Tuesday ReadsPosted: May 9, 2023 Filed under: just because | Tags: Allen, AR-15, Barack Obama, E. Jean Carroll, gun violence, guns, mass shootings, NRA, Trump rape trial 18 Comments
What is happening to our country? Right now, we are headed in a very wrong direction. As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, we are seeing mass shootings at a rate that is hard to believe. But it’s true. We’ve become a country dominated by guns. Republicans have developed a sickness that can’t be explained just by the NRA and its donations to politicians. Awhile back, I read this piece by Noah Berlatsky and Aaron Rupar at Public Notice, and I hope you’ll check it out. Berlatsky argues that Republicans have development an obsession with guns and violence that goes far beyond a money motive.
The GOP’s gun obsession goes deeper than campaign donations. Republicans aren’t posing for AR-15 family photos because of money.
The GOP has not been corrupted by capitalism. It would be more accurate to say it’s been corrupted by fascism. Guns are part of white Christofascist identity politics. The GOP supports guns as part of a principled commitment to a death cult, not because they need NRA money to win elections.
Focusing on NRA money obscures the real danger from the GOP. It also can lead gun control proponents to pursue confused and ineffective tactics. We need to understand why the GOP embraces guns if we’re ever going to have a hope of opposing them.
The first sign that the NRA is not driving gun policy with its political contributions is the fact that it simply doesn’t spend that much money in political races. That $1.3 million Blackburn received is, again, money taken in over the course of her entire political career, which stretches back to her first election as a Tennessee state senator in 1999, almost 25 years ago. In comparison, in the 2018 campaign in which Blackburn first won her Senate seat, her campaign and outside groups spent $30 million. Even if the NRA had donated that $1.3 million all at once, Blackburn would barely have noticed it in the blizzard of cash.
Blackburn isn’t unusual; NRA contributions are typically a tiny fraction of candidate contributions, as Philip Bump at the Washington Post explained back in 2016. He found that for most candidates, NRA donations were less than .5 percent of direct donations to campaigns. Even if you look at the category of independent outside expenditures, which cannot be coordinated with the campaign, the NRA gives only about 15 percent of donations, coming behind organizations like the Republican senatorial committee and the Chamber of Commerce….
The small size of the NRA’s donations makes it unlikely they’re meaningfully bribing politicians. Nor do GOP politicians behave as if they’ve been bribed. When politicians vote their donors over their constituents, they don’t tend to boast about it.
GOP politicians don’t treat guns like dirty stock trades, and don’t try to hide from constituents after gun votes. On the contrary, they tout their pro-gun credentials every chance they get. Rep. Andy Ogles, who represents the district where the Nashville shooting took place, sent out a Christmas card showing himself with his wife and children standing in front of a tree. They’re all grinning and holding assault weapons.
As communications professor Ryan Neville-Shepard explains at the Milwaukee Independent, guns on the right have increasingly become a symbol of white masculinity — and I’d argue of white Christian masculinity. Guns stand for defending home and family against “criminals” — a term which, in the dogwhistle rich environment of the right, means “non-white people.” In addition, Neville-Shepard notes, guns in right-wing political ads during the Obama administration became a symbol of (violent) opposition to Democratic government. Marjorie Taylor Greene ran an ad touting a gun giveaway in 2021 in which she promised to “blow away the Democrats’ socialist agenda.”
I found Berlatsky’s argument convincing. It really seems to me at this point that Republicans simply see guns–and specifically assault rifles–as part of their identities. I think the gun obsession began after Obama was elected. The notion of a Black president was just too much for these people. Then came Trump, who gave them permission to be overtly act out the racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and misogynistic feelings they previously felt the need to hide in public. I’d be interested to know what you guys thing about this argument.
There have been more mass shootings since this article was written–after the Nashville school shooting, which happened in late March.
There is quite a bit of information available about the latest mass shooter, who mowed down people at an Allen, Texas outlet mall. There’s no doubt at this point that he was a white supremacist, despite being Hispanic, and a Nazi. He had large Nazi symbols tattooed on his body.
This article is by, , and
A social media page appearing to belong to a gunman who killed eight people at a Dallas-area outlet mall had shared extremist beliefs with rants against Jews, women and racial minorities posted since September, as well as posts about struggling with mental health.
Mauricio Garcia, 33, maintained a profile on the Russian social networking platform OK.ru, including posts referring to extremist online forums, such as 4chan, and content from white nationalists, including Nick Fuentes, an antisemitic white nationalist provocateur.
In the weeks before the attack, Garcia posted more than two dozen photos of Allen Premium Outlets, where an officer killed him after the shooting Saturday, and surrounding areas, including several screenshots of Google location information, seemingly monitoring the mall at its busiest times.
Many of his posts referred to his mental health. In his final post, he lamented what his family might say and wrote that no psychologist would have been able to fix him.
In another post, he made disturbing comments about what makes a mass shooting “important” and praised a person who opened fire at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, this year, killing six people, including three children.
The shooter also posted a series of links to other sites, including a YouTube account that featured a video published the day of the shooting. In it he removed a “Scream” mask and said, “Not quite what you were expecting, huh?”
He also posted photos of a flak vest emblazoned with patches, one of them with the initialism for “Right Wing Death Squad,” a popular meme among far-right extremist groups. Another post included a series of shirtless pictures with visible white power tattoos, including SS lightning bolts and a swastika.
I don’t want to spend too much time on Garcia; but if you’re interested, you might want to read this Twitter thread by Aric Toler:
Garcia used a Hitler emoji
A few more interesting articles:
Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Timothy McVeigh’s Dreams Are Coming True.
Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns, and Money: Incel nation.
The Washington Post: Texas gunman fantasized over race wars on social media before mass killing.
Philip Bump at The Washington Post: Why non-White people might advocate white supremacy.
Men like Garcia are frightening, but now–thanks to Trump–their horrifying ideologies have infiltrated Republican political culture.
From Media Matters: Hitler-promoting antisemites will speak at Trump’s Miami hotel alongside Eric Trump, Lara Trump, and other Trump personalities.
The Trump National Doral resort will host two antisemites who have promoted pro-Adolf Hitler propaganda and spread virulently antisemitic conspiracy theories. They will be speaking at an event in Miami alongside numerous Team Trump personalities, including Eric Trump, Lara Trump, and Devin Nunes.
Trump Doral speaker Scott McKay, who has a streaming show on Rumble, has claimed that Jewish people orchestrated 9/11 and were responsible for the assassinations of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and William McKinley. He has also said that Jewish people routinely torture children and eat their hearts.
He has praised Hitler for supposedly trying to take down a Jewish banking system and said, “Hitler was actually fighting the same people that we’re trying to take down today.”
Trump Doral speaker Charlie Ward, who also streams a show on Rumble, has shared posts praising Hitler for supposedly “warning us” about Judaism; claiming that “VIRUSES are Man (JEW) made”; and attacking the alleged Jewish media for supposedly lying about the Holocaust.
The two are featured speakers in the “ReAwaken America” tour, which is set to stop at Trump’s Miami hotel on May 12 and 13. Scheduled to speak alongside McKay and Ward are numerous members of Trump’s orbit, including: Eric Trump, Lara Trump, former Trump economic adviser Peter Navarro, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former senior Department of Defense official Kash Patel, former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, Truth Social CEO Devin Nunes, and Trump ally Roger Stone.
Numerous other far-right conspiracy theorists will be speaking, including Stella Immanuel, Mel K, Liz Crokin, Ann Vandersteel, Mike Lindell, and Patrick Byrne.
Media outlets have previously noted that the tour, which has been holding events across the country, has also featured QAnon supporters, conspiracy theories, and Christian nationalist rhetoric.
The tour was initiated by Michael Flynn.
Rachel Maddow talked about this on her MSNBC show last night. Watch the segment at Yahoo News: Rachel Maddow Names Pro-Hitler Speakers Appearing At Same Event As Eric Trump.
The E. Jean Carroll vs. Donald Trump rape trial will go to the jury today. A few stories on that:
Erica Orden at Politico: The Trump rape trial is headed to the jury. Here are the questions jurors will weigh.
In more than four hours of closing arguments, lawyers for both sides offered a series of questions for the jury to consider. Here are some of the most critical. [NOTE: I’ll provide a couple of paragraphs from each question. Read the rest at the link.
Is Carroll credible?
Carroll’s attorneys made their client’s three–day appearance on the witness stand the centerpiece of their case, and during closing arguments her lawyer Roberta Kaplan said her client’s testimony was “credible, it was consistent and it was powerful.” Kaplan told the jury that “every single aspect of what she said is backed up or corroborated by other evidence,” including not just the alleged incident at Bergdorf Goodman, but also Carroll’s account that she told two friends about it contemporaneously.
Kaplan pointed to the testimony of those two friends, saying details from their testimony rang true. One of the friends, Lisa Birnbach, testified that when Carroll called her and told her of the attack, Birnbach was busy feeding dinner to her two young children and went into another room to avoid uttering “rape” in front of them. “The fact that she left the kitchen, by the way, is a very telling detail,” Kaplan said. “It’s the kind of detail you don’t make up.” [….]
Is the “Access Hollywood” tape a confession of sexual assault or “locker room talk”?
Carroll’s attorneys showed, referenced or described parts of this tape at least five separate times during their closing arguments. Kaplan argued that Trump’s infamous commentary captured on a hot mic constitutes a roadmap he has used to repeatedly commit sexual assault. The tape is from 2005 and resurfaced during the 2016 presidential campaign….
“What is Donald Trump doing here? Telling you in his very own words how he treats women,” Kaplan said to the jury. “It’s his modus operandi, M.O.” Or as Ferrara put it: “It was a confession.” [….]
Do other Trump accusers prove a pattern, or are they unrelated?
Kaplan told the jury that the accounts of two other women, Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoynoff, who testified that Trump sexually assaulted them, demonstrate that Trump’s actions are part of a pattern of sexual assault.
“Three different women, decades apart, but one single pattern of behavior,” Kaplan said. She displayed a chart with photographs of Leeds, Stoynoff and Carroll accompanied by columns titled “semi-public place,” “grab suddenly” and “‘not my type,’” along with checkmarks. Trump has suggested all three women are not the sort to which he would typically be attracted….
How should Trump’s decision not to attend the trial reflect on him?
Carroll’s lawyers seized on Trump’s decision not to attend the trial, testify or put on a defense case.
Trump, Kaplan said, offered “no one to back up a single thing he said.”
“You only saw him on video,” she added. “He didn’t even bother to show up here in person.” [….]
Tacopina used what he described as Carroll’s vagaries about the date of the alleged incident to help explain why Trump didn’t offer any witnesses. “Who are we going to call, someone who wasn’t in Bergdorf Goodman at some unknown date?” Tacopina asked….
Tacopina also told the jury that Carroll could have called his client as a witness, but chose not to. “Instead, what they want is for you to hate him enough to ignore the facts,” he said.
Two more stories on the rape trial:
CNN: What E. Jean Carroll has to prove to win her case against Donald Trump.
One more Trump legal story, before I wrap this up. From NBC News: Trump prohibited from posting evidence in hush money case to social media, judge rules.
The New York state judge presiding over the criminal hush money case against Donald Trump issued an order Monday restricting the former president from posting about some evidence in the case on social media.
Judge Juan Merchan largely sided with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg by limiting what Trump can publicly disclose about new evidence from the prosecution before the case goes to trial.
The order says that “any materials and information provided by the People to the Defense in accordance with their discovery obligations … shall be used solely for the purposes of preparing a defense in this matter.”
Merchan’s order said anyone with access to the evidence being turned over to Trump’s team by state prosecutors “shall not copy, disseminate or disclose” the material to third parties, including social media platforms, “without prior approval from the court.”
It also singles out Trump, saying he is allowed to review sensitive “Limited Dissemination Materials” from prosecutors only in the presence of his lawyers and “shall not be permitted to copy, photograph, transcribe, or otherwise independently possess the Limited Dissemination Materials.”
In addition, the order restricts Trump from reviewing “forensic images of witness cell phones,” although his lawyers can show him “approved portions” of the images after they get permission from the judge.
That’s all I have for you today. Please feel free to discuss any these or any other topics in the comment thread.
Extra Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: April 29, 2023 Filed under: American Gun Fetish, Cats, caturday, Criminal Justice System, Donald Trump, ethics, SCOTUS | Tags: abortion, AR-15, Dobbs decision, Jane Roberts, John Roberts, mass shootings, nuclear weapons, Samuel Alito, stolen classified documents case, Texas, Trump fund-raising, Ukraine, Wire fraud 14 Comments
I’m getting a very slow start this morning. It feels like everything is kind of awful today, as it often is lately. The politics news is bad enough, but sadly there’s been another mass shooting and the perpetrator is still at large. Not surprisingly, it’s in Texas, and of course the weapon was an AR-15.
ABC News: 5 dead in Texas ‘execution-style’ shooting, suspect armed with AR-15 is on the loose.
Five people are dead after being shot in a Texas home by a suspect armed with an AR-15 style rifle in a horrific series of “execution style” shootings, police said.
A manhunt is currently underway for the suspect, identified by police as 39-year-old Francisco Oropeza, according to ABC station KTRK in Houston.
A judge has issued an arrest warrant for Oropeza and assigned a $5 million bond. Authorities believe Oropeza left by walking or on a bicycle and is currently within a two mile radius of the scene, KTRK reported.
Police said the incident occurred at 11:31 p.m. local time on Friday when officials from the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office received a call about harassment in the town of Cleveland, about 55 miles north of Houston.
When authorities arrived at the location, they found several victims shot at the property, police said. Three of the deceased were females and two were males, including the youngest, an 8-year-old boy.
Two female victims were discovered in the bedroom lying on top of two surviving children, authorities told ABC News.
Three minors were located uninjured, but covered in blood. They were transported to a local hospital.
Police said they believe the massacre occurred after neighbors asked the suspect to stop shooting his gun in the front yard because there was a baby trying to sleep.
“My understanding is that the victims, they came over to the fence and said ‘Hey could [you not do your] shooting out in the yard? We have a young baby that’s trying to go to sleep,” and he had been drinking and he says ‘I’ll do what I want to in my front yard,'” San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told KTRK.
WTF?! I’m at a complete loss for words. There’s more insanity at the link.
Yesterday we got more shocking news about our out-of-control Supreme Court.
Sammy Alito gave a pathetic, whiny interview to James Taranto and David Rivkin of The Wall Street Journal: Justice Samuel Alito: ‘This Made Us Targets of Assassination.’
Justice Samuel Alito was supposed to speak to law students at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., but when they showed up, he wasn’t there….
It wasn’t a lingering fear of Covid-19. In a mid-April interview in his chambers, Justice Alito fills us in on the May 12, 2022, event: “Our police conferred with the George Mason Police and the Arlington Police and they said, ‘It’s not a good idea. He shouldn’t come here. . . . The security problems will be severe.’ So I ended up giving the speech by Zoom,” he says. “Still, there were so many protesters and they were so loud that you could hear them.”
By now a noisy mob of law students may sound like any other school day, but last May also was a tumultuous time for the court. The preceding week, someone had leaked a draft of Justice Alito’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a landmark abortion case that wouldn’t be decided until late June….
He now says that the leak “created an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. We worked through it, and last year we got our work done. This year, I think, we’re trying to get back to normal operations as much as we can. . . . But it was damaging.”
It was damaging for millions of American women and for doctors too, but Sammy is oblivious to that. Alito also believes he knows who the leaker is.
“I personally have a pretty good idea who is responsible, but that’s different from the level of proof that is needed to name somebody,” he says. He’s certain about the motive: “It was a part of an effort to prevent the Dobbs draft . . . from becoming the decision of the court. And that’s how it was used for those six weeks by people on the outside—as part of the campaign to try to intimidate the court.”
That campaign included unlawful assemblies outside justices’ homes, and that wasn’t the worst of it. “Those of us who were thought to be in the majority, thought to have approved my draft opinion, were really targets of assassination,” Justice Alito says. “It was rational for people to believe that they might be able to stop the decision in Dobbs by killing one of us.” On June 8, an armed man was arrested outside the home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh; the suspect was later charged with attempted assassination and has pleaded not guilty.
This man is delusional. No one suggested preventing the decision by murdering one of the justices. People peacefully demonstrated outside their homes. One crazy guy showed up outside Kavanaugh’s house and then turned himself into to police without doing anything.
He adds that “I don’t feel physically unsafe, because we now have a lot of protection.” He is “driven around in basically a tank, and I’m not really supposed to go anyplace by myself without the tank and my members of the police force.” Deputy U.S. marshals guard the justices’ homes 24/7. (The U.S. Marshals Service, a bureau of the Justice Department, is distinct from the marshal of the court, who reports to the justices and oversees the Supreme Court Police.)
He’s a lot safer than women who are refused care after miscarriages until they are at death’s door, but Sammy couldn’t care less about them. He is also ignorant of the history of protests against Supreme Court justices.
Anyway, read the interview at the the WSJ if you can stomach it.
Yesterday, Insider’s Mattathias Schwartz broke a story about John Roberts ethical problems: Jane Roberts, who is married to Chief Justice John Roberts, made $10.3 million in commissions from elite law firms, whistleblower documents show.
Two years after John Roberts’ confirmation as the Supreme Court’s chief justice in 2005, his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, made a pivot. After a long and distinguished career as a lawyer, she refashioned herself as a legal recruiter, a matchmaker who pairs job-hunting lawyers up with corporations and firms.
Roberts told a friend that the change was motivated by a desire to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest, given that her husband was now the highest-ranking judge in the country. “There are many paths to the good life,” she said. “There are so many things to do if you’re open to change and opportunity.”
And life was indeed good for the Robertses, at least for the years 2007 to 2014. During that eight-year stretch, according to internal records from her employer, Jane Roberts generated a whopping $10.3 million in commissions, paid out by corporations and law firms for placing high-dollar lawyers with them.
That eye-popping figure comes from records in a whistleblower complaint filed by a disgruntled former colleague of Roberts, who says that as the spouse of the most powerful judge in the United States, the income she earns from law firms who practice before the Court should be subject to public scrutiny.
“When I found out that the spouse of the chief justice was soliciting business from law firms, I knew immediately that it was wrong,” the whistleblower, Kendal B. Price, who worked alongside Jane Roberts at the legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, told Insider in an interview. “During the time I was there, I was discouraged from ever raising the issue. And I realized that even the law firms who were Jane’s clients had nowhere to go. They were being asked by the spouse of the chief justice for business worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and there was no one to complain to. Most of these firms were likely appearing or seeking to appear before the Supreme Court. It’s natural that they’d do anything they felt was necessary to be competitive.”
Roberts’ apparent $10.3 million in compensation puts her toward the top of the payscale for legal headhunters. Price’s disclosures, which were filed under federal whistleblower-protection laws and are now in the hands of the House and Senate Judiciary committees, add to the mounting questions about how Supreme Court justices and their families financially benefit from their special status, an area that Senate Democrats are vowing to investigate after a series of disclosure lapses by the justices themselves.
No wonder Roberts is resisting any serious ethics rules for his powerful court. Unfortunately he’s not alone. Even the liberal justices don’t want ethics rules. The three branches of government are supposed to be equal, but the Supremes are behaving as if their branch is more equal than the other two.
ABC News: All 9 Supreme Court justices push back on oversight: ‘Raises more questions,’ Senate chair says.
There’s no conservative-liberal divide on the U.S. Supreme Court when it comes to calls for a new, enforceable ethics code.
All nine justices, in a rare step, on Tuesday released a joint statement reaffirming their voluntary adherence to a general code of conduct but rebutting proposals for independent oversight, mandatory compliance with ethics rules and greater transparency in cases of recusal.
The implication, though not expressly stated, is that the court unanimously rejects legislation proposed by Democrats seeking to impose on the justices the same ethics obligations applied to all other federal judges.
“The justices … consult a wide variety of authorities to address specific ethical issues,” the members of the high court said in a document titled “Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices.”
It appears to be the first time an entire court has publicly explained its approach to ethics issues and attested to specific parts of federal law governing their conduct.
The justices’ statement, appended to a letter from Chief Justice John Roberts to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., appears squarely aimed at answering critics’ concerns and demands from some for outside oversight.
“Without a formal code of conduct, without a way to receive ethics complaints and without a way to investigate them, the Supreme Court has set itself apart from all other federal institutions,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a left-leaning judicial watchdog group that has been lobbying Congress to mandate a high court code.
Durbin said Thursday in a statement that the justices’ explanation of their approach to ethics “raises more questions than it resolves.”
“Make no mistake,” he said, “Supreme Court ethics reform must happen whether the Court participates in the process or not.”
I hope Durbin is prepared to keep pushing this.
Two stories on Trump’s crimes:
The New York Times: Prosecutors in Jan. 6 Case Step up Inquiry Into Trump Fund-Raising.
As they investigate former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, federal prosecutors have also been drilling down on whether Mr. Trump and a range of political aides knew that he had lost the race but still raised money off claims that they were fighting widespread fraud in the vote results, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Led by the special counsel Jack Smith, prosecutors are trying to determine whether Mr. Trump and his aides violated federal wire fraud statutes as they raised as much as $250 million through a political action committee by saying they needed the money to fight to reverse election fraud even though they had been told repeatedly that there was no evidence to back up those fraud claims.
The prosecutors are looking at the inner workings of the committee, Save America PAC, and at the Trump campaign’s efforts to prove its baseless case that Mr. Trump had been cheated out of victory.
In the past several months, prosecutors have issued multiple batches of subpoenas in a wide-ranging effort to understand Save America, which was set up shortly after the election as Mr. Trump’s main fund-raising entity. An initial round of subpoenas, which started going out before Mr. Trump declared his candidacy in the 2024 race and Mr. Smith was appointed by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in November, focused on various Republican officials and vendors that had received payments from Save America.
But more recently, investigators have homed in on the activities of a joint fund-raising committee made up of staff members from the 2020 Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, among others. Some of the subpoenas have sought documents from around Election Day 2020 up the present.
Prosecutors have been heavily focused on details of the campaign’s finances, spending and fund-raising, such as who was approving email solicitations that were blasted out to lists of possible small donors and what they knew about the truth of the fraud claims, according to the people familiar with their work. All three areas overlap, and could inform prosecutors’ thinking about whether to proceed with charges in an investigation in which witnesses are still being interviewed.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Dennis Aftergut at Justia: Trump’s Nonsensical Letter to Congress Attacking the DOJ’s Mar-a-Lago Case Shows He Has No Defense.
On Wednesday, former President Donald Trump’s lawyers sent a desperate, 10-page letter to Rep. Mike Turner, chair of the House Intelligence Committee. The punch line comes in its conclusion: “DOJ should be ordered to stand down” in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s case against Trump for obstructing justice in his 18 months of stonewalling the return of classified documents improperly held at Mar-a-Lago.
Of course, Congress has no such power. Ironically, the letter achieved something completely unintended. It effectively confirmed that Trump has no viable defense against the likely Justice Department charges for Trump’s obstruction.
The letter also revealed for the first time that the classified documents recovered in the August 7, court-approved search of Trump’s country club home may include briefings of foreign leaders.
It’s hard to know what Trump was trying to achieve beyond “spin.” No crimes to see here, the letter lamely contends.
His lawyers assert that Trump didn’t knowingly possess or retain top-secret documents at Mar-a-Lago. His aides were just sloppy, the letter says, in the rushed process of leaving the White House, and Trump didn’t even know the classified documents were there. Even Vice Presidents Mike Pence and Joe Biden inadvertently took classified documents after their time in office.
If these contentions are a preview of Trump’s defenses to an indictment from Smith’s grand jury, Jack Smith can rest easy. The arguments are so abysmally weak that they leave any knowledgeable observer with a simple inference: Trump and his lawyers know an indictment is coming soon and there’s nothing they can do about it but offer smoke and mirrors.
Like asking Congressman Turner to investigate the need for legislation to address the lack of controls on classified documents that elected officials unintentionally take when leaving public service. Here’s the problem for the former president and his letter: Jack Smith has mountains of evidence that contradict Trump’s claim that his improper possession and retention of those classified documents was inadvertent.
Read more at the link.
I haven’t been following the war in Ukraine very closely, but this NYT headline caught my attention: U.S. Wires Ukraine With Radiation Sensors to Detect Nuclear Blasts.
The United States is wiring Ukraine with sensors that can detect bursts of radiation from a nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb and can confirm the identity of the attacker.
In part, the goal is to make sure that if Russia detonates a radioactive weapon on Ukrainian soil, its atomic signature and Moscow’s culpability could be verified.
Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine 14 months ago, experts have worried about whether President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would use nuclear arms in combat for the first time since the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The preparations, mentioned last month in a House hearing and detailed Wednesday by the National Nuclear Security Administration, a federal agency that is part of the Energy Department, seem to constitute the hardest evidence to date that Washington is taking concrete steps to prepare for the worst possible outcomes of the invasion of Ukraine, Europe’s second largest nation.
The Nuclear Emergency Support Team, or NEST, a shadowy unit of atomic experts run by the security agency, is working with Ukraine to deploy the radiation sensors, train personnel, monitor data and warn of deadly radiation.
In a statement sent to The New York Times in response to a reporter’s question, the agency said the network of atomic sensors was being deployed “throughout the region” and would have the ability “to characterize the size, location and effects of any nuclear explosion.” Additionally, it said the deployed sensors would deny Russia “any opportunity to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine without attribution.”
Read more details at the NYT.
I’m going to end there. What else is happening? What stories have captured your interest today?
Thursday Reads: Another Mass Shooting Followed by Nothing but “Thoughts and Prayers”Posted: February 15, 2018 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, American Gun Fetish, Crime, U.S. Politics | Tags: AR-15, Donald Trump, guns, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, NRA, Parkland FL, Russia, school shootings 54 Comments
Good Afternoon, Sky Dancers.
It’s another heartbreaking day in Trump world, in the GOP-controlled USA, where the ability to buy semi-automatic rifles is more important than the health and safety of our children. Why is that? Because the Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the NRA. And Russia: let’s not forget that Russia is in bed with the NRA too.
CNBC: NRA, Russia and Trump: How ‘dark money’ is poisoning American democracy.
It was recently revealed that the FBI is investigating the National Rifle Association to determine whether a Russian central banker, and Putin ally, illegally funneled money through the organization to help the Trump campaign.
These allegations have now prompted a complaint to the Federal Election Commission and an effort by Sen. Ron Wyden to obtain documents from the Treasury Department and the NRA. As shocking as other Russia-related revelations have been — attempts to hack voting machines, vast Internet propaganda, leaking of stolen campaign information — this allegation illustrates a problem of even broader scope. For legal consultation, contact Maryland birth injury lawyers.
Although much of the reporting on Russia has focused on whether there was “collusion” with the Trump campaign — a genuine concern — the investigation is also revealing another disquieting reality: that American democracy has a money laundering problem. On other law related article about accidents and injuries just visit Call 1800-Car-Wreck in Ft Worth, TX.
Both in their personal finances and in their campaign support, politicians are relying on money hidden to the public, money which threatens to make them answerable to interests beyond those of the citizens they represent. The only way to combat this problem is to start shining a light on the dark corners of our politics….
Moreover, in the case of the NRA, the FBI is now investigating whether illicit funds were spent in support of Trump’s political campaign. Wehave long warned that our broken system of campaign finance disclosure creates opportunities for foreign governments to illegally influence American elections, undetected.
The NRA is among the largest “dark money” organizations, reporting the greatest amount of campaign spending without revealing the source of the funds — over $35 million in the 2016 election cycle alone. Still, this amount was just a fraction of the over $175 million in reportedcampaign-related spending that came from unknown sources.
Could this explain why some Republicans who have spoken out against Trump (e.g., Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker) have suddenly switched to sucking up? Are they being blackmailed by Trump, the NRA, or Russia?
Here’s another article on the NRA and Russia by Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone: The Trump-Russia-NRA Connection: Here’s What You Need to Know.
The National Rifle Association spent tens of millions of dollars backing Trump’s presidential bid in 2016. The NRA endorsed Trump in May 2016. And the NRA disclosed it spent at least $30 million on Trump’s behalf and attacking Hillary Clinton. That level of support is unprecedented – more than twice what the NRA disclosed it spent on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential run.
The true sum the NRA spent to install Trump in the White House may be far higher. Campaign finance disclosures do not cover spending on unregulated Internet advertising or voter mobilization; citing two sources close to the gun group, McClatchy suggests the NRA may have spent upwards of $70 million on Trump’s presidential bid.
President Trump is clearly indebted: “You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you,” Trump promised the NRA at its 2017 convention. “I will never, ever let you down.” [….]
In the age of Citizens United and unlimited campaign donations, the NRA has emerged as an important “dark money” hub in Republican politics. Under its tax code designation, the NRA is a “social welfare” organization, largely exempt from disclosing its donors. To skirt disclosure, other big-dollar political players – including a SuperPAC linked to Karl Rove and a “chamber of commerce” controlled by the Koch Brothers – have routinely steered money into the NRA, confident that the gun group’s spending will advance the GOP cause.
It is illegal, however, for foreign money to be used to influence U.S. elections. According to McClatchy, the heart of the FBI investigation is whether the NRA became a conduit for Russian cash, linked to the Kremlin, that bolstered Trump.
Trump was the perfect candidate for Russia and the NRA, because he has no moral values whatsoever. He’s the culmination of the GOP sellout that began with the Southern strategy, grew with the acceptance of evangelical “christian” “values,” and reached peak evil by bowing down to Russia in 2016. There’s no hope for our country as long as Republicans remain in control of the government. We will continue to see mass shootings on an almost daily basis until we can get turn these NRA/Russia-controlled automatons out of office.
How many more times will we have to see scenes of children running for their lives and sobbing in their parents’ arms on our TV and computer screens? Writing about yesterday’s disaster in Parkland, Florida feels nearly unbearable; but I guess I at least have to post some articles about it. So here we go.
The New York Times: Death Toll Is at 17 and Could Rise in Shooting.
PARKLAND, Fla. — A heavily armed young man barged into his former high school about an hour northwest of Miami on Wednesday, opening fire on terrified students and teachers and leaving a death toll of 17 that could rise even higher, the authorities said.
Students huddled in horror in their classrooms, with some of them training their cellphones on the carnage, capturing sprawled bodies, screams and gunfire that began with a few shots and then continued with more and more. The dead included students and adults, some of whom were shot outside the school and others inside the sprawling three-story building.
The gunman, armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, was identified as Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from the school, the authorities said. He began his shooting rampage outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in this suburban neighborhood shortly before dismissal time around 2:40 p.m. He then made his way inside and proceeded down hallways he knew well, firing at students and teachers who were scurrying for cover, the authorities said.
By the end of the rampage, Mr. Cruz had killed 12 people inside the school and three outside it, including someone standing on a street corner, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. Two more victims died of their injuries in local hospitals. The aftermath at the school was an eerie shrine, with chairs upended, a computer screen shattered with bullet holes and floors stained with blood.
On Thursday, the authorities charged Mr. Cruz with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
“This is catastrophic,” said Sheriff Israel, who has three children who graduated from the high school. “There really are no words.”
Here are some words: let’s clean house of the blood-soaked Republicans who care more about their blood money than about democracy or our children’s lives. Then let’s pass some intelligent gun control laws so we don’t have to have any more bloody massacres in our children’s schools.
John Cassidy at The New Yorker: America’s Failure to Protect Its Children from School Shootings Is a National Disgrace. Following a summary of the events of the mass shooting, Cassidy writes:
On Twitter, President Donald Trump offered his “prayers and condolences to the families of the victims,” adding that “no child, teacher, or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.” Fox News interviewed Marco Rubio, Florida’s junior senator, who has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. “I hope people reserve judgment…. The facts of this are important,” Rubio said. As soon as the facts are clear, Rubio went on, “we can have a deeper conversation about why these things happen.” The forty-six-year-old Republican added, “It’s a terrible situation. It’s amazing the amount of carnage that one individual can carry out in such a short period of time.”
Yet some pertinent facts are already known. According to local police, Cruz was armed with an AR-15 assault-style rifle—the same type of gun that Adam Lanza used to kill twenty-six pupils and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in December, 2012. Evidently, Rubio still isn’t aware of the power of such weapons, which fire bullets that can penetrate a steel helmet from a distance of five hundred yards. When fired from close range at civilians who aren’t wearing body armor, the bullets from an AR-15 don’t merely penetrate the human body—they tear it apart. It “looks like a grenade went off in there,” Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon at the University of Arizona, told Wired.
To spare the families of the victims—and the public at large—additional anguish, these sorts of details are often glossed over in the aftermath of mass shootings. But it’s surely long past time that we acknowledged these facts, and that we begin to more fully discuss the complicity of N.R.A.-backed politicians like Rubio, and Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, in maintaining the environment that allows these tragedies to happen again and again and again.
One of the first duties of any government is to protect its citizens, through collective action, from violent threats they’d otherwise have to fend off themselves. Even most libertarians accept this principle. But when it comes to mass shootings, the Republican Party falls back on constitutional arguments that have no proper basis in history, and it refuses to budge from this stance. Nothing can shift it—not Sandy Hook, not the Orlando night-club shooting, not the Las Vegas massacre, not weekly shootings in schools. (According to the Guardian, Wednesday’s attack in Parkland was the eighth school shooting this year that has resulted in death or injury.) Nothing.
That’s right. And nothing will happen this time. Absolutely nothing.
More reads, links only
The New York Times: After Sandy Hook, More Than 400 People Have Been Shot in Over 200 School Shootings.
The Miami Herald: Amid massacre, a story of courage: Football coach stepped in front of bullets, reports say.
The Miami Herald: Florida school shooting suspect was ex-student who was flagged as threat.
Buzz Feed: The FBI Was Warned About A School Shooting Threat From A YouTube User Named Nikolas Cruz In September.
The Daily Beast: Florida Shooter Made Sick Use of School’s Active-Shooter Drill.
NBC News: Who is Nikolas Cruz? Florida school shooter joked about guns and worried classmates.
Business Insider: A student shared chilling photos trapped inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the shooting.
That’s all I have for today. Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.
Blue Blue Monday Reads and Yes! Let’s politicize homophobia and gun fetishists!Posted: June 13, 2016 Filed under: 2016 elections, American Gun Fetish, Barack Obama, Breaking News, children, Domestic Policy, Donald Trump, FBI, Gun Control | Tags: AR-15, mass shootings, NRA, Orlando Shooting 68 Comments
Once again we see the results of toxic religious zealotry and resentment whipped up to the point that some nutter feels compelled to kill in the case of the Orlando massacre. This occurs all too frequently in this country. You may recall the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting where we saw Robert Dear go on a shooting spree with the same deadly combination of anger whipped up by right wing politicians and preachers, mental illness, and easy access to weapons. One claimed ISIS inspiration and Islamofascism. The other was inspired by Christofascists in the US that bring you terror in the name of Fetus Fetishism.
We still haven’t heard about the motives of the Indiana man–a 20 year old white guy–in terms of why he was going after participants and viewers of a California Gay Pride parade. Suffice it to say, the politicization of the private lives of the GLBT community by Republicans, their presidential candidate, and the various religious whackos that they court likely will come into play at some point.
Harassing and encouraging anger is just one political tool used regularly by Republicans these days. I have noticed that the silence is deafening right now on James Wesley Howell. The press can is clearly focused on the bloodbath and the sensational background of the Pulse Shooter rather than wondering why we manage to get bigger and badder displays of hatred and anger these days. I’m not sure that most people realize that any Abrahamic-based religion is going to beget violence in some folks. It goes with territory. A few of them take retribution and strict commandments from their angry sky fairy way too seriously. This is especially the case if they have some kind of severe emotional or mental disorder.
(Spoiler Alert) It’s the easy access to guns of all kinds in this country. The irresponsible and cynical use of anger and outrage to gain power and money is out of control. Religion is just another vehicle to whip up the anger and the outrage and it frequently turns deadly.
The weapon of choice for mass shooters is the AR-15 rifle. This is one of the weapons that was included in the assault weapons ban signed by Bill Clinton in 1994 that expired in 2004. The rifle was used in Orlando, Aurora, Newton, and San Bernadino. It’s easily obtainable and the latest shooter–who had a history of Domestic Violence and was under the eye of the FBI for terrorist rantings–had a license to carry it and to obtain it legally. Let that sink in.
There were calls to ban the weapon after the Newtown shootings, which led to a spike in sales. Gun manufacturers have called the AR-15 one of the most popular weapons in the U.S., with more than 3 million estimated to be in circulation.
“It was designed for the United States military to do to enemies of war exactly what it did this morning: kill mass numbers of people with maximum efficiency and ease,” lawyer Josh Koskoff, who’s representing Newtown families in their lawsuit against the gun industry, said Sunday.
Regulations on magazine capacity for the weapon vary from state to state, but it can fire 45 rounds a minute.
Most forms of the gun had been prohibited under the 1994 federal assault weapons ban that was allowed to expire in 2004, following ferocious lobbying by the National Rifle Association.
The NRA has used its lobbying might in the years since to bury attempts to revive the ban.
“During the decade of the ban, there were half as many casualties in mass shootings as the decade before, and a third as many casualties in mass shootings as the decade after,” said Richard Aborn of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, a strategist involved in the original legislation.
Hillary Clinton has called for a renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban that her husband signed in his first term. This is one of the reasons that I am so happy she is the nominee. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has some extremely neoconfederate views of gun control that he reiterated yesterday. He believes it is a state and local issue, voted against the Brady Bill many many times, and has supported relieving gun manufacturers and stores of any liability for the damage done by their product.
Hillary Clinton has called for the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban in the wake of the worst mass shooting in American history that left 49 people and the gunman dead at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
In forthright comments a day after the massacre at the Pulse Club, the presumptive presidential nominee for the Democratic party issued a call for a return to “commonsense gun safety reform” and lambasted the Republican-controlled Congress for what she called a “totally incomprehensible” refusal to address the country’s lax gun laws.
“We can’t fall into the trap set up by the gun lobby that says if you cannot stop every shooting you shouldn’t try to stop any,” she said.
Clinton’s tough stance on gun control sets up a torrid fight with her Republican rival for the White House Donald Trump, who has positioned himself as a champion of the second amendment and dismissed any calls for greater gun controls as weakness. She insisted that while she did believe that law-abiding American citizens have the right to own guns, it was also possible to see that “reasonable, commonsense measures” could be taken that would make people more safe from guns.
One of the things that stuns me is the ease with which a guy on the FBI threat radar could get a permit to carry and purchase a rifle that no civilian should own.
A day after the deadliest mass shooting in US history, questions are mounting over why the shooter Omar Mateen was legally able to buy an assault rifle and handgun despite having been investigated twice by the FBI for suspected terrorist sympathies.
Mateen, 29, launched his attack on Pulse club, an LGBT venue in downtown Orlando celebrating its popular Latin dance night, at 2.02am on Sunday morning.
Twenty minutes into the spree he took the bizarre step of making a 911 call in which he reportedly referred both to Islamic State and the Tsarnaevs, the brothers who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013.
Sunday’s attack – which left 49 clubgoers dead and 53 injured – was launched by Mateen using a .223-caliber assault rifle and 9mm semi-automatic pistol with multiple rounds of ammunition that had been purchased quite lawfully in the week before the rampage using Mateen’s firearms license. Mateen was shot dead by police.
He also held a permit to work as a security guard, which he did at a courthouse in Port St Lucie, Florida, even though he was interviewed three times by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 following separate reports of extremist behavior and connections to terrorism that were in the end deemed insubstantial.
Mateen was released because no evidence of wrongdoing was found by the FBI. He’s a natural born American so that provides him the usual protections. This is something that appears to have blown completely pass Donald Trump whose rhetoric and bragging were dialed up to 11 yesterday. He revisited his call to ban all Muslims from entering the country despite the fact that all three of the shooters claiming support for Islamofascim–Nidal Hassn (Fort Hood),Syed Rizwan Farook, (San Bernardino) , and Mateen (Orlando)–were American citizens. Only Farook’s wife–Tashfeen Malik–was foreign born.
The presumptive Republican nominee pulled no punches in a lengthy statement yesterday, going so far as to call for Barack Obama to resign and reiterating his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States (despite the fact that the shooter was born in New York).
“In his remarks today, President Obama disgracefully refused to even say the words ‘Radical Islam’. For that reason alone, he should step down,” Trump said in his press release. “If Hillary Clinton, after this attack, still cannot say the two words ‘Radical Islam’ she should get out of this race for the Presidency. If we do not get tough and smart real fast, we are not going to have a country anymore. Because our leaders are weak, I said this was going to happen – and it is only going to get worse. I am trying to save lives and prevent the next terrorist attack. We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore.”
“We admit more than 100,000 lifetime migrants from the Middle East each year. Since 9/11, hundreds of migrants and their children have been implicated in terrorism in the United States,” Trump added. “Hillary Clinton wants to dramatically increase admissions from the Middle East, bringing in many hundreds of thousands during a first term – and we will have no way to screen them, pay for them, or prevent the second generation from radicalizing.” (To be fair, this mischaracterizes Clinton’s position.)
The statement followed a stream of self-congratulatory tweets.
Clinton has decided to adopt the use of radical Islam. Let’s hope she will also be brave enough to point out radical Christians like Ted Cruz’s “Kill the Gays” pastor or the horrid group at Westborough Baptist Church. She used the term on several morning news shows today.
Hillary Clinton on Monday broke from President Barack Obama in referring to the terrorist attack as “radical Islamism,” countering Donald Trump’s accusations that both she and Obama are weak on tackling terrorist threats.
In an interview with NBC’s “Today” on Monday morning, Clinton said words matter less than actions, but that she didn’t have a problem using the term.
“And from my perspective, it matters what we do, not what we say. It matters that we got Bin Laden, not what name we called him,” Clinton said. “But if he is somehow suggesting I don’t call this for what it is, he hasn’t been listening. I have clearly said we face terrorist enemies who use Islam to justify slaughtering people. We have to stop them and we will. We have to defeat radical jihadist terrorism, and we will.”
Both terms “mean the same thing,” Clinton continued, adding, “And to me, radical jihadism, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I’m happy to say either, but that’s not the point.”
“I have clearly said many, many times we face terrorist enemies who use Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people. We have to stop them and we will. We have to defeat radical jihadist terrorism or radical Islamism, whatever you call it,” Clinton said later on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” reiterating, “it’s the same.”
The U.S. cannot, on the other hand, she added, “demonize, demagogue and declare war on an entire religion.” Clinton also said she could assure Americans that she is equally committed to fighting Islamic extremism as well as protecting law-abiding Muslims.
The President spoke on the radicalization of Mateen several hours ago.
President Obama said Monday that the Orlando mass murder was “inspired” by violent extremist propaganda on the internet and there’s no evidence the killing spree was ordered by ISIS.
“We see no clear evidence that he was directed externally,” Obama said from the Oval Office, using another name from the Islamic State terror group. “It does appear that at the last minute he announced allegiance to ISIL.”
Obama said investigators are tracing Omar Mateen’s “pathway” to murder by reviewing his internet searches and other materials.
“It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet,” Obama said.
“All those materials are currently being searched … so we will have a better sense of pathway that the killer took in the making a decision to launch this attack.”
Obama made the brief remarks after meeting with FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other security officials.
The Orlando shooting and the shooting that might have been in California both are rooted in hate and easy access to guns. Both shooter and potential shooter had histories of mental illness. The Orlando shooter had a history of Domestic violence which in many states would stop him from getting access to any gun. Clearly, we have a problem in this country with hate and guns turned on the hapless population. One of our political parties has weaponized hatred and bigotry then enabled shooters by catering to all the whims of the most radical elements of the NRA gun lobby.
Clinton is right. This has to end on all accounts.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Lazy Saturday Reads: Bernie Sanders, Vermont, and GunsPosted: April 9, 2016 Filed under: Corporate Crime, corporate greed, court rulings, Crime, Criminal Justice System, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: AR-15, assault weapons, Aurora theater shooting, Bernie Sanders, mass murder, New York Daily News, NRA, Sandy Hook massacre 121 Comments
On Thursday, I wrote about Bernie Sanders’ embarrassing interview with The New York Daily News. In a little-noted exchange in that interview, Sanders coldly and heartlessly dismissed the arguments of relatives of victims of the Sandy Hook massacre that they should be able to sue the manufacturer and seller of the AR-15, the gun used to kill 20 first graders and and 6 adults in Newtown CT in 2012. I mentioned that I had more to say about Sanders’ stance on guns and Vermont’s almost non-existent gun laws.
Once again, here is that exchange with the NY Daily News editorial board:
Daily News: There’s a case currently waiting to be ruled on in Connecticut. The victims of the Sandy Hook massacre are looking to have the right to sue for damages the manufacturers of the weapons. Do you think that that is something that should be expanded?
Sanders: Do I think the victims of a crime with a gun should be able to sue the manufacturer, is that your question?
Daily News: Correct.
Sanders: No, I don’t.
Daily News: Let me ask you. I know we’re short on time. Two quick questions. Your website talks about…
Sanders: No, let me just…I’m sorry. In the same sense that if you’re a gun dealer and you sell me a gun and I go out and I kill him [gestures to someone in room]…. Do I think that that gun dealer should be sued for selling me a legal product that he misused? [Shakes head no.] But I do believe that gun manufacturers and gun dealers should be able to be sued when they should know that guns are going into the hands of wrong people. So if somebody walks in and says, “I’d like 10,000 rounds of ammunition,” you know, well, you might be suspicious about that. So I think there are grounds for those suits, but not if you sell me a legal product.
Sanders argued this case on the Thom Hartmann radio show on the afternoon of the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Hunter Walker at Yahoo News, Jan. 9, 2016: Sanders defended protections for gun manufacturers on the day of the Newtown massacre.
Sanders appeared on The Thom Hartmann Program in the hours after the shooting, on Dec. 14, 2012. On the show, he was asked if the parents of the victims had “any recourse against the gun manufacturer.” Sanders suggested he would seek solutions that did not place blame on firearms makers.
“I don’t know that you hold a gun manufacturer responsible for what obviously a deranged person does. The issue is what is the best way forward to prevent these types of horrible occurrences? How do we make sure the guns do not get into the hands of people who are mentally ill? How do we make sure that people own guns which are only designed to kill people not to be used for hunting or target practices? So I mean there’s a lot to be discussed, and I think we’ve got to do something. We don’t want to read about this every month. So, it is an issue we’re going to have to address,” Sanders said.
Although Hillary Clinton did not in fact ever say that Sanders is “unqualified” to be POTUS, I personally believe that his views on guns should disqualify him from running for president as a Democrat.
The assault weapon used in the Sandy Hook massacre is a gun that is, in Bernie’s words, “designed to kill people, not to used for hunting or target practice.” Nevertheless, Bernie argues that the relatives of the Sandy Hook victims should not be able to sue the gun manufacturer for heavily promoting the popular AR-15 assault weapon that Adam Lanza used to kill 20 first graders and 6 adults on December 14, 2012.
Sanders often defends his stance on guns by talking about his largely rural home state, Vermont where hunting is valued and where the murder rate is incredibly low. This is true, but Vermont does is not an island in a bubble that has no effect on other states.
Vermont’s loose laws allow gun traffickers to easily and cheaply buy weapons in Sanders’ state and sell them in urban areas in Massachusetts, New York and other northeastern states where gun laws are much stricter. The Boston Globe has published multiple articles about this serious problem over the past several years. The problem is tied up with the drug trade as well. Here’s just one example from the Globe from April 2014:
Drugs-for-guns traffic troubles police in Mass., Vt.
Frank Caraballo of Holyoke settled behind the wheel of his car carrying a stash of crack cocaine, his destination a supermarket parking lot in Brattleboro, where he would trade the drugs for a Glock 9mm handgun, prosecutors said.
It was a journey — and a deal — all too familiar to law enforcement authorities who have watched with increasing alarm as narcotics from Massachusetts are ferried to Vermont and swapped for guns that are plentiful and cheap.
And as the case of Frank Caraballo showed, the drugs-for-guns trade can end with deadly consequences: A few weeks after Caraballo purchased the gun in 2011, a woman whom he suspected had stolen from him was shot dead with a Glock 9mm in rural Vermont. Last October, Caraballo was convicted in the killing.
“You don’t know which one came first, the chicken or the egg, but guns are being traded for drugs, and drug dealers are coming here with their product,” said Jim Mostyn, the Vermont agent in charge for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. “Drug dealers are aware that guns are readily available here.”
It’s an excellent article, and I hope you’ll read the rest. This is why we need Federal gun laws. Why isn’t Bernie Sanders addressing this issue that is hurting people in Vermont as well as Massachusetts and other states? Why isn’t the media asking him about it?
Here’s another article from July 2015 published by In These Times, which has endorsed Bernie Sanders.
The Vermont-New York Heroin-and-Guns Carousel That Can Make Dealers a 1,400% Profit. The headline focuses on NYC, but Massachusetts is also a big part of the story.
Pssst. Want an unregistered semi-automatic handgun, some heroin and a way to make a 1,400 percent profit?
First, the gun. In Vermont, you can legally buy it through a “private” sale at a gun show, yard sale, online or from a dealer. Doesn’t matter if you’re a convicted murderer with a history of mental illness and a restraining order for domestic abuse. Anyone 16 or older with $600 can, for example, go to Armslist.com and arrange with a “private party” in Arlington, Vt., to pick up a “Zastava M92 PV 7.62 x 39 cal. semi auto pistol that has a 10 inch barrel, comes with 2 each 30 round clips.” The Serbian assault weapon is, the ad notes, the “very cool … pistol version of the AK-47.”
Then, if you are willing to break the law, you can drive the weapon to New York, where semi-automatic handguns are banned, and sell it for triple the Vermont price. You can invest the $1,800 in heroin. Back in Vermont, where heroin is in relatively short supply, you can resell it for five times the New York cost and garner $9,000—a quick 1,400 percent profit.
Guns a ridiculously easy to get in Vermont.
Vermont has some of the loosest gun laws in the country. You can legally buy 50-caliber sniper rifles with scopes, sawed-off shotguns, semiautomatic pistols that can kill a moose, and armor-piercing bullets. No background check, no waiting period or limit on how many guns you can buy or own. You can use a false name and need no identification or registration. The magazine size is not restricted. And you can display the new gun on your hip or stuff it in your underpants for all the state cares. All legal. And as long as you “don’t know” the firearms will be used for criminal purposes, you can immediately resell the guns to a 21-year-old with racist insignias on his jacket, two prison escapees from upstate New York, a whacked-out drug dealer, a certified paranoid with a tinfoil hat, or a drunk 16-year-old (that’s the age to own a handgun without parental consent; there’s no age restriction on possessing a rifle or shotgun)….
We have seen that, like maple syrup, firearms cross state lines. One makes your pancakes delicious, the other fuels crime and murder. “Firearm traffickers travel to Vermont for the purchase of firearms from unlicensed sources and then travel back to more restrictive states,” Massachusetts Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent Christopher J. Arone tells In These Times. Vermont exports more guns per capita than any other New England state and ranks 16th nationwide. Hundreds of crime-linked guns originally purchased there have been recovered by out-of-state law enforcement.
Again, please read the whole thing. If Sanders were truly the courageous leader he claims to be, he should be able to have some influence on this situation. Instead, he simply accepts it because Vermont’s guns aren’t killing Vermonters–they are killing people in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and other nearby states.
Bernie’s cowardly stance on guns is beginning to get more attention as we approach the New York primary on April 19, and I hope he will be forced to answer some tough questions about they way his own state is contributing to crime in other states and his state’s absence of serious gun laws is leading to hundreds of deaths from heroin in Vermont.
Politico: Families of mass shooting victims sound off on Sanders.
At a heated press conference outside of City Hall in New York City on Friday, families of those affected by mass shootings urged the Vermont senator to apologize for his recent comments on guns, reiterating calls that some of them said were previously unanswered and dismissed….
Erica Smegielski, the 30-year-old daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary Principal Dawn Hochsprung, complained during Friday’s press conference — excerpts and audio of which the Clinton campaign emailed to reporters afterwards — that Sanders had ignored her call to admit his stance on the lawsuit is wrong and instead attacked his rival in the Democratic presidential primary.
“It is so shameful that you ignored my call for an apology and when pushed by a reporter, instead of responding to me, you attacked Hillary Clinton,” Smegielski said.
Sandy Phillips, who lost her daughter Jessica Ghawi during the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012, said that Sanders had treated her family disrespectfully during a phone call.
“Bernie promised to meet with us face to face,” she said about Sanders, who has been campaigning in New York. “We did have a telephone conversation, he was 15 minutes late to that telephone conversation. The first thing he had the nerve to say to my husband was ‘I’m very busy,’” she said. “Well Senator Sanders, we had been busy too. We had been busy burying our daughter.”
“Because of Bernie Sanders and others who voted like him, I and other Sandy Hook families are waiting for justice,” said Jillian Soto, who lost her sister Victoria at Sandy Hook. “I believe Remington acted irresponsibly and should be held accountable. I deserve for a jury to determine that, not the politicians in Washington, like Bernie Sanders.”
“Remington and others designed and executed an immoral marketing campaign that specifically targets violent-prone, military-obsessed young men and the result is both predictable and deadly,” she added. “Our families want the marketers, distributors, and sellers of the AR-15 held accountable for what happened at Sandy Hook. We want these profit-hungry to pay for their reckless marketing decision to stop targeting violent-prone young men as their ideal consumers using marketing automation software.”
Read the rest at Politico. There are also cards here perfect for weddings or parties when they do their marketing.
I know there is much more interesting news today. What stories are you following? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a relaxing weekend.