Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Country Changes

Roseanne Cash, in the NYTimes“Country Musicians, Stand Up to the N.R.A.”:

I’ve been a gun-control activist for 20 years. Every time I speak out on the need for stricter gun laws, I get a new profusion of threats. There’s always plenty of the garden-variety “your dad would be ashamed of you” sexist nonsense, along with the much more menacing threats to my family and personal safety.

Last year, I performed at the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence with Jackson Browne, Eddie Vedder, Marc Cohn and the Harlem Gospel Choir, and we got death threats. People wanted to kill us because we wanted to end gun violence. That’s where we are: America, 2017.

For the past few decades, the National Rifle Association has increasingly nurtured an alliance with country music artists and their fans. You can see it in “N.R.A. Country,” which promotes the artists who support the philosophical, and perhaps economic, thrall of the N.R.A., with the pernicious tag line “Celebrate the Lifestyle.”

That wholesome public relations veneer masks something deeply sinister and profoundly destructive. There is no other way to say this: The N.R.A. funds domestic terrorism.

A shadow government exists in the world of gun sales, and the people who write gun regulations are the very people who profit from gun sales. The N.R.A. would like to keep it that way…

I encourage more artists in country and American roots music to end your silence. It is no longer enough to separate yourself quietly. The laws the N.R.A. would pass are a threat to you, your fans, and to the concerts and festivals we enjoy.

The stakes are too high to not disavow collusion with the N.R.A. Pull apart the threads of patriotism and lax gun laws that it has so subtly and maliciously intertwined. They are not the same…

Marissa R. Moss, in Politico, “How Las Vegas Shattered Country Music’s Consensus on Guns”:

[W]hile there’s no reason to expect major country stars to suddenly risk their fan bases by speaking out in favor of new gun control legislation, the country music industry is changing, thanks to streaming services that are breaking radio’s stranglehold on the industry and a newer cohort of more under-the-radar Americana artists who are more outspoken than their mainstream counterparts.

For at least one mainstream country musician, Sunday night was in fact a turning point. Guitarist for the Texas-based Josh Abbott Band, Caleb Keeter, was at the festival on the day of the massacre, and living through the experience of a mass shooting firsthand was enough to make him rethink his own stance on gun control. “I cannot express how wrong I was,” he said in a Twitter post on Monday morning, still reeling from the shock of the attack after shielding himself from the gunfire on the floor of his tour bus. “We need gun control RIGHT. NOW. My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it.”…
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The Selfishness of It All

I’m warning you in advance this is going to be another rambling post.

Yesterday I was looking at the pictures of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, and I made it a point to read every bio that was provided. I figured it was the least I could do, because I know we aren’t going to do a fucking thing as a country to honor their memory with any meaningful action on the gun front. I was just struck, with few exceptions, how young they all were:

Quinton Robbins was 20. When I was 20, I was living in Germany, serving in the Army, and just having the time of my life. Seeing new things, doing something important for the first time in my life, on my own, paying my own bills, and making friends that I still to this day keep in touch with pretty regularly.

Sonny Melton was 29. When I was 29 I was at the tail end of grad school, and I still went to a lot of concerts and went out all the time and was still pretty wild. That could have been me.

Rachael Parker was 33. When I was 33 I didn’t have my life in any sort of order, but I was finally making decent money and could afford to do things, and I had Tunch and lot of close friends.

And on and on and on. And now, they are just all gone. They are no more.

I know we have all sorts of differing opinions on the afterlife, but mine is pretty simple. When you’re dead you’re dead. That’s the ballgame, as they say. Roll the credits. It’s just over.

I know that’s really hard for people to comprehend, so that’s why I think we have so many myths made up to comfort people about the afterlife, because it’s really hard to contemplate not existing or the world continuing to exist without you- all of us are to some degree egocentric in that way. We’re the only thing that has been with us our entire lives- you always have to live with yourself, because you never go away until you go away.

And the euphemisms we employ to soothe us- passed away, moved on, is in a better place, the long sleep. I find it hard to put a finger on mortality, too. The best way I’ve come to imagine what the world would like be without me is to try to think back to my earliest memory as a child, and then to go farther into nothingness. Just a void- you can’t remember any more before that. Well, that’s what it will be like when we are gone, I think.

And when you are dead, that’s the end of experience. On the drive home today I picked up a small Coke slush and had a sip and just smiled because it was so good. I listened to Kendrick Lamar DAMN. for the fifth or sixth time, and this time, for the first time, I kind of got it (you have to listen to it in reverse order). His others all made “sense” musically the first listening, especially Good Kid, which is another one of those perfect albums. And it happened while I was cruising along on the highway, with my polarized sunglasses on so everything looked so precise because my eyes didn’t have to filter out the glare, the fall foliage was amazing, the sun was filtering through the thick rain clouds that are a consequence of Hurricane Nate, the windows were down and the pollen was low and I just had that rushing “Oh, I think I get it and appreciate it now” feeling and the hair on my arms stood up a little bit. Later on I was driving down the back roads, and the smell of leaves and manure and the sweet country air filled the car, and I saw a beautiful Holstein just sitting down by the fence, chomping away, twitching her tail and I pulled over and watcher her for a bit.

None of those fifty dead will ever get to experience anything like that ever again. Not the feel of clean sheets, the cold floor when you wake up, the burst of hot water in the shower, the minty taste of toothpaste on a new tooth brush, the aroma of the morning coffee, or the feel of your kid’s hands as you walk them to the school bus or kiss your lover again. They will never get any of that ever again. Those things are just gone for them.

And this is where some will inevitably say but their memories will linger on. No they won’t. More than likely, history will not remember them as people- they might be known for a while as victims, but who they are as people will die off in a couple generations, as their loved ones move on. There have been billions of people- history remembers very few. Maybe if they had lived full lives, one of them might have done something extraordinary in the historical sense, but I doubt it. And I’m not saying that to be an asshole- people do extraordinary little things every day, from things as simple as slamming on the brakes to not hit a squirrel or saying something kind to someone who is having a bad day. Time washes all the stuff but the greatest achievements away- the Grand Canyon wasn’t always so grand.

It’s a fragile and short and wonderful thing being alive, and your life is really, truly, the only thing you have in this world. And that’s what is so damned maddening about these shootings. All of those people had the only thing that mattered stolen from them, literally robbed at gunpoint, just so a few people retain their unfettered right to own a little hand-held killing machine that makes their dick hard or gives them a grin for ten seconds at a firing range.

It’s sick. It’s a sickness. Like I said earlier, you have to live with yourselves your whole life, and I just don’t know how these people who oppose all gun control do it. There is just something wrong with them. They are broken. And worse still are the politicians who oppose it for a few coins and some political power.

Some of them, I suspect, know it, which is why they rely on nonsense arguments like “more people are killed by cars” or all the other bullshit that gets churned up. They’ll tell you if we ban guns only criminals will have guns. OK. Then we lock them up until we get all the guns. We can change- there used to be a time when there weren’t seatbelts in cars. Or “We can’t confiscate all guns.” Sure we can. It will just take time.

But even assuming they are right, why the fuck does it hurt to try?

Again, it’s a sickness. And everyone who continues to fight for the right to unfettered access to guns is complicit. They didn’t pull the trigger, but they might as well have.

It’s just a level of selfishness that I will never ever ever understand.

An Important Lesson (To Be) Learned from the Mandalay Bay Shooting

There is an important self defense lesson learned/to be learned from the Mandalay Bay Shooting: under certain conditions self defense, armed or empty hand, is not an option. Instead self preservation is. Some fun was had in comments this morning about social media faux tough guy Dan Bilzerian’s live streaming of his panic stricken response to being caught in the field of fire during the Mandalay Bay Shooting. Bilzerian’s response was all too human, and understandable, given the circumstances and is only the stuff of ridicule because of the persona he created for self promotion. But it is one of the many examples from Sunday’s tragic events that teach us all something important regarding self defense, especially armed self defense. Specifically there are some situations were any form of self defense, let alone armed self defense, is simply not an option. Moving as quickly as possible to cover/safety is the best option.

Even if a significant minority of the concert goers on Sunday were armed, there was no way they could effectively respond to the violent assault. There are several reasons for this. Among them is that Paddock gave himself an asymmetric advantage in his attack. He selected high ground – a room on the 32nd floor; a clear field of fire; a massed group of targets; rifles modified to simulate/approximate fully automatic fire (12 of the 19 recovered in his hotel room had bump fire stocks); and electronic surveillance of the approaches to his room, which allowed him to defeat attempts by hotel security. He shot the guard willing to risk entry to stop him. This kept the police from quickly breach the room to stop him. Instead they waited for SWAT to arrive on scene and conduct the breach. Under these conditions armed self defense is useless.

Even if an armed concert goer or passerby could have quickly ascertained where the shots were coming from, unless armed with a rifle and carrying significant ammunition, there was no way to lay down sustained suppressive fire to stop Paddock from continuing to fire on the crowd. There was almost no place with effective cover to set up to return fire without exposing oneself to Paddock’s assault. And most everyday carriers, concealed or open depending on jurisdiction, carry handguns. While the possible options for everyday carry are large, let’s stipulate that everyone had compact double stack handguns even though this is unlikely the case in reality. These would be auto-loading from a magazine, semi-automatic handguns. With magazine capacities between 13 and 15 rounds depending on the caliber (9mm Parabellum/9X19 usually run 15 rounds, .40 S&W and .357 SIG about 12; and .45 ACP about 10 on average*) Let’s also stipulate that they’re carrying two backup magazines. So that’s 45 rounds, give or take, 46 if carrying with a round chambered (one in the pipe). These guns also have 4 inch barrels in length with a 6 inch site radius on average – depending on the make and model of the gun. Making a 400 yard shot, from ground level to the 32nd floor, at night, in a stress situation with a handgun is effectively impossible. Maybe Jerry Miculek or one of the other professional shooters could pull it off, but that would be about it. And that’s a big maybe as handguns just aren’t designed to accurately shoot that far, especially from ground level on to an elevated target. This is what rifles are for.

While the debate on whether having an armed citizenry actually deters or defeats crime will rage on, as well as the debate over the proper meaning of the 2nd Amendment and how it should be understood and incorporated into 21st Century America, the real lesson learned/to be learned from the Mandalay Bay shooting is that armed self defense is useless as a response to this type of shooting. We can extrapolate that it would also be useless in a similarly designed terrorist attack. And make no mistake terrorist groups and potential terrorists, regardless of their ideology, doctrine, theology, dogma, and/or other motivation or group affiliation, will learn this lesson and potentially try to recreate this type of attack scenario.

What was more useful was self preservation and assisting others with surviving the assault. Getting out of the kill zone as quickly as possible or getting to effective cover was the best option for surviving the Mandalay Bay attack. And those willing to place themselves at risk to help others to do so were also more useful than anyone trying to shoot back. For instance, Jonathon Smith as just one example

Stay frosty!

* Edited for clarity: I initially entered the magazine capcities for full size not compact handguns and have subsequently corrected this.

What He Said (and then some)

Great op-ed in the NY Times by Steve Israel:

First, just like everything else in Washington, the gun lobby has become more polarized. The National Rifle Association, once a supporter of sensible gun-safety measures, is now forced to oppose them because of competing organizations. More moderation means less market share. The gun lobby is in a race to see who can become more brazen, more extreme.

Second, congressional redistricting has pulled Republicans so far to the right that anything less than total subservience to the gun lobby is viewed as supporting gun confiscation. The gun lobby score is a litmus test with zero margin for error.

Third, the problem is you, the reader. You’ve become inoculated. You’ll read this essay and others like it, and turn the page or click another link. You’ll watch or listen to the news and shake your head, then flip to another channel or another app. This horrific event will recede into our collective memory.

That’s what the gun lobbyists are counting on. They want you to forget. To accept the deaths of at least 58 children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends as the new normal. To turn this page with one hand, and use the other hand to vote for members of Congress who will rise in another moment of silence this week. And next week. And the foreseeable future.

The Republicans don’t care about dead citizens unless it can enhance their political power or please their corporate masters.

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: This Is Who We Are


“America” — meaning that almost-entirely-white, very-largely-male portion of the population that gets to write the laws and set the norms for the rest of us — has an addiction problem. “America” is addicted to guns, to the noise and the power and the ever-ready hard shaft of The All-American Weapon. Like any other addiction, presumably it started as a way to salve some unspeakable pain, to lubricate the sharp edges of the consequences to some decision gone terribly wrong. But now it’s an overwhelming burden all its own, a disconnect at the heart of all our political interactions, something that even those of us who don’t share the addiction have to plan our lives around.

James Fallows, in the Atlantic“Two Dark American Truths From Las Vegas”:

The dead and the wounded, and their family and friends, of course deserve most support and sympathy. But their fellow countrymen should reflect on two dark truths the episode underscores. I was going to end that sentence with “reveals,” but that’s not right: We know these things already.

The first is that America will not stop these shootings. They will go on. We all know that, which makes the immediate wave of grief even worse.

Five years ago, after what was the horrific mass shooting of that moment, I wrote an item called “The Certainty of More Shootings.” It was about the massacre in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and after acknowledging the victims it said:

The additional sad, horrifying, and appalling point is the shared American knowledge that, beyond any doubt, this will happen again, and that it will happen in America many, many times before it occurs anywhere else.

That remains true now. I expect it to be true five years from now. I am an optimist about most aspects of America’s resilience and adaptability, but not about reversing America’s implicit decision to let these killings go on…

Here’s the other dark truth about America that today’s shooting reminds us of. The identity of the shooter doesn’t affect how many people are dead or how grievously their families and communities are wounded. But we know that everything about the news coverage and political response would be different, depending on whether killer turns out to be “merely” a white American man with a non-immigrant-sounding name.

That’s who most mass-shooters turn out to be, from Charles Whitman at the University of Texas tower back in 1966 onward. And from Whitman onward, killers of this sort are described as “deranged” or “disturbed” or “resentful,” their crimes a reflection of their own torment rather than any larger trend or force… These people are indeed deranged and angry and disturbed, and the full story of today’s killer is not yet known. It is possible that he will prove to have motives or connections beyond whatever was happening in his own mind… But we know that if the killers were other than whites with “normal” names, the responsibility for their crime would not be assigned solely to themselves and their tortured psyches….

This is who we are.

I was going to add, “—unless we decide to change,” but that’s the kind of mandatory-uplift note you put, because you have to, at the end of a speech.

This is who we are.

There’s only two “cures” for any addiction: the addict can give up his drug, or he can chase the high until it kills him. Right now, I’m not feeling optimistic about the ammosexuals among us — or the powerful white men who profit from their desperation — ever giving up the temporary high just because it’s predictably going to destroy them. (Along with every other person they love almost as much as their guns.)

You Won’t Hear My Gun or the Voices in My Head

This is more insanity:

The House could pass legislation as early as this week that would roll back decades-old restrictions on gun silencers, opening up the market for a device that critics say would make it difficult in a mass shooting to detect where gunfire is coming from.

The House is also expected to move this fall on separate legislation that would allow people to carry their legally concealed weapons across state lines into jurisdictions, such as California, that tightly restrict weapons concealment.

The silencer measure is part of the Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, a broad-ranging gun bill delayed in June after House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and two Capitol Hill police officers were wounded by a gunman who opened fire on a congressional baseball practice session.

Critics say silencers — called noise suppressors by supporters and heavily regulated by the federal government for more than eight decades — would make it harder for police officers to locate a shooter in an attack.

These people are out of their god damned minds.

Worst Mass Shooting in U.S. History

If initial reports about the number of dead are correct, last night’s massacre in Las Vegas was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Via The Washington Post:

At least 50 dead, more than 200 injured in Las Vegas shooting

Gunman in a high-rise hotel on the Strip opened fire during a country music festival

In one of the worst mass shootings in modern U.S. history, the sniper-style gunfire rained down from the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino on Sunday evening, police said. The gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, is believed to be a “lone wolf” and was killed after authorities confronted him on the 32nd floor of the hotel, police said.

If the gunman’s name were “Satam Panjwani” instead of “Stephen Paddock,” the attack would be deemed “terrorism,” and America would find deep national resolve to address the scourge. But the shooter was a 64-year-old white man, so it’s a “lone wolf” incident, and “thoughts are prayers” are activated instead:

Nothing will change.