An abbreviated TWiA this week, because of too much work and not enough time. We'll try to do better next week!
This Week in Gun Safety
Researchers at Texas A&M and Georgia State universities have been studying "stand-your-ground" laws. They used different methodologies and looked at different data, but they came up with the same result: After stand-your-ground laws are passed, crime rates don't go down, but homicides increase.
That's not what those who wrote the laws intend, we're sure. But it should seem self-evident--where there are more people walking around with guns, and license to use then, more people are shot to death.
More guns, more gun deaths. We fetishize guns. Instead of thinking of them as tools, we think of them as extensions of ourselves. Fearful people carry them to feel brave, but fearful people are too ready to pull the trigger.
We don't have more crazy people than the other industrialized nations, where the rates of gun death are far lower than ours. We aren't more evil by nature. What we have more of are guns. Lots more. Obscene numbers of them.
The only exception to that is that if we as a nation have decided that gun ownership is our most important right--more vital than freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to worship as we choose, more important even than the freedom of our citizens to keep breathing and walking in sunlight and laughing and loving--then we as a nation have gone insane. If that's true, then we here at TWiA headquarters want out. We love America--we don't think anybody who's read us for any length of time can doubt that. But that's not the America we know and love, and if it's what we've become, then we're in the wrong place.
As a people, we need to stop imagining that the "freedom" to own any gun and take it anywhere is more sacred than the life of a child in Chicago or a teenager in Tampa or a working man in San Bernardino or a retired woman in Stowe. We need to rid ourselves of the foolish delusion that background checks are an assault on liberty, and that preserving gun-show loopholes is more important than staunching the flow of blood.
More guns=more gun deaths. There's no getting around the math. If we value life, we have to accept that we're awash in guns and blood and bodies, and we have to do something about it. It won't change until we do.
Side Note: Another study, this one from Michael Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety, analyzed 110 mass shootings from January 2009 to July 2014, and determined that 57% of them were related to domestic violence. Women in abusive relationships are eight times more likely to be murdered if their abuser has access to a gun.
This Week in Climate
Yep, still getting hotter.
This Week in Hunger
One-sixth of Americans don't have enough food to eat. National Geographic sent some photographers out to discover who the hungry Americans are. (Caution: if you have a heart, these photographs might break it.)
This Week in the Tea Party
Is the tea party a political movement or a religious one? This writer makes a good case for the latter. The tea party true believers take on faith ideas that can be easily disproved by looking at historical examples, contemporary examples from other economies (such as that austerity can pull an economy out of recession, or that cutting taxes increases revenue), or at science (climate change is a hoax, or the science is still out). They are fervent in these mistaken beliefs, and when faced with evidence of their error, take that evidence as proof of some kind of conspiracy against them. They hate the president with a passion far stronger than he--a moderate Democrat who's light years away from being the Socialist they paint him as--has done anything to deserve.
Of course, we're generalizing, here. The tea party has attracted all kinds of people, some of whom had genuine concerns about the direction of the country and thought they found a movement through which they could raise those issues. Most of those people, we believe, have dropped away, which is why polls show that people self-identifying with the tea party are fewer all the time. Those who have been left behind are the most faithful, the real acolytes, and they're the ones whose fervor approaches the religious.
Side Note 1: On the general topic of the intersection of religion and politics, the certifiable Bryan Fischer of the "American Family Association" believes that God, not man, drew the world's national borders. We don't know if he understands that national borders change a lot over time (some more than others).
Side Note 2: Tony Perkins of the "Family Research Council (why do people who use religion to disguise the fact that they traffic in hate try to coopt the word "family?") claims that the Obama administration is imposing Sharia law on the US military. Tony Perkins, is, as usual, full of something, but it's not truth, or wisdom.
This Week in the Radical Right
A new report reveals that the standoff at the ranch of freeloading rancher Cliven Bundy wasn't just something that happened--it was something that was meant to happen. And we'll be seeing more of it (like these clowns, for instance). People got away with pointing loaded weapons at federal law enforcement officers. That's not the kind of thing the radical right forgets about. According to Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, “The Bundy ranch standoff wasn’t a spontaneous response to Cliven Bundy’s predicament but rather a well-organized, military-type action that reflects the potential for violence from a much larger and more dangerous movement. This incident may have faded from public view, but if our government doesn’t pay attention, we will be caught off guard as much as the Bureau of Land Management was that day.”
This Week in Arizona
Congressional candidate (and current state representative) Adam Kwasman was trying to lock up the hatred vote by helping lead a protest against what he thought was a busload of immigrant children who had come to this country to escape the violence and terror in their own countries. Along with Kwasman, in Oracle, AZ, were people carrying signs written in a language those children can't read, and prepared to shout unwelcoming phrases in a language those children don't understand. They would, one presumes, understand the hatred etched on the faces of those protestors, the unreasoning ill will toward children whose parents sent them away.
Kwasman wanted to be front and center. He was shouting an off-the-cuff political speech when he was interrupted by the appearance of a bus coming up the road. Kwasman sent off a quick tweet and a picture of the vehicle in question. "Bus coming in. This is not compassion. This is the abrogation of the rule of law." Props to him for daring to use "abrogation" in a tweet, since that's a lot of letters.
Then he raced up to the bus, where he confronted the tiny evildoers with the weight of justice on his side. A little later, he told a local news reporter, "I was actually able to see some of the children in the buses. The fear on their faces.... This is not compassion."
Before he had a chance to boast much about striking fear into the hearts of children, the reporter informed him that he had not been charging a bus full of immigrants, but a bus transporting local kids to YMCA camp. As the reporter describes it, "I had to break it to Kwasman that those weren't migrant children. Kwasman later deleted the tweet. He did back flips trying to take back the story he told me."
Kwasman's takeaway? "They [the Y-camp kids] were sad, too. OK I apologize. I didn't know. I was leaving when I saw them. People are not happy down the line. That was an error by me. Those were not migrant children. That's fine. It was a mistake. That was a mistake. That was not correct and that's a mistake."
He doesn't seem to understand that the whole event was a mistake, start to finish. He was so anxious to stir up the mob that he couldn't tell the difference between Central American refugees and young American campers.
The mob, incidentally, was also stirred by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. "Sheriff Paul Babeu is credited with stirring up the anti-immigrant protesters through social media postings and a press release and by leaking information about the migrants' arrival to a local activist."
Babeu was mysteriously reelected to his job--although his congressional hopes were dashed--after it turned out that his secret boyfriend was himself an undocumented Mexican immigrant. "The New Times reported that a Mexican man identified only as Jose alleged that Babeu and his attorney, Chris DeRose, threatened that he could be deported if he didn’t sign an agreement not to disclose his romantic affair with Babeu, who has a national reputation as a border-security hawk. Babeu said Saturday that he had 'a personal relationship' with Jose, who volunteered on his political campaign, and acknowledged that provocative photographs of himself that accompanied the story on the New Times website were authentic."
It looks like Babeu's tea party aspirations are stronger than any loyalties to Jose. Hating immigrants is a powerful force on the right, and people desperate for power are more than happy to try to harness it.
Side Note: We've been seeing TV commercials for some of the candidates in the Republican gubernatorial primary. So far, they've all featured candidates complaining about illegal immigration and blaming the president for not securing the border--though we all know that the border is more secure, and immigration is lower, than at any time in the past. That fundamental dishonesty is not what's so disturbing about these ads, though--it's the utter lack of any respect for the office of the President of the United States, much less for the man who occupies it. One calls the president "Barack Obama," spoken as if the words were something distasteful he had accidentally put in his mouth. Another just calls him "Obama," with the same sort of condescending and bitter tone. It's a sad state of affairs when candidates for Arizona's highest elected office feel that to win Republican votes they have to demean the president.
This Week in Bears
A new report on the state of bears in America (with live bear-streaming from a live bear stream!).