Free Speech Week

Before we begin, a word about format.

I do want to keep some structure to the Run. While not intentional last time, I’ve decided to keep the Grab Bag as a regular segment. It will serve two purposes. The first is to follow up on major events (such as major legislative efforts at both the State and Federal levels). The second is to widen the scope from month to month after a long-form report on a single topic.

In short, I will keep some news around, but the weekly news format started to become both repetitive and more than a little redundant. It was time to change that.

The news briefs will continue, but they will be spread out.

Now, let us begin.

This week, we discuss one of the greatest ironies in modern history: a university once dedicated to the ideal of free speech doing everything it can to censor speech it doesn’t agree with.

This week, we discuss the bizarre circumstances surrounding Free Speech Week.

1.) Baseline. Conservative speaker/author/journalist Milo Yiannopoulos had attempted to speak at Berkely earlier this year in February. The speech was cut off, and eventually canceled, due to massive protests riots that led to $100,000 in damages. Protesters assaulted people, including one woman who was pepper sprayed on camera, and generally destroyed everything in their way.

Milo vowed to return for a much larger event in April, scheduled for sometime in the fall. And he did so this week, planning to bring a few more conservative/libertarian speakers to the program as well.

2.) Collapse. But that didn’t happen. After a series of threats, intimidation, and a ton of bureaucratic moves behind the scenes, Milo and the Berkeley Patriot (the conservative student group that sponsored his event) were forced to cancel this event as well. Despite the cancellation, however, Milo did organize a few events to take place on the campus, including a speech that lasted all of about 15-30 minutes. One of the would-be speakers, Lisa De Pasquale, later decided to post the transcript of her speech, on Medium.

It’s also worth noting that UC Berkeley spent upwards of $800,000 in security for Milo’s event. For a series of speeches, almost a million dollars in security was needed on a supposedly pro-free speech campus.

However, this leaves Milo in a strangely solid position. Free Speech Week had been built on the premise that colleges tend to censor opinions of a certain bent, and while it is true that Ben Shapiro spoke at Berkeley the week prior, the behind-the-scenes efforts to censor Milo and the other speakers, and eventually to force the event to cancel, have proven his point remarkably well. (Although Milo and Shapiro aren’t exactly big fans of each other.)

3.) Free Speech. As if to strengthen Milo’s argument, a professor at Berkeley later called Shapiro a “racist, sexist, misogynist jerk,” and that current law “fetishizes free speech.” The professor went on to say that Berkeley should have hosted counter-events alongside the Free Speech Week events themselves.

However, this tendency for liberal institutions to censor opinions they disagree with, and frankly opinions deemed “politically incorrect” has had an upshot. An article on FOX News from September 13th entitled “Liberals sick of the alt-left are taking ‘the red pill’” shows us that it is having the opposite effect on many students, and possibly the broader movement as a whole. The “red pill” is a reference to the Matrix films, where the pill is used to free someone from the world of the Matrix, and essentially show them what the world is actually like outside of the echo chamber. Among the issues this new group of former-leftists take are what one commentator calls “an authoritarian sort of Progressivism.”

It is worth remembering, however, that attacks on free speech are not exclusively a liberal issue. The outrage culture we find ourselves in has people on both sides completely unable to tolerate opposing, and sometimes controversial, opinions.

We have a long way to go until we undo most of the damage this outrage culture has caused, but clearly more people are starting to see the dangers of responding to opinions with over the top outrage.

It is that slow realization that will work to the advantage of those who support free speech, and to the detriment and eventual defeat of those wishing to censor it.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

Redemption

The current justice system is (currently) broken.

The rate of recidivism in the US is roughly 50%, a recent study suggested that 1 in 25 people sentenced to death are actually innocent, and the environment people are released into almost assures that criminal activity is the only way they can survive.

A few years ago, in Midnight Run: Debt, we looked at the idea of felons, misdemeanors, and the rights of those convicted of either. Since then, we have updated Debt periodically. All of which points to a growing trend of attempting to reintegrate people back into society after a long jail/prison sentence as opposed to releasing people into a world where they have no chance at rebuilding their lives:

This week, we update all of Debt. A full recap of everything that has happened since on the Midnight Run, the latest on legislative criminal justice reform, and the trend towards being (at least slightly) more forgiving.

1.) My stance. In October of last year, CJ Grhisam posted an excellent piece on why people should support felons owning firearms. In it, he lays out the very simple premise that someone who is too violent to be allowed to own a firearm should not be released, and those who are released should have their rights restored. (Grisham has said quite regularly that he doesn’t really support any restrictions on gun ownership for people out of prison. If they can’t be trusted with a gun, they shouldn’t be out.)

The truth is, I tend to agree with everything in CJ’s article. The fact that recidivism is so high in this country points to 2 problems. The first is that, by definition, the penal system is releasing people who will be back (and, therefore, should never have been released to begin with). The second is that, as he notes, one of the reasons for recidivism is “because these people can’t get real jobs with convictions, even if it was an honest lapse of judgment that taught them a lesson. Once someone has paid to debt to society, as dictated by legally and strictly applied punishment, they should have the ability to reintegrate. If these people can’t get jobs, their only recourse is going back to a life of crime just to be able to meet their needs of survival or they become addicted to drugs to help them cope and become a drain on society.”

As we have discussed numerous times before, supporting a person’s rights is not the same as supporting their actions. It is no different than supporting someone’s right to speak, while disagreeing with what they say.

(Put more bluntly, it is insane to support people committing crimes. No sane person believes that murder, assault, etc. should not be punished. It is NOT, however, insane to discuss the rights of the accused; such as the right to a fair trial. Nor is it insane to discuss the rights of the convicted, particularly after the sentence is complete, what we liked to call “paying your debt to society.”)

Unlike in Debt, the Run no longer agrees with the concept that permanent bans are even somewhat legitimate. If a person is not given the chance to re-enter society, nobody should be surprised when the person decides to exploit it instead. If a person is too violent to be released, then doing so anyway by definition A.) releases someone who is believed to be violent (defeating the purpose of a correctional system) and B.) releases someone virtually everybody is sure will be back in prison within a half-decade.

Knowing this, it is absurd to release a person and restrict their right to own a firearm. If they do attempt to turn their life around, all that is accomplished is a method of self-defense is restricted. If they don’t, then all that is accomplished is another law for the individual to completely ignore as he/she returns to criminal activity. (To say nothing of the fact that the prison system, at that point, had done little more than release a person who never should have been out to begin with.)

The restriction is supported with the idea that, legally, the person doesn’t have access to a “more lethal” weapon. The problem there is that it, too, is a tacit admission that the person still has access to a number of other lethal items and an admission that the person cannot be trusted. (We discussed in Dirt and Blood that any weapon can be lethal, in what Massad Ayoob calls the “The Dangerous Myth of Hierarchy of Lethality.) The idea of telling someone that they are safe from an individual because that person is barred from owning a single weapon is dishonest, bordering on evil.

It is completely asinine to hold someone to an event that all evidence shows they are trying to move on from. It may be popular on an emotional level but going against evidence is never appropriate on a rational and logical one.

If someone is making an honest effort to change who they are, there is no reason to hold that against them apart from self-righteous moralizing. We like to claim that we believe in “second chances” yet apparently do everything in our power to make damn sure nobody gets one.

2.) Previously. First, let us go through a few of the incremental updates to Debt from previous Midnight Run updates.

We’ll start in January of this year in Arizona. A man saves an AZ Dept. of Public Safety trooper by shooting a man who was attacking the trooper. It soon came to light that the man, Thomas Yoxall, was a former felon who had his gun rights restored. Bearing Arms notes that

This non-violent felon who petitioned to have his rights restored showed that America is forever a land of second chances, and that heroes can come from anywhere, and anyone.

Active Response Training’s Greg Ellifritz also had an excellent piece about the man on his Facebook.

In April, Nebraska and a few other states found an interesting way to slow the cycle of reincarceration: giving food stamps to drug offenders. The logic being A.) that a lot of those convicted simply cannot survive because of their convictions and B.) that prisons are overcrowded as it is, and they should really be reserved for the most violent in society.

Also in April, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe unilaterally restored voting rights to about 206,000 former felons. Republicans said this was largely an effort to help Clinton, however McAullife positioned it as dealing with Virginia’s “long and sad history” of suppressing African-American voters.

(It is worth noting that Clinton took Virginia 49.8% to Trump’s 44.4%)

Finally, in August, The Oregonian did a great article on Dave’s Killer Bread, a company launched by a former felon with the explicit purpose of giving former convicts a job and, therefore, a way back into society. The company has become an ardent advocate of what it calls “Second Chance employment,” launching a foundation in the company’s name to spread that message. On it’s website, the Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation writes that “Dave’s Killer Bread leadership began to realize that there is a critical missing piece in the complex puzzle that underlies successful reentry after a person completes a jail or prison sentence…businesses willing to employ them.”

(As an aside, in a remarkable display of transparency, the company has let some of the employees tell their stories. Some of them have extensive criminal records, some of them violent. It makes for some fascinating reading.)

Grab Bag: September 2017

Try and start a new format and suddenly everything around the world breaks.

The Hearing Protection Act is merged into a massive gun bill, Ben Shapiro at Berkeley, and a quick check on (yet another) terror attack in London.

1.) SHARE Act. My InSov colleague over at This Is The Line, has been following the SHARE Act, which is essentially a combination of multiple pro-gun bills. The notable portion of that act is the including of the long-awaited Hearing Suppression Act.

The SHARE Act has led to the requisite “end of civilization” subroutine that we’re all used to by now, including a stunningly overdramatic</a. attempt at sarcasm-as-commentary that goes to absurd lengths to slam the bill(s).

So far as I can tell, National Reciprocity is not included in the bill. That bill is still stuck in committee, whereas the SHARE Act sailed through its committee

2.) Ben at Berkeley. Former free-speech haven and modern day protest backdrop Berkeley University hosted conservative speaker Ben Shapiro this week, under tight security, and despite the University’s efforts to dampend attendence with one hand and intimidate the student organization sponsoring the event.

By all accounts, Shapiro lived up to expectations. Conservatives called it a guide to “shutting down Antfia,” while protesters did what was largely expected and got arrested in the process.

3.) London. At this point, terror attacks in London are becoming far too regular. The latest event is an explosion onboard a London Underground train. An 18-year-old has been arrested, 30 people have been injured, but nobody has died. The UK government’s terror threat level is at its highest point, meaning that intelligence believes further attacks are imminent.

We don’t know anything about the suspect, and police are asking people to at least make the effort to not speculate.

Next time, we return to much more broad discussions. In 2 weeks, a discussion on the militant left, Shapiro’s speech in detail, and a few updates to Midnight Run: Megaphone.

Hope Within Hatred

The intention last week was to cover Harvey in detail as a matter of learning about being prepared for severe weather. While we’ll briefly touch on that this week, I think there is another angle that simply needs to be shown in the context of the current political climate.

It wasn’t even a month ago that the events in Charlottesville between right-wingers white nationalists, and Antifa took place. Given those events (and a host of others), the idea of a deeply polarized nation with no real recourse led to the belief that we were essentially headed for increased violence bordering on civil war.

And then Harvey happened.

Since then, we have seen a ton of stories of people putting politics aside (if they even acknowledged it in the first place) and working to help others in need. From Team Rubicon, to the National Guard units of multiple states, to individual Americans; the pictures coming out of Texas paint a very different picture than the one the media has been putting up for the last few weeks.

We’ll start with all of that. Then we will discuss preparations. My intention tonight is two-fold. The first is to demonstrate the truly all-hands-on-deck approach to disaster relief going on in Texas. The second is to use that demonstration to reinforce the July updates, and prove that the country isn’t nearly as divided as some extremely ignorant people want it to be (or need it to be).

1.) Osteen. First off, let us at least couch most of this with a tactical base. Houston mega-church pastor Joel Osteen took a ton of heat on social media for his Lakewood Church being closed in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Multiple sites, many with a grudge against Osteen to begin with, saw this as hypocrisy. The belief was that Osteen purposefully closed the building, even though it would have been the perfect shelter.

But, as is normal with outrage mobs and context-starved stories that are so very popular now, the reality on the ground was considerably different from the narrative presented.

First of all, portions of the building were flooded. Secondly, many Lakewood staff members were not at the building on a count of needing to themselves be rescued from flood waters. In other words, part of the building was flooded and there was not enough staff.

For it’s part, Lakewood notes that the doors were never closed but that the building was A.) extremely difficult to get to where it wasn’t flooded and B.) running on skeletal staff to begin with.

Disaster relief is not as simple as many would like. Apparently the church wasn’t officially designated as a shelter until Tuesday, several days after the storm had passed (and when the flood waters receeded). Disaster relief, like all major operations, are incredibly complicated.

Frankly, going past that to score political points speaks volumes about the people looking to score. Operations like what is going on in Houston require a ton of resources and people. Even national news outlets have been trying to do that.

2.) Rubicon. However, on the ground, such people are vastly outnumbered. Barring a handful of looters (who are taking their lives into their own hands, apparently), the vast majority of people in and around Houston are more interested in helping those in need. We’ll start with the one and only Team Rubicon, a veteran-focused disaster relief organization. One of their volunteers, Breaux Burns, wrote a piece for The New York Daily News describing Rubicon’s work and providing a first-hand account of what was happening there.

They have also been producing regular updates as to their part of the relief efforts.

Team Rubicon is probably one of the best organizations on the planet, focused on disaster relief and giving veterans getting out of the services a way to reintegrate into civilian life. If you can, consider donating to their efforts.

2.) Military. The entire Texas National Guard has been activated in response to Harvey. We also have Guard units from Louisiana and Georgia among others. Georgia National Guard Capt. Benjamin Moody put it like this when he spoke with Atlanta’s WSB-TV:

“They’re our brothers and sisters and fellow Americans. They called and we answered, and we know they would do the same thing for us, so we’re happy to be here.”

The US Coast Guard has been hauling ass in this as well, working with the Texas State Guard and assisting in water rescues.

3.) Cajun Navy. Let us move from the military/veteran community to civilians more generally. The Cajun Navy, a group formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, has also deployed to help Texas. (Louisiana was hit by Harvey, but not nearly to the same degree Texas was.) The story of the Cajun Navy is actually quite remarkable, and The Advocate, a major news serivce in Baton Rouge, interviewed numerous Cajun Navy members for an extremely detailed article.

4.) Civilians. Rather than attempt to set up each individually, it is honestly best to provide a list of stories from around the Internet regarding how individual Americans are assisting in relief efforts. The reports have been coming so quickly that most outlets have decided to simply combine their individual reports into a running record.

ABC News: Incredible acts of kindness in Hurricane Harvey’s wake

Conservative Review: Heroes of Houston: Pictures of true Americanism

11Alive’s Jeremy Campbell: Animal rescue

CNBC: Texas Pizza Hut workers paddle through flood waters to deliver free pizzas by kayak

Twitchy: Meet the 15-year-old and his buddies rescuing people (and bunnies) in Houston [Kudos to my InSov colleague Catty Conservative for finding this one.

Breitbart Texas: ‘Texan’ Defined: ‘I’m gonna try to save some lives,’ says volunteer rescuer

5.) Survivalism. With our case study well handled, let us move on to practical solutions for surviving a storm, and being able to assist in its aftermath.

In the past, we have discussed finding raw data streams, namely the National Weather Service’s NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts that cover the vast majority of the US mainland, Hawaii, and portions of Alaska. In Midnight Run: Improvement, we discussed being physically ready to assist others, and discussed the dangers obesity poses both to the individual and the country as a whole.

I would like to turn your attention onto an aspect that is quite important, but that I am certainly not the expert in: backup power. Jack Spirko over at Survival Podcast has done multiple broadcasts on the subject, and his work is worth looking into in regards to survivalism generally. He has been podcasting for years, and his work packs a ton of information, delivered in a rational way.

As I am sure that mentioning that someone is a survivalist has already turned some off, I recommend starting with the program “What Is Modern Survivalism.

6.) Bottom line. All of this is to demonstrate a nation coming together, despite what an increasingly divisive media would like to see. (President Trump once called the media the source of most of the division in the country. He’s not wrong.) It is also to demonstrate that civilians, individual Americans, can have a huge impact in the aftermath if they are prepared to help.

We have discussed severe weather prep in Lethal Ignorance and physical fitness in Improvement. Harvey has shown parts of disaster relief we haven’t gone over.

It has also shown us how many are eager to get involved.

It has been a few days since Harvey recovery efforts got underway. In that timeframe, the media has attempted to fade those efforts out of view, but it simply isn’t working. The idea of a truly divided nation was severely damaged this week, and many seem intent on keeping the stories coming out of Houston alive, including the Run.

Whether this proves a turning point remains to be seen, but there is now very good evidence that the idea of a “deeply and irreparably divided nation” is little more than a lie perpetrated by people whose existence depends on prolonging it. The storm has seen people from quite literally all walks of life; from Soldiers, to football players, to even pizza deliverer people; operate as a cohesive unit with no expectation of reward or fame.

If the lie that we are irrevocably divided vanishes, we will all be better off for it.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.