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Grab Bag: October 2017

On this month’s news update, we have 2 notes on criminal justice, violent crime rises nationwide (thanks to about six cities), Salon wants to give up on identity politics, and how Russia is making the outrage culture a national security issue.

There is also a remarkably depressing amount of news regarding both the NRA and Congressional Republicans caving to calls for “common sense” gun laws in the wake of the Vegas shooting.

1.) Felons and voting rights. An appeals court in Louisiana is looking at a case that could lead to released felons getting the right to vote in the state. The argument is that the ban on felons voting goes against the state’s 1974 constitution. The previous judge who heard the case, Tim Kelly, said that the law was unfair, but constitutional. (Which is an interesting choice of words.)

2.) Due Process. Believe it or not, a new poll suggests that Americans still believe in the idea of “Innocent Until Proven Guilty.” While social media outrage mobs might see it differently (where every news story is followed with extremely violent and creative “punishments”), across the political specturm, we see broad support for the idea of due process. It is a bit concerning that almost 1/4 of Americans polled do not believe in due process rights, but for the moment this is a good thing to see.

By the way, this does not mean that respondents didn’t see sexual assault as a problem, but rather that due process is part of solving that problem in a way that is fair to both sides of a case.

3.) FBI UCRs. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2016 is out, and it does show an increase in overall violent crime for the second year running. However, despite the increase, those who follow the statistics noted that crime is still fairly low, and that the idea of an epidemic simply doesn’t exist. However, a Fordham Law professor cautioned against sweeping generalizations based on this one report, as Reason states:

John Pfaff, a professor at Fordham University Law School, cautioned that crime is a complex, geographically concentrated phenomena, and that it can’t simply be attributed to how many people are or aren’t being sent to prison.

He noted that Chicago, which has been experiencing an unprecedented spike in murders over the past several years, was responsible for about 20 percent of the national net increase in homicides. However, half of Chicago’s rise in murders were confined to five neighborhoods with 9 percent of the city’s population. “So in other words,” Pfaff said, “five neighborhoods in Chicago explain 10 percent of the national increase in homicide rates.”

4.) Identity politics. Salon, a major leftist publication, says it is time to stop using identity politics. This (rather shocking) column is based around the idea that the overuse of identity politics is dragging down the entire left-wing agenda. The argument being that it is only serving at best to shut down debate, and at worst to give rise to an opposing force of white nationalism.

But above all else, the author positions identity politics as something that is “not winnable”:

Since the self-esteem of liberals has flourished on the basis of the constant calling out of offenses among liberal stalwarts who had strayed from the politically correct parameters of discourse, the right has decided — and this really explains so much about the alt-right and its allies — to keep liberals occupied full-time. They did that first with right-wing talk radio, with its barrage of offenses, starting at the same time as identity politics among liberals took hold, i.e., around 1990. Then came Fox News and the many internet venues that flourished in the 2000s, and finally there was Donald Trump as constant outrage machine.
Liberals can’t have a moment of peace, because they all but desired this interminable reality of having to put out discursive fires, and now they can do so to their heart’s content for the duration of the Trump presidency. Has anyone noticed how the calling-out of liberals by liberals has suddenly ceased? Wayward liberals have not ceased offending, but Trump fits the bill just as well; after all, he too used to be a “liberal” of sorts, he is a renegade to his class, to New York elite norms, to the way wealth and privilege are supposed to behave themselves.

5.) Russia. But, you know who is loving identity politics, and the inherently volatile nature of our outrage culture? The Russians. A new story emerged on September 28th stating that the Russians used social media to play both sides of any number of issues, basically by serving as state-run trolls.

And that’s basically all there is to that story. The Russians have been absolutely loving seeing our country tear each other apart via Internet arguments, and they’ve decided that our division is their gain. So make a bad situation worse.

They weren’t merely meddling with the election, but they were meddling with us. And we apparently couldn’t have been more receptive.

6.) Vegas Aftermath. As is expected post-mass shooting, there have been calls for gun control. But perhaps the most surprising aspects this time around are both the NRA’s carefully-worded support of new gun control, and that a Republican is leading the effort.

Of course, Democrats are hoping that a ban on so-called “bump stocks” is just the beginning, and are eager to pursue other gun control measures.

It will start with bump stocks, and then gun controllers will see how far they can push a supposedly pro-gun Congress, and how far the NRA will bend.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

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.

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.

Shifting

Before we go anywhere, an important note about the frequency and content of the Midnight Run.

The Midnight Run has been updated almost once a week, since November 2013. Over time, the style has evolved. The updates in July versus the updates that surrounded it taught me one thing and it needs to be addressed.

Put simply, the news has gotten repetitive. There is very little motion from week to week in the Midnight Run’s main focuses; gun rights, survivalism, etc.. But shifting to the July updates, which cover a single topic in-depth, rather than multiple topics in rapid succession, not only led to a better update but also led to a much more thorough and clinical discussion of the Run’s main subjects. They were, to be direct, a more interesting, more entertaining, and frankly more fun-to-write series than what has become attempting to find a narrative out of extremely little movement. In addition, since the launch, I have taken on several projects unrelated to the Run.

All of this is to say that the Midnight Run is changing. Starting after next week’s update, the Run will enter a bi-weekly update format. Regular news work will more regularly give way to longer form discussions on survivalism, first aid, gun rights (and individual rights in general), and more. This switch will lead to two major things. The first is being able to go in-depth on a topic, the second is to be more analytical than focusing on the bullet points of a particular story. These have always been the Run’s strongest points, from the Tactical Reviews, to the Blowback and post-Blowback updates this year and last.

It’s about time I play to those strengths on a more regular basis. The final weekly update of the Run will be next week, and we will then be bi-weekly from that point onwards.

So with that out of the way, let’s get to business. This week, the Southern Poverty Law Center says Charlottesville proves the need for gun laws, an update on the Bergdahl case, and an update on Rep. Scalise’s recovery.

1.) Charlottesville. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which at this point is known as a left-wing outfit that sees conservatives as hate groups, saws the events of Charlottesville prove the need to change open carry laws in the state. This is, of course, despite the lack of any incidents involving firearms and one involving a car. The president of the organization said that “Peaceful protesters being met with men carrying military-style weapons. Many of those unarmed were probably intimidated. I certainly think I would have been.”

It has lead to a really interesting situation where the SPLC and the ACLU, two groups known to be fairly-left leaning, are taking two completely different tacts to the event. The SPLC is going after gun laws, the ACLU is defending the right of the protesters to speak, regardless of how repugnant their views are. (As we have discussed here multiple times, supporting someone’s rights is not the same as supporting their actions.

2.) Bergdahl. The trial of Bowe Bergdahl is taking its sweet time to get started. The latest development suggests that the trial will now be one resting on a single judge and not a trial-by-jury. Bergdahl’s lawyers wanted it this way, arguing that it would be near impossible for an impartial jury to be selected.

This case has been almost three years in the making.

3.) Scalise. The headline on the Daily Wire is all you need to know, “Scalise Must Lear To Walk Again After Congressional Baseball Shooting“. The 51-year-old Scalise was shot on June 14 as Congressional Republicans were gearing up for the annual baseball event between the GOP and the Democrats. House Speaker Paul Ryan would only say that Scalise would need to relearn how to walk again, but that he is speaking, and joined a conference call this week to discuss the GOP’s agenda for the fall.

Ryan, however, was unequivocal about the fact that Scalise has a long road to recovery ahead of him.

Next week, we enter our new bi-weekly schedule with a ton of notes on Harvey, and survival of natural disasters.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

Lawless

Antifa, political violence, and gun confiscation.

This week could not have been worse.

1.) Antifa. The group famous for starting riots in Berkeley was also in Charlottesville, although the national media didn’t seem to want to give them much attention. Gruntworks republished their excellent history of the group, and it’s also worth noting that the group put a few journalists in the hospital and then tried to lie about it.

Granted, a meeting between two groups of the worst people in the country (neo-Nazis and Antifa) was never going to end well. As Jonah Goldberg notes, however, given the history of Antifa and their penchant for violence, “fighting Nazis doesn’t man ‘antifa’ the good guys.”

In other words, yes Neo-Nazis are scum of the Earth with a completely backwards worldview….but that only means that there were two incredibly violent groups there instead of one. (Also, as one of the most efficient Nazi killers was Joseph Stalin, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are a great person.)

2.) Political violence. But, it’s now worth discussing the broader picture of political violence, and frankly who has the upper hand in that. Now, we’ve all seen almost cartoonishly over-the-top 3% pages; people who seem to think that a violent overthrow of the government is no more complicated than opening a Chick-Fil-A.

But as David Hines points out over at Jacobite, political violence is something the right-wing cannot win at for reaons ranging from organizational structure to the force of the media behind the left-wing extremists. (Again, notice how people are conveniently side-stepping Antifa’s brutality.)

He has additional thoughts on the Charlottesville events from Jacobite that are also worth your time.

Kudos to my Insov colleague Catty Conservative for finding those bits.

3.) Oregon. Gun confiscation, by simply filing a petition with a court. Guns.com gives us the following description:

The law, SB 719A, allows police, or a member of a subject’s family or household, to file a petition with the court which could lead to an order prohibiting firearms possession if it is believed they pose an imminent risk to themselves or others. The bill passed the Senate 17-11 in May and the House 31-28 last month, picking up only one Republican supporter along the way.

Gun-rights supporters basically said it allows people who aren’t qualified to be making any sort of judgement on a person’s mental state or point-of-view to be allowed to take someone’s firearms based on that judgement regardless.

4.) Talking to Klansmen. Finally tonight, there is a note from, of all places, the Independent Journal Review about a black man who got a ton of people in the KKK to leave the organization by talking to them.

It is an incredible story, really. A man who has put a pretty significant dent in the Klan’s numbers through a hobby of befriending white supremacists.

Absurdism

Doubling down on “domestic terrorism” rhetoric, and how Gorsuch is an “illegitimate” Supreme Court Justice.

1.) Baltimore. First, we’re going to kick off with something that was going on during the last Midnight Run. Baltimore had basically called for this past weekend to be something of a ceasefire. In other words, declaring that the city could at least make the effort to literally go two days without somebody being shot to death. It lasted one day, but many who called for the ceasefire see that as progress. (And, in semi-fairness, it is. Though the fact that “a day without murder” is progress speaks to the dire circumstances Baltimore is in.)

Essentially, the weekend initiative is seen as the start of a movement.

2.) NRA. You know things have gotten desperate when the NRA is spun as a “domestic terrorist threat” (despite the collapse of violent crime rates, the phenomenon of crime dropping around NRA conventions, and of course the the surge in gun permits nationwide). But that apparently is exactly what has happened, as Democratic Representative Kathleen Rice labeled the NRA’s members as domestic terrorists. She singled out NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, who responded on the organization’s streaming video network. This also has led to an expansion of the NRA’s now long-running “Freedom’s Safest Place” campaign, taking direct aim at the cozy relationship between anti-gun politicians and a large portion of the news media.

3.) Wisconsin. Madison Police Chief Mike Koval, meanwhile, has taken a considerably different tack to handling his city’s spike in violent crime. According to Guns.com Chief Koval says that the surge can be traced to a few dozen people.

“Whenever we have an incident command post following a serious shooting or homicide, I am always amazed that the same names keep coming up on every board!” Koval said. “Sometimes they are friends of currently affected parties to the crime, sometimes they are family members, or have children in common, or have gang ties . . .but the overlapping spheres of connectedness are uncanny.”

So, obviously, he intends to go after the “few dozen” people directly. It is a bit different than Sheriff Clarke’s approach for the last few years, but it certainly appears to be a solid plan regardless.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.