Tag Archives: National Rifle Association

Facts, and Opinions, that matter this week

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan cheer at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016.  REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan cheer at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

Reporting

Turkish coup crumbles, crowds answer call to streets, by Nick Tattersall and Ece Toksabay

An attempted Turkish military coup appeared to crumble on Saturday after crowds answered President Tayyip Erdogan’s call to take to the streets to support him and dozens of rebel soldiers abandoned their tanks in the main city of Istanbul.

How the mafia is causing cancer, by Ian Birrell  Magazine

When doctors in rural Italy began to see a surge in cancer cases, they were baffled. Then they made the link with industrial waste being dumped by local crime syndicates.

Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (R), greets Britain's new Prime Minister, Theresa May, as she arrives at Bute House in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (R), greets Britain’s new Prime Minister, Theresa May, as she arrives at Bute House in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

THERESA MAY: Britain’s new prime minister, by Victoria Honeyman  Report

Some newspapers obsessed over Theresa May’s quirky shoe choices, but she also hit headlines with her admission in 2002 that the Conservatives were often seen as the “nasty party”.

UK won’t trigger EU divorce until country-wide agreement, by Russell Cheyne  Report

Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain would not trigger formal divorce talks with the European Union until a “UK approach” had been agreed, bidding to appease Scots who strongly oppose Brexit.

Oxford dictionary update shows beauty of English, by Annabelle Lukin  Report

By adding the “World Englishes” to the entries on British and American English, the OED has opened a pandora’s box.  Changes to the OED remind us that a language is open and dynamic.

If carbon pricing is so great, why isn’t it working? by Peter Fairley   Analysis

Carbon pricing has yet to deliver on its potential. To date most carbon prices remain low — “virtually valueless.”  That has led even some economists to question whether carbon pricing’s theoretical elegance may be outweighed by practical and political hurdles.

Commentary:

Beijing’s imperial ambitions run aground on legal reefs, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

The Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled that China’s claim over the South China Sea is invalid and unlawful. China must now recognise that what is on the line is Beijing’s trustworthiness as an international partner, in everything from trade deals to the working of the UN Security Council.

Why the NRA makes America so very dangerous, by Tom Regan   Column

Recent events in the U.S. – the shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the subsequent shootings of five police officers in Dallas – show how the National Rifle Association’s toxic message of guns, guns, guns, and fear, fear, fear, affect the way people deal with daily problems, and the way police respond to all kinds of situations.

Recommended elsewhere:

The Great Republican Crackup is an excellent analysis of American discontent, by ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis.  Excerpt:

The disruption that the nomination of Trump represents for the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan has been cast as a freakish anomaly, the equivalent of the earthquakes that hit the other side of Ohio in recent years. But just as those earthquakes had a likely explanation — gas and oil fracking in the Utica Shale — so can the crackup of the Republican Party and rise of Trump be traced back to what the geologists call the local site conditions. … read the story on ProPublica

We’ve seen another week of blood shed by innocents, of countries roiled by war, of loud simpletons jumping to instant conclusions — including some politicians in positions of extreme power. Facts matter; here’s where to find some of them this week:

  • Follow France24 for news of the Nice truck massacre by Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, whose first victim, reported the BBC, was a devout Muslim woman and whose own father described him as mentally ill and not religious.
  • Follow Al Jazeera and Reuters for news of the coup in Turkey.

Findings:

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1346294

FBI sketch of the man dubbed DB Cooper, via Wikipedia.

The man known as America’s air pirate, DB Cooper, is a man of myth, hunted for 45 years by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation after he hijacked a Boeing 727, was paid a ransom, then vanished via parachute somewhere over the Pacific Northwest. In an announcement on Tuesday the FBI officially conceded defeat in perhaps its most storied case. “The FBI exhaustively reviewed all credible leads, coordinated between multiple field offices to conduct searches, collected all available evidence, and interviewed all identified witnesses,” the statement said. ” Unfortunately, none of the well-meaning tips or applications of new investigative technology have yielded the necessary proof.” The hijacker  inspired stories in books, TV series and at least one movie. Shops in Washington and Oregon sell Cooper tourist souvenirs; the town of Ariel, in Washington, holds a “Cooper Day” each fall, notes Wikipedia. Was Cooper his real name? Did he survive the drop? Is he living somewhere in ripe old age? He remains a man of mystery.

American presidential hopeful Donald Trump selected Mike Pence as his VP hopeful. ProPublica compiled some of the best reporting for a profile of the Indiana governor.  Still in America: the climate denial apparatus that has long obstructed American politics needs investigating for fraud, argues U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in the Columbia Journalism Review. In a piece about the hyperbolic reaction to his call for such an investigation, he points out, “fraud is not protected speech under the (U.S. constitutional) First Amendment.”

“Face it, Facebook. You’re in the news business,” writes media guru Margaret Sullivan.  Two-thirds of Facebook’s 1.6 billion users get their news there. At  stake, argues Sullivan — former public editor of the New York Times, now the Washington Post media columnist — are no less than civil liberties and free speech.

The close British vote to leave the European Union is already reshaping global security.  Germany Sees Brexit Opening for EU Defense Union With France, write Patrick Donahue and Arne Delfs, of Bloomberg. They report on the German defence minister’s plans for an overhaul, and her suggestion that the U.K. ‘paralyzed’ a joint EU security and defense stance.

Still on Brexit, we all know Churchill’s quip about democracy being the least bad form of government (it’s the tag line on F&O’s Publica section). In the wake of the Brexit debacle, scholar Geoffrey Pullum looked up the person Churchill quoted and, in  In Lingua Franca, the blog of the journal Chronicle of Higher Learning, presented his finding of Robert Briffault (1874–1948), a British surgeon, social anthropologist, and novelist.  Briffault’s exact words — considering the dire decline of political discourse internationally — are worth repeating here:

Democracy is the worst form of government. It is the most inefficient, the most clumsy, the most unpractical. … It reduces wisdom to impotence and secures the triumph of folly, ignorance, clap-trap, and demagogy. … Yet democracy is the only form of social order that is admissible, because it is the only one consistent with justice.  

Of note, the Chronicle also publishes Arts and Letters Daily. Take a look if (and I would be surprised) it’s not already on your must-read menu.

Last but not least: for a pick-me-up read this, from the Oatmeal comic site. Trust me, just do.

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We survive on an honour system. Thanks for your interest and support. Details.

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Why the NRA makes America so very dangerous

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
July 16, 2016

“Lock and load. Defend liberty” is what the sign outside the gun shop in my sleepy little Virginia town says. Last week it was something like “Arm yourself so you can shoot back.”

In the rural Virginia area where I live, there are at least five gun shops in a 15-mile radius.  The population of my town, Lovettsville, is 1,800 hearty – and apparently well-armed – souls. And if they are not well-armed, well then the National Rifle Association is going do its best to make sure they are.

NRA

© Tom Regan 2016

Recent events – the shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the subsequent shootings of five police officers in Dallas – were not only tragic proof of the abysmal state of race relations in America, but also of the overwhelming presence of guns and how they affect everyday interactions between family members, citizens and the police, and, most glaringly, black citizens and the police.

The purpose of this column is not to deal with race relations in the US. I have written about that before and most likely will again.

No, the purpose is to look at how the NRA’s toxic message of guns, guns, guns, and fear, fear, fear, affects the way people deal with daily problems, and the way police respond to all kinds of situations.

The NRA, while not a terrorist organization by nature of the way we define terror, is still about as close as you can get to being one without being one. Instead of “defending liberty,” like the sign proclaims, the NRA probably does more to deprive people of their liberty (and lives), while making America one of the deadliest places on the planet, a place so dangerous that other nations have started to issue travel warnings to their citizens because of the danger of the abundance of guns in America.

There are more than enough statistics and examples that show intelligent gun regulations work, whether in Canada, the United Kingdom or Australia. The NRA leadership, however, foams at the mouth whenever these examples are produced, and inevitably falls back on a number of tired tropes that have repeatedly been shown to be false: “If you take guns away from the good guys, only the bad guys will have guns.” And, “It only takes one good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun,” etc. etc.

By intimidation, backing far-right conservative candidates, and rampant, never-ending fear-mongering, the NRA has managed to get laws passed that support its dark agenda. Open-carry laws, concealed carry laws (which apparently don’t seem to help much if you’re a black man in Minnesota), and Stand Your Ground laws contribute to making this country one of the most dangerous places on the planet.

So to return to the police question again: You’re a police officer about to question someone, or go to a domestic dispute, or give a speeding ticket. Thanks to the NRA (which has undermined almost every effort by police to make the country less well-armed), you would be an idiot not to assume the person you are dealing with is armed. Recent data shows that police are more likely to be shot in states with a high percentage of gun ownership; the more guns in the state, the more likely a cop will be shot.

Now, overlay that fear among police with the institutionalized racism so prevalent in many police departments, and you get the seemingly never-ending incidents of black men being shot down by police, even when unarmed, or when legally carrying a firearm.

It’s not that police in other countries aren’t racist. There was a recent story of a black man in the Canadian province of New Brunswick being questioned by police because someone thought it was “suspicious” to see him sitting on a park bench, reading a book. But police in other countries do not have to worry as much, in most cases, that their interactions with the public will result in their being shot. That changes the nature of the interaction, and while it may still result in harm to individuals through brutal police tactics, there is not a lot of shooting involved.

Meanwhile, thanks to the NRA, guns are one of the most popular ways for people to express frustration or anger. The recent story of a hard-core NRA supporter who shot and killed her two daughters after an argument is a great example of this, and far from an isolated case. Take, for instance, the two supporters of a militia who got into an argument; one shot the other in the head.

It would take volumes to go over all the shootings that result from America’s largely unfettered access to these weapons of death, not even including considering guns used to commit suicide.

There have been some recent victories against the NRA. Some, including Connecticut and California, introduced legislation that reduces the size of ammunition clips and how many guns a person can buy over a period of time. Once again, however, the Republican party (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NRA) defeated legislation that would have resulted in more stringent background checks.

Guns will always be a part of America. It’s just the way it is, and nothing is going to change that. But something can be done to reduce the unfettered access to guns, ammunition and over-sized clips. The NRA is opposed to any kind of law that will make Americans safer, and will fight any intelligent regulation tooth and nail.

But if individuals and smart politicians can build on the successes of Connecticut and California, and the growing sense of horror among Americans at what guns are doing to this country, maybe we can at least reduce the effects of the NRA’s terror-like impulses.

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

Links:

 

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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The Dunblane massacre at 20: how Britain rewrote gun laws

By Peter Squires, University of Brighton 
March 13, 2016

By PaddyBriggs - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18305211

Photo: PaddyBriggs via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Thomas Hamilton walked into Dunblane Primary School, near Stirling, Scotland on March 13 1996, armed with four legally-owned handguns and over 700 rounds of ammunition. In three to four terrible minutes, he fired 105 shots killing 16 children and their teacher, and wounding 15 more children. His last shot killed himself.

In the 20 years since Dunblane, a great deal has been learned about preventing gun violence. Only the United States, where mass shootings now number in the hundreds, seems reluctant to embrace those lessons, prompting president Barack Obama to wonder why the US could not do more on gun control.

After the Dunblane massacre, handgun control became highly political. Handgun ownership was increasing in the 1990s and sports shooting, the only legitimate reason for owning a handgun, was a fast growing sport. Yet even members of the elite country-sports lobby were troubled by newcomers, keen on “combat style” shooting, entering the sport.

These tensions opened up after Dunblane. The government commissioned Lord Cullen run an inquiry into the incident. He recommended cautious compromises (storing firearms in secure armouries or police stations). These were initially rejected as “unworkable” by shooters, but they were ultimately overwhelmed by the strength of public feeling.

Arguing that Britain’s developing gun culture was responsible for the tragedy of Dunblane, the Snowdrop campaign presented a 750,000 signature petition to the UK parliament.

The government of the time, under the premiership of John Major, was split, reluctant to confront pro-gun Tory backbenchers, although Tony Blair’s New Labour was waiting in the wings, ready to seize the issue. The then home secretary Michael Howard initially wanted to accept Cullen’s compromise. But the Scottish secretary, Michael Forsythe, MP for Dunblane’s neighbouring constituency of Stirling, with one of the smallest parliamentary majorities, had made commitments to bereaved family members. Eventually the prime minister supported Forsythe and backed the handgun control proposals.

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The Conservative government legislated to ban higher calibre handguns in 1997. After the New Labour government swept to power that May, it added .22 calibre handguns to the prohibited list.

By March 1999, the National Audit Office reported to parliament that 165,353 licensed handguns and 700 tonnes of ammunition, had been surrendered, involving an estimated compensation cost of £95m.

A Home Office analysis cited by Cullen had found that, between 1992-94, 14% of firearm homicides had been committed with legally held weapons. Even allowing for some slippage of weapons from legal to illegal ownership and stolen firearms, nobody expected that the surrender of legal handguns would hugely impact the rates of gun enabled crime. But few expected the 105% increase in recorded handgun crime which occurred between 1998 and 2003.

Tracking gun crime in England and Wales. Home Office and Office for National Statistics., Author provided

In Scotland, handgun offences fell by almost 80% in the five years after Dunblane.

Selected Gun Crime trends in Scotland: 1990-2011 Scottish Government Statistical Bulletins, Author provided

 

As any criminologists would stress, passing a law does not in itself prevent crime. Rather more was happening, for the 1990s saw the development of a wholly new gun market in the UK comprising non-firing “realistic imitation” firearms (hitherto largely unknown in the UK), BB guns, and high-powered air weapons.

There was a ready demand for many of these “junk guns” in Britain’s emerging gang cultures, where firearm carrying was culturally endorsed. Researchers found that a large proportion of “armed robberies” were carried out by offenders with imitation or non-functioning firearms. The rise in handgun crime had nothing to do with the handgun ban and everything to do with the changing patterns of supply and demand in the illegal firearms market.

In some respects, displacement of firearm demand into the multi-layered “junk firearm” market could also be seen as a sign of success – offenders were finding factory quality weapons harder to come by.

In turn, both the police and Home Office began to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the composition of Britain’s illegal firearm supply. As the graph above shows, from around 2003 the gun crime graph picks out the contribution of different firearm types. The pie chart below shows the full variety of firearms making up the criminal armoury – guns recovered by the police in England and Wales in 2014. A large number of firearms remain unknown or unidentified.

Firearms in England and Wales in 2014. Home Office., Author provided

In the face of some of the world’s toughest gun control laws, criminal ingenuity has worked to create new supply routes into Britain to meet criminal demand, even as local intelligence-led policing has sought to suppress the demand for firearms in “gang affected” communities. The National Ballistic Intelligence Service has contributed enormously to our understanding of the supply, circulation and misuse of criminal firearms.

New types of gun supply have arisen offering converted or “reactivated” firearms, recycled antique weapons or ammunition. Meanwhile, smugglers, the internet and the UK fast-parcel service have all played a part in arming Britain’s criminals.

The authorities in the UK are now considering how to prepare for new threats, such as the Paris style “mass casualty” attacks. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has recently published a hard-hitting report recommending further important changes to British firearms licensing, for instance by requiring better information sharing between police and community mental health teams and a more rigorous vetting of firearm license applicants.

Dunblane represented an almost unprecedented challenge to British understandings of the public safety issues presented by firearms. Effective research, diligent lobbying by the UK Gun Control Network, new legislation and new policing practices have made substantial progress on the problems. But the answers did not come all at once and, as the uptick in gun crime figures for 2015 suggests, there are no grounds for complacency.

The ConversationCreative Commons

Peter Squires is a Professor of Criminology & Public Policy, University of Brighton. Visit his web site here. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

You might also be interested in these pieces on F&O:

No safe place left in America — NRA to blame, by Tom Regan, F&O Summoning Orenda column

There are no safe places left in the U.S. Blame the National Rifle Association, gun manufacturers, and unthinking media.

America’s gun cult, Switzerland’s firearms culture, by Jonathan Manthorpe, F&O International Affairs column

The results of gun violence in the U.S. are in the same order of magnitude as the fruits of terrorism in the entire world.  The Swiss also have firearms readily available, but they do not massacre each other at nearly the same rate as the Americans.

Misunderstanding U.S. Gun Violence by Counting Mass Shootings, by Lois Beckett, ProPublica

Counting mass shootings obscures the broader reality of gun violence in America.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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No safe place left in America — NRA to blame

Concerned citizens attempted to deliver petitions signed by over 235,000 Americans in 2012, calling on the NRA to stop blocking gun control legislation.

Concerned citizens attempted to deliver petitions signed by over 235,000 Americans in 2012, calling on the NRA to stop blocking gun control legislation. © Josh Lopez, Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
December, 2015

“Just another day in the United States of America, another day of gunfire, panic and fear.”

That was how the BBC began its coverage of the shootings in San Bernardino, California, which left 14 people dead and more than 20 injured.

Just another day in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Shootingtracker.com is a site that counts the number of mass shootings that take place in this country. It defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot, and injured or killed. So far, in 2015, there have been 350 mass shootings. That’s more than one a day.

Here’s the truth about the United States of America. There are no safe places left: not schools, not churches, not hospitals, not Christmas parties, not workplaces, not private homes, not office buildings, not public streets. Nowhere. Americans live in a war zone of gun violence. It is not as dangerous what residents of Syria and Iraq face, it is overwhelming.

You can point the finger of blame for this unbelievable toll at many individuals and organizations. But in reality it is a toxic stew of many ingredients, each perhaps harmless by itself. When all are thrown together, and stirred vigorously by the National Rifle Association and its puppet masters the gun manufacturers, and promoted unthinkingly by media, you end up with staggering statistics.

Some, including myself, previously pointed to gun regulations enacted in nations like Canada and Australia after their own mass shootings. But it’s time to forget about that. The United States is not Canada. It’s not Australia. The love of guns is so ingrained in the American culture and mythology that I daresay that trying to end it could provoke another civil war. I’m not joking.

The U.S. takes this gun-loving culture and combines it with a paranoid distrust of government (particularly among those who own multiple guns). It’s added to a society where white males in particular see themselves diminishing in power and numbers (which helps to fuel their anger at almost every minority group). Then, there’s a rising chorus of right-wing media and conservative demagogues who promote racial imbalance in an effort to gain money and power. Put all this together, and very bad things happen.

It seems to me that Americans have lost the ability to talk things out. Instead, the solution to grievances, whether on a personal or societal level, is to grab your gun and start shooting.

Are you upset at the way you’ve been treated at work? Then head to your nearest gun show, load up on semiautomatics and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and go to your office. Tired of how you’re being treated at school? Angry at a professor who didn’t give you the mark you needed on your dissertation? Then take out your anger with a gun. Angry at someone who believes in a different cultural value than you do? Then crash into their clinic and fire at will. Face discrimination because of your religious beliefs? You don’t have to take it, you could shoot your way to paradise. Think there are too many Blacks, or Muslims, or uppity women, or Hispanics, are responsible for all the troubles in your life (because that’s what the talking heads on conservative media have told you)? You know how to deal with them.

And at the apex of this pyramid of violence stands the NRA and American gun manufacturers. Now the NRA in and of itself doesn’t shoot anyone. It’s not pulling the triggers. It is just doing everything in its power to make sure that any individuals who want to use a gun to express anger and frustration at other people or society, they can access all the weaponry and ammunition that they desire.

It’s not just that the NRA is opposed to common sense gun regulations: it actively seeks out and undermines those who propose them. Under the leadership of Wayne LaPierre, a man the New York Daily News has designated a “terrorist,” the NRA has not only pushed to put guns in every possible place in America, including churches and schools – and bars – it has helped to promote laws like Stand Your Ground in Florida and Texas that encourage people to settle disputes with guns.

Perhaps the most egregious example of this was the man who murdered another man in a movie theater when he didn’t stop looking at his cell phone prior to the start of the movie. The shooter immediately claimed Stand Your Ground as a defense, because he said he felt threatened when he and the other man were arguing.

The NRA claims to promote its position based on its belief in the Second Amendment, but in reality it is helping its corporate masters, the gun manufacturers, make staggering profits. It is unrepentant in its venal motives and does not hesitate to try to spend or bribe its way to victory over anyproposed law that would restrict its agenda.

And here’s the kicker. The NRA can count on the support of the American public as it marches on. Scared to death by the overwhelming number of shootings, whipped into a frenzy by conservative media that promotes hatred and gun ownership, and fueled by mythology that says you can’t be an American without a gun, I can promise you that nothing, nothing will happen to change these grim outcomes.

Think I’m wrong? Gun stores all across America reported increased sales on Black Friday and after the San Bernardino shooting – as if someone with a handgun could take down two shooters armed with semi-automatic weapons. That is the world of the NRA has created in America.

You want to feel safe? Don’t press your politicians to come up with real long-term solutions, don’t try to find a way to help include those who feel alienated, don’t look at a long-term strategy towards possible acts of terrorism that might actually work. No. Just buy a gun. You’ll make Wayne LaPierre’s day.

And the mass shootings will go on and on and on and on…

 

 

Copyright Tom Regan 2015

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

References:

Gun stores expect to see increase in sales after San Bernardino shooting, ABC: http://abc7news.com/news/gun-stores-to-see-increase-in-sales-after-san-bernardino-shooting/1107809/
Mass shootings in 2015, Shooting Tracker: http://shootingtracker.com/wiki/Mass_Shootings_in_2015
Terrorist Attacks are Strategic: The Response Should Be, Too, Foreign Affairs: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2015-12-01/terrorist-attacks-are-strategic?cid=nlc-twofa-20151203&sp_mid=50169381&sp_rid=YnBldHplbkBnbWFpbC5jb20S1&spMailingID=50169381&spUserID=OTgzNzM0MTEzNjQS1&spJobID=820493626&spReportId=ODIwNDkzNjI2S0

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.

 

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Waiting for America’s next mass murder

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
October, 2015

We won’t have to wait long. He’s out there right now. We don’t know his name, or where it will happen, but he will do it. We Americans will know his name within the next week or so.

It will be a he. Very few mass murders are committed by shes. It’s hard to even think of any.

He’s likely early, maybe mid-20s. He’s probably white, but not always. The mass murderer at the Navy Yard in Washington DC was black, and the one at Virginia Tech was Asian-American — but these were unusual. They are almost always white.

He’s a loner. He has trouble associating with people. He’s never had a girlfriend, which he blames on women. He’s probably smarter than he appears, but he also may have some kind of mental disability. Something that made the others pick on him, something that made them call him names in the schoolyard, names that stung like nettles, outside classrooms, maybe on the bus, names that just make him feel more isolated. And angry. Angry enough to want to get even in the worst way.

He’s brooding. Maybe he really needed that job but his damn supervisor at work just didn’t understand the pressures he was under. Or the way the others made fun of him. He knew they were glad to see him go. It was just like all the other places where he had worked and where they had fired him. They’re not going to be so glad to see me when I come back, he tells himself as he plans what he will do next.

Most likely somebody knows. Somebody always knows. But they just don’t think it could ever happen. Not here. Those kind of things happen in other places. To other people. He’s probably just talking out of his ass, the others think. He really doesn’t mean it. But he really does.

He feels like he’s a nobody. But he knows what he will do next will turn him into a somebody. Somebody important. Somebody who will lead national newscasts. Somebody whose invisible life will suddenly be visible to the entire nation. That excites him.

He knows people still remember the names: Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, Jared Loughner, Adam Lanza, Dylann Roof. Some people will say his name should not be mentioned. But he knows the media. The media will mention it again and again and again and they will talk to his friends (if he has any friends), and his neighbours, who will tell the media that he was a quiet boy, kept to himself. His parents will say they don’t understand how this happened, and his teachers who will say he was a good student. Oh yes, they will talk about him.

And they will talk about his guns. How he loves guns. They were so easy to get. Maybe he acquired them himself. Maybe his parents love guns and keep dozens of them in his house within easy reach. So he didn’t have to go far once his plan was set. He has so many guns because there’s really no way to stop him from getting them. The National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers have made it easier for him to get his hands on every weapon he wants than it is for him to get a drivers license.

He really doesn’t care what the gun rights people will say after the event. In fact he’s probably not even thought about it. He’s an American, and he knows Americans love guns. Because the truth is that Americans don’t care how many children, or employees, or bosses, or teachers, or students get mowed down in his revenge, as long as it’s nobody they know or love. And too bad for the ones who do know them. Second Amendment uber alles!

He also knows that no one will be able to stop him. There is no “good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy,” as the NRA likes to say. He’ll have no idea that in the last 30 years there has not been a single case of an armed individual on the scene of a mass shooting stepping forward to shoot it out. Oh, there have been cases when unarmed people have stopped mass shooters, particularly when they pause to reload. But he doesn’t have to worry about that, because he lives in the state that says you can have an ammunition clip with as many bullets as you want, because that’s the American way. He’ll just be able to shoot and shoot and shoot as long as he wants.

And then it will be over. The bodies will be lying all around him or down the hall, or in the classroom or in the office. And he knows the police will be coming. He’ll probably exchange a few shots with them just to make it more dramatic. And then he’ll sneak away into a back room and rob everyone of that sense of closure they always talk about. He’ll end it himself, but he knows he will be front page news … until the next one.

He’s out there. Truly any day now. It’s brewing up inside him. And because we in America have made it so easy for him to act, he and the others like him will kill many, many people, again and again and again. And we will wring our hands and gnash our teeth and then do nothing. Because we are hollow men and women. Full of sound and fury that signifies nothing … except an expanding body count.

Copyright Tom Regan 2015

The NRA’s primary goal is not to serve its members, but to ensure the gun manufacturers that sponsor and fund it make as much money as possible, writes Tom Regan. Above, the wares at a gun show in Houston, Texas. Photo by M&R Glasgow via Flickr, Creative Commons

Facts and Opinions is a boutique collaboration that’s independent, non-partisan, employee-owned, and funded only by readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded” fake stories, or solicit donations from partisan organizations. We appreciate, and to continue we require, your support. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Above, the wares at a gun show in Houston, Texas. Photo by M&R Glasgow via Flickr, Creative Commons

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

Related on F&O:

America’s gun cult, Switzerland’s firearms culture, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs, Oct. 2015

Blame massacres on America’s National Rifle Association, by Tom Regan, Opinion, June, 2105

Maybe this time America won’t run away from better gun laws, by Tom Regan, Opinion, June, 2105

Meet the American Doctor who Donated $1 Million to Fund Gun Research, by Lois Beckett, report, April, 2014

American Republicans Oppose Gun Violence Research, by Lois Beckett, report, April, 2014

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from partisan organizations.  Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us..

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Blame massacres on America’s National Rifle Association

Why the NRA deserves a large part of the blame for Charleston…and Aurora…and Tucson…and Washington, DC…and Sandy Hill…and Virginia Tech…etc.,etc.

Above, the wares at a gun show in Houston, Texas. Photo by M&R Glasgow via Flickr, Creative Commons

The NRA’s primary goal is not to serve its members, but to ensure the gun manufacturers that sponsor and fund it make as much money as possible, writes Tom Regan. Above, the wares at a gun show in Houston, Texas. Photo by M&R Glasgow via Flickr, Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA  
June, 2015 

“How many innocent people in our country — little children to church members to movie theater attendees — how many people do we need to see cut down before we act?” she said. – Hillary Clinton, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president of the US. 

“Now is the time for mourning and for healing. But let’s be clear. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. “ – President Barack Obama’s comments after the murder of nine people in an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

And here we are again.

Another mass shooting. Another grisly death toll. It’s like a bad horror movie that just keeps appearing on your TV time after time and you can’t turn it off. 

And President Obama is correct; these type of murders just do not happen in other countries with anywhere near the frequency that they happen in the United States. It honestly seems that hardly a month goes by and Americans are dealing another mass shooting. 

It’s an odd combination of factors. On the one hand the number of US gun deaths has gone down in recent years as the population has increased; as of 2010 it is 3.59 per 100,000, the lowest rate since 1981 (the number of nonfatal gun injuries, however, is 17.8 per 100,000 the highest total since 2008. Maybe people are just poorer shots than they were in the past).

But the US gun-related homicide rate is exponentially higher than anywhere else in the developed world. Nowhere else even close, by a long shot. And one of the reasons for that, is that in the United States when an argument does turn violent there is a much, much greater chance that guns will be involved. (Factcheck.org has a great, balanced piece on gun rhetoric versus gun fact)

It’s time, however, that one of the main ‘producers’ of this bad movie I mentioned above is held to task.

I’m speaking of the National Rifle Association. The NRA has fought, bought, and scared its way into being the preeminent lobbying organization in Washington DC. Using a combination of hysteria and scare tactics, it is well on its way of accomplishing its mission of having as many Americans as possible armed to the teeth. Through its efforts, guns are ubiquitous in this country. And not just handguns or rifles; semiautomatic weapons of immense firepower can be bought like candy in a corner store, and any attempt to regulate the purchase or the sale of these weapons of mass destruction is met with a cacophony of ridiculous diatribes about how “the government is trying to take our guns away from us.” 

Wayne LaPierre speaking at a 2011 political conference in Florida. Photo by Gage Skidmore 2 via Wikimedia, Creative Commons

Wayne LaPierre speaking at a 2011 political conference in Florida. Photo by Gage Skidmore 2 via Wikimedia, Creative Commons

Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice-president of the NRA, is the ringmaster of this bizarrely destructive circus. LaPierre makes statements that on face value are so preposterous – particularly about Pres. Obama but any Democratic president will do – that any normal, rational human being would laugh out loud at them. 

But when you’re talking about people who, to quote then candidate Obama “cling to guns and religion” and view these preposterous statements like biblical scripture, it seems their ability to think clearly has been rendered useless.

I have argued before that one of the reasons behind the soaring numbers of people killed by police in the United States is the fact that every time a police officer goes into any kind of a situation, he or she has to assume that the individual might be armed. It’s a situation police in other countries just do not have to face.

Thanks to the NRA and its lobbying efforts, almost every state in the union has an open carry law. Now this of course is not the only reason for the high number of people killed by the police n the US: racism and overly aggressive training play key roles in the shootings, particularly in the shooting of unarmed black men and children, but it is certainly a factor. 

What particularly bothers me about the NRA is that it fights any reasonable attempt to regulate how guns are stored, armed, or used. No one is talking about taking away people’s Second Amendment right to own guns. But none of that matters to the NRA. They portray any regulation, no matter how reasonable, as the work of some socialist devil. But it’s all really kabuki theater because in the end, the NRA’s primary goal is not to serve its members, but to ensure the gun manufacturers that sponsor and fund it make as much money as possible. 

But the NRA can be fought successfully. When the Supreme Court upheld the Second Amendment in its 2008 ruling, it also added that governments do have a right to make reasonable regulations about these weapons. (The NRA has consistently tried to pretend that this part of the ruling doesn’t exist.)

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to block two San Francisco city gun control laws that the NRA was trying to negate. One was a 2007 law that said that residents who owned a handgun had to keep it under lock and key or use a trigger lock when they were not carrying their weapons. The other law was a 1994 ordinance that banned the sale of hollow point bullets that expand on impact. 

But we can’t count on a conservative Supreme Court to consistently uphold common sense regulations. We need politicians and pundits who aren’t afraid to go up against the NRA, people who will call for more common sense regulations, who will say it’s time this madness of massacres stops. Because no matter how the NRA or gun advocates try to twisted it, the reality is that other countries that have better gun regulations have far, far fewer massacres. Better regulations won’t totally stop these massacres – this is the US after all – but it will make a difference.

 

Copyright Tom Regan 2015 

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

References and further reading:

Backgrounder: What to Read: The Charleston Massacre, The Marshall Project: https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/06/19/what-to-read-the-charleston-massacre?ref=hp-1-111

In Charleston, Raw Emotion at Hearing for Suspect in Church Shooting, New York Times (with AP video): http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/20/us/charleston-shooting-dylann-storm-roof.html?emc=edit_na_20150619&nlid=18460284&ref=cta&_r=0

Factcheck.org  on gun rhetoric versus gun fact: http://www.factcheck.org/2012/12/gun-rhetoric-vs-gun-facts/)

Time line of the deadliest mass shootings in US history, Los Angeles Times: 
http://timelines.latimes.com/deadliest-shooting-rampages/

U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the 2nd Amendment did not grant an unlimited right to own guns: 
http://bigthink.com/risk-reason-and-reality/the-supreme-court-ruling-on-the-2nd-amendment-did-not-grant-an-unlimited-right-to-own-guns

 

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.

 

 

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Help sustain us with a donation (below), by telling others about us, or purchasing a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95/month to $19.95/year. To receive F&O’s free blog emails fill in the form on the FRONTLINES page. 

 

 

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TOM REGAN — SUMMONING ORENDA

Orenda, a Huron word, represents the power of human will to change the world around us. It is an opposing force to fate or destiny. If powerful forces beyond your control are trying to force you one way, orenda is a kind of voiced summoning of personal strength to change fate, says Tom Regan.

Regan, a journalist now based near Washington, D.C., has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canada’s National Film Board, the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the U.S. Online News Association, he is a former fellow and currently on the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.

 

The putz in America’s room

“The putz in the room” is a perfectly appropriate description of Donald Trump at this moment in time. Personally, I prefer the urban dictionary definition of this wonderful word: “a stupid, ignorant person; someone who doesn’t pay attention to anything going on; one who makes stupid remarks.”

Reflections of a Canadian abroad as Canada turns 150

I never thought I would end up in rural Virginia, 40 miles outside Washington, DC. Never. I never thought I would live anywhere but Canada, or anywhere other than Nova Scotia, for that matter. But there was this girl… The joke is that you can never get a Canadian to talk about Canada when he’s living in Canada, nor can you get him to shut up about it once he lives outside Canada.

American Civil Discourse in Serious Trouble

U.S. Capitol Police keep watch on Capitol Hill following a shooting in nearby Alexandria, in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. BernsteinThe bi-partisan outpouring of unity that followed this week’s shooting at the GOP baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, was a welcome respite in the never-ending deluge of hate-filled rhetoric that overwhelms political discourse daily in the United States. But it was only a moment.

Comey Lands Punches, But No Knockout Blow

How Americans responded to testimony by former FBI director James Comey, before the Senate Intelligence Committee, had a great deal to do with their political persuasions.

America’s Confederate icons must go

It has always puzzled me why so many Southerners, and their sympathizers in other places around the country, are so intent on linking their “heritage” to a bunch of racist losers. Because that is what the Confederacy was.

Roger Ailes’ special place in hell

When Roger Ailes died this month, response was mixed.It was Ailes’ personal foibles that led to his downfall. But I want to concentrate on his legacy in journalism, where he left a very dark mark, called “thug journalism.”

Why Donald Trump won’t be impeached

For all the bad news that Trump faces, he will not be impeached: his fellow Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Trying to listen in Trump’s America 

In the heart of America, there are long, flat stretches of emptiness in the spring. Fields, only recently plowed and sown with the fall’s harvest, still look barren and soggy. No majestic fields of wheat or corn greet the eye.  This is a trip to Trump country.

Why America’s health care is so bad

America is the only advanced nation in the world without a universal healthcare system. There are two reasons for this: 1) the companies that provide healthcare, and make billions and billions doing so, spend lots of money every year making sure politicians don’t mess with their golden goose; 2) the American notion of individuality.

When is free speech not “free” on campus?

Of all the things that I value the most about living in a democracy, freedom of speech is probably the most important. And so when I read about actions by students lately to limit the rights of conservative or far right speakers on several American campuses, my first reaction is one of rage. How dare they? But it’s not that simple.

Legalized weed in Canada an idea whose time has come

Canada, based on a campaign promise made by the Trudeau government, introduced legislation to make recreational marijuana use legal in Canada by July 2018. It’s about time. I’m glad to see that Canada has chosen to take the lead on this issue.

“War to End All Wars” fading from history

A copy of a Vancouver newspaper dated April 10, 1917, celebrating Canada’s role at Vimy Ridge. The battle of Vimy Ridge began 100 years ago, on Sunday, April 9, 1917. It’s often called the making of Canada. And it’s fading from history.

Trump and Russia: “There is a smell of treason in the air”

The story of Russia’s hacking of the 2016 election campaign and the role the Trump team may have played in that effort is the story that will not die, much to the consternation of President Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Every day brings new revelations, which are coming so fast that it’s difficult to keep track of each one.

McGill University mangles academic freedom

I recently experienced a moment of cosmic irony.  I had just learned that Andrew Potter, a former editor of the Ottawa Citizen, had “resigned” as head of the Institute for the Study of Canada at McGill University in Montreal, when I received an email from McGill touting that another of their own, Karina Gould, as Canada’s new Minister of Democratic Institutions. How sad that Gould won’t be able to include her alma mater in her new area of expertise.

America’s coming civil war … in its GOP

There is a war looming on America’s horizon. Not with Iran or China or North Korea … for the moment. No, this war will take place entirely in America, and it will involve members of the Republican Party. It won’t be pretty.

From Russia with Love

The question of the Trump administration’s involvement with Russia, and Russia’s attempts to undermine the 2016 American election, are starting to smell like three-day-old fish left in the sun. The Trump administration had vehemently denied that any member of its team met with any Russian official of any kind. The evidence shows otherwise. Russia is the story that just will not go away.

Canada needs ranked, not proportional, voting

Like many Canadians who had hoped that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would follow through on his campaign promise to reform the voting system in Canada, I found myself deeply disappointed by his sudden announcement, that he had abandoned plans for reform and was sticking with the first-past-the-post system. He was not wrong, however, in saying that proportional representation was the wrong system for Canada.

Is Donald Trump a “Black Swan”?

Photo by Cindy Funk, 2009, Creative Commons

Cindy Funk

The definition of a black swan event —  impossible to predict yet with catastrophic ramifications — perfectly describes the rise of Donald Trump, from clown celebrity to the most powerful man in the world. And in that, there is hope.

America’s Fantasy World

In the fantasy world of America, globalization can be stopped dead in its tracks, and blue jeans will still sell for $20 a pair at Sam’s Club. Manufacturing jobs long vanished will be returned, despite the onslaught of automation …. Oh, it’s a wonderful world. Lollipops and unicorns and everybody wins the lottery under President Donald Trump. Too bad it doesn’t exist.

The Trumping of Rationality

For many years, economists, philosophers and pundits thought that people would always act rationally:  people would look at options and the information available to make rational choices. But in the mid-70s, two Israeli psychologists – Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky – turned that idea on its head.

Canada doesn’t need Trump-lite

Donald Trump-lite. It’s a scary idea. Anything that looks like a version of The Donald is bad news for any country. Yet this is what Canada faces with the upcoming candidacy of Kevin O’Leary for the leadership of the Conservative party in Canada. For, make no mistake, Kevin O’Leary is Donald Trump-lite.

The Russian government is not America’s friend

Let’s be perfectly clear about this: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government are not America’s friends. They are not friends of democracy, nor are they really interested in promoting any sense of peace in the world – at least a balanced peace. Russia is primarily interested in undermining Western democracy as much as it can without firing a shot … at the west.

Our Time to Rebel, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda   Column

It’s our turn, as American Democrats. This will be a ‘take no prisoners’ fight. Donald Trump and his minions have already shown that they will lie, obscure the truth, manipulate and deny facts, and threaten all who oppose them. And then there are the attacks and threats to be launched by his slavish, zombie-like, mainly-white-supremacist alt-Reich followers.  There are several ways to participate in this peaceful ‘rebellion.’

Fake News: Déjà vu all over again, by Tom Regan   Column

We’ve been here before. Overwhelmed by fake news. Making important political and social decisions based on lies, half-truths and deliberate manipulation of facts, shaping them into something quite hideous. Perhaps even ignoring them all together.

Disappearing the Middle East

An Afghan policeman patrols next to a burning vehicle in the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan October 1, 2015. REUTERS/StringerThe Middle East has disappeared from American media, despite the billions the US has spent and continues to spend in the region. Americans have moved on. But here’s the rub — it won’t just go away.

American Fascism: We’ve Been Here Before

America, for all its talk of the love of liberty and equality, has long had a fascination for fascism and the rule of the autocrat, especially at times of economic trouble and cultural upheaval. Fascism of the kind offered by Donald Trump appeals, as a bromide against the problems of the day.

Canada’s dark time might be closer than you think

After the election of 2015, Canadians probably thought they were safe from the kind of racism and bigotry that has gripped the United States after the election of Donald Trump. Well, I’m sorry to break your little “we’re so great” bubble. Vigilance is needed in Canada, too.

America’s Dark Hour

We were wrong. So very wrong.  We thought there was no way that Americans would elect a man so totally unfit to be president.

The images of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump painted on decorative pumpkins created by artist John Kettman in LaSalle, Illinois. REUTERS/Jim YoungThe real fight behind the US election

It’s like being stuck in a dryer, constantly going around and around, too hot, and claustrophobic. I’ve covered, or worked on, many, many elections. I’ve never seen one like this one. Both main candidates in the American presidential election are like wounded dinosaurs, out for one last battle. I’ll vote for Clinton, but not because I’m overly enamoured with her.

“Race” does not exist

Science proved long ago we are all one race, with differences based on the environments of our ancestors. Much racism is born of fear, and after Donald Trump loses on November 8th, America’s alt-right movement will not go away. The rest of us must remind people that biology is not destiny.

Why Putin Fears a President Clinton, by Tom Regan  Column

Why would Russian work so hard to elect Trump? There are several theories– but I believe the reason is Vladimir Putin is terrified of Clinton.

Most US Muslims comfortably integrated

Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah, co-producers of The Muslims are Coming!, hold up a "Hug a Muslim" sign in Salt Lake City, in a still from their 2012 film. Publicity photoThe raging Islamophobia of America’s presidential election present a very negative view of American Muslims. It is also completely false.

Trump’s tribe and an absence of poetry

When did the men in America – white men in particular – lose their sense of poetry? When did they stop being aware of the ebb and flow of life all around them, and lose that spark that separates those who are merely alive from those who are actually living? When did they settle on violence, brutality, and a nasty churlishness?

Rage over Racism: America Asked For It

Many years ago, I was waiting in Boston’s Park Street T-station on my way to Cambridge, when a group of African-American teenagers came down the stairs. They were a swarm of loud, boisterous kids. I had a white person’s reaction. I felt myself tense. I moved away from the group. I gripped my luggage bag tighter. Honestly, I was a bit afraid. Then suddenly I caught myself.

Not all things in journalism are equal

More journalists need to state the facts about Donald Trump’s lies. That he lies can be proven and is fact, not opinion.

Wynton Marsalis, with long time ensemble member, drummer Ali Jackson, in the background. Frank Stewart, publicity photoThe Urgency of Now

Wynton Marsalis made me realize that what is missing most from life around us at this particular moment in history is authenticity in the now.

Confirmation Bias: The Death of Truth

My first real exposure to people not wanting the truth, but only hearing what they want to hear, happened  25 years ago. My friend Deb Amos, NPR’s well-known and extremely talented Middle East reporter, had been invited to speak to an elderly Jewish group in Boston about her experiences in Israel and Palestine. Then an interesting thing happened.

Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, Publicity photoJoy in doing something you love, badly, by Tom Regan  Column

Florence Foster Jenkins, the subject of a Meryl Streep/Hugh Grant film, had a very interesting career as a bad singer. But why was she a role model for my daughter?

Dump the Olympics

There comes a time in life when all good things must come to an end. This is certainly true of the “modern” Olympics with one small change – the Olympics are no longer a good thing.

Gage Skidmore/Creative CommonsBernie or Bust? – Smells Like White Privilege 

On the opening day of the U.S. Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I invented a drinking game. Every time I saw a black or Hispanic (heck, any person of colour, period) shown by the cable news networks of Bernie Sanders supporters, I would take a swing of beer. I ended the night stone cold sober.

The American Dream is undermining America

It is perhaps the most famous myth about the creation of America:  the “American Dream.” The belief that no matter what your background, where you’re from, or who your parents were, that if you work hard enough added, you can achieve anything, any goal, any dream. But the American Dream has become a problem.

NRAWhy the NRA makes America so very dangerous, by Tom Regan

Recent events in the U.S. – the shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the subsequent shootings of five police officers in Dallas – show how the National Rifle Association’s toxic message of guns, guns, guns, and fear, fear, fear, affect the way people deal with daily problems, and the way police respond to all kinds of situations.

American media shares blame for Iraq fiasco

Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry report, on Britain’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, provided damning evidence of how the British people were misled by their political leadership. But once again the journalism media, enormously important in providing the false justification for the war, which in turn led to much of the violence and terrorism in the Middle East today, was ignored.

Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) drives away from a Leave.eu party, as votes are counted for the EU referendum, in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Toby MelvilleAn American “Brexit” revolt? Not likely

Immediately after the Brexit vote, to take Britain out of the European Union, the hyperventilating United States  media found umpteen different ways to say “It could happen here.” This American media chorus is wrong.

O Canada … Oh, grow up 

A photo from Lester Pearson to Tom Regan's father: "To my constant conductor and guide, Jim Regan. Lester Pearson, Christmas 1963."

Canada’s debate over changing its anthem to make it gender neutral is immature. Seldom has so much ink and indignation been spilled over such a simple matter. Making Canada’s national anthem more open to all people is of course a good idea. It is the very essence of Canada itself.

Don’t fear Trump, fear his followers

It’s not Donald Trump but his followers, who defend him so ferociously, that really give one pause — particularly when one considers what they will do after their “Messiah” loses in the fall.

Polls: The good, the bad and the ugly

here are a few suggestions (based on my personal experience doing polls in Canada and the US, and the wise words of the master of polling Nate Silver) about what to watch out for in polls, how you can tell a good one from a bad one, and why you never, ever, ever bet your house on one poll only.

What I know now that I’m 60

Six decades gives you a lot of material to work with. I can’t list all of it, but here is a partial list of what I now know.

The triumph of fear in America

Photo by Ren Rebadomia, Creative Commons

There isn’t a fear that Americans won’t embrace. Fear controls almost every aspect of America society, seeps into every part of our lives. And that fear is used to manipulate us.

Commercial journalism can’t die fast enough

They say we get the government we deserve. The same is true of media. If so, then we are a stupid, shallow people, easily manipulated, poorly informed and a greater danger to democracy that any al-Qaeda or ISIS fighter. Commercial media – almost all cable TV news networks, most “news” websites and many, many papers – pay little more than lip service to quality journalism in the second decade of the 21 century.

Trump has made racism and violence “OK” in the US

Donald Trump is not the real problem in the rise of racism  in the US . He is merely the catalyst. It’s his ham-handed ridiculous racism masquerading as “policy” or “outreach” that’s the problem. He has let the racist and bigoted genie out of the bottle and it won’t go back in peacefully. America needs to prepare for scenes of violence and hatred it may not have seen since the 60s in the South.

ReganAmerica’s hate-on for women

It was a rough week to be a woman in the public eye in the United States. Not that normally it’s a piece of cake. This week, however, gave us a rather disturbing view of what happens when a woman angers the army of Internet and social media male trolls whose hatred for women cannot be understated.

Why Bernie Sanders need to fight on … and surrender

It looks like the end is nigh for the Sanders campaign. But it is absolutely necessary that Bernie not give up running. Yes, he should start to encourage his supporters to support Clinton. I am, however, totally in favor of him building up his delegate total and going into Philadelphia in late July demanding that the party’s platform reflect his point of view.

Why I fear Americans more than terrorists

A true story of living in a country overwhelmed with firearms, and how it constantly leads to you imagine the worst. About a month ago, I went to see the movie Zootopia with my family in Frederick, Maryland. We like to sit close to the screen, so we planted ourselves about six or seven rows back. I noticed a tall young man sitting in the very front row, but didn’t think much about it at first. As the pre-show features came to an end, that changed.
A large crowd, taken just after a Muse concert in Paris. Photo by James Cridland, Creative Commons

Attend to the Real Clash of Civilizations 

 “Am I my brother’s keeper?” How you answer this question tells a great deal about you as a person and about the kind of society in which you would like to live. And the great clash of civilization is between tolerance and intolerance.

The West’s racist response to terrorism

It was a horrible attack. The terrorist gunmen walked up and down the beach, slaughtering men, women and children with each step they took. In one case, a small child begged for his life only to be murdered by the gunmen. A deaf child in the water, who others tried to warn of the danger, was also gunned down.  In the end at least 20 people lay dead, including two soldiers from a group who had arrived to confront the al-Qaeda terrorists. But I’m guessing you don’t know about this attack. That’s because it happened in the Cote d’Ivoire.

14637661370_ed01aa8a15_k copyTrump or no Trump, the Democrats are going to win in the fall

I’m tired of all the handwringing about Donald Trump. Yes, he’s bringing out a lot of new white voters, particularly angry white men. Yes, more Republicans are showing up to vote in the primaries than Democrats are. Yes, Trump is the “unexpected factor” that no one saw coming. Yes, underestimating Trump in the coming fall, as Republicans did last fall, is the greatest danger the Democrats face. It doesn’t matter one bit.

The sound of white noise

Sometimes, when I’m driving late at night to pick up my wife at a train stop, or on my way to some event in Washington (about an hour from where I live) I turn on conservative talk radio. Just to listen to the other side. And the angry voices fill my car.

By David Shankbone - David Shankbone, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3321001The battle for Israel’s religious soul

One story going largely unnoticed amid the  circus-like atmosphere of the Republican presidential primary campaign has serious consequences for Canada and the United States, and for many of their Jewish citizens: the struggle over the the definition of what it means to be a Jew in Israel.

Dancing with the devil

The process that led to the creation of the Trump monster began on the day of US President Barack Obama’s inauguration, January 20, 2009. The story has grown of how on wthat night a group of senior Republicans gathered at a private dinner, and decided to be not “the loyal opposition,” but a destructive and malignant force that would use any means at its disposal to achieve its desired outcome.

U.S. President Reagan and then-nominee Antonin Scalia in 1986. Photo: Bill Fitz-Patrick, White House Photographer

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The Supreme Court in Wonderland

Once upon a time, long ago and faraway, there was a magical kingdom … And then one day the most amazing thing happened. One of the great judges, Scalia of the Sarcastic Sanctimonious Sentences died quite unexpectedly. While in most cases the death of one of the great judges caused some hubbub, the death of the Scalia resulted in a total hissy fit among the wing nuts and the wing nuts who only liked to drink tea.

You say you want a revolution?

You say you want a revolution …  Well, I’m all in. I’m seized with joy at the thought of overthrowing the corrupt U.S. financial establishment. I’m gripped with enthusiasm at the thought of bringing justice and economic security for all Americans. But there might be a few problems …

Fox News Facebook page

The art of manipulating campaign coverage

Who is manipulating whom in media coverage of United States politics? American media manipulates the way they tell stories in order to increase eyeballs and produce a narrative that suits their tastes. But politicians then manipulate the media into creating those narratives and building on them, despite what is actually going on in the campaign.

Newspapers their own worst enemy in battle to survive

I worked for newspapers for almost 30 years and I loved every second of it. So you may find it odd when I tell you that I don’t miss newspapers. I haven’t had a weekly newspaper for years. I won’t go into the long details of it, but from the spring day in 1993, when I downloaded my first copy of the Mosaic browser, I knew that, to borrow a line from William Butler Yeats, “all was changed and changed utterly.”

SandersWhy Bernie Sanders won’t win the Democratic nomination

With the momentum favoring Bernie Sanders, why is it that I am predicting that ultimately Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016? It boils down to a simple factor: Bernie Sanders is too white. And so are Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Donald Trump meme: nostalgia for a fantasy

Remember when women and minorities knew their place? Illegal immigration was unheard of? Men all had good jobs? Everybody believed in the same God? (Or at least the same version.) Kids respected their parents? Terrorism was a word that kids learned about in college when studying European history? America was the most powerful nation in the world? No, you don’t remember? Then you’re likely not a Donald Trump supporter.

He’s there. Every day. Staring back at me. A white, late middle-aged man …  He is, of course, me. I am the very personification of white male privilege. I am a racist.

Stuart Anthony/Flickr/Creative Commons

Stuart Anthony

Perspective — and bogeymen

For many years I have had two particular pictures above my desk at work. One is from the mid-90s, of a Bosnian Serb executing a man in cold blood. The other is of a star, the same size as our own sun, going nova. I call them my perspective pictures. They are very helpful lately, because I currently live in the U.S., which has lost all sense of perspective.

Losing my religion

Why Christian religious extremists are just as dangerous as Islamic ones

No safe place left in America — NRA to blame

After yet another mass shooting, it’s clear there are no safe places left in the U.S. You can point the finger of blame for this at many individuals and organizations, but the reality is, it’s a toxic stew created by the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers, and promoted unthinkingly by right-wing media.

American climate change deniers’ last gasp

American conservative politicians, beholden to fossil fuel interests, pump out enough false propaganda and sometimes outright lies to keep scientists busy refuting them. They are aided in their subterfuge by a compliant U.S. media. The only solution is for the rest of the world to go ahead without the United States.

Why ISIS is winning, with America’s help

The attacks in Paris were as much a sign of ISIS’s weaknesses, as a demonstration of its ability to strike. If Western governments had grasped the opportunity to turn this horrible tragedy against ISIS, we might have pulled off a small but important victory against these murderers. Instead, we played the hand that ISIS dealt us like a bunch of hillbilly rubes at a blackjack table in Las Vegas.

Messages are seen placed outside the Le Carillon restaurant the morning after a series of deadly attacks in Paris , November 14, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartman - RTS6ZH4

REUTERS/Christian Hartman

Our selective grief: Paris, Beirut, Ankara, and Syria

ISIS is not going to go down easy. Even if we beat them back in Iraq and Syria, which is increasingly the case, we will be dealing with their disaffected and frustrated acolytes for years to come. We will not, however, be able to truly defeat them until the death of 100 people in Ankara, or 49 people in a market in Beirut, means the same to us as the death of 127 people in Paris. We have to move beyond the tribe.

Why people distrust news media

The reason the media consistently ranks so low on surveys of public trust (particularly among young people) is that we frequently don’t give the public reason to trust us.

Priest sex abuse: before Boston, there was Newfoundland

It was a bombshell: a local paper printed an exposé on sexual abuse by Catholic religious figures. No, I’m not talking about the Boston Globe, and its 2002 series on sexual abuse that won a Pulitzer Prize and is also the subject of the much praised film released November 6, “Spotlight.” That happened almost a decade after the story I’m referring to.

Lie

America’s Lying Season

It’s the lying season in American politics. Lies fall from politicians lips like leaves fall from the trees in autumn.  Politicians have been doing it forever. What’s different is our willingness to accept these lies.

The evil of Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu’s continued racist and potentially internationally criminal actions have made things so bad in Israel, one really has to question how long the country can survive with him as its leader.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose

Canadians are committing an act of insanity. On October 19 millions of Canadians are marching to the polls to repeat a time honoured tradition: throw the rascals out! The rascals in this particular situation happened to be the Conservative party who without a doubt deserve to be thrown out. But the more things change the more they stay the same.

Waiting for America’s next mass murder

We won’t have to wait long. He’s out there right now. We don’t know his name, or where it will happen, but he will do it. We’ll know his name within the next week or so. It will be a he. Very few mass murders are committed by shes. It’s hard to even think of any. He’s likely early, maybe mid-20s.

A barbaric cultural practice: using racism to earn votes

There comes a moment when every country goes through a “dark night of the soul.”  Canada’s was evident this month, after some buffoon named Chris Alexander, apparently Canada’s immigration minister, said that if re-elected in the October 19 general election, the Conservative party would install a tip hotline, so people could inform on their neighbours practicing “barbaric cultural practices.”

Crisis just beginning of massive migrations

The current migrant crisis is only the tip of the iceberg. What will drive the next great wave of refugees will not be political violence, but climate change.

“Black Lives Matter” and “Cops Lives Matter” are not the same thing 

It’s hard to be a cop. Especially a cop in the United States. Many police forces around the world don’t require their officers to carry weapons, the British bobbie perhaps being the most vivid representation of this philosophy. When British cops go out on the beat, they may always face violence in some form, but the reality is that it probably will not come at the end of a gun. It’s different in the United States.

We’re on our own

To paraphrase Carl Sagan, no one is coming to rescue us.  We have to solve our problems on our own. The Syrian refugee crisis. The Iran nuclear issue. Palestinians and Israelis. Sunni and Shia. ISIL. The overwhelming preponderance of guns in America that are undermining our culture. Police violence. Poverty. Climate change. Hunger. Pick your problem.

Maybe this time America won’t run away from better gun laws

Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic (heaven knows I thought this would come before now), but I think we might be at a crucial tipping point moment in the long history of trying to enact stronger gun regulations in the United States, and finally putting the demon of the National Rifle Association behind us.

As religions grow, so will world’s problems

The recent report on future religious trends published by the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050.” is an amazing look at the future of the world’s religious and non-religious alike. It’s also worrisome.

Why it’s right not to vote in Canada 

There’s a brouhaha as Canada prepares for the upcoming federal election, over whether Canadians like me who live abroad should have the right to vote after being out of the country for a certain period of time. We should not. Even if I had the right to vote in election Canada I wouldn’t use it.

Trump is America’s conservative zeitgeist in a bad toupee

Enormous wealth is not the only reason for Donald Trump’s popularity, despite what Beltway pundits referred to as his “erroneous steps.” In fact it might be these “errors” that are behind his surge to the top of the Republican presidential sweepstakes. Trump has captured the zeitgeist of the time in a bottle, at least the zeitgeist of conservative Republicans tired of what they consider namby-pamby, middle-of-the-road, Republican presidential candidates.

A Whole New World

I had a lightning bolt after reading Paul Mason’s brilliant piece in the Guardian, arguing that we have quietly entered a new era of post capitalism. It was if (to get biblical for a moment) a veil had been lifted from my eyes and I suddenly saw the world in a completely different fashion. Because the truth is that sometimes when you live in the midst of change, when it is all around you, it can slip by largely unnoticed.

When religious liberty undermines freedom

It’s pretty hard to underestimate the role that religion has played in promoting progressive ideals over the years. But that’s only one side of the coin. Far more often, religion has also been used as one of the main curbs on freedom – of person, of thought and of gender.

Canada and the US: a foot in both worlds

Many years ago, standing outside the main entrance to Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, a street vendor was trying to sell me and my then-girlfriend (now wife) a rug. He made a remark praising Americans, trying to soften us up. I scrunched my eyebrows and said, “I’m not an American, I’m a Canadian.”

America’s Obamacare is here to stay

Back in the 60s, my dad was a press secretary/information officer for then-Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson, and intensely involved in Canada’s adoption of universal health care. The fight in Canada was every bit as noisy, brutal and political as is the current battle in the United States over Obamacare, and Pearson and his party also had to face doctors who were adamantly opposed. But i
n the end, universal health care became an enduring reality in Canada, and for one main reason: once people get it, they won’t want to give it up.

Blame massacres on America’s National Rifle Association

Why the NRA deserves a large part of the blame for Charleston…and Aurora…and Tucson…and Washington, DC…and Sandy Hill…and Virginia Tech…etc.,etc.

It’s time to start teaching “sexuality education” in kindergarten

The United States — and all jurisdictions — should teach “sexuality” education to children, starting in kindergarten. There’s a lot of great science and statistics to back up the benefits of this suggestion. In countries like the Netherlands or Switzerland, where comprehensive sexuality education begins in kindergarten, the teenage pregnancy, birth and abortion rates are the lowest in the world: about six per 1,000 women. Not only that, in these countries teenagers wait longer to have their first sexual experience than do teenagers in countries like the United States.

Divided we fall

The popular image that Americans like to have of themselves is of one nation, undivided, standing together with friends and against foes, that there is no problem that the American people cannot overcome, symbolized most vividly in the image of the melting pot – that no matter where you come from, no matter what your race or ethnic background, it will all disappear one day and you will become an American. Horse hockey.

Don’t cry for me, David Letterman!

I am culturally illiterate. You see, I don’t watch TV any more. It’s not that I don’t have a TV – I actually have two – but I just never use them. So when most of the American media has been abuzz over talk-show host and comedian David Letterman’s final show, and the final episode of the TV series “Mad Men,” I was unable to share in the collective viewer angst because, well, I just don’t care. I am not a man of my time.

Supporting BDS not “anti-Semitic”

t’s the question of the moment: Is the BDS movement a legitimate way to protest the actions of the Israeli government, or it is a slick anti-Semitic attempt to undermine, or even destroy, the state of Israel? The Boycott, Diversify, Sanction movement was created in 2005 by 171 non-governmental Palestinian organizations, to organize and promote “non-violent punitive measures” against Israel’s approach to Palestine.

Free speech in America: Not so absolute

The funny thing about absolutes is that sometimes they’re not. A recent competition that invited Americans to submit cartoons of the prophet Mohammed is illustrative. Organized by a woman whose attacks on the Muslim community have generated much publicity across the United States, the competition had two purposes, one explicit, one implicit. The stated purpose was to demonstrate that in the United States speech is free, and that Americans can do or say whatever they want. The unstated purpose was to provoke a violent response against the contest and to help the contest organizer, a New Yorker by the name of Pam Geller, promote her racism and bigotry.

How America’s white media failed Baltimore

After watching the media coverage of the events in Baltimore, Maryland, over the past week and a half I’ve come to two conclusions: down deep, America’s media is really shallow, and it’s very, very white. The city erupted in protests following the death of Freddie Gray, whose spine was fatally injured while in police custody; six police officers face charges in his death. I was utterly dismayed at the way the American media covered Baltimore. It showed me more than ever how little the American media, and its overwhelmingly white culture, fail to understand minorities in the United States.

The end is NOT nigh

It’s enough to give a person permanent hypertension.  Russian president Vladimir Putin likes to flex his military muscles more than a steroid pumped-up body builder. China wants to challenge the United States for dominance in Asia. North Korea’s top leadership is, well, crazy. Al-Qaeda and ISIS are messing up the Middle East and threatening citizens around the world. And what ISIS and Al-Qaeda aren’t doing to destabilize the region, Iran is. It looks like the world is more dangerous that it has ever been for Uncle Sam, and Canada.  Except that … it’s not.

The unbearable lightness of US presidential campaigns

A United States presidential campaign is a bit like that old joke about the definition of insanity: doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. Because oh my Lord, here we go again, 19 months before actual voting day. The only thing that lasts longer than the US presidential campaign is the Republican-led investigation into the events at Benghazi, which will apparently still be going on sometime in the 22nd century at its current pace. There are so many things wrong with the way Americans go about picking people to run for the presidency every four years, it’s hard to know where to start, so let’s just jump right in.

Deja glasnost all over again

It’s never easy making peace with an enemy. It takes great moral courage, and there will always be a cacophony of voices decrying your every step, as with the current international negotiations about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Some only see calamity and disaster: one only has to think back to the Ronald Reagan – Mikhail Gorbachev negotiations about nuclear weapons in the mid-to-late 80s to remember how loud these voices of doom and destruction can be.

The State of Indiana chooses hatred

Supporters of the US state of Indiana’s new law call it a religious freedom bill, but is actually nothing of the sort. It’s actually a bill that celebrates religious bigotry. The only freedom it really offers is the freedom to exercise hatred toward other individuals who are different than you or who believe something different than you do. It is fundamentally un-American, probably un-Constitutional, and certainly immoral. It’s a bill that gives official government blessing for right-wing conservative religious fundamentalists to practice official government sanctioned bigotry against homosexuals.

My country right or wrong? The real American patriotism

When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s in Canada, I often heard this saying coming from south of the border. Patriotism was the unquestioning allegiance of an individual to his or her country. No matter what your country was doing (in this case the Vietnam War), you supported it without hesitation. At least that’s what “patriots” did.  As I said, however, I was in Canada, a country that always had a very peculiar notion of patriotism – which was we barely had one at all. Oh, we cared passionately about beer, hockey, and fishing rights and about not being American, but that was about it. Then in 1994 I moved to the United States. And to borrow a phrase from Yeats, all was changed and changed utterly.

What about Israel?

If the United States adopts a “What’s best for the U.S.” policy in dealing with the Middle East, perhaps Israeli leaders will see the need to ameliorate and fix their policies towards the region and the world that are not providing Israeli citizens with the security they want, nor the admiration and support of other countries which Israel will need to survive in the long-term. Because the Israeli government cannot continue to make the same decisions in the same way again and again and again, and neither can the United States.

A new age of ignorance

Ordinarily, it would be laughable for a U.S. Republican senator to throw a snowball in the chamber, as did climate change denier James Inhofe, and say that recent cold temperatures in Washington, D.C., prove that climate change was a hoax. But Inhofe is the head of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee, which means he gets to highly influence American policy about climate change. It is like a member of the Ku Klux Klan being appointed the head of a anti-racism committee.

Freedom of the press ain’t so free anymore

A country often gets the press it deserves, particularly in the Western world. While we have no dictatorships in countries like the United States, Canada, Britain, France or Australia, we do have governments which will do everything in their power to reduce the importance of media and any unfavorable coverage of their actions. And most Americans have grown fat, lazy and complacent about freedom of the press because of the illusion that it is unlimited.

The first casualty of war…

We all lie. Telling a lie is probably one of the most human things that we do. But when you’re a major TV network news anchor, and you tell a lie, it’s a big deal. NBC-TV anchor Brian Williams is learning that right now. But when you come right down to it, the lie Williams probably told about what happened to him on that helicopter in Iraq is really only a minor one when compared to the BIG LIE of the entire second Gulf War and why we were there in the first place.

Vaccines: Don’t wanna be an American idiot

Anti-science bias runs through almost every important public issue in America: climate change, whether gay people are born that way or whether they choose to be gay, the usefulness of vaccinations, and even evolution itself. People claim Constitutional rights to believe what they want to believe.  If they succeed in undermining decades, maybe hundreds of years, of scientific advancement, we all lose.

Bread, circuses and deflated footballs

This is where we have come to.

We have, as a society, become obsessed with trivial pursuits. Not that this is necessarily a new development. As journalist H.L. Mencken said , you”ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. We have always been rather easily baffled by bullshit. But the advent of the Internet and social media has kicked this cultural trait into hyper-drive.

Why the ‘American people do not exist

It’s wacky season in Washington once again. Wacky season comes in two flavors in the nation’s capitol: during the summer, when all the politicos would rather be jetting to a prime vacation spot on the private jet of a fat cat corporate sponsor, and when it’s time to start running for president. And one of the things that you will hear most often  are candidates who will say that they know what “the American people” want.

The hidden complexity of simplicity

I want there to be absolute freedom of speech. I believe that freedom of speech means the freedom to offend everyone. But I can’t ignore that millions of good religious people, and not just Muslims, find the works of publications like Charlie Hebdo offensive, though they’re not going to kill anyone. Is there a way to protect freedom of speech and yet work to find a way not to needlessly offend? I don’t know. It’s complex. It will take hard work solution to find a solution. But try we must.

My atheist fan letter to Pope Francis

As much as I or any other atheist might wish it, religion is not going away. And so we as atheists have a choice: we can stamp our feet and rage against religion, or we can support those figures within religious belief systems who are fighting to make those systems more caring, compassionate, open-minded, accountable and willing to work with those who do not subscribe to their creed. And Francis is one of those figures.

Why the United States is a perilous country for a young man, black or white

There’s a deadly virus in the United States. Much more deadly than Ebola. (Two people have died of Ebola in this country.) The virus I’m talking about kills thousands of people every year. It’s a poisonous concoction of racism, police departments unaccountable to anybody but themselves and a tsunami of guns, guns, guns.

‘Twas the Night Before Black Friday

Twas the night before Black Friday, and all through the house

Every creature was stirring, yes even the mouse;

The credit cards were ready for use here and there,

In the hopes that a bargain soon would be theirs …

On being a feminist

What’s in a word? A movement? A state of being? A political statement? A controversy? All the above? Feminism would seem to be one of those words that fits all of the above categories, for a variety of reasons. Try to define who or what a feminist is and you invite instant debate. Is Camille Paglia a feminist? Not like Gloria Steinem is, that’s for sure. Is someone like Laura Bush a feminist? She might not necessarily describe herself as one but many of her words and actions would certainly move her into that category.  Can a man call himself a feminist? Or is it a word that is gender specific?

Tide turning against climate change deniers

In his book The Believing Brain author Michael Shermer, the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, makes the following proposal: belief comes first, then the reasons for belief comes second. So to use an example, an individual might believe in ghosts, so she will then find the reasons to support that belief. That cold spot in the attic is not caused by a deficiency of heat from the furnace, but by the presence of a supernatural being.  This is also the way the world of climate change deniers work. First comes the belief that climate change does not exist, second comes the search for reasons to support that belief.

Time to end religious holidays in public schools

Recently the Board of Education in the Virginia suburb of Montgomery County (which is just outside DC) faced a dilemma. A group of Muslim parents were pressing the board to add religious holidays that would allow Muslim children to observe the important days to their faith without missing any school. On the surface, I have no problem with this. If we’re going to allow Christian students to observe Christmas, and Jewish students to observe holidays like Yom Kippur, then it only makes sense that we allow Muslim students to observe their religious days. But I do confess I wonder where will this end?

Why I prefer to remember Remembrance Day

We don’t have much of a tradition of military service in my family, but what we do have is meaningful. One of my uncles fought in the Second World War for Canada and saw some pretty serious action. My father-in-law, an American, was a lifetime aviator, and flew for the US Air Force in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. So I’ve always considered November 11th an important day to observe.  But when it comes to whether I celebrate Canada’s Remembrance Day, or America’s Veterans Day, I almost always prefer the former over the latter. The reason may be a semantic one but it’s an important one.

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Tom Regan is a columnist in the Washington, DC, region

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Meet the American Doctor who Donated $1 Million to Fund Gun Research

 

by Lois Beckett, ProPublica
April 22, 2014

Federal funding for research on gun violence in the United States has been restricted for nearly two decades. President Barack Obama urged Congress to allocate $10 million for new research after gunman Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. But House Republicans say they won’t approve it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s budget still lists zero dollars for research on gun violence prevention.

wintemute_garen

Garen Wintermute, photo by Karin Higgins, provided by University of California, Davis

One of the researchers who lost funding in the political battle over studying firearms was Dr. Garen Wintemute, a professor of emergency medicine who runs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis. Wintemute is, by his own count, one of only a dozen researchers across the country who have continued to focus full-time on firearms violence.

To keep his research going, Wintemute has donated his own money, as the science journal Nature noted in a profile of him last year. As of the end of 2013, he has donated about $1.1 million, according to Kathryn Keyes, a fundraiser at UC Davis’ development office. His work has also continued to get funding from some foundations and the state of California.

We contacted Wintemute to talk about his research, the politics of studying firearms, and how much we really know about whether gun control laws work.

At the end of one of our conversations, Wintemute volunteered that he is also a donor to ProPublica, something the editorial staff had not known. (He and his family’s foundation have donated less than $1,500 over four years.)

Here is the condensed version of our conversations, edited for length and clarity.

What research were you doing when the CDC ended your funding?

We were looking at risk factors for criminal activity among people who had legally purchased handguns. A person can have a misdemeanor rap sheet as long as his arm and still be able to purchase firearms legally in most parts of the country.

In California, there is an archive of handgun transfers. You could draw a random sample of people who purchased handguns and see their overall risk of committing crimes later. We found people who had misdemeanor convictions for nonviolent offenses were five times as likely to commit violence in the future than people with no criminal records. People who had multiple prior misdemeanor convictions for violent crimes [like simple assault and battery or brandishing a firearm] were 15 times as likely to be arrested down the road for crimes like murder and rape and robbery and aggravated assault.

What happened when the CDC cut off your funding?

As I recall, we were in the middle of our project period. We had the expectation that we would be continuing the funds according to the initial award.

When CDC’s funding went away, some private foundations stepped up. But there was a growing sense that little or nothing was going to be done about the problem, at least at the federal level. Why put your money into this one when Congress won’t be doing anything about it?

When did you start donating your own money to keep your research going, and what does the money support?

There came a point when I decided that the work we do is as important as the work of the other nonprofits to which I gave donations. I decided, I’m going to keep the lights on. I told our small staff — three people besides me — I will make that happen personally if need be.

A million dollars is a lot of money. Where does it come from?

Some of it is gifts from stock that was given to me by my father. He’s a businessman. He ran a small company that did well and that’s done well in his retirement. I didn’t earn that. I’ve always seen myself as the steward of that resource.

Some of it is my cash. It boils down to this: I earn an ER doc’s salary. I lead a very simple life. I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I don’t have a television. My rent is $840 a month. It’s easy to save. I don’t drive a fancy car. I don’t go out to eat.

One recent study from Harvard researchers found that there were lower gun death rates in states with more restrictive gun laws. The study got a lot of press. But you’ve been very critical of its conclusions. What’s wrong with this kind of analysis?

Almost all the effects they had seen from mortality in the study had to do with suicide. But the laws were largely intended to prevent homicide.

Number two: Correlation is not causation. Rates of gun deaths are lower where rates of gun ownership are lower. That’s true. We know that. It’s also easier to pass laws like this where the rates of gun ownership are lower. There aren’t that many guns around, there isn’t that large a constituency of gun owners.

States with lots of laws have lower firearm death rates, but the fact that two things occur at the same time does not mean that one of those things caused the other.

So is there any evidence that denying people the right to legally purchase guns has an impact on crime?

[In 1991] California began denying people who had been convicted of violent misdemeanors. Our group took advantage of this natural experiment. Everyone in the study tried to buy a handgun from a licensed seller. One group tried to do it under the terms of the new policy, and their purchases were denied. The other group tried it in the two years before the policy, and their purchases were approved.

The people who got their guns were 25 to 30 percent more likely to be arrested for crimes involving firearms or violence. There was no difference in arrests for crimes that did not involve violence. The difference was specific to the types of crimes the law was supposed to affect.

We also looked at denial for felons and found the same effect. Felons who were denied had a lower risk of being arrested for crimes of violence down the road than were people with felony arrests who were able to purchase their guns.

So do we know whether background checks for all purchases — as President Obama has proposed — would actually prevent violence?

There are not hard data on whether universal background checks work better than what we have at the moment. But there’s lots of suggestive evidence.

One piece of that evidence we have comes from the state of Missouri, a new study by Daniel Webster. Missouri had universal background checks and repealed them. In very short order, there was evidence of increasing gun trafficking. The guns that were recovered after use in crime were getting newer. The inference was it was much easier for people to acquire guns for criminal purposes.

You are planning a broad study about whether comprehensive background checks work. What will that research look like?

Six states — Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Illinois and New York — have just adopted comprehensive background checks, and they’ve all taken effect already. The provisions of their laws vary, and they started from different places.

The intent of our study is to come as close as possible to determining whether there is a causal relationship between comprehensive background check policies and important measures like crime and mortality.

Do you think there’s any chance the CDC will get new funding to resume gun violence research?

I think hell will freeze over before this Congress gives them money. The good news is that funding from other sources is starting to pick up. The National Institute of Health — it’s the first time in their history that they have issued a formal program announcement, a request for proposals on firearms violence.

The NRA has been critical of your work, and says you’re funded by anti-gun groups.

I won’t take money from advocacy organizations.

So, what groups would be on that list?

The National Rifle Association, The Second Amendment Foundation, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Actions, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Have you ever accepted funding from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg?

I have not.

How do you draw the line between nonprofits whose funding you do accept, and “advocacy organizations”?

I’ve been offered money to do studies where the conclusion was basically determined from the design of the study. It wasn’t really science. The organization that was offering to fund the study was also going to control the interpretation of what the analysis meant. They were going to make the decision of whether or not the study got published. As a scientist, I just can’t enter into such an agreement. We have to let people know what the truth is, even if the truth makes someone uncomfortable.

Has your research ever made gun control advocates uncomfortable?

I did a gun show study. When I started crunching numbers on gun show sales, and looking at the surveys, I came to realize — as interesting as this is, gun shows themselves are not a big part of the problem. I felt obligated to add this into my report.

Before we released the study, I had a conference call with a bunch of organizations that I knew were interested in working to close the gun show loophole, and I told them what we were saying. That was a very uncomfortable conversation. People got very angry. It was going to make it more difficult for them to do what they wanted, which was to close the gun show loophole.

You recently did a large survey of federal firearms dealers. What was the most interesting finding?

We learned that a majority — not a large majority, but a majority — of gun dealers and pawn brokers are in favor of comprehensive background checks.

Do you know why some dealers supported background checks and others didn’t?

There is a sense in the country that retailers who have lots of traced guns [i.e. guns that show up at crime scenes] are themselves bad guys, and I just don’t believe that is always the case.

Retailers who had higher frequencies of attempted straw purchases, higher frequencies of attempted off-the-books-purchases, were more in favor of comprehensive background checks. They’re in the business. They know that when they say “no” to somebody, that guy is just going to go somewhere else to someone who says, “yes,” and they don’t want it to happen. They said “no,” so they want the system to say, “No.”

One of the policy proposals you’ve been looking at is whether people with a history of alcohol abuse should also be banned from purchasing firearms. Is this ever going to be a realistic policy — that two DUIs could mean that someone could lose their legal right to buy guns?

Yes. Last year, I floated the idea to the California legislature, and the legislature passed it. The governor vetoed it, or we’d have it now. His veto message said there’s not enough evidence. There’s tons of evidence of alcohol as a risk factor of violent activity. I think he meant evidence specific to gun owners. We’ve started one study, and are in the process of another. We’ll come back with the evidence.

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American Republicans Oppose Gun Violence Research

 

by Lois Beckett, ProPublica
April 21, 2014

After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 when Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and 6 adults, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) was one of a few United States congressional Republicans who expressed a willingness to reconsider the need for gun control laws.

Adam_lanza_sandy_hook_shooter

Sandy Hook school shooter Adam Lanza, photo from his Newtown High School yearbook.

“Put guns on the table, also put video games on the table, put mental health on the table,” he said less than a week after the Newtown shootings. He told a local TV station that he wanted to see more research done to understand mass shootings. “Let’s let the data lead rather than our political opinions.”

For nearly 20 years, Congress has pushed the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to steer clear of firearms violence research. As chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that traditionally sets CDC funding, Kingston has been in a position to change that. Soon after Sandy Hook, Kingston said he had spoken to the head of the agency. “I think we can find some common ground,” Kingston said.

More than a year later, as Kingston competes in a crowded Republican primary race for a U.S. Senate seat, the congressman is no longer talking about common ground.

In a statement to ProPublica, Kingston said he would oppose a proposal from President Obama for $10 million in CDC gun research funding. “The President’s request to fund propaganda for his gun-grabbing initiatives though the CDC will not be included in the FY2015 appropriations bill,” Kingston said.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), the vice chairman of the subcommittee, also “supports the long-standing prohibition of gun control advocacy or promotion funding,” his spokeswoman said.

CDC’s current funding for gun violence prevention research remains at $0.

As American gun violence spiked in the early 1990s, the CDC ramped up its funding of firearms violence research. Then, in 1996, it backed off under pressure from Congress and the National Rifle Association. Funding for firearms injury prevention activities dropped from more than $2.7 million in 1995 to barely $100,000 by 2012, according to CDC figures.

After the Sandy Hook shootings, Obama issued a presidential memorandum “directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.”

Following Obama’s instructions, the authoritative Institute of Medicine put together a report on priorities for research on reducing gun violence. Among the questions that need answers, according to the report: Do background checks — the most popular and prominent gun control policy proposal — actually reduce gun violence? How often do Americans successfully use guns to protect themselves each year? And — a question that Kingston himself had raised repeatedly — what is the relationship between violence in video games and other media and “real-life” violence?

Dr. Mark Rosenberg, who led the CDC’s gun violence research in the 1990s, said that the National Rifle Association and other opponents of funding have often fueled a misconception: that Americans can be for guns or for gun research, but not both.

“The researchers at CDC are committed to two goals: one goal is preventing firearm injuries. The second goal is to preserve the rights of legitimate gun owners. They have been totally misportrayed,” Rosenberg said.

A long list of associations that represent medical professionals — including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics — signed a letter last year urging Congress to fund gun violence prevention research.

“If all we wanted to do was protect the rights of legitimate gun owners, we wouldn’t pass any legislation, and if we just wanted to reduce firearm injuries and death, we might say, ‘Take all guns out of civilian hands,'” Rosenberg said. “The trick is, we want to do both at the same time, and that requires research.”

The NRA did not respond to a request for comment. Last year, the NRA’s director of public affairs, Andrew Arulanandam, told CNN that more government gun research is not needed.

“What works to reduce gun violence is to make sure that criminals are prosecuted and those who have been found to be a danger to themselves or others don’t have access to firearms,” Arulanandam said. “Not to carry out more studies.”

AR-15

AR-15 rifles. (Photo Wikimedia commons)

Kingston has touted his A rating from the NRA. But in his opponents in the Senate primary race are also running on their gun-rights records. (One of them recently made headlines with an AR-15 assault rifle giveaway.)

The CDC is not the only source of U.S. federally funded research on gun violence. In response to Obama’s push for more research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which invests $30 billion in medical research each year, put out a call for new research projects on gun violence prevention last fall. While the first submission deadline has passed, it’s not yet clear how many projects will be funded, or how much money NIH will devote to the effort. An NIH spokeswoman said there is no set funding amount.

Congress also approved Obama’s request for additional CDC funding last year to broaden the reach of the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), a detailed database of the circumstances surrounding all kinds of violent deaths, including gun deaths. Obama has asked for $23 million this year, to expand the data collection to all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

A CDC spokeswoman said that while the agency “does not receive any dedicated funding for firearm related injury prevention research,” Congress does fund “research on a variety of related topics, including youth violence, child maltreatment, domestic violence, and sexual violence.”

“We remain committed to treating gun violence as the public health issue it is, which is why we need the best researchers in this country working on this topic,” a White House spokesperson said in a statement.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees CDC funding, successfully pushed for more NVDRS funding last year. He told ProPublica in a statement that investing in gun violence research is a “critical need,” but that it has to be balanced “with many competing priorities.”

Other Democrats in the Senate and House — including Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) — have continued to push for more funding.

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