Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Are You REALLY Surprised By Trump's Latest Hate Stunt?
The talking heads on cable news seem to have lost their minds about Donald Trump's latest hate stunt -- having dinner with an antisemite (Kanye West) and a white supremacist (Nick Fuentes). They seem to be surprised about this.
I have to ask why.
This is nothing new at all. Anyone who has been paying attention since Trump entered the political arena in 2016 has to know that. Donald Trump has never tried to hide his hateful beliefs.
Donald Trump is a racist.
Donald Trump is an antisemite.
Donald Trump is a misogynist.
Donald Trump is a homophobe.
Donald Trump is a xenophobe.
Trump has not only not tried to hide his hate beliefs -- he has actually campaigned on them. He knew that in the last decade or two, the haters took over the Republican Party. And being one of them, he used that to his advantage.
The media is also upset that most leading Republicans have not taken Trump to task for the hate dinner. But this is nothing new for them either. They know Trump is a hater, and they know the haters now control their party. They also know it would be political death to say or do anything about it (and like it or not, that makes them also haters).
I have always disagreed with the economic beliefs of the Republican Party, but I respected those beliefs -- and I believe this country needs two vibrant political parties. It allows for debate and compromise, and that's good for the country.
But this is not your father's Republican Party. They no longer have a political agenda worth debating. They are controlled by the haters, and only interested in spreading that hate (in the hope it will give them power).
Donald Trump knew that and used it to his own advantage. It's sad, but not surprising.
Donald Trump was just being Donald Trump
GOP's "Big Tent"
It Ain't The Same
It's Time For Law Enforcement To Control Domestic Terrorism
Domestic terrorism has become the most serious threat facing our nation. Here is part of what Jennifer Rubin writes about it in The Washington Post:
Earlier this month, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released a largely overlooked — yet damning — report detailing the failures of national security agencies on this front.
“Over the past two decades, acts of domestic terrorism have dramatically increased," the committee reports. "National security agencies now identify domestic terrorism as the most persistent and lethal terrorist threat to the homeland.” The uptick is predominately attributable to “white supremacist and anti-government extremist individuals and groups.” Yet “without better data, it is difficult to evaluate whether federal agencies are appropriately allocating resources and setting priorities.”. . .
The extent of the threat is staggering. The report mentions a 2021 study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies that found there were 110 domestic terrorist plots in 2020 alone, a 244 percent increase from 2019. The Anti-Defamation League also reports that over the past decade, domestic extremists have killed 443 people. More than half of the deaths were attributable to white supremacists. Had foreign terrorists committed such crimes, Republicans would have raised a ruckus.
Although FBI Director Christopher A. Wray testified about the threat of domestic terrorism in March 2021 and pledged to work with the Senate committee on reporting, his agency has done little to address it. The committee reports, "the federal government — specifically FBI and [the Department of Homeland Security] — has failed to systematically track and report data on domestic terrorism as required by federal law, has not appropriately allocated its resources to match the current threat, and has not aligned its definitions to make its investigations consistent and its actions proportional to the threat of domestic terrorism.” And even when the feds have accumulated data, “DHS and FBI have not appropriately allocated their resources to match the current threat, despite recent increased investments and efforts.”
Former assistant FBI director Frank Figliuzzi tells me, “The Senate report raises questions as to why the FBI and DHS still don’t have their act together." He also notes that the FBI’s decision to merge data on white supremacy cases with black nationalist cases into a “race-based” category "takes political correctness to a dangerous extreme.” He adds, "This work demands transparency not politics.”
Certainly both the DHS and FBI have many pressing priorities. Border control takes up much of DHS’s attention, and the FBI covers everything from cyberterrorism to white collar crime to foreign espionage. Nevertheless, there’s a nagging sense that the two institutions are uncomfortable with cracking down on domestic terrorists, either because of legitimate concerns for civil liberties or because a handful of agents sympathize with right-wing authoritarianism (as is the case in law enforcement and the military).
“The difficulty with addressing violent domestic terror has all too often been that the ‘bad guys’ look too much like the rest of us,” former prosecutor Joyce White Vance tells me. She adds that the FBI often grouped white supremacist domestic terrorist movements with other, less dangerous groups and insisted they all be treated the same. “We are paying the price for that failure now,” she said. . . .
Congress passed a law in 2019 requiring intelligence agencies to produce a report on domestic terrorism threats, but they failed to do so. The Brennan Center explains, “In reports filed in 2021 and 2022, the FBI argued that while it could provide topline statistics regarding the number of investigations it opened, it couldn’t provide data regarding domestic terrorism incidents because the bureau didn’t collect it and no law required state and local law enforcement agencies to report it.”
Part of the problem is that whenever law enforcement indicates an interest in pursuing such threats, right-wing actors go nuts. When Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed to investigate violent threats against public officials, Republicans wrongly accused him of suppressing dissent and labeling ordinary Americans as “domestic terrorists.” To his credit, Garland created a unit within the Justice Department to combat domestic terrorism, but it must rely on the FBI and other law enforcement groups to track and investigate crimes.
Congress must lead the way for reform. The House Jan. 6 select committee, which is investigating the FBI’s failure to respond to credible threats to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, can address the lapses and make specific recommendations to correct the problem. And in the new Congress, Senate Democrats must be unstinting in holding Wray accountable for complying with information-gathering requirements.
Meanwhile, as Republicans grill (and possibly even impeach) DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, House Democrats should use their time during such hearings to explore the response to domestic terrorism in Mayorkas’s ranks. A DHS official insisted that domestic violent extremism is a “top priority," that the agency has worked with state and local partners, and has produced 110 “intelligence products.” But despite setting up a domestic terrorism branch within the DHS, the report documents shortcomings in data collection and sharing.
Finally, lawmakers need to take a hard look not only at Twitter, but also TikTok, Facebook and YouTube for providing platforms to violent and extremist individuals and groups. Without infringing on First Amendment rights, Congress should compel these companies to be more transparent about their moderation policies. . . .
If the government had made such little effort to crack down on foreign terrorism after the 9/11 attacks, the political backlash would have been intense. The same must be true of domestic terrorism. Federal agencies and social media companies should not get a pass.
No More Moderation
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Deeply Religious Are Less Concerned About Climate Change
Who Could Have Predicted?
It's Time To Be Honest - The U.S. Has A Gun Problem
With more than a month to go in the year, the United States has had 617 mass shootings and 40,252 gun deaths. No other country has this problem, and to be blunt, the U.S. has it only because of the ease of anyone - even criminals and other dangerous people - in buying any kind of gun they want.
The following is from the editorial board of The Washington Post:
The mass shootings that plague this nation are a uniquely American jumble of contradictions. Each new one horrifies, and yet fits into a depressingly familiar pattern. Communities count the dead — nearly 50 so far in November — and tally the gruesome details. The country vows to honor the lives cut short. And then it all fades from the headlines and people move on, leaving behind thoughts and prayers but no concrete policies to stop the next bloodbath.
The United States has averaged nearly two mass shootings a day this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks when four or more people are shot. To put that another way, it’s now unusual to have a day without a mass shooting. “We aren’t numb — we’re traumatized,” tweeted Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, which has been urging action to stop gun violence in America since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six staff a decade ago.
It can happen anywhere, to anyone. Fourteen Americans mowed down this month at the University of Virginia, Club Q in Colorado Springs and a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., were doing normal activities of daily life — going to school, enjoying a performance, working. They leave behind grieving loved ones, who ask: Why?
In each case, as usually happens, there were warning signs missed — or ignored. The chilling note the Walmart shooter left in his phone railing against his co-workers and claiming his phone was hacked suggests he was a deeply disturbed 31-year-old. And yet, he was able to buy a pistol just hours before he massacred six fellow employees in a break room. In Colorado Springs, a 22-year-old suspect who had been arrested last year for an alleged bomb threat, but never prosecuted, was not prevented from obtaining an AR-15-style weapon and a handgun. It’s eerily similar in the University of Virginia shooting: The 22-year-old suspect hadmultiple prior run-ins with the law, including a 2021 conviction for possessing a concealed firearm without a license.
Too often these tragedies are written off to individual cases of mental illness. That does not explain why the United States has had more than 600 mass shootings every year since 2020 and why no other country has anything close to this level of gun violence. We must confront the truth about guns in America and why it is so easy for practically anyone to get them — including some that are weapons of war.
The fact that no single action will stop all mass shootings is no excuse not to do things that could prevent some of them or lower the toll when they happen. President Biden is right to call for another nationwide assault weapons ban, which he helped enact for 10 years when he was a senator in 1994. Poll after poll show wide support for stricter gun laws. The House passed the ban in July, but the Senate has yet to act.
Earlier this year, Democrats and some Republicans worked together to pass a gun safety bill as the nation mourned the 19 elementary school students and two teachers who died from a horrific mass shooting in Uvalde, Tex. The new law included more funding for mental health services and school safety, expanded background checks on 18- to 21-year-olds trying to buy guns, and more funding for programs that help seize guns from troubled individuals. It was a start, but lawmakers cannot stop there.
The U.S. Congress is not the only place where action is needed. When Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) was asked whether he would support tighter restrictions on guns after two mass shootings occurred in his state this month, he replied: “Today’s not the time.” So when is the right time?
In 2020 and 2021, with Democrats controlling both the legislature and the governorship, Virginia passed modestly enhanced gun control laws. The changes included sensible reforms: Universal background checks, a three-year ban on firearm possession for people convicted of assaulting a family member and a red-flag law that gives authorities the ability to seize weapons from people considered a threat. Clearly, it wasn’t enough.
The spate of gun violence has erupted even as the Supreme Court has limited the tools that government at all levels can use to address the problem. The court’s June ruling, striking down a New York state law that limited concealed carry permits, instructed lower courts to find gun laws unconstitutional unless proponents could point to a historical analogue — in other words, show that regulations are based on or similar to ones that existed in the past. This is an unnecessary and unworkable standard that is making its way through the lower courts, with predictably dreary results. The court should make clear that its focus on history does not need to be applied with monomaniacal precision.
Army veteran Richard M. Fierro is rightly being called a hero for tackling the gunman at Club Q in Colorado Springs and preventing the death count from climbing even higher. But it’s chilling to hear him describe how events that night looked similar to what he saw in Iraq and Afghanistan. How his combat training kicked in after he saw the shooter’s weapon and body armor. His daughter’s boyfriend was one of the victims. “Everybody in that building experienced combat that night,” Fierro said. It took only three days for another war-zone scene to arise, this time at a Walmart.
America's Sword Of Damocles
Monday, November 28, 2022
Fixing The Background Checks Law Would Save Lives
There is a simple and constitutional way to cut down on gun violence and save many American lives -- just plug the holes in the national background checks law for anyone wanting to buy a gun. Between 80% and 90% of citizens support doing that (including a large majority of gun owners). Sadly, Congress won't do that (mainly because the Republicans don't want to do it).
Robert Gebelhoff has an excellent article on ways to reduce gun violence in this country. Below is what he had to say about background checks in The Washington Post:
Federal law requires background checks to obtain a gun, but those checks are extremely porous.
Under federal law, only licensed gun dealers have to perform these checks; private individuals and many online retailers don’t. It’s hard to pin down exactly how many guns are legally acquired without a background check, but some surveys put it upward of 22 percent.
Some states go beyond federal law and require background checks for all gun sales. But since it’s so easy for guns to travel across state lines, it’s hard to judge the effectiveness of these policies on gun deaths.
Still, there’s evidence that such expanded background checks can help limit the flow of guns into illegal markets. We also know that most gun offenders obtain their weapons through unlicensed sellers. One survey of state prison inmates convicted of offenses committed with guns in 13 states found that only 13 percent obtained their guns from a seller that had to conduct a background check. Nearly all those who were supposed to be prohibited from possessing a firearm got theirs from suppliers that didn’t have to conduct a background check. Closing that loophole federally might help.
What else can we do to strengthen background checks? Four possibilities:
Close the “Charleston Loophole”
Most gun background checks are instant. But some — around 9 percent — take more time, and federal law says if a check takes more than three business days, the sale can proceed. As a result, thousands of people who are not supposed have access to guns ended up getting them, as the Government Accountability Office reported.
Among the people who benefited from this loophole? Dylann Roof, who killed nine people in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. Ending this practice would save lives.
Close the “Boyfriend Gap”
An estimated 70 women each month are killed with guns by spouses or dating partners, according to a 2019 analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data by Everytown for Gun Safety.
Federal law prevents anyone with domestic violence misdemeanors from having a gun, but that law is defined narrowly and doesn’t include all domestic violence perpetrators — for example, boyfriends. More specifically, the law doesn’t keep guns from abusers who are not married, do not live with their partner or do not share a child with them.
Some states have expanded on federal law — and it works. One studyfound that rates of domestic-violence-related homicide decline 7 percent after a state passes such laws.
Implement waiting periods
The evidence that waiting periods to acquire guns reduce violent crime is limited. But there’s more evidence that they prevent suicides.
Research shows that people who buy handguns are at higher risk of suicide within a week of the purchase, and that waiting periods can keep them from using guns to harm themselves. In fact, one study found that when South Dakota repealed its 48-hour waiting period in 2012, suicides jumped 7.6 percent in the following year.
Improve reporting on mental health
Mental illness is associated with a relatively small portion (around 5 percent) of gun homicides. Federal law already prohibits anyone committed to a mental-health facility or deemed dangerous or lacking all mental capacities through a legal proceeding from having a gun.
But mental-health records are notoriously spotty. There’s limited evidence that improved reporting at the state level might reduce violent crimes. Connecticut started reporting mental-health data to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in 2007, and one study found that violent crimes committed by people with mental illness there significantly decreased.
We can also make it easier for family members to seek court orders to disarm relatives who might do harm to themselves. In Connecticut, which has allowed this since 1999, one study estimated that the law averted 72 suicide attempts through 2013 from being fatal.
Denying The Hate He Preaches
Sunday, November 27, 2022
Putin Finds A Competent General
Abandoning Truth, Right-Wingers Are Trying To Intimidate
Right-Wingers don't have truth or logic on their side, so they are trying to intimidate by bringing firearms to demonstrations. Here is part of how Mike McIntire describes it in The New York Times:
Across the country, openly carrying a gun in public is no longer just an exercise in self-defense — increasingly it is a soapbox for elevating one’s voice and, just as often, quieting someone else’s.
This month, armed protesters appeared outside an elections center in Phoenix, hurling baseless accusations that the election for governor had been stolen from the Republican, Kari Lake. In October, Proud Boys with guns joined a rally in Nashville where conservative lawmakers spoke against transgender medical treatments for minors.
In June, armed demonstrations around the United States amounted to nearly one a day. A group led by a former Republican state legislator protested a gay pride event in a public park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Men with guns interrupted a Juneteenth festival in Franklin, Tenn., handing out fliers claiming that white people were being replaced. Among the others were rallies in support of gun rights in Delaware and abortion rights in Georgia.
Whether at the local library, in a park or on Main Street, most of these incidents happen where Republicans have fought to expand the ability to bear arms in public, a movement bolstered by a recent Supreme Court ruling on the right to carry firearms outside the home. The loosening of limits has occurred as violent political rhetoric rises and the police in some places fear bloodshed among an armed populace on a hair trigger.
But the effects of more guns in public spaces have not been evenly felt. A partisan divide — with Democrats largely eschewing firearms and Republicans embracing them — has warped civic discourse. Deploying the Second Amendment in service of the First has become a way to buttress a policy argument, a sort of silent, if intimidating, bullhorn.
“It’s disappointing we’ve gotten to that state in our country,” said Kevin Thompson, executive director of the Museum of Science & History in Memphis, Tenn., where armed protesters led to the cancellation of an L.G.B.T.Q. event in September. “What I saw was a group of folks who did not want to engage in any sort of dialogue and just wanted to impose their belief.”
A New York Times analysis of more than 700 armed demonstrations found that, at about 77 percent of them, people openly carrying guns represented right-wing views, such as opposition to L.G.B.T.Q. rights and abortion access, hostility to racial justice rallies and support for former President Donald J. Trump’s lie of winning the 2020 election.
The records, from January 2020 to last week, were compiled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit that tracks political violence around the world. The Times also interviewed witnesses to other, smaller-scale incidents not captured by the data, including encounters with armed people at indoor public meetings.
This Is Freedom?
Thursday, November 24, 2022
I wish all my readers a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday. May your holiday be filled with fun, food, family, and friends.
I will not be posting anything for today or tomorrow. I'm taking the time to spend the holiday with family.
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
100 Policies Democrats And Republicans Agree About
Listening to the talking heads on cable TV, one would think that Democrats and Republicans are so divided that they are unable to agree about anything. That is not true. The YouGov Poll found 100 policies that a majority of both parties support.