WHOA! Stephen Colbert just went there!Shared by Occupy Democrats; like our page for more!
Posted by Occupy Democrats on Monday, October 2, 2017
WHOA! Stephen Colbert just went there!Shared by Occupy Democrats; like our page for more!
Posted by Occupy Democrats on Monday, October 2, 2017
By Jelani Cobb October 2, 2017
People typically have to apply themselves to reach new benchmarks, and it is indisputable that we, as a society, have applied ourselves to reach this one.
Photograph by David Becker / Getty
At a certain moment in the darkness of Sunday night, Las Vegas, a city that serves as a monument to the American willingness to suspend disbelief, became the setting for a macabre performance that we have seen many times before, one we wish could be permanently cancelled, one which summons an entirely different sort of disbelief. The First reports in the early hours of Monday announced that an unnamed gunman, firing from a perch high up in the Mandalay Bay hotel, had killed at least twenty people, at a Jason Aldean concert at an outdoor venue on the Vegas strip, and injured as many as a hundred more. Aldean now joins Ariana Grande and the Eagles of Death Metal as an entertainer who has seen his attempts to inspire joy be corrupted into tableaux of incalculable grief. The vantage point of a shooter thirty-two stories in the air, firing an automatic weapon at a crowd on the ground, meant that the attack in Las Vegas would generate horrific numbers of injuries—the gunfire amplified by the likelihood of people being trampled as they fled. By dawn, the number had ticked upward to “at least fifty” fatalities.
The headlines soon began referring to the tragedy as the worst mass shooting in the last century of U.S. history, surpassing the previous incident to hold that title in less than two years: in June of 2016, the massacre in the Pulse night club, in Orlando, resulted in forty-nine deaths, excluding that of Omar Mateen, the gunman who was killed when police breached the building. There is a grim record-keeping involved here, one that itself highlights the ways in which the horror of mass shootings begins to blur, owing to their sheer frequency. By mathematic calculation, the deadliest shooting is “the worst.” But, by a different measure, five years ago, we didn’t think that any shooting could be worse than the one that killed twenty children, just six and seven years old, and seven adults, in Newtown, Connecticut. Two summers ago, we felt something similar when nine people in a Charleston church were murdered by a young man whom they had invited to join them in prayer. And how are we to categorize the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and seventeen others, given that it not only struck at innocents but also at a fundamental rite of democracy—of citizens engaging their elected representative?
The distance between forty-nine dead in Orlando and at least fifty-eight in Las Vegas is sixteen months. The deadliest shooting before Orlando, the massacre at Virginia Tech, which claimed the lives of thirty-two people, held that terrible distinction for nine years—not a small amount of time, but damning by another measure, in that our “worst” tragedy could not exist for a decade without being surpassed. People typically have to apply themselves to reach new benchmarks, and it is indisputable that we, as a society, have applied ourselves to reach this one. As with arenas of positive human achievement—the tallest building, the fastest plane, the longest period of time spent in space—these records are a reflection not simply of the determination of the individual but of the advent of new technologies designed to assist them. Stephen Paddock, the alleged Las Vegas gunman, was equipped with weaponry far advanced from the collection of firearms that Charles Whitman used to murder fourteen people, from the University of Texas clock tower, fifty-one years ago.
The growing number of mass shootings in the United States provide case studies not only for law-enforcement officials but also for those with ulterior motives. After Newtown, Wayne LaPierre, the C.E.O. of the National Rifle Association, said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But in Las Vegas the only thing that have could have stopped a sniper hidden behind a bank of windows on the thirty-second floor of a building, shooting at people twelve hundred feet away, would have been the unlikely presence of a similarly armed sniper located at a vantage point that gave him or her an open shot at the perpetrator. We have no idea what Paddock’s motives were, but it is not hard to imagine that he chose his location because it would be difficult for a hypothetical good guy with a gun to locate him, much less take counter-measures.
Donald Trump announced his condolences to the families of those who died, and are still dying, in Las Vegas. “May God bless the souls of lives that are lost,” Trump said. He also denounced the massacre as “an act of pure evil.” This is true. But it is an entirely predictable, politically abetted evil. Matt Bevin, the governor of Kentucky, tweeted, “To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regs . . . You can’t regulate evil . . .” But this is a purpose of law—to regulate evil. One measure of the development of a civil society is the obstacles that we place in the path of those who would commit acts of great harm to innocents. By Monday afternoon, it was reported that gun- and ammunition-manufacturers’ stocks were rising. We have done the opposite in the five years since the Newtown shooting ignited a renewed interest in gun reform. The attack in Las Vegas is the worst mass shooting right now, not because of the number of the dead but because it reveals, yet again, that our steadfast refusal to do anything different is enabling those who wish to give us more of the same.
Jelani Cobb is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of “The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress.”
By John Cassidy October 2, 2017
Of all the ways in which American democracy is showing symptoms of dysfunction, the inability to face down the gun lobby is one of the most egregious.
Photograph by Joshua Roberts / Reuters
Writing on Twitter on Monday, Matt Bevin, the Republican Governor of Kentucky, said, “To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regs . . . You can’t regulate evil . . .” Perhaps not. But, as countries such as Australia, Britain, and Canada have demonstrated, you can certainly regulate the sale of guns, especially weapons of war, to good effect.
Between 1979 and 1996, Australia had thirteen fatal mass shootings. Since 1996, when the country introduced a law that banned the sale of semiautomatic weapons and launched a buyback program for weapons that had already been sold, there have been no mass shootings. None.
The United States, by contrast, introduced a ban on certain semiautomatic, military-style weapons in 1994—but allowed it to lapse, in 2004. While there is no agreed-upon definition of what constitutes a “mass shooting” and what constitutes merely another deadly entry on the police blotter, there is little doubt that the frequency of large-scale gun atrocities has increased in the past decade.
Between the summers of 2015 and 2016 alone, President Barack Obama responded to seven different deadly shootings. On some of these occasions, he didn’t hide his frustration at the inability of the United States to tackle the problem of gun violence. “America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love,” he said on October 1, 2015, the day that a student at Umpqua Community College shot and killed nine people. “It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America—next week, or a couple of months from now. . . . We are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.”
Citing the example of Australia and other countries, such as Britain, that have passed strict gun-control laws, Obama went on, “So we know there are ways to prevent it . . . And each time this happens I’m going to bring this up. Each time this happens I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we’re going to have to change our laws. And this is not something I can do by myself. I’ve got to have a Congress, and I’ve got to have state legislatures and governors who are willing to work with me on this.”
Obama didn’t come out and say it explicitly, but he was suggesting that the U.S. government, in its totality, is abandoning one of its basic duties: the protection of its citizenry from readily identifiable threats. And, of course, Obama was right. Of all the ways in which American democracy is showing symptoms of turning into a dysfunctional state, the inability to face down the gun lobby is surely one of the most egregious.
In the statement that Donald Trump read out on Monday morning, in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, he didn’t mention guns, gun laws, or semiautomatic rifles—at least ten of which were reportedly found in the hotel room of the alleged Las Vegas gunman, Stephen Paddock. Trump’s omissions were hardly surprising. Addressing the National Rifle Association in April, the President declared, “the eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to an end,” and added, “You have a true friend and champion in the White House.” In February, the President signed a law that made it easier for people with a history of mental illness to buy guns, including semiautomatic rifles.
At the daily White House briefing on Monday, a reporter asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s press secretary, whether the shooting had “made the President think anything more about pursuing tighter gun laws . . . to prevent massacres like this from happening again.” Sanders replied, “There’s a time and place for political debate. But now is the time to unite as a country.” In response to a follow-up question, Sanders tried a different tack, saying, “One of the things that we don’t want to do is try to create laws that won’t . . . stop these types of things from happening. I think if you look to Chicago, where you had over four thousand victims of gun-related crimes last year, they have the strictest gun laws in the country.”
In response to the tragedy in Las Vegas, Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, ordered the flags over the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-mast, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, said, “This is a time for national mourning and for prayer.” Neither responded immediately to a call from Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, for the establishment of a bipartisan Select Committee on Gun Violence, which would “study and report back common-sense legislation to help end the crisis.”
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, preparations continued for the passage of the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act of 2017, a carefully misnamed piece of legislation that would make it easier to import assault-style rifles, transport weapons across state lines, and purchase silencers—the sale of which has been strictly restricted since the nineteen-thirties, when they proved popular with gangsters. Last month, the House Committee on Natural Resources marked up the SHARE Act and passed it. Until the shooting in Las Vegas, it had been expected to go to the floor of the House as early as this week, and its supporters, including the N.R.A., were expecting a victory. “There has never been a better opportunity to pass this important and far-reaching legislation,” a piece on the Web site of the N.R.A.’s Institute for Legislative Action noted last month.
Following the massacre in Las Vegas, the Republican sponsors of the SHARE Act will probably let a little time elapse before they put it to a vote. But there is little reason to suppose it won’t ultimately get majority support, at least in the House, while efforts to tighten up the gun laws will continue to flounder. In a failing state, that is how things work.
John Cassidy has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1995. He also writes a column about politics, economics, and more for newyorker.com.
By Joan Walsh October 2, 2017
People wait in a medical staging area after the mass shooting in Las Vegas in the early hours of October 2, 2017. (Reuters via Las Vegas Sun / Steve Marcus)
On Sunday morning, the president of the United States humiliated his secretary of state, derided diplomacy as “wasting time,” mocked North Korea’s national leader as “Little Rocket Man,” and renewed his macho threat to “do what needs to be done” to thwart North Korea’s nuclear program—at the UN last month he said he might “need” to “destroy” the country. As always, analysts struggled to make sense of Trump’s tweets—geopolitically, psychologically—but the conclusion seemed inescapable that he is itching for a military conflict with a nuclear-armed adversary.
On Sunday night, a 64-year-old retiree by the name of Stephen Paddock took at least 10 rifles, some of them semi-automatic or automatic weapons, to the 32nd floor of the gilded Mandalay Bay resort casino, and gunned down hundreds of people, killing at least 50, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Paddock shot his prey from up high and watched them scatter, like ants, like animals. There is no connection between Trump’s threat and Paddock’s massacre, except a profound lack of empathy, a toxic male willingness to indulge grievances (we don’t yet know Paddock’s, but we soon will) with violence, and an obsession with the display of absolute power.
Maybe it’s because I went to bed fearing a war, even a nuclear conflict, with North Korea, and woke up to random bloody gun terror at a country-music concert in Las Vegas that I see the two tragedies as entwined. There is something deeply wrong with the American male identification of guns as a symbol of freedom. We need to translate that correctly: By this definition, it is the capacity for brutal violence that is also a symbol, maybe even a prerequisite, of freedom. Of almost strictly male freedom, we must emphasize. This set of values wasn’t invented by the madman in the White House; he is just a symptom of a country and an electorate that value guns over children’s lives. On social media today I saw a heartbreaking impotence among many pundits and political activists, repeatedly expressed this way: If we didn’t do something to regulate guns, especially automatic weapons, after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre—in which 20 first-graders and six school staffers were murdered—we’ll never do anything. I don’t share that point of view, but I understand it.
Once again, the National Rifle Association has blood on its hands. At one time a respectable organization of gun owners promoting proper gun use and gun safety, three decades ago the NRA began to turn itself into a trade association for big gun manufacturers, and a purveyor of canny right-wing paranoia designed to spur gun sales. In the 1990s, as right-wing anti-government zealots began a backlash against what they perceived as a Democratic administration intent on taking their guns and their freedom, the NRA channeled that paranoia. Even after the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 by government-hating extremists, NRA head Wayne La Pierre was describing Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents as “jackbooted government thugs” in a fundraising letter. Guns went from being something used to hunt or—perhaps, in a rare event—to protect oneself and one’s family, to being a symbol of individual sovereignty and freedom from control of government. The Obama administration was a great gift to the NRA; gun and bullet purchases soared after the election of our first black president. Nonetheless, the NRA spent $30 million to elect Trump, who spoke at its national convention and praised LaPierre as a patriot.
Trump repaid the NRA’s investment by signing a bill that lifted Obama-era limits on gun sales to the mentally ill. Yet, with the departure of the Obama administration, gun sales have sagged; the first black president is no longer around to take your guns, and the NRA-loving Trump is in the White House, so maybe it’s safe to stop hoarding guns? Not so fast, said the NRA. In a despicable propaganda video earlier this year, NRA cheerleader Dana Loesch spun a lurid tale of Black Lives Matters protesters and Women’s Marchers as the latest threat to guns and, yes, freedom. Hollywood liberals, the fake-news media, as well as an ex-president (you know whom they mean) are painting Trump as an illegitimate “Hitler.” Only the NRA—and, yes, more guns—can protect your freedom.
On Monday morning, Trump again repaid the NRA’s $30 million investment with a pathetically passive statement that described the Las Vegas massacre as though it were a natural disaster, never once mentioning the weapons of hell that caused it. He called it “an act of pure evil,” extolled the bravery of police and first responders, and made appeals for love, prayers, and unity. He displayed his trademark lack of empathy about the victims’ families: “We cannot fathom their pain or imagine their loss.” What a strange thing to say: Many of us can, and if we can’t, it’s our human responsibility to try, to bear witness. If we really can’t fathom their pain or loss, we don’t have to do anything about it.
Sadly, we are unlikely to do anything about it. In the wake of the murders, gun stocks are soaring, anticipating a rise in gun sales as the result of a possible move to restrict firearms such as used to be routine after a bloody spree like this one. I don’t think the gun industry has much to worry about. I hope to be proven wrong. Nevada has among the most lax gun laws in the country, with no limits on the number of firearms one can own, no requirement of registration, no limits on automatic weapons. The dead suspect’s brother, Eric Paddock, told reporters: “Find out who sold him the machine gun!” Will any Nevada lawmaker be brave enough to make that an issue?
This morning, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that Trump still planned to visit Puerto Rico this week. That’s good—there’s plenty he could do to help the storm-ravaged island. One easy helpful move would be to shut down his Twitter attacks on San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz and on the people of Puerto Rico as lazy. With reports over the weekend that the commonwealth’s morgues are filling up, there may well have been more than 50 deaths last night there. But their slow-motion tragedy has been nearly blasted out of the news by this cruel assault on people Trump more easily sees as real Americans.
President Obama used to use these occasions, which hit him all too frequently in his eight years, to search for ways to prevent future tragedies, usually ideas for gun-safety legislation and mental-health funding. In his brief remarks Monday, Trump did nothing of the kind. He seemed to warn against “searching for some kind of meaning; the answers do not come easy.” I preferred the response to the massacre that came from Senator Chris Murphy, who represents Newtown, Connecticut: “It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.”
We’ll see, but I’m not optimistic. The president rode a wave of white male paranoia and perceived lost power to the White House; the GOP has stoked those emotions for 50 years. It’s hard to imagine this president, or this Congress, begin to unravel the connections they’ve woven between masculinity, power, guns, and violence. The best short-term outcome I can see? Trump may be too busy to tweet insults and up the likelihood of war with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.
Joan Walsh, The Nation’s national-affairs correspondent, is the author of What’s the Matter With White People? Finding Our Way in the Next America.
Our leaders are afraid to tolerate limits on Second Amendment “freedoms.”
By Charles P. Pierce October 2, 2017
On July 4, 1854, William Lloyd Garrison, the abolitionist firebrand, burned a copy of the Constitution of the United States of America at a gathering of anti-slavery activists in Framingham Grove in Massachusetts. Garrison called the document, “a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell.” Almost 100 years later, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, writing in dissent in the case of Terminiello v. City of Chicago, opined rather famously:
“The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.”
Both of these men have been proven wrong, most recently by the events Sunday night in Las Vegas, when a 64-year old man named Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of 22,000 people gathered for a country music concert. At this writing on Monday morning, 50 people were dead and several hundred wounded. (Editor’s note: As of 11:42 a.m., 58 people are dead and 515 wounded.) The number of the dead almost assuredly will rise. This makes Paddock’s unfortunate exercise of his Second Amendment freedoms the deadliest mass shooting in history. This makes Paddock’s unfortunate exercise of his Second Amendment freedoms the 273rd mass shooting in the United States this year.
Paddock’s sniper’s perch was on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino and hotel. His targets of opportunity were penned into a parking lot a few blocks distant. This literally was like shooting fish in a barrel. Paddock’s weapon of choice was a military-style assault weapon. When police finally broke into Paddock’s room, they found 10 other rifles. Paddock came well-prepared to exercise his Second Amendment freedoms on a penned-in crowd of Jason Aldean fans. And he did.
Ever since Adam Lanza opened fire five years ago at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I have been struck by the argument implicit in all the rhetoric directed at defending this country’s lubriciously insane love of its firearms. It caught fire almost immediately. Wayne LaPierre, the spokesman for the National Rifle Association, the pre-eminent lobbying organization for weapons manufacturers, said this in the immediate aftermath of Lanza’s unfortunate exercise of his Second Amendment freedoms:
“The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school he’s already identified at this very moment?”
“And throughout it all, too many in our national media … their corporate owners … and their stockholders … act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away. The media call semi-automatic firearms “machine guns” — they claim these civilian semi-automatic firearms are used by the military, and they tell us that the .223 round is one of the most powerful rifle calibers … when all of these claims are factually untrue. They don’t know what they’re talking about!”
That spring, at CPAC, the annual convention of conservative activists, LaPierre expanded on his original argument:
“The Second Amendment is not just words on parchment. It’s not some frivolous suggestion from our Founding Fathers to be interpreted by whim. It lies at the heart of what this country was founded upon. Our Founding Fathers knew that without Second Amendment freedom, all of our freedoms could be in jeopardy. Our individual liberty is the very essence of America. It is what makes America unique. If you aren’t free to protect yourself — when government puts its thumb on that freedom — then you aren’t free at all.”
Subsequent events have proven that LaPierre had the right of things and that William Lloyd Garrison and Robert Jackson were wrong. The Constitution is not a pact with the devil, nor is it a suicide pact. It is a formalized, legalistic ritual of blood sacrifice. There are some things that we as a society, alas, must tolerate in order to stay true to our founding beliefs and to remain free. Schoolchildren shot to pieces is one of those things. The massacre of country music fans is another one of those things, the 273rd blood sacrifice to that one provision of the Constitution this year.
The Constitution is not a pact with the devil, nor is it a suicide pact. It is a formalized, legalistic ritual of blood sacrifice.
We hear serious arguments about all the other parts of the Bill of Rights: that the First Amendment has limits on what T-shirts high-school students (“Bong Hits 4 Jesus!”) can wear; that the Fourth Amendment has limits that allow wiretaps without warrants; that the Fifth Amendment has limits that allow drug-testing without cause; that the Sixth Amendment has limits that allows the states to poison convicts to death. But only with the Second Amendment do we hear the argument that the only tolerable limit on its exercise is that there are no limits. Only with the Second Amendment do we hear that the price of freedom is the occasional Stephen Paddock, locked away in his own madness on the 32nd floor of a luxury hotel and casino, deciding coolly whose brains he will blow out next a few blocks away in the 273rd such unfortunate exercise of Second Amendment rights this year.
On January 20, 2017, the newly inaugurated president* of the United States addressed the nation for the first time. He explained to a somewhat baffled nation the exact nature of the hellspout in which they had been living for the previous eight years:
“These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public, but for too many of our citizens a different reality exists. Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories, scattered like tombstones across the across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge, and the crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”
This came as something of a shock to most people, but not to those of us who remembered Wayne LaPierre’s speech to CPAC two years earlier. (This was a year after he’d explained to that same audience that Adam Lanza’s unfortunate exercise of his Second Amendment rights was just part of the price of freedom in this country.) LaPierre had walked the same dystopian landscape more than two years before the new president* had:
“Almost everywhere you look, something has gone wrong. You know it in your heart. You feel it in your gut. Something in our country has gone wrong…All across America, people come up to me and they say, ‘Wayne? I’ve never been worried about this country until now.’ They say it not in anger, but with sadness in their eyes…We fear for the safety of our families. That’s why neighborhood streets that once were filled with bicycles and skateboards and laughter in the air, now sit empty and silent.”
“We trust what we know in our hearts to be right,” he said. “We trust our freedom. In this uncertain world, surrounded by lies and corruption everywhere you look, there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns and handguns we want. We know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and there are home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers and rapers, and haters and campus killers, and airport killers, shopping mall killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all.”
Blood sacrifices are born of the fear of unseen power and invisible threat. Carve up a bull, and Zeus won’t send a thunderbolt up your ass. Cut out someone’s heart, and Tlaloc will make it rain to provide a bountiful harvest. Take your son up on a mountaintop, tie him to an altar, and unsheath your knife, hoping in your heart that Jehovah will step in and stop the whole business. Buy a gun. Buy two. Buy 10, and the monsters and knockout gamers and carjackers from the silent playgrounds will be held at bay.
Christians believe that the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary obviated forever the need for further blood sacrifice. However, not even that could obviate or eliminate the entirely secular desire for blood sacrifice within a society perceived to have gone astray. Christians pray to the crucified Christ. Christians also push the plungers that send the poisons into the veins of prisoners. Christians believe that atonement comes through the intercession of Jesus. Christians also believe that atonement comes from smart bombs and predator drones. The fear of unseen power and invisible threat is more than is thought of in your theologies, Horatio.
The president* and Wayne LaPierre together created an America of the mind in which blood sacrifice is the highest form of patriotism.
They have taken the legitimate right of all people to self-defense and twisted it, for their own purposes, into a demand for ritual atonement on the part of an imaginary universe filled with nothing but bogeymen. For the president*, this helped him attain the office he now holds. For LaPierre, it made the people for whom he was the frontman wealthier than they ever were before.
So now, here we sit, after another unfortunate exercise of Second Amendment freedoms, the 273rd of this year and the worst one of modern times, another opportunity for presidential leadership, the fourth one of those in a month. Storms are breaking everywhere, the carnage in America suddenly is very real, and blood sacrifices are lying all over a parking lot in Las Vegas.
If Newtown wasn’t enough, how can Las Vegas be enough? And if Las Vegas isn’t enough, how can anything be enough?
Thoughts and prayers are not enough. “Warm condolences,” as dispatched by a president* who never is at a loss for the wrong word or the bizarre reaction, are not enough. Arcane debates about whether or not Stephen Paddock used an automatic or a semi-automatic weapon for his unfortunate exercise of his Second Amendment freedoms are not enough. Absurd debates over whether or not his weapon of choice was truly “military-style” are not enough. Being sickened is not enough. Being saddened is not enough. The word “tragedy” is not enough.
All of these things are not enough because Newtown wasn’t enough. And, if Newtown wasn’t enough, how can Las Vegas be enough? And if Las Vegas isn’t enough, how can anything be enough?
If Newtown wasn’t enough, how can Las Vegas be enough?
We have become a nation that accepts the blood sacrifice of our children as an ineffable part of our constitutional order, one of those things you have to tolerate, like pornography and the occasional acquittal of an unpopular defendant, in order to live in a free society. Better that one Stephen Paddock go free than a hundred law-abiding gun owners wait a week before buying an Uzi. This is a vision of the nation that has been sold to us by a generation of politicians who talk brave and act gutless, and by the carny shills in the employ of the industries of death. Better that one Stephen Paddock go free than a hundred law-abiding gun owners wait a week before buying an Uzi. We are all walking blood sacrifices waiting to happen.
Disgust isn’t enough.
Sorrow isn’t enough.
Nothing is enough because, if Newtown wasn’t enough, then how can Las Vegas be enough? And if Las Vegas isn’t enough, then how can anything be enough?
God help us all.
UPDATE—This happened the same day as the events in Las Vegas. From the Lawrence Journal-World:
“At the scene, officers encountered a large crowd and several victims suffering from gunshot wounds, Smith said in the release. Five victims have been identified from the shooting, and three sustained fatal injuries: 22-year-old Leah Elizabeth Brown, of Shawnee, 20-year-old Colwin Lynn Henderson, of Topeka, and 24-year-old Tremel Dupree Dean, of Topeka. Two other victims were being treated at area hospitals for nonlife-threatening injuries, Smith said. Brixius said just before 3 a.m. that no one had been detained in the shooting and he could not say whether more than one suspect was involved. Police did say in a tweet late Sunday that the shooting was not a drive-by. Crime scene tape was stretched across storefronts in the 1000 block of Massachusetts Street. In front of Aladdin Cafe, 1021 Massachusetts St., a pool of blood was visible.”
Unfortunate exercises of Second Amendment freedoms will undoubtedly continue. (h/t Erik at LG&M)
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to clarify that the Lawrence, Kansas, shooting took place before the Las Vegas shooting, not after.
By Bryan Rolli October 2, 2017
Josh Abbott Band guitarist Caleb Keeter took to Twitter on Monday morning (Oct. 2) to share his thoughts on gun control in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting that left more than 50 people dead and 500 injured.
Josh Abbott Band
The Texas country group performed at the Route 91 Harvest festival on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday afternoon (Oct. 1), where hours later an active shooter began firing into the audience from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Keeter, previously a lifelong gun rights advocate, said witnessing the ensuing chaos firsthand caused him to realize how ineffective he and his crew were as the incident unfolded.
“I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd Amendment my entire life,” he wrote. “Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was. We actually have members of our crew with CHL licenses, and legal firearms on the bus. They were useless.”
The guitarist added that his bandmates and crew couldn’t access their firearms during the attack because police could have mistaken them for attackers as well. He praised the police officers for defusing the situation as quickly as possible, and said the shooting gave him a wakeup call on the need for tighter gun legislation.
“We need gun control RIGHT. NOW.,” he wrote. “My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it.”
Keeter followed up his original statement with another more hopeful, defiant tweet: “That being said, I’ll not live in fear of anyone. We will regroup, we’ll come back, and we’ll rock your f***ing faces off. Bet on it.”
Read Keeter’s statements in full below.
The next time someone tells you that climate change is caused by natural forces, feel free to tell them that they’re right. Just don’t forget to explain why.
The next time someone tells you that climate change is caused by natural forces, feel free to tell them that they're right. Just don't forget to explain why.Read more: http://bit.ly/2y96HFnvia Years of Living Dangerously #YEARSproject #ClimateFacts
Posted by EcoWatch on Monday, October 2, 2017
By Joe Davidson, Columnist October 2, 2017
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks March 29 at the Interior Department in Washington. (Molly Riley/AP)
While Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s accusation about the loyalty of his workforce is the Trump administration’s most outrageous statement about federal employees, it fits a deplorable pattern of verbal aggression against them.
Zinke’s declaration that “I got 30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag” is an escalation that demands denunciation.
“This is the latest in a long line of attacks by this administration on federal workers, starting with his claim that the country needs another ‘good shutdown,’ ” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “The idea that President Trump, Secretary Zinke or anyone else in the administration would threaten the jobs of hard-working civil servants unless they pledge loyalty to the president is grossly abusive and, if carried out, against the law.”
Zinke’s slur, and another remark comparing the Interior Department to a pirate ship, followed comments and actions that began even before Trump took office and make feds shudder, including:
Defending Zinke, a former Navy SEAL commander, after his disloyalty hit, Interior press secretary Heather Swift said, “The Secretary led with the fact that Interior is full of ‘really good people’ but that a small minority are hesitant to changing policy and reforms.” Zinke’s comment about the flag, previously reported by the Associated Press, she added, “was not a literal comparison to the flag of the U.S. or even the administration. In the military structure, to which the secretary was alluding, the flag represents the command of an organization and the policies and procedures it seeks to implement.”
That’s a distinction without a significant difference. It does nothing to lessen this latest example of the administration’s toxic mistrust of the workforce. The loyalty that federal employees owe is to the Constitution, the nation and the American people. Staffers are obligated to implement the administration’s policies, but their allegiance is not to Trump and Zinke, Interior’s commanders, as individuals.
“My loyalty is to public lands and the citizens I serve,” said Leisyka Parrott, an Interior Department employee in Arcata, Calif. Fearing potential negative ramifications for speaking to me, Parrott made it clear that she did so on her own time and as a National Federation of Federal Employees representative. “If we have a difference of opinion, we are not loyal to the flag,” she asked. “I wonder if they will make being a party member a requirement of employment.”
Zinke’s comments leaves his staff dismayed, on edge and offended.
“As a member of the civil service at the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, I’d suggest Mr. Zinke needs a lesson in civics,” Rob Winthrop, of Washington, said in a Washington Post letter to the editor. “In Nazi Germany the civil service pledged personal loyalty and obedience to Adolf Hitler. This is not the way of a free society.”
The Trump administration has difficulty understanding American fidelity, as the president showed when he told then-FBI Director James B. Comey: “I need loyalty.” Trump didn’t get it and later sacked Comey.
“It is comments like the ones made by Secretary Zinke that demonstrate the absolute necessity of strong civil service protections in the federal government,” said NFFE President Randy Erwin. “Without those protections, the interests of the American people are going to take a back seat to bully leaders pushing their own personal agendas.”
Sen. James Lankford (Okla.) and Rep. Mark Meadows (N.C.), Republican chairmen of the congressional subcommittees overseeing the federal workforce, declined to comment on Zinke. Jason Chaffetz, a former GOP representative from Utah, was critical of the secretary’s remarks, though he softened it with talk about the “frustration” Trump officials feel over a “lack of cooperation” from the bureaucracy. “I don’t think it’s wise to berate public employees,” Chaffetz said. “Most are good, hard-working people.”
Chaffetz made a point of quashing fed-bashing before he left Congress this year as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. But he believes in the deep state. “I do believe there is a deep state that acts to protect itself and embarrass others. I think that, too, is wrong. But you have to find the individual perpetrators,” he said.
That doesn’t mean insulting almost a third of your employees.
If Zinke is so concerned about loyalty, why isn’t he outraged at the people and symbols, including those on Interior-controlled lands, honoring disloyal Confederates? When asked about removing Confederate monuments at the Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md., Breitbart.com quoted Zinke saying, “Don’t rewrite history.”
What he shouldn’t do is accept the glorification of traitors while questioning the loyalty of public servants. Nothing is more disloyal to America than killing its soldiers and fighting to tear it apart in defense of slavery and white supremacy.
Zinke should “apologize to the public servants he is supposed to be leading,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (Ariz.), the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. “He often refers to his military service, so he should be well aware that loyalty is earned — and you don’t earn it, or deserve it, with divisive comments like these.”
By Lindsey Robinson September 24, 2017
Evan Bogart never wanted to sleep in a tent again. Between 2004-2011, he’d served in the U.S. Army as an infantryman and spent three long combat deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. He’d spent a good portion of his years in service living in a tent in hot and hazardous deserts. He’d had enough of the outdoors; he wanted to be in places with air conditioning, electricity and no reminders of the war-torn lands he had experienced.
Evan separated in 2011 as an E6 Squad Leader, with an honorable discharge and two Purple Hearts. But his own heart was heavy and troubled. He’d become disillusioned with the U.S. military and its goals in the Middle East. The violence and destruction he’d witnessed left him feeling both angry and guilty. He distinctly remembers one moment in Iraq: “An old woman told me I was a bad man, and I realized I agreed with her.”
Leaving the Army and transitioning to civilian life proved to be a bumpy road, pocketed with heavy drinking followed by heavy cannabis use. Evan turned to a variety of substances to help him forget painful memories of his past. He moved around a few times, but felt directionless and unclear of his future. For five years, he lived with what he calls, “something of a death wish.”
Then in 2017, one of Evan’s closest friends, who had served beside him in combat, convinced Evan to participate in a trip to Yellowstone National Park with Sierra Club’s Military Outdoors program. Evan agreed, knowing he was ready to move past his current lifestyle and become an active participant in the world again. He wanted a way to transition away from the drugs and alcohol and pursue an active, outdoors life instead.
The Military Outdoors trip to Yellowstone was designed to expose participants to the National Park’s beautiful landscapes and ecosystem through the lens of fly fishing. Evan had wanted to learn the art of fly fishing for a long time, but he never knew quite how to get started or when to make time for it. The cost of gear and instruction had also been a barrier for him. This trip was exactly what he was looking for in his life.
Evan met the group of Military Outdoors vets in the Lamar Valley, where they stayed in cabins at the Buffalo Ranch. The Lamar Valley is a remote, glacier-carved region in the northeast corner of Yellowstone. It is often called America’s Serengeti because it is home to so many animal species including elk, grizzly bears, buffalo, antelope, wolves, otters, coyotes and eagles. Evan found his favorite part of the trip was taking early morning hikes from Buffalo Ranch up to Ranger Hill. He would sit on the hillside, take in the sunrise, and enjoy the solitude and peaceful quietness.
During the day, the veterans received casting instruction and practiced fly fishing on the beautiful Yellowstone River. Many rivers run through Yellowstone National Park, but the Yellowstone River is special. It flows undammed for nearly 700 miles, making it the longest free-flowing river in the continental U.S. It is also one of the best trout streams in the world because the species’ natural habitat is protected.
The veterans were joined by fly fishing guides Jesse Logan and Steve Harvey, who taught them how to cast and how to seek out the right time and place to lure the prized Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Jesse Logan shared his extensive knowledge of the greater Yellowstone area and how invasive species and floodplain development threaten the river’s ecosystem. Another guest speaker, Doug Peacock, spent time with the veterans talking about the outdoors as a restorative place and the ways veterans can help protect wild places.
Before this trip, Evan had only seen Yellowstone as a “car tourist.” Afterwards, he walked away more intimately familiar with the Yellowstone ecosystem and inspired to take his new fly fishing skills to other American rivers. Moreover, Evan felt the trip helped him get back into the outdoors and embrace an active lifestyle, which he found strengthened his mental health.
The Yellowstone outing wasn’t the only big change for Evan this summer. He also participated in an OARS’ raft guide school, thanks to a sponsorship the Military Outdoors program provides for a few veterans each year. At the end of guide school, Evan had come to enjoy the river running lifestyle so much that he accepted a summer job river guiding for OARS on the American River. He spent the summer at the OARS’ outpost in Coloma, California—living happily in a tent.
From his time with Military Outdoors, Evan says that the value of these outings is how they reconnected himself and the other veterans to the outdoors. He feels that spending time in the outdoors might be one step toward healing the trauma that he and many vets experienced while in combat. Evan also sees the skills training aspect of the outings as a way to redirect one’s life toward jobs or hobbies in the outdoors. He never imagined he’d learn to fly fish or become a river guide, but now he’s done both. “These trips turned my life 180,” he said.
Moving forward, Evan plans to stay involved with the Military Outdoors program and encourages other veterans to be part of the outdoor community. In the future he hopes to use the skills he gained to be a trip leader on other wilderness outings.
“I’d like to give my heartfelt thanks to the Sierra Club and the Military Outdoors program as well as all the volunteers at Yellowstone Forever and the personnel at OARS who have all made such a great contribution to my life and to my experience with their programs.” — Evan Bogart
Photos by Cody Ringelstein or Sarah Chillson.