Monday Reads: and the beat goes on

5a07c9c80ea19b926bd8bac117a57dbbWhat can be said about the violence erupting around the country and around the world these days?  Words can fail us. We’re losing hearts and minds along with lives.  How did we get here?  I hope we don’t have to wait on historians to deconstruct the causes because we’re careening towards a future that seems better imagined by George Miller and Byron Kennedy of Mad Max fame.  Dystopian fiction should not actually portend reality. It should be a harbinger of possibilities we can avoid; not outcomes we bring on to ourselves.

Today will be another reminder that one of the two major parties has completely lost its ability to govern and is stuck some where  we should not be.  We have the Republicans about ready to nominate a dude that reminds me of the Dennis Hopper character in Water World.   Trump sounds as crazy as that character.  I’m waiting to hear his big convention floor speech and wondering if he’ll be waving a cigar and a bottle of Jack and be wearing an eye patch, frankly.  We’re losing our sense of community and our sense of responsibility as members of community.

Our sense of alienation perhaps comes from  a world where we are more likely to connect with technology than with a human being and where our jobs are continually dehumanizing us. This generally makes us susceptible to folks that play on our anger. We’ve had two very angry pseudo populists on the national stage who really represent privilege that have done a great job of stirring up resentment.   They’ve also stirred up some insane reaction to that visible resentment.  I personally am watching my neighborhood be torn apart by already rich people looking to make more money by dismantling everything and every one deemed unprofitable.  I feel like I only exist to many of them as a possible source of monetization although I can tell I’ve outlived my usefulness for that as an aging woman of little means these days.

How did we get to a point where one of the two major parties is actually going to nominate a man whose speeches call for the dismantling of the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth amendments to our Constitution? Are we so far down the rabbit hole that we’ll actually sell out the rule of law for guns and anger?

Trump has from the start of his campaign sparked controversy with statements, actions, and proposals that disregard the First Amendment. He and his aides have created blacklists of journalists, and the candidate has expressed an interest inrewriting libel laws in order to intimidate, punish, and potentially silence critics of powerful individuals and interests. Trump has, as well, proposed schemes to discriminate against Muslims and to spy on mosques and neighborhoods where Muslims live—with steady disregard for the amendment’s guarantee of protection for America’s diverse religious communities.

But that’s just the beginning of Trump’s assaults on the Constitution. Trump has encouraged the use of torture and blatantly disregarded privacy protections that have been enshrined in the founding document since the 18th century. He has attacked the basic premises of a constitutionally defined separation of powers, with rhetorical assaults on individual jurists and the federal judiciary so extreme that House Speaker Paul Ryan described one such attack as  “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” He has proposed instituting religious tests. He has shown open and consistent disregard for the promise that all Americans will receive equal protection under the law.

Many of us have long harbored the idea that today’s Republican Party only cares about the idea of a Second Amendment on steroids and Waterworld-Hopperthe rest of our civil liberties and rights should be damned.  The realities of what I used to believe were brief moments of paranoia are just on full display this week.  Have you seen the pictures of the up-armored bicycle police in Cleveland?  I mean, how Clockwork Orange is that? Don’t even get me started on the entire idea of letting folks with assault rifles into the protest pits to strut around like dildo-toting S&M bondage RPers who are likely trigger happy. We just had three police officers ambushed and killed in Baton Rouge and the response is to let more crazies out on the streets with guns?  Really?  Really?

Hours after the head of Cleveland’s police union pleaded with the governorto suspend Ohio’s open-carry laws during the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump’s spokesperson told ThinkProgress she is “not nervous at all” that people are walking around the city with assault weapons.

“I am recommending that people follow the law,” Katrina Pierson said Sunday when asked whether she believes people should arm themselves in the convention zone. Under Ohio law, residents over 21 years old who legally own a firearm can openly carry it in public.

In light of the shooting and death of three police officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday, the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association asked for an emergency suspension of the state’s open-carry law for the duration of the Republican National Convention.

“We are sending a letter to Gov. [John] Kasich requesting assistance from him,” union president Stephen Loomis told CNN. “He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point.” Kasich denied the union’s request.

The violence in Louisiana on Sunday was only the latest in a series of deadly clashes between police and civilians over the past few weeks. When an angry, heavily-armed civilian began shooting at police during a Dallas Black Lives Matter protest earlier this month, the state’s open-carry law made it difficult for police to track down the assailant. Officers mistook at least one legally armed resident for a suspect, and the proliferation of guns made it more difficult for them to determine who posed a threat.

In the weeks leading up to the RNC, Cleveland officials expressed concern that Ohio’s law, like Texas’, would create a dangerous and hectic environment outside the convention.

2002-British-TVI’m going to put up a few links about what’s been going down in my state but I really have gone past words at some level. I have a few scattered thoughts. First, the two most recent shooters–while being black men–remind me more of Timothy McVeigh than anything coming from BLM.   These recent institutional shooters all have a military background and appear to have spent extensive time in theater over in the Middle East.

The Dallas police shooter was an army Vet and a “loner”.   The Baton Rouge Shooter was a former Marine.   Here’s a list of 22 serial killers with military backgrounds.  Are we really doing a good job of identifying vets with problems and helping them before setting them loose on society again?  Don’t we owe them and ourselves something at all?  If we broke them, shouldn’t we fix them or at least help them in some way to cope with their experiences?

There’s a lot of studies and work that’s been done that show PTSD contributes to violence. Are we just beginning to see some more of the real costs of invading Iraq and Afghanistan and sustaining a brutal ground war?

At the end of their 15-month tour in Iraq, the Lethal Warriors returned to Fort Carson with an impressive battlefield record, having cleared one of the worst parts of Baghdad, in some cases digging up IEDs with little more than screwdrivers and tire irons. Unfortunately, the Lethal Warriors achieved a kind of notoriety that was less for their battlefield exploits than for the battalion’s connection to a string of murders. In December 2007 two soldiers from the unit, Robert James and Kevin Shields, were killed, and three fellow soldiers were charged with murder. The killings were part of a larger pattern of violence extending back to 2005, including 11 murders, in what was the largest killing spree involving a single army base in modern U.S. history.

The increased violence around Fort Carson began at the start of the Iraq war. A 126-page Army report known as an “Epidemiological Consultation” released in 2009 found that the murder rate around the Army’s third-largest post had doubled and that the number of rape arrests had tripled. As David Philipps wrote in Lethal Warriors, his 2010 book about the crime spree, “In the year after the battalion returned from Iraq, the per-capita murder rate for this small group of soldiers was a hundred times greater than the national average.” Tellingly, 2-12’s post-traumatic stress disorder rate was more than three times that of an equivalent unit that had served in a less violent part of Iraq. The EPICON summarized all this in classic bureaucratic language, noting dully that there was “a possible association between increasing levels of combat exposure and risk for negative behavioral outcomes.”

Put another way, war has a way of bringing out the dark side in people.

Road-WarriorOur institutions seem to do be doing that to a lot of people.  Combine that with easy access to military grade weapons and candidates whose stump speeches bring on anger and resentment and you’ve just got some kind of accelerant to death and violence imho anyway.  Mother Jones has started to keep a database on mass shootings and the profiles of the perpetrators is really quite enlightening. This is from 2012 to get you situated.   Here’s the list of the deadliest Mass shootings from 1984 to 2016.  The US is resplendent with well-armed rampage killers. Many of them are trained and experienced killers, quite damaged, and have easy access to weapons.

This is a 2013 Wired article that shows that a lot of the killings at that time were associated with folks with no military experience at all.  A lot of these killers have a fascination with military life styles but that is more along the lines of militias rather than the US military.

The basic pattern found by the New Jersey DHS fusion center, and obtained by Public Intelligence (.PDF), is one of a killer who lashes out at his co-workers. Thirteen out of the 29 observed cases “occurred at the workplace and were conducted by either a former employee or relative of an employee,” the November report finds. His “weapon of choice” is a semiautomatic handgun, rather than the rifles that garnered so much attention after Newtown. The infamous Columbine school slaying of 1999 is the only case in which killers worked in teams: they’re almost always solo acts — and one-off affairs. In every single one of them, the killer was male, between the age of 17 and 49.

They also don’t have military training. Veterans are justifiably angered by the Hollywood-driven meme of the unhinged vet who takes out his battlefield stress on his fellow Americans. (Thanks, Rambo.) In only four of the 29 cases did the shooter have any affiliation with the U.S. military, either active or prior at the time of the slaying, and the fusion center doesn’t mention any wartime experience of the killers. Yet the Army still feels the need to email reporters after each shooting to explain that the killer never served.

How will these recent, targeted shootings of police change our ideas of mass, rampage shooters?  The Baton Rouge shooter has left a huge manifesto on various social media outlets that will likely be analyzed by crime profilers  and psychologists for some time.

Long posted dozens of videos and podcasts on his webpage “Convos With Cosmo” in addition to regularly tweeting and posting on Twitter and Instagram under the pseudonym “Cosmo Setepenra.”

In a video titled “Convos With Cosmo on Protesting, Oppression, and how to deal with Bullies” that was posted a week before Sunday’s shooting, he rants about “fighting back” against “bullies” and discussed the killings of black men at the hands of the police, referencing the death of Sterling, who was shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge earlier this month.

No matter what kinds of lessons we learn about motives or triggers to these kinds of horrible shootings, the one thing we do know is that we have scads of damaged men that have easy access to incredibly powerful weapons wrecking havoc on our communities.  We also know that there is a hard core group of gun fetishists and profiteers that don’t give a damn about that.  While ignoring the perpetual drip drip drip of lost rights from other amendments, the second amendment is being hyped, dosed, and morphed into something that it was never meant to be.  The Republican party is complicit to each and every murder victim.  Machine Guns are not protected by the Second Amendment.

A Texas man who sued the federal government because it wouldn’t approve his application to manufacture a machine gun doesn’t have a constitutional right to possess the automatic weapon, an appeals court ruled.

Jay Hollis sought permission to convert his AR-15, a popular semi-automatic firearm, into an M16 — an automatic firearm that is banned under federal law, except for official use or lawfully obtained pre-1986 models.

After he was rejected, Hollis mounted a constitutional challenge to the Gun Control Act of 1968 — which Congress amended in 1986 to make it illegal to possess or transfer newly manufactured machine guns. Among other things, he argued that an “M-16 is the quintessential militia-styled arm for the modern day.”

In a unanimous ruling issued Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit rejected Hollis’ arguments, categorically noting that “machine guns are not protected arms under the Second Amendment.”

The court explained that the leading Supreme Court precedent on the right to keep and bear arms, 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller, only protected individual handgun possession for “defense of hearth and home.”

“Today … ordinary military weaponry is far more advanced than the weapons typically found at home and used for (self)-defense,” the court said, adding that machine guns are “dangerous and unusual,” and nothing like what militias might have used at the founding of the republic.

“Heller rejected a functionalist interpretation of the Second Amendment premised on the effectiveness of militia service,” the court of appeals said.

Aided by a number of gun rights groups, Hollis had pressed a number of other arguments — that anything that is “ordinary military equipment” is protected, that the Second Amendment really exists to allow a rebellion against the government, and that machine guns aren’t really “dangerous and unusual.”

The 5th Circuit was largely unimpressed, calling the last argument “tantamount to asking us to overrule the Supreme Court.”

We’ve got some major dysfunction in this country that can’t be more clearly represented than by the toxic Trump/Pence ticket.The problem is that a huge portion of our citizenship feels so disenfranchised that they seem to be in search of the end times.  Their viewpoints appear to be funded and shaped by the very folks that are making this happen.  The one thing that’s discouraged me most is that leftists are playing into a similar narrative.

Title: BLADE RUNNER ¥ Pers: SANDERSON, WILLIAM / HANNAH, DARYL ¥ Year: 1982 ¥ Dir: SCOTT, RIDLEY ¥ Ref: BLA040BT ¥ Credit: [ LADD COMPANY/WARNER BROS / THE KOBAL COLLECTION ]

It seems unlikely that Trump will be president.  I’d like to think that Hillary Clinton will be our shero. But, without a full functioning set of government institutions, how are we going to get beyond the Thunderdome? Why are we electing officials whose goal in life appear to be sabotaging our country?  If most people reject Donald Trump, why do we have a Speaker Paul Fucking Ryan whose favorite dystopian fiction writer has an overwhelmingly negative impact our US Policy?

As the GOP convention gets underway in Cleveland today, three national polls released over the weekend showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump: A CNN poll putting Clinton up by 49-42; an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll putting her up by 46-41; and a Washington Post/ABC News poll putting her up by 47-43.

But buried beneath the toplines is evidence of another dynamic that gets at something important about the state of this race: While both Clinton and Trump are very unpopular, large majorities in two of these polls believe that only one of them is qualified for the presidency, and equally large majorities believe that the other one is not.

The new WaPo poll finds, for instance, that Americans say by 59-39 that Clinton is “qualified to serve as president,” but they also say by 60-37 that Trump is “not qualified to serve as president.”

Paul Ryan :: Ayn Désastre :: The Sinking of the S.S. Prospérité

Paul Ryan :: Ayn Désastre :: The Sinking of the S.S. Prospérité

Again, my hope is that Trump/Pence go down yugely and take the likes of Paul Ryan with them. You can’t have one set of them without the others who basically feel the same way but signal their intent with weasel words.

So, obviously, we down here in Louisiana are reeling from all the recent killings.  I think some of the policy prescriptions are obvious otherwise it will be upward and onward with “a bit of the old ultraviolence.”

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?