Fellow Travelers

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

With Thunderous Applause


It is really starting to look like we're going to get a "compromise" of a semiautomatic rifle ban coupled with state repressions of Muslims, and it'll be presented as a compromise between left and right instead of a solid win for authoritarianism. If not after Orlando, then after the next one, or the next one, or the next one.

ISIL/Daesh has not been shy about saying that their goal is to make western liberal democracies intolerant of moderate Muslims in order to push moderate Muslims into feeling like they have no choice but to radicalize or abandon their religion and become apostates. The part two of their plan is to have those Muslims either come to Syria and fight in the apocalypse or stay in their home countries and carry out further attacks towards that goal.

When somebody like Bill O'Reilly goes on the Colbert Report and talks about how he'd be open to banning "assault rifles" so long as Congress literally declares war on Islamic terrorism so that suspected Islamists can be indefinitely detained until the "end of the war", *and gets cheered* by a vocally "left wing" audience, that's where we're headed.

Oh sure, some people will say there are good Muslims and point to examples of these and say we're only putting the bad ones in camps, the ones that can't adapt to be peaceful. If this script sounds familiar, it's because we dusted it off from when it was used on the Native Americans and the Jews and the Australian Aborigines.

How could this happen? Wouldn't the left not stand for it? Well, except for the atheist left, led and inspired by luminaries and media figures like Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins, who make the argument that there can be no moderate muslims. With our society's fetish for the fallacy of the golden mean, the argument to moderation, the rest of the left will take the midpoint position that it's okay to indefinitely detain the "bad" muslims so long as we respect the "good" muslims. That will be enough to get the camel's nose in the tent, and the alliance between the atheist left and the anti-muslim Christian right will take care of the rest, probably after a few more attacks from previously moderate muslims.

There are only 1.6 million Muslims in America, that's not a big enough group in a country of 320+ million people to keep them safe, the tyranny of the majority in a democracy comes into play.

I don't know that there's a way to stop this either. I think the carrot of an AWB will be too much for the authoritarian left to resist, and the carrot of anti-muslim pogroms too much for the authoritarian right to resist, and the genuine anti-authoritarians in America are a minority probably comparable in size to the Muslims. Will Orlando be enough to push us over the edge? Maybe, maybe not, but these attacks are not going to stop and they *can't* be stopped. How many more attacks do you think it would take? Pick a number and check back with me once we reach it.

The easiest part of this would be the legal side of it. You'd need nothing more than a constitutional amendment saying simply "The First Amendment does not apply to the Muslim religion. The Second Amendment does not apply to semiautomatic or other military weaponry, which may be further regulated by Congress and the states." The phrasing can be finessed around, like "The First Amendment does not protect criminal organizations which operate under the color of religion" or something like that. Same for the phrasing of the second part. It will seem appealing to a broad number of people. All it takes is a Constitutional amendment and it'll be totally legal.

And when it happens, it will be hailed as bipartisanship and met with thunderous applause. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Why I'm #NeverHillary and how the DNC and the GOP have killed my sense of civic duty

First, a clip from Seven Psychopaths.


Hillbot: Vote for Clinton! Me: No. Hillbot: What? Me: I said no. Hillbot: Why not? Me: Because I don't want to. Hillbot: But they've got a Trump... Me: I don't care. Hillbot: It doesn't make any sense! Me: Too bad!

There is a lot of speculation that Bernie may be negotiating with Clinton and Obama and the Democrats to drop out on his terms. Obama endorsed Clinton earlier today after a meeting with Sanders. There is speculation that Warren may endorse Clinton soon. Let me be perfectly clear. I was never going to vote for Hillary Clinton. The reasons go back to her Patriot Act and Iraq War votes, and everything since then has only added to it. It's a long list.

If her main primary opponent had been Jim Webb, or Lincoln Chafee, or Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren, I would have voted for any of them. I was fortunate that the one closest to my political views was the one who had the most staying power. But I was never supporting Bernie Sanders because he was Bernie Sanders. I was supporting Bernie Sanders because he wasn't Hillary Clinton.

"Party Unity" does not interest me. "Coming together to beat the Republicans no matter what" does not interest me. I have at times in the past voted for Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, and Socialists. In the run up to an election I go to the Ohio Secretary of State's website, get a sample ballot, and research every candidate and issue on it. I vote based off of which candidates I think would be best in the positions for which they're running.

Which means that I don't care enormously if he stays in, drops out, endorses Hillary, any of those. I don't care if Obama endorsed Clinton. I don't care if Warren endorses Clinton. I'm not voting for her because of her past and current actions, not because of who does or doesn't endorse her. No call for "Party Unity" will *ever* sway me, because I vote for the candidate, not the party.

The most common response to this is "Well then Trump wins!"

I don't care. I'm not supporting either. And as a left wing gun owner, I've got plenty of reasons.
I have plenty of people from what in the US nominally passes for "the left" telling me I should vote for Hillary because she's "basically liberal", and not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump. I have plenty of people from what in the US nominally passes for "conservatives" telling me I should vote for Trump because he's "basically pro-gun", and not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary. Not voting for Hillary, the one group says, endangers civil rights. Not voting for Trump, the other group says, endangers the right to self defense.
And you know what? I think Hillary has been and will be shit on civil rights. Her role in illegal coups and in mass incarceration and in mass surveillance and her statements against gay marriage shouldn't be underestimated. And I think Trump is quite likely to return to his anti-gun roots, as well as follow in the footsteps of every previous Republican president and presidential candidate going back to Reagan in supporting increased limitations on gun ownership that would be considered unacceptable under a Democratic president but a reasonable compromise under a Republican one. I think both of them are dangerous to the causes supported by their supporters. But on top of that, Clinton is nakedly and blatantly anti-gun, and Trump is nakedly and blatantly anti-civil rights, so I clearly can't choose either one of them.
If both groups of party loyalists are correct, then my not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump, my not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary, and both sets of vote and non-votes cancel each other out. Which means there's no reason for me not to vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. My motivation for either would be to try and get them over the 5% mark to get 2020 federal election funding. But honestly it doesn't look like either of them will have a problem with that this year. And I might not vote at all.
I could come out and vote in the downticket races, but I've studied my downticket races. The House Representative seat is gerrymandered to be a safe Democrat seat. The Senate race is between a Clinton loyalist and one of the first Republicans to support gay marriage, and both have effectively identical views on gun ownership. No governor race this year. The state house and state senate seats are both safely gerrymandered and not going to switch sides. No interesting ballot initiatives are up for voting. I'll have to look at my sample ballot once the secretary of state gets it together but as it stands now, there is nearly zero reason for me to come out on Election Day except to cast a protest vote.
And that's a situation for which both parties can be blamed. I've voted in every election I could vote in for at least a decade now, including off cycle elections. This year they've killed it.



Clinton Campaign Curated Content



There was a suspiciously "authentic" hashtag yesterday that was spontaneously "going viral" and announced as such on the "Trending" sidebar, referring to Sanders supporters grudgingly but ultimately inevitably accepting that they will vote for Clinton this fall. Hashtag "GirlIguessImWithHer", which is exactly the sort of convoluted awkward shitstorm of a hashtag that would be designed by committee.

Today Facebook announces in Trending "Hashtag DeleteYourAccount: Hashtag Surfaces After Hillary Clinton Uses Phrase in Tweet to Donald Trump", a picture of this "Trending Topic" is attached.

Now, there are two things we know as fact.

First, the Hillary Clinton campaign has spent "more than" one million dollars "to engage in online messaging both for Secretary Clinton and to push back against attackers on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram." We know this because they said so.
Correct The Record will invest more than $1 million into Barrier Breakers 2016 activities, including the more than tripling of its digital operation to engage in online messaging both for Secretary Clinton and to push back against attackers on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram. Barrier Breakers 2016 is a project of Correct The Record and the brainchild of David Brock, and the task force will be overseen by President of Correct The Record Brad Woodhouse and Digital Director Benjamin Fischbein. The task force staff’s backgrounds are as diverse as the community they will be engaging with and include former reporters, bloggers, public affairs specialists, designers, Ready for Hillary alumni, and Hillary super fans who have led groups similar to those with which the task force will organize. 
Lessons learned from online engagement with “Bernie Bros” during the Democratic Primary will be applied to the rest of the primary season and general election–responding quickly and forcefully to negative attacks and false narratives. Additionally, as the general election approaches, the task force will begin to push out information to Sanders supporters online, encouraging them to support Hillary Clinton.
We don't know how much they actually spent or how widespread their operations really are, because they only said "more than" one million. Was it $5 mil? $10 mil? No way to know, and given the backlash after the initial Correct the Record statement, they're not likely to be forthcoming going forward.

But we do know from this that there have been similar groups in the past lead by Hillary "super fans". And we know that they outright said that after the primaries and going into the general election the task force said they will begin to push out information to Sanders supporters with the goal of encouraging us to support Hillary Clinton. We know they said they'll be doing this on Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit, and we know that we're seeing this "organic" trending topics showing up on Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit.

Second, we know that in the past Facebook "news curators" both suppressed trending conservative stories and artificially injected selected stories into the trending module. We know this because former content curators said so.
Several former Facebook “news curators,” as they were known internally, also told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially “inject” selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all. The former curators, all of whom worked as contractors, also said they were directed not to include news about Facebook itself in the trending module.
Knowing these two things, the question and conjecture becomes this:

How many of these "Trending" pro-Hillary topics are *actually* trending? How many are the result of paid campaigns working with the knowledge and perhaps assistance of Facebook?

Is it happening? Right now we don't know. Could it be happening and is it likely to be happening? Absolutely.

Remember that no matter if it's Trump or if it's Clinton, they are a product, and you're being sold that product. Remember also that products are sold for the benefit of the salesmen and the investors, and any benefit the customer receives is incidental to that process.

Caveat emptor

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Vote against Clinton



Things like this are why I will never ever vote for Hillary. Ever. I don't care if Trump wins. I don't care if Cruz wins.

For one thing, I cannot allow blatant rulebreaking and reward it with my vote. Because that's what we're doing if we vote for her. We're saying we don't care what you do, we only care about our team winning. It'd be like being a Patriots fan. They blocked polling locations, there are multiple first-hand accounts of this. They campaigned in polling locations, and yes, Bill Clinton being there in person gladhanding people and standing outside with a megaphone does count as campaigning, whether or not the Massachusetts Secretary of State has been browbeat into saying they did everything legally. They broke fundamental and nationwide laws because they knew they couldn't be touched. I cannot support that.

Also, I don't want to be expected to spend the next 4 years defending an administration that will be dominated by blatant rulebreaking and disregard for the laws that the little people are expected to follow. Look at how Clinton has run her campaign and tell me you want to see a country run the same way. Do you want to spend the next 4 years defending every petty vengeance, every act of collusion with the bankers bleeding us dry, every smarmy denial of wrongdoing, every favor handed out to her party loyalists, on and on?

If she wins the nomination and wins the presidency it will be fatal to the Democratic Party. There will be no way for Democrats to win in 2020. We'll have 4 solid years of scandal. And a lot of it will be dismissed as right wing noise, but there will be some truth to much of it.

If she loses, the Democrats can be an opposition party and go on offense for the next 2-4 years. They'll have much better chances of taking House and Senate seats in 2018 and 2020, and winning in 2020 will control redistricting and let us fight gerrymandering.

Of course, that'll only happen if the Clinton Old Guard gets swept out in 2016 and 2018, because otherwise they'll just gerrymander for Democrats and we'll still be in the same boat.

A Trump or Cruz presidency would be disastrous for the Republicans. Being their own crazy selves will do a great job of driving opposition and outrage, and get people motivated in 2018 like they were in 2006. But you cannot tell me honestly that Hillary Clinton as President in 2018 and 2020 will do anything to help turnout and voter involvement.

2020 is the most important election for a decade. Redistricting after the 2020 census matters way more than whoever sits in the office from 2016 to 2020. A resurgent progressive candidate running against a primary-unchallenged Republican idiot will galvanize voters and turnout and lead to a blue sweep.

But only if Clinton loses.

This is all moot if Sanders wins the primary, which he still might. A lot of big and favorable states are coming up, and Clinton could still be indicted for mishandling classified material and intentionally trying to find a way around laws regarding classified material. A Sanders presidency wouldn't be constantly marred by scandal and he could actually motivate voters to show up in 2018 and 2020.

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".

Sunday, December 20, 2015

In third debate Democrat primary candidates show they know nothing at all about guns


The shittiest part for me was this:
MUIR: Senator Sanders, I did want to ask you about a neighbor in San Bernardino who reportedly witnessed packages being delivered to that couple's home, that it set off red flags, but they didn't report it because they were afraid to profile. What would you say to Americans afraid to profile? Is it ever acceptable?
 SANDERS: Well, the answer is, obviously, if you see suspicious activity, you report it. That's kind of a no-brainer. You know, somebody is loading guns and ammunition into a house, I think it's a good idea to call 911. Do it.
So, any time I'm putting cased guns and ammo boxes into the back of my car for a range trip, or unloading it after a range trip, I have to worry about somebody actually listening to Bernie Sanders and SWATting me. I have to worry about them pissing their pants because somebody has a gun in Ohio, and calling the police on me. If I order ammunition online or get any parts shipped to my house, I have to worry about getting turned in for it. It's already happened, as a likely result of the exhortations of anti-gun groups telling their supporters to do exactly that.

Bernie Sanders also went after civilian ownership of any guns designed by the military. 
"In my view, we have got to see that weapons designed by the military to kill people are not in the hands of civilians."
 So, turn in your 1911 .45 pistols folks. The biggest problem I have with this is that it does not seem at all like Bernie Sanders considers self defense a valid reason to own firearms. Because one of the purposes of guns is to kill people. When a crazed serial rapist breaks into your house in the middle of the night with a butcher knife you want to be able to stop the threat. Guns are a particularly efficacious way to do that. And there is an entire category of recognized firearms collectors, the Curio & Relic license, which focuses on antique military firearms. Like the "potential terrorists" comment of Sanders, this is an overly broad category that would keep people from owning black powder revolvers from the 1800s, as they were designed by the military to kill people. Do you have an Enfield? An M1 carbine? Turn it in. You should be limited to a hunting shotgun. 
"SANDERS: Sure did. All right. First off, we can do all the great speeches we want but you're not going to succeed unless there is a consensus. In 1988, just to set the record straight governor, I ran for the U.S. House. We have one House member from Vermont, three candidates in the race. One candidate said, you know what, I don't think it's a great idea that we sell automatic weapons in this country that are used by the military to kill people very rapidly."
If it was 1988, no, nobody was selling automatic weapons. because of the Hughes Amendment in 1986 that banned sale of any automatic firearms manufactured after 1986. Any pre-ban guns are heavily regulated under the National Firearms Act, require approval from your local law enforcement to buy, include a provision that the ATF can inspect them at any time, and are usually going to cost tens of thousands of dollars.

But it's not like Sanders, or Clinton, or O'Malley, are the first Democrats to intentionally or ignorantly conflate semi-automatic with automatic or select fire.

Martin O'Malley last night came up with a new extra-scary term for those extra-evil semiautomatic rifles. They're now "COMBAT assault weapons". Not just an assault rifle, a "COMBAT" assault weapon.

Some examples: 

"When ISIL does training videos that say the easiest way to get a combat assault weapon in the United States of America is at a gun show, then we should all be waking up."
"Because, Martha, it would prevent people like the guy that just got charged yesterday perhaps from being able to buy combat assault weapons."
"ISIL videos, ISIL training videos are telling lone wolves the easiest way to buy a combat assault weapon in America is at a gun show."
Unsurprisingly, O'Malley was lying.

There are no known ISIL training videos telling lone wolves that the easiest way to "buy a combat assault weapon" in America is at a gun show.

"Both Clinton and O’Malley referenced videos for the Islamic State terror group that, thus far, do not appear to exist. (Clinton used the acronym for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and O’Malley used one for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. But it’s the same organization.)
...
Meanwhile, O’Malley’s campaign pointed to a news report about a video circulated by an al-Qaeda spokesman, Adam Yahiye Gadahn, who was not affiliated with the Islamic State. (The American-born Gadahn was killed in 2015 by a CIA drone strike in Pakistan.) Al Qaeda is not the same terror group as the Islamic State, though former elements of al Qaeda have affiliated with IS.
In 2011, Gadahan urged followers: “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

And of course the terrorist was wrong, you can't just go down to your nearest gun show and buy a fully automatic rifle. Not in the least. Plus going to a gun show looking like any kind of Muslim would probably not be a swell idea in America right about now.

Hillary Clinton in her opening statement backed using the no-fly list to restrict gun ownership, which is a terrible idea for reasons I've already gone into at length and which she totally doesn't give a single shit about. 

There was a lot of alarming stuff in this debate. None of the candidates have any regard for gun ownership as a means of self defense. They're not big fans of encryption or privacy. Hillary wants to fight ISIS using no-fly zones, which as the debate moderator pointed out doesn't make a lot of sense since ISIS and AQ don't have planes

Bad time to be a gun owner. Of any political persuasion, really. Because your options are Democrats who don't like that civilian gun owners exist and think the police and military should have a monopoly on deadly force, or utter lunatic Republicans who want to put Muslims on lists, amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage, end reproductive choice, put in a flat tax, on and on. There are no good options. Only the least worst. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Secret Terrorism Lists, the ACLU, And Why I Can No Longer Support Bernie Sanders

Here's the TLDR. I might still vote for Sanders but I'm not going to provide any support because he's betrayed his past principles on civil liberties and the security state.

Recently Bernie Sanders sent out a tweet.
I don’t think it’s very hard to understand that terrorists or potential terrorists should not have guns.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 9, 2015
This was coupled with his signing a letter supporting the recent bill by Dianne Feinstein to bar anyone on the terrorism watch list from buying a gun. And then by his voting in support of that bill, along with all other Senate Democrats with the exception of Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

There's a problem with this, specifically with three words of what Sanders said.

"...or potential terrorists..."

The terrorism watch list network is broken. It has been broken for a long time. Going back to 2004, the late Senator Ted Kennedy was prohibited from flying because he was accidentally on the list.

Senator Kennedy Flagged by No Fly List
Federal air security officials said the initial error that led to scrutiny of the Massachusetts Democrat should not have happened even though they recognize that the no-fly list is imperfect. But privately they acknowledged being embarrassed that it took the senator and his staff more than three weeks to get his name removed. 
A senior administration official, who spoke on condition he not be identified, said Kennedy was stopped because the name "T. Kennedy" has been used as an alias by someone on the list of terrorist suspects.
It took three weeks to get a sitting US Senator removed from the no-fly list. These aren't new problems. From that 2004 article:
Critics said the senator's experience served as the latest example of how a system designed to improve security is instead targeting innocent travelers. 
The government does not make public the names or the total number of people on the list, which officials say is constantly updated. According to FBI documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under a Freedom of Information Act request, more than 350 Americans have been delayed or denied boarding since the list's inception. The list has not led to any arrests, officials said. 
The ACLU has sued on behalf of six Americans who have had experiences similar to Kennedy's. The travelers suing the government include a Vermont college student, a retired Presbyterian minister and an ACLU employee.
Another innocent caught up in the watch list dragnet was Rahinah Ibraham:

Here's Why the ACLU Is Suing the Government over the No-Fly List—and Winning

Rahinah Ibraham is not a suspected terrorist. She was a scholar and doctoral candidate at Stanford University in the United States from Malaysia with a valid student visa. She ended up on the no-fly list on what turned out to be a clerical error. It wasn't even a case of mistaken identity. An FBI agent literally checked the wrong box when filing paperwork in 2004. It took a decade of fighting with the government to fix this problem. Why? Because the system by which the government adds people to the no-fly list has absolutely no transparency or due process in its appeal process. Until this year, the federal government wouldn't even confirm that an individual was even on the no-fly list, which coincidentally made it a challenge to fight one's inclusion. A judge in 2014 ruled that the government violated Ibraham's and others' rights by mistakenly adding them to the no-fly list and refusing to fix the problem.

People who have been cleared of all terrorism charges can stay on the terrorism watch lists, according to this 2011 article from the New York Times:

Even Those Cleared of Crimes Can Stay on F.B.I.’s Watch List
The 91 pages of newly disclosed files include a December 2010 guidance memorandum to F.B.I. field offices showing that even a not-guilty verdict may not always be enough to get someone off the list, if agents maintain they still have “reasonable suspicion” that the person might have ties to terrorism. 
“If an individual is acquitted or charges are dismissed for a crime related to terrorism, the individual must still meet the reasonable suspicion standard in order to remain on, or be subsequently nominated to, the terrorist watch list,” the once-classified memorandum says. 
Ginger McCall, a counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said: “In the United States, you are supposed to be assumed innocent. But on the watch list, you may be assumed guilty, even after the court dismisses your case.”
For people on the watch lists, suspicion is guilt. This should be a repulsive idea to anyone who values due process and the rule of law, and certainly to any Bernie Sanders supporter. The FBI assure us we shouldn't be worried about that, because “mere guesses or ‘hunches’ are not enough" to keep someone on the watch lists. Isn't that reassuring?

Since 2011 there have been some changes to the watchlisting criteria. Not for the better. A piece by The Intercept in 2014 covered the negatives of the watchlists as they exist now:

The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You A Terrorist
The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept. 
The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place entire “categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.
It's easier than ever to get onto the list. Even if you have utter and absolute trust in the Obama Administration... how much do you trust a Trump or Cruz Administration with this power? It's the same question I asked Republicans in 2005, and they said "What are the odds there will ever be a Democrat President ever again?"

Worms turn.

More about the lists:
The document’s definition of “terrorist” activity includes actions that fall far short of bombing or hijacking. In addition to expected crimes, such as assassination or hostage-taking, the guidelines also define destruction of government property and damaging computers used by financial institutions as activities meriting placement on a list. They also define as terrorism any act that is “dangerous” to property and intended to influence government policy through intimidation. 
This combination—a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism and a low threshold for designating someone a terrorist—opens the way to ensnaring innocent people in secret government dragnets. It can also be counterproductive. When resources are devoted to tracking people who are not genuine risks to national security, the actual threats get fewer resources—and might go unnoticed. 
“If reasonable suspicion is the only standard you need to label somebody, then it’s a slippery slope we’re sliding down here, because then you can label anybody anything,” says David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent with experience running high-profile terrorism investigations. “Because you appear on a telephone list of somebody doesn’t make you a terrorist. That’s the kind of information that gets put in there.”
And its failings:
The system has been criticized for years. In 2004, Sen. Ted Kennedy complained that he was barred from boarding flights on five separate occasions because his name resembled the alias of a suspected terrorist. Two years later, CBS News obtained a copy of the no fly list and reported that it included Bolivian president Evo Morales and Lebanese parliament head Nabih Berri. One of the watchlists snared Mikey Hicks, a Cub Scout who got his first of many airport pat-downs at age two. In 2007, the Justice Department’s inspector general issued a scathing report identifying “significant weaknesses” in the system. And in 2009, after a Nigerian terrorist was able to board a passenger flight to Detroit and nearly detonated a bomb sewn into his underwear despite his name having been placed on the TIDE list, President Obama admitted that there had been a “systemic failure.”
The article includes the "Minimum Substantive Derogatory Critera" for being placed on the watch lists:
To meet the REASONABLE SUSPICION standard, the NOMINATOR, based on the totality of the circumstances, must rely upon articulable intelligence or information which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrants a determination that an individual is known or suspected to be or has been knowingly engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to TERRORISM and/or TERRORIST ACTIVITIES. 
In determining whether a REASONABLE SUSPICION exists, due weight should be given to the specific reasonable inferences that a NOMINATOR is entitled to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience and not on unfounded suspicions or hunches. Although irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary, to be reasonable, suspicion should be as clear and as fully developed as circumstances permit.
Uncorroborated Facebook and Twitter posts are explicitly regarded as sufficient grounds for putting an individual on a list.

The ACLU's lawsuit against the government concerning these watch lists with some success but there are still a lot of problems:

LATIF, ET AL. V. HOLDER, ET AL. - ACLU CHALLENGE TO GOVERNMENT NO FLY LIST
In a motion for partial summary judgment, the ACLU asked the court to rule that the inadequate redress process for people on the list violates the Constitution’s guarantee of due process. The court partially granted that motion in August 2013, holding that the Constitution applies when the government bans Americans from air travel. In June 2014, the court struck down the government’s redress process as unconstitutional, and it ordered the government to tell the ACLU’s clients why they are on the No Fly List and give them the opportunity to challenge their inclusion on the list before the court. In October 2014, the government finally informed seven of the 13 plaintiffs that they were not on the list, and it then provided the remaining six plaintiffs with unclassified “summaries” of the reasons for their placement on the list. However, the government still keeps its full reasons secret. It also withholds evidence and exculpatory information from our clients and refuses to give them a live hearing to establish their credibility or cross-examine witnesses. Because of these and other serious problems, the ACLU has challenged the revised process as unconstitutional. 
Until the government fixes its unconstitutional new process, people on the No Fly List are barred from commercial air travel with no meaningful chance to clear their names, resulting in a vast and growing group of individuals whom the government deems too dangerous to fly but too harmless to arrest.
And this is why those three words from Bernie's tweet are so dangerous. You cast a very wide net when you include "and potential terrorists". It's a net that includes everyone. Anybody could be a "potential" terrorist. Even and especially the activist base supporting Bernie Sanders. By way of demonstration, look at Bush-era abuses of the watch lists by the FBI:

FBI Placed Left-Wing Activists On Terrorism Watch List Without Cause
The FBI had a weak factual basis for opening and extending some investigations of U.S. activist groups and put individuals affiliated with Greenpeace USA on the terrorist watch list improperly, a report by the Justice Department's Inspector General released Monday found. 
In addition, FBI Director Robert Mueller was also found to have unintentionally provided inaccurate testimony to Congress because he was given bad information. FBI personnel told him that certain persons of interest in international terrorism matters were expected to be present at an anti-war rally in Pittsburgh in 2002, according to the report.
The review addressed FBI activities from 2001 to 2006 related to the Thomas Merton Center; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); Greenpeace USA; The Catholic Worker; and an individual described as a Quaker peace activist.
...
In addition, the FBI also wrongly classified some nonviolent civil disobedience under its "Acts of Terrorism" classification, which led to subjects being added to the watchlist without merit.
Also, anti-war activists were tracked by Homeland Security and listed as terrorists in a Maryland state police database:

Federal Agency Aided Md. Spying
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security tracked the protest plans of a peaceful Washington area antiwar group and passed the information to the Maryland State Police, which had previously labeled the activists as terrorists in an intelligence file. 
The federal agency obtained two e-mails containing plans for upcoming demonstrations at a military recruiting center in Silver Spring in 2005, the first indication that DHS might have worked with the police to monitor advocacy groups. The notification by DHS appears in a state police file on the DC Anti-War Network, or DAWN, provided to The Washington Post under the Public Information Act. 
The file is one of five created by the state police on the antiwar group in 2005 and 2006. Along with 53 individuals and about two dozen other protest groups, including Amnesty International and CASA of Maryland, the network was labeled a terrorist group in an internal police database. Police have said the names were not put on federal anti-terrorism lists.
The ACLU and Bernie Sanders have (previously) long been in agreement. He has a 93% rating from the ACLU. Their statement on watch lists includes the following:
The consequences of being placed on a government watchlist can be far-reaching. They can include questioning, harassment, or detention by authorities, or even an indefinite ban on air travel. And while the government keeps the evidence it uses to blacklist people in this manner secret, government watchdogs have found that as many as 35 percent of the nominations to the network of watchlists are outdated and tens of thousands of names were placed on lists without an adequate factual basis. To make matters worse, the government denies watchlisted individuals any meaningful way to correct errors and clear their names. 
The ACLU is seeking reform of this broken watchlisting system in a variety of ways. We filed a landmark challenge to the No Fly List in which a federal judge struck down the government’s redress process, ruling that it “falls far short of satisfying the requirements of due process” and is “wholly ineffective.” The ACLU continues to advocate for broad reform of the watchlisting system, consistent with the court’s ruling and the Constitution. 
A bloated, opaque watchlisting system is neither fair nor effective. A system in which innocent people languish on blacklists indefinitely, with their rights curtailed and their names sullied, is at odds with our Constitution and values.
With these problems, it wouldn't be out of the question to ask why we even have terrorism watch lists anymore, or why they haven't been drastically reformed. As the only current US Senator who voted against the Patriot Act (when he was a House Representative) Bernie Sanders would and should be the prime candidate to ask these questions. He has long stood against the overreach of government power and the preservation of civil liberties.

And that is what makes this new position of his such a betrayal.

The solution to this problem is not to expand the use of the watch list. This would certainly lead to misuse of the list as a cudgel against political enemies of whatever administration is currently in office. Gun purchasing and ownership is an individual constitutional right under our Supreme Court's current interpretation of the Constitution.

Curtailing a constitutional right without any due process is an outrage against civil rights.
And it is a practice that would only last as long as it takes the first innocent person to be denied a firearms purchase, because then it goes right up through the courts and the bill gets overturned. The courts have already held, counter the administration's position, that there is a constitutional right to travel, even if that right is not explicitly stated in the constitution. It would take even less time to rule that the government cannot infringe upon the constitutionally protected right to firearms without due process.

An easy solution would be to call for reform and overhaul of the watchlist process. This is the position that the ACLU takes:

Until the No Fly List Is Fixed, It Shouldn’t Be Used to Restrict People’s Freedoms
Last night, in response to last week’s tragic attack in San Bernardino, California, President Obama urged Congress to ensure that people on the No Fly List be prohibited from purchasing guns. Last week, Republicans in Congress defeated a proposal that would have done just that. "I think it’s very important to remember people have due process rights in this country, and we can’t have some government official just arbitrarily put them on a list," House Speaker Paul Ryan said. 
There is no constitutional bar to reasonable regulation of guns, and the No Fly List could serve as one tool for it, but only with major reform. As we will argue to a federal district court in Oregon this Wednesday, the standards for inclusion on the No Fly List are unconstitutionally vague, and innocent people are blacklisted without a fair process to correct government error. Our lawsuit seeks a meaningful opportunity for our clients to challenge their placement on the No Fly List because it is so error-prone and the consequences for their lives have been devastating.
...
We disagree with Speaker Ryan about many things. But he’s right that people in this country have due process rights. We want to see them respected.
Bernie Sanders did not take that nuanced position. He did not and has not called for reform of the watchlisting process. Instead he bulled ahead along with the overwhelming majority of Senate Democrats and pushed for this new change, painting opponents of this change as unreasoning NRA-controlled gun nuts.

This is coupled with new anti-gun rhetoric that has become increasingly divorced from reality, and increasingly alienating to gun owners.

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders seek gun control reform after shootings

Sanders said Thursday that mass shootings had reached "epidemic levels" this year. 
"It is very difficult for the American people to keep up with the mass shootings that we seem to see almost every day. Yesterday, San Bernardino, a few days ago, Colorado Springs, before that Roseburg, Oregon, before that Chattanooga, Tennessee, and on and on it goes," Sanders said in a statement. "The San Bernadino shooting was the 355th mass shooting this year. Gun violence has reached epidemic levels in the United States."

As I noted recently, the San Bernadino terrorism attack was not the 355th mass shooting this year unless you intentionally use a definition so broad it ceases to lose any meaning or value. Gun violence is decreasing in the US and has been for twenty years.

Study: Gun homicides, violence down sharply in past 20 years

Looking back 50 years, a Pew Research Center study found U.S. gun homicides rose in the 1960s, gained in the 1970s, peaked in the 1980s and the early 1990s, and then plunged and leveled out the past 20 years. 
"Despite national attention to the issue of firearm violence, most Americans are unaware that gun crime is lower today than it was two decades ago," the researchers say. 
A Pew survey of Americans in March found 56% believed gun-related crime is higher than 20 years ago and only 12% said it's lower. The survey said 26% believed it stayed the same and 6% didn't know. 
The new study found U.S. firearm homicides peaked in 1993 at 7.0 deaths per 100,000 people. But by 2010, the rate was 49% lower, and firearm-related violence -- assaults, robberies, sex crimes -- was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993, the study found.
It's not anywhere close to "epidemic levels":
In 2014, the violent crime rate was 365.5, making America the safest it has been since 1970, and the murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate was 4.5 out of 100,000, making 2014 the safest year in terms of murders since 1960.
There is a reason why, despite repeating the now thoroughly debunked "355 mass shootings" claim, Bernie Sanders was only able to list 4 specific mass shootings. The mass shooting tracker at liberal (and pro gun control) publication Mother Jones only has four listed for 2015.

US Mass Shootings, 1982-2015: Data From Mother Jones' Investigation

San Bernardino Mass Shooting San Bernardino, Ca 12/3/2015
Umpqua Community College shooting Roseburg, OR 10/1/2015
Chattanooga military recruitment center Chattanooga, TN 7/16/2015
Charleston Church Shooting Charleston, SC 6/17/2015
Confusingly, which Bernie Sanders included the domestic terrorism attack in Colorado Springs which does not qualify as a mass shooting (but is definitely domestic terrorism), he did not include the racially motivated (and I would argue also domestic terrorism) attack in Charleston.

It's worth noting that the terrorists who attacked in San Bernadino were not on any watch lists, and so would not have been prevented from buying guns under the law proposed by Senator Feinstein and supported by Senator Sanders. This is true to form, as many of the recent and very public shootings have involved firearms purchased legally and with background checks before their purchasers did anything that would cause them to be flagged, and yet these incidents have led to demands for "universal background checks" and "closing the gun show loophole".

When you see a problem, and the laws you propose have nothing to do with that problem, you're just exploiting that problem to get what you want into the law and don't care about actually solving the problem. And that's dangerous. That's as dangerous as restricting a constitutional right without due process, and with a great deal of regret it's not something I can support.

Using bad statistics and appeals to emotion is a bad idea when restricting any right, whether its First Amendment religious rights that the Republicans attack or Second Amendment self defense rights that the Democrats attack. I expect Bernie Sanders to support magazine limits and an AWB, because he is far left. As frustrating as it is to somebody who is further left yet also pro-gun, for some reason a large part of the far left in America is completely devoted to opposing civilian gun ownership. I can understand where they're coming from, even though I think it's incredibly foolish to give an exclusive monopoly on deadly force to the people we protest every other day of the week as violent and corrupt. What I cannot understand or accept is the betrayal of Senator Sanders' past principles in his current support for the terrorism watch lists.

When the NSA spying scandal broke, Sanders had this to say about anti-terrorism efforts and government power:
“The NSA is collecting enormous amounts of information. They know about the phone calls made by every person in this country, where they’re calling, who they’re calling and how long they’re on the phone. Let us not forget that a mere 40 years ago, we had a president of the United States who completely disregarded the law in an effort to destroy his political opponents. In my view, the information collected by the NSA has the potential to give an unscrupulous administration enormous power over elected officials,”
This was followed by:
“Clearly we must do everything we can to protect our country from the serious potential of another terrorist attack but we can and must do so in a way that also protects the constitutional rights of the American people and maintains our free society,”
In that he repeated something he said in 2011 when he voted against that year's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

Why Senator Bernie Sanders Voted Against the Defense Bill
“This bill also contains misguided provisions that in the name of fighting terrorism essentially authorize the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens without charges. While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and the civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans.”
I agree with 2011 and 2014 Bernie Sanders, and unfortunately this puts me in the position of having to disagree with 2015 primary presidential candidate Sanders. That is infuriating.

Previously one of the best features of Bernie Sanders as a politician and as a candidate was his consistency. He would pick the right position and stick to it, not altering it subject to the political winds. This is why he opposed the Patriot Act when Hillary Clinton supported it. It's why he opposed the Iraq War when Hillary Clinton supported it. It's why he supported gay marriage long before the majority of the country, and longer still before Hillary Clinton supported it. Now there is inconsistency where before there had been consistency and honesty.

I don't know which would be worse; is he inaccurately and uncritically repeating bad statistics and supporting bad laws, but doing so out of honest ignorance, or is he instead intentionally repeating and supporting these things simply for political gain because he's in a fierce primary contest? Is he an unaware hypocrite, or an aware one? Does he believe these things or is he simply trying to appease the (misguidedly) antigun left?

Regardless, I can't continue to support his campaign. Oh, I may still vote for him, if by the time the primaries get to Ohio he's still in the race. If he's won it by then or lost it by then I may look at the Republican side in our weird open/closed primary system. I may still vote for him in the general too, the likelihood of that will depend on his opponent. But I'm not going to volunteer. I'm not going to donate. I'm not going to defend him or advocate on his behalf with others. I'm pulling myself from grassroots support.

It's not because of his anti-gun positions, which I expect and can accept even though I disagree. Disagreement on some things can be fine and healthy. It's because for the first time, he's taken a position that is anti civil liberties. It is anti due process. It is a position that supports the overreaching post-9/11 security state. I can't agree to disagree on due process, nor should anyone who genuinely values the constitutional protections they enjoy.

As Sanders himself said in 2011 and 2014 when he wasn't running for President, in fighting terrorism we must still protect constitutional rights. Senator Sanders should know better, and either he genuinely doesn't know better, which is bad enough, or he does know better and he's pandering for votes, which might be worse.

You'd think at this point in my life I wouldn't be surprised when a politician disappoints me, but it does still sting a little.

Edit:
Here's the thing. Bernie Sanders is a sitting US Senator. He could introduce a bill to reform the watch lists. Provide oversight for them. Make them a more tightly focused and effective tool in fighting terrorism while also preserving civil liberties. This on its own would have its own numerous benefits, and should easily get bipartisan support. After that a bill to restrict gun purchasing by people on the newly tightened up terrorism watch list would have a very good chance of passing, or at least a much better one. 


He didn't do any of that. He betrayed his principles and took the low road, the unconstitutional security theater road that so many Republicans and Democrats have gone down before. He could be better, he could so easily be better, and he's not.