medical records. But that’s two out of how many? There have been 27 school shootings in the U.S. just this year, and over two hundred mass shootings. Not to mention other firearm violence to be sorted into other categories. Even if you could stop every diagnosed schizophrenic in the U.S. from owning or carrying a firearm — and that wouldn’t be a bad idea —  it would probably make no measurable difference in the gun violence data.

One study found that only 11% of all mass murderers (including shooters) and only 8% of mass shooters had a serious mental illness.

Excuse #3: Laws Don’t Work

Let’s get one fact out of the way — states with loose and permissive gun laws have higher rates of firearm related homicides than those with stricter gun laws. So, it would seem, gun laws DO work in the real world.

Here’s Ken Paxton making the same old argument that more gun laws don’t work because “criminals” won’t follow them:

Basically, this argument is an admission of helpessness, that there is nothing that can be done about gun violence. Laws won’t work. It just is what it is.

A variation of the “laws don’t work” argument is the Chicago myth — that Chicago has strict gun laws and yet it’s a shooting gallery. Greg Abbott made that argument in his press conference. “I hate to say it, but there are more people who are shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas,” Abbott said, according to CNN. “So, you’re looking for a real solution, Chicago teaches that what you’re talking about [gun regulations] is not a real solution. Our job is to come up with real solutions that we can implement.”

Yeah, we’re all waiting for you to come up with those real solutions, governor. Haven’t seen any yet. But I’ve written about the Chicago myth before. Chicago doesn’t have exceptionally tough gun laws. It used to, but the Supreme Court nixed those laws in 2010. And there are several other cities with higher homicide rates, or the rate of homicides per 100,000 population. (I couldn’t find city data for shooting deaths specifically, just state data.) St. Louis is still #1. See also griping from the Chicago Tribune.

School shootings aside, there is a strong correlation between domestic violence and mass shootings outside of schools. A high percentage of such shootings are linked in some way to domestic violence, and there is reason to believe that keeping firearms out of the hands of people with a history of domestic violence would stop at least some mass shootings, not to mention save the lives of intimate partners. But even where such laws exist, they are badly enforced. And the NRA doesn’t like them.

See How the US fails to take away guns from domestic abusers: ‘These deaths are preventable’ at The Guardian. Here we have an example of one kind of criminal who really should be stopped from possessing firearms, and the law ‘n’ order crowd often can’t bring themselves to carry this out. So don’t waste our time whining about how laws don’t work.

School shooters are a slightly different crew. A study of U.S. school shooters found that all school shooters are male, with an average age of 18. Most of the time, these shooters intend the shooting to be a final act that they’ve been thinking about for a while; they are not acting impulsively out of rage. They post about mass shootings on social media. They are deeply unhappy, but not psychotic.

Inspired by past school shooters, some perpetrators are seeking fame and notoriety. However, most school shooters are motivated by a generalized anger. Their path to violence involves self-hate and despair turned outward at the world, and our research finds they often communicate their intent to do harm in advance as a final, desperate cry for help. The key to stopping these tragedies is for society to be alert to these warning signs and act on them immediately.

Making it easy and acceptable for these young people to seek help, to just bleeping talk to someone instead of holding it in, would probably help a lot also. I didn’t hear Gov. Abbott talk about that, though.

Excuse #4: We Need More Guns to Make People Safer

It’s a myth that more guns equal less crime, of course. There is all kinds of data showing that higher rates of gun ownership correlate to higher rates of gun death, including homicide. Putting more guns in the hands of “law-abiding citizens” absolutely does not make anybody safer, especially considering that many if not most mass shooters (including, I believe, the Uvalde shooter) were law-abiding citizens up to the moment they shot their first victim.

So making guns easier to purchase does drive up homicide rates, as we’ve been seeing in the U.S. in recent years. And “stand your ground” laws are linked to an 11 percent rise in firearm homicdes.

If you can think of any other excuses, please put them in the comments. I want to write another post about what needs to be done to reduce gun violence in the U.S.

Next: More Republican Excuses for Gun Violence.

The Do-Nothing Committee

Trump and His Big Lie Lose in Georgia

I’m still processing yesterday’s shooting and am not quite ready to write about it. For now I just want to address the state of the primaries.

This is looking like a weak election year for Blue Dog Democrats. Last year a group of House Democrats called the “unbreakable nine,” or sometimes just The Nine, worked their butts off to water down if not kill the original Build Back Better bill. Note that The Nine are also all members of the Blue Dog Coalition. From the archives, see “Moderate” Troublemakers Still Threaten to Derail Biden Agenda, August 2021; and The House Dem Centrists Hit a Wall, October 2021.

The Nine were known to be working for No Labels, the same group of hedge fund/capital management/equity fund guys that owns Joe Manchin. The original Build Back Better bill proposed to raise taxes on the wealthy and on some corporations and stock buybacks. Obviously, for No Labels, that could not stand.

The original Nine were Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05); Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07; Filemon Vela (TX-34); Jared Golden (ME-02); Henry Cuellar (TX-28); Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15); Ed Case (HI-01); Jim Costa (CA-16); and Kurt Schrader (OR-05). Vela resigned from the House earlier this year and is now working for a Washington lobbying firm. Gottheimer has no primary opponent, I understand. In Texas, Gonzalez won his primary and, if he wins the general election, will be representing redistricted district 34 in the next Congress. But not all of them will be returning.

It’s not yet official, but several news outlets are saying that Kurt Schrader was defeated by his progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner. For example, yesterday Dave Seminara wrote How Oregon’s Joe Manchin Lost His Primary in the Wall Streeet Journal. Seminara sniffs disapprovingly about “leftist orthodoxy” but admits McLeod-Skinner won.

Yesterday in Georgia, Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux lost to Rep. Lucy McBath, both House members who ended up redistricted into the same district. I understand McBath is a Third Way type who got a lot of money from AIPAC, so I’m not sure it will matter. McBath is a staunch supporter of gun control, however, so that’s something.

The Cuellar-Cisneros contest in Texas is still too close to call. With 94 percent of the vote counted, Cuellar is only 177 votes ahead. Even if he eventually prevails, that ought to make him think. But it probably won’t. Cuellar is the AIPAC candidate in this race, btw.

Golden and Costa face primaries in June, and Case’s primary is in August.

Elsewhere — the biggest surprise of yesterday’s primaries, for me, was that Brad Raffensperger won his primary over MAGA Creature Jody Hice by such a large margin. It was supposed to be closer, I thought.

Also, Trump had endorsed some guy named John Gordon for Georgia attorney general. Gordon lost to the incumbent, Chris Carr. Carr won by 73.7 to 26.3 percent of the vote, with 95 percent of the vote counted. Trump’s choice for insurance commissioner (insurance commissioner?), Patrick Witt, got only 17 percent of the vote yesterday and is out. Trump endorsed one House candidate, Vernon Jones for the 10th Congressional District, who came in second. There will be a runoff.

Bottom line, though, Trump’s endorsements didn’t mean squat in Georgia.

There are no primaries next Tuesday, which is the day after Memorial Day. States holding primaries on June 7 are California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota.

Another School Shooting

Fourteen children and a teacher were killed today in a mass shooting in an elementary school in Texas. As of this writing no one is saying how old the children were. The suspected shooter, a teenager, is reported to be dead also. Other children have been hospitalized.

Early reports say the shooter used a handgun but may have had a rifle also.

Less than a year ago, Gov. Greg Abbott signed seven gun rights bills into law. One of them, HB 1927, allowed eligible Texans to carry a handgun without a license or without training. Another, SB 550, got rid of a requirement to keep firearms in a shoulder or belt holster.

From June 2021:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed seven bills into law Thursday that will expand gun rights in the state. The signing took place less than a week after a mass shooting in Austin killed one person and injured 14 others.

“Texas will always be the leader in defending the Second Amendment, which is why we built a barrier around gun rights this session. These seven laws will protect the rights of law-abiding citizens and ensure that Texas remains a bastion of freedom,” Abbott said during Thursday’s signing ceremony at the Alamo in San Antonio. …

… “Those who believe and support Second Amendment rights, we support the right of every law-abiding American to have a weapon and defend themselves,” Abbott said. 

Gun rights rally at the Alamo.


Southern Baptists Face Replacement

Last year, attendees at the annual Southern Baptist convention voted to commission an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse within the denomination.  (For background into the allegations, see What Lies Beneath, February 2019.) Now a report has been issued, and it documents massive moral rot in SBC leadership. No surprise. The SBC denies what’s in the report, of course.

Theologian Russell Moore was one of the people who pushed for an investigation. When the allegations came out he was serving as president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He resigned and left the SBC entirely in June 2021. I take it this was not entirely voluntary. Moore is religiously and culturally conservative, but he expressed the view that Donald Trump is nothing but a huckster and also was known to have sympathy for immigrants and for sexual abuse victims. This put him at odds with SBC culture. Ministers of individual SBC churches complained about him and began withholding money for missions. So Moore got pushed out and took a job as editor at Christianity Today.

This is from Moore’s response to the report:

The conclusions of the report are so massive as to almost defy summation. It corroborates and details charges of deception, stonewalling, and intimidation of victims and those calling for reform. It includes written conversations among top Executive Committee staff and their lawyers that display the sort of inhumanity one could hardly have scripted for villains in a television crime drama. It documents callous cover-ups by some SBC leaders and credible allegations of sexually predatory behavior by some leaders themselves, including former SBC president Johnny Hunt (who was one of the only figures in SBC life who seemed to be respected across all of the typical divides).

And then there is the documented mistreatment by the Executive Committee of a sexual abuse survivor, whose own story of her abuse was altered to make it seem that her abuse was a consensual “affair”—resulting, as the report corroborates, in years of living hell for her.

In other words, the boys closed ranked to protect the boys being boys.

One of the most damning revelations is that the leadership for many years had maintained a secret database of accusations. This was not done for the purpose of addressing the sexual abuse but to stay ahead of possible bad publicity and legal liability. Sex abuse victims who made too much noise were “ignored, minimized and ‘even vilified’ by top clergy in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination,” it says here.

The SBC has a loose organizational structure that gives local churches considerable autonomy. One of the leadership’s excuses for not acting on accusations of sexual predation in the churches was that the SBC central administration didn’t have the authority to report local clergy to police. The leadership acknowledged that these things happened, but it was up to local congregations to deal with it. However, this same loosely governing body had in the past moved decisively to end the affiliation of churches that became accepting of homosexuality. The SBC governing bylaws ban gay or female pastors from serving in SBC churches but say nothing about sexual predators working in churches.

And, of course, officials in the leadership are among the accused perps in the report.

I warn you, this will be shocking — I got some interesting stuff from Erick Erickson, of all people. Apparently he’s a friend of Russell Moore. “Many of those implicated in the abuse turn out to be the very men who rallied to force Russell Moore out after he began publicly talking with survivors of the abuse,” EE writes. Then he says,

The men in charge were worried about governance issues and litigation more than the sin and victims. In fact, many victims were attacked and maligned.

The Southern Baptist Convention is a loose confederation of churches. Governance is at the individual church level. The Convention itself chooses to affiliate with churches that share a common missional purpose and Baptist approach, but the Convention does not hire, fire, or even oversee individual church pastors.

However, over the last few years, many of those implicated in the report have led the charge to sever ties with churches who put women in positions of church leadership or let women speak or preach from pulpits. Many of their allies have vocally attacked prominent women in the Southern Baptist Convention for not knowing their place. Concurrently, these same men were stymying efforts to sever ties with churches that employed documented abusers.

Typical. From there EE goes on to say that keeping women out of pulpits is biblically justified, and that’s true as I remember it, but as I’m not a Christian any more that’s hardly important to me. This is a pure reflection of their true values, not the Bible. The priority is protecting and maintaining the patriarchy, and if they have to break a few Commandments to do that, so be it. Greater good, etc.

These same men have probably marched through their lives thinking of themselves as keepers of the flame of morality and protectors of women and children. They’ve probably declared this out loud on many occasions. I don’t doubt that on some level they believe this to be true. But their real motivations, what really guides their actions and their opinons, have nothing to do with morality or Jesus or anything but the urge buried deep in their psyches to maintain their own privilege, their own Holy White Male status.

We must acknoweledge that institutional complicity in sexual predation is not exclusively a Southern Baptist problem, or a Christian problem, or even an organized religion problem. It’s cultural; it’s social-psychological. It happens everywhere.

Even so, it is notable that the two Christian denominations that are most adamantly opposed to abortion rights, Catholic and Southern Baptists, are the same ones most known for harboring sex predators on a grand scale. This is not a coincidence.

There’s a piece at Five Thirty Eight that says “People who believe in traditional gender roles — and perceive that those roles are increasingly being blurred to men’s disadvantage — are much likelier to oppose abortion than people who don’t hold those beliefs.” Which comes under the heading of “Stuff That’s Blazingly Obvious” to me, but I guess somebody felt a need to gather data on it.  But note the zero sum thinking — blurring of the old order, expanding the parameters for women, must be coming at the expense of men. All that howling about “replacement theory” comes from that same place, whether about race or gender. The social order must be maintained at all costs. Equality terrifies them. Being just themselves terrifies them.They armor themselves in gender and race privilege and lose touch with whatever human beings may be huddled within the armor.

Do read The reinvention of a ‘real man’ by Jose A. Del Real in the Washington Post. It’s about a man in Wyoming who has made it his mission to coax other men out of the armor to be who they are.

Across the United States, men accounted for 79 percent of suicide deaths in 2020, according to a Washington Post analysis of new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also shows Wyoming has the highest rate of suicide deaths per capita in the country. A majority of suicide deaths involve firearms, of which there are plenty in Wyoming, and alcohol or drugs are often a factor. Among sociologists, the Mountain West is nicknamed “The Suicide Belt.”

More and more, theories about thegender gap in suicides are focused on the potential pitfalls of masculinity itself.

The data also contains a sociological mystery even the experts are unsure how to explainfully: Ofthe 45,979 people who died by suicide in the United States in 2020, about 70 percent were White men, who are just 30 percent of the country’s overall population. That makes White men the highest-risk group for suicide in the country, especially in middle age, even as they are overrepresented in positions of powerand stature in the United States. The rate that has steadily climbed over the past 20 years.

Some clinical researchers and suicidologists are now asking whether there is something particular about White American masculinity worth interrogating further.The implications are significant: Onaverage, there are more than twice as many deaths by suicide than by homicide each year in the United States.

A lot of these suicides involve guns and alcohol, of course, but I assume everyone has equal access to guns and alcohol in Wyoming.

Bill Hawley, the subject of the article, thinks these men suffer from a big gap between their expectations and their reality. They are also conditioned to be stoic and tough, to be out of touch with their own emotions, to be walled up and defensive. Many have a hard time maintaining marriages or relationships with their adult children. And they are much less llikely to seek help than women, because to admit one needs help is to admit to weakness. So the alternative is booze and a gun. Call it the masculine mystique.

This is what the Southern Baptists are protecting. This is what the “great replacement” crap is about. Some wingnuts are even tying the “great replacement” to forcing White women to carry pregnancies to term. See, for example, At CPAC, “The Great Replacement” Theory Meets Anti-Abortion Nonsense. This lunacy isn’t doing the Holy White Men a damn bit of good, either, but they aren’t able to see that.

See also Josh Hawley’s “Virtuous Men” Should Grow Up from November 2021, which points out that the leading cause of death among pregnant women in the U.S. is homicide. It also points to a Psychology Today article about “precarious manhood,” or about the way traditional male gender roles are fragile and easily lost.

Traditional masculinity, as a form of social status, is “hard-won and easily lost.” A real man cannot simply be: He must repeatedly prove his masculinity.

In the U.S., Knowles and DiMuccio note, masculinity is associated by many with behaviors like “avoiding the appearance of femininity and homosexuality, seeking status and achievement, evincing independence and confidence, taking risks, and being aggressive.”

And threats to (or doubts about) masculinity often motivate hypermasculine behaviors, such as risk-taking and aggression.

Nobody needs this crap, especially not the men who cling to it.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the Southern Baptists, although that will be interesting to watch.

Your Guide to May 24 Primaries

First, a couple of updates to the last post. It isn’t official yet, but the New York Times and the Associated Press have called the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania House district 12 for Summer Lee. Lee is a progressive, and the Democratic establishment and AIPAC threw a ton of money at the race in support of her chief rival, Steve Irwin, a lawyer and former head of the Pennsylvania Securities Commission. I understand it’s a blue district, so there’s a good chance Summer Lee will be the first Black woman to represent Pennsylvania in Congress. Congratulations, Summer Lee!

There’s something odd going on with the vote count for the Oregon House district 5 Democratic primary. This is the one between the progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner and the fossil fuel toady incumbent, Kurt Schrader, also known as the “Joe Manchin of the House.” McLeod-Skinner is ahead. But there is one county that so far is not reporting votes for either the Republican or Democratic primary. This is Jefferson County, which appears to be more rural and conservative that most of the rest of the district. The Jefferson County elections page has vote tallies for county offices but none for the House district. As I said, this seems odd. Currently McLeod-Skinner is 9,668 votes ahead of Schrader, and I don’t think there are enough votes in Jefferson County to flip the lead to Schrader, but there are still uncounted votes in some other counties in the district. One of those is Clackamas, which appears to have given Schrader’s people access to the vote counting before they were supposed to, There’s also an issue with blurry ballots. Even so, some election observers in Oregon think it’s very unlikely that Schrader is going to erase his vote deficit now. Fingers crossed.

May 24 primaries are in Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia, and there are runoff elections in Texas. I understand that in Texas there’s an automatic runoff if no candidates passes the 50 percent threshold. There are a lot of runoff elections. The primaries were March 1.

In Texas, I am primarily interested in the House district 28 race between Democrats Cisneros and Cuellar. Henry Cuellar is the incumbent, and he has the backing of Nancy Pelosi and the Dem establishment. But Cuellar wants to criminalize abortion. He was the only House Democrat to vote against the Women’s Health Protection Act, a law codifying Roe v. Wade protections. Jessica Cisneros is pro-reproduction rights and has the endorsement of Pramila Jayapal. She also has raised three times more money than Cuellar.

Another Texas race that I’m watching is for the Republican nomination for state attorney general. The incumbent is Ken Paxton, whom I have written about before. You might remember the stunt he pulled in December 2020 when he a filed suit contesting election results in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. And that’s not all. Tim Murphy writes for Mother Jones,

Paxton is swimming in the sort of scandals that typically end political careers. He has been under indictment for securities fraud since his first year in office, and he was the subject of a formal whistleblower complaint from a number of high-ranking former staffers who accused him of using his office to do favors for a real estate mogul who had hired a woman with whom Paxton had allegedly been having a lengthy affair. His lawsuit to throw out the electoral votes of four Biden-won states was so outlandish that it triggered an ethics investigation by the State Bar of Texas. The FBI has reportedly been circling. Paxton lost major donors and faced a primary challenge from a number of notable conservatives—Bush; Eva Guzman, a former justice of the state supreme court; and Rep. Louie Gohmert, of whom the less said the better.

But despite all that, Paxton has continued to wield real power in state politics, in ways that have rippled out to the rest of the country. His office defended the Texas law that effectively circumvented Roe v. Wade. It led the legal fight to restore the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. It’s fought climate-change standards. And most recently, his office drafted a legal opinion stating that gender-affirming care should be investigated as child abuse.

In other words, he’s the perfect Republican. His opponent is George P. Bush, Son of Jeb and commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, which I understand mostly negotiates mineral rights on state lands. George P. is the one and only pro-Trump Bush, according to many news sources. It’s possible that, if elected, he wouldn’t be much of an improvement over Ken Paxton, but I doubt he could be worse. Paxton got a lot more votes than George P. in the primary, however. There’s a lot of commentary out there right now calling this election possibly the end of the Bush dynasty.

And oh, my, Georgia. Georgia is also a runoff state, so Tuesday’s primaries might not settle things. So we may not yet find out if Herschel Walker will be running against Raphael Warnock in the general. But Walker is way ahead in the polls. Warnock does have a primary opponent named Tamara Johnson-Shealey, but no one seems to be polling the Democratic primary. Surely Warnock will win.

The polls all say that Brian Kemp will win easily over Trump’s boy David Purdue in the governor context. Stacey Abrams is running unopposed on the Dem side.

You all remember Brad Raffensperger, I’m sure. The Georgia secretary of state is in a tight contest with with a full-blown MAGA creature named Jody Hice. This will be a test of how much sway the Big Lie still has over Georgia voters.

Trump has endorsed Purdue, Walker, and Hice, as well as Burt Jones for lieutenant governor; Patrick Witt for insurance commissioner; John Gordon for attorney general; and Vernon Jones for the 10th Congressional District, and I hear he’s put a substantial amount of his own money into electing these people. So on Tuesday we’ll see how they do.

In Alabama, Tuesday may be the last hurrah of Mo Brooks, incumbent U.S. Representative for the 5th district. Trump got pissed and un-endorsed him, and now another candidate named Katie Britt is slightly ahead of him in the polls. All I know about Britt is that she’s an abortion criminalizer who hasn’t pissed off Trump, yet.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running for governor of Arkansas and is way ahead of the pack in the one and only poll I could find. Damn, Arkansas, what did you do to deserve this? Republican Senator John Boozman is running for re-election and probably will wn his primary easily.

Democrats: Pay Attention to the Voters

I’m still trying to wrap my head around election results. Abigail Tracy writes in Vanity Fair,

Around seven weeks before Pennsylvania’s primary elections, Summer Lee commanded a lead of 25 points over rival Steve Irwin in the race for Pennsylvania’s 12th District, a blue stronghold encompassing Pittsburgh and its surrounding suburbs. It appeared that Lee, 34, a Black woman and progressive activist who currently serves as a Pennsylvania state representative, would make history. Then came the outside money. By election day, Democratic groups had dumped more than $2 million into the primary race to defeat Lee—dwarfing the outside money spent attacking Irwin, a mere $2,400. Specifically, the United Democracy Project (UDP)—a political action committee for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—spent $2,025,297 against Lee and $660,317 in support of Irwin, 62, a Pittsburgh lawyer and county Democratic Party organizer. The ads painted Lee as anti-Israel and claimed she was “not a real Democrat,” following a playbook that moderate groups have run against other progressives nationwide, including against Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman.

This race still hasn’t been called as I write this. With 99 percent of the votes counted, Lee is 445 votes ahead (updates here).

Here’s another squeaker. Ryan Grim writes at The Intercept,

A super PAC funded by the pharmaceutical industry blew more than a million dollars in an effort to salvage the career of former Blue Dog Coalition Chair Kurt Schrader, the Oregon Democrat who cast the deciding vote against drug pricing reform in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and organized with Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., to derail President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. His opponent, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, lambasted him repeatedly as the “Joe Manchin of the House.” Because Oregon votes by mail, and some ballots were blurred and unreadable in areas favorable to Schrader, results may not be known until early next week, but despite a funding disparity of some 10 to 1, the incumbent is on the ropes.

This race hasn’t been called, either, as only 53 percent of the votes have been counted. Right now, McLeod-Skinner has 60.5 percent of the vote to Schrader’s 39.5 percent (updates here).

Back to Ryan Grim:

Another super PAC in Oregon, funded by a cryptocurrency fortune and organized around the project of pandemic prevention, Protect Our Future, spent some $10 million to boost Carrick Flynn, while the super PAC linked to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority PAC, also dropped a million dollars into the race. It backfired, and local Democrats as well as national progressives — including the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC and the Working Families Party — rallied behind state Rep. Andrea Salinas, who appears poised for a victory.

This one has been called for Salinas, who is comfortably ahead with 70 percent of the vote counted.

And I’m sure you heard that John Fetterman easily mopped the floor with Conor Lamb, who was endorsed by Joe Manchin. I read that fact was used in anti-Lamb ads. Lamb might as well have been endorsed by Mitch McConnell. Exactly how out of touch are Manchin and Lamb, that either one though Manchin’s endorsement would help Lamb?

(I’ve been reading about Fetterman’s stroke. It really was similar to what I had a few weeks ago, with stoke symptoms brought on by a blood clot in the brain. He’s having a worse time of it, though. In my case the blood clot broke up on its own after about 45 minutes, and after I spent 24 hours in a hospital getting tests they sent me home with a Plavix prescription. In Fetterman’s case the doctors had to break up the clot, which I understand they do with a catheter. And his heart was clunky enough that they installed a pacemaker. But the stroke itself probably won’t slow him down any or leave any lasting effects. If he follows doctor’s orders he should be fine. He may have to cut back on the cheesesteaks and salty pretzels, though.)

Anyway, you know what’s going on. President Biden’s approval ratings have been in  minus territory for a while. The party establishment and big money donors blame the progressive wing for this. For example, here’s a recent article by Ruy Teixeira titled The Bankruptcy of the Democratic Party Left about how it’s the Left’s fault so much of President Biden’s agenda has failed to pass. The name “Joe Manchin” appears nowhere in this article. Enough said.

The problem with the Democrats for many years is that the party has an entrenched and powerful center-right establishment working against a growing faction of progressives who are perpetually marginalized.  But it looks like voters are finally catching on to why the change they want never happens. “Tuesday’s results suggest that Democratic voters — at least those in Pennsylvania and Oregon — would prefer that Democrats do more rather than less, delivering a stinging rebuke to the Kyrsten Sinema-Manchin wing of the party,” Ryan Grim writes.

Stuff to Read

I’m writing something on a deadline and need to get back to it, but here is some stuff to read.

I almost had a stroke myself when I read that John Fetterman had a stroke on Friday. I’m pulling for Fetterman to be the next U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania. But it sounds like what he had was more like a TIA, what I had a few weeks ago, and he should be fine. If it’s what I had he’s probably bone tired right now, but functional.

Headlines around the country are connecting the Buffalo shooting to white supremacy, Fox News, and the Republican Party. A samplng:

Nicholas Confessore and Karen Yourish, New York Times, A Fringe Conspiracy Theory, Fostered Online, Is Refashioned by the G.O.P.

Greg Sargent, Washington Post, A Fringe Conspiracy Theory, Fostered Online, Is Refashioned by the G.O.P.

Jonathan Chait, New York, Yes, Tucker Carlson Shares Blame for the Buffalo Supermarket Attack

There’s also this:

Josephine Harvey, Huffpost, State Senator Who Backs White Nationalism Suggests Buffalo Shooting Was False Flag

Matt Shuham, Talking Points Memo, Proponents Of Racist ‘Replacement’ Theory That Motivated Mass Shooter Double Down

There was also a shooting in Laguna Woods, California, yesterday. One dead, five wounded. This was at a Taiwanese Episcopal Church, and the victims are all Asian. I’d say that qualifies as a racist hate crime, also. As the shooter was reloading the pastor smacked him in the head with a chair and congregates tackled and hogtied him, or it would have been worse.


Frank Langfitt, NPR, Finland and Sweden announce they want to join NATO, marking a big blow to Putin. Yeah, take that, Vlad.

File this next one under “but the leak is the real story!”

Ian Millhiser, Vox, The Supreme Court just made it much easier to bribe a member of Congress and Paul Blumenthal and Elise Foley, Huffpost, The Supreme Court Makes Ted Cruz A Half-Million Dollars Richer. But they get so sad when you call them “political hacks.”

Pennsylvania Is Going to Be Interesting

I’ve been ranting about “electability” for years. See, for example, “Speaking of Electability” from 2019. Basically, “electability” is the argument that voters must not vote for the candidate they really like but instead vote for the one that (according to some mysterious wisdom clearinghouse, somewhere) other people will like.

Democrats keep falling into this electability trap and pushing anodyne and innocuous centrists over candidates with actual personalities and more progressive views, becuase the “centrists” are more “electable.” According to whom? According to the centrist old fogies who have been letting support for the Democratic Party erode for years.

For example, if the Washington Democratic establishment hadn’t chosen Amy McGrath months before the primaries to be the “electable” candidate to take on Mitch McConnell in Kentucky in 2020, maybe Charles Booker would have been the nominee. And Charles Booker might have won. We’ll never know.

Now the Washington Dem establishment is collectively wringing its hands because their “electable” candidate to be U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, Conor Lamb, is way, way behind the black sheep candidate, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. This is not a nail biter. Expect Fetterman to be declared the winner of the Democratic primary as soon as polls close on May 17. But it was Lamb who got all the endorsements and the support for the party and even has a PAC to fund his campaign.

The rap on Fetterman is that he’s not a team player sort of guy and doesn’t work well with others. But it’s pretty clear he’s the guy Democratic voters want. Somebody named Amy Walter writing at the Cook Political Report writes that the “electability” argument just plain isn’t working among Pennsylvania Democrats right now. “In 2018, Democratic candidates prevailed in GOP-leaning CDs by leaning into a message of bipartisanship. Today, however, a restive Democratic base, discouraged by a lack of action on many of their key issues (like climate and student loan debt), and frustrated by GOP attacks on issues like abortion and election integrity, want fighters, not unifiers as their candidates,” she writes.

Basically, I take it, they are tired of Democrats who campaign on a promise to work with Republicans to get things done. For some reason. In 2020, here in the Midwest, all the Republicans were running on claims that Democrats were the spawns of hell who will eat your babies while Democrats smiled gently and promised to work with Republicans to get things done. Democrats mostly lost in these parts. Yes, let’s try something else.

On what universe would an overwhelmingly popular choice of Democratic voters not be the best general election candidate? Not a universe I’m familiar with. Yet the Democratic establishment has been practically frantic to promote Conor Lamb because he’s more “electable” in the general.

We’ll see. The Republican nomination fight is a nail biter. Right now it’s a three-way race featuring Mehmet Oz, who has Trump’s endorsement; David McCormick, a former CEO of Bridgewater hedge funds who is endorsed by Ted Cruz and some other Trump-aligned Republicans who can’t stand Mehmet Oz; and Kathy Barnette, a right-wing commenter and author said to be hyper-MAGA. Big chunks of the GOP establishment are trying to stop Barnette, possibly worried that she’s too crazy to be electable anywhere that’s not solid red.

So the general election will be very likely between John Fetterman, who appears to be popular with Democratic voters, and one of three very damaged Republicans who are scrambling all over each other to be More Trumpy Than Thou. The Democratic concern with Fetterman is that he might lose swing voters in the suburbs. He’s got tattoos, tends to dress casually, and is pretty consistently progressive, whereas Conor Lamb looks good in suits. Hmm. But I don’t see where genuinely moderate swing voters will go if the choice is Barnett. Oz is Oz; some parts of the MAGA base can’t deal with a candidate named Mehmet Oz. If David McCormick is the nominee he’ll have the backing of most of the Republican/conservative establishment and is not Mehmet Oz, which may make him the strongest general election candidate of the three. Again, we’ll see.

I’m not making predictions because I have never lived in Pennsylvania and am not expert in Pennsylvania politics, but I am not all that worried about whether John Fetterman is “electable.” What do you think?