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On the Murders Sunday in Las Vegas, Lawrence, and Elsewhere in the United States of America

Three people were killed and two others were injured early Sunday morning when at least 20 gunshots were fired on a crowded downtown street in Lawrence, Kansas, but you probably didn’t hear about it. Later that same day a shooter in Las Vegas killed at least 59 people and injured another 500 or so, setting a new American record, so that understandably took up almost all of Monday’s news.
By now mass shootings are almost numbingly routine, and despite the outrage and heartbreak they always provoke most Americans would be hard pressed to recall any details of the last one or the one before that, but this time might prove more memorable. There’s the record-setting death toll, the apparent use of a fully automatic weapon, the much older than usual age of the shooter, and an especially frustrating lack of any plausible explanation.
There’s never an adequate explanation for these slaughters, of course, but usually there’s some detail or two in the initial stories that gives some clue what going on the deranged mind of the shooter. Sometimes they’re named Mohammad and shout “Alahu Akbar” and had posted Islamic screeds on their Facebook pages, other times they’re white guys with haircuts and Facebook postings that announce their racial grievances, the guy who shot up the a Washington, D.C., softball field and wounded a Republican congressman had a deep-seated hatred of Republicans, and the guy shot up a political rally in Arizona and wounded Democratic congresswoman apparently did so because she had failed to an incomprehensible question he’d asked at a town hall, and usually they turn out to be kind of crazy that family and friends and neighbors had long noticed but never knew quite what to do about it.
None of that amounts to an adequate explanation, but it’s something to cling to as we humans instinctively search for some reassuring reason when tragedy occurs.
This time around the Islamic State terror gang claimed the shooter was a recent convert who had heeded their call to jihad, but they always they do that whenever someone kills random people, and it’s quite unusual for recent converts to any religion to keep quiet about it and so far everyone who knew the shooter says he never expressed any religious opinions at all. The target of the shooting was an outdoor country music festival, so there was immediate internet speculation that the shooter was someone who wanted to killed a lot of Republicans, which quickly led to some irresponsible right-wing sites fingering an innocent fellow with a lot of pro-Democratic Facebook postings, but apparently this shooter never expressed any political opinions of any sort, and was said to be a country music fan himself. According to everyone the armies of reporters have rounded up to interview, the shooter was an undeniably odd duck but not in a way that made you think he’d spray automatic rounds at a crowd of random strangers.
According to the neighbors he mostly kept to himself in his comfortable gated over-50 community in rural Nevada, and was often away from home for long periods of time during high-stakes gambling binges in Las Vegas. He’d apparently done well as an accountant and made some savvy real estate investments, and without any children to worry about he could afford the indulgence and still lavish gifts on his mother, so neither the neighbors nor his family found it worrisome. His brother gave a lengthy interview to a cluster of news cameras and microphones that was clearly too distraught to be at all disingenuous, and he was clearly surprised to learn that shooter had acquired a veritable armory or deadly weapons.
The usual post-mass-shooting debates about gun control are already underway, but this time around they’re all the more complicated for both sides. Apparently all of those weapons had been acquired legally, with the shooter’s previously pristine legal record and lack of any noticed mental health problems carrying him through all the required background checks, and automatic weapons have long been illegal, it’s too late to charge the now-dead-by-self-inflicted-gunshot shooter with the apparent crime of altering his semi-automatic rifles to fully automatic, and it’s hard to think of anything that would have stopped this guy without imposing onerous restrictions of the rights of the vast majority of peaceable gun owners. Those peaceable gun owners have long made the reasonable argument that if there’s some crazy guy shooting up a crowd you don’t want him to be the only one there with a gun, but in this case he was shooting from 400 yards away where none of those of presumably gun-toting country music fans would have known where to shoot, and if any of them had drawn their weapons during the panic the police and security on hand would have been well within their rights to shoot them.
The same dreary arguments will continue, nonetheless, along with the ancillary debates about why so many Americans wind up getting shot to death every year. Across most of America the murder rate has happily declined over the past few decades, those mass shootings and the daily carnage in Chicago and a couple of other cities notwithstanding, but the numbers are still high by first-world standards and merit national concern. Those mass shootings are by now a longstanding problem, too, dating back at least to a sniper attack from the University of Texas’ landmark tower in Austin in 1966, and back in ’76 a guy started shooting from the balcony of what was then the tallest building in our hometown of Wichita, and there was a kid shot up his junior high school in a nearby suburb back in ’85, and when we think about we can recall the schoolyard in Connecticut and the homosexual nightclub in Orlando and far too many details of other mass shootings.
An autopsy showed that the Texas shooter had brain disease, that guy in Wichita had just been jilted by his girlfriend, the junior high kid in the nearby suburb had endured the usual junior high bullying, the Connecticut shooter was so clearly crazy his mom had been warning the cops about him, the homosexual nightclub was another one of those “Alahu Akbar” incidents, and when we think about we can recall some semblance of a reason for all those other mass shootings. According to the police in the normally placid university town of Lawrence those three victims who died there early Sunday morning weren’t random targets, and that the violence was the result of some beef between low-lifes who have always used guns to settle their differences, and we note that the incident followed a rap concert at the school’s arena, so we’ll make the same stereotypical assumptions that some people make about country music concerts, and hope it’s all enough to satisfy our all too human need for some reason that tragedies occur.
None of it amounts to an adequate explanation, though, and we hope that America in its extraordinary greatness will take time out from the usual political to ponder why it has such a persistent and extraordinary problem with Americans getting shot to death, and how it might be addressed without stripping the vast majority of cherished rights.

— Bud Norman

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This Time in Milwaukee

The latest round of rioting and looting and mayhem happened Saturday in Milwaukee, where constant gunfire kept firefighters away from several blazes and any person of the wrong hue who had the misfortune to be walking down a certain stretch of Sherman Boulevard was subject to brutal mob violence. Yet another instance of a black man being shot by police officer had preceded it all, of course, and so the usual excuses of the “Black Lives Matter” movement will be made.
Those excuses are never sufficient for the victims of this ongoing violence, however, and in this case they’re all the more insufficient. In this case the man shot by a police officer was armed with a stolen semi-automatic pistol, one of those uniform “body-cams” that the activists have insisted on show he brandished the weapon as he fled from police during a routine traffic stop, he had a long record of arrests and a conviction for possession of a concealed weapon, and although there are still questions about the incident that will surely be thoroughly investigated under intense public scrutiny all of that should at least give some pausing to the rioting. In any case the businesses that were destroyed and those unfortunate folks of the wrong hue who happened to be in the vicinity had nothing to do with the shooting, and the violence and destruction that were inflicted will have no positive effects on anyone.
In this case the officer whose life was on the line was also black, and therefore presumably not motivated by any racial animus, but that won’t matter to a “Black Lives Matter” movement so strangely selective about which black lives matter. They seem to care little for the lives of the brave black men and women who don a police uniform and a gun to try to impose some semblance of law and order on the most lawless and disorderly streets of America, nor for the untold number of murdered black lives that will surely be added to an already inordinate black death toll once those efforts at law enforcement are in retreat from the mob.
As the crime rates rise in those cities afflicted by the anti-police protest movement the chances of a police officer still more or less on the job having to make a split-second decision about how to respond to known felon brandishing a loaded gun will increase, the ensuing riots will fuel a further retreat by law enforcement and another uptick in the crime, and at some point frank talk and real leadership will be required to halt the cycle. All of this comes near the end of what was promised would eight years of a post-racial America, and although it wouldn’t be fair to blame all of this on President Barack Obama it does seem fair to say that he hasn’t made good on those grandiose promises. He’s consistently taken sides against the police in every controversial case, often before the facts emerged to prove his prejudgments incorrect, and his Justice Department has taken similarly premature stands, with the same embarrassing results. His Education Department has also insisted that schools mete out suspensions and expulsions according to a strict racial quota system, which ignores and exacerbates the reality that in many schools some racial groups are committing infractions that call for suspensions and expulsions at a greater rate than others, and his Department of Housing and Urban Development has been imposing similarly cockamamie notions of racial justice on otherwise contented communities around the country.
Despite such efforts, black unemployment remains far higher the national average, with the youth unemployment rising still further over Depression-era rates with every hike in the minimum wage, overall black wages and household wealth are on the decline, and in the cities where the police departments have fallen under federal scrutiny the black murder rates are on the rise. The president’s approval ratings among black Americans remain high, though, and his endorsed would-be Democratic successor is eager to reap their votes and unwilling to challenge his policies. The would-be Republican successor is echoing Nixon’s “law and order” theme from the riot-torn days of ’68, but at the moment the country doesn’t seem to regard him as as the sort racial healer who might stave off a race war. So far the only leadership that has dealt with the complex situation frankly has been at the local level, such as that black police chief in Dallas who largely restored order at the murder of five of his officers, but we’ll need more.

— Bud Norman

Politics in a Murderous Age

One of the few positive developments in America over the past two decades had been a dramatic decline in murders and other crimes, but in the past year or so the trend has suddenly reversed. All the experts are debating the possible causes, and coming up with all sorts of politically expedient explanations, but our admittedly amateur analysis suggests it has something to do with all the anti-police activity that has been going on for the past year or so.
There’s still no unanimity of opinion about what was causing that long term decline, with some on the left crediting legalized abortion for reducing the number of unwanted children who would have grown up to be murderers and criminals and others citing the success of the long-ago ban on lead paint, and all the right-wing crazies insisting it was a result of all those tough-one-crime measures enacted about twenty years or so ago, so it’s no surprise that there is similar disagreement about the recent increase. The left is mostly blaming the widespread availability of guns, as usual, and the right-wing crazies are insisting that it’s a result of a recent retreat from the tough-on-crime measures, as usual, and as usual we’re inclined to the latter point of view.
That twenty year decline in the murder rate happened as gun ownership became more common, and state legislatures and federal courts mostly expanded the rights of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves with firearms, so it seems unlikely that the relatively small number of guns that have been added to the nation’s arsenal in the past year has brought the country to some sort of murderous tipping point. The past year or so has also brought riots, protests, hashtag campaigns, Department of Justice investigations into police practices, a “Black Lives Matter” protest movement that has cowed the Democratic Party’s presidential contenders, the usual number of lawsuits, a hit movie about a “gangsta rap” group whose biggest hit was “F**k Tha Police,” and the combined power of the entertainment and news media wringing their hands over the bloodthirsty racism of the nation’s law enforcement officers. At this point we can hardly blame any police officer for preferring to sit in his squad car on some anodyne street sipping coffee and eating doughnuts rather than risk the penalties that might result from actually enforcing the law, and our experience of human nature assures us there’s plenty of that going on lately, so it doesn’t seem at all coincidental that the murder rate started climbing right around the time all that nonsense started happening.
Our suspicion is further corroborated by the fact that the cities seeing the most alarming increases are the ones where the anti-police activity has been most intense. Milwaukee has experienced an alarming 75 percent increase in its murder rate since last year, and it coincides with the protests that followed a police shooting of black man in what was officially ruled a justifiable act of self-defense. The St. Louis area, which includes the riot-torn town of Ferguson, Missouri, whose police department is under federal investigation after yet another shooting of an unarmed black man that even the Department of Justice now admits was also a justifiable act of self-defense, has seen its murder rate rise by 60 percent. Baltimore, the scene of similar rioting after the death of yet another black man was killed during an encounter with the police, and which is also the target of a federal investigation, is third on the list of the most hard-hit with a 54 percent increase. Washington, D.C., where the Department of Justice is located, comes in fourth a 44 percent increase.
As even The New York Times gets around to admitting in the 38th paragraph of a generally good story about the murder boom, it’s mostly black lives that are being lost. The “Black Lives Matter” movement doesn’t seem to care, though, as it’s only concerned with those black lives lost during encounters with the police, no matter how justifiably the officers might have acted, and at the moment they seem to hold sway in one of the country’s two major political parties. Longshot candidate Martin O’Malley, who was inconveniently both the mayor of Baltimore and the governor of Maryland, has been forced to apologize for saying that “all lives matter,” surging candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has cowardly ceded his campaign platform to a trio of the movement’s bullies, and former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is still described as a front-runner, is now criticizing the bigger police budgets and longer sentences and other measures that she and her then-president husband once championed. Meanwhile the Department of Justice continues its investigations, the Democratic president who runs it continues to enflame racial grievances against the police, while the mayor of New York City, which has seen a 9 percent increase in its homicide rate over last year, which was up from the year before, is a fierce critic of “stop-and-frisk” and other aggressive law enforcement methods as well as a darling of the party’s left, and no one in the party can be heard to defend law enforcement.
This might help the Republicans’ chances in the upcoming election, but perhaps not. The murder rate is mostly going up in places that are Democratic strongholds, and are likely to remain so no matter how apocalyptic their neighborhoods become, and we suspect that only we right-wing crazies are appalled enough by all these murders to consider doing all the things that used to be bringing the murder deliriously down. Eventually the public’s impatience with rampant murder in the streets will insist on all that old-fashioned tough on crime stance, and we’re sure the Clintons will be right back with the crowd, but it remains to be seen if that moment will arrive by Election Day.

— Bud Norman

Keeping Your Eyes Off the Prize

Two stories pertaining to racial relations have been prominent in the news lately, despite assurances that we would be done with all that unpleasantness if we only elected the right president, and neither one suggests that the old animosities and suspicions have diminished. Both, though, seem a distraction from the even uglier truth.
We have not previously commented on the controversy about celebrity chef Paula Deen’s admitted use of racial slurs and other offenses against racial etiquette, partly because we are not especially au courant on celebrity chefs or any other food fads and never heard of the woman until her remarks became the fodder of an inescapable number of new stories, but mostly because it seemed of such little consequence. Although we do not condone the use of racial slurs or the sorts of offenses against racial etiquette of which Deen stands accused, it seems to us that things must be going quite well in black America if the rude rantings of a 66-year-old southern woman we had previously never heard was all that the race industry had to complain about. Deen will forever be subjected to the sort of social stigma that was once reserved for unmarried motherhood — although her notoriety seems have had a salutary effect on sales of her cookbooks, which for all we know contain good recipes, her apparent racism notwithstanding — and any other celebrities inclined to fling about racial slurs will be thus forewarned. The usual double standards will still apply to any slurring his own racial group and those whose liberalism is well established, of course, but when the whole brouhaha is long forgotten and supplanted by some other celebrity’s outburst little harm will have been done.
Of more significance by far was the recently concluded trial of George Zimmerman, the volunteer neighborhood watchman who was acquitted of second-degree murder or manslaughter in the death of an unarmed black teenager. Zimmerman admitted firing the fatal shot but claimed he did so in self-defense as the teenager attacked him and was pounding his head against the pavement, a story corroborated by physical evidence and eyewitness testimony, which was believed by both the investigating police officers and ultimately by a jury of his peers, but because Zimmerman is at least nominally white and his assailant was black political pressure to prosecute was brought to bear by protestors, the press, and even the President of the United States and his Justice Department. Even with the facts pointing to Zimmerman’s innocence clearly established and confirmed by the verdict of a jury, pressure to expose Zimmerman to double jeopardy in a federal civil rights continues by everyone from the Senate majority leader to the lowliest “tweeters” sending threats of riots and revenge killings across the internet.
The noise is such that one might suppose the most pressing problem facing black American youth today, aside from the foul language and outdated opinions of semi-famous celebrity chefs, is that they are being gunned down en masse by the “white Hispanic” neighborhood watch volunteers whose heads they are pounding against the pavement. Someone knew to the country and unfamiliar with its heartbreaking racial realities would be surprised to learn that young black men die violently at a rate far exceeding any other group, overwhelmingly at the hands of one another, and that their deaths go largely unremarked by protestors, the press, or the President of the United States. It’s almost a certainty that they’ve not heard the name of Darryl Green, a black 17-year-old recently beaten to death in the president’s hometown of Chicago not because he attacked a neighborhood watch volunteer but rather because he tried to avoid such violent behavior and refused membership in a game. His tragic death has gone unmentioned by protestors, the press, and the President of the United States, and we only heard it because of the Breitbart.com web site, supposedly a bastion of ranting right-wing racism.
Nor would anyone who knows America only through the media be aware that the black unemployment is a Depression-level 13.7 percent, with a worse-than-Depression-level rate for black teenagers, or that the income of the average black household has dropped 11.1 percent since the beginning of the supposed economy, or that any number of economic indicators show that it’s 1936 in black America. To the scant extent these facts provoke any discussion in the mainstream media it is even less commonly discussed that solving these dangerous disparities is complicated by a 72 percent illegitimacy rate in the black community and a vast gap in educational performance compared to Hispanics, whites, and Asians which will make economic equality all but impossible without quota systems and preferential hiring and educational policies that can only exacerbate the racial resentments of all other groups. Any mention of these harsh realities is also considered a breach of racial etiquette, and the polite people prefer to avert their eyes from the tragedies that don’t have an easily scapegoated white villain.
It’s easy enough to see why the president and the rest of the political class would prefer that the likes of Paula Deen and George Zimmerman dominate the news, rather than the more pressing problems that their policies have manifestly failed to alleviate, but it’s time that the rest of the country stopped being polite and started insisting on a more honest racial dialogue that could lead to real solutions.

— Bud Norman

The Upside of Global Warming

The winter has thus far been mild in these parts, to the point that it’s almost been tolerable, with no snow worth mentioning and certainly none worth shoveling. All of the farmers and the most dedicated lawn care enthusiasts have been clamoring for more precipitation of any kind, and it would be selfish of us to wish otherwise, but our only complaint is that local global warming crowd has lately been even smugger than usual.
Other parts of the globe are reportedly colder and snowier than normal, so we assume that the global warming crowds in those places are talking about “climate change” rather than “global warming.” If not, they are condescendingly lecturing the skeptics about the difference between weather and climate, which is what they always do around here when the weather refuses to confirm to their predictions. They’re a steadfast lot, these global warming types, as unwavering in their faith as any church-goer of our acquaintance.
Global warming’s allegedly catastrophic consequences can justify almost anything the liberal hearth might desire, from industry-killing cap-and-trade to massive tax increases and regulations to the abolition of capitalism, so it’s not hard to understand the appeal. Christie Hefner of the oddly named Center for American Progress went so far as to blame global warming for Chicago’s extraordinarily high murder rate, which conveniently exculpates both the city’s erstwhile community organizer, President Barack Obama, and its current mayor, former presidential chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Hefner is the daughter of the celebrated pornographer Hugh “Hef” Hefner, and a former chief executive officer of his Playboy empire, which has done as much warming as any company over the years, but her faith will no doubt earn her forgiveness from respectable society.
We’re thinking of getting some of that religion ourselves, now that we know global warming can also justify laziness. This intriguing tip comes from U.S. News & World Report, which cites a report from The Center for Economic Policy and Research that Americans should work less to reduce the effects of global warming. To give an idea of just how dire the situation has become, the report’s author even argues that “If the world were to follow a more European model of work, we would expect fewer hours, less output, and lower emissions of greenhouses gases.”
Now, that is saying something. Although we are widely regarded as lazy, and have been routinely chastised for it ever since our school days, even on our most idling days we have never dared aspire to a European level of laziness. We pride ourselves on our ability to do very little in the way of productive labor, a knack that has provoked awe in some onlookers, but we have always acknowledged the natural superiority of our European cousins in this regard.
Our current religion regards sloth with disdain, and even deems it a deadly sin, but the church of global warming seems to take a more reasonable attitude. Indeed, global warming seems to offer not just absolution but beatification for doing nothing. Once converted, we could stop offering embarrassed excuses for leaving a job undone and start claiming credit for our courageous contribution to the ecology. Should anyone chide us for an afternoon’s repose, we will turn an upward chin and angrily demand to know why they are trying to kill those poor polar bears.
A few more hours in bed watching “Dobie Gillis” re-runs and reading old Wodehouse novels should have the planet back in the pink, and we expect the planet’s more industrious inhabitants to compensate our efforts generously. This global warming stuff might just be the one true faith, after all.

— Bud Norman