Category Archives: Violence and Guns

Get some historical perspective on the embarrassing and unseemly Republican shenanigans

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In Field of Blood, historian Joanne Freeman describes, using newly discovered and newly analyzed evidence, the world of partisan and political vitriol and hate that was the sense of the Congress prior to the American Civil War. Soon after the election of Donald Trump, I sought understanding, wisdom, and distraction by delving into 19th century American political history, and this is where I started. Freeman’s monograph did not make me feel much better, but it did make me feel a little wiser. You should read it.

I mention it here because of an item way down on the front page in today’s newspaper. This is an item that should be front page news, and would have been had the journalistic context been a decade earlier. Not really one story, but a bunch of disgusting little stories. Decontextualized snippets:

… when Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) came up behind Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and began yelling in his ear, accusing him of elbowing him in the back as they passed each other in a crowded hallway….

… Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) brought a hearing about corporate greed to a standstill as he confronted one witness, stood up and challenged him to a fistfight.

Not coincidentally, right after I read those snippets and resolved to post on the matter, Professor Freeman herself made an appearance in the same WaPo piece.

Freeman told The Washington Post on Tuesday evening that it was important for lawmakers to denounce belligerent behavior and threats of violence, particularly when it comes from a member of their own party. “If no one speaks up it becomes representative of what that party stands for,” she said.

Description of the fray continues:

“Hey Kevin, why did you walk behind me and elbow me in the back?” Burchett asked as The Post interviewed McCarthy. “You have no guts.”

“I didn’t do that,” McCarthy replied. As Burchett continued to yell, McCarthy laughed and said, “Oh my God.”

Burchett was one of eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy as House speaker, a rebuke the California lawmaker has bitterly noted, publicly and privately.

“You are so pathetic,” Burchett said before slowing his steps to avoid being directly behind McCarthy.

“Thank you, Tim,” McCarthy said.

Meanwhile, over in the Senate, Bernie Sanders does an excellent job as WWE referee:

And the past and possible future president of the United States, Donald Trump, subtly calls for the jailing and/or extermination of, well, Professor Freeman, me, and you (probably), and everybody else:

We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections. They’ll do anything, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America and to destroy the American Dream…. the threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within. Our threat is from within. Because if you have a capable, competent, smart, tough leader, Russia, China, North Korea, they’re not going to want to play with us.

And there is parallel WWE video of The Fascist’s tough guy act as well:

One might hope that the deplorables that control half of our representative government (plus or minus a few percentage points) would self destruct, or at least, bloody each other enough to get frustrated and go home. Read Freeman’s book and see how it went in the 19th century. (See: American Civil War.) Yeah, it didn’t go that well. Slave power, the juice inside the belligerence that arose in the 1830s, persisted, ballooned, and continues today in some festering quarters. It is true, however, that the response to the bullying in Congress that made the most difference was standing up to it, having none of it, like Bernie pulled off in the clip above. I can tell that there are several Democratic members of Congress who must have read “Field of Blood” because they are standing up to it.

I think we face two obstacles to ending the evil clown show known as MAGA. One is the fact that the hate is not being reported as an outstanding and unique outrage, but rather, is being treated as more of the usual dysfunction. This is the fault of the mainstream media. The other problem is that 80% of the population isn’t really paying attention. This is actually the fault of the purveyors of the vitriol themselves, their minions, and their allies. By “flooding the zone with shit,” as so aptly phrased by Fascist Bannon, and sewing discord using a number of agents and agencies across the population and even within progressive communities, everyone has become tired, fed up, and is self-caring themselves into a state of silent-majority. It is up to us activists to identify and reach out to our “normie” colleagues, and help them to find their inner enthusiasm for ending this mess, bursting the rapidly growing fascist balloon, and restoring normal.

Over the next year, we have this job to do: Stop the bleeding, and clean up the field of blood.

Sources: This and This

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Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi didn’t kill me

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George Samuelson possessed two salient characteristics. First, he suffered from, or perhaps reveled in, OCD, indicated by the fact that every article of clothing he owned had an embroidered name tag with “George Samuelson” sewn in. The other characteristic was that he was dead. Maybe not dead, but something like dead. I say this because the second hand clothing store in Manhattan, in which I was searching for something to wear, had his pants and shirts arrayed on the proper racks, still all together, and the number of shirts and pants thusly arrayed seemed to me just right to be the complete medium-wear (not underwear, not outerwear) wardrobe of a man who lived in New York City by the name of George Samuelson.

Oh, and there was a third characteristic as well. George Samuelson had the exact same body measurement as me. I didn’t even need to try the clothes on, I could just see it. I bought the lot.

At that moment, I went from being a person who quite literally owned the clothes on my back and nothing else by way of apparel, to a man who possessed a reasonable, if entirely pre-owned, wardrobe of long sleeved shirts of fine quality, and matching slacks of a sturdy nature. The colors were a mix of light gray and khaki, which for me was perfect.

Let me tell you why this was perfect. In those days I spent less than half a year teaching or studying, as a graduate student, and the rest of the year in the field, nearly 100% of the time in the bush. My clothes were hand washed in a silt-filled stream and dried in the moist environment of a rain forest, sometimes being smoked over smoldering logs. While in the field, I kept no apartment, but some thing were in storage. I had developed the habit of buying new clothing on return from the field, and I would wear these cloths to class, to the bar with friends, and to conferences. Then, I would take these clothes to the field, keeping one shirt and one pair of pants sealed up in a plastic bag, untouched. I would then procede to wear, and to wear out, smoke up, and spill blood on (from my research activities) the other clothing, until it was all ruined. The outfit preserved in plastic would be my “going back home” clothes, but the trip would take up to two weeks, so that outfit would be pretty reeky by the time I settled in somewhere.

And on this day, I had settled, for a week at least, into an artist loft in Manhattan.

The reason George Samuelson’s clothes were perfect should be obvious: Khaki and gray cotton long sleeved shirts and matching slacks are perfect fieldwork clothing, if supplemented with one lightweight pair of shorts and a few pairs of socks. My annual cycle of raiment operated thusly: Buy new clothes, wear them out a little, wear them to the field and finish them off but for one outfit, return to the US, repeat cycle. But this year I got to do it for almost no money, because each article of clothing cost about two bucks in that second hand store.

My trip back from the field started in Zaire’s rain forest, with a harrowing ride to an airstrip a day or so away, which I may recount elsewhere. Then, tracking down someone with an appropriate aircraft, paying for a flight to Nairobi, then arranging international air travel back to somewhere in the US, ultimate destination to be Boston’s Logan Airport. The best deal I could get was to New York, from whence travel to Boston would somehow be arranged at a later time, and there was someone to visit there, so that was good.

I remember as clear as day, standing in a hotel room near Nairobi city center, on the phone with a representative from Swiss Air. Who knows how I had gotten there, exactly, but she was telling me that Swiss Air could get me from Nairobi to Frankfurt then to London, where I’d take Pan Am to New York from London.

“You have a choice,” she said. “You can leave London on Tuesday or Thursday, either way we can get you there.”

“Depends on how long I want to stay in Nairobi, then,” I said.

“Yes sir, I suppose so.”

“Thursday, then, I mean, why not, it would be like a longer vacation!” I replied with some enthusiasm.

“Certainly, sir,” she said, followed by the “clickity click” sound people in the airline business used to make when arranging flights.

As she started to arrange the flights, I thought about it further. I was actually totally out of money. If I stayed in Nairobi two more days, I’d be spending on credit. And, I’d been forced, by the nature of my travel to this remote field site, to spend several weeks in Nairobi over the previous couple of years. I had done everything there was to do here. Twice. Three times for some things.

“Um, hold on a sec,” I interrupted . The clickity-click stopped.

“Yes, sir?”

“Come to think of it, I’d like to go back on that Tuesday flight, not the Thursday flight.”
“Very good sir.” Clickity-click.

Very good indeed. I flew to Frankfurt. Fell asleep on a bench. Woke up and checked he status of my flight to London. “Your flight will be delayed a few minutes.” Fell asleep again. Checked the status. “A few minutes more delay, no big problem.” Went back bench and did not fall asleep, and moments later, an announcement on the airports PA drew my attention.

“Passengers leaving on Swiss Air bla-di-bla, this is your last call for boarding, please get to gate whatever-whatever immediately.”

No one in the airport had been pre-boarded, or informed that the flight was about to take off. Only the last call, no other calls. I’d never seen that before, I’ve never seen it since. But I did make it on the flight, as did all the other confused passengers.

So I flew to London, then I boarded the Yankee Clipper. “Yankee Clipper” was the quaint name of the aircraft. I remember the crew was especially nice, and not just because I was engaging with Americans for the first time in many months. I don’t have that problem, of missing American-ness when I’m away. Quite the opposite, really. But these folks were just nice. I remember seeing “Yankee Clipper,” the name of the plane, as I was boarding it, and thus noticing for the first time that individual airplanes might actually have names.

I did learn from the crew that they were regulars. They went back and forth between New York and London on this exact plane, round trip twice a week, so it was a pretty easy job.

Back in Manhattan. Not paying a lot of attention to the news, but the news comes through anyway. A US based airliner had crashed in Lockerbie Scotland. It took a while to connect. It wasn’t the sudden realization that happens in a movie script or a well paced novel. It took a couple of days. But it dawned on me, twice. First, in New York, when I realized that it was the Thursday flight, presumably crewed by the same crew that got me to New York on Tuesday, the one I was almost booked on, that had exploded and crashed that day. I realized it, but it did not really “hit me” until quite a while later, maybe two or three years, when a different plane crash took the life of someone who knew someone I sort of knew. A distant connection, but just enough of one for me to almost break out in a cold “that was too close” sweat.

I am glad a modicum more justice than may already have happened will be done. I know it wasn’t anything personal, Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi, when you tried to kill me. But go fuck yourself anyway.

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Terrorists Poised To Take Over United States

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In American Jews start to think the unthinkable Dana Milbank talks about a recent service in Temple in which about half the congregants admitted to giving serious consideration to developing an exit plan for when the MAGA Republicans come for the Jews, as Nazi-types tend to do. The recent attack on the Pelozi household (see Assailant shouted ‘Where is Nancy?’ in break-in at speaker’s home, attack on Paul Pelosi) was a reprise of the treasonous “Where’s Pelosi/kill Pelosi/Where’s Pence/Kill Pence” January 6th insurrection. It reminds us of other ongoing threats, such as the incessant so far mostly verbal attacks and threats against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (see In wake of Pelosi home invasion, Omar attacked online for hiring security.)

The MAGA Republican Party is a terrorist organization, but one that has infiltrated enough of the Justice Department, State Department, and Congress to not allow our country to classify it correctly as such. Hopefully in a few days, enough voters will realize this that they won’t be allowed to take over our country.

It will be a very sad day if we wake up on November 9th and realize that Americans have chosen to end democracy.

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Terrorism has a color and the color is red

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President Biden, like his Democratic predecessor President Obama, killed the number one foreign terrorist leader in the world (not personally, of course).

Meanwhile, MAGA President formed and expanded the largest terrorist organization to operate in and attack the US ever, which most recently produced a stochastic attack on the FBI.

One of the MAGA_GOP candidates went so far as to publicly call out the FBI so he could kill some of them:

Meanwhile, the gun-nut lobby, a largely MAGA Republican production, and it’s fundraising branch known as the NRA, kill tens of thousands of Americans a year.

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Correlation and Causation: Single Mothers and Violent Crime

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The phrase “Correlation does not imply causation” has developed in to a Falsehood, as I discuss here. This is in part because people often use the phrase to argue that a particular correlation has no meaning, which is a false argument. It is, of course, true that a correlation does not in and of itself prove a causal link between two things. And, as pointed out in a few places, but I’ll refer you to this Mother Jones piece for background, the relationship between single mothers and homicide and other crime is … well … interesting. Continue reading Correlation and Causation: Single Mothers and Violent Crime

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Hollywood uses many fake things, why not fake guns?

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Apropos this:

Baldwin was on set filming for the upcoming Western movie “Rust” at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico Thursday when the prop gun he was handling misfired, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. Souza remains in the hospital.

It’s unclear whether the gun contained blanks or what was discharged.

This is tragic, though not the world’s most important problem. But it happens now and then. I’d worry about the use of guns with blanks in any situation, and I think accidents like this have happened outside the context of filming a Hollywood movie.

Here’s the solution: Invent a series of firearms that look like the various models one would use in films or on stage, but that don’t have the capacity of shooting bullets of any kind, including blanks, but that look like they are shooting bullets. This is not beyond the capacity of our modern day technology. Sure, it would be expensive, but so is every other single thing used in making movies.

Then, disallow actual firearms of any kind on any stage or set.

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Hut Hut Hut and Police Unions

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I’ve identified the next retail item shortage. I’ll let you know what it is when I’m done hording. Any guesses?

Governor Walz was great in his press conference today the vis-a-vis police union. (Well, he seemed to be channeling me, so of course I agreed with him.)

Two things the national guardsman turned history teacher turned congressperson turned governor said: 1) if the police union was doing its job, it would have had provisions in place that would have protected Mr. Floyd; and 2) nobody is more upset about a bad teacher than the good teacher down the hall. (Walz is making the comparison at two points between a good teachers union, which protects students and quality education, and a cop union.)

Another thing that was discussed is the “sanctity of life” rule that most Americans, frankly, can’t imagine but that is followed in other countries.

Actual example given by our public safety head in the news conference: A man (in Camden, NJ) runs into a restaurant and slashes three people. In normal US police procedure, the first cop on the scene would blow him away with a firearm. Everybody would go, “Uh he deserved it uh.”

In “sanctity of life” procedure, in force in Camden, which “defunded” already, the cops surrounded him and when safe zapped him with ray guns or something and took him alive.

As per previous conversations here about the TV show Cops: We Americans do learn how to think about many things by watching fiction on TV. Go watch a few episodes of Flashpoint. It is a fictional TV series about a super trained elite urban (but sometimes suburban or even rural) S.W.A.T. team.

But since they are in Canada, instead of running around going “hut hut hut” and shooting at everything, they do it totally differently. The pilot is about a SWAT sniper who kills a person (because he has to) but then spends the rest of his career feeling really bad about it.

It is on Hulu, I think.

Now it is time to make fun of the cops. Hut hut hut, you’all.

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Should people be charged if their gun is used in a crime?

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Yes, just as if their car is used in a crime.

Obviously if someone breaks into your house, breaks open your gun safe, takes your gun, goes down the street and robs a bank with it, that is not your fault.

But if you leave a loaded gun laying around unsecured, and a four year old grabs it and shoots a five year old dead, you, the gun owner, have just committed homicide.

Almost everything else is in between, and yes, there is a line there, or more than one, that has to be found. But we are a civil society and we can deal with the difficulties of drawing that line. And, anyone who is uncomfortable with there being such a law can easily address their anxiety. Just live in a gun free home.

I bring this up because the Washington Post has a new piece by John Cox and Steven Rich addressing this issue. Here.

And, right, if your car is locked up and in your garage and the key is with you in the house, and someone breaks into your garage, hot wires your car, drives down the street and uses the car in the commission of a crime, that is not on you. If, on the other hand, you leave your car unlocked and running on the street and somebody jumps in it and takes off and commits a crime with the car, that is at least partly on you. And somewhere in between lies this line, see?

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Air Marshals and their Secret Ways

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We are now being told by investigative reporters that US Air Marshals have been following people around and watching them very closely. The Marshals pick a select number of US air travel passengers, who are put on the so-called “Quiet Skies” list. Then, they pick up the trail at or near the airport, and follow them. They watch what they do, and make notes. They may even end up sitting next to them on the plane.

Eventually, in a few months or sooner, the person ceases to be of interest to the Air Marshals and they move on to other targets. I believe the person is then taken off the list.

This has been reported in the Boston Globe and is discussed here in the Washington Post.

According to the TSA, the program uses travel records and other information to identify passengers who will be subject to additional checks at airports and observed in flight by air marshals who report on their activities to the agency.

… the program did not single out passengers based on race or religion and should not be considered surveillance because the agency does not, for example, listen to passengers’ calls or follow flagged individuals around outside airports.

But during in-flight observation of people who are tagged as Quiet Skies passengers, marshals use an agency checklist to record passenger behavior: Did he or she sleep during the flight? Did he or she use a cellphone? Look around erratically?

“The program analyzes information on a passenger’s travel patterns while taking the whole picture into account,” Gregory said, adding “an additional line of defense to aviation security.”

“If that person does all that stuff, and the airplane lands safely and they move on, the behavior will be noted, but they will not be approached or apprehended,” Gregory said.

For obvious reasons, people are upset about this.

I would like to note that had this program been in place prior to 9/11, 9/11 would likely have gone very differently.

I suspect this is a potentially important program that could also be abused. Under certain conditions I would trust the government to carry this sort of program out effectively and fairly, protecting civil liberties and enhancing safety.

Under other conditions I would not.

Stay tuned.

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You killed me.

Our gun culture kills children

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Years ago, my parents were still alive and living in Albany, New York. I had arranged a lunch with some colleagues at their house. I do not recall why exactly, but that is what I did.

In the house lived my parents Joe and Betty, Grandma (dad’s mother) and Great Aunt Tillie (mom’s stepfather’s sister). Grandma and Tillie were very old so they took lots of medicine. Also, they were very old and therefore had a special dispensation from the pharmacy, allowing them to get the medicine in non-child proof bottles.

So the colleagues came over, and that included a woman with her young son, older than toddler age but not much. During our lunch, he was off in the kitchen or someplace amusing himself with a coloring book or something.

But then the child walked into the room and we could see that his face, mainly around his mouth, was covered with azure blue substance, as were his hands. Just as realization of what this blue substance was dawned on his mother, I, the others, Great Aunt Tillie, who had just walked into her bedroom (she had been in Grandma’s bedroom watching soaps), exclaimed, “My medicine!!!!” Continue reading Our gun culture kills children

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Presidential Proclamation: National Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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Every day, women, men, and children across America suffer the pain and trauma of sexual assault. From verbal harassment and intimidation to molestation and rape, this crime occurs far too frequently, goes unreported far too often, and leaves long-lasting physical and emotional scars. During National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we recommit ourselves not only to lifting the veil of secrecy and shame surrounding sexual violence, but also to raising awareness, expanding support for victims, and strengthening our response. Continue reading Presidential Proclamation: National Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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Candidate Rebecca Otto Lauded By Moms Demand Action

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On the day of yet another school shooting (in Maryland), we have some serious issues to think about.

Every four years in Minnesota, we elected a new gubernor. We’re doing that right now.

This is an especially important race, for four reasons. Continue reading Candidate Rebecca Otto Lauded By Moms Demand Action

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