Weapons of Mass Murder

170813002022-34-charlottesville-white-nationalist-protest-0812-exlarge-169A popular false equivalence floated by guns nuts after every mass murder is that “X {shovels, kitchen knives, pipe wrenches, etc} can also be used to kill,” followed by the straw man “so are you saying that we must also ban X?”

This  begs the question “What is the best weapon of mass murder?”  If we are talking sheer numbers of victims, then everybody thinks Airplane and 9/11!  2,606 killed at the World Trade Center!  Clear winner, right?  Well you must consider that there were 2 planes involved, one per tower.  If we take a single airplane strike on the North Tower there were 1,402 direct victims.  But the attack required 5 terrorists, so the effective number of victims per terrorist is 280.

Bombs? Timothy McVeigh murdered 168 with a single truck bomb, fewer than the airplane reaping, although he did manage to injure an additional 600 people.

Cars & Trucks?  In 2016 Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel drove into a crowd in Nice, France and killed 86 (injuring 458).

Guns?  Stephen Paddock is the current leading mass killer, murdering 59 people (and injuring 527) with his legal semi-automatic rifles converted with legal bumper fire kits to full-automatic.  In line with runner-up Omar Mateen who killed 49 (and injured 58) at a nightclub in Florida in 2016.

Knives?  Not so common in gun-friendly U.S., but we have Satoshi Uematsu in Japan in 2016 who murdered 19 (and injured 25)…but keep in mind that he was stabbing disabled people.  More realistic is the recent attack in China where 10 people killed 29 (and injured 130) at a train station – the effective number of victims per killer is 3.

Shovels, pipe-wrenches, candlesticks, etc?  Seems like people have killed somebody with just about anything at one time or another…but I couldn’t find any evidence of massacres using ‘found objects’…perhaps because these things aren’t specifically designed to kill a lot of people.

In terms of price/performance, the airplane attacks were about $192/victim, McVeigh’s bomb was $30/victim, the rental truck $6/victim, and Paddock’s gun massacre $102/victim, knives $10/victim.

Post 9/11 security has made another commercial plane suicide attack unlikely, and the cost and planning are unrealistic for the lone-wolf killer.  The truck-bombing provides low cost with a high murder rate, but requires careful planning and execution to avoid ending up on a watch-list and foiled by Homeland Security.  The truck attack offers the best price performance with a significant mass-murder effect, very little planning, simple execution and limited skills required – the clear weapon of choice.  The gun attack was surprising pricey in comparison and requires basic shooting skills, but  doesn’t require much in the way of planning.

And found objects?  Pure wing-nut bullshit.

 

 

 

 

 

The Appalling Ignorance of Conservatives

facepalm_estatuaWonder why little aid is flowing to Puerto Rico in spite of the most devastating hurricane in its history?

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll conducted in March found that fewer than half of Americans (47%) believe that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth.  They are.

Instead, 30% of the people surveyed thought residents of the island are citizens of Puerto Rico. Another 21% just didn’t know where the people of Puerto Rico belong.

Probably the same dumbshit 30% that believes in creationism, denies human activity as the cause of current climate change, and approve of Trump.

 

Cartoon Patriotism of the Conservatives

c05e10accafdd608f315434b0111b489--god-jesus-jesus-christWhat do these things have in common? NFL players ‘bending the knee’ during the national anthem to protest treatment of African Americans.  Removal of Confederate statues from public areas.  Black Lives Matter.  Muslims in America.

Simple – they cause wing nut outrage.  Throw in temper tantrums from the past over happy holidays coffee cups, flag burning, taking down Confederate flags from state capitals, not wearing flag lapel pins, transgender bathrooms for kids, etc.   Strange outbursts over seemingly petty issues – a conundrum to the educated liberal?

The key is rather banal.  The wing nut world view is a 2-dimensional comic book, formed in elementary school, before the introduction of critical thinking, where God, America, Soldiers and Football are all conflated.  Don’t look for any depth …the wing nut is fixated on the symbology and ritual behavior, the perspective of the 10 year old in Sunday School.

Theirs is a religion without theology, a patriotism without civics, opinions without consequence.  The crimes, or sins for them rest not in liberalism, but in disrespecting their sacred symbols and rituals – killing their sacred cows, so to speak.  And they react like any extremist religious group whose symbols are disrespected – by lashing out angrily and sometimes violently.

 

Is a special counsel for Trump-Russia really the best option??

(*tap, tap… is this thing still on?*)

As shown by the lack of posts from me here since Inauguration Day, I’ve had a hard time finding anything useful to say about the unprecedented dishonesty, unprecedented corruption, and unprecedented incompetence of the Trump administration.  There’s plenty of folks with bigger megaphones to decry the wrongness of their latest specific missteps, and the sheer unpredictability of Trump’s whims made it difficult to take a longer view.

But I’ve finally found a point where I dissent from the progressive consensus, so it feels like I should weigh in.  In the justified firestorm of outrage after Jim Comey’s firing as FBI director, the central demand among Democrats in Congress — and progressives in general — has been for the naming of a special prosecutor (or, to be technically accurate, a special counsel) to take control of the FBI’s investigation of connections between Russia and President Trump’s election campaign.

Being sufficiently old to remember previous investigations of Republican presidents, though, I wonder if that’s really the best thing to demand.  First of all, calling for a special counsel seems like an all-or-nothing bet on exactly who is named to do the job. If a loyal GOP hack whose highest priority is to neuter the investigation is picked (as happened when Joseph DiGenova was named to investigate the first Bush administration’s 1992 search for dirt on Bill Clinton), the pressure and demands will have backfired completely.

The independence and capability of the special counsel who is named will depend almost completely on the integrity of the person doing the picking — in this case, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was either complicit in or exploited by the process of Comey’s firing.  And if Rosenstein has enough of a conscience and a spine to appoint a genuinely aggressive special counsel, why not simply let Rosenstein continue to oversee the existing FBI investigation?

Even in the best-case scenarios, special counsels going after GOP presidents have led to often-delayed investigations and meager results.  Patrick Fitzgerald was named in December 2003 to find out who leaked Valerie Plame’s covert CIA identity; it took almost two years to indict Scooter Libby, and another year and a half to get a conviction… which was promptly wiped away by George W. Bush’s commutation of the sentence before Scooter had served a single day.  Similarly, the Iran-Contra probe by Lawrence Walsh dragged on for six years, and had its key convictions overturned on appeal and remaining prosecutions erased by G.H.W. Bush’s Xmas eve pardons (bit of a family tradition there, eh?).

Is that really the route we want the Trump-Russia investigation to take?

I’m all in favor of pressure tactics to force an independent probe, but I think perhaps we should be pushing for a genuinely bipartisan congressional investigation, as well as whatever can be done to shield the existing FBI probe(s) from Trumpian influence.

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert about all of the alternative processes (including those I just mentioned), but it seems to me that the goal is to get as much information irrevocably out in public as soon as possible — and the hard lesson of experience seems to be that special counsels don’t provide this result.

Welcome To The Department of Tin-foil Hats

Professional troll Milo Yiannopoulos is going around touring colleges to spew more of his toxic vitriol, cash out while he can, and try to get a rise out of the kids.

Last night the students at UC Berkeley took the bait and amassed outside the student union to protest (any sane person would have advised them to just ignore the troll and let him disappear into the woods).

Sadly, the peaceful protest was interrupted by a group of hoodlums who showed up to torch some garbage cans and mess things up:

(Photo: Byron Villacis via Berkeleyside)

Before long, people were getting injured, banks were getting burned, and helicopters were flying overhead.

This morning President TicTac weighed in with a not so subtle threat against the whole university and its federal funding. Why? Who knows. The University and (by all accounts) the protesting students weren’t the ones involved in the acts of violence. But why let a good crisis go to waste?

Which brings us to the age-old question of:

Who Benefits?

The only positive outcome of this event was for El Presidente and his anti-progressive rhetoric, a few goons of dubious origin who showed up to cause a mess, and Milo Yiannopoulos (incidentally, an editor at Breitbart) and his klan clan.

The so-called Antifa group, incidentally, have had a history of bad-blood between them and local ‘fa’ groups. But why would real Anti-Fascists try to attack people who were protesting the vitriol coming out of a Breitbart fabulist. You’d think they’d happily join along.

Which brings us to the topic of historical shit-shows (aka False Flags) instigated by people to make their enemies look bad so they could advance their own cause. The progressives (and especially Berkeley students) may want to take notes.

 

The most notorious historical bit of fakery was, of course, the Reichstag Fire.

A much less well-known one was a little sleight-of-hand by the Italian police in 2001.

But the best documented one was the one in 1953 in Iran that brought down Mosaddeq and brought the Shah back to power (which started a whole trail of events that are still with us today).

Now let’s not for a minute compare the inconvenience of a pointless shit-stain of a human being like Milo whatsisname to such large, momentous events.

But the notion of innocuous events being subverted into violent protests which were used as an excuse to initiate larger counter-events is something that has been with us for a long-time.

As we move into a nation of permanent protesters, we should be on alert that it will be fairly easy to transform a peaceful march into a large-scale riot with relative ease. And then to use the riot to tighten the authoritarian clamps.

Organizers of such protests should ask themselves how they can preempt and prevent these types of subversions. The best tactic is open and transparent communication with the police, training for participants and volunteers, and a rapid shutdown of any bad behavior before it gets out of hand.

Last night’s event should act as a wakeup call to progressives. From now on, every organized event should be on notice. Your peaceful march can turn into a miasma of police helicopters, tear gas, and defensive back-pedalling that will completely obscure the original intent of your gathering. Be vigilant and prepared for these sorts of subversions.

And the question smart media folks should always ask before devolving into sensationalistic headlines is:

Who Benefits?

Of course, it’s easy to go to the other extreme and believe every fabulist point/counter-point of deceptions.

So let us stick to the facts and not forget that Tin Foil Hats Actually Make it Easier for the Government to Track Your Thoughts.