Lazy Caturday Reads: Young Guns

Belinda Del Pesco

By Belinda Del Pesco

Good Morning!!

It seems as if mass shootings are contagious. Whenever there is a high profile case, more gun violence follows. There have been so many cases of gunmen shooting multiple people lately that the massacre of ten people in Buffalo seems to have receded into the past. But it happened only three weeks ago. It’s difficult not to feel helpless and despairing when these massacres keep happening and one political party stands in the way of the federal government doing anything to prevent them.

From yesterday’s New York Times: Again and Again and Again

In the early hours after the shooting at a Tulsa medical center on Wednesday, the details were murky. Soon, it became clear that the death toll there was not going to be as nearly as high as the tolls from the recent shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo.

Four people were killed in Tulsa (in addition to the gunman), compared with 21 in Uvalde and 10 in Buffalo. But the Tulsa shooting is nonetheless horrific in its own way — not only for its victims and their families but also for what it says about gun violence in the United States.

Shootings that kill multiple people are so common in this country that they often do not even make national news. They are a regular feature of American life. Tulsa has become the latest example — yet another gun crime that seems almost ordinary here and yet would be extremely rare in any other country as wealthy as the U.S.

To give you a sense of how common these shootings are, we’re devoting the rest of the lead item of today’s newsletter to a list of every documented mass shooting in which a gunman has killed at least three people in the U.S. so far this year. (The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as any in which at least four people are shot, including survivors.)

Among the patterns we noticed: Family disputes are a common motivation, and gang disputes are another. Every identified suspect has been a man, many under 25. Baltimore and Sacramento have experienced multiple such mass shootings this year.

Read the list of incidents at the NYT link. On May 25, NPR counted 213 mass shootings in 2022.

Calico-Curiousity-Persis-Clayton-Weirs

Calico Curiousity, by Persis Clayton Weirs

Yesterday, The Washington Post published an interesting article about school shooters: Young men, guns and the prefrontal cortex.

When Vanderbilt University psychiatrist Jonathan Metzl learned that the perpetrator of the Uvalde, Tex., school massacre was a young man barely out of adolescence, it was hard not to think about the peculiarities of the maturing male brain.

Salvador Rolando Ramos had just turned 18, eerily close in age to Nikolas Cruz, who had been 19 when he shot up a school in Parkland, Fla. And to Adam Lanza, 20, when he did the same in Newtown, Conn. To Seung-Hui Cho, 23, at Virginia Tech. And to Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, in Columbine, Colo.

Teen and young adult males have long stood out from other subgroups for their impulsive behavior. They are far more reckless and prone to violence than their counterparts in other age groups, and their leading causes of death include fights, accidents, driving too fast, or, as Metzl put it, “other impulsive kinds of acts.”

“There’s a lot of research about how their brains are not fully developed in terms of regulation,” he said.

Perhaps most significantly, studies show, the prefrontal cortex, which is critical to understanding the consequences of one’s actions and controlling impulses, does not fully develop until about age 25. In that context, Metzl said, a shooting “certainly feels like another kind of performance of young masculinity.”

In coming weeks and months, investigators will dissect Ramos’s life to try to figure out what led him to that horrific moment at 11:40 a.m. Tuesday, May 24 when he opened fire on a classroom full of 9- and-10-year-olds at Robb Elementary School. Although clear answers are unlikely, the patterns that have emerged about mass shooters in the growing databases, school reports, medical notes and interview transcripts show a disturbing confluence between angry young men, easy access to weapons and reinforcement of violence by social media….

“Age is the untold story of all this stuff,” said Metzl, who is also a sociologist. “I feel very strongly we should not have people 18 to 21 with guns.”

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Summer Morning, Sleeping Cat, by Yuanchi Qiao

Summer Morning, Sleeping Cat, by Yuanchi Qiao

There’s still a lot of discussion in the media about the disastrous response of law enforcement in the Uvalde school massacre.

CNN: Frustration mounts in Uvalde over shifting narratives about school shooting. State senator says lack of clarity could hinder future safety measures.

Ten days after a gunman slaughtered 19 students and their two teachers in their classrooms at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, there are still significant gaps in the information officials have released about law enforcement’s response.

“My point as a policymaker, which is the third function of my job, is to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents Uvalde.

“How in the world are we going to be able to do anything if we can’t figure out what happened in that building in those 40 minutes?”

The shifting police narratives, unanswered questions and the horror of knowing 21 victims were trapped with a gunman for more than an hour — despite repeated 911 calls for help from inside the classrooms — is tormenting this small Texas city.

Gutierrez has questioned whether the responding officers on scene were aware of those calls as they stood outside the classrooms. It’s also unclear whether the incident commander, who made the call for the officers not to confront the shooter immediately, was on scene as the shooting unfolded.

Victims’ families and other local residents are angry. At a school board meeting last night, Superintendent Hall Harrell said that Robb Elementary would not reopen. After that, the board went into a “lengthy closed-door session.

Angela Turner, a mother of five who lost her niece in the shooting, expressed outrage. “We want answers to where the security is going to take place. This was all a joke,” she told reporters, referring to the meeting. “I’m so disappointed in our school district.”

Turner insisted that she will not send her children to school unless they feel safe, adding that her 6-year-old child told her, “I don’t want to go to school. Why? To be shot?”

“These people will not have a job if we stand together, and we do not let our kids go here,” she said as she pointed to a vacant school board podium.

Summer Cat by Rosemary Margaret DaunisDawn Poitevent, a mother whose child was slated to attend Robb Elementary as a second-grader, was tearful as she told reporters that she wants the board to consider letting her child stay at his current school, Dalton Elementary.

“I just need to keep my baby safe, and I can’t promise him that. Nobody can promise their children that right now,” Poitevent said. “At least if he goes to Dalton, he’s not going to be scared, and he’s not going to be having the worst first day that I can possibly imagine.”

Poitevent added that her son, Hayes, has been telling her that he’s scared to go to school because a “bad man” will shoot him.

“We’re just trying so hard to get past everything,” she said. “We’re trying to bury our babies and say goodbye to people that really mattered.”

Read more at the CNN link.

Poppy Noor at The Guardian: Uvalde police were trained to quickly confront an active shooter. So why did they wait?

It took more than an hour for police officers to enter and stop the gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at Uvalde’s Robb elementary school last Tuesday in Texas.

In that time, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos fired more than 100 shots while as many as 19 police officers stood outside waiting and desperate parents tried to break victims out of the school windows. It has been reported that one teacher and several children placed 911 calls while the gunman was inside the building….

The officers on duty had received active shooter training just two months before the massacre, prompting questions from parents, politicians and public safety officials about exactly what officers should have done and casting doubt on how effective such training is in reality.

What does the training manual say about dealing with school shooters?

“A first responder unwilling to place the lives of the innocent above their own safety should consider another career field.” Those are the words, from an active shooter training manual used to train Uvalde’s school police on 21 March 2022, that have been repeated again and again since the shooting on Tuesday.

The Summer - Cat On A Balustrade, Theophile Steinlen

The Summer – Cat On A Balustrade, Theophile Steinlen

They refer to the lessons post-Columbine, the high school shooting in 1999 that led to the deaths of 15 people (including the suicides of both shooters). Before Columbine – which was the most deadly US mass shooting in history at the time – officers had been taught to form a perimeter around the school and wait for backup in the event of a school shooting, not unlike what allegedly happened at Uvalde on Tuesday. But after Columbine, law enforcement officials learned that not going in and directly confronting the shooter costs precious minutes and possibly lives.

The training materials encourage officers to confront the attacker in an active shooter situation, driving them away from victims, isolating and distracting them, even when it means putting themselves in harm’s way: “If they are engaged with the officer(s) they will be less capable of hurting innocents,” the manual says.

If officers are at the scene alone, they must go in alone, it says. “Time is the number one enemy during active shooter response … The best hope that innocent victims have is that officers immediately move into action to isolate, distract or neutralize the threat, even if that means one officer acting alone.”

The manual makes clear that not doing so will cost lives. “The number of deaths in an active shooter event is primarily affected by two factors: How quickly the police or other armed response arrives and engages them; How quickly the shooter can find victims,” it states.

Frankly, I don’t see why what happened is still being treated as a mystery. Let’s face it: those police officers are cowards. And Pete Arrendondo should be fired. Instead, he is now on the city council.

From The Texas Tribune: In battered Uvalde, where a police chief is in hiding, grief gives way to calls for accountability.

Vladimir A Abat Cherkasov

By Vladimir A Abat Cherkasov

Even state police complained this week that Arredondo has remained elusive to them, accusing him of not cooperating with a Texas Department of Public Safety investigation into the shooting, a claim Arredondo refuted. The New York Times reported Friday that the chief arrived on scene without a radio, hampering his ability to organize the response.

Residents here remain in mourning. Each day repeats a cycle of at least two funerals followed by processions to the cemetery on the west edge of town. Their grief, however, is giving way to frustration about how local officials have responded to the tragedy and conversations about how to hold them accountable.

For many, this starts with firing Arredondo and overhauling his department, which they believe failed the students it was supposed to keep safe.

That’s all I have for you today. Please post comments and links on any subject that interests you. This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads

Woman with dog and flowers by Quincy Verdun

Woman with dog and flowers by Quincy Verdun

Good Afternoon!!

The news continues to be bleak this morning. The Uvalde mass shooting is still at in the headlines, and so are multiple mass shootings that have followed it. Senators are arguing about gun control; and there is no possible solution, because the Senate is broken. Even if the Senate by some miracle passed a new laws on guns, the right-wing Supreme Court would likely overturn them. Meanwhile, President Biden is struggling to deal with so many serious problems while his approval ratings sink. I can’t address all those topics, but here are some stories to check out today.

Last week I wrote a post about the possibility that the U.S. is building up to a new civil war. Today Edward Luce addressed that question at Financial Times: Is America heading for civil war?

In the summer of 2015, America caught a glimpse of how its future could unfold. The US military conducted a routine exercise in the south that triggered a cascade of conspiracy theories, particularly in Texas. Some believed the manoeuvre was the precursor to a Chinese invasion; others thought it would coincide with a massive asteroid strike. The exercise, called Jade Helm 15, stood for “homeland eradication of local militants”, according to one of the right’s dark fantasy sites. Greg Abbot, Texas’s Republican governor, took these ravings seriously. He ensured that the 1,200 federal troops were closely monitored by the armed Texas National Guard. In that bizarre episode, which took place a year before Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president, we see the germs of an American break-up.

As with any warning of impending civil war, the very mention of another American one sounds impossibly alarmist — like persistent warnings from chief Vitalstatistix in the Asterix comic series that the sky was about to fall on Gaulish heads. America’s dissolution has often been mispredicted.

Yet a clutch of recent books make an alarmingly persuasive case that the warning lights are flashing redder than at any point since 1861. The French philosopher Voltaire once said: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” As the University of California’s Barbara Walter shows in her bracing manual, How Civil Wars Start, US democracy today is checking all the wrong boxes.

Dachshund-Puppies by Otto Bache

Dachshund Puppies by Otto Bache

Even before Trump triumphed in the 2016 presidential election, political analysts were warning about the erosion of democracy and drift towards autocracy. The paralysing divisions caused by Trump’s failed putsch of January 6, 2021, has sent it into dangerous new territory. Polls show that most Republicans believe, without evidence, that the election was stolen by Democrats backed by the so-called “deep state”, the Chinese government, rigged Venezuelan voting machines, or a feverish combination thereof.

In This Will Not Pass, a book by New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Joe Biden is quoted telling a senior Democrat: “I certainly hope [my presidency] works out. If it doesn’t I’m not sure we’re going to have a country.” That a US president could utter something so apocalyptic without raising too many eyebrows shows how routine such dread has become.

Read the rest at Financial Times.

The press is letting us down, writes Margaret Sullivan at The Washington Post: Why the press will never have another Watergate moment.

You’ll be hearing a lot about Watergate in the next several weeks, as the 50th anniversary of the infamous June 17, 1972, burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters approaches. There will be documentaries, cable-news debates, the finale of that Julia Roberts miniseries (“Gaslit”) based on the popular Watergate podcast (“Slow Burn”). I’ll be moderating a panel discussion at the Library of Congress on the anniversary itself — and you can certainly count on a few retrospectives in this very newspaper.

The scandal has great resonance at The Washington Post, which won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1973 for its intrepid reporting and the courage it took to publish it. And it has particular meaning for me, because, like many others of my generation, I was first drawn into journalism by the televised Senate hearings in 1973, and I was enthralled by the 1976 movie “All the President’s Men,” based on the book by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Young Girl Reading by Joseph W. Gies

Young Girl Reading by Joseph W. Gies

Yet thinking about Watergate saddens me these days. The nation that came together to force a corrupt president from office and send many of hisco-conspiratoraides to prison is a nation that no longer exists.

“The national newspapers mattered in a way that is unimaginable to us today, and even the regional newspapers were incredibly strong,” Garrett Graff, author of “Watergate: A New History,” told me last week. I have been immersed in his nearly 800-page history — a “remarkably rich narrative,” former Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. called it in a review — which sets out to retell the story.

Americans read about Watergate in their daily papers and watched the dramatic hearings on television. Gradually, public opinion changed and Nixon was forced to resign. Sullivan writes and Graff argues conditions are very different today.

Our media environment is far more fractured, and news organizations are far less trusted.

And, in part, we can blame the rise of a right-wing media system. At its heart is Fox News, which was founded in 1996, nearly a quarter-century after the break-in, with a purported mission to provide a “fair and balanced” counterpoint to the mainstream media. Of course, that message often manifested in relentless and damaging criticism of its news rivals. Meanwhile, Fox News and company have served as a highly effective laundry service for Trump’s lies. With that network’s help, his tens of thousands of false or misleading claims have found fertile ground among his fervent supporters — oblivious to the skillful reporting elsewhere that has called out and debunked those lies.

As Graff sees it, the growth of right-wing media has enabled many Republican members of Congress to turn a blind eye to the malfeasance of Team Trump. Not so during the Watergate investigation; after all, it was Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) who posed the immortal question: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” Even the stalwart conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater (Ariz.) was among those who, at the end, managed to convince Nixon that he must resign.

Head over to the WaPo to read the whole column.

ABC News reports that 911 operators did inform police at the site of the Uvalde shooting that children were alive and calling for help: ‘Full of victims’: Video appears to show Texas 911 dispatchers relaying information from children in classroom.

Video obtained by ABC News, taken outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, as last week’s massacre was unfolding inside, appears to capture a 911 dispatcher alerting officers on scene that they were receiving calls from children who were alive inside the classroom that the gunman had entered — as law enforcement continued to wait nearly an hour and a half to enter the room.

Puppies, by Federico Olaria

Puppies, by Federico Olaria

“Child is advising he is in the room, full of victims,” the dispatcher can be heard saying in the video. “Full of victims at this moment.”

“Is anybody inside of the building at this…?” the dispatcher asked.

Minutes later, the dispatcher says again: “Eight to nine children.”

The video, obtained by ABC News, also shows police rescuing children from inside the school by breaking through a window and pulling them out, and also leading them out the back door to safety….

The video, which appears to show some of what took place outside the school, raises new questions about law enforcement’s response to one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings, which left 19 children and two teachers dead.

The gunman was left inside the classroom for 77 minutes as 19 officers waited in the hallway — and many more waited outside the building — after the incident commander wrongly believed the situation had transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject, law enforcement has said.

The Supreme Court is still trying to find out who leaked Alito’s draft opinion on abortion. CNN reports: Exclusive: Supreme Court leak investigation heats up as clerks are asked for phone records in unprecedented move.

Supreme Court officials are escalating their search for the source of the leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, taking steps to require law clerks to provide cell phone records and sign affidavits, three sources with knowledge of the efforts have told CNN.

Some clerks are apparently so alarmed over the moves, particularly the sudden requests for private cell data, that they have begun exploring whether to hire outside counsel.

Ticket Home, by Christina Ramos

Ticket Home, by Christina Ramos

The court’s moves are unprecedented and the most striking development to date in the investigation into who might have provided Politico with the draft opinion it published on May 2. The probe has intensified the already high tensions at the Supreme Court, where the conservative majority is poised to roll back a half-century of abortion rights and privacy protections.

Chief Justice John Roberts met with law clerks as a group after the breach, CNN has learned, but it is not known whether any systematic individual interviews have occurred.

Lawyers outside the court who have become aware of the new inquiries related to cell phone details warn of potential intrusiveness on clerks’ personal activities, irrespective of any disclosure to the news media, and say they may feel the need to obtain independent counsel.

“That’s what similarly situated individuals would do in virtually any other government investigation,” said one appellate lawyer with experience in investigations and knowledge of the new demands on law clerks. “It would be hypocritical for the Supreme Court to prevent its own employees from taking advantage of that fundamental legal protection.”

I’ll end with a story that isn’t completely negative. It’s an interview with First Lady Jill Biden at Bazaar: A First Lady Undeterred.

In November 2020, when Joe Biden was elected president, the win seemed to validate not just his decision to enter this race but his entire career in politics. He has been grieving in public since he was sworn in to the United States Senate in 1973 from the hospital where his two young sons were recovering from the car crash that killed his first wife, Neilia, and their one-year-old daughter, Naomi. He married Jill five years later. Toward the end of his second term as vice president, in 2015, one of those sons, Beau, died of brain cancer. He resolved to launch this bid—his third in three decades—after watching white nationalists march on Charlottesville in 2017. The nation was sick and divided. He wanted to heal it.

Pierre Bonnard, Andreee Bonnard with her dogs

Pierre Bonnard, Andree Bonnard with her dogs

When the ballots were tallied, Biden was declared the winner. But in the meantime, America had further deteriorated. It was battling one novel virus and several older ones. The pandemic had exposed long-festering discrimination and hate. Hundreds of thousands of people had died. Biden had the kind of credentials no one envies; few in politics could claim more experience with sorrow.

Pundits wrote that Joe Biden had met his moment. But Jill Biden—a patient educator in an era of rampant misinformation, a woman so determined to be present for her people that she spent one weekend in March straining the limits of the space-time continuum—was there to greet it too.

Now the moment has changed. The pandemic stretches on, with new variants making quick work of the Greek alphabet. Health-care workers are burnt out. Teachers are exhausted. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is devastating—and driving up the cost of fuel amid rampant inflation. Biden’s approval numbers have sunk into the low 40s. Several polls ahead of the midterm elections predict dire losses for Democrats, with both the House and the Senate threatening to slip into Republican control.

It’s not the kind of environment that sets an obvious course for the nation’s most scrutinized political spouse—let alone for one who describes herself as an introvert and was so lukewarm on the rites and rituals of the Washington horse race that she spent her husband’s entire Senate career at their home in Delaware. But perhaps that’s for the best. In the absence of a guidebook, Jill Biden is writing her own.

Read the interview at the link.

More stories to check out, links only:

HuffPost: Right-Wing Organization Launches Chilling Map Marking Schools As ‘Woke Hot Spots.’

Clive Irving at The Daily Beast: Life Is Cheap in America. That’s What Makes Us Exceptional.

KHOU11: 11-year-old who survived Uvalde massacre struggles to deal in aftermath.

The New York Times: In the Senate, Chasing an Ever-Elusive Gun Law Deal.

Kate Shaw and John Bash at The New York Times: We Clerked for Justices Scalia and Stevens. America Is Getting Heller Wrong.

Politico: Former Trump aide Navarro says he has received a grand jury subpoena related to Jan. 6.

Take care Sky Dancers. I hope you have a Tuesday filled with positive vibes.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Georgi Yordanov, Bulgarian artist

Georgi Yordanov, Bulgarian artist

Good Afternoon!!

I’ve spent a couple of hours now searching the internet for good news. The closest I’ve gotten to finding it is some articles about bad news for Donald Trump.

First up: the investigation into Trump’s efforts to interfere with the 2020 presidential election process in Georgia appears to be building steam.

The New York Times: Up to 50 Subpoenas Expected as Grand Jury Begins Trump Inquiry.

ATLANTA — As many as 50 witnesses are expected to be subpoenaed by a special grand jury that will begin hearing testimony next week in the criminal investigation into whether former President Donald J. Trump and his allies violated Georgia laws in their efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state.

The process, which is set to begin on Wednesday, is likely to last weeks, bringing dozens of subpoenaed witnesses, both well-known and obscure, into a downtown Atlanta courthouse bustling with extra security because of threats directed at the staff of the Fulton County district attorney, Fani T. Willis….

Ms. Willis emphasized the breadth of the case. As many as 50 witnesses have declined to talk to her voluntarily and are likely to be subpoenaed, she said. The potential crimes to be reviewed go well beyond the phone call that Mr. Trump made to Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, on Jan. 2, 2021, during which he asked him to find enough votes to reverse the election results.

Ms. Willis is weighing racketeering among other potential charges and said that such cases have the potential to sweep in people who have never set foot in Fulton or made a single phone call to the county.

Her investigators are also reviewing the slate of fake electors that Republicans created in a desperate attempt to circumvent the state’s voters. She said the scheme to submit fake Electoral College delegates could lead to fraud charges, among others — and cited her approach to a 2014 racketeering case she helped lead as an assistant district attorney, against a group of educators involved in a cheating scandal in the Atlanta public schools.

“There are so many issues that could have come about if somebody participates in submitting a document that they know is false,” she said. “You can’t do that. If you go back and look at Atlanta Public Schools, that’s one of the things that happened, is they certified these test results that they knew were false. You cannot do that.”

Read the rest at the NYT.

Old Lady with a Cat, Jack Donavan, 2006

Old Lady with a Cat, Jack Donavan, 2006

CNN: Georgia district attorney investigating Trump has subpoenaed officials from secretary of state’s office.

An Atlanta-area district attorney investigating Donald Trump‘s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results has subpoenaed half a dozen officials from the Georgia secretary of state’s office, according to copies of the documents obtained by CNN….

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis subpoenaed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Interim Deputy Secretary of State Gabe Sterling, General Counsel Ryan Germany, former Elections Director Chris Harvey, Legislative Liaison Victoria Thompson and former Chief Investigator Frances Watson, according to copies of the documents.

The subpoenas call for the witnesses to testify on dates from early to mid-June. Raffensperger, who has previously said he would comply with a subpoena, appears slated to be one of the first witnesses to testify on June 2. His call with Trump — in which the former President pressured Raffensperger to “find” the votes needed for Trump to win Georgia — lies at the heart of the Georgia probe.

Sterling, Raffensperger’s deputy, also has said he would comply with his subpoena. Several staffers in the office have already had voluntary conversations with Fulton County investigators and handed over relevant documents and recordings.

Willis, meantime, has said she’s not limiting her investigation to Trump’s infamous call with Raffensperger. She has cast a wide net — looking at Georgia’s fake electors, former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s conspiracy-ridden presentation to state lawmakers and other issues — as she tries to determine whether Trump and his allies engaged in a broad criminal conspiracy to try to swing the Peach State to Trump’s column….

Fulton County investigators traveled to Washington, DC, earlier this month to meet with staffers for the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection to go over information that may be relevant to the Georgia probe, according to the person familiar with the investigation.

Here’s hoping some bad news for Trump and good news U.S. democracy emerges from this investigation.

More potential bad news for Trump: his chosen candidates for 2022 aren’t doing so well.

The New York Times: Trump’s Primary Losses Puncture His Invincibility.

Donald J. Trump had cast this year’s primaries as a moment to measure his power, endorsing candidates by the dozen as he sought to maintain an imprint on his party unlike any other past president.

But after the first phase of the primary season concluded on Tuesday, a month in which a quarter of America’s states cast their ballots, the verdict has been clear: Mr. Trump’s aura of untouchability in Republican politics has been punctured.

Annamira, Jeffrey Nentrup

Annamira, Jeffrey Nentrup

In more than five years — from when he became president in January 2017 until May 2022 — Mr. Trump had only ever seen voters reject a half-dozen of his choices in Republican primaries. But by the end of this month, that figure had more than doubled, with his biggest defeat coming on Tuesday when Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia thrashed a Trump-backed challenger by more than 50 percentage points. Three other Trump recruits challenging Kemp allies also went down to defeat.

The mounting losses have emboldened Mr. Trump’s rivals inside the party to an extent not seen since early 2016 and increased the chances that, should he run again in 2024, he would face serious competition….

Mr. Trump remains broadly popular among Republicans and has a political war chest well north of $100 million. But there has been a less visible sign of slippage: Mr. Trump’s vaunted digital fund-raising machine has begun to slow. An analysis by The New York Times shows that his average daily online contributions have declined every month for the last seven months that federal data is available.

Mr. Trump has gone from raising an average of $324,633 per day in September 2021 on WinRed, the Republican donation-processing portal, to $202,185 in March 2022 — even as he has ramped up his political activities and profile.

Unfortunately, it appears that even if the Republicans dump Trump, the party is already suffused with Trumpism and that’s not likely to change.

David Smith at The Guardian: Republican primaries offer look into future of Trumpism without Trump.

The former US president suffered some humiliation on Tuesday when four candidates he handpicked in Georgia lost Republican primary elections in a landslide. It was a stinging rebuke in what has become ground zero for his “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen.

But it was no rebuke of Maga and all it stands for.

The hard-right, nativist-populist strain of Republican politics predates Trump and will surely survive him. This year’s primary season winners in Georgia and elsewhere have been careful not to disavow the movement, or its patriarch, even when they lack his blessing.

“Donald Trump has transformed the Republican party over the past five years and it is now a solid majority Trumpist party with everything that entails in policy and in tone,” said Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution thinktank in Washington. “On the other hand, Republicans, including very conservative ones, are clearly willing to entertain the possibility of Trumpism without Trump.”

K. Celia Wood

Painting by K. Celia Wood

Galston, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, commented: “The results in Georgia were really stunning. Few, if any Republicans, have aroused Donald Trump’s ire so much as Governor Kemp and Brad Raffensperger and they both did substantially better than expectedDonald Trump went all out in Georgia and he ended up an egg on this face, which is significant.

“It may be that the people who have been in the bull’s eye of Trump’s ‘big lie’ campaign have started resenting it and took their resentment out. More generally, I think an increasing number of people are asking themselves a question that they weren’t asking previously: would we be better off with a Trumpist candidate who’s not named Donald Trump?”

Among those asking the question is Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, who campaigned for Kemp in Georgia and told the Politico website: “Trump picked this fight.” Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have also felt at liberty to campaign for midterm candidates denied Trump’s imprimatur.

Then there is Mike Pence, the former vice-president, who defied his old boss by rallying with Kemp on Monday and telling the crowd: “Elections are about the future.” Pence, himself a former governor of Indiana, has made a habit of speaking with pride about the accomplishments of the Trump-Pence administration while distancing himself from the “big lie”.

There’s more analysis at the Guardian link.

Yesterday, Dakinikat focused on the NRA convention in Houston, just after the ghastly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas and just two weeks after the racist mass murders in Buffalo, New York. Heather Digby Parton wrote at Raw Story about the NRA’s long history of arguing that they are the true victims of mass shootings: The NRA celebrates in Texas before Uvalde victims are buried.

In the wake of the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas this week some people expected the National Rifle Association (NRA) to cancel its annual meeting and extravagant gun show which starts today in Houston. The city, however, has a binding contract that prohibits it from canceling the show unilaterally. But the mayor, Democrat Sylvester Turner, asked the gun group to voluntarily postpone. They declined.

That’s to be expected, of course. The NRA has never let a mass shooting get in the way of gathering for fun and profit. The Washington Post’s Gillian Brockell reminded us this week that they did exactly the same thing after Columbine, the first of the modern school shootings that have plagued America for more than two decades. That mass killing took place in Littleton, Colorado, a suburb of Denver where the NRA convention was scheduled to take place just days later. In that case, the Denver mayor told them the city didn’t want them there and even offered to pay them for their trouble if they would cancel. They still refused.

Photo by Brooke Hummer

Photo by Brooke Hummer

Last year, NPR correspondent Tim Mak came into possession of some recorded calls between NRA officials right after Columbine which showed that their primary concern at the time was that they would look weak if they canceled the meeting. In the end, after contemplating creating a “victims fund” and deciding it would look like an admission of guilt, their only compromise was to cancel the gun show portion of their convention and shorten their gathering to just one day. According to Brockell, NRA president Charlton Heston went on to give a memorable speech that year “blaming the media for scapegoating NRA members as somehow responsible for the tragedy, while ‘racing’ to ‘drench their microphones with the tears of victims.'” The next year he returned to give one of the most famous culture war speeches in history:

I believe that we are again engaged in a great civil war, a cultural war that’s about to hijack your birthright to think and say what lives in your heart. I’m sure you no longer trust the pulsing lifeblood of liberty inside you, the stuff that made this country rise from wilderness into the miracle that it is…

As I’ve stood in the crosshairs of those who target Second Amendment freedoms, I’ve realized that firearms are — are not the only issue. No, it’s much, much bigger than that. I’ve come to understand that a cultural war is raging across our land, in which, with Orwellian fervor, certain accepted thoughts and speech are mandated.

That was almost a quarter century ago so all this recent wailing about “cancel culture” is just a new term for the same culture war that’s been raging for years. And guns have been at the heart of it because the NRA put them there.

I’ve written a lot over the years about Wayne LaPierre and his fantastically successful gun rights movement, for which he can pretty much take total credit. He saw the potential to turn the sporting and hunting organization into a political powerhouse and through his public relations and propaganda skills met his goals in the matter of a few short years. In doing so he made gun ownership a social identity for the American right wing.

Read the rest at Raw Story. Also worth reading is this piece by David Siders at Politico: ‘It’s straight out of a playbook’: At NRA convention, conspiracy theories abound.

Of course the top story today is still the events in Uvalde. Here’s the latest, links only:

Elderly woman with cat by Vicky Shuck

Elderly woman with cat by Vicky Shuck

AP News: Police inaction moves to center of Uvalde shooting probe.

NBC News: Federal agents entered Uvalde school to kill gunman despite local police initially asking them to wait.

CNN: Focus turns to Uvalde school police chief’s decision not to send officers inside. Here’s what we know about him.

CNN: Uvalde gunman threatened rapes and school shootings on social media app Yubo in weeks leading up to the massacre, users say.

The Washington Post: Before massacre, Uvalde gunman frequently threatened teen girls online.

The Guardian: Vast majority of educators reject Republican proposals for arming teachers.

Tim Miller at The Bulwark: In Uvalde, the Most Enraging Press Conference in American History.

The New York Times: Gun in Texas Shooting Came From Company Known for Pushing Boundaries.

It’s difficult not to obsess about all the bad news, but we also have to take care of ourselves. So I wish you all well and hope you have a pleasant long weekend. And thank you for being here and sharing your thoughts with us.