Like many of you, I am on vacation this week. For most Americans, Christmas week represents about half of the time off we will enjoy all year long. Compared with Australians (at least 4 weeks off, plus 10 public holidays), Brazilians (22 days of paid leave with a 33 percent salary vacation bonus) and the French (at least 5 weeks off and as many as 9 for many public employees), we are seriously bereft....The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine: "On Killing Sprees," by Ian Welsh, ianwelsh.net, December 19 [personal communication; excerpt:]
The two most important things to understand are that gun control would reduce harm significantly, and that gun control is a palliative for a sick culture. The US does have more guns than anyone else, but countries like Finland have a pile of guns and people don’t kill nearly as many innocents with them. Likewise every military age male in Switzerland has an assault rifle, and they don’t have killing sprees.
The first point first, China has people who go on sprees with knives. In fact there was one just recently in a school, 23 students were injured. That’s sad, but not one of them died. Not one. Guns make violence far, far more deadly. Reducing gun availability won’t stop attacks. It will reduce how deadly they are.
The key points of leverage on harm reduction are reducing clip sizes, getting rid of automatics and semi-automatics and radically restricting ammunition purchases. Likewise soft-target ammunition—bullets intended to fragment, and hollow point ammunition need to go away. These bullets have no purpose but to kill civilians. You don’t use them against military or paramilitary targets because they suck against body armor. As such they have no place, even if you believe in a 2nd Amendment “fight the government” argument. If you’re fighting the government, you’ll want ammo that can pierce body armor.
The second point is that America has far more of these attacks than anyone else. This is because America:
1) is under economic pressure. The more people who are in economic trouble, the more attacks.
2) has jobs which are intensely unpleasant, with the asshole boss being the norm. Don’t tell me otherwise....
at City Lights in 2007
It's amazing to me that so many of the people who make even slightly pro-gun arguments have never had to protect themselves or anybody else from someone else wielding a gun, and have probably lived safely and happily most of their lives going out to dinners and socializing with a wide group of people who have never owned a gun. They flail around, like the NRA, seeking pro-gun arguments, justification in the gun policies of Israel or the gun limitation policies of South Africa, or the mass murder in Norway by Brevik (in a country with one of the lowest murder rates in the world). I find myself repeatedly, silently, echoing the sentiment of Ferlinghetti's "I am Waiting": "I am waiting for...America...to finally stand up and fly right." [personal communication]
fills me with much dread;
Alexander Hamilton tried a tactic that fair,
and Aaron Burr shot him dead. [personal communication]
Cash for guns: "Lawmakers Call for Stricter Gun Control Even As They Subsidize Gun Industry," by Matt Stoller, nakedcapitalism.com, December 26 [personal communication; excerpt:]
One of the consequences of the tragedy at Sandy Hook is an ardent debate over gun control laws all over the country. In Massachusetts, for instance, which has an assault weapons ban, Governor Deval Patrick, along with members of the legislature, is now trying to figure out how to close gun loopholes. Rep. David Linsky says he wants to go over “every single line, every single comma of our gun laws” to prevent ownership of the kinds of gun used in Connecticut. These debates are interesting mostly for what they leave out—the economics of the gun industry itself and its subsidization by the state through various tax credits, direct spending, and legal forbearance....About those NYPD shootings. A recent post to your blog portrayed a bleak and misleading image of the firearms prowess and safety standards of New York City police officers. While tragic, accidental shootings do occur, they are not nearly as common as the two incidents cited—which occurred more than a decade apart. According to the NYPD's annual firearms discharge report, 19 people were shot by police officers in 2011, and nine of them were killed. The number of shootings since 2000 has fluctuated between 16 and 26, while shooting deaths have varied between eight and 14. These numbers include people shot in the act of committing crimes, and accidental shootings of innocent people. Considering that New York City has 35,000 armed officers interacting with eight million residents and millions of visitors, the actual math doesn’t add up to the image of reckless or incompetent cops that was portrayed in the post.
Nine bystanders were indeed injured by police bullets in the August 2011 incident that was cited, but only 10 were injured by police bullets the rest of the year. That August situation was created when a man shot someone and tried to escape through a crowd while still carrying a weapon. Since he was armed, it is reasonable to assume that police feared he would shoot additional victims and took more chances than usual trying to stop him.
As for the concern about the death toll from modern semi-automatic weapons, it is interesting to compare the shootings and deaths since 2000 with those of decades past. The highest recorded number of police shootings in the report was in 1971, when officers shot 221 people, killing 93 of them. That was from the era of the standard service revolver, long before the supposedly more deadly rapid-fire weapons were in use by the department. [personal communication]
Illuminating take: "The CIA Agent Who Found Bin Laden Is Having Trouble at Work," by Adam Clark Estes, in The Atlantic Wire, December 10. The last line in this, the last paragraph sums it up perfectly:
In a way, this sort of internal drama is just how things work at Langley, says one former CIA officer. "Do you know how many CIA officers are jerks?" the former officer told The Post. "If that was a disqualifier, the whole National Clandestine Service would be gone." He added, "The agency is a funny place, very insular. It's like middle schoolers with clearances." [personal communication]Drone war: "The coming drone attack on America," by Naomi Wolf, guardian.co.uk, December 21. "Drones on domestic surveillance duties are already deployed by police and corporations. In time, they will likely be weaponised."[personal communication: excerpt]
People often ask me, in terms of my argument about "ten steps" that mark the descent to a police state or closed society, at what stage we are. I am sorry to say that with the importation of what will be tens of thousands of drones, by both US military and by commercial interests, into US airspace, with a specific mandate to engage in surveillance and with the capacity for weaponization—which is due to begin in earnest at the start of the new year—it means that the police state is now officially here....Limerick of the Week:
Alex, who came here from Crete,
Felt unmanly unless he packed heat;
His girlfriend, named Alice,
Said, "Look at that phallus!"
A jest she would never repeat.