Fellow Travelers

Friday, November 11, 2016

The arc of the moral universe is long

Trump only won by 1% in three states to win the election. The Republicans are taking this to be a mandate, even though the Democrats picked up a seat in the House and Senate. Good. They're overreaching. 
The majority of younger voters voted Democrat. The majority of voters didn't vote for Trump. But the Republicans still think they have a mandate. Good. They're overconfident. 
They think that votes against corruption and bad trade deals and machine politics were votes for Republican ideology and for discrimination, and they're wrong about that. Good. Gloating victors, ingracious in their victory, are engaging in a wave of harassment and hate crimes. Good. They're showing their true colors instead of hiding it behind false smiles, or worse expressing their hatred through worse violence like bombings and mass shootings.
Every year there are fewer conservatives. 
Every year they lose electoral power. 
Moreover, every year there are fewer corrupt old guard liberals like the Clintons, who used social issues simply to get people to then back exploitative neoliberal economic policy and a destructive militaristic foreign policy. The militarism supports by the Clinton camp of Democrats, as well as by Republicans, made us many enemies by the millions oversea. The Clintons didn't care, same as they don't actually care about us.
Politics are a pendulum. It swings one way, and then it swings the other.
Let the Republicans be overconfident. Let them overreach. Let them get their petty barbs in. Let them fill Trump's cabinet with buffoons and corrupt Republican machine politicians. 
Get mad about it, get mad about everything he does, and be the pendulum that swings back. 
Remember 2004 and 2006 and 2010. The Republicans control a majority of state governments, the US Congress, and now the White House. They're behind the wheel now, and they have no idea how to drive, and we will outlive them. 
Lenin reportedly said "the capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him with." Well, the Republicans will sell us the rope we can use to bury their ideology forever.
Instead of gridlock in Congress for 4 years, four years of any Democrats who felt so inclined having to defend the corruption and mismanagement of Clinton's policies and government, we have the offense now. The Democrats fumbled. The Republicans got the ball and scored. Now we're on offense.
We may have lost the rest of this decade, but in so doing, we won the next one, and probably the future. If we hadn't, if we been able to lurch through the rest of this decade, we'd have likely lost the 2020s and been sunk until the 2030s. Maybe more, because a Clinton victory could have led to Republicans rewriting the Constitution to suit them, at the state level. Now, that's not a danger. The Republicans will take what victories they get and think those were the war. But the war is ours to win.
Everything the Republicans do, every single overreach, only strengthens the inevitable backlash. It only puts fuel on the fire of our revolutionary fury. Let them come.
MLK said "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice." He was right, but he was quoting an earlier preacher, a Unitarian minister and devoted abolitionist called Theodore Parker who wrote a sermon in 1853:
"Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.
Things refuse to be mismanaged long. Jefferson trembled when he thought of slavery and remembered that God is just. Ere long all America will tremble."
Things refuse to be mismanaged long. That was 1853. In 1854, the Republican Party was formed. It was formed as an abolitionist party, a progressive and radical left wing party. In six years, they'd elected Lincoln. In a little over ten years, slavery was defeated.
Anne Braden was a civil rights activist from the south jailed in the 1950s for the work she did to fight institutional racism. Ten years later, the Civil Rights Act became law. She said once:
"What you win in the immediate battles is little compared to the effort you put into it, but if you see that as a part of this total movement to build a new world, you know what cathedral you're building when you put your stone in."
We will win. Either as part of the established political parties, like when we took over the Democrats, or by starting a new political party like when we made the Republicans, or maybe even both, but we will win.
All we have to do is keep fighting.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

To The Left: Come Back In Off The Ledge

The Democrats lost the presidency. To Donald Trump no less! Somehow the Democrats, in supporting the Hillary Clinton campaign to their fullest extent at every point, managed to put up a candidate who managed to lose to Donald Trump. Surely this is the end of all things, yes? Surely we will all be put in cattle cars on 1/20 and shipped to gay conversion camps, even the straights, right?

Well, not so much. Actually I’m about as happy as could be expected. I wouldn’t have wanted Clinton or Trump to win. I had also largely resigned myself to Clinton winning. I had resigned myself to 4 years of machine politics coupled with liberal smugness, scolding those of us idealistic unrealistic dreamers who think that maybe we shouldn’t be in undeclared wars everywhere at once, and explaining to us why we’re sexist if we don’t support the Clinton Administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, which they'd tell us she has personally fixed and which really is the gold standard now.

Make no mistake. Trump or Clinton, I’d likely be opposing nearly anything they’d be likely to do. Neither of them were progressives. The problems would come from trying to successfully oppose a centrist capitalist democrat as a progressive or as anybody else on the radical left. Speaking with the experience of someone who has tried to do just that through eight years of Obama, it isn’t easy. So here are some reasons to be cheerful.

  1. Clinton winning would have been a disaster to the Democrats, for reasons explained in my earlier post from back in July. Now we have a real shot for the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential election. Sure, we’re told that “You could have just challenged her in 2020!”, but anybody who seriously believes that is somebody with a serious disconnect from the realities of party politics. The 2020 Democratic Party would be crippled, demoralized, fractured, and ready to hand the reins of the 2020s over to the Republicans.
  2. It’s a perverse reality in national politics that nothing defeats a movement like winning. And nothing alloys and empowers an opposition like losing. This gives us the chance to clean out the Democratic Party, to say goodbye to the days of the Hillary Clinton Victory Fund, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, John Podesta, Donna Brazille, Huma Abedlin, and all the rest of that irreconcilably corrupt crowd. It lets us unite as activists in opposing Trump and the many wrongheaded and unrealistic and ineffective policies he’s going to likely propose. Meanwhile, the Republican base, the alt-right Trump voters, will be exultant up through the inauguration at least, but inside of about a year they’ll be angry and disillusioned. By 2018, once they don’t get their ponies, they’ll be sitting home in anger. Conversely if Clinton had won, the Republican base would be very angry. We had a very real risk of, at best, 1990s levels of domestic terrorism. Like a repeat of the OKC bombing, but more so, and probably quarterly. And at worst, a full nationwide multi-faction violent insurgency. There were an awful lot of ways that a Clinton victory could have gone very violently wrong.
  3. Republican incumbent politicians over the next 2 years will have to decide if they’re going to oppose Trump or work with Trump. If they work with Trump, they’ll be opposed by the left and by centrists in 2018, who will be able to attack Trump as president without being saddled with the defense of Clinton. If they oppose Trump, they’ll be opposed in primary fights by the alt-right who will view them as traitors, as they already do Paul Ryan, John McCain, and others. This opens the door for us to get some great candidates in office for the first time, or promoted to higher office, in 2018 and as prep for 2020.
  4. We're now much better positioned for 2020, and 2020 is all the marbles. If you remember 2010, the 2010 Census led to redistricting that gave the GOP a stranglehold on the US House of Representatives for the 2010s. 2010 was a midterm election and a backlash election for Democrats, and this got Republicans into state legislatures nationwide. Those state legislatures are where state level politicians draw the political districts both for the US House districts and often for the state legislature seats. In Ohio they turned three competitive districts into one packed safe Democrat district and 2 safe Republican districts. These districts were carefully gerrymandered down to the street level, if I lived in the next subdivision over I'd be in the GOP district. Now, in 2018 and 2020 the left probably isn't going to take back the US House, although it'd be nice. But what we can do is make huge gains at the statehouse level. This sets us up to carry out fair redistricting after the 2020 Census, which will give the Democrats a much better chance not only of taking back the House in 2022 (but maybe as early as 2020), but of holding it through the 2020s. 
  5. The Republicans have controlled the White House, House, Senate, and Supreme Court all at the same time before. From 2004-2006. It led to a massive Democrat wave in 2006 and Obama's election in 2008. And they didn't put gays in camps or overturn Roe v. Wade. In fact, the worst things the Bush Administration ever did, he had bipartisan support in doing, and prior to 2004 no less. Having single party control over the government leads to the opposition setting their heels in and actively resisting everything, and it leads to a backlash from voters. The backlash from Bush was pretty good, the backlash for Trumpism will be amazing.
  6. Trump was completely full of shit pretty much 100 percent of the time. This will hurt him with many of the people who voted for him because a lot of the things he said he'd do, he can't or won't do. Take gay marriage for example. It's a good wedge issue to stir up Republicans to get them to vote for you, and essential if you want to keep them voting for you in the general. But 60 percent of the country supports gay marriage, and that number isn't going down, so repealing it is political suicide plain and simple. They're going to talk about it, but they're not going to do anything. On top of that, there are quite a few Republican Senators in the US Senate who won re election and who support gay marriage. Rob Portman is one. Any GOP senator for a state where gay marriage is heavily supported is not going to want to fight that fight. 
  7. Anything that Trump and the Republicans actually manage to accomplish will lead to a huge backlash. It'll suck in the short term, but be much better in the long term. Say they actually manage to repeal Obamacare. Well, Obamacare sucks. It does some things well, but it does a number of other things very badly. If it is repealed, none of the underlying problems that caused Obamacare to be passed into law go away. Instead they return, stronger and worse. 
  8. The Clinton campaign for some reason decided to embark on a dangerous anti-Russian course. Putin is terrible. He's done terrible things. The Russians are a huge problem. The resolution to that problem isn't blaming them for hackers getting your poorly secured emails, or arming militias fighting a government armed by the Russians. Under a Clinton administration we faced a very real threat of increasing and escalating brinkmanship. Including a worst case scenario of the US military directly fighting the Russian military in Syria. Which could very easily lead to World War 3. Assume that the worst case scenario put forth by the Clintons and their media friends is true, and Trump is directly a puppet of Putin. Hey, that sure makes World War 3 a lot less likely? We can come back from Trump and Putin dividing up the world like Molotov and Ribbentrop, we couldn't come back from a nuclear war. Maybe Japan and Saudi Arabia get nukes... but Israel and Pakistan and India already do. And I'm less worried about a handful of nukes in those countries than I am about a full nuclear exchange between the US and Russia. 
  9. The TPP is dead now. It isn't going to be lost on Trump or on Republicans or on Democrats that he won the Rust Belt, and in no small part because he was the only candidate credibly opposing the TPP. Clinton supported it as a Secretary of State, unconvincingly changed course when running for office, was shown by her emails to be posing for votes https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/8452 , and she lost union households in Ohio probably as a result. Now it and other abusive trade deals are very likely dead in DC for the foreseeable future. 
  10. Probably the best result from this is that the Clinton way of politics has been resoundingly defeated. Big money has failed. Corrupt domination of the primary process has failed. Collusion between the media and a political party has failed. And in so doing, it has been irrevocably tainted. I wrote before about the risks of the Hillary Clinton Victory Fund and the dangers of that way of politics becoming standard. Well, it's pretty fricking dead now. Whoever the Democrats put up as candidates in 2020, they'll be the product of a populist process, not least because the old guard of Democratic politics is old now and aren't likely to be on deck to run in four years. Whatever remains of the Democratic establishment in 2020, they'll be very hesitant to try and force an unpopular candidate on the voters. 


Now, if you're a communist (I am), or LGBT, or a religious minority (I am), or an immigrant, you have a good reason to be worried about the coming four years. Because Trump and the Republicans could do all sorts of terrible things. But if it seems like working class rural Americans don't care about your problems so long as their concerns get addressed, well, at least now you have some idea of what it feels like to be a civilian in Syria or Yemen or Pakistan or Iraq, living under the constant threat of death thanks to Obama's foreign policy, with a bunch of Democrats in the US completely uncaring about your problems so long as their concerns get addressed.

Atheists and homosexuals are killed by the government in Saudi Arabia, the country working with the US to massacre Houthis in Yemen and arm militants in Syria, the country that gave between 10 and 25 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation. Life under a Democratic administration sucked for a lot of people in the world, life under a Republican administration will suck for a few more people, including those in the US, for a little while. And when the Republicans try to go to war somewhere now, maybe the Democrat establishment will actually help us oppose it, instead of the enthusiastic cheerleading that American militarism has enjoyed under Obama and would have enjoyed under Clinton.

To put it more succinctly, are you scared? Under the Obama Administration, Pakistani children learned to fear the sky. They were scared too. And now, with Clinton out of the picture, we have a good chance of joining with the Democrats and with the rest of the world in fighting these policies instead of tacitly or openly supporting them under the umbrella of lesser-evilism.

Monday, July 25, 2016

For the Progressive Left to win, Clinton must lose

Apparently this needs a tldr, because 7 pages about the political future of the country is too long for an electorate raised on 30 second sound bites. So, here's the summary:

1. Clinton is demonstrably corrupt, as is the DNC machine that got her the nomination, and electing her rewards that corruption.

2. With a corrupt and unpopular incumbent, the Democrats lose downticket elections in 2018 and 2020, as well as allowing someone even worse than Trump to take over the Republicans and beat Clinton in 2020.

3. The president's party loses seats in the midterms more than 75% of the time.

4. Democrats have lost 900 state legislature seats since the reasonably popular Obama was elected, and it'd be much worse under Clinton.

5. Republicans need 38 state legislatures to be able to overrule the Supreme Court and change the Constitution and its amendments however they want.

6. Currently Republicans control both chambers of the state legislatures in 31 states, and one of two chambers in 8 more.

7. If Trump wins, it will be a disaster for Republicans for the same reasons that Clinton would be a disaster for Democrats.

8. Trump isn't nearly as bad as he's presented, and his worst excesses would be limited by the leadership in his own party.

9. For these reasons, it is imperative that Clinton loses in November, because the alternative is 12 years of Democrat losses. A Trump presidency would be bad but it wouldn't be that bad, but it would lead to 12 years of progressive wins.

10. Vote for whoever you want. Clinton, Trump, Stein, Johnson. Trump perversely actually does have the best and the most specific trade policy right now, Johnson is pro-TPP, and Clinton is lying about opposig it. I'll probably be undecided until I push the button on the Diebold machines only to have it get edited in post to a Clinton vote.

====================
Recently emails were released that were hacked from DNC email servers showing something we all suspected, that the DNC was extensively colluding with Clinton and with the media to favor her campaign over that of Bernie Sanders.

This is in violation of DNC bylaws. Article 5, Section 4 of the charter and bylaws of the Democratic Party requires the DNC chair to remain impartial during the primary process, a rule that Schultz seems to have violated in these emails:
In the conduct and management of the affairs and procedures of the Democratic National Committee, particularly as they apply to the preparation and conduct of the Presidential nomination process, the Chairperson shall exercise impartiality and evenhandedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns. The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and evenhandedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process.
“She finally did, but not before speaking with President Obama — and not without a fight, according to Democrats familiar with the negotiations.”
“I want to thank my longtime friend Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her leadership of the Democratic National Committee over the past five years. I am grateful to Debbie for getting the Democratic Party to this year’s historic convention in Philadelphia, and I know that this week’s events will be a success thanks to her hard work and leadership. There’s simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie–which is why I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign’s 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states. I look forward to campaigning with Debbie in Florida and helping her in her re-election bid–because as President, I will need fighters like Debbie in Congress who are ready on day one to get to work for the American people.”
She was forced out for misconduct, for actively working against Clinton’s challenger, and she was immediately rewarded for that. It’s corruption as plain as day, as plain as the nose on my face. And to me at least, it is inexcusable.

How do we as voters, as regular people, force the Clinton campaign to see real world repercussions for this? How do we keep Clinton and DWS from getting away with it? We have only one option. 

Don’t vote for her.

If Clinton wins in November after all this, it will become the way politics are done. She presents herself as the status quo candidate, and this will be the new status quo. It will be impossible to get anyone in office again at the federal level, certainly as a Democrat, who is not in the pockets of the wealthy. Anyone who hasn’t benefited from years of patronage and dealmaking. It will be eternal corruption.

Donald Trump right now is the candidate of racists and idiots. And he may be one himself, or it may be an act. Certainly Tea Party conservatives and republicans are unquestionably the easiest people to manipulate as a politician. The only thing you have to do is say what they want to hear. There’s a very important point in the existence of Trump’s base that can’t be ignored, and yet it often is, and this is that point:

Trump’s supporters would be present in American politics with or without him.

These are people whose positions and beliefs and viewpoints have been shaped by their lives and by the economic circumstances they’re living in. If Trump loses, they’ll still be there, except they’ll feel even more desperate and pissed off and powerless. And in the highest office of the land we’ll have one of the most flagrantly corrupt politician in many people’s memories.

This will leave conditions right for a far right strongman politician, one who is actually everything Trump pretends to be, somebody who has the Republican establishment on his side and who has the alt-right racists and white supremacists on his side. He’ll promise to clean up DC’s corruption, and he’ll have an easy time getting into office on the backs of national exhaustion following 4 years of Clinton crony corruption.

That’s a hypothetical, admittedly. What is not hypothetical is that the party of the incumbent president tends to lose seats in midterm elections. In the 21 midterms since 1934, the incumbent party has lost Senate seats 76% of the time, and has lost House seats 86% of the time. This is also a trend that holds over into local and state elections. The Democrats have lost over 900 state legislator elections since Obama’s election:
“The bottom line: Republicans now control about 56 percent of the country’s 7,383 state legislative seats, up 12 percentage points since 2009.
Thirty-five states posted double-digit seat losses for the Democrats in state legislatures, including more than 50 seats each in Arkansas, New Hampshire and West Virginia.”
Why does this matter? Well, the Democrats have focused their energy on winning federal elections, and occasionally on Senate and House and Governor elections. Republicans have realized that they have a very hard time winning on the federal level, so for at least the last decade they’ve focused on the state legislatures.

If Clinton wins the presidency this year, that trend likely continues. The Democrats continue to lose Senate and House seats in the midterm, and the Republicans increase gains in the state legislatures. We’ve seen the drastic and tone deaf missteps that Clinton in her unbridled arrogance can’t stop making. That’s going to happen during a Clinton presidency too, and it will be a lead weight dragging on those downticket races.

There are two very important reasons why this could be disastrous. First, we’re coming up on the 2020 US Census. Whoever wins state legislature seats in 2018 and 2020 will be the ones deciding redistricting following the 2020 census. When Republicans got into office in 2010, they gerrymandered the House districts in their states and ensured that their midterm gains would be solidified and could be expanded upon. It’s why the Republicans held the House for the last three congresses and why the Democrats aren’t even talking about taking back the House, just *maybe* the Senate. Effectively, and what we’ve seen from recent political history, whoever wins the state legislatures will decide who holds the US House through the 2020s.

That’s the best case scenario.

The other reason ties into a growing progressive movement called the Wolf PAC.  They have a plan to overturn Citizen United and get big money out of politics by using state legislatures to call for an amendment proposing convention.
“According to Article V of our Constitution, Congress must call for an amendment-proposing convention, “on the application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States”, and therefore 34 state legislatures would have to submit applications.”
That number is a very significant one. 34 state legislatures would have to agree. If 34 state legislatures move for a Constitutional Convention, it happens, and it would take 38 states to ratify the results of that convention.

Right now the Wolf PAC is a long shot. It’s only passed in a handful of states. Its supporters will tell you that these sorts of political movements work slowly but grow rapidly. There’s a problem with that.

Right now the Republicans control both the state house and the state senate (or equivalents) in 31 states. In 8 more states they control one of the two chambers. This means that the Republicans are 3 state chambers away from being able to call their own constitutional convention, and only 7 state chambers away from being able to ratify it.

The US Constitution is effectively the operating system code for our country. If they can change it, they can change anything they want. Rewrite the 1st amendment to not apply to Muslims? Ban gay marriage? Ban abortion? Abolish the minimum wage? They could do all that. They could do anything they wanted.

And Republicans at the highest levels know this. It’s a long term goal of ALEC, an otherwise little known conservative group you may not have previously heard of:
Cruz, along with fellow Republican presidential aspirants Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Gov. John Kasich (Ohio), has endorsed an old conservative goal of a Constitutional amendment to mandate a balanced federal budget. The idea sounds fanciful, but free-market ideologues associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive group of right-wing legislators and their corporate allies, are close to pulling off a coup that could devastate the economy, which is just emerging from a recession. Their scheme could leave Americans reeling for generations. A balanced budget amendment would prevent the federal government from following the Keynesian strategy of stimulating the economy during an economic depression by increasing the national debt. (Since 1970, the United States has had a balanced budget in only four years: 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001.) 
Article V of the Constitution lays out two routes for changing the law of the land: An amendment can be proposed by Congress or by a constitutional convention that is convened by two-thirds of the states (34). Either way, three-fourths of the states (38) have to ratify it. Previously, changes to the country’s founding document have been achieved by the first process. But as of today, 28 states—six shy of the two-thirds threshold required by Article V—have passed resolutions calling for a constitutional convention to consider a balanced budget amendment. 
The ALEC-affiliated Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force (BBATF), which proffered the pledge signed by Cruz, is hoping to meet that 34-state threshold by July 4. BBATF is one player in an astroturf movement backed by the billionaire Koch brothers and embraced by right-wing state legislators.
Picture four miserable years of a Clinton presidency with Trump crowing from the sidelines the whole time. The Democratic Party and its voters demoralized from having to defend every terrible tone deaf arrogant corrupt move from the Clinton White House. Picture losses in 2018, and a loss in 2020 to somebody more charismatic than Trump but so much worse. Picture increased Republican control over the state legislatures, to 34 states and maybe even 38.

We’re told Hillary Clinton must be elected if for no other reason than for Supreme Court nominations. First off, we don’t know that her Supreme Court nominations will be anyone we want to see on the Supreme Court. Look at her record. Look at her priorities. Look at what she considers acceptable. And imagine her picking a Supreme Court Justice. But that’s beyond the point. Even if she picked perfect Justices, it won’t matter if there’s a constitutional convention. It won’t matter even a little bit.

The whole point of the predominantly left wing Wolf PAC is to overturn a Supreme Court decision using a constitutional amendment pushed through state legislatures. Republicans have the same goal, they are a lot closer to it, and they have a lot more Supreme Court decisions they want overturned. Additionally if Clinton gets a solid left majority on the Supreme Court, it will feel urgent and imperative to Republicans that they do exactly that. You’ll see a nationwide movement for it.

Where does that leave us? Yes, it’s common to share memes saying “If everybody who says they’d vote for a third party but third parties can’t win would actually vote for a third party then that party could win.” But let’s be honest. The United States federal system of government favors two parties and two parties only. Sometimes a party will break up and another will take its place. Nobody is currently alive from the last time that happened, when the Republican party was formed. Other times the goals and ideals of a party will shift over time, as happened with the Democrats and Republicans in the middle of the 20th century. Nothing has changed on that front since the Civil Rights Era, but it’s at least more likely. However, at this exact moment in time, barring force majeure like somebody dropping out of the race entirely, either Trump or Clinton will be elected in 2016.

What happens if Trump gets elected? Well, the racists will feel like they’ve won. And as we’ve seen with progressives after Obama got elected, people tend to think that winning the presidency is all they need to do and then they can sit back and take it easy, that they have accomplished their goals. Meanwhile Trump will be politically toxic for anyone in Republican governments to support. He’ll be a danger to any Republican Senator or Representative who works with him, especially anybody from a purple state. Republicans will love working with Democrats to block the worst of his insanities in Congress. Even if he tries to put utter loons up for the Supreme Court, they’ll be blocked by Congress.

This will lead to dissension in the ranks of the Republican Party, as the racist loons in the Republican Party see so much opposition from Congressional Republicans. From that you’ll get primary efforts in 2018 and 2020 to those Congressional Republicans, and Democrats have a good chance of picking up seats in those cases if a moderate Republican loses a primary. You may also get a primary challenge to Trump in 2020.

Meanwhile the incumbent President’s party, the Republicans, lose seats in 2018 and 2020. This helps the Democrats with redistricting after 2020, and a resurgent progressive wing will be able to put progressives in Congress through the 2020s. It also pumps the brakes on a Republican constitutional convention. And the Democrats will have a new person up in 2020, the result of a wide open primary without any “presumptive nominee”, somebody untainted by association with the toxic Clinton political brand that couldn’t even beat Trump. On top of this, you’ll have an electorate that is much more liberal, much more progressive, much more energized, and it will have spent the last 4 years outraged at Trump, instead of outraged at Clinton.

Will Trump kill terrorists and their families? Maybe. But Obama is doing that already. He's done a lot of that, and personally I'd welcome having the left opposing it again as they would under Trump, instead of excusing it as they are under Obama and would under Clinton. 

We’re conditioned in the US as voters to only focus on the current election. We’re conditioned to never think ahead, like a chess game, two more elections, three more elections, and so on. The electorate is like a bull, and the red cape of the other party is waved in front of us with the hope that we will charge, every time, only to have the cape be pulled away so we can be stabbed. Trump is a hell of a red cape, but he’s a cape nonetheless. And we know from leaked emails that the Clinton campaign and the DNC (is there a difference?) has been colluding with the media. Considering that, how bad do we actually know Trump is? Oh, he’s bad, sure, but is he the end of the world? Certainly the DNC wants us to think that, and the media coverage he receives makes him look that way, but we know the DNC works with the media to push false narratives. We have the proof in writing.

On top of that, if you read some of Trump’s more recent speeches, he’s not a *complete* moron. Take for example this speech on jobs and the economy from June. It’s said that Trump doesn’t offer specifics, but here he assuredly does:
Here are 7 steps I would pursue right away to bring back our jobs. 
One: I am going to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has not yet been ratified. 
Two: I'm going to appoint the toughest and smartest trade negotiators to fight on behalf of American workers. 
Three: I'm going to direct the Secretary of Commerce to identify every violation of trade agreements a foreign country is currently using to harm our workers. I will then direct all appropriate agencies to use every tool under American and international law to end these abuses. 
Four: I'm going tell our NAFTA partners that I intend to immediately renegotiate the terms of that agreement to get a better deal for our workers. And I don't mean just a little bit better, I mean a lot better. If they do not agree to a renegotiation, then I will submit notice under Article 2205 of the NAFTA agreement that America intends to withdraw from the deal. 
Five: I am going to instruct my Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator. Any country that devalues their currency in order to take advantage of the United States will be met with sharply. 
Six: I am going to instruct the U.S. Trade Representative to bring trade cases against China, both in this country and at the WTO. China's unfair subsidy behavior is prohibited by the terms of its entrance to the WTO, and I intend to enforce those rules. 
Seven: If China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets, I will use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes, including the application of tariffs consistent with Section 201 and 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 and Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. 
President Reagan deployed similar trade measures when motorcycle and semiconductor imports threatened U.S. industry. His tariff on Japanese motorcycles was 45% and his tariff to shield America’s semiconductor industry was 100%.
He knows the specific sections of these trade deals that can be used to correct the wrongs. Those things would not be terrible to have happen. What’s more is they’re going to resonate in the Rust Belt, in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and so on. Tim Kaine, in addition to being a poke in the eye to progressives, was a desperate attempt to get blue collar white voters back for the Democrats. But Tim Kaine supports trade deals. A credible job and trade plan could easily put Trump over in the swing states he needs to win.

Am I likely to vote for Trump? Probably not. But I don’t know who I’d vote for; I have serious problems even with Jill Stein and Gary Johnson. The Green Party supports homeopathy, and Gary Johnson recently came out in favor of the TPP.

I definitely think I’ve shown that Trump winning wouldn’t be the country ending disaster we’ve been told it would be, and that many of us believe it would be. And indeed, Clinton winning could be worse in many ways. Vote for whoever you want to vote for, but do not feel pressured into voting for Clinton as though the world will end if she doesn’t win. Because there’s a very real chance our country as we know it could end if she does. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

No, We Can't All Just Get Along With The Rise Of Genuine Textbook Fascism In America

A friend on Facebook who has the misfortune of having Trump supporters as friends asked them why they support Trump. What followed was a stream of Fox News propaganda and alt-right conspiracy theories, lunatic memes propagated through the American political zeitgeist like Kaposi's Sarcoma‎ through the body of an HIV victim. I won't punish anyone by repeating them all, but this one stuck out as particularly bad, and terrifying.
Obama had BLM in the WH. They are a terrorist group, and will be labeled as such soon. Cop killers in the WH sucks & so does the potus!
After 15 years of the War on Terror, what do we do with terrorists? We jail them indefinitely sometimes. More often, we kill them. Classifying someone as a terrorist means you take out their vehicle or wedding party or house with a Hellfire launched from Nellis, or you light them up with an Apache, or Marines take them out. We kill terrorists.

Black Lives Matter is a political movement, one I consider myself part of, that believes the police are far too ready to use and misuse deadly force, and that they do not have enough legal accountability for this, and that people are too ready to excuse them when people, predominantly African-Americans, die as a result.

For example, in florida this week a black behavorial therapist was shot by a cop while the therapist tried to calm an autistic patient in his care. When the black man, who thankfully survived, asked the cop why he was shot, the cop said "I don't know."

Let that soak in, because it's terrifying. It'd be even more terrifying if I was a black man, but as I possess empathy and common decency I can at least try to imagine how terrifying it would be to be in that position. What's more, that black man had been lying down on the ground with his hands in the air explaining to the police what was happening and that the autistic man had a toy truck. There is nothing more he could have done to comply and be non-threatening, but he couldn't change his skin color.

So, that's why Black Lives Matter exists. But to that Trump supporter, we're a terrorist movement. And in the US we kill terrorists.

After everything went to fucky fuck hell, the friend who'd asked the question initially made another post bemoaning the lack of unity and civility in American politics.
How can we expect our leaders to work across the aisle when we can't do the sane with our friends and neighbors? I asked a question to Trump supporters today and was shocked at how rapidly it turned partisan. What I found, in my opinion, is we share many of the same concerns. For me the only major difference is immigration. I do believe we need to put aside our preconceived notions of what a conservative and liberal are and speak to each other with a more open mind and try understand why others hold the beliefs they have.
The white woman who'd called BLM terrorists replied to this blaming us, and also quite inaccurately calling me a Clinton supporter, saying
Your Hillary friends started the insults & mud slinging. You asked your Trump friends for their opinion and we're getting good feedback until the Hillary supporters started attacking. Just saying. Go figure.
My own response to his post is reproduced below in its entirety:

I have no interest in a conversation with people who think Black Lives Matter activists, and I count myself among BLM supporters, are a terrorist movement.

Trying to "reach across the aisle" and sing kumbaya is a great thing but when you do that with the wrong people, people who hate you, people who want you dead, you're just putting your back in easy reach for them.

Americans need to wake up to the fact that we don't have gentlemanly political disagreements here any more than the competing political parties in the Weimar Republic had. We have open racist sexist fascism. Literal fucking fascism, and it wants us dead. 

Falling prey to the fallacy of the golden mean in this environment means you wind up half dead. Fascists who take power, people who think that annoying pesky protesters can be dismissed and summarily eradicated as terrorists, don't throw you halfway out of a helicopter just because you're a nice guy centrist. You either march in lock step or they will fucking kill you. 

The American South is littered with graves, marked and unmarked, of people during the civil rights movement who thought just being a good person was good enough until they ran into a deputy sheriff or sheriff allied with the KKK. 

I'm not a Hillary supporter (although it is easy for small minds capable only of binary thought to sort all "enemies" into one group), I'm not a liberal, I am an anti-fascist. That doesn't lead to me supporting friendly fascists like Clinton any more than it leads to me supporting unfriendly lowest common denominator fascists like Trump. 

It's easy to understand why other people have the ideas they have. The economy is shit in the US thanks to capitalist exploitation. As during the Depression era Weimar Republic, in the absence of class consciousness people who are poor or middle class, who have enough to be afraid of losing it, can be easily manipulated by a charismatic rabble rouser into hating different races and ethnic groups. Until we find a way to increase class consciousness racism will still be the default go to for the explanation of how shitting poor peoples lives are.

It's easy to understand why Mussolini rose to power, or why Franco's fascists in Spain rose to power, or why Pinochet came to power in Chile and started chucking intellectuals out of helicopters. It's easy to understand the motivations for people who enable tyrants. Hitler wrote extensively about what he was doing and how he was doing it while he was doing it, and there are no great secrets there. That we understand them doesn't make them any less imminently dangerous. I can understand sarin gas or botulinum or a scorpion but it doesn't make them any less deadly.

I'm distinguishing genuine racist fascists from all Trump supporters. There's a lot of overlap in the venn diagram, but there may be some people who support Trump who aren't fascists and who can be talked to and reasoned with. However, it would be extremely difficult because the one single overarching common element I see between every single statement I've ever seen made by Trump supporters is uniformly they are profoundly misinformed. They have a view of the world that demonstrably doesn't match up to reality. 

And what's worse is that when you point it out, they don't care. You can point out extensively sourced rebuttals of what they hold as articles of faith, and it just washes over them. You can't have a discussion or gentleman's agreement with that either. It isn't a philosophical difference or different values prioritized, it's a belief that 2+2 = 9/11Benghazi.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Daenerys has dragons that can mass produce Obsidian

I made the point recently on /r/gameofthrones that the dragons can make dragonglass.
Obsidian kills White Walkers, and obsidian is formed from lava. Dragonfire can melt stone and sand, as evidenced by Harrenhal. Dragons can turn sand into things that can kill White Walkers.
Somehow this was considered a "logical leap" and "video game logic" by some.

Which is ridiculous.

First, "Dragonglass" is just obsidian.
Dragonglass is a common name in Westeros for the substance known as obsidian, a form of volcanic glass.
Second, "Obsidian" is just "a hard, dark, glasslike volcanic rock formed by the rapid solidification of lava without crystallization."
It is produced when felsic lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimum crystal growth. Obsidian is commonly found within the margins of rhyolitic lava flows known as obsidian flows, where the chemical composition (high silica content) induces a high viscosity and polymerization degree of the lava.
Third, "Felsic Lava" can be produced at temperatures of 1200-1400 Fahrenheit if the chemical composition is correct.
Felsic Lava
 Felsic or silicic lavas such as rhyolite and dacite typically form lava spines, lava domes or "coulees" (which are thick, short lava flows) and are associated with pyroclastic (fragmental) deposits. Most silicic lava flows are extremely viscous, and typically fragment as they extrude, producing blocky autobreccias. The high viscosity and strength are the result of their chemistry, which is high in silica, aluminium, potassium, sodium, and calcium, forming a polymerized liquid rich in feldspar and quartz, and thus has a higher viscosity than other magma types. Felsic magmas can erupt at temperatures as low as 650 to 750 °C (1,202 to 1,382 °F). Unusually hot (>950 °C; >1,740 °F) rhyolite lavas, however, may flow for distances of many tens of kilometres, such as in the Snake River Plain of the northwestern United States.
Fourth, the question now becomes, is Dragonflame  hot enough to melt stone? Well, yes. This was done to make the dragonroads, the Black Wall of Volantis, and to thoroughly wreck Harrenhal. The color of the dragonfire of Dany's younger dragons indicates it is roughly 2000F give or take. More than enough to make Felsic Lava.

No leaps of logic, no video game logic, just a combination of the fantasy rules already established within the Game of Thrones setting (for example, "dragonflame is hot" and "dragonglass kills white walkers") and of real world science.

I'm not the first person to make the connection either
Dragonfire can be used to make more than just castle ruins, it can also turn sand to glass.  Dragonglass seems to be obsidian made with dragonfire instead of a volcano.   When lava rich in feldspar and quarts is cooled very quickly, there isn't enough time for the molecules to align neatly and form a crystal.  Instead, the molecules harden in a disordered fashion and become glass.  The resulting "volcano glass" is more commonly known as obsidian.  This is a distinct two step process.  First the rock is melted and becomes liquid and is then cooled quickly.  However, in certain cases this two step process happens very quickly and it seems the glass is produced in one step.  At the Trinity test site, it is not unusual to find what is called Trinitite or Trinity Glass.  During the bomb test the desert sand, composed mainly of quartz and feldspare with hints of other elements, was sucked up into the bomb blasts fireball, melted and cooled rapidly as it rained down.  It can be found in several colors depending on what trace elements are present, some types are even red when copper from near by electrical cables was brought into the mix.  It is mildly radio active.  This whole process can also happen when sand is struck by lightning.  The sand melts with the heat of the lightning then solidifies into glass very quickly.  It seems that there is no reason this shouldn't happen with dragonfire.  Interestingly, the temperature needed to melt rock and form obsidian is very close to the temperature needed to melt granite.  Seems like these dragons were made to conquer Westeros and create the weapons needed to rule Beyond the Wall.  If any one of the great dragons blew fire on sand or other glass-forming compounds, the sand would melt then harden quickly into the Walker-killing glass.
Hilariously, after I pointed all this out, the one who'd said
You got some heavy video game logic going on there.
Replied to my science with
In a fantasy world, yes I am going to assume that not everything in it is similar to the real world.
Now who's using video game logic? 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The "Hillary Clinton Victory Fund"

A Win For Hillary Clinton's Methods Is A Loss For Participatory Democracy

From the 18th century to the 20th century Tammany Hall was one of the most powerful political organizations in New York City. It was also one of the most corrupt. Among its more notorious leaders was old Boss Tweed in the late 19th century;

William Magear Tweed (April 3, 1823 – April 12, 1878) – often erroneously referred to as William Marcy Tweed (see below),[1] and widely known as "Boss" Tweed – was an American politician most notable for being the "boss" of Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in the politics of 19th century New York City and State. At the height of his influence, Tweed was the third-largest landowner in New York City, a director of the Erie Railroad, the Tenth National Bank, and the New-York Printing Company, as well as proprietor of the Metropolitan Hotel.[2] 
Tweed was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1852 and the New York County Board of Supervisors in 1858, the year he became the head of the Tammany Hall political machine. He was also elected to the New York State Senate in 1867, but Tweed's greatest influence came from being an appointed member of a number of boards and commissions, his control over political patronage in New York City through Tammany, and his ability to ensure the loyalty of voters through jobs he could create and dispense on city-related projects.
According to Tweed biographer Kenneth D. Ackerman:
It's hard not to admire the skill behind Tweed's system ... The Tweed ring at its height was an engineering marvel, strong and solid, strategically deployed to control key power points: the courts, the legislature, the treasury and the ballot box. Its frauds had a grandeur of scale and an elegance of structure: money-laundering, profit sharing and organization.[3]
Tweed was convicted for stealing an amount estimated by an aldermen's committee in 1877 at between $25 million and $45 million from New York City taxpayers through political corruption, although later estimates ranged as high as $200 million.[4] Unable to make bail, he escaped from jail once, but was returned to custody. He died in the Ludlow Street Jail.


Boss Tweed's ghost is alive and well in the Democratic Party today. Establishment political figures are backing Hillary Clinton for money and favors.

There's a reason we suddenly have so many establishment Democrat politicians backing Hillary. They want the big donor money she brings them for their own campaigns. To go into greater detail, let's read about the Hillary Clinton Victory Fund.

Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, has set up a joint fundraising committee with the DNC and the new rules are likely to provide her with an advantage.
The new rules have already opened up opportunities for influence-buying “by Washington lobbyists with six-figure contributions to the Hillary Victory Fund,” said Wertheimer, suggesting that lobbyists could also face “political extortion” from those raising the money.

The move to create the “Victory Funds” – in which the money raised would be divided between the state parties and the Clinton campaign – comes as efforts to form a joint fund-raising agreement with the Democratic National Committee have repeatedly hit snags over concerns in the Clinton campaign about the current party leadership’s controlling the money in any shared account. The national committee, which is intended to remain neutral, has been accused by Mrs. Clinton’s rivals for the nomination of taking actions that could benefit Mrs. Clinton, such as restricting the number of debates.

According to a Wednesday night FEC filing, the states set up agreements with the "Hillary Victory Fund," ensuring that each state party "collects contributions, pays fundraising expenses and disburses net proceeds for ... the authorized committee of a federal candidate." Many key primary states and battleground states signed the agreements, such as Florida, Ohio, Nevada, South Carolina and New Hampshire. 
In addition to the 33 state agreements, the Hillary Victory fund also has set up joint fundraising agreements with Hillary for America and the Democratic National Committee. By doing so, Clinton's fundraising dollars can aid Democrats in each of the participating states and allow donors who give to the state parties to aid her campaign, thus linking the success of other Democrats to her own dollars and vice versa.

The Clinton campaign’s super joint fundraising committee is out of the ordinary for two reasons. First, presidential candidates do not normally enter into fundraising agreements with their party’s committees until after they actually win the nomination. Second, Clinton’s fundraising committee is the first since the Supreme Court’s 2014 McCutcheon v. FEC decision eliminated aggregate contribution limits and Congress increased party contribution limits in the 2014 omnibus budget bill.

A great example of the corruption we're seeing in this new fundraising reality is the chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, Andrea McGuire. She has been a dedicated Clinton campaign operative since 2007, even going so far as to have a HRC2016 license plate:
One of the first Iowans to buy "Hard Choices" was Dr. Andrea McGuire, who was co-chairwoman of Clinton's 2008 campaign in Iowa. "I want to see what she has to say about what she did as secretary of state and how she's become the great leader she is," she said. 
It wasn't a leap to suspect McGuire would add the book to her collection. The license plate on her Buick Enclave says "HRC 2016."
"It was a Christmas gift from my kids," said McGuire, who lives in Des Moines. "They said what would their mom like best and what she would like is for Hillary to be president."

Sanders aides asked to sit down with the state party to review the paperwork from the precinct chairs, Batrice said.
"We just want to work with the party and get the questions that are unanswered answered," she said.
McGuire, in an interview with the Register, said no.

But it's not like there was any sign of top-down incompetence and disorganization in the Iowa caucus, except for later in that article:
Democratic voters reported long lines, too few volunteers, a lack of leadership and confusing signage. In some cases, people waited for an hour in one line, only to learn their precinct was in a different area of the same building. The proceedings were to begin at 7 p.m. but started late in many cases. 
The scene at precinct No. 42, the one with the final missing votes, was "chaos" Monday night, said Jill Joseph, a rank-and-file Democratic voter who backed Sanders in the caucuses.
None of the 400-plus Democrats wanted to be in charge of the caucus, so a man who had shown up just to vote reluctantly stepped forward. As Joseph was leaving with the untrained caucus chairman, who is one of her neighbors, "I looked at him and said, 'Who called in the results of our caucus?' And we didn't know."

Expect to see this repeated in other primaries and caucuses, as a political system bought by the Clintons and coerced into a symbiotic relationship where the local and state level Democratic political leaders cannot survive without the Clintons makes perfectly clear that the voices of the little people are not desired or heeded. 

The reason so many state and local level politicians have come out supporting Hillary Clinton's presidency, the reason she has so many more superdelegates this time than in 2008, is because of matching funding through the Hillary Clinton Victory Fund. They raise funds for Hillary, and they get a cut of those funds. Here's how it works:
  1. Donations to the "Hillary Clinton Victory Fund" are spread out among campaigns in the participating states. 
  2. Politician campaigns for Clinton and calls on people to donate.
  3. Donors donate to the "Hillary Clinton Victory Fund"
  4. Donations are shared between Hillary Clinton and the politician who was campaigning for her.

It's all documented. And that donation-sharing goes not just for small time internet donors but for big campaign fundraisers.

If this is successful in 2016, we won't see an end to it.

Superdelegates have been a big topic of opinion pieces recently, same as they were in 2008. They're going to be irrelevant soon. The Democratic Party can do away with them in order to create the illusion of reform.

Even though many places have gone into the history of delegates and superdelegates recently, I'll do another brief overview. The 1968 Democratic National Convention was an utter disaster for Democrats. Party leaders selected a candidate over the complaints of the base, there were protests and riots, and ultimately the election was handed to Richard Nixon. In the aftermath, the McGovern-Frazer Commission recommended reforms to the process that ensured state level party leaders couldn't simply select their own delegates, and everyone in the party would have a say in the process. This was, for a time, the end of the “smoke filled back room” and these reforms were implemented by the 1972 election.

As a result, George McGovern was selected in 1972 as the Democratic candidate, and Jimmy Carter in 1976. These selections were seen as too extreme by party leaders, and the political insiders wanted a greater say in the process so that going forward they could spike any candidate unacceptable to the Democrat political establishment. From this, the superdelegates were born.

Now that the Clintons, and their successors in 2020, 2024, 2028, and onward, can simply purchase all levels of state leadership, there's no need for them to worry about superdelegates. It'll be a pretty simple process:

  1. The establishment's chosen candidate, based on whoever's “turn” it is, sets up a Victory Fund that links funding between their primary campaign and the re-election campaigns of all incumbents, as well as the campaigns of anyone chosen by party leadership to challenge a Republican
  2. With the full might of the national, state, and local Democratic Party leveled against any potential challengers, the challenge becomes clearly futile (especially if Clinton's plan works in 2016) and every primary is a coronation.
  3. Campaign contributors, including business interests, are able to simply buy not only the candidate they want but the support of the entire state level party. The candidates who get through the process will all be corrupt, as it will be impossible for an honest politician to survive politically.
  4. Scare tactics will be used to coerce the voting base into voting for whoever is presented, no matter how bad they are, because they aren't on the opposing team.

Understand that I'm not talking about a presidential primary process made meaningless. I'm talking about every primary process made meaningless. And if this works for the Democrats, the Republicans are going to pick it up too. It will not be stopped or overturned by anyone who gets through this political process. Anybody who thinks that Hillary Clinton will appoint Supreme Court Justices, that will overturn the decisions which made the Hillary Clinton Victory Fund and Hillary Clinton's subsequent election possible, is unbelievably naive or an outright idiot.

If this becomes successful in the primary, the only way to fight it is vote against Clinton in the general. Vote for whoever else is closest to your politics. I'm 92% aligned with Jill Stein, 55% with Gary Johnson, so I'll be voting for Jill Stein if the Democrats are successful in shutting out Bernie Sanders. Voters must boycott any candidate selected using these methods, until the parties using those methods stop or are destroyed.


The alternative is a government nakedly owned by the wealthy where as voters we have no say in the process whatsoever. That means that whatever social, economic, or foreign policies you may like would be absolutely irrelevant, government would instead work exclusively for their financial backers. Participatory democracy where a voter's vote actually matters in any meaningful way would cease to exist. To be sure, we don't have much of that now, but what's there would be gone. 

Replaced by the Establishment Candidate Victory Fund.

And in an echo of Tammany Hall, we'll see a return to the days of patronage and unchecked cronyism. Government will exist purely as a mechanism to transition money from the taxpayers to the wealthy. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the middle class gets fucked, and we finish our headlong rush into a new "Gilded Age".

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

PSA - either Australia has mass shootings or we don't have one a day

I see plenty of memes on Facebook that we've had a "mass shooting a day". This number originated as intentional propaganda by an anti-gun subreddit, and has been repeated by the Washington Post, the Guardian, and the New York Times.

But by the Mother Jones definition we've had 4. Their editor did an op-ed for the New York Times where he explains:

At Mother Jones, where I work as an editor, we have compiled an in-depth, open-source database covering more than three decades of public mass shootings. By our measure, there have been four “mass shootings” this year, including the one in San Bernardino, and at least 73 such attacks since 1982.

 He then describes the different methods of counting used:

For at least the past decade, the F.B.I. regarded a mass shooting as a single attack in which four or more victims were killed. (In 2013, a mandate from President Obama for further study of the problem lowered that threshold to three victims killed.) When we began compiling our database in 2012, we used that criteria of four or more killed in public attacks, but excluded mass murders that stemmed from robbery, gang violence or domestic abuse in private homes. Our goal with this relatively narrow set of parameters was to better understand the seemingly indiscriminate attacks that have increased in recent years, whether in movie theaters, elementary schools or office parks.

The statistics now being highlighted in the news come primarily from shootingtracker.com, a website built by members of a Reddit forum supporting gun control called GunsAreCool. That site aggregates news stories about shooting incidents — of any kind — in which four or more people are reported to have been either injured or killed.

He explains the danger in using the wider definition:

There is value in collecting those stories as a blunt measure of gun violence involving multiple victims. But as those numbers gain traction in the news media, they distort our understanding. According to our research at Mother Jones — subsequently corroborated by the F.B.I. — the more narrowly defined mass shootings have grown more frequent, and overwhelmingly involve legally obtained firearms. Experts in the emerging field of threat assessment believe that this is a unique phenomenon that must be understood on its own.

I also see plenty of memes on Facebook saying that since Australia passed "reasonable gun control", meaning they more or less banned civilian gun ownership in most circumstances, they haven't had a mass shooting.

For example, the New York Times, same people who repeat Reddit when saying we have a mass shooting a day, claimed that Australia ended mass killings. In fact, in order to have Australia meet that criteria, the New York Times doesn't use the "GunsAreCool" definition of a mass shooting and instead creates their own:

The oft-cited statistic in Australia is a simple one: There have been no mass killings — defined by experts there as a gunman killing five or more people besides himself — since the nation significantly tightened its gun control laws almost 20 years ago.

 Well shit, that's a tighter threshold than the FBI or Mother Jones used. By that standard we would have had much less "mass killings" in the US than even those claimed by Mother Jones, and thousands less than claimed by... the New York Times.

In Australia following the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, Australia passed strict restrictions on civilian gun ownership. Australia's former Prime Minister has said:

"We will find any means we can to further restrict them because I hate guns. I don't think people should have guns unless they're police or in the military or in the security industry. There is no earthly reason for people to have weapons. Ordinary citizens should not have weapons. We do not want the American disease brought into Australia."

When you see people supporting the Australian method, this is what they're saying. Ordinary citizens should not be arms, and guns will be restricted by any means necessary because the people pushing for gun laws hate guns. If your position is that we should have some new laws but still have citizen "weapon" ownership, realize that when you join with people pushing for Australian gun control and looking at Australia as a model.

If you're a gun owner trying to find a middle ground, realize you're working with people who hate that you as a civilian are able to own any firearm and every new law they get passed is towards the ultimate goal of ending that.

 I digress.

Following those restrictions was the Monash University shooting in 2002.

The Monash University shooting refers to a school shooting in which a student shot his classmates and teacher, killing two and injuring five.

By the GunsAreCool standard, a mass shooting. 7 people were shot.

In 2011 there was the Hectorville Siege.

It began after a 39-year-old resident of the suburb, later identified as Donato Anthony Corbo, entered his neighbours' property and shot four people, killing three and severly wounding one. An eight-hour stand-off with police followed, during which time he shot and wounded two officers.

By the GunsAreCool standard, a mass shooting. 6 people were shot.

In 2014, the Hunt Family murders.

Murder-suicide shooting spree by Geoff Hunt who killed his wife and three children before turning the gun on himself

Five fatalities, four family members and a suicide by the killer; a mass shooting by GunsAreCool **and** FBI standards. But not by the much tighter New York Times standard intended to make Australia look perfect, which would exclude the perpetrator.
 
Under the new federal definition which was ordered by Obama and lowers the number required for the FBI to declare something a mass killing from four to three, Australia has another. The 2014 Wedderburn shooting:

A shooting murder of a neighbour family (Greg Holmes, 48, his mother Mary Lockhart, 75, and her husband Peter Lockhart, 78) by Ian Francis Jamieson, 63.

On top of these four mass shootings, there have also been 171 deaths in mass arson attacks, there was a mass stabbing that killed 8, and a mass blunt instrument killing that killed 5. This shows that mass murderers will find other methods.

There's a graph by GunPolicy.org an anti-gun site, showing the rate of firearms deaths in Australia falling over time.

If that data line looks familiar, there's a reason. Here's the rate of homicide gun deaths for the US for roughly the same time.

In both countries, murders have been consistently falling, at roughly the same rate and over the same period of time. Since we have drastically different gun laws, maybe the gun laws aren't the factor.

Regardless, here's my main point. If anti-gun activists want to use their wildly inflated "a mass shooting a day!" bogus statistic, they cannot then claim that Australia hasn't had any mass shootings since they passed "reasonable gun control".
 
And these definitions are important, as discussed by USA Today:

Yet marking the death toll of mass killings in America is anything but simple. It's hampered by the FBI's voluntary reporting system that gets it right a little more than half the time, and by advocacy groups who may count only incidents that support their cause, ignoring killings that don't involve a gun or did not get heavy media coverage.

Concentrating on just one type of mass killing — or only on those that get a lot of attention — may be worse than just using the FBI data, because it can skew public understanding and lead to ineffective policies, says Grant Duwe, a senior researcher with the Minnesota Department of Corrections, who has written a book on mass killings based on a data set he built covering the 1900s.

USA Today also mentions that the FBI is releasing the raw data for easier review but there's a caution against misuse:

Even with better data, special interest groups or unscrupulous academics can manipulate the numbers, just as with any other data set.

"If you have a cherry-picked list of cases, it's basically garbage in, garbage out," Duwe said. "And it does have important implications to additional research we do in terms of public policy."

Careful and scrupulous review of the data by USA Today provided interesting results:

USA TODAY's data debunks common beliefs. For example, it shows that the number of mass killings has not increased in recent years; most occur among family members; and handguns, not assault weapons, are most commonly used.

Honesty and academic rigor is important. It's especially important if your goal is to enact effective public policy and to negotiate in good faith with both sides of a political issue. But they are much less important if your goal is to simply repeat phony statistics that make you feel good and that you and your friends think illustrate the bloody handed evil and greed of the "gun lobby". This can feel satisfying in the short run, it may drive Likes and Shares and Pageviews, but it doesn't do anything about violence and makes genuinely effective policy changes much harder to attain.

There's a reason why people with an agenda, and the New York Times is leading the charge on that, want to use a different definition of mass shooting for Australia than they use for the US. It's important to make it look like new gun laws work. So Australia must have a perfect record. These people with an agenda are selling a promise of safety and security. "If we enact Australia's gun laws it will end mass killings in America." But nothing is certain. And the reason they use a different number for the US is so that they can inflate the severity. Four mass shootings a year would be bad enough. But it doesn't generate enough of an unreasoning panic, so they have to change the definitions to make it look like there's a Newton or Columbine every day.

The lesson of Australia is that you don't end gun violence or mass killings just by passing a law. There's not a magic legal wand you can wave to end violence. And if somebody is offering you one, they're lying to you. Be very careful before you repeat anything they say.