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Stand Down 2017

Two months ago, in “Free Speech Week,” we were covering free speech being censored at a college that used to see itself as a bastion of free speech.
Three months ago, in “Lawless,” we were discussing the aftermath of Charlottesville, gun confiscation, and the emerging threat of political violence.
After the July updates, we suddenly found anti-gun groups having an issue with the licensing schemes they claimed to support.

The year hasn’t exactly been a great one, but as we close this year, there are reasons for at least some form of optimism going into 2018. Even in this year, we have seen events that directly contrast the narrative that the country is irreparably divided. We have discussed as much here in “Optimism” and the post-Harvey “Hope Within Hatred.”

Additionally, we have seen gun control’s ineffectiveness proven scientifically (discussed in November’s Grab Bag back when they were called Grab Bags), polls have shown that Americans believe in due process and support reducing this country’s absurdly high prison population. The attempts to censor free speech at places like Berkeley only led to a debate on free speech, and the emergence of people like Sargon of Akkad and Dave Rubin (both of whom are more liberal in their politics, yet frequently take shots at the left and social justice warriors).

It’s worth noting that the firearms debate is going so well that the Run, for several months, became fairly repetitive.

Firearms, free speech, and due process are looking to be major topics next year; whether we’re talking about national reciprocity, censorship on YouTube and Patreon, or even criminal justice reform.

But outside of the political sphere, it is worth noting that this year saw major disasters that reinforce the need for practicing being prepared for those disasters. From the tornado outbreak in Georgia (in January, no less), to Harvey in Texas, to the (as of this writing) ongoing wildfires in California; the year has proven that being ready for events that “can’t happen here” is actually very important. (This is, of course, leaving aside the major snowstorms that briefly paralyzed portions of the southeast, although not quite to the degree Winter Storm Leon did to Atlanta in 2014).

Survivalism, disaster preparedness, and physical fitness may not get a lot of attention next year (largely due to their rather dry nature and their inability to be politically exploited), but the Run will certainly continue to cover those topics. We will take advantage of the new format to the greatest extent possible, and cover these and many more subjects, up to and including the often-forgotten history of the United States. If there is one major event in the Run that will happen regardless of the format, it is the annual Blowback. There are quite a few things in the pipe for 2018, including long-overdue updates to Debt, as well as Dirt And Blood.

And so, we close the Midnight Run for this year with a new format, a much wider scope, and a series of major articles ahead. We close on a year that has reinforced the need for preparing well ahead of disasters, and proven the tactical ineffectiveness of gun control (which, as Andrew Branca has noted, was blatantly obvious to begin with). It has proven, to be completely frank, that expecting laws to prevent anything or worse, assuming that bad things “can’t happen here” is dangerous at best, and ignorant at worst. This will become a theme for the Run going forward, continuing to focus on the tactics of firearms, and returning to survivalism a lot more frequently than the Run has in the past. (The previous format made exploring such a concept in-depth fairly difficult.)

In short, the Run will be more informative, more in-depth, and will continue to be fairly clinical in 2018.

We resume on the 13th of January, with a quick update on the news from around the firearms/survivalist world. We then jump into an in-depth look at sex trafficking, and its impact on the country as a whole.

Thank you for reading, and as always:

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

Newsroom: December 2017

Programming notes: As mentioned back in Worldwide Blueprint we are coming to the close of the Run in 2017. This and one more essay, then we adjourn for the year and reload on January 13th with a news update. However, unlike what was laid out in that Run, the second January update will be a look at sex trafficking.

But, for now, let us discuss the news. This month, Black Friday sales continue to set records, ISIS militants are confirmed in Canada, and “firearms amnesty” in the United Kingdom.

1.) Black Friday. In what is starting to seem as an annual tradition, NICS background checks for Black Friday set a record. 203,086 background checks were run through the system, but multiple firearms can be tied to the same BGC, so the number of firearms sold was likely a lot higher.

Not much more to say there, really.

2.) ISIS in Canada. We already know that ISIS has fighters in the UK, that much has been shown fairly clearly. But now, Canada’s Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale, has confirmed that the government is watching a least 60 ISIS fighters in the country. This comes on the heels of an extremely controversial plan to “reintegrate” ISIS fighters back into the country. According to The Daily Caller, Canada’s PM, Justin Trudeau, says that the goal of the program is to “monitor them, we’re also there to help them to let go of that terrorist ideology.” However, Goodale has noted that “once a person has been in a war zone, once they’ve been actively engaged in terrorist-related activities, the capacity to turn them around is pretty remote. That’s why you have to use the other tools, including collecting the evidence and prosecuting wherever and whenever you can.”

This leads to the idea that a person too dangerous to be released from prison shouldn’t be released (which we have discussed here), but the question in this context is a bit more complicated. Namely, should Canadians affiliated with ISIS be allowed back into society at all?

3.) The United Kingdom. By now, you’ve heard that the UK has very little gun crime, compared to the US. The interesting thing is that, in mid-November, we actually saw a 27% increase in gun crime throughout the UK, and the government set up an amnesty program for people to turn in their firearms, no(t many ) questions asked. The event was known as the “National Gun Surrender.”

But, when gun crime is rising by almost 1/4, it is not exactly a point in favor of gun control advocates here. Leaving aside the laughably small hauls gun buybacks tend to pull in around the US.

4.) Gun ownership. Finally tonight, a great article on how gun control, as a policy, is elitist at best, and ineffective at worst. Scott McPherson, over at The Future of Freedom Foundation, brilliantly illustrates how gun control is not so much about crime, and more about exerting self-granted authority.

At its root, gun control is an elitist policy. One group of people decides that by virtue of birth, social status, economic status, or political persuasion, they should control the ownership of firearms. The framers of our Constitution explicitly rejected that notion, lauding instead the value of an armed populace. To protect the right to keep and bear arms, the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791.

Elites are even less comfortable when commoners use guns, in defense of themselves and others. On NBC’s Today former vice president Joe Biden, who is guarded around the clock by Secret Service agents, was asked specifically about Stephen Willeford’s use of an AR-15 rifle to stop a madman who killed twenty-six people in a Texas church. Biden didn’t even acknowledge Willeford’s competence, presence of mind, and incredible heroism on that tragic day, offering dismissively, “Well, first of all, the kind of gun being carried he shouldn’t be carrying.”

Next week, we discuss this year in gun rights, and set the stage for next year.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

Optimism (Thanksgiving Grab Bag)

Really should start referring to the normal Grab Bags as news updates.

This week, we focus neither on recent news, nor on the latest outrage. Instead, as the year winds down, I find it more reasonable to look at the much more optimistic side of the news; the rare stories that, were they more commonly reported on, would destroy a large portion of the media narrative of a divided country. (Which is largely why they aren’t widely reported on; bad for business.) We also have a few updates to Midnight Run: Hope Within Hatred, to boot.

So while we are shifting focus this week (and frankly, also in December), we still have a fair amount to talk about.

1.) Patriotism. We start this week with what is either badly needed or seriously unnerving, depending on your view. A private (yes, private) school in Missouri has come up with a class in patriotism as part of its military science ciriculum. The class, which is named “Patriotic Education and Fitness,” will cover “modern military customs, U.S. politics and flag protocol and procedures. It will also teach rifle marksmanship, map reading, land navigation and rope knotting,” according to Bloomberg News.

At an event to announce the course, one of the school’s trustees, retired Marine Corps general Terrence Drake, said “I really think that if you give a person the tools of an education, the patriotic yearnings inside of themselves and the leadership tools that can be taught — they will be leaders.” Meanwhile, college President Jerry Davis said that “understanding the military now is more important than ever because we have 99 percent of the population being defended by 1 percent, who are in uniform. We should be more intentional about patriotic education, and from our point of view that needs to occur from kindergarten all the way through college.”

It is worth noting that this class is mandatory at the school.

2.) Daryl Davis. The Washington Post headline sets this next story up best: “A blues musician has a unique hobby: Befriending white supremacists.” It’s a long, detailed report on musician Daryl Davis’ efforts to essentially convince members of the Ku Klux Klan to leave the organization, something Davis has done for three decades. It’s a remarkable story, to be honest. So far, he claims to have convinced 40-50 people to leave the Klan, some of whom even gave him his robes. Davis says he eventually hopes to open a museum with the robes he has.

3.) Firearms. A Constable in Texas has proposed a new solution to helping mitigate mass shootings; abolishing all restrictions on licensed gun owners. Fort Bend County Constable Wayne Thompson, who is also a strong supporter of Constitutional Carry, believes that anyone who can pass a background check and is mentally fit should be able to carry a gun just about everywhere legally. His primary reason is one we have discussed here countless times; hardening soft targets. (We discussed church security briefly in Newtonian, after the Charleston shooting.

4.) Osteen. Updating Midnight Run: Hope Within Hatred now. Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church held a “Worship Relief” concern in October. The concert was free to attend, and apparently standing room only. Osteen said that “Hopefully this will be a small part to help people get back on their feet,” and that “as a church this is the time to shine brighter and to give people hope.”

Osteen took a fair amount of (fairly misguided) heat for not opening the church as a shelter while part of it was flooded. That discussion is over in Hope Within Hatred.

With that, we close out the third-to-last Midnight Run of 2017. Next up we will have one final news update (and from here on they will be termed as such. “Grab Bag” seems a bit too casual.), and we will adjourn for the year with a few final thoughts on the year, and what the major topics will be both for the Run and the firearms world in 2018.

Until then, have a happy Thanksgiving.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

Grab Bag: November 2017

The uselessness of gun control is now a matter of scientific record, a suicide prevention organization rebuffs gun control organizations while partnering with a major firearms group, and a word on the Run in 2018.

1.) Programming Notes. A variety of topics for future updates was brought up in Worldwide Blueprint, although none of it was slated to start until Februrary.

After looking over the projects mentioned, I have decided that the Run will keep its usual pattern in January. The second update will be on the sex trafficking industry. This is a Run that, like the update to Debt, is a few years late, and the bi-weekly format allows for the article to get the research and attention it deserves.

Now, onto the news.

2a.) Statistics. A former 538 researcher has published an op-ed in The Washington Post detailing how she once believed gun control worked until she conducted thorough research on the subject. Put bluntly, she discovered that broad-stroke, one-size-for-all legislation is almost counterproductive in its approch, and almost never helps the specific situations that lead to most firearm-related deaths.

2b.) Enforcement. Meanwhile, This Is The Line found a study that found, shockingly, that many gun laws are completely ineffective because they aren’t enforced, and because the laws are ignored by criminals.

The research that gun control laws are ineffective. This goes along with the pre-existing body of research that virtually all gun laws aren’t Constitutional to begin with. (Andrew Branca has regularly noted that almost no gun law can survive strict constitutional scrutiny.)

3.) Anti-gun efforts. When it isn’t stepping on its own PR landmines, the NRA is also covering how anti-gun groups intend to push legislation in the wake of the Vegas shooting. A bulletin by the NRA-ILA outlines a remarkably ambitious (and doomed) wishlist of legislation anti-gun politicians are looking at. The bills range from universal background checks, to opening the firearms industry to a torrent of frivolous lawsuits, to banning “bump fire stocks.”

Of course, with the current Congress (despite a handful of caving Republicans), almost none of this has a chance of being passed. Still, as always, it is worth monitoring to see how politicians react. We figured that the Republicans would be united on healthcare at this point too, and even that couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

Sidebar: Open enrollment was sliced from 90 days to 45 days. If you’ve lost your insurer because they withdrew from the exchange, you have to December 15.

3.) Suicide. We’ll get considerably more in-depth on the subject of suicide next year, but for now we have this story about suicide prevention advocates rebuffing gun control groups. A suicide prevention walk organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention took place in San Diego. Moms Demand Action wanted a booth at the event, but the Foundation’s director said that “their organization’s legislative stance related to guns is inconsistent with our efforts. As a suicide prevention organization, we are not in the business of saying who can and cannot own firearms. We are in the business of saving lives.”
Surprisingly, the Foundation has built a relationship with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which apparently has led to a series of very pointed messages from both Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign.

Again, as discussed in Worldwide Blueprint, we will get into considerably greater detail on the subject of suicide next year.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

Worldwide Blueprint

The new format opens up a ton of opportunities for the Run, and with Thanksgiving and Christmas (the Midnight Run’s ONLY two major breaks) coming up, it’s worth laying out the plans for the new format in detail. This week, we lay out upcoming projects, the update schedule, and an occasional shift in tone as the Midnight Run evolves well past its previous weekly news-brief format.

1.) Upcoming projects. The Midnight Run is going, for a host of reasons, to expand well beyond the regular news update that it has had for the last four years. Among these reasons are that 1.) the longer form discussions are, frankly, a lot more fun to write, 2.) considerably more topics can be explored with their own article instead of being sprinkled into a two-paragraph news piece, 3.) there are a number of subjects I have been meaning to get into that fit neither the news updates, nor do they make any sense in the immediate wake of Blowback.

Topics planned for the Run include a long-overdue update to Midnight Run: Debt (as opposed to the occasional updates built within certain briefs), a considerably deeper look at suicide (which was barely referenced in previous updates), and continuing updates to Lethal Ignorance (which itself will become a regular part of the Run’s focus).

2.) Update schedule. There are only two stops in the Midnight Run schedule. Two weeks for Thanksgiving, and two weeks for Christmas. The irony is that, with the new format, those holidays aren’t much of an issue. The Run will update on November 4 and 18, and December 2nd and 16th. There will be a Grab Bag for both January updates, before returning to normal in February.

3.) Tonal shift. On occasion, we need to break from what is, almost by necessity, a consistently violent news stream, and discussions about heavy topics. Occasionally, we need to focus on much lighter fare, and discuss much more This is the mindset that led to the July updates, which themselves take after the more optimistic tone of Blowback. The Run will continue to cover much more difficult topics with the clinical approach it always has (because that’s the respectful way to do it), but occasionally we will look at the much less violent side of the news.

The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, there are way too many other places where one can go to get what is essentially a running police report of everything going wrong. The second, and to some extent more important, point, is that eventually it becomes draining. It’s not all that entertaining to be told how everything around you is going wrong (this is what killed Air America, too much of a focus on being incredibly cynical, and no focus on being informative or entertaining). It is both much more interesting and frankly, more realistic, to occasionally stop looking at everything going wrong and occasionally look at everything going right.

4.) Bottom Line. The Run will continue to check news every month, and that will be the most structured the Run gets from here on. Over the next few months, as the Run turns 4, the scope will expand well beyond firearms. The result will be a much more varied series, with the ability to put a topic under a microscope that simply couldn’t happen under the previous format’s relatively rapid production pipeline. In other words, a better product with the help of more production time.

On November 7, the Midnight Run will be four years old. The format of mostly-weekly news briefs has become, in all candor, stagnant and repetitive. Even in that four years, the tone, writing style, and author of the Run have all changed significantly in that half-decade.

It is time that the Midnight Run embrace all of that, and become a considerably better project as a result.

But regardless of the changes here…..

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

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.