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“Virginia’s Struggle With Guns”: Taking A Stand On Gun Control To Dismay Of Gun-Rights Activists And Conservatives

Virginia is going through some soul searching on gun control although it is not necessarily related to the wave of mass shootings plaguing the country.

Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham is considering trying to revive “Project Exile,” which tapped considerable federal law enforcement resources back in 1997 to combat the city’s then-extraordinary murder rate. Richmond recently has seen a big spike in inner-city shootings.

In a separate initiative, Attorney Gen. Mark Herring (D) is ending reciprocal concealed-carry privileges with 25 states.

Herring’s move, which would start in February, is the less-impactful of the two ideas. It is largely symbolic and is designed to show that Virginia is taking a stand on gun control to the dismay of gun-rights activists and conservative legislators.

Durham’s idea has a lot of merit. This past weekend, Richmond saw five shootings and three deaths. They were garden-variety incidents that involved petty arguments and the like. In one, two young men allegedly started shooting it out and a 12-year-old girl was hit and killed.

At a press conference Monday, Durham suggested a return to “Project Exile,” which successfully stemmed Richmond’s 1997 murder rate that, per capita, became among the highest in the country. That year, the city saw 140 murders, 122 of them gun-related. So, city and state leaders asked federal authorities to step in and help prosecute those who use firearms in crimes.

According to the terms of Project Exile, anyone charged with using a gun in a crime would go into the tougher federal court system instead of being tried locally. He would face immediate federal prosecution and, if convicted, go to prison for five years in addition to any other incarceration time.

Another part of the project involved mass media. To get the message out and try to get pistol-packing hotheads and would-be armed robbers to think twice, authorities rented billboard space and took out other ad spots.

The result? Three hundred and seventy two people were indicted for federal gun violations, 440 illegal guns were seized, 247 people were convicted and 196 convicts served about 4.5 years in prison. After one year, Richmond homicides declined 33 percent and armed robberies went down 30 percent. The next year, were down 21 percent.

Over the next several years, the homicide rate dropped even more, but that also had to do with the changing demographics of shooters. Those most likely to be involved in gunfights or assaults either were killed or got older.

Project Exile had its critics. Some gun rights people called it Project Gestapo. But it did not do anything to limit access to gun ownership. It just took tough steps if someone used guns illegally.

Herring’s move likewise is drawing plenty of criticism. Some claim it will hurt Old Dominion tourism if out-of-staters can no longer pack heat on vacation. The argument is hard to follow. Hikers can’t carry firearms anyway in some federal parks. A gun fan also would look rather ridiculous frolicking in the surf at Virginia Beach while wearing a shoulder holster under a T-shirt.

 

By: Peter Galuszka, Opinions Page, The Washington Post, December 23, 2015

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Alfred Durham, Gun Control, Gun Deaths, Mark Herring | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP’s Dead End On Immigration”: GOP Candidate Don’t Know The Issues, Just Relying On High-Altitude Slogans

The debate over immigration has become a huge problem for the GOP.

Donald Trump started things off earlier this year when he promised mass deportations for those who had entered the country illegally, after building a wall on the southern border and “making Mexico pay for it.” Trump later softened his position, promising to allow “the good ones” to re-enter the U.S. immediately, presumably ahead of those already waiting in line for legal entry. His actual policy proposal makes no mention of mass deportation at all; the only reference to deportation in Trump’s position paper is to “illegal aliens in gangs” such as MS-13. But like many of Trump’s statements, the policy matters much less than venting the frustration felt by voters.

Long ago, the 9/11 Commission declared the southern border (and the northern border as well) a national security risk in our new age of radical Islamist terrorism. The report also warned about serious flaws in the management of visas, an issue raised once again by the failure to vet one of the perpetrators of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, who entered the U.S. on a K-1 “fiancé” visa in July 2014. That track record of failure has Americans understandably angry about our impasse on immigration policy, and Trump’s simplistic and broad pronouncements both reflect and empower those voters.

But if Trump offers simplistic slogans, then the rest of the Republican presidential field gets too cute by half on immigration policy. For the last couple of weeks, the debate apart from Trump has focused on the semantics of “legalization” and whether it amounts to amnesty.

All Republican candidates in this cycle agree that the first steps on immigration policy are to build a wall and overhaul the visa program, both long overdue after the 9/11 Commission warnings in 2005. Without that sequencing, the U.S. risks exacerbating its illegal immigration problem in the short and long term, as we saw after the 1986 compromise that left border and visa security practically unchanged. When those first goals are accomplished, the question of how to deal with the undocumented immigrants remaining in the U.S. — perhaps 11 million or more — becomes acute. This debate over their final status erupted in a clash of claims between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio at last week’s debate.

Cruz and Rubio have emerged from the pack to become serious challengers to Trump, and both are jockeying to be his prime alternative. In many ways, the two senators are similar in policy, but Cruz opposed Rubio’s “Gang of Eight” effort in 2013 to create a bipartisan solution to immigration reform. Cruz latched onto the process by which longstanding immigrants here illegally would gain legal status in the U.S., and declared that he “did not intend” to allow legalization. Rubio then accused Cruz of changing his position, highlighting an amendment Cruz had offered to the Gang of Eight bill that would have blocked citizenship but not legal-resident status. Ever since, the two have jousted over the parsing of the language in the bill and public statements each has made.

This spat, like Trump’s statements, acts more as a signal of muscularity on immigration than a serious policy debate. Cruz wants to gain credit for being more serious than Trump but more assertive and trustworthy than Rubio, while Rubio wants to undermine trust in Cruz to jump over him to challenge Trump. A serious policy debate, though, would ask whether legalization alone would work, let alone refusing it.

Let’s start with Cruz’s position. Denying a path to legal status would eliminate the incentives that would drive illegal immigrants to self-identify, which would allow the U.S. to run background checks and reduce the scope of national-security efforts to find potential troublemakers. In fact, that position gains nothing, and looks more like Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” position that got roundly rejected in 2012. It would leave millions in a black-market status, perpetuating an underclass that would increase the issues immigration reform would seek to reduce, especially crime and security. In that sense, Trump’s statements are more internally coherent than Cruz’s — and perhaps as pragmatic.

What about legalization without naturalization? That does create incentives to come out of the shadows, and proposals to deny broad classes of the population an option for naturalization do have some precedent. However, this also cuts across conservative demands for assimilation over obsessive multiculturalism, which is important both culturally and politically. Legalization without an eventual path to citizenship would provide a powerful disincentive to assimilation. In the long run, it would also be almost impossible to sustain politically, especially as that population becomes much more mainstream.

Also missing from this discussion is the foreign-policy aspects for immigration, especially over the long term. Thanks to the sharp increase in focus on ISIS in the GOP primaries, we have had some debate on how best to incentivize Middle East regimes to deal with the problem. However, we have had no discussion at all on how prospective presidents would do the same with Mexico and Central American nations to reduce the flow of economic refugees into the U.S. How do we put pressure on these nations to reform their economies, their governments, and their use of capital to create environments where their people have reasons to stay put? The only mention at all in this direction has come from Trump and his insistence that he’ll get Mexico to pay for our border wall.

The lack of substantive discussion on immigration highlights the fact that there are no easy answers, no simplistic solutions. People of integrity and principle on all sides have legitimate reasons for their positions, be it an adherence to the rule of law or the need to welcome the poor and downtrodden. Voters are not angry because those positions have not been amply represented; they’re angry because few are looking for pragmatic and systemic solutions rather than talking points and slogans, and that Washington has had more than a decade and is still no closer to a solution.

The next Republican nominee had better start working on the former and dispensing with the latter. Signaling might make sense in a primary where little real difference exists between the candidates. In a general election, voters will want solutions and a sense that a candidate knows the issues rather than relies on high-altitude slogans. And that applies to more issues than just immigration.

 

By: Edward Morrissey, The Week, December 22, 2015

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Getting Beyond The Racism That Divides Us”: It’s Not Like We Used To Be A Racism-Free Country

Issac Bailey has written that President Obama is the person who should reach out to angry white Trump supporters.

There is only one person who can unite the country again, and he works in the White House. Yes, President Barack Obama—ironically, the man who is the personification of the fear Trump is exploiting—is the one in the best position to quell the anger being stirred up.

This is not something the president can do from the Oval Office, or from a stage. What he needs to do is use the power of the office in a different way, one that matches the ruthless effectiveness of a demagogue with a private jet. Obama needs to go on a listening tour of white America—to connect, in person, with Americans he has either been unable or unwilling to reach during his seven years in office.

As I read this article, I tried to get beyond my initial reaction that Bailey was simply making another Green Lanternism argument. That’s because, as I’ve written before, I’ve watched Barack Obama closely for over seven years now and I think he would at least stop and listen to this advice.

While it has mostly gone unheeded, the President has reached out to angry white Americans on several occasions (much to the chagrin of a lot of Black academics and political leaders). For example, if we go back to his famous speech on racism in 2008 during the whole Jeremiah Wright controversy, he spent quite a bit of time affirming the reasons why a lot of white people are angry.

Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense.

But ultimately, to judge the value of Bailey’s suggestion, there needs to be some indication that it would actually work to “unite the country once again.” The first error Bailey makes is to assume that we were ever united in the first place. It’s not like we used to be a racism-free country until all of the sudden Barack Obama came along. Bailey knows that. And he accurately described what’s going on in his very first paragraph.

…we are fast becoming a nation in which minorities make up a majority of the population. As a result, tens of millions of white Americans, accustomed for so long to having all the benefits of being the majority, are scared out of their minds—and it is this fear that Trump is exploiting so effectively.

Bailey’s point is that this fear needs to be aired…at the President.

Let them see their president. Let them speak directly to their president. Let them shout, cuss, fuss and unload if that’s what they need to do. Because no matter how you slice it, the country they’ve long known is dying, and a new one is taking shape. Obama’s presence in the White House, while heartening to many, is the tip of the spear to those fretful about what’s to come.

The question is: does that help? This kind of thing stems from a myth that has developed in our culture that airing negative feelings makes them magically go away. It’s not true. And it is especially not true in large groups where people feed off of each other.

What actually helps people get over these kinds of feelings is to identify the real source of their anger/fear – something that Trump’s style of fear-mongering is designed to misdirect – and then empower themselves to do something about it.

So the question becomes, how do people actually get beyond their racism? If there was an easy answer to that one, we would have solved this problem a long time ago.

Obviously President Obama is struggling with that question. In interviews with Marc Maron, Marilynne Robinson and Steve Inskeep, he kept returning to a similar theme. Instead of a focus on airing our grievances, the President talks about calling out our better natures. He continually stresses the idea that we are better people than our politics suggests. In other words, the way to deal with darkness is not to simply dwell on it – but to shine more light.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 25, 2015

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Racism, White Americans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Things To Celebrate, Like Dreams Of Flying Cars”: Progress In Technology Has Made Saving The World Much More Plausible

In Star Wars, Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon did the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs; in real life, all the Falcon 9 has done so far is land at Cape Canaveral without falling over or exploding. Yet I, like many nerds, was thrilled by that achievement, in part because it reinforced my growing optimism about the direction technology seems to be taking — a direction that may end up saving the world.

O.K., if you have no idea what I’m talking about, the Falcon 9 is Elon Musk’s reusable rocket, which is supposed to boost a payload into space, then return to where it can be launched again. If the concept works, it could drastically reduce the cost of putting stuff into orbit. And that successful landing was a milestone. We’re still a very long way from space colonies and zero-gravity hotels, let alone galactic empires. But space technology is moving forward after decades of stagnation.

And to my amateur eye, this seems to be part of a broader trend, which is making me more hopeful for the future than I’ve been in a while.

You see, I got my Ph.D. in 1977, the year of the first Star Wars movie, which means that I have basically spent my whole professional life in an era of technological disappointment.

Until the 1970s, almost everyone believed that advancing technology would do in the future what it had done in the past: produce rapid, unmistakable improvement in just about every aspect of life. But it didn’t. And while social factors — above all, soaring inequality — have played an important role in that disappointment, it’s also true that in most respects technology has fallen short of expectations.

The most obvious example is travel, where cars and planes are no faster than they were when I was a student, and actual travel times have gone up thanks to congestion and security lines. More generally, there has just been less progress in our command over the physical world — our ability to produce and deliver things — than almost anyone expected.

Now, there has been striking progress in our ability to process and transmit information. But while I like cat and concert videos as much as anyone, we’re still talking about a limited slice of life: We are still living in a material world, and pushing information around can do only so much. The famous gibe by the investor Peter Thiel (“We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”) is unfair, but contains a large kernel of truth.

Over the past five or six years, however — or at least this is how it seems to me — technology has been getting physical again; once again, we’re making progress in the world of things, not just information. And that’s important.

Progress in rocketry is fun to watch, but the really big news is on energy, a field of truly immense disappointment until recently. For decades, unconventional energy technologies kept falling short of expectations, and it seemed as if nothing could end our dependence on oil and coal — bad news in the short run because of the prominence it gave to the Middle East; worse news in the long run because of global warming.

But now we’re witnessing a revolution on multiple fronts. The biggest effects so far have come from fracking, which has ended fears about peak oil and could, if properly regulated, be some help on climate change: Fracked gas is still fossil fuel, but burning it generates a lot less greenhouse emissions than burning coal. The bigger revolution looking forward, however, is in renewable energy, where costs of wind and especially solar have dropped incredibly fast.

Why does this matter? Everyone who isn’t ignorant or a Republican realizes that climate change is by far the biggest threat humanity faces. But how much will we have to sacrifice to meet that threat?

Well, you still hear claims, mostly from the right but also from a few people on the left, that we can’t take effective action on climate without bringing an end to economic growth. Marco Rubio, for example, insists that trying to control emissions would “destroy our economy.” This was never reasonable, but those of us asserting that protecting the environment was consistent with growth used to be somewhat vague about the details, simply asserting that given the right incentives the private sector would find a way.

But now we can see the shape of a sustainable, low-emission future quite clearly — basically an electrified economy with, yes, nuclear power playing some role, but sun and wind front and center. Of course, it doesn’t have to happen. But if it doesn’t, the problem will be politics, not technology.

True, I’m still waiting for flying cars, not to mention hyperdrive. But we have made enough progress in the technology of things that saving the world has suddenly become much more plausible. And that’s reason to celebrate.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, December 25, 2015

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Energy, Technology | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Are All Terrorists Muslims? It’s Not Even Close”: Guess. Nope. Guess Again. And Again…

“Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” How many times have you heard that one? Sure, we heard Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade say it, but to me, that was simply part of the Fox News plan to make their viewers dumber, as we saw again this past weekend when its terrorism “expert” Steve Emerson was caught fabricating the story that Birmingham, England, is closed to non-Muslims. But more alarmingly, even some reasonable people have uttered this statement.

And that comment is often followed up by the question: Why don’t we see Christian, Buddhist, or Jewish terrorists?

Obviously, there are people who sincerely view themselves as Muslims who have committed horrible acts in the name of Islam. We Muslims can make the case that their actions are not based on any part of the faith but on their own political agenda. But they are Muslims, no denying that.

However, and this will probably shock many, so you might want to take a breath: Overwhelmingly, those who have committed terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe aren’t Muslims. Let’s give that a moment to sink in.

Now, it’s not your fault if you aren’t aware of that fact. You can blame the media. (Yes, Sarah Palin and I actually agree on one thing: The mainstream media sucks.)

So here are some statistics for those interested. Let’s start with Europe. Want to guess what percent of the terrorist attacks there were committed by Muslims over the past five years? Wrong. That is, unless you said less than 2 percent.

As Europol, the European Union’s law-enforcement agency, noted in its report released last year, the vast majority of terror attacks in Europe were perpetrated by separatist groups. For example, in 2013, there were 152 terror attacks in Europe. Only two of them were “religiously motivated,” while 84 were predicated upon ethno-nationalist or separatist beliefs.

We are talking about groups like France’s FLNC, which advocates an independent nation for the island of Corsica. In December 2013, FLNC terrorists carried out simultaneous rocket attacks against police stations in two French cities. And in Greece in late 2013, the left-wing Militant Popular Revolutionary Forces shot and killed two members of the right-wing political party Golden Dawn. While over in Italy, the anarchist group FAI engaged in numerous terror attacks including sending a bomb to a journalist. And the list goes on and on.

Have you heard of these incidents? Probably not. But if Muslims had committed them do you think our media would’ve covered it? No need to answer, that’s a rhetorical question.

Even after one of the worst terror attacks ever in Europe in 2011, when Anders Breivik slaughtered 77 people in Norway to further his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and pro-“Christian Europe” agenda as he stated in his manifesto, how much press did we see in the United States? Yes, it was covered, but not the way we see when a Muslim terrorist is involved. Plus we didn’t see terrorism experts fill the cable news sphere asking how we can stop future Christian terrorists. In fact, even the suggestion that Breivik was a “Christian terrorist” was met with outrage by many, including Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.

Have you heard about the Buddhist terrorists? Well, extremist Buddhists have killed many Muslim civilians in Burma, and just a few months ago in Sri Lanka, some went on a violent rampage burning down Muslim homes and businesses and slaughtering four Muslims.

Or what about the (dare I mention them) Jewish terrorists? Per the 2013 State Department’s report on terrorism, there were 399 acts of terror committed by Israeli settlers in what are known as “price tag” attacks. These Jewish terrorists attacked Palestinian civilians causing physical injuries to 93 of them and also vandalized scores of mosques and Christian churches.

Back in the United States, the percentage of terror attacks committed by Muslims is almost as miniscule as in Europe. An FBI study looking at terrorism committed on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 found that 94 percent of the terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims. In actuality, 42 percent of terror attacks were carried out by Latino-related groups, followed by 24 percent perpetrated by extreme left-wing actors.

And as a 2014 study by University of North Carolina found, since the 9/11 attacks, Muslim-linked terrorism has claimed the lives of 37 Americans. In that same time period, more than 190,000 Americans were murdered (PDF).

In fact in 2013, it was actually more likely Americans would be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. In that year, three Americans were killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. How many people did toddlers kill in 2013? Five, all by accidentally shooting a gun.

But our media simply do not cover the non-Muslim terror attacks with same gusto. Why? It’s a business decision. Stories about scary “others” play better. It’s a story that can simply be framed as good versus evil with Americans being the good guy and the brown Muslim as the bad.

Honestly, when is the last time we heard the media refer to those who attack abortion clinics as “Christian terrorists,” even though these attacks occur at one of every five reproductive health-care facilities? That doesn’t sell as well. After all we are a so-called Christian nation, so that would require us to look at the enemy within our country, and that makes many uncomfortable. Or worse, it makes them change the channel.

That’s the same reason we don’t see many stories about how to reduce the 30 Americans killed each day by gun violence or the three women per day killed by domestic violence. But the media will have on expert after expert discussing how can we stop these scary brown Muslims from killing any more Americans despite the fact you actually have a better chance of being killed by a refrigerator falling on you.

Look, this article is not going to change the media’s business model. But what I hope it does is cause some to realize that not all terrorists are Muslims. In fact, they are actually a very small percent of those that are. Now, I’m not saying to ignore the dangers posed by Islamic radicals. I’m just saying look out for those refrigerators.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, December 25, 2015

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Muslims, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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