Reposting – We Are Terrifying Ourselves: Terrorism Versus Mass Shootings

Several folks asked me to repost this today/tonight because it got lost in the shuffle of yesterday’s election news. So reposted!


Yesterday a self radicalized Bangladeshi immigrant in New York attempted to blow up himself and a chunk of the New York City subway. There’s no indication so far that he was actually in touch with ISIS or any other extremist Islamic group.

Fortunately he failed.

He did burn himself and caused some minor injuries to three others. And as is always the case when this type of incident happens we are once again inundated with questions about terrorism and its relationship to immigration. The reality is that terrorism incidents are down globally for the second year in a row. Though there are increases in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Afghanistan, and the Philippines, which makes sense giving the ongoing civil war in Syria and insurgencies and/or rebellions in the other states. The reality for Americans is that terrorism in the US remains rare –  a small n phenomenon.

GWU’s Program on Extremism’s tweet is only looking at attacks arising from extremist Islamic ideology and/or affiliation, but 19 in 3 years is 6.33 incidents a year. Hardly an epidemic. Overall there have been 201 terrorist plots and incidents carried out between 2010 and 2016. This is 33.5 per year. Here too, we’re not talking about a lot of terrorism. And remember it includes both plots and actual attacks that have been carried out. Here’s the breakdown, you’ll notice who is carrying out and/or planning the majority of terrorist attacks in the US:

The database shows 115 cases by right-wing extremists ― from white supremacists to militias to “sovereign citizens” ― compared to 63 cases by Islamist extremists. Incidents from left-wing extremists, which include ecoterrorists and animal rights militants, were comparatively rare, with 19 incidents.

While we normally separate out terrorism from mass murder (four or more victims not including the perpetrator) by shooting, commonly called mass shooting, the difference in the number of incidents is staggering. We have now reached the point where there is at least one mass shooting per day in the US. As of 14 November 2017 there have been 317 mass shootings in the US so far in 2017. 2016 had 438! Mass shootings are not rare in the US – they are a very large N phenomenon.

The two types of violence do have some significant differences. Specifically in regard to motivation. Terrorism requires a political motivation; an attempt to use violence to force the state, the citizenry, or both to change their behavior as a result of the fear created by the act or acts of terrorism. Mass shootings that don’t have this component are just mass murders using a firearm. And, of course, the latter gets wrapped up in the ongoing argument over what the 2nd Amendment means and how it should be applied in the 21st Century.

There are, however, attempts to conflate these two issues. For instance, the attorney for the three Kansans facing trial for plotting to blow up an apartment complex where the majority of the residents are Somali immigrants is claiming that his clients activities are covered under both the 1st and 2nd Amendment. Specifically, his clients actions are protected as political speech/actions and as a type of freedom of assembly, as well as under the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

“This case is uniquely political because much of the anticipated evidence will center around, and was in reaction to, the 2016 Presidential election,” defense attorneys wrote.

They also argued the case will require jurors to weigh whether the alleged conduct constitutes a crime or whether it is constitutionally protected speech and assembly and the right to bear arms.

This conflation, of an attempted act of domestic terrorism with lawful and protected speech and the right to keep and bear arms, heavily elides the distinction between terrorism and mass murder by mass shooting, which is the usual contact point for questions as to whether mass shootings are a form of terrorism. Short answer: if the shooter had a political motivation it could be terrorism. If the shooter doesn’t, then it most likely isn’t.

And this really gets to Robert Schooley’s observation. Because the Las Vegas shooter was a very affluent white man, despite the fact that he killed 58 people and wounded 546 more in under a half hour, outside of Las Vegas and maybe the home towns of the victims, the coverage dropped to almost zero quickly after the attack. Had yesterday’s attacker been a white guy with a gun there wouldn’t be any calls today to reform the US immigration system or for travel bans. There wouldn’t even be real calls for sensible reforms regarding firearms sales. Rather there would be calls for thoughts and prayers. And emphatic statements that it is too soon to discuss doing anything but thinking and praying. Americans have built up terrorism into an existential, uber-threat out of all proportion to the reality of terrorism to the lives of Americans. At the same time we’ve decided that mass murder by shooting is just something that happens – a type of background noise to our daily lives.

The national anthem, which has recently gotten recognized more and more, I notice, unequivocally states that the US is the home of the brave. It is high time Americans started living up to that statement and stopped being so easily spooked.

Blowed Up (Open Thread)

There are a million reasons to rejoice at Doug Jones’ victory over the lawless, bigoted, kid-diddling theocrat Roy Moore. But I have to admit one of my favorites is this: It’s another example of how thoroughly the literal walking Confederate monument Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has exploded in Trump’s ugly face.

Sessions is one of the most abject toadies who ever licked a would-be authoritarian’s boots. Recognizing a fellow bigot, Sessions jumped on the Trump train early, giving establishment imprimatur to a racist, sexist, xenophobic demagogue when most elected Republicans still believed Trump would blight their 2016 prospects.

Then Trump won, and Sessions was rewarded with a plum post. All Sessions ever wanted to do was advance the worst aspects of Trump’s bigoted agenda. He’s doing that. But despite his devotion, Sessions has proved a personal liability for Trump at almost every turn, and in the process, he’s earned his boss’s utter contempt.

Trump blames Sessions for the Russia probe. He publicly humiliated him over it. And I’m sure Trump blames Sessions for losing the Alabama senate seat too because nothing is ever Trump’s fault.

Trump is a three-time loser in Alabama — first picking Sessions, then backing Strange and then endorsing Moore. Sessions is taking a wrecking ball to civil rights, so it’s cold comfort. But he’s been a fucking disaster for Trump, despite his best intentions, and I bet Trump reminds him of that at every opportunity.

Well, that escalated quickly…

You guys, I think Trump just called Senator Gillibrand a slut:

Is there a German word yet for that feeling when you think something has to be from a parody account but it’s really not? The senator clapped back:

I’m out of can’ts to even.

For reasons too convoluted to explain, I’m hanging out alone in a remote cabin that had Fox News blaring when I walked in the door. There is a bewildering array of remote controls, none of which seemed to affect the volume or power.

I follow Fox News on Twitter to see what the bastards are up to, but watching it live is another experience altogether. Non-stop fear-mongering! Even the commercials portend doom; it’s all survivor seed packets, bunker rations and gold.

I found a button that changed the channel and jumped out of the frying pan into the hell-fire — an old-timey evangelical preacher! I frantically pushed every button at once and landed on Dan’l Boone TV show reruns. That’ll do, although it’s vaguely disturbing that there’s a raccoon HEAD on his coonskin cap!

Hope your day is less of a catastrophuck!

Last Best Hope

An excerpt from President Lincoln’s annual message to Congress, 1 December 1862:

It is not “can any of us imagine better?” but, “can we all do better?” The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In givingfreedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.

Hold the line!

Midday Odds and Ends

The Washington Post on the attempted terrorist attack in NYC this morning:

Authorities said a low-tech device was detonated in the New York City subway in an incident that the mayor called “an attempted terrorist attack.”

A man suspected of setting off the explosion Monday morning in Midtown Manhattan was identified by authorities as Akayed Ullah. The blast, which occurred in the area of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, at 42nd St. and 8th Ave., resulted in serious injuries to the suspect and minor injuries to at least three others, authorities said during a morning news conference.

Ullah sustained burns and lacerations to his hands and abdomen, authorities said. Police said he was taken to Bellevue Hospital for treatment and then taken into custody. Three other people also suffered minor injuries caused by being in the vicinity of the explosion, including ringing in the ears and headaches, police said.

Thank dog the idiot attacker was inept. Oddly, as of this moment, Trump has not tried to make political hay of the attack on Twitter, which is unusual to say the least. Maybe he’s keeping his powder dry until 10:30 AM, when Brave New Films will hold a press conference with some of the 16 women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct:

There should be an investigation. Trump surrogates are claiming people already knew about these allegations and voted for Trump anyway, so no backsies. But there was never an investigation, and he wasn’t an elected official then. There should be one now.

Speaking of degenerates, reports that two polls show Roy Moore with a lead over Doug Jones in the AL senate race. But a Fox News poll shows Jones with a big lead:

Is this Fox News trying to goose Moore supporters to the polls? Possibly.

What else is going on? Did anyone else binge-watch “The Crown” this weekend? Open thread!

Unity Schmunity (Open Thread)

Have we discussed the DNC Unity and Reform Commission findings yet? I’ve looked online and can’t yet find a copy of the recommendations, so I’m relying on media reports. HuffPo has a run-down of the key points; from what I gather there and elsewhere, there are three major changes proposed:

1. Fewer superdelegates (60% reduction according to HuffPo)

2. Absentee ballots for caucus states and allowing voters to register or switch party affiliation on the day of the caucus; also, possible penalties for states that hold closed primaries if they don’t allow same-day registration or party affiliation changes.

3. More transparent budget.

One of the main arguments I’ve heard to retain the superdelegate system is that it could allow the party to rid itself of an unqualified lummox like Trump. I don’t personally find that convincing, since the lummox in question is now squatting in the Oval Office. The Republicans weren’t going to get rid of Trump because their voters would have rebelled, and the Democrats wouldn’t either, should a Trump-like figure arise in the Democratic Party.

The second proposal troubles me the most, especially the prospect that closed primary states that don’t allow same-day registration and party affiliation changes will be penalized in some way, possibly through loss of delegates, if they don’t do “everything in their power” to conform to the same-day rules. States set voter registration and party affiliation change rules, not parties.

There are arguments to be made for closed and open primaries, but they need to be made on a bipartisan basis at the state level. Penalizing Democrats from closed primary states because of rules they can’t control is just another form of “rigging,” IMO. This time, it’s the Sanders people who look like they are trying to grease the skids.

If you agree that penalizing closed primary states isn’t fair, you might want to bring that up with your local party delegate or make your feelings known to the DNC through other channels. The URC recommendations have to be adopted by the DNC rules committee before they go into effect.

Other than that, open thread!

Massachusetts Man: Donuts! Edition

The Boston Globe reports:

Former state senator Brian A. Joyce collected about $1 million in bribes and kickbacks that he laundered through his law firm, according to a sweeping 102-page indictment that accuses the Milton Democrat of turning his public office into a criminal enterprise — even accepting hundreds of pounds of free coffee from a Dunkin’ Donuts owner.

Joyce, once the Senate’s assistant majority leader, was taken from his Westport home in handcuffs early on Friday morning and escorted by federal agents to be booked and fingerprinted, and face federal charges of mail fraud, corruption, money laundering, and embezzlement, among many others.

Acting US Attorney William Weinreb said prosecutors launched the investigation of Joyce after a series of stories by The Boston Globe that began in January 2015 looking at Joyce’s mingling of public and personal business.

Weinreb said investigators estimated that Joyce’s many illegal schemes have netted him about $1 million since 2010. Prosecutors say, among other things, Joyce extorted a Jeep from a Milton developer and collected more than $100,000 in phony legal fees from a Dunkin’ Donuts store owner in exchange for using his influence to help them.

Harold Shaw, special agent in charge of the Boston FBI office, was more blunt: “We believe Mr. Joyce was greedy, plain and simple.’’

Ya think?!?!?

Anyhow the donut reference, yes I know it was coffee from Dunkins, and the Boston reference trigger the following obligatory entries.

Open thread!