Monday, June 20, 2016

Stopping Power

Give me three 100 round drum magazines and I could hold my whole block hostage for a day. Give me thirty 10 round magazines and someone will be able to stop me.

- Daniel Hayes, "I Am an AR-15 Owner And I've Had Enough"

This week's featured post is "Our gun problem IS a terrorism problem".

This week everybody was talking about Orlando

Much of the airtime related to Orlando was a simple outpouring of grief, as might happen whenever a large number of people die -- in a medium-sized plane crash, say, or the collapse of an auditorium. The fact that so many of the victims were part of a very specific community -- Latino LGBT in Orlando -- made the story particularly poignant. If you are part of that community, you might know many of the victims, rather than just one or two. So in that sense it's like when a plane crashes while carrying a high school French club to Paris, or when most of the Marshall football team was killed.

A second major angle on the story was to examine the killer himself and his motives. This is where the story starts to bifurcate depending on how people of different political views want to frame it. (I believe it shouldn't bifurcate, as I explain in "Our gun problem IS a terrorism problem".) You can tell this as a pure Muslim terrorism story: Omar Mateen came from a Muslim family, and his parents are Afghan immigrants. He has been to Saudi Arabia (apparently to do the hajj in Mecca) and the United Arab Emirates. In a 911 call made during the attack, he dedicated his killings to ISIS. (However, ISIS appeared to play no role in the attack, other than in the killer's mind. The FBI had investigated his trips to the Middle East and found no indication that he received terrorist training.)

You can tell it as a violence-begets-violence story: Mateen was bullied as a youngster, and was a violent man before his attack on the Pulse nightclub. He abused his wives, and sought out a profession -- security guard -- that allowed him to carry a gun.

You can portray Mateen as a man struggling to deny his sexuality. Pulse was not a random choice. He apparently had attended the nightclub many times, and participated on gay dating web sites. The massacre can be presented as Mateen's ultimate attempt to declare to the world that he found homosexuality abhorrent rather than tempting. A unique perspective on this interpretation is in two segments (here and here) where Rachel Maddow interviews Sohail Ahmed, a British gay Muslim who once contemplated terrorist acts and now campaigns against violent Islamism.

And finally, the Pulse massacre can be framed as just another mass killing, like Columbine or San Bernadino or Aurora or Sandy Hook. In some sense we don't care why shooters keep doing these things; we just want it to stop.


If we're going to profile Muslims, why not profile men?

 

 

 

and guns

Paul Ryan called for a moment of silence in Congress to honor the dead in Orlando, but Democrats decided that Congress' silence on the mass-shooting issue was part of the problem.

In the Senate, Chris Murphy of Connecticut pulled off something remarkable: He used a filibuster to push an issue forward rather than shut it down. He held the floor for 15 hours until he got an agreement to hold two votes:

One would bar those on a terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms and the other would expand background checks.

It's important to understand why this worked. An old-fashioned stand-up-and-talk filibuster is limited by individual stamina, so opponents can always wait you out. So as a forcing tactic, it can't accomplish much by itself. What it does, though, is create drama and draw national attention. If that attention results in national outrage, then the Senate leadership may have to respond.

That's what happened here. Murphy got a concession because he drew attention to an issue where the public is overwhelmingly on his side. (A PPP poll in Virginia shows an incredible 86%-7% split in favor of keeping people on the no-fly list from buying guns and an even larger majority in favor of universal background checks.) But apparently even that kind of majority will ultimately fail in the face of the NRA: Both measures are expected to lose today when the Senate votes. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine is trying to stitch together a compromise, but even if it passes, the House will probably not vote on it.


An AR-15 owner explains why limiting magazines to ten bullets would make mass killings much harder.


MarketWatch columnist Brett Arends goes back to The Federalist to explain what the Founders meant by "a well-regulated militia": a citizen army resembling today's National Guard, which they hoped would avoid (or at least minimize) the need for a professional permanent standing army. The militia is "necessary to the security of a free State" because the Founders feared that a professional army might develop its own interests independent of the People, and so establish tyranny.

Today we have a professional army, anyway. Military matters have become so complex that no part-time soldiers could do it all. So you could argue that makes the Second Amendment null and void, like the parts in the Constitution about slaves and Indians being counted as “three-fifths” of a person in the Census.

But even if you still want to defend the Second Amendment, it should apply only to those who volunteer to join the “select corps” of their National Guard, undergo rigorous training to attain “proficiency in military functions” and perform the “operations of an army,” serve as ordered under the ultimate command of the president and be subject to military discipline.

and Trump

My intuition was telling me that Trump's reaction to Orlando was disastrous, but my Trump intuition hasn't been that good, so I was still worried. Fortunately, recent polls seem to bear me out: both the ones that ask specific questions about Orlando and the head-to-head match-ups, where Clinton's lead keeps growing. (One poll that showed Clinton's lead shrinking was comparing to a previous poll that I consider an outlier: Reuters has Clinton's lead down from 14% to a mere 10.3%, which is still above her margin in most other polls.)


Republicans are still talking about getting rid of Trump at the convention, but I'll believe it when I see it. One thing I'm not hearing so far is some large number of Trump delegates wanting to be free of their commitment to vote for him.


By far the best response to Trump's banning The Washington Post from his campaign comes from the tiny York Dispatch of York County, PA. In an editorial "Ban us, you big baby", they ask why they don't deserve the honor of being banned too.

The Dispatch might be small by comparison, but our commitment to asking tough questions, pointing out inconsistencies, flagging outright lies, simply holding candidates accountable for their words and actions is second to none. ... Now, we understand sitting out your campaign events means we might miss a serious, coherent policy speech. Let’s just say, we like our odds. ... No, we’re pretty sure we can cover that circus just fine from outside the tent, with the rest of the journalists who refuse to be silenced.


Josh Marshall makes two points about Trump's recent troubles:

Every candidate is dependent on good poll numbers for morale, fundraising and more. But Trump's platform isn't abolishing Obamacare or lowering taxes or kicking more ass in the Middle East. His platform is "winning." So if he's clearly not winning, it's uniquely debilitating.

and

[T]he general election puts a bullshit based candidacy in direct contact with the reality based world. That creates not only turbulence but turbulence that builds on itself because the interaction gets in the spokes of each of these two, fundamentally different idea systems. You're seeing the most telling signs of that with the growing number of Republicans who, having already endorsed Trump, are now literally refusing to discuss him or simply walking away when his name is mentioned.

Paul Krugman makes a related point: Republicans like Bush and Rubio fell so easily before Trump because (like Soviet leaders before the collapse), they can't believe what they have to say. A bullshit-based system requires a master bullshitter, which is why the choice came down to Trump or Cruz.



The New Republic attends a Trump rally in North Carolina, where vendors hawk t-shirts saying "Trump That Bitch!" and "Hillary Sucks But Not Like Monica!". Things must have gotten worse since I stood in line (unsuccessfully) for a Trump rally in January. The worst I noticed then was "Hillary For Jail".


AJ+ interviews a woman who was an undercover CIA agent in the Muslim world.

If I learned one lesson from my time with the CIA, it is this: Everybody believes they are the good guy.

 

 

 


Media Matters traces how years of anti-immigrant propaganda on Fox News and right-wing talk radio laid the groundwork for Donald Trump's candidacy.

 

 

 

and Bernie Sanders

Sanders addressed his supporters online Thursday [videotranscript]. He has stopped talking about flipping superdelegates and winning the nomination, but is also not dropping out or endorsing Clinton. Apparently he will go to the convention seeking changes in the primary rules for future elections and in the Democratic platform.

However, when I imagine Clinton strategists watching this speech, I picture them totally confused about what they can offer Bernie, because his demands are not sharpening. Instead, he repeated virtually his entire stump speech. The implied answer to "What do you want?" is "Everything."

Losing candidates don't get everything. If they did, elections would be pointless.

If Sanders identifies parts of his agenda that are broadly popular among Democrats -- the $15 minimum wage comes to mind -- he might win those votes at the convention. But he can't expect the convention even to debate a broad replacement of Clinton's positions with his, much less to win such a vote. So where is he going with this?


Pundits are debating about Sanders' "leverage", and whether it is shrinking as former supporters like Senator Merkley and Congressman Grijalva defect to Clinton and progressive heroes like Senator Warren get enthusiastic about the Clinton/Trump match-up. Sanders' intransigence is becoming an Andy Borowitz punch line:

Sanders acknowledged that continuing to fight for the nomination after Clinton is elected President would represent a “steep challenge,” but added, “When we started this race we were only at three per cent in the polls. Anything is possible.”

According to Vox, the Sanders campaign believes their leverage vanishes as soon as they endorse Clinton. But I don't see it that way: What Clinton really wants from Sanders is an enthusiastic convention speech that tells his supporters they have a place in the Democratic Party and an interest in seeing Clinton beat Trump. They want him campaigning for the Democratic ticket in the fall on college campuses and other places where he is more popular than she is. That leverage stays in place until election day, unless he dissipates it himself, as he might be doing.


I've seen a lot of angst about whether the Democratic establishment will learn the right lessons from the surprising success of the Sanders campaign. I wish I saw more angst about whether progressives will learn from Bernie's failure to win over blacks and Latinos. There's not going to be any progressive revolution unless people of color believe it's their revolution. They didn't this time. What's going to be different next time?

but you may have missed the good news on net neutrality

Two years ago, in what was widely reported as a defeat for net neutrality, the D.C. Court of Appeals threw out the FCC's net neutrality rules, but for an interesting reason: It wasn't that the FCC lacked the power to make such rules, but that the FCC's power worked differently than the rules implied.

The gist of the court ruling is that the FCC has classified cable companies as information-services providers, but that its net-neutrality rules regulate them like telecommunications carriers. So the FCC’s net-neutrality rules can’t stand. But — and this is the observation that snatches victory from the jaws of defeat — it’s totally within the FCC’s current powers and mandate to just reclassify the cable companies.

It did that, and then re-issued its net neutrality rules. The re-issued rules came back to the same court, which approved them this time. Doubtlessly this will go to the Supreme Court, but so far the good guys are winning.

This is one of many issues that points out the importance of winning the White House: Obama appointed the FCC commissioners whose votes made the difference, and the ultimate decision may hang on which party gets to replace Justice Scalia.

Clinton and Trump have sharp differences here. Trump has tweeted:

Obama's attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target the conservative media

while Clinton supported the FCC's decision.

and you might also be interested in

Yesterday was Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day in 1865 when the abolition of slavery was announced in the last holdout state, Texas. As I've discussed before, that was far from the end of slavery, and abolition often only applied within the reach of occupying Union soldiers. But abolition deserves a holiday somewhere in the calendar, and this one is as good as any.


This week at its annual meeting, the Southern Baptist Conference (the U.S.'s largest Protestant denomination) passed a resolution against flying the Confederate flag:

We call our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters.

Like many American denominations, the Baptists split over slavery during the years leading up to the Civil War. The Southern Baptists descend from the pro-slavery side of that split, but have moderated considerably since.

The resolution was originally proposed by a black pastor from Texas, and then sharpened by a white former president of the conference, who wrote:

I asked my brothers and sisters to strike the resolution’s language claiming that some people fly this divisive symbol out of a fond memory of their fallen ancestors, rather than hate. ... At our denomination’s beginning, we took the wrong stand on the issue of slavery. We cannot undo what our ancestors did, but I felt we had a historic opportunity to show that we have repented of these ungodly attitudes. The SBC has officially and publicly apologized for our racist past, but words without action are cheap and hollow.

I've written about the flag before, and here's where I come down on the fallen-ancestor thing: If you want to put an appropriately-sized Confederate battle flag on the grave of your great-grandfather who died at Vicksburg, I'm fine with it. But flying that flag from a flagpole, where the general public can see it, says something different: that the masters weren't wrong when they revolted against the United States in order to defend their right to keep black people in slavery.

If that's the message you want to send, well, it's a free country. But don't kid yourself that you're really saying something else.


Governor Brownback's huge tax cuts and other conservative policies were supposed to bring jobs to Kansas. Well, in this particular case, they've caused jobs to leave Kansas. The CEO of Pathfinder Health Innovations writes:

In the end, I believe the goals of the Brownback administration are going exactly to plan – starve the state of resources to the point where it just makes sense to turn over critical government functions to for-profit entities.

I can’t, in good conscience, continue to give our tax money to a government that actively works against the needs of its citizens; a state that is systematically targeting the citizens in most need, denying them critical care and reducing their cost of life as if they’re simply a tax burden that should be ignored.

It’s because of these moves that I have decided to deny Kansas revenue from Pathfinder’s taxes by moving our company to Missouri.


Paul Ryan is trying to provide a non-Trump policy center for Republicans to coalesce around. His web site at speaker.gov is putting out a series of issue papers under the heading "A Better Way". Its healthcare proposal is supposed to appear Wednesday, but The Hill reports that once again Republicans will fall short of offering an actual, ready-to-vote-on plan that the CBO can analyze for costs and benefits.

House Republicans’ ObamaCare replacement plan will not include specific dollar figures on some of its core provisions, and will instead be more of a broad outline, according to lobbyists and aides.

Jonathan Chait explains why this is not surprising.

The Republican health-care stance combines rhetorical opposition to all of the cruel features of the old health-care system with denunciations of every practical measure in Obamacare required to fix them. The unspecified alternative allows them to promise that nobody will suffer from lack of access to insurance, but without committing to any sacrifices needed to make this happen.

So, seven years into the debate about ObamaCare, there is still no real alternative other than a return to the system that was bad and still getting worse in 2009.


The prospect of another Clinton administration should have us re-examining the good and bad of the last one. A budget surplus, low unemployment, and low inflation can make the late 90s sound like the Good Old Days, but Nicholas Kristof observes that welfare reform didn't work out as well as he had hoped at the time.

Welfare reform has failed, but the solution is not a reversion to the old program. Rather, let’s build new programs targeting children in particular and drawing from the growing base of evidence of what works.

That starts with free long-acting birth control for young women who want it (70 percent of pregnancies among young single women are unplanned). Follow that with high-quality early-childhood programs and prekindergarten, drug treatment, parenting coaching and financial literacy training, and a much greater emphasis on jobs programs to usher the poor into the labor force and bring them income.

and let's close with some intellectual humor

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