Van McCann, the gleeful 21-year-old frontman of Welsh indie-rock band Catfish and the Bottlemen, doesn't appear to have a sarcastic bone in his body. We meet in a shady spot on Randall's Island in New York City, at the Governor's Ball music festival. Even among the Brooklynites jockeying to out-hipster each other, McCann's bouncy rocker haircut and skinny pants stand out. He informs me that I have a face that makes him happy to look at, which is also how he feels about Scottish actor Ewan McGregor's face. In fact, the band's new video for the song, "Kathleen," features almost three minutes of McGregor smiling on screen. McCann isn't being ironic. "I just love him!" he exclaims.
McCann's band, which debuted Kathleen and the Other Three, its new EP, in the US earlier this month, has the kind of back story a label might try to make up to draw buzz. (The UK's Communion Records, which also works with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, signed Catfish and the Bottlemen in 2013). McCann says his mom couldn't have children naturally, and he was born in the final in-vitro fertilization attempt. When he was a kid his family traveled around Australia, where he saw a busker named Catfish and the Bottlemen, hence the name. He met his bandmates—guitarist Billy Bibby, bassist Benji Blakeway, and drummer Bob Hall—in school back in Llandudno, Wales, and when McCann was 15, he got kicked out of school, not "because I was a little shit," but because he was playing too many shows and missing exams.
"Everyone just went crazy; we got arrested for sound pollution!" McCann says.
Since then, Catfish and the Bottlemen have been busting their asses and playing a lot of gigs—including ones they're not invited to. McCann recalls one time when the band couldn't get on the opening slot of a show they wanted to play, so they rented a generator, revved it up, put on ninja masks in the parking lot, and waited for everyone to leave the gig before starting to rock out. "Everyone just went crazy; we got arrested for sound pollution!" McCann says. Last year, they played upward of 100 shows in 18 months. This summer, they're scheduled to play more than 30 festivals.
Their EP's title track is a catchy, sex-drenched rock song that wouldn't sound out of place on an Arctic Monkeys record, or maybe the long-lost dirty Killers album. "It's impractical, to go out and catch a death with a dress fit for the summer/So you don't/Instead you call me up with a head full of filth," McCann sings. The other songs aren't quite as much fun, although "Homesick" reminds me of all the times I emo-ed out in my car to Dashboard Confessional as a teenager—which as far as I'm concerned, is a good thing. McCann notes that right now he's listening to British indie group Little Comets and the National, but he's also a fan of the Strokes, Van Morrison, and the Beatles, of course.
At the Governor's Ball, the Bottlemen played around noon, long before fans flooded the park to see Skrillex and Jack White. But speaking with McCann, I got the sense that the band could cheerfully propel itself straight to world domination. McCann says his goal is to play giant stadiums, not just intimate indie-rock clubs. "Right to the top, all the way to the top. To me, I don't see the point of doing it otherwise," he says. He describes playing New York as, "Fucking ace, man. It's amazing, I love it!" He adds, giddily, "When I was walking through the streets of New York the other day, this girl came up to me and was like, 'Dude your band is awesome!' I was like, 'I've only been here a day!'"
David Brat, the libertarian professor who rocked US politics when he beat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in Tuesday's GOP primary, regularly touts his experience as an economist to bolster his political credentials. He notes on his campaign website that his economic expertise has been "recognized by his peers"—but some of Brat's colleagues in academia are not impressed with his academic résumé. They say that the few journals that have featured his work in the past decade are obscure; one of them is published by a local economics association Brat once headed. Fellow economists also point out that his published research isn't often cited by other scholars in his field.
Brat, who chairs the economics and business department at Virginia's Randolph-Macon College, published his most prestigious papers in 1995 and 1996, each of these two cowritten with his Ph.D. adviser at American University. These two papers appear in Google Scholar and are cited by other academics. Since then, Brat "has published in places of little consequence to the profession," says Dr. Nicolaus Tideman, an economics professor at Virginia Tech. Tideman notes that by his count Brat has only published three works that have been cited by another academic since he coauthored the papers with his adviser. "One could say this lack of citations reflects a career that is not impressive," Tideman says.
A spokesperson for Randolph-Macon directed questions relating to Brat's academic career to his campaign, which did not respond to a request for comment.
Having been booted off the Benghazi beat, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is firing up conservatives about yet another Obama scandal: a supposed White House plot to put gun dealers and other lawful merchants out of business by denying them banking services. Issa, who chairs the House oversight and government reform committee, alleges that Operation Choke Point, a Justice Department program that cracks down on fraud by scrutinizing banks and payment processors, is being used by the Obama administration to target gun sellers and other businesses the administration doesn't fancy. "Operation Choke Point is the Justice Department’s newest abuse of power," Issa said, in a report released May 29.
Issa wants the program dismantled, and he is deploying some of the same tactics he's used to slam the administration on Benghazi and the so-called IRS scandal—dumping documents, whipping the conservativemedia into a frenzy, and accusing the administration of overstepping the law—to get his way. The same day Issa's report came out, the House approved an amendment to the annual Justice Department spending bill that strips the program's funding.
Meanwhile, some Democrats are mystified that conservatives are up in arms about an anti-fraud program, and the Justice Department is emphasizing this effort has nothing to do with limiting gun-selling.
Operation Choke Point compels banks to take greater steps to prevent fraud and not engage in financial transactions with companies they suspect might be breaking the law. Under Choke Point, the Justice Department has opened civil or criminal investigations into at least 15 banks and payment processors—which serve as the middleman between banks and businesses in credit card transactions—to determine if these firms have enabled fraud.
The Justice Department is working with Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) on the initiative. The controversy began in part because the FDIC in 2011—years before Operation Choke Point launched—issued a list of businesses that can be associated with high-risk activity that financial institutions should watch out for. These include enterprises peddling firearms, pornography, drug paraphernalia, and racist materials. The FDIC noted that financial institutions that "properly manage these relationships and risks are neither prohibited nor discouraged from providing payment processing services to customers operating in compliance with applicable law." In other words, there was no reason for a bank not to handle payments for these businesses just because of the goods they sell.
Nonetheless, Issa's report alleges that the Justice Department is using the FDIC guidance as a hit list. "The FDIC's policy statements on firearm and ammunition sales carry additional weight in light of FDIC's active involvement in Operation Choke Point," the report reads. But a Justice Department official tells Mother Jones that this conclusion is incorrect. "We're not using the FDIC's list at all," the official says. "There's been a lot of misunderstanding, there's been accusations were going after gun owners...None of our cases involve gun merchants or porn."
The Justice Department insists it's committed to ensuring its anti-fraud campaign doesn't inhibit lawful merchants. Issa, though, claims that Attorney General Eric Holder knew that banks would drop clients deemed "high risk" by the government, such as gun-sellers, as a result of Operation Choke Point. His report cites a recent Washington Times article reporting that a number of firearms merchants had their bank accounts shut down, supposedly because of the Obama administration. "The experience of firearms and ammunitions merchants...calls into question the sincerity of the Department's statements," the report states. Fox News promoted this charge, declaring, "The Obama administration, after failing to get gun control passed on Capitol Hill, has resorted to using its executive power to try to put some in the firearms industry out of business, House Republican investigators say."
The Justice Department maintains there's no reason banks should feel threatened by the government for doing business with certain industries, including gun-dealers. The Justice Department official notes that when the department subpoenas banks, it's looking for payment processors that might be engaging in fraud. "We're not saying give us all the docs you have on risky businesses," the official says.
What about the gun-sellers who say their bank accounts were shut down? One of the gun-merchants who was cited in the WashingtonTimes, and who says he's a victim of Operation Choke Point, first complained publicly about his dispute with Bank of America long before the initiative was launched. The other banks in the story wouldn't say why they closed the accounts. The Justice Department official says the agency isn't sure why the gun merchants' accounts were allegedly shut down, because the information its investigations have obtained does not include any links to gun dealers. "Banks are making their own assessments, that's not something we can control," the official says. (Last month, when several news outlets reported that JPMorgan Chase & Co shut down the accounts of people in the porn industry because of Operation Choke Point, a Chase official toldMother Jones that the government program had nothing to do with the bank's action.)
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and a number of other Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), support Operation Choke Point. "It is a mystery to me why Chairman Issa is attacking the Department of Justice for cracking down on fraud against American consumers," Cummings tells Mother Jones. "Contrary to the chairman's accusations, documents produced to the committee show that the Department is using lawful investigative techniques to reduce consumer fraud." In over 850 pages of internal Justice Department documents that Issa released, there isn't a single mention of firearms dealers.
This meme shared on Facebook by Las Vegas shooting suspect Amanda Miller reads, "Best coffee table ever?"
A month before a married couple allegedly gunned down two police officers and a bystander in Las Vegas, suspect Jerad Miller went on Facebook looking for a gun. Any gun would do, Miller wrote, as long as it worked on the "evil tyrant bastards."
On May 8, Miller posted the following on Facebook:
Facebook users soon chimed in to help Miller with his request. One person replied, "ak47." A second asked, "What happened to urs?" A third offered, "What are you looking for."
Miller replied, "Doesn't matter, bolt action, semi, anything that can reach out and touch evil tyrant bastards. Idc [I don't care] if its a hundred dollar pink 22 rifle lol."
A fourth person chimed in that the "Gun store has plenty of rifles." Miller replied, "We broke bro, believe me if we had the money we would be at some of the best gun stores in the country buying what we need. Idc if its a ww2 m4 lol. something for when they call us terrorists, we can defend ourselves."
A fifth person recognized that the conversation was entering potentially illegal territory, and recommended that Miller hide his identity. "You and I both know that you shouldn't be using Facebook for this. Get yourself a tor router and be anonymous like the constitution always intended," the person wrote. Miller replied, "lol im just fucking around."
But according to authorities, Miller wasn't "just fucking around"—five people, including Miller and his wife, Amanda, are now dead. While we don't know if the Millers were successful in obtaining any guns through Facebook, the fact that the post is still up raises questions about how well Facebook's effort to crack down on illegal gun sales is working. In March, the social network announced that it would start deleting posts that offer to buy or sell guns without background checks. At the time, it wasn't clear how Facebook planned to enforce the new guidelines. (As of 2012, Miller and his wife were not allowed to own guns because of his criminal record, according to Miller's post on the conspiracy-peddling website, Infowars.)
"We are sickened to learn that the Las Vegas shooter attempted to obtain a rifle through Facebook. The post has remained live on Facebook for a month, demonstrating the inadequacy of Facebook's gun policy," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, in a statement. "Facebook continues to make it too easy for dangerous people to find guns and should prohibit gun sales outright."
In a statement sent to Buzzfeed, a Facebook spokesperson said: "While this online discussion is certainly disturbing in light of recent events, we have not been made aware of any connection to an actual gun transaction offline."
Two years before Jerad Miller and his wife, Amanda, allegedly gunned down two police officers and a third person in a Las Vegas shooting spree, before taking their own lives, he pondered when it might be justified to kill law enforcement officers on the website of conspiracy-peddling radio personality Alex Jones. In a May 28, 2012, post titled, "The Police (To Kill Or Not To Kill?)" Miller wrote on Jones' Infowars.com website: "I live in Indiana and recently a law was passed named the right to resist law. As i can make out from it, if a police officer kicks in my door and is not there legally, then I may shoot him."
His posts on Infowars depict an angry, down-on-his-luck man who blamed his woes—decaying teeth, lack of health insurance, and inability to find work—on the tyranny of government. (Alex Jones has insisted the shooting spree Miller and his wife allegely carried out was "absolutely staged" by the federal government.) The justice system became a focus of Miller's wrath following his arrest for selling marijuana. "Before I got arrested I had 2 jobs and was selling weed to my friends and family on the side," he wrote. "Now I cannot find a job. My probation officer states that if I protest that my probation will be violated. They have tried to tell my fiance, who has no criminal record, that she may not own a firearm if I live in the house. Now, i face a dire problem."