Sick and twisted fantasies aren't criminal; "cannibal cop" wins in court

To believe in civil liberties means to support people's legal right to do offensive, even disgusting, things. In the absence of proof that Valle was actually preparing to kill his wife, however much his kink makes me squick I have to support his right to have really disgusting fantasies and to talk about them with other people.

‘Cannibal cop’ wins in court again (Washington Post)

NYPD officer Gilberto Valle, better known as the “Cannibal Cop,” has triumphed in court for what appears to be a final time. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit affirmed a lower court’s acquittal of Valle on the conspiracy charge, and reversed a conviction on a charge of improperly accessing a government computer and obtaining information.

Fantasy crimes — even repellent, disgusting, unthinkable fantasy crimes worthy of universal condemnation — are not crimes, it said.

“This does not mean that fantasies are harmless,” Judge Barrington Parker wrote in an opinion. “To the contrary, fantasies of violence against women are both a symptom of and a contributor to a culture of exploitation, a massive social harm that demeans women. Yet we must not forget that in a free and functioning society, not every harm is meant to be addressed with the federal criminal law.”

Why gun owners may legitimately have lots of ammunition

Besides calling semi-automatic rifles "assault rifles" and failing to report that "assault weapon" is a bullshit term made up by politicians to describe guns that look a certain way, the mainstream media's second biggest sin in reporting about firearms is breathless tales of "thousands of rounds of ammunition". This AP piece at least explains the facts about that.

Q&A on ammunition found at the home of California shooters (Yahoo News)

Keane said the volume of bullets found in the San Bernardino shooters' possession shouldn't raise any eyebrows.

"Those are not substantial quantities if you're a target shooter," he said. "You can go through several hundred rounds on a weekend at a shooting range."

...

"As a gun owner myself, I myself probably have four or five thousand rounds of bullets that I keep at home," Attorney David Chesley said at a news conference Friday. "And the reason why you buy them in bulk is because they're cheaper that way.

"And the government keeps on outlawing different types of bullets and different types of guns at different times. And then there'll be shortages of bullets that occur very commonly where Homeland Security will order 2 million of a certain kind of bullet and you can't get that bullet, it's not available for many months.

"So especially if you are target shooting it's not at all uncommon to own 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 rounds to have with you — when you can get them at a cheap price you stock up."

If mass killings disturb you, I've got bad news about American foreign policy.

Wednesday's mass shooting was horrific.

America's brutal and stupid foreign policy -- a bipartisan endeavor -- is about two orders of magnitude worse.

Do Mass Killings Bother You? (www.counterpunch.org)

We now know this. A young man who had successfully killed on a large scale went to his religious leader with doubts and was told that mass killing was part of God’s plan. The young man continued killing until he had participated in killing sprees that took 1,626 lives — men, women, and children.

I repeat: his death count was not the 16 or 9 or 22 lives that make top news stories, but 1,626 dead and mutilated bodies. Do such things bother you?

What if you learned that this young man’s name was Brandon Bryant, and that he killed as a drone pilot for the U.S. Air Force, and that he was presented with a certificate for his 1,626 kills and congratulated on a job well done by the United States of America?

Australia's gun ban was a complete failure. Stop suggesting it as a model for the US.

Because some confused people are suggesting that an Australian-style confiscation might be practical in the US...besides the fact that anyone trying to confiscate American guns would get themselves shot, it didn't work in Australia. As this 2011 story points out, convicted criminals have no difficulty getting guns there. Australia did see a decline in homicides after the ban -- but murders also dropped in the US at that time.

Huge black market for illegal weapons (AdelaideNow)

Motorcycle gang members and convicted criminals barred from buying guns in South Australia have no difficulty obtaining illegal firearms - including fully automatic weapons.

...

Police seized a Soviet-made SKS semi-automatic rifle, a sawn-off .22 calibre rifle and an illegal silencer in raids on 11 suburban properties belonging to people associated with the Finks outlaw motorcycle club....

...

Police Assistant Commissioner Grant Stevens said illegal firearms were a recurring problem.

"We have seized automatic firearms ... rifles, semi-automatics, fully automatic weapons, shotguns, cut-down firearms," he said. "There are a lot out there and, as quickly as we take them out, (criminals) are sourcing other illegal firearms."

Latest police figures show offences with firearms and other weapons increased from 3557 to 3891 in the 2010-11 financial year.

The Crime Gangs Task Force has seized more than 235 illegal firearms since it was formed about four years ago but the flow of illegal weapons continues via corrupt dealers and gun manufacturers or thefts from private homes, gunshops and even armouries.

Without proper controls at state borders, weapons stolen or manufactured interstate can easily come into South Australia, Mr Stevens said.

Adelaide University Law School lecturer Allan Perry said there could be hundreds of thousands of illegal guns circulating in the country.

"Research indicates there are about 250,000 illegal firearms nationwide; it is a very substantial problem," he said.

Obama leans on Yemen to keep journalist who exposed US war crimes in jail

Journalist exposes a US air strike that kills innocents and that was hidden as a Yemeni opeation. Journalist is roughed up, threatened, finally arrested by the Yemeni government. When the Yemeni government is about ready to release him, Obama leans on the administration to keep him locked up.

And we wonder why they hate us over in the Middle East...

Why Is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen? (The Nation)

On February 2, 2011, President Obama called Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The two discussed counterterrorism cooperation and the battle against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. At the end of the call, according to a White House read-out, Obama “expressed concern” over the release of a man named Abdulelah Haider Shaye, whom Obama said “had been sentenced to five years in prison for his association with AQAP.” It turned out that Shaye had not yet been released at the time of the call, but Saleh did have a pardon for him prepared and was ready to sign it. It would not have been unusual for the White House to express concern about Yemen’s allowing AQAP suspects to go free. Suspicious prison breaks of Islamist militants in Yemen had been a regular occurrence over the past decade, and Saleh has been known to exploit the threat of terrorism to leverage counterterrorism dollars from the United States. But this case was different. Abdulelah Haider Shaye is not an Islamist militant or an Al Qaeda operative. He is a journalist.

...

While Shaye, 35, had long been known as a brave, independent-minded journalist in Yemen, his collision course with the US government appears to have been set in December 2009. On December 17, the Yemeni government announced that it had conducted a series of strikes against an Al Qaeda training camp in the village of al Majala in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, killing a number of Al Qaeda militants. As the story spread across the world, Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military’s arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label “Made in the USA,” and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly. To be exact, fourteen women and twenty-one children were killed. Whether anyone actually active in Al Qaeda was killed remains hotly contested. After conducting his own investigation, Shaye determined that it was a US strike. The Pentagon would not comment on the strike and the Yemeni government repeatedly denied US involvement. But Shaye was later vindicated when Wikileaks released a US diplomatic cable that featured Yemeni officials joking about how they lied to their own parliament about the US role, while President Saleh assured Gen. David Petraeus that his government would continue to lie and say “the bombs are ours, not yours.”

No, there have not been hundreds of "mass shootings" -- unless you redefine the term

Mother Jones's reporting on guns and violence is often inaccurate. Even here MJ editor Mark Follman repeats the invalid complaint that Congress has prevented the CDC from researching gun violence -- criminal violence is the domain of criminologists, not disease experts. (The problem is that criminologists keep saying gun prohibition laws don't prevent violence, and so prohibitionists try to misapply methods from other domains to get the answer they want.) But he is spot on in this analysis of the problematic redefinition of "mass shooting".

How Many Mass Shootings Are There, Really? (www.nytimes.com)

On Wednesday, a Washington Post article announced that “The San Bernardino shooting is the second mass shooting today and the 35Or that a late-night shooting on a street in Savannah, Ga., yesterday that injured three and killed one is in the same category as the madness that just played out in Southern California.5th this year.” Vox, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, this newspaper and others reported similar statistics...[Y]ou could be forgiven for wondering how you missed more than 300 other such attacks in 2015.

At Mother Jones, where I work as an editor, we have compiled an in-depth, open-source database covering more than three decades of public mass shootings. By our measure, there have been four “mass shootings” this year, including the one in San Bernardino, and at least 73 such attacks since 1982.

What explains the vastly different count? The answer is that there is no official definition for “mass shooting.” Almost all of the gun crimes behind the much larger statistic are less lethal and bear little relevance to the type of public mass murder we have just witnessed again. Including them in the same breath suggests that a 1 a.m. gang fight in a Sacramento restaurant, in which two were killed and two injured, is the same kind of event as a deranged man walking into a community college classroom and massacring nine and injuring nine others....

While all the victims are important, conflating those many other crimes with indiscriminate slaughter in public venues obscures our understanding of this complicated and growing problem. Everyone is desperate to know why these attacks happen and how we might stop them — and we can’t know, unless we collect and focus on useful data that filter out the noise.

Islamophobia is letting the terrorists win

Naval Reserve officer and Naval War College instructor Haider Ali Hussein on how to deny victory to DAESH:

Don’t Make San Bernardino a Victory for ISIS (www.nytimes.com)

If we don’t want to play into the hands of Islamic State propaganda that America is at war with Islam, we must stand up against Islamophobia.

...
In the latest edition of the Islamic State magazine Dabiq, which glorifies the Paris attacks, a recruiter makes a telling pitch. He writes that a Muslim in the West is “a stranger amongst Christians and liberals … fornicators and sodomites … drunkards and druggies,” and must come to the Islamic State to avoid sleeping “every night with a knife or pistol … fearing an overnight or early morning raid on his home.”

The Islamic State wants every American Muslim to feel alienated. Its false utopia rests on the warped dream that the estimated three million American Muslims will believe they can no longer live, thrive and worship in peace in America. We must not let that happen, even while we remain vigilant about the few American Muslims who wish us harm.

Gun laws only disarm the disempowered

When you try to disarm the populace, you don't disarm the privileged; not only do they have state guns to call upon, they get themselves exempted from the prohibitions. (See, e.g., how Trump and Feinstein have CCW permits despite living in restrictive states.) And you don't disarm determined criminals; guns will never be harder to get than heroin is, and anyone with a couple of bucks and a willingness to break the law can get that.

You disarm those in need of protection, those who don't get police protection.

If you don't know about the key role guns played in the American struggle for civil rights, how black people engaged in justified armed self-defence against violent racists , you don't have an informed opinion about either gun rights or racial equality. You can fix that by reading Cobb's book.

And if you think that the need for citizens to have access to the means to resist violence -- either freelance violence or state violence -- ended with the 1960s, you're not well-acquainted with the world.

This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed (Washington Post)

Armed self-defense (or, to use a term preferred by some, “armed resistance”) as part of black struggle began not in the 1960s with angry “militant” and “radical” young Afro-Americans, but in the earliest years of the United States as one of African people’s responses to oppression. This tradition, which culminates with the civil rights struggles and achievements of the mid-1960s, cannot be understood independently or outside its broader historical context. In every decade of the nation’s history, brave and determined black men and women picked up guns to defend themselves and their communities.

Mass murder and the original meaning of "running amok"

In the context of the recent uptick in public mass attacks in the U.S., it's interesting to consider the original meaning of "running amok". Violence is a cultural phenomenon with a spiritual dimension (by which I mean matters of transpersonal relationship, not anything supernatural), not a matter of the tools available to people.

Running amok - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (en.wikipedia.org)

Amok originated from the Malay/Indonesian word mengamuk, which when roughly defined means “to make a furious and desperate charge”. According to Malay/Indonesian culture, amok was rooted in a deep spiritual belief. They believed that amok was caused by the hantu belian, which was an evil tiger spirit that entered one’s body and caused the heinous act. As a result of the belief, those in Indonesian culture tolerated amok and dealt with the after-effects with no ill will towards the assailant.

Although commonly used in a colloquial and less-violent sense, the phrase is particularly associated with a specific sociopathic culture-bound syndrome in Malaysian culture. In a typical case of running amok, an individual (often male), having shown no previous sign of anger or any inclination to violence, will acquire a weapon (traditionally a sword or dagger, but presently any of a variety of weapons) and in a sudden frenzy, will attempt to kill or seriously injure anyone he encounters and himself. Amok typically takes place in a well populated or crowded area. Amok episodes of this kind normally end with the attacker being killed by bystanders or committing suicide, eliciting theories that amok may be a form of intentional suicide in cultures where suicide is heavily stigmatized. Those who do not commit suicide and are not killed typically lose consciousness, and upon regaining consciousness, claim amnesia.

An early Western description of the practice appears in the journals of Captain James Cook, a British explorer, who encountered amok firsthand in 1770 during a voyage around the world. Cook writes of individuals behaving in a reckless, violent manner, without cause and "indiscriminately killing and maiming villagers and animals in a frenzied attack."

Researchers have specific plans for 139 countries to go 100% renewable energy

It can be done. The question is not one of technology, it's one of political will.

139 Countries Could Get All of their Power from Renewable Sources (www.scientificamerican.com)

Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi have done it again. This time they’ve spelled out how 139 countries can each generate all the energy needed for homes, businesses, industry, transportation, agriculture—everything—from wind, solar and water power technologies, by 2050. Their national blueprints, released Nov. 18, follow similar plans they have published in the past few years to run each of the 50 U.S. states on renewables, as well as the entire world. (Have a look for yourself, at your country, using the interactive map below.)

The plans, which list exact numbers of wind turbines, solar farms, hydroelectric dams and such, have been heralded as transformational, and criticized as starry eyed or even nutty.

Determined, Jacobson will take his case to leaders of the 195 nations that will meet at the U.N. climate talks, known as COP 21, which begin in Paris on Nov. 29. His point to them: Although international agreements to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are worthwhile, they would not even be needed if countries switched wholesale to renewable energy...“The people there are just not aware of what’s possible,” says Jacobson, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Stanford University and director of the school’s Atmosphere and Energy Program....

Jacobson thinks the 139 national plans will get traction not only because they offer a path to lower emissions, but because in total, they would create 24 million construction jobs and 26.5 million operational jobs, all spanning 35 years, offsetting 28.4 million jobs lost in the fossil fuel industries. That would leave a net gain of about 22 million jobs. Going 100 percent renewable would also prevent 3.3 to 4.6 million premature deaths a year through 2050 that would have happened because of air pollution from those fossil fuels. “These numbers are what gets people’s attention,” Jacobson says.

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