Archive for the ‘Guns’ category

Y’all Qaeda Pissing You Off? Fire A Phone Call, Not A Glock

January 6, 2016

I’m enraged by the news in Zander’s post over at Balloon Juice.  Happy to let any of seditionists out of the Malheur HQ — but only into the welcoming arms of federal custody.

That’s a legitimate political view — and you know what sane and patriotic people do with such views?  They call their representatives in Washington to let them know how they feel.

'Telephone_Operator'_by_Gerrit_A._Beneker (1)

I just left a message at Senator Warren’s office and spoke to a nice young (I’m guessing) staffer in Rep. Joe Kennedy’s.  Markey is next on my list.  I told them how disgusted I was at the action of the Malheur thugs — stealing our property, yours, mine, and the whole damn American people’s while, many of them, stealing from the public till for years and years.

The key though is that I also made a request:  I want my Congressional representatives to put the question to federal law enforcement as to why they are not enforcing the law, either by denying the radical right wing intimidators their freedom of movement as long as they remain on the people’s property, or by arresting them when they do choose to wander.

It’s not much, but it’s not nothing either.  These folks only succeed because their supporters are vocal and active, while the hundreds of millions whom they rip off, disrespect and aim to intimidate and coerce just want to go about their business.  A little volume on our side of the playground is actually significant.

So call your official peeps!  Takes a minute or two, and it’s worth the effort.  This is also one where the partisan identification of your representatives matters a little less than on some of the calls to action this blog has made.  Armed take-overs of public buildings strikes a little close to home for a lot of Congressfolk.

So call! Be polite; know the message you want to send; thank the kids on the other end of the line for their help; and lets start making the country marginally more sane, one firmly worded dispatch at a time.

The phone numbers:

House and Senate switchboard: 202-224-3121.  Individual senator phone numbers.  Individual representative phone numbers. (Both lists by state.  You can sort by last name as well.)

Have at it, friends.

Image: Gerrit A. Beneker, Telephone Operator (A Weaver of Public Thought) 1921.

Now This Is How You Prayer-Shame!

December 4, 2015

Mike Lukovich:

Lukovich prayer

And I’ll note that the good Dr. Pierce still has his fastball:

​Have you noticed? There’s a new thing that progressives should not do, because it will scare the horses and frighten the children, and harsh the holy mellows of the various tent-show evangelicals currently at work in Republican politics. It is called “prayer-shaming.”  It became a thing in the wake of the San Bernardino massacre, when Republican candidates immediately leaped onto Twitter to send “thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.” This time, however, a  great number of people, most notably Senator Chris Murphy and the editors of the New York Daily News, decided that up with this pious swill was something that they no longer would put.*

Jean_Béraud_The_Magdalen_at_the_House_of_the_Pharisees

Well, Charles.  Tell me what you really think:

I am heartily fed up with this nonsense. I am heartily fed up with people whose personal relationships with their personal Lords And Saviors lead them to knuckle the poor, subjugate women, brag about their gunmanship, and topple inconvenient regimes that happen to be sitting on an ocean of oil. I am heartily fed up with people whose support for Israel is based on a couple of misunderstood passages from the craziest book in the Bible in which Jesus comes back to Earth as an X Man and gets into some enthusiastic disemboweling. …

There’s more stupid out there today on this heinous sin of identifying ostentatious piety as the gun-murder-enabling horse hockey it is. But we are none of us surprised, are we?  Channelling my inner (and likely apocryphal) Abe L., if the [insert favorite conception of the deity here] were to exist, we’d know s/he’d love hypocrites, ’cause s/he made so damn many of them.

So let’s just chat among ourselves, shall we.  Today’s prompt:  which ethnic or racial group do you think Trump will insult next?  Bonus points for the most authentic sounding Trumpismo gibe.

 *Not to go all style police or anything (FSM knows, glass houses and all that), but my Brit mum used to attribute that construction to Winston Churchill in the original form “This is the kind of chicken shit up with which I shall not put,” and that’s how I think it ought to read here.
Image:  Jean Béraud, The Magdalen at the House of the Pharisees, 1891

“Prayer Shaming”? Jesus — and Isaiah — Wept

December 3, 2015

I identify as an atheist these days, but to be clear, I’m a Jewish one.  By that I mean that the religious education I received and the ongoing value I find in some ritual and more reading and thinking about the tradition to which I’m heir inform a lot of the way I try to understand and act in the world.

That’s the framework in which I found myself gagging and raging at the nonsense behind this “prayer shaming” horse hockey.

My response?  Ein bischen Deuteronomy:

29 The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever…*

That I (and many exegeses I’ve heard on this verse, which is slapped all over the Jewish High Holidays liturgy) gloss as that which we know, that which we see in the world — that’s what it falls to us to repair.

Then there’s James 2:14-16 — of which I was reminded by a Twitter correspondent when I started slinging scripture there earlier in the day:

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

Rembrandt_The_Hundred_Guilder_Print

To those of us whose scriptural knowledge resides mostly in the Jewish bible, the echoes of Isaiah 58: 3-7 are inescapable.  (This is another one of the greatest hits of Yom Kippur):

Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.

Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.

Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

All of which points to a conclusion obvious to the non-sociopathic: prayer is a conversation one has in private. It does not exhaust — it does not begin to meet — the sum of what a would-be good person must do.  And not just that:  Jewish scripture and Christian testament, and a metric fucktonne of secular reasoning all come to the conclusion that public piety is meaningless without the actual work of repairing the world (the Hebrew phrase is tikkun olam).

Which is why I find the crap purveyed by gun-murder-enablers suggesting that religiosity is no substitute for actually taking action so hateful, even vicious.  If I were a believer I would say that there are circles of hell for those who know why innocents are slaughtered, and yet do nothing, actually bar the way to doing anything, to prevent those deaths.

And yeah — I know that this is belaboring the obvious. But what’s a blog for, if not for the endless flogging of deceased equine quadrupeds?

*You may notice that all these quotes come from the King James version.  A heterodox choice for one who identifies as Jewish.  But oh, my friends, and ah, my foes, that music!

Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, The Hundred Guilder Print  (also: Christ Preaching and/or Jesus healing the sick) c. 1646-1650.

Now Is Not The Right Time. It Is The Only Time

October 9, 2015

Two campus shootings in a single day.

Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Massacre_of_the_Innocents_(detail)_-_WGA3480

First up, Northern Arizona University, where a gun in the hands of an 18 year old student dispatched bullets into the bodies of four human beings.  One is dead.

G. T. Fowler, the chief of campus police, said that Steven Jones, a freshman, had opened fire after two groups of male students were involved in a confrontation. The police were able to take Mr. Jones into custody after he stopped firing the weapon and “everything calmed down for a few minutes,” Chief Fowler said.

This was, as Charles Pierce pointed out earlier today, not some deranged son of satan spinning out of our collective id.  Rather…

This is an ordinary Thursday night campus brawl that escalated to homicide only because one of the participants had a gun which, I guarantee you, he did not have to work hard to obtain. Maybe we should look into why these things happen.

Travel now to Texas Southern University where…

A gunman killed one person and wounded another on the campus of Texas Southern University in Houston on Friday, the second shooting at the university this week.

This one is not likely to remain a mystery either, as “The Houston Police Department said a possible suspect in Friday’s shooting was in custody.”

Note, please the lagniappe in the Times write up on the TSU murder, that “second shooting” line:

On Tuesday night, a person was shot and seriously wounded while walking across the Texas Southern campus. There was no indication whether that shooting was linked to the one there on Friday.

Guns do not create the impulse to violence. They merely ensure that the consequences of just about anything can be fatal.

Most of all, guns destroy freedom.  They erode the freedom of assembly.  They make it scary to walk across a college campus at night.  They make you wonder if saying that, say, the GOP field is a bunch of ammosexual nuts might line you up on the wrong side of a nine held by some cultist in the church of the holy firearm who takes a hard line on blasphemy.

Guns fix their owner in a state of permanent fear — how else to describe the claim of a threat so constant that going strapped is the only rational response? — and impose that fear on all the rest of us.  Guns slaughter their own, as 20,000 + gun suicides attest.

An armed society is not a civil society.  It is one that rewards not our aspirations, but our night terrors.

But we all know this.

Guns. Need. To. Be. Caged.  It’s as political — or rather it needs to be — as Social Security, for our side as well as the NRA’s.  No politician from here forward gets my support unless they are gun control absolutists.

I don’t pretend anything I want will happen anytime soon.  But I do believe that at some point the massacre of the innocents will shock enough consciences to make change possible.

Rant over.

Pieter Breughel the Elder, The Massacre of the Innocents, 1556-7

We Have A Problem With Guns

June 18, 2015

The front page in today’s Charleston, S. C.’s hometown paper:

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 1.44.30 PM

It’s a little hard to read, but the sticker that partly obscures the headline about a mass shooting advertises the latest deal at a local gun store.  “$30 GETS YOU EVERYTHING” — all the goodies needed to have a fine time with your new weapon.

Race, terror, the long history of attacking African American leaders, institutions and anyone else at hand in support of white supremacy, all the evils that run like a river through American history dominate the coverage of the massacre at Emanuel A. M. E, and they should.  This is an atrocity bred in the bone of the American idea, as Jelani Cobb writes:*

For black Christians, the word “sanctuary” had a second set of implications. The spiritual aims of worship were paired with the distinctly secular necessity of a place in which not just common faith but common humanity could be taken for granted. No matter the coming details about the shooting in Charleston, it seems almost inescapable that the assault on a single black church is an inadvertent affirmation of the need for an entire denomination of them.

I don’t want to distract from the core, essential truth:  racial disparity, cruelty administered on racial grounds, systematic discrimination based on race remain at the center of US life, and we need to say that out loud and do what we can about it every damn day.

But at the same time, as Cobb also writes,

We periodically mourn the deaths of a group of Americans who die at the hands of another armed American. We periodically witness racial injustices that inspire anger in the streets. And sometimes we witness both. This is, quite simply, how we now live.

We have a problem with guns.  It isn’t going away.  You can dig through the twitter streams and comment threads as I have, but you already know what you’ll find.  For too many Americans, the solution to our gun problem is obvious:  the answer to a bad shooter in church are good ones.  If only those at prayer had been packing, Dylann Roof wouldn’t have been able to kill more than three or four before taking a couple of hundred grains of lead to the throat in return fire. If only…

Kārlis_Padegs_-_Madonna_with_a_Machine_Gun_-_Google_Art_Project

The ammosexual defense of their kink is predictable and almost certainly incorrigible.  Driven (and heavily armed) that’s a view that’s managed to hold political sway over the mushy majority for whom the notion the the liberty of the gun-sniffing few outweighs the freedom of the rest of us to assemble, travel, speak without fear of suppressing fire.  What drives that is, at least in part, the normalization of gun fetishization.  Which is what you see above.  And is what must be shamed out of the public square.

The Charleston Post and Courier has apologized on its Facebook page for the sticker, calling it “a deeply regrettable coincidence.” Forgive me if I don’t take that statement in the manner its author may have intended.  It’s not the coincidence that’s regrettable.  It’s the deeper implication behind the juxtaposition.  Just in case its readers may have missed the contingency of that mea sorta culpa, there’s the phrase that followed the paper’s regrets:

We apologize to those who were offended.

“To those who were offended.”  How about to the human race.  How about to the nine folks praying at church last night — except, of course, they can’t because the guns that come with whatever gaudy deal (here’s a perfect gift for your 21 year old! A precision machine designed to deal death in quantity!) have in yesterday’s employment ended those nine souls, took their lives and everything they might ever have been or done.**  How about to the families of those gone, then — except what will you say.  “Sorry we advertised more death with the news of the deaths of your loved ones!”

I don’t mean to single out the Post and Courier — and especially not the folks writing and editing it, who have no control over what the business side does.  But it’s just so damn telling.  As long as guns are just fit fodder for the daily special we’re doomed to repeat this miserable charade over and over again, mourning yet more victims while doing absolutely f**k all to honor their memory in any way that may lessen the odds of it happening again.

*See also Charles Pierce, marrying his gift for language and his capacity for righteous rage in this piece.

**And yeah, I’m channelling (read, clumsily paraphrasing) that Clint Eastwood speech from The Unforgiven here.

Image:  Karlis Padegs, Madonna with a Machine Gun1932.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong

January 21, 2015

When self selected vigilantes assaulting armed strangers in public spaces?

Consider this incident:

According to the Hillsborough  Sheriff’s Office, [African-American] 62-year-old Clarence Daniels was entering Walmart with his legally concealed firearm to buy coffee creamer on Tuesday when he was spotted by 43-year-old vigilante Michael Foster.

Foster, who is white, had observed Daniels conceal the weapon under his coat before he came into the store. When Daniels crossed the threshold, Foster tackled him and placed him in a chokehold…

Florida, Jake…but at least the worst outcomes were avoided:

He’s got a gun!” Foster reportedly exclaimed.

“I have a permit!” Daniels repeatedly shouted back.

After a struggle, the men were separated. Deputies later arrived and Foster was charged with battery.

V0017125 Head of a man, composed of nude figures. Oil painting.

So:  no one died.  Good.

A couple of thoughts, though:  (a) what kind of asshole do you have to be to decide that you want to walk around looking for folks to bash based on whether they look hinky to you?  B)  if it’s really all about guns, then what’s going to keep you from going all George Zimmerman at any point in the drama?  That this ended with neither the victim nor the self-appointed asshole on a gurney is just a signal that FSM was dangling its noodly appendage down Hillsborough way that day, nothing more.

The most obvious take away is, of course, that this couldn’t possibly be about race because (nods to Charlie Pierce) it’s never about race.  Except…

Again, I see it as a near miracle that the legal gun owner who happened to be black is still alive right now.  The white vigilante is lucky too, certainly — jumping a guy with a gun is not a long-term health strategy — but we’ve seen too much lately of what even the merest hint that an African American man or kid! might be armed does to their odds.

But I want to point out the essential current here, the unifying thread that runs through all of these incidents, the tragedies and the bathetic ones alike.  That’s fear, brought on by the worship of the gun.  How on earth is vigilante-ism even a thing in 2015 America?  It’s because the toxic combination of racial and class politics and unlimited arsenals produce terror and rage in equal and toxic admixture.

Worst of all is then how normal this all seems to those in the midst of it.  Consider this advice:

“The Sheriff’s Office recommends that vigilante-inclined citizens refrain from taking matters into their own hands, especially when an incident is gun-related,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.

McKinnon said that vigilantes should “make sure there’s a good reason” before tackling gun owners.

Ya think?

In the end the fact that actual bad guys do not in fact carry neon signs to identify them  (no Poor Impulse Control tattoos yet) means that, well, it’s a target rich environment.

“Unfortunately he tackled a guy that was a law-abiding citizen,” McKinnon noted. “We understand it’s alarming for people to see other people with guns, but Florida has a large population of concealed weapons permit holders.”

In other words:  be careful out there.  Someone, soon, is going to get killed in one of these stunts.  And once again the tree of liberty will be watered with the blood of someone just going about their business, or a kid who happens to be in the next aisle when the stray shot comes home or…

Not to mention, except I will, again:  the racial element here.  White guys chasing black guys they fear is an old trope in American life.  It’s with us still.  Video at eleven.

PS:  I’m totally with Bryant Gumbel here.

Image: F. Balbi, The head of a man composed of writhing nude figuresposs. 1868.

Guess The Complexion Of The Shooter

January 18, 2015

Here’s all you need to know:

A Sentinel, Okla., man on Thursday shot the town’s police chief four times and was then released from custody after questioning.

All lives matter and I’m glad no one was killed in this bit of 2nd Amendment insanity — but if after Martin and Brown and Rice and Crawford you still somehow wondered if white privilege were a thing, just give it up.

Graveyard_in_the_Tyrol_1914-1915_JS_Sargent

More detail:

Sentinel Police Chief Louis Ross was shot in the chest three times and once in the arm Thursday morning after breaking down the front door and entering a house at 205 S 4, Sentinel Mayor Sam Dlugonski said.

The chief was wearing a bulletproof vest that was loaned to him by a sheriff’s deputy minutes before the raid on the home. He survived the shooting, and authorities said the vest saved his life.

Dlugonski and a neighbor on S 4 both said the man detained in the shooting was Dallas Horton, who lives at 205 S 4. Investigating authorities did not release the man’s name.

Agents with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said the man who shot the chief was released after hours of questioning when they determined they didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him.

“Facts surrounding the case lead agents to believe the man was unaware it was officers who made entry,” OSBI wrote in a news release.

Well, yes.  But then there’s this:

Chief Ross said Washita County 911 received two calls from a man who identified himself as Dallas Horton, and claimed to have a bomb inside the head start school….

Chief Ross told News 9 he called for county back up before entering Horton’s home.

Up to this point, Horton claimed he never knew any officers were in his home.

“Don’t know what he heard or didn’t hear screaming from five officers of the law announcing our presence, requesting to see hands,” said Chief Ross.

I’m going to go way out on a limb here and state (a) it’s amazing, just flat out gobsmacking, that anyone could shot a cop four times and not face a gazillion bullets coming the other way; and (b) that I simply cannot imagine the circumstances in which a non-white cop-shooter who did survive the initial event would be back on the street the same day.

That conclusion could just reflect my biases.  It certainly involves an inference beyond the facts known to me as I write this.  Still, American history and our recent past seem to tell a pretty consistent story to me:  African Americans, and especially black men, face the threat of violence under the cover of law to a degree that a middle class white guy like me cannot begin to fathom.  So I’m prepared to make the leap that the color of the shooter here made a difference in his treatment by law enforcement.  I certainly could be wrong:  any individual case can be an outlier in any direction.  But if I had to bet…

Again, I want to repeat something really important:  it’s a great thing that neither the police chief nor the suspect are dead.  That’s what we would want to see come out of moments of crisis in law enforcement.

I’m just noting here that I want that outcome for all those confronting the sudden presence of armed cops:  toy wielding shoppers, kids on a playground, young men walking, anyone.   Such happy endings shouldn’t be reserved only for a gun nut who can be distinguished from those less fortunate individuals by — among other things I’m sure — the fact that he happens to be white.

Image:  John Singer Sargent, Graveyard in the Tyrol, 1914-1915.

 


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