All posts by Jordan Kummer

Blue Line Update

Back in 2015, the topic of law enforcement was center stage. Specifically, what law enforcement does, how they should be governed, and the subject of abuse of power were all major topics that, while important, ended up largely being split into camps where police were either always right or always wrong.

Back in September, we discussed just about every square inch of the topic in three Midnight Run updates.
Blue Line provided the overview.
Blue Blood focused on attacks on police, both physically and politically.
Blue Bond closed by focusing on the response to those attacks and what has now become known as “Back The Blue.”

This week, we update what we can, based on what little stats we have. Primarily, we will discuss the latest statistics on Line Of Duty deaths, a change in the political climate, and a look back at the 2016 Dallas shooting.

1.) Baseline. As with Blue Line, it is worth stating a few things upfront. In this debate, you have people who believe that police can do no wrong, and people who believe police can do no right. Both are completely asinine at best and fundamentally dangerous at worse. To presume that police are always right, no matter their actions, is essentially to allow for any abuse of power because “there must have been something the suspect did.” Likewise, to presume that police are always wrong is to assume that there is no reason for police to exist, and indeed that society can get along just fine without some sort of central authority, or at least an organization focused on maintaining some semblance of order.

We don’t accept either viewpoint here. We never have.

2.) War On Cops. Since the original Blue Line, there has been a ton of literature on the so-called “War On Cops.” Some outlets, like Reason Magazine, have said that there is not and never was any such thing, pointing to statistics showing that line of duty deaths have never been lower. The Mises Institute has flat-out asked “Where’s the Evidence?”

However, strictly looking at line of duty deaths simply isn’t a good way to discuss whether there is (or at least was) a “war on cops.” In December of 2016, National Public Radio’s Martin Kaste did a report on how events like the Dallas shooting have lead to the perception that law enforcement officers are themselves under siege. In other words, it’s not just about the hard numbers, it’s about whether police believe they are themselves under siege. That perception is changing how police operate, often with much more hesitation than they normally would have.

Part of that perception, of course, is due to the subject becoming politically-charged. According to a July 2016 article in Politico, the head of the National Association of Police Organizations told FOX News that then-President Obama helped to ignite anti-police sentiment.

“I think [the Obama administration] continued appeasements at the federal level with the Department of Justice, their appeasement of violent criminals, their refusal to condemn movements like Black Lives Matter, actively calling for the death of police officers, that type of thing, all the while blaming police for the problems in this country has led directly to the climate that has made Dallas possible, William Johnson, the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said in an interview with Fox on Friday morning.

Johnson said although the Thursday night shooting of law enforcement officers reminded him of “the violence in the streets in the 60’s and 70’s,” he pointed out how Obama’s response appeared different than his predecessors.

“I think one of the big differences then was you had governors and mayors and the president — whether it was President Johnson or President Nixon, Republican or Democrat — condemning violence against the police and urging support for the police,” Johnson said. “Today that’s markedly absent. I think that’s a huge difference, and that’s directly led to the climate that allows these attacks to happen.”

This “War on cops” has been blamed also for a recruitment shortage, among other things.

(It’s worth noting that, more recently, the head of one of New York’s largest police unions said that a lot of recent NYPD resignations were due to low pay. This news has itself become a political issue, as mayor Bill de Blasio has called it a “classic union play.”)

3.) Trump. The shift from President Obama to President Trump also seems to have brought about a shift in how law enforcement is perceived (in most cases). Trump has regularly praised the efforts of law enforcement, and the new tone from DC has not gone unnoticed. Trump has called anti-police sentiment “defamation” and has called police “the thin blue line between civilization and chaos.”

Jim Pasco, the Exec. Director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, told the Washington Times in December of 2017 that “Arguably the most significant thing a president can do is use the bully pulpit to reflect his support for law enforcement. To this point in his presidency, he has certainly gone out of his way to do that. That resonates within the profession, and it’s received very favorably.”

In the interest of balance, it’s worth noting that there has occasionally been some friction between law enforcement and the Trump administration. This seems to have something to do with the investigation into Russia’s work during the election, and specifically former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. McCabe has since been fired after it was “determined that he lied to investigations reviewing the bureau’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s email server.”

In general, however, the shift from Obama to Trump has seen a marked change in tone from DC, and the lack of support coming from the DC seems to have kicked down a lot of support for vehemently anti-police movements.

And that, thankfully, seems to have at least somewhat reduced tensions in the debate.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

Newsroom: March 2018

Way too much to cover this week. We’re going to basically cover everything that has happened in relation to the Parkland shooting. This week, the “violent video game” trope is resurrected from the early 2000s, multiple updates to state legislative efforts, a GOP debate in PA, and one or two likely-doomed bills in Congress.

1.) Violent Video Games. Let us get this out of the way and never speak of it again. For some reason, despite there being no connection between the Parkland shooter and video games, and despite a mountain of research, some on the right (and indeed, even some gun control advocates), are moving to blame the shooting, and the “mass shooting epidemic” (that doesn’t exist) on violent video games. President Trump had a handful of gaming executives, Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell, and Dave Grossman come to the White House for one of many “listening sessions” he has held in recent weeks. Apparently nothing came out of the meeting, which is nice considering it’s largely a settled issue.

Besides which, most of the mass shootings that tend to spark such “conversations” had no interest in games whatsoever.

Of course, it’s also worth noting that this takes place in the post-Brown v. Electronic Merchants Association world, and that video games are indeed protected by the First Amendment, as Vox was quite eager to note.

2.) Massie. Definitely going against the grain of recent legislative efforts, Representative Thomas Massie has introduced a bill that, rather than raising the age to own a rifle to 21, would instead lower the age to own a handgun to 18. Unfortunately, as Bearing Arms notes, the current climate isn’t exactly conducive to reducing restrictions on firearms.

3.) Age discrimination. The National Shooting Sports Foundation has warned FFLs that the recent trend of unilaterally raising the age to purchase a rifle may have legal consequences. Dick’s Sporting Goods, among other retail stores, have said they will not sell firearms to people under 21, despite the law stating that people can at least own a rifle at 18. The NSSF places its entire argument on state and local “age discrimination” laws.

4.) GVROs. The idea of pre-emptively taking somebody’s firearms because they “might” be a risk has also been floated in the wake of the Parkland shooting. Bearing Arms has an excellent op-ed on the has already seen one firearm confiscated.

5a.) State’s Fights: New York. Somehow managing to find ways to make gun laws tighter, New York has passed five new gun control bills ranging from bump stock bans, to GVROs, to 10-day waiting periods.

5b.) State’s Fights: Utah. Utah, meanwhile, rejected the idea of and invited swift legal action by the NRA as a result. The bill raises the age to buy a rifle to 21, puts in a 3 day waiting period, and according to Bay News 9 “includes new checks to prevent guns from falling into the hands of the mentally ill.”

The NRA’s lawsuit focuses on the age to purchase a rifle.

Next time, we update the Blue Line series. A look at violence against police, the current statistics on line-of-duty deaths, and more. In April, we will put the long-form discussions on hold for a moment, and lay out a rough sketch for the second half of 2018 on the Midnight Run, including Blowback and the concept of following up on previous updates more frequently (as opposed to, for example, the four-year gulf between Debt and its upcoming follow-up in May).

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

Blade

A few years ago, in Dirt and Blood, we examined the lethality of weapons other than firearms. This week, we will return to that discussion, with a focus on knives. There simply isn’t much in regards to fists that was not covered in the original D&B (apart from this BBC article covering one-punch deaths), first of all. Secondly, knives have suddenly become a major topic of discussion in many ways. In London, crime involving knives surged in 2017 to its highest point in six years. Beyond that, however, is the rather concerning notion that knives have become the “weapon of choice” among terrorist groups, as a Canadian government report shows.

The purpose of the Run this week, in brief, is to examine the rise of the knife as a terrorist tool, it’s role in crime (particularly in areas with tight gun restrictions), and to demonstrate that an individual without a gun is not, in anyway, less of a threat to somebody.

1.) Lethality. An object is either lethal or it isn’t. A man armed with a brick is still a danger in a one-on-one situation. Massad Ayoob has an excellent piece from 2014 called “The Dangerous Myth of Hierarchy of Lethality” that beautifully lays out how a knife in many cases has an advantage over a firearm (never jams, doesn’t need ammo), and also goes into blunt impact weaponry. The Odyssey expands upon this, going into the mindset of a criminal. Specifically, the Odyssey’s Taylor Glowacki argues that, since a criminal intent on harm will find a way regardless, it is naive to assume that the lack of a firearm somehow makes the person less dangerous. (This is why releasing someone while banning them from owning firearms is itself contradictory; it acknowledges that the person is too dangerous to be released.) Taylor says in part:

Taking a look at other countries who have limited gun rights are also proof that reducing gun rights do not reduce the rate of violence, crime or shootings. Russia, for example has extremely strict regulations on owning a firearm and had a period of time when they were even banned, but yet they have a higher rate of homicide than the United States. In Russia there were about 21,000 homicides, and in the United States there were about 13,000 in a given year. Russia’s rate is almost twice that of the United States, and they have far less guns and gun access. The homicide rate, as well as the crime rate in the United States, is actually decreased from the past 10 years, and guns haven’t been restricted. With that being said, if crime rates are reducing and guns aren’t restricted, why restrict them now?

2.) Crime. Let us turn from that to the knife as a tool of criminals. The chief example about gun control and knife crime is almost always the United Kingdom, and frankly 2017 was no exception. Knife crime rose 23% in the country, with 37,443 offenses (compared to 6,694 gun crimes). 80 people in the country were killed due to stabbings.

The mass stabbing in China back in 2014, which saw 29 people killed and over 100 injured is another example, and in fact. knife attack statistics in China have been referred to as misleading and possibly based on falsified information.

3.) Terrorism. Beyond that, however, the knife has become a prime tool for terrorism, as a report from Canada’s public safety department shows. In the Executive Summary of Public Safety Canada’s report, the agency says:

We have witnessed an increase of low-sophistication, high-impact terrorist attacks around the world. In particular, we have seen the increased use of knives and vehicles in attacks, such as the attack that took place recently in Edmonton, in which five people were injured; and in New York, in which eight people were killed and several more seriously injured.

It should not be too much of a surprise, given the tendency of terrorists to search for less easily-detectable, and in some cases outright makeshift weaponry to achieve their goals. (We saw such makeshift weapons in the 2017 bombing in Manchester, England, discussed here in the Tactical Review “Shock Value.”)

We have discussed at length in the Midnight Run how terrorists, and frankly mass killers general seek to create maximum impact with minimal effort and an almost skeletal planning system.

Meanwhile, FOX News has a remarkable piece showing Islamic terror’s embrace of the knife as a primary tool, almost to the point of fetishization. Not only does the FOX bit discuss the knife as an object in terms of its tactical use, but also how songs have been written about it and even how it has become a popular baby name.

4.) Bottom line. The purpose of this week’s Run is not to instill some irrational paranoia, or to propose something ludicrous and impossible like banning knives. Rather, it is to continue the thesis of Dirt And Blood which is that anything can be used as a lethal weapon. The knife has rather obvious uses in modern life, but it also has uses as a lethal weapon. It is all dependent on the person using it. This update also shows, to be frank, that some of the major threats in the world today neither prefer nor need firearms to do incredible damage; and indeed rely upon less obvious forms of weaponry (and less obvious forms of conversion/recruitment) to achieve their ends.

Focusing on a single weapon for political reasons only succeeds in leaving a dangerous opponent with everything else.

Back to the newsroom next time.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

Newsroom: February 2018

This week, Everytown bets on ignorance to lobby against suppressors, Moms Demand Action compares the military to white supremacists, a long-overdue (and mediocre) exoneration of a few MARSOC Marines, and a word about elections in Texas.

1.) MARSOC. An embarassing, decade-long story is finally over, as nearly 30 MARSOC Marines were exonerated of war crimes they were accused of back in 2007. It largely came about in the form of a letter to Rep. Walter Jones that reaffirmed a court’s ruling.

The full story is on Marine Corps Times’ website and makes for stunning reading. It’s a repulsive story about Marines who did nothing wrong, but were nonetheless made examples of by the people who were supposed to have their backs.

2.) Everytown. Using the Chris Dorner case as a jumping-off point, Everytown released a statement against the Hearing Protection Act, noting that “five years ago, our nation saw what can happen when silencers end up in the wrong hands, yet Congress is trying to pass a bill that would roll back gun silencer safety laws and make it easy for people with dangerous histories to buy silencers without a background check.” This is ludicrous in two ways. Firstly, it later defeats its own thesis by acknowledging that suppressors are rarely used in crime. Secondly, suppressors would still be subject to background checks, just not the obscene Class 3 regime that they are part of now.

The ATF, as an aside, adds more detail on how rare such crimes are, with the agency’s Ronald Turk noting that only 44 people are recommended for prosecution due to “silencer-related violations”

In other words, Everytown tactfully avoids how rare an incident like Dorner actually is, and completely characterizes what Congress is actually intending to do with the law.

3.) Moms Demand. Another part of Everytown, Moms Demand Action, had a slight PR screw up this week when Everytown’s head, Shannon Watts, opined on the recent discussion about Trump looking to hold a military parade by suggesting that white supremacists already had done the same for him.

Of course, a military parade is quite different from a parade of neo-Nazis. But we’ll let that slide for now.

4.) CBS News. 60 Minutes is interviewing somebody from the US Concealed Carry Association about gun rights and the legislation moving through Congress relating to gun rights. (Hopefully they have a recording of their own.) The report broadcasts on CBS Sunday night, February 11, at 7 PM Eastern time.

5.) Grisham. Finally tonight, a brief word about Texas. In 2016, the Run referenced Open Carry Texas Founder CJ Grisham six times. In each case, he had demonstrated being exceptionally pro-gun (and frankly, pro-liberty generally). Grisham also had referenced Midnight Run: Debt a few years back.

I put all this out there because the man is now running for office as a State Representative in Texas. The Facebook page is here, and the primary is March 6th.

Good luck to the man. He certainly has the track record.
Maybe he’ll move to the FEDERAL House eventually. That would be fun to watch.

Full disclosure: No, this is not paid for by his campaign, despite my frequent interactions with Grisham.
I have, however, donated to said campaign. All of the above is entirely my own writing.

Next up, we update Dirt And Blood by talking about the knife, its effectiveness in combat, and its relatively new adoption by terrorists as a primary tool.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

Iniquity

Exploitation, violence, abuse, and fear.
The hallmarks of the illegal sex trade.

It’s remarkable that, for all of the moralizing seen online today, and the constant parade of virtue-signaling, very little attention is paid to what is arguably one of the most amoral and repulsive industries in the nation; sex trafficking. It’s not something that gets a lot of attention, and when it does, the sexual aspect becomes part of the presentation, appearing more as a film noir drama than a legitimate look at the issue.

This week, we tackle the industry itself, statistics on sex trafficking hubs, and the movement to legalize prostitution under the belief that it can be a consensual transaction. (It can be, it just virtually never is. And that’s the problem.)

This week will see a Run more in the style of the Dirt and Blood update than our usual clinical, journalistic approach. We will not overdramatize the sleaziness of the industry (frankly, we don’t need to), but we will not run from occasionally graphic events and the abuse that many prostitutes endure. Plan accordingly.

The Run makes every effort to dodge sensationalism, and no effort to hide the less-pleasant parts of the subject matter.

Before we begin, credit where it’s due. I would like to thank Luke Crawford for his help in researching portions of this Run.

1.) Statistical Breakdown. Sex trafficking is defined by the FBI as “when persons are compelled to engage in commercial sex acts through means of force, fraud, and/or coercion.” It is a sub-strata of human trafficking, which is essentially modernized slavery.

According to a 2013 report by CNN, the average life expectancy of a female sex trafficking victim (in other words, a woman lured into becoming a prostitute) is roughly a mere seven years from when she becomes involved in it. Shared Hope International, a group focused on rescuing women and children from sex trafficking rings, states that the average age for a prostitute is roughly 14-16 years old (although studies for this statistic are nebulous at best).

As Shared Hope notes however, the driving force behind sex trafficking is the same force behind human trafficking; profits. A 2014 report by the Urban Institute shows that the sex trafficking industry generated about $39 million in Denver, and a staggering $290 million in Atlanta. This is compounded by the inevitable connection between sex trafficking and the “adult entertainment” industry, which was worth about $14 billion in 2015, according to a CNBC piece the network’s coverage of the industry.

Without profit, an industry collapses. So how does one fight an industry built on exploitation and abuse? For that, we need to examine the harm caused by the industry, and the clinical studies done not only in regards to sex trafficking, but pornography.

It should be noted, going forward, that many statistics and studies focus on human trafficking as a whole, and not sex trafficking in particular. It is, obviously, no less pertinent to this discussion, so we will use studies looking at both.

2.) Clinical. Put bluntly, the impact human trafficking has on its victims is devastating. A 2016 study from the King’s College of London and the London School of Hygine and Tropical Medicine shows that nearly 80% of female victims reported high levels of depression, anxiety or PTSD. To be clear, this is not about the immediate effects, but rather the aftermath 16 months afterwards. 4/5 of men also reported similar issues.

Shared Hope notes that the world of the trafficking victim as one of near-constant violence, fear, threats, and intimidation. It is not hard to see how such a world could severely impact the person’s mental health (to say nothing of their physical health).

Perhaps one of the best sources on the mental and physical impact of human trafficking is a report by the American Psychological Association. In addition to the depression, anxiety, and PTSD mentioned above, the APA also notes increased hostility and nervousness even 3 months removed from the initial rescue. Moreover, the APA reports on dissociation (that is, detachment from either other people or from the environment as a whole), as well as suicidal/self-harming behavior and thoughts. It is an incredible report that also recommends ways of both punishing human traffickers while also caring for the victims.

It also makes clear that caring for the victims is an incredibly complex process, and that a one-size-fits-all approach simply isn’t effective.

3a.) Solutions: Baseline. An article in 2011 from the APA gives us a good view as to what is being done about the problem of human trafficking in general, namely “through public awareness campaigns, education and advocacy, psychologists are working to end human trafficking.”

Additionally, the Department of Justice has published an annual report on the U.S. Government’s efforts to combat human trafficking. The US government actually publishes a number of reports on the subject, from at least 4 separate departments.

Meanwhile, Australia has come up with a novel solution to sex tourism, the practice of going to another country for prostitution or other sexual activity. The country has become the first on Earth to prevent convicted sex offenders from leaving the country in the first place.

However, for whatever reason, another solution has been gaining steam on the side-streams.

3b.) Solutions: Legalization. Nets from Daily Beast to the left-leaning Slate to the libertarian Reason Magazine have proposed the idea of legalizing sex work as a manner of stopping sex trafficking. On paper it sounds extremely counter-intuitive. However, supporters argue that legalizing the business of prostitution could lead to lower rates of STDs, reduce the spread of HIV, and allow for laws to be put in place protecting sex workers. Libertarians argue that the illegality of prostitution has contributed to a sort of “black market” environment that allows for such physical abuse of the prostitute.

On the flipside, the group Demand Abolition has a very well-sourced article on why legalizing prostitutionshouldn’t be legal, arguing that the physical and emotional abuse linked to prostitution happens regardless of whether it is legal or not. The group also points to how legalizing prostitution in some countries has done little to decrease sex trafficking and, in some cases, has led to a substantial increase.

3c.) Solutions: Organizations. At this point, though, it’s worth highlighting a ton of organizations who are working to fight human trafficking as a whole.

Let’s start with NightLight International. NightLight was formed in Bangkok, Thailand in 2005 (where sex trafficking is estimated to be a $6.4 billion industry). The group’s United States operation serves as a combination intervention, ministry, healthcare network, and even a place of employment for victims of sex trafficking. Their main US operation is based in Missouri. The group believes in what it calls “holistic restoration” of sex trafficking victims, in other words addressing all of the victim’s needs and guiding them out of their current situation.

Next up is Thorn, once called the DNA Foundation, which focuses on child sexual exploitation and trafficking. Co-founded by actors Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore (the former of whom testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the subject last year), Thorn is built as a technology company, developing software for identifying victims, analyzing evidence, and giving victims a discreet way to get help by way of a confidential textline operated by the Polaris Project. The company says their main program, Spotlight, has identified roughly 18,000 victims, and 6,500 traffickers.

Polaris appears to be a significantly larger operation. Their website says “Polaris systemically disrupts the human trafficking networks.” This is done through a three-point system build around responding to victims, lobbying governments for support, and directly targeting human traffickers. They boast a impressive array of roughly nine separate projects aimed at targeting virtually every aspect of the human trafficking industry, extending even into the labor markets.

For those looking to go into much deeper research, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office On Trafficking In Persons” has a lot of fairly thorough reports on human trafficking, including state-by-state efforts to combat it.

4.) Bottom Line. Billion-dollar industries don’t disappear overnight. Anybody who has seen the illegal drug trade in Mexico can figure that out. However, Human trafficking has started to become, at the very least a much more public issue. Recent developments such as the raid at a Victoria’s Secret in Bangkok and lawsuits against hotels and Backpage, and even the recent focus on sexual assault will only enhance the issue’s visibility. Additionally, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal has announced that he will bring a victim of child sex trafficking to next week’s State of the Union address. (Incidentally, a week after the SotU is the Super Bowl. That event has a reputation for seeing an increase in sex trafficking in the host city.)

For now, however, it is worth considering three things. The first being the incredible toll human trafficking takes on its victims, the second being the connection between human trafficking and pornography, and the third being the staggering amount of effort that has been put into fighting the industry that has gone largely unnoticed until very recently. The enhanced visibility of anti-trafficking efforts can only benefit both the efforts themselves, and the victims of of human trafficking.

For our part, the Run will definitely return to this topic in the near future.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.