Monday, July 27, 2015

Not. One. More.

Pissing Match, with Bullets

image from
Our problem with gun violence is that the people who defend unfettered access to, and carrying around, guns in this country, across the spectrum of society, far too often seem to believe that it is acceptable, EVEN DESIRABLE, to shoot people who, in their minds, scare them in some way or otherwise don't adequately conform to how they think someone else should behave.

Far too RARELY are these shootings genuinely and unavoidably life threatening when the escalation to lethal force occurs. The very essence of the problem, however much some of the gun huggers deny it, is the desire to escalate violence and force because they WANT TO DO SO, their very identity, including sometimes their gender identity as masculine, manly men, depends on it.

Just having a gun with you, on you, or in your hands, messes with your perception and increases your paranoia and sense of threats, which in turn fuels the escalation, in addition to the other factors fueling escalation - like conservative authoritarianism.

From a 2012 Notre Dame University study, via ZDNet, demonstrating that having or holding a gun makes you see bad things that aren't there:
Study: Carrying a gun can make you more paranoid
...the researchers subjected volunteers to a series of five experiments in which they were shown multiple images of people on a computer screen and determined whether the person was holding a gun or a neutral object such as a soda can or cell phone. Subjects did this while holding either a toy gun or a neutral object such as a foam ball.

The researchers varied the situation in each experiment — such as having the people in the images sometimes wear ski masks, changing the race of the person in the image or changing the reaction subjects were to have when they judged the person in the image to hold a gun. Regardless of the situation, the study showed that responding with a gun created a bias in which observers reported a gun being present more often than they did responding with a ball. Thus, by virtue of affording the subject the opportunity to use a gun, he or she was more likely to classify objects in a scene as a gun and, as a result, to engage in threat-induced behavior, such as raising a firearm to shoot.

The researchers showed that the ability to act is a key factor in the effects by showing that while simply letting observers see a nearby gun didn't influence their behavior, holding and using the gun did.
The science tells us that those who carry guns around, legally or otherwise, get into more conflicts and confrontations. From the most recent study on gun ownership and aggression by Jeffery Swanson by way of the Huff Po:
Study: People Who Own a Lot of Guns Are More Likely to Get in Fights, Carry Guns Outside the Home
The new study compares rates of impulsive, angry behavior with access to guns. Swanson and his research colleagues asked 5,653 respondents to answer questions about their own behavior, and also asked these same research subjects if they owned and/or carried guns. The subjects lived in cities, suburbs and rural areas throughout the United States, and roughly one-third stated that they owned or had access to firearms, which seems to be what we consider the national firearm ownership rate to be today.

Every respondent was asked whether they had tantrums or angry outbursts; broke something in anger; lost their temper and got involved in physical fights. These are classic indicators of impulsive, angry behavior, with the tantrums/outbursts being the least serious, the fights being the most serious and the breaking of some object in between. Both the owners and non-owners of guns reported engaging in all three types of behaviors, with tantrums being three times as common as physical fights for both groups, and the percentage of gun owners and non-gun owners engaging in any of the three anger indicators being about the same.

What struck me as I read the survey results was that overall, there was not a great difference between gun owners and non-gun owners regarding to what degree they admitted engaging in any form of impulsive, angry behavior. Where the difference was clearly pronounced was among the 5 percent (roughly 290 people out of 5,600) who admitted to owning 11 guns or more, which was the only gun-owning group whose penchant for getting into fights was significantly higher than people who owned no guns at all. For that matter the percentage of the 11+ gun-owning group to get into physical altercations was substantially higher than gun folks who owned fewer guns.

Where the number of guns owned by individuals seemed to be a real risk issue can be found in the correlation between number of guns owned, engaging in any of the three anger indicators and carrying a gun outside the home. The good news in this survey was that less than 5 percent of the respondents reported that they walked around with a gun. The not-so-good news is that folks who owned six or more guns and carried a concealed weapon reported that they engaged in at least one of the three impulsive behaviors four times more frequently than persons who owned five or fewer guns.
This is the first study I have seen that finds a correlation between numbers of guns owned and a propensity to carry one of them around. As such, it undercuts the usual pro-CCW argument that people carry guns to defend themselves against crime. ...
Here's another observation: aggressive, combative, ANGRY PEOPLE, WITHOUT GUNS, DID NOT THREATEN TO OR SHOOT OTHER PEOPLE, whatever else they did.

We have a failed gun culture, fueled in large part by right wing glorification of vigilantism, glorifying people taking the law into their own hands rather than leaving law conflicts and disputes to the courts and law enforcement. Criminal activity emulates and mirrors that thinking and authoritarian social structure of coercion and conformity.

We saw that failure of gun culture in action this past week, in the shooting in a Lafayette, Louisiana theater and in a case of Florida road rage that escalated and ended in an unarmed man being shot in the back three times, in front of his wife, child and grandchild, and then held them hostage at gun point. The shooter was the kind of gun owner the NRA and other pro-gun groups tell us is safe and law abiding; he had a concealed carry permit. This was emphatically an avoidable shooting;the shooter could have turned the conflict over to law enforcement. The shooter instead drove PAST a police station, and like George Zimmerman who killed Trayvon Martin, ignored the directives of the 911 operator about engaging in further escalation of the conflict.

In the same week as the mass shooting in Louisiana, there were five other mass killings that did not receive extensive media coverage. Only one of them involved stabbings; the others were all shootings.

Individually or as a group, the right embraces as a part of their ideology taking the law into their own hands, as noted in this article from the Examiner looks at this as not only a modern phenomenon, but as an historic one to present:
Armed and dangerous: Right wing vigilantism in American history
...Contrary to the popular phrase, an armed society is not always a polite society. American history is full of examples of the perils of allowing armed citizens to take the law into their own hands. Vigilantism has an ugly history in this country. The fact that the loudest advocates today for arming the populace come from those on the political far right, should give us pause for concern. The tradition of vigilantism in this nation is a history of upholding xenophobia, racism and white privilege by lethal force. From lynch mobs to riots to extrajudicial executions, that history undermines the logic for unqualified support for the second amendment.
It extends not only to matters of personal conflict, but to issues of imaginary personal honor and insult, and to political disagreements. An example of the latter would be the numerous failed revolutions of right wing crazies that believe they are going to rise up and overthrow the government for imaginary wrongs, particularly the lunatic militia movements. When they are angry, the gun nuts, the right wingers, want to empower themselves with lethal force when they are unable to get their way through persuasion.

This right to coerce and compel anyone who violates a right wing norm is a core facet or characteristic of Right Wing Authoritarianism.
Right-wing authoritarians are people who have a high degree of willingness to submit to authorities they perceive as established and legitimate, who adhere to societal conventions and norms, and who are hostile and punitive in their attitudes towards people who don't adhere to them. They value uniformity and are in favor of using group authority, including coercion, to achieve it.

One of the components of Right Wing Authoritarianism is aggression:
Authoritarian aggression — a general aggressiveness directed against deviants, outgroups, and other people that are perceived to be targets according to established authorities.

Combine that with poor cognitive abilities associated with RWA, and you have a recipe for disaster when you arm them with lethal force:

According to research by Altemeyer, right-wing authoritarians tend to exhibit cognitive errors and symptoms of faulty reasoning. Specifically, they are more likely to make incorrect inferences from evidence and to hold contradictory ideas that result from compartmentalized thinking. They are also more likely to uncritically accept insufficient evidence that supports their beliefs, and they are less likely to acknowledge their own limitations
Sadly, too often the gun huggers embrace vigilantism over the authority of law enforcement. We see that thinking expressed by the Louisiana movie theater shooter, who targeted liberals, mostly women, watching the Amy Schumer movie. We saw it in January of 2014, with the fatal shooting of a man by a retired police captain, for texting briefly to his young daughter during the previews of a movie theater in Florida. The victim of the shooting didn't do what the gun carrier wanted him to do as quickly as he wanted him to do it. We see it in the recent road rage shooting in Florida, where a concealed carry permit holder shot an unarmed man in the back as he was trying to leave, and threatened three other people. We see it in the higher rates of gun violence in states with more guns and with more lax gun control. Gun violence is endemic to gun possession without sufficient regulation and restriction.

Time to end our gun culture, before it puts an end to any more innocent or mostly innocent people. Our gun culture is an epic failure, a destructive and dangerous social force, that looms large -- as large as the GOP elephant in the room. Time for the guns AND the GOP which enables and facilitates the gun violence as part of their political exploitation of the worst elements on the right, to GO.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Update on the Louisiana Theater shooting

This may turn out to be another instance of right wing domestic terrorism.  The shooter was a toxic teabagger.

From WHNT 19 news:
He has a profile created by the website Tea Party Nation. And on, he left hundreds of messages espousing anti-government, anti-media views.
Houser was denied a concealed carry permit in 2006 after an arrest involving arson, and he was treated for mental health issues in 2008 and 2009, Russell County, Alabama, Sheriff Heath Taylor told CNN. And Taylor said his office served him an eviction notice in March 2014.
And in contrast to the assertion by the NRA that a good guy with a private gun will stop a tragedy like this, no one did, other than the efforts of law enforcement.  The good guy scenario is really more of a right wing nut fantasy than cogent reality thinking.  The shooter stopped himself by committing suicide when he realized the LEO response was so prompt.

Rather in this case, as the preliminary reports are emerging, it was another couple of heroic teachers who made a difference, one injured woman pulling the fire alarm as the shooter stopped to reload.  But of course this being Louisiana where there is a continuing right wing war on education, a GoFundMe account has been started to help these two heroic teachers with their medical bills, because apparently if you are injured, heroically or otherwise, you can't afford care as a normal benefit when you are a teacher.

The Governor will call you a hero, and put out a lot of hot air lip service, but he will stop well short of paying you or supporting a professional education curriculum.

Here is the info about the Go Fund Me account, via myhighplains, should you wish to show your appreciation towards these two heroic teacher in a more tangible way than grandstanding governor Jindal.

The Iberia Association of Educators and the Louisiana Association of Educators have created a Go Fund Me account for the two teachers that were shot at the Grand Theater shooting.
The organizations want to raise money to help them defray the cost of their medical bills that they will be left with after this tragedy.
Governor Bobby praised the heroic actions of two Iberia Parish teachers Jena Meaux and Ali Martin for risking their lives to save others.
The money raised will be split between these two brave women to help with any and all medical bills they will be left with.
To donate, click here:

Right Wing Flag Propganda 8: Old Glory at half mast, and Chattanooga, Washington D.C., and New Jersey

The Flag is a symbol of the entire country, but as the WaPo, and Snopes all noted, the right wing nuts tried - again - to use it as a mechanism for propaganda (a manipulative form of lying to exploit an agenda) and division. Manipulative dishonesty about respect for the flag, from how the flag is flown, to the pledge of allegiance, is a persistent tactic on the right.

Conservatives are angry all the time because they believe ugly things which are factually false, and because they do so by choice, when verifying the facts can be easily done in our modern age of information.  The right, especially the extreme right, prefers a pretext to hate others, especially a pretext to malign the president specifically, or anyone they consider "other"/liberals/lefties generally. 

By keeping the right wingers upset over FAKE issues, the right is able to distract and misdirect their adherents away from arriving at any consensus on valid facts and issues, and from finding any common ground with the rest of the nation, either independent or on the left.  Informed people focus on entirely different topics.

What they do is equally deliberate ignorance and blind adherence to a toxic ideology; it is a targeted form of hatred.  It is evil, and has no valid place in a nation of representative government.

In this instance, after the shooting in Chattanooga, there was an outcry that Obama did not direct those federal flags under his authority to be flown at half-mast.  This was a hijacking of a tragedy for intentional, calculated dishonest right wing exploitation.  THAT is horribly disrespectful of those five members of our armed forces who died tragically. It was not ONLY the usual suspects from the right wing nut propaganda machine, but a rather extensive laundry list of right wing politicians, notably presidential candidates, those who currently or in the past held office, and Trump, jumping on the hate bandwagon.

There is no set time period before or during which this is done, and Obama was within the norm for doing so this past Tuesday.  Typically what is considered the duration of the flags at half-mast is the significant factor for the degree of honor or respect shown. The flags in front of Congress, under the control and direction of the current Republican leadership, followed the same schedule to fly at half-mast, without any criticism or acknowledgement of the right, applying a hypocritical double standard for determining patriotism.

Here is the latest image of flag propaganda, in a very real sense flag 'porn' to the extent that rabid conservatives appear to experience an orgasmic catharsis over each new opportunity to foam at the mouth.  The FACTS are that Obama NEVER ordered flags flown at half-mast for Whitney Houston (there is something a bit racist in some of the images used in this propaganda) THAT was ordered by Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, because Houston was born in New Jersey.

As noted by the fact-checking site,,

You’ve probably seen outraged social media posts and headlines about the White House flag lately, most of which go something like this: President Barack Obama ordered the White House flag to fly at half-staff to mourn Whitney Houston’s death, but failed to do so for the five soldiers slain in Chattanooga, Tenn.

This perceived breach of flag etiquette sparked a flurry of memes on the Internet and jabs on the campaign trail, particularly among conservatives and GOP presidential hopefuls Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Donald Trump. Fox News columnist Todd Starnes suggested the race of the victims was a factor in Obama not lowering the flag.

After the July 16 shooting, governors such as Rick Scott of Florida and Bill Haslam of Tennessee ordered flags at half-staff, joining local officials who took matters into their own hands absent White House action.

Easton, Pa., Mayor Sal Panto Jr. drove to the city center at a resident’s request on July 18 and lowered the American flag himself. Panto, a Democrat, told local media: "I'm fully aware I don't have the authority to do this, but I feel I just had to remind the president." In Madison, Fla., the county sheriff ordered the station’s flag at half-staff July 20. A Facebook post from the sheriff’s office explained, "The Sheriff advised that our President may not honor the fallen Marines with the Capitol’s flags, but we will."

This perceived breach of flag etiquette sparked a flurry of memes on the Internet and jabs on the campaign trail, particularly among conservatives and GOP presidential hopefuls Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Donald Trump. Fox News columnist Todd Starnes suggested the race of the victims was a factor in Obama not lowering the flag.

Even Red Sox legend Curt Schilling tweeted out a curve ball, though he insisted it wasn’t directed at the White House: "Flags at half mast for Whitney Houston? 4 Marines and 1 Navy serviceman assassinated by a terrorist on our soil.....nothing?"

The message eventually reached Washington. Republican leaders of Congress lowered the flag atop the U.S. Capitol on July 21. Obama followed suit hours later, ordering the White House flag to fly at half-staff until sunset on July 25.

As early as 2013, various memes have compared Obama’s respect for Houston to his inadequate mourning of Navy SEAL and the inspiration for American Sniper Chris Kyle, child star Shirley Temple Black, and the first general officer killed in Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Harold Greene.

While Chris Kyle death was very sad, it was largely his own damn fault, not heroic, not death in the line of duty like the soldiers in Chattanooga.

Politifact went on to note:
Obama didn’t even issue a direct statement about Whitney Houston’s death, as he famously did for Robin Williams. He did, however, offer his condolences to Houston’s family through his press secretary.
So, clearly this is NOT a new propaganda tactic on the right.  In addition to the excerpt below, Politifact detailed some of the other occasions when President Obama DID order the flag flown at half mast.  See the Politifact entry for the specifics, for closer comparison and contrast.  President Obama's decisions to do so have been consistent with traditional flag directives and with the rules of flag etiquette.
Since 2009, Obama has ordered the flag at half-staff a number of times (there’s no official count, but unofficial compilations do exist). Just as it was under previous presidents, the flag is lowered every year on Memorial Day, the Dec. 7 anniversary of Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and holidays honoring fallen firefighters and police officers.
He’s also given the order for remembering Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy and commemorating the deaths of Nelson Mandela, former Speaker of the House Thomas Foley, former Sens. Daniel Inouye and Arlen Specter, Neil Armstrong, the last World War I veteran, and civil rights leader Dorothy Height.
Obama has also ordered the White House and all other American flags on government property flown at half-staff for some mass murders in the United States.
We all need to be pushing back against propaganda and manipulation, and deliberate lies -- and willful ignorance, hate and stupidity from the right.

More Gun Violence, Another Shooting of Multiple Victims

As we are in the sentencing phase of the trial of the Movie Theater shooting 3 years ago this week, we have another shooting in a theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.  Louisiana is a notoriously lax gun law state.  The shooter fits the classic gun hugger profile -- old, white, flabby and crabby.  And dead.

It would be premature to address the latest senseless shooting as we continue to receive details.  So instead it is appropriate to play the Fiore animation from earlier this month, so prophetic, but for once not fun or funny.

Friday Fun Day

The perfect Latino response, humor,  to Donald Trump and right wing anti-Latino bigotry, the Trump pinata.  Pinatas are typically filled with candy; it would be more fitting if this kind of pinata was filled with nuts.  The likenesses are amazing, and apparently these are extremely popular.  Las Angeles and other locations with large Latino populations have been producing these pinatas in quantity.

Bloom County creator Berke Breathed is back after 25 years, with his own crack at the living cartoon that is Trump, both in the cartoon strip, and below.  Karma for the unfounded harassment of President Obama by birther Trump.

From If you Only News:
OPEN LETTER TO FUTURE PRESIDENT TRUMP: We and America call upon you to produce lab evidence proving NO shared DNA between your head fur and your family Lhasa Apso, Goldy Tinkles. If such documentation is thus provided, the Really Loaded Friends of Bloom County will deliver a check for $2 million dollars to your known favorite charity. We wouldn’t joke about this.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

"Bignorance": Seattle Does NOT Give Preference to or Force Compliance with Sharia Law

I am appalled at the ignorance of the right that combines with deep, passionate hatred - bignorance is my new term for it, big, bigoted ignorance.  Behold the shameful tragedy that are the conservatives among us.

What Seattle is doing is entirely about fairness and creating opportunities -- both for residents and for local business.  Minneapolis has had a similar plan since 2006, which has helped expand home ownership, and as a result also expanded the tax base.  No ill side effects have resulted from it. What they are trying to do in Seattle similarly is to accommodate a form of lending that is not unique to Sharia law or to Muslim culture, but has been common to the major religions of the world, and many of the majorly influential cultures of the globe. 

It reflects not ONLY an ignorance about Islam or other groups or faiths, but a profoundly willful ignorance of world history generally and comparative religions, but ignorance of Christian European history specifically.  It is appalling racism combined with the worst hypocrisy to condemn in others the exact same conduct and beliefs in your own culture, history and traditions. 

From wikipedia:
Historically, some cultures (e.g., Christianity in much of Medieval Europe, and Islam in many parts of the world today) have regarded charging any interest for loans as sinful.
Some of the earliest known condemnations of usury come from the Vedic texts of India. Similar condemnations are found in religious texts from Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (the term is riba in Arabic and ribbit in Hebrew). At times, many nations from ancient China to ancient Greece to ancient Rome have outlawed loans with any interest. Though the Roman Empire eventually allowed loans with carefully restricted interest rates, the Christian church in medieval Europe banned the charging of interest at any rate (as well as charging a fee for the use of money, such as at a bureau de change).
The pivotal change in the English-speaking world seems to have come with lawful rights to charge interest on lent money, particularly the 1545 Act, "An Act Against Usurie" (37 H. viii 9) of King Henry VIII of England.
Islamophobic intolerance is strong on the right.  Every possible opportunity is grabbed to pile more hate on decent, U.S. law abiding Muslims, in an attempt to turn the USA into a theocracy with the crazies in charge. 

I've quoted from the excellent debunker of myths and lies, Snopes, below -- but their entry goes on much longer than what I have excerpted.  I encourage people to read the Snopes entry in its entirety.

From Snopes:

FACT CHECK: Is the city of Seattle forcing local businesses to comply with Sharia law?

Claim:   The mayor of Seattle has “launched” a new “rule” forcing businesses to comply with Sharia law.

   MOSTLY FALSE WHAT’S TRUE:   Seattle is exploring options to make home loans accessible to Muslims who are unable to participate in standard mortgage programs due to religious proscriptions.
WHAT’S FALSE:   Seattle businesses are being forced to comply with tenets of sharia law.

Examples:    [Collected via Twitter, July 2015]
Warner Todd Huston @warnerthuston
Seattle Mayor Planning to Force Banks to Give Sharia Compliant Homes Loans to Local Muslims 

Seattle's Liberal Mayor Caves To Muslims Following Sharia Law - BuzzPo 
Photo published for Seattle's Liberal Mayor Caves To Muslims Following Sharia Law - BuzzPo

Bunch @bunch1243
Mayor, no Sharia law applies in America!! Stop this unconstitutional junk. 

Origins: On 17 July 2015, the unreliable web site Conservative Tribune published an article titled “ALERT: Seattle Mayor Launches Rules to Force Local Businesses to Comply With SHARIAH LAW” claiming that:
In one major American city, new rules may force banks to comply with Shariah law on lending and interest.
One of the major tenets of Shariah law is that Muslims cannot pay interest on loans. In countries with large Muslim populations, there’s something known as Islamic banking, which manages to get around this through various machinations.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants to see that change, and he’s apparently willing to force banks into Shariah-compliant lending if necessary.
This means that, if it passes, Seattle will be the first city in America to mandate that its banks allow access to Shariah-compliant financing.
That claim was sourced to the site’s article “Seattle Mayor Offers Plan for ‘Sharia-Compliant’ Housing Rules,” which offered the following visual:

That article was a word-for-word copy of a Puget Sound Business Journal article about a potential plan by the mayor of Seattle to help Muslims obtain home loans to buy houses. Quoting both Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Seattle-area Chapter Executive Director Arsalan Bukhari, the article explained that the city was examining housing options available to home-buying Muslims who are prohibited from participating in the traditional American housing market due to religious restrictions that prohibit them from obtaining standard home loans (despite their having desirable credit profiles).