You don’t have to be that gung-ho on trans rights to realize that a world where girls’ genitals need to be inspected before they can play any sport is worse for girls than a world where once in a while there’s a trans girl on a girls’ team.

Evan Urquhart

This week’s featured post is “America’s guns have changed in my lifetime.

This week everybody was talking still talking about guns

Because the mass shootings won’t stop. A gunman killed four at a hospital in Tulsa on Wednesday. Three died and 11 were wounded in a multi-party shoot-out in Philadelphia Saturday. Three died Sunday morning in a shooting in Saginaw. Also on Sunday, three died and 17 were injured in a shooting near a bar in Chattanooga.

The Senate is under pressure to “do something”, but if anything gets done, it will be small. Perhaps there will be some expansion of red-flag laws that prevent some criminals and mentally ill people from buying guns, perhaps an expansion of federal background checks that would still leave loopholes. But no universal background checks, no assault weapon ban, nothing remotely on the scale of the problem.

This week’s featured post examines my own history with guns, and concludes that the apparently stable level of gun-ownership in America over the decades has masked a huge increase in the destructive potential of our civilian arsenal.

Yes, I grew up in a gun-owning household. But no, the guns (and the gun culture) of America in the 1960s and 70s bears no resemblance to what we see today.

In discussions of the Second Amendment, gun advocates often ignore the phrase “well regulated Militia”, and gun-control advocates correspondingly call attention to it. But both sides usually forget that the Constitution uses the word “Militia” elsewhere, so the word is not an impenetrable mystery to be interpreted however we see fit. The constitutional context paints a pretty clear idea what the Founders meant a militia to be.

Article I, section 8 gives Congress the power “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States”

Article II, section 2 says that the President “shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States”.

So it’s clear that self-appointed groups of guys playing war games in the woods are NOT militias in the constitutional sense. They are not organized, armed, and disciplined by Congress, and they picture themselves BEING the insurrection, not responding to a call from Congress to submit to the command of the President and put down an insurrection.

The only organizations today that fit the constitutional uses of “Militia” are National Guard units.

Michael Fanone, a 20-year DC policeman who testified about the 1-6 riot and now works for CNN, explains why the AR-15 should be banned.

If banning them outright seems like too extreme a solution to be politically palatable, here’s another option: Reclassify semi-automatic rifles as Class 3 firearms.

That would mean that someone wanting to purchase an AR-15 would have to go through a background check, fingerprinting and review by an official from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — a process that takes anywhere from 12 to 16 months. And since Class 3 weapons can’t be purchased by anyone younger than 21, it would solve the issue of emotionally unstable 18-year-olds buying them.

A Class 3 firearm reclassification would also make those who are approved to purchase these weapons subject to an annual check that they are complying with federal regulations regarding secure storage of the firearm, and to confirm their licensing and other paperwork is up to date. All of these hoops and hurdles are sure to reduce the civilian demand for these weapons.

in his Substack blog, Michael Sifry discusses the role of money in making the gun-control movement “a monoculture” that employs only the most vanilla tactics.

Faced with the same confluence of events that we had in 2018, even worse since now we’re reeling from the racist massacre in Buffalo along with the insanity in Texas, all the wings of today’s “stay on message” gun violence prevention lobby, from the youngest to the oldest, are not just singing from the same songbook, they’re following the same theory of change: trying to convert momentary public attention into successful lobbying of legislators, plus calling occasional big marches and walkouts aimed at converting attention into the successful lobbying of legislators. To be followed by the inevitable electioneering for candidates who are almost all Democrats. When media attention fades, as it will, this lobby has no plans to create attention on its own beyond “vote harder.” …

It’s as if we’re living in the 1950s and the only groups leading the charge for civil rights are the NAACP and the Urban League, and the only strategy they’re willing to try is polite protest and lobbying.

A Florida school-shooting survivor asked Marco Rubio if he would reject NRA contributions. The question got a standing ovation. Rubio could not say yes. “That is the wrong way to look,” he explained.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

but we need to shift the focus to January 6

The House committee’s televised hearings start Thursday evening. I’m getting disturbed that I’m not hearing more buzz about that. We’re going to see in detail the story of how an American president almost overthrew democracy so that he could stay in power. It’s a big deal.

Fox News still hasn’t committed to covering Thursday night’s hearing.

I can already predict the Republican response: It’s all just a rehash of the second impeachment hearings. But it’s not. Those hearings happened mere weeks after the insurrection, and spent most of their time recounting what happened at the Capitol on 1-6 itself.

The Committee now knows a great deal more about Trump’s conspiracy to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election. They have sources inside the Trump White House, and can trace the plot through the fake electors and the attempt to induce Vice President Pence to break his oath of office. We’ll hear just how many people told Trump explicitly that his stolen-election narrative was bullshit, and that his scheme to disrupt counting the electoral votes was illegal. I expect the hearings to reveal connections between the White House and the right-wing paramilitary groups that planned the Capitol assault. We’ll find out if Republican congressmen were involved. We’ll hear from executive-branch officials who Trump tried to pressure to go along with the plot, and get testimony about how Trump responded as events unfolded on January 6.

One indication that the Committee has the goods on Trump is just how hard his people have tried to obstruct its investigation.

Friday, Trump economic advisor (and proponent of the election-nullifying plot he called “the Green Bay sweep“) Peter Navarro was arrested for contempt of Congress. He’s pretty obviously guilty: He was subpoenaed by the 1-6 committee and just blew them off. He has tried to claim that executive privilege prevents him from testifying. However, it didn’t prevent him from writing about the same topics in his book or discussing them on television. It isn’t the world that’s not supposed to know, just Congress.

“In any event, you must appear to assert any executive privilege objections on a question-by-question basis during the deposition,” the committee wrote.

Navarro seems deeply offended about being treated like a criminal just because he broke the law.

“Who are these people,” Navarro said. “This is not America. I mean, I was a distinguished public servant for four years and nobody ever questioned my ethics. And they’re treating me in this fashion.”

Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert railed against the deep injustice of enforcing the laws Republicans break:

It actually puts an exclamation point on the fact that we have a two-tiered justice system. If you’re a Republican, you can’t even lie to Congress or lie to an FBI agent or they’re coming after you. They’re gonna bury you. They’re gonna put you in the D.C. jail and terrorize and torture you and not live up to the Constitution there.

Josh Marshall couldn’t resist getting snarky:

you murder one person and suddenly ev’body’s like LAW LAW LAW

Remember: the Benghazi Committee was precisely the kind of partisan witch hunt Republicans claim the 1-6 Committee is. But Hillary Clinton testified to them for 11 hours, because she was confident she had answers for all their questions. Trump and his people, on the other hand, know that they’re guilty, so they want to prevent the American people from finding out what they did.

Can you imagine Trump showing up for hours of testimony under oath? He knows he couldn’t go five minutes without either babbling or committing perjury.

meanwhile, the pandemic continues

The trends of the past few weeks continue: Case numbers are drifting downwards, particularly in the Northeast. (In my Massachusetts county, new cases per day per 100K were running in the high 50s a few weeks ago; it’s 35 now.) Hospitalizations are well below their January peaks and deaths (now around 270 per day) never really did spike during this wave.

To put the death number in perspective, compare to the flu:

According to data collected by the CDC from 2010 to 2020, the agency estimates that the flu has caused 12,000–52,000 deaths annually.

Dividing by 365 gets you to 33-142 deaths per day. So right now Covid deaths are running about double the rate of a bad flu year. (That’s assuming we could maintain this rate for a whole year. If deaths shoot up again in the fall and winter, we’ll be much higher than double a flu death-rate.)

In Atlantic, Yasmin Tayag examines how this wave feels different from previous ones: It’s a much longer but shallower wave.

The recent omicron variants have gotten better at evading the vaccines’ protections against infection, but deaths among the fully vaccinated-and-boosted are still rare. I’ve noticed this in my own social circle, which is almost entirely vaccinated: More people I know have gotten sick lately, but none seriously.

and the Ukraine War

It’s been 100 days since the Russian invasion began. Russian forces occupy about a fifth of the country, mostly in the east. The Russian offensive in the east has turned into a war of attrition, with each side making claims that the battle is turning in its favor.

It gets harder and harder to imagine how this war might end. Neither side is likely to give up, and there is no obvious settlement that both could accept.

Meanwhile, a debate is rising about America’s and NATO’s long-term commitment. The NYT’s Ross Douthat expresses one side of that debate:

[G]iven the state of the war right now, the more likely near-future scenario is one where Russian collapse remains a pleasant fancy, the conflict becomes stalemated and frozen, and we have to put our Ukrainian policy on a sustainable footing without removing Putin’s regime or dismantling the Russian empire. … [I]f Kyiv and Moscow are headed for a multiyear or even multi-decade frozen conflict, we will need to push Ukraine toward its most realistic rather than its most ambitious military strategy.

Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum the other:

The West should not aim to offer Putin an off-ramp; our goal, our endgame, should be defeat. In fact, the only solution that offers some hope of long-term stability in Europe is rapid defeat, or even, to borrow Macron’s phrase, humiliation. In truth, the Russian president not only has to stop fighting the war; he has to conclude that the war was a terrible mistake, one that can never be repeated. More to the point, the people around him—leaders of the army, the security services, the business community—have to conclude exactly the same thing.

… Only failure can persuade the Russians themselves to question the sense and purpose of a colonial ideology that has repeatedly impoverished and ruined their own economy and society, as well as those of their neighbors, for decades. Yet another frozen conflict, yet another temporary holding pattern, yet another face-saving compromise will not end the pattern of Russian aggression or bring permanent peace.

and you also might be interested in …

Dr. Oz will be the GOP’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, after David McCormick conceded in the photo-finish primary. Oz got just over 31% in a multi-candidate race and won by less than 1,000 votes out of 1.2 million.

The Democratic candidate, John Fetterman, is still recovering from a stroke suffered just before the primary, which appears to have been caused by an underlying heart condition. He is said to be walking several miles a day.

Elon Musk buying Twitter still isn’t a done deal.

A couple of Republican conspiracy theories blew up this week.

A jury took only six hours to acquit Michael Sussman of lying to the FBI. After three years of investigating the origin of the Trump/Russia investigation, this was Special Counsel John Durham’s first indictment, and it was a pretty flimsy one. The main point of the indictment seems to have been to fan pro-Trump conspiracy theories about the Clintons, not to get a conviction.

Another long-running conspiracy theory has been the “unmasking” of Michael Flynn. WaPo’s Aaron Blake summarizes the theory:

The idea was that Obama administration officials deliberately targeted Donald Trump associates — and particularly Flynn — by requesting the disclosure of their names in intelligence reports before Trump took office, doing so for political purposes. This fed into long-running allegations of the government “spying” on Trump, who chose Flynn as his national security adviser.

The Trump Justice Department investigated that claim and found nothing. BuzzFeed released the previously classified report (by then-US Attorney John Bash) last Monday:

“My review has uncovered no evidence that senior Executive Branch officials sought the disclosure of” the identities of US individuals “in disseminated intelligence reports for political purposes or other inappropriate reasons during the 2016 presidential-election period or the ensuing presidential-transition period,” Bash’s report says.

In particular, unmasking had nothing to do with the scandal that eventually got Flynn convicted of lying to the FBI (which Trump pardoned him for).

A central focus of the probe was the leak showing that Flynn had been in communication with then–Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak prior to Trump’s inauguration, and whether Flynn’s involvement was revealed through an unmasking request from a government official.

But Bash’s review of unmasked intelligence reports about the calls found that the FBI did not in fact disseminate any that contained Flynn’s information, and that a single unmasked report that did contain Flynn’s information did not describe the calls between him and Kislyak. “For that reason, the public disclosure of the communications could not have resulted from an unmasking request,” Bash’s report concludes.

Both of these attempts to come up with a nefarious origin story for the Trump/Russia investigation ignore the fact that there were perfectly good reasons to investigate, and that the public still has not heard the full story of what went on between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Let me summarize at the highest level:

No innocent explanation of these facts has ever been offered.

Ron DeSantis continues his Orban-like tactics to use government power to punish corporations that don’t support him. This time the target is the Tampa Bay Rays, who recently spoke out against gun violence and made a contribution to a gun-control organization.

Ohio’s legislature has passed the “Save Women’s Sports Act”, which bans transgender girls from playing sports in public schools. Reason summarizes:

So, to be very clear here, no evidence is needed that a particular athlete is trans or not a biological female in order to demand that she prove her sex. The athlete must then go to a physician and either subject herself to a physical inspection of her sexual organs or arrange for hormone or genetic tests. And no, the bill does not fund the costs of such tests. … News 5 in Cleveland notes that there is currently only a single trans female student competing in high school sports in Ohio.

Evan Urquhart comments:

You don’t have to be that gung-ho on trans rights to realize that a world where girls’ genitals need to be inspected before they can play any sport is worse for girls than a world where once in a while there’s a trans girl on a girls’ team.

Yes, Marjorie Taylor Greene really did say “peach tree dish“. But it was funnier when Sarah Silverman said it to Conan O’Brien in 2010.

Brynn Tannehill reports that her friend’s husband is a retired police officer who does police trainings. He finds that young officers are soaked in right-wing propaganda, to the point that they just don’t believe FBI statistics about right-wing domestic terrorism.

Follow up. Spoke with his wife last night. The first responders also didn’t believe that police were attacked on January 6th. Or if they were, it was Antifa. These are the people that will be propping up our post-democracy government. They’re true believers. We’re f****d.

and let’s close with something religious

George Carlin seems to be having a comeback lately, in spite of having been dead since 2008. The streaming channels I subscribe to keep recommending his videos, and he’s been coming up more often on my social media feeds. In addition to just being funny, Carlin generally gave you something to think about, like this attempt to edit the ten commandments down to a more manageable list.

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  • Jim Arthur  On June 6, 2022 at 1:23 pm

    If you’re not already familiar with this guy, he usually covers everything each week complete with links and saves a lot of time if you are interested. See particularly the reference to the Ohio Republican sicko bill which would subject girls as young as 11 or 12 to pelvic exams of their uterus and ovaries, including the size of their clitoris, and with DNA studies to determine their sex if necessary based on complaints from opposing coaches and/or parents. Vigilantism and Christianity alive and well and at work in Ohio as well as your native state of Texas. See also the reference to the Senator Marco (what a disgusting and disingenuous little shit) tweet and George Carlin’s profane old video on the Ten Commandments. That’s enough homework for you for today. JA

    Sent from Mail for Windows

  • philipfinn  On June 6, 2022 at 5:24 pm

    Anne Applebaum is on to something: Ukraine needs to be an Ethiopia to Putin’s Mussolini.

  • Josh  On June 8, 2022 at 9:10 am

    This notion that trans women should be allowed to compete with women should be absurd even to those who are very much pro trans. If feels like something the right would push as a kind of “false flag” attack to discredit the rest of the trans rights movement. “If you don’t think a trans woman can compete with your daughter in, say boxing, you’re a bigot!” Really? But sadly its not a false flag, it’s real progressives saying this, and it’s a good example of how progressives are “in for a penny, in for a pound” on all this crap. It’s eerily reminiscent of Trumpians claiming that Trump never lies, because if you admit even one, that opens up the rest. In the same way, if a progressive admits that one thing shouldn’t be allowed, it opens up the rest. And people wonder how the extremes got so…extreme!

    As for you, Doug, your opening quote saddens me. It’s an argument in bad faith. Examining genitals is only one, very stupid, very unnecessary reaction to the trans women athlete thing. And yet you characterize all opposition to trans women competing with bio women in this way. Lia Thomas didn’t need any examination, she is openly and proudly trans. And she should not be allowed to participate in competitive female swim meets. She should compete with the boys – and flirt with them shamelessly. But still.

    • Paul  On June 9, 2022 at 10:11 am

      Can you, perhaps, tell me what objective data you are using to make the decision that Lia Thomas should compete in Men’s events? And, what are your thresholds on that data? And do those thresholds correspond to anything objective? And will you then apply the same standards to all athletes?

      • Josh  On June 11, 2022 at 11:51 pm

        Why are your questions relevant? Why aren’t you addressing literally anything I said in my comment? Why aren’t you making statements of your own, or taking a position? Are you aware that this tactic of placing the burden of proving your position on the opponent is old hat among conservatives? What objective evidence to do you have that you’re arguing in good faith, and not just making a fool of yourself?

    • Linda  On June 12, 2022 at 6:31 am

      Josh, how much hand-wringing do you typically do about the wide range of variability in height, weight, hormone levels, muscle mass, etc. within cis women? I’m 5’1″ (155 cm) and a cis women and I think all women over 5’2″ should be banned from sports because it’s too unfair to me. I also think all people named Joshua should be banned from being called Josh because we need to respect what’s on people’s birth certificates and stop this hysteria about listening to people when they tell us who they are. I think we’ll get along great!

  • Thomas Paine  On June 8, 2022 at 4:47 pm

    It is any surprise the insufferable Douthat argues for appeasing the bully? Perhaps it’s time for Ukrainians to run this country so we can be reminded what backbone and values look like.

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