Mojo - December 2012

Video: Colbert Super-PAC Donates Its Leftovers

| Mon Dec. 17, 2012 7:25 PM PST
"If you eat a ham in the shape of a rival's head you gain all their knowledge…and all their sodium too."

The Ham Rove Memorial Fund, rumored to be linked to Stephen Colbert's super-PAC (okay, definitely linked), announced it will donate more than $135,000 to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit organization that aims to expose money's effect on elections and public policy. Colbert, host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, won a Peabody Award this year for his work in educating the American public about the implications of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling through Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow (ABTT), his satirical super-PAC.

On his December 13 show, Colbert announced that he legally wasn't required to disclose the whereabouts of the nearly $774,000 remaining in the war chest of his super-PAC after the election. Coincidentally, the same exact amount was just donated to a new memorial fund named in honor of ABTT's former chief strategist Ham Rove, a bespectacled slab of ham who suffered a tragic end when he fell upon a knife that Colbert happened to be swinging wildly in his immediate vicinity.

The Ham Rove Memorial Fund then divvied up the cash to the CRP as well as the Campaign Legal Center, another organization that fights for transparency in politics, several Hurricane Sandy relief organizations, and the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which helps wounded troops returning home from war.

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Blast From the Past: NRA Propaganda Anticipates Newtown

| Mon Dec. 17, 2012 4:33 PM PST
NRA Freedom in Peril
Front cover of the NRA's 2006 brochure "Freedom in Peril" National Rifle Association

"Second Amendment freedom today stands naked in the path of a marching axis of adversaries far darker and more dangerous than gun owners have ever known." So opens "Freedom in Peril," a slick 2006 brochure by the National Rifle Association that serves up the group's agenda with a heavy dose of omnious hyperbole. The UN and George Soros are coming for your guns! PETA will ban hunting! Suburban dads must defend their families from torch-carrying marauders!

NRA dad vs mob

The document's text and its illustrations are so over-the-top that when they were first leaked by Wonkette, there was speculation that they were a hoax. But the NRA confirmed they were real, though it maintained they were from a stolen draft of a publication that has still yet to be publicly released.

In their introductory note, NRA president Waye LaPierre and chief NRA lobbyist Chris Cox warn of "the coming confrontation" between the "pro-freedom voting bloc" and "the gun-ban crowd." Though they focused on the threat of anti-gun legislation carried out under the guise of fighting terrorism, LaPierre and Cox also anticipated the calls for action that might follow an event such as the Newtown massacre:

It's inevitable that terrorists will infest America for generations to come. It's also inevitable that an anti-gun president will occupy the White House, and anti-gun forces will control the U.S. House and Senate. This is when the alchemy explodes, never to be contained again. When these two certainties intersect, America's anti-gun agenda will emerge in full force masquerading as an anti-terrorist agenda. Unless we are well-financed to face that moment, the final disarmament of law-abiding Americans will occur beneath the shroud of anti-terrorism legislation. […]

History teaches us that their assault will be precipitated by a high-profile criminal act, like an L.A. riot, a D.C. sniper or a schoolyard shooting. All it takes is a rare, tragic anomaly to roll out a blood-red carpet for the gun-ban crowd.

The brochure criticizes the "tragedy chasers" and "vultures" who sensationalize and politicize gun violence, including school shootings. The NRA has a history of not commenting on prominent shootings (including, so far, Newtown), though "Freedom in Peril" suggests that it will not stand on the sidelines much longer:

Until now, NRA has rightfully declined to join the debate, because no effective solution includes infringement of the Second Amendment. Although tragic, these incidents have called for no more anti-gun measures than any other crime committed with firearms.

But the advent of domestic terrorism, compounded with recent high-profile school shootings, force America's gun owners to join the national discussion in a way we can no longer decline. Not because the Second Amendment is at fault, but because the Second Amendment is at risk.

As its guardian, NRA must accept the financial responsibility to take its place at that table of debate, and prevail. […]

Too often, the media have given enormous attention to school murderers as a tactic to promote the gun-control agenda. Too often, such attention has likely led other sociopaths and losers to conclude that their one chance to become famous is to attack a school.

The document also features fantastic images of the NRA's foes, including Michael Moore, Hillary Clinton, and congressional Democrats.

NRA gun foes
NRA Democratic foes

And it's not just the liberals and one-world-government types you should be afraid of. "Freedom in Peril" also reminds NRA members who the real scary gun owners are: "[T]o criminal aliens, America is a giant supermarket, and nobody's minding the store."

NRA gangs
BoingBoing still has the full document; download it here.

Joe Scarborough Says the Sandy Hook Massacre "Changed Everything"

| Mon Dec. 17, 2012 2:48 PM PST

Today on MSNBC's Morning Joe, former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough came out forcefully against the gun lobby, saying that Friday's horrifying shooting in Connecticut changes everything including his past views on gun control.

Scarborough said that while he once viewed gun control as a "powerful, symbolic" struggle between big government and individual rights. Now he sees the issue as a matter of public safety.

"The ideologies of my past career are no longer relevant to the future that I want, to the future that I demand for my children, " Scarborough said in his eight-minute monologue on the tragedy.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for December 17, 2012

Mon Dec. 17, 2012 1:30 PM PST
Cpl. Berkeley Lewis, a rifleman with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, fires his M4 carbine during training at the SR-7 range at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jeff Drew.

South Carolina's New GOP Senator Less Crazy Than the Old One

| Mon Dec. 17, 2012 10:44 AM PST
Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)

On Monday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced she will appoint Rep. Tim Scott (R) to fill the seat soon-to-be vacated by Sen. Jim DeMint, who is leaving the world's most deliberative body to take over the Heritage Foundation. The good folks at Right Wing Watch say this is just more of the same, blasting out a press release claiming Scott is "DeMint's Double." As Right Wing Watch notes, Scott opposes gay marriage. Scott opposes Obamacare. Scott's campaign website features its very own "Prayer Team," led by "Prayer Team Warriors."

No, really, the Prayer Team was a thing. Here's their most recent set of instructions:

  • Please pray for discernment to the Holy Spirit and for heavenly wisdom.
  • Please pray that the Lord would protect Tim, his family and staff members – for good health and safe travels.
  • Please pray for our nation and all our leaders and citizens -that we would heed the call of 2 Chronicles 7:14 and humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways.
  • Praise God in all things and thank Him for all He is doing.

Tim Scott is a pretty conservative guy, as you'd expect from a Republican congressman from South Carolina, and he will be a pretty conservative senator. But it takes a special kind of crazy to truly replace DeMint, and Scott has given little indication that he's got it. Scott has issued no warnings about the evils posed by single women and gay men teaching in public schools. He's made no attempts to ban people on the Internet from talking about abortion. He hasn't tried to put a hold on the National Women's History Museum. And for Democrats, that's what makes Scott so dangerous. He's beloved by his colleagues but has an inoffensive demeanor; Jim DeMint is the guy who literally eats lunch by himself.

Meanwhile, I'll just note that Jamelle Bouie saw Scott's promotion coming back in March.

NRA Darling Sen. Joe Manchin: "Everything Has to Be on the Table" in Gun-Control Debate

| Mon Dec. 17, 2012 8:29 AM PST
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a gun rights stalwart with an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association, joined the growing chorus of lawmakers and advocates in calling for new gun regulations. On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Monday, Manchin said "it's time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a common-sense discussion and move in a reasonable way."

He went on to say, "Everything has to be on the table."

Manchin's unexpected statements came a day after President Obama addressed the nation from Newtown, Conn., the site of a gruesome mass killing at an elementary school. The shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killed 27 people, including 20 children who went to Sandy Hook Elementary. Lanza also killed himself. Obama said during a nationally televised address that "in the coming weeks I'll use whatever power this office holds" in a move "aimed at preventing more tragedies like this."

The list of elected officials calling for a renewed gun control debate, if not new regulations, grows longer by the day in the wake of the Newtown killings. On Friday, New York Michael Bloomberg, the co-chair of Mayor's Against Illegal Guns, said that new legislation is needed to prevent more mass killings like those in Newtown, and Aurora, Colo., and on the campus of Virginia Tech. "Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough," Bloomberg said in a statement. "We need immediate action." Joining Bloomberg is calling for new gun laws is Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and a slew of Democratic lawmakers in Congress. "If now is not the time to have a serious discussion about gun control and the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our society, I don’t know when is," Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

The NRA has yet to comment on the Newtown killings.

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Does Your Child's School Teach "Violent Intruder Defense Strategies"?

| Mon Dec. 17, 2012 2:58 AM PST
Since Columbine, schools are increasingly preparing for the worst, practicing hostile intruder drills.

If it feels like mass shootings in this country have been occuring more often lately, you're not wrong. John Kane has seen the upward trend first hand. A retired Sacramento police lieutenant, Army veteran, and FEMA instructor who wrote a manual on terrorism response used by police departments nationwide, Kane now runs a consulting business teaching disaster preparedness to law enforcement, businesses, colleges, and schools across America. One of his popular courses is teaching "violent intruder defense strategies" at K-12 schools, preparing teachers and staff on what to do if a gunman enters their school. In his career, Kane investigated hundreds of shootings and was nominated for an award for valor from the national Top Cops Award after he and a team of officers became engaged in a gun battle with a wanted murderer in Sacramento. He spoke to Mother Jones about the rising demand for his training, his thoughts on the psychology behind targeting small children, and how Columbine changed everything.

WATCH: Newtown Residents Remember Nancy Lanza, Shooter's Slain Mother

| Sat Dec. 15, 2012 12:25 PM PST

My Place is a pizza joint and bar just off the main drag through Newtown. It's a microcosm of this town: Everyone knows everyone, knows where they live, who their brother is dating, what their favorite microbrew is. Framed photographs of Babe Ruth cover the walls. Having a smoke outside, Alex Helfer, 26, recalls the days when high school partiers knew they were safe if the town's two post-midnight cops busted the other party. After spending the day reeling from the Sandy Hook murders, last night locals here did what they always do: head to My Place for a pint. Only this time, Nancy wasn't there to join them.

Nancy Lanza, mother of alleged shooter Adam Lanza, was one of My Place's most popular regulars; she was found dead in her home yesterday. "She was wonderful, beautiful, classy…everyone knew her," says waitress Laurie Champagne. Proprietor Louise Tambascio seconded the words of the local school superintendent that yesterday's reports of Nancy being a teacher at Sandy Hook were wrong. But Nancy was involved with the gun community, she says, belonging to a club and taking her sons shooting.

Losing Nancy is a devastating blow to this close-knit community, Tambascio says. She's known Nancy for 12 years, and remembers hiring Adam Lanza's older brother, Ryan, as a busboy a couple years back. When initial reports came out that he was the shooter, she says, she knew they had the wrong brother. 

Meanwhile, across town, outside Sandy Hook Elementary (or as close as police would allow anyone to get), a media feeding frenzy approached critical mass, swarming with reporters speaking English, French, German, and Japanese into TV cameras and bright lights. The few locals who braved the main street quickly found themselves circled by microphones and lenses, asked to share their shock with the world. Nick Verderame, 20, had come from a few towns over to lay flowers outside the fire station where children and teachers had fled for cover as the shooting unfolded. "I thought there was going to be more of us," he says. "And less of you."

Everyone here is anxiously awaiting the release of the names of the dead, to find out which neighbor, or neighbors, suffered an unimaginable loss. Champagne circles around My Place delivering beer, pizza, and hugs to folks in the crowd, whom she addresses by name. Despite the horror that unfolded yesterday, she says, looking forward to the coming weeks is almost worse: "There are going to be 28 funerals in this town before Christmas."

Charts: 247,131 Fatal Shootings in 8 Years

| Fri Dec. 14, 2012 8:03 PM PST

The chart below, adapted from the Firearm and Injury Center at Penn's 2011 resource book, shows the breakdown of weapons used in one year of homicides in the United States. (Thanks to a lack of funding, FICAP was unable to do a 2012 resource book, but we tend to use the same weapons to kill each other year after year.) The smaller pie chart at right breaks down the firearms portion of the larger chart. While interesting to look at, this just confirms what we all kind of knew: Guns are the homicide weapon of choice—handguns in particular, since they're so easy to conceal.

 

But that hasn't stopped madmen (and they are almost invariably men) from hauling rifles into malls and theaters and elementary schools and opening fire. And because politicians don't want to offend their rural supporters, rifles are subject to even less regulation than handguns. "The risk of firearm death in very rural counties is the same as the risk for big cities," notes the FICAP report. "Rural areas have higher risks for firearm suicide and unintentional injury, while the risks for firearm homicide and assault are greater in urban areas."

In Connecticut, where the Newtown horror is still unfolding, the state requires permits for handguns but not rifles, according to the NRA—which, incidentally, has yet to acknowledge the shootings on its website or Twitter feed. The shooter reportedly used both weapon types (more details here). And sales of both have been on the rise.

 

 

A sizeable body of research shows that the more easily guns are made available, the more shootings we can expect. "The correlation between firearm availability and rates of homicide is consistent across high-income industrialized nations," FICAP notes. "In general, where there are more firearms, there are higher rates of homicide overall. The US has among the highest rates of both firearm homicide and private firearm ownership."

So if you feel strongly that unfettered access to firearms is and should be a fundamental freedom, then you should be aware of the price. And here's the price, courtesy of updated numbers from FICAP's Rose Cheney:

 

That's a lot of bodies—247,131 to be exact. A lot of blood and grief and funerals. A lot of families devastated. But the price is far higher than this, really. Because we tend to count the bodies but seldom think much of the bodies ruined, the human potential destroyed, the teenagers relegated to wheelchairs, the perpetrators who rot in jail, and the literal costs borne by American taxpayers to keep them there and nurse the wounded back to health. (A 2005 study found that hospital charges related to firearm injury cost Pennsylvania around $127 million per year, according to FICAP's resource book.) These non-fatalities affect a lot more people than the fatal ones. Here's another chart, based on the same dataset as above.

So I sincerely hope I never again have to read about a shooting as horrible as Newtown. But as it stands, chances are I will.

WATCH: Newtown Residents Gather to Mourn and Reflect

| Fri Dec. 14, 2012 7:41 PM PST

Less than 12 hours after a gunman took the lives of 20 schoolchildren in the tiny, picturesque community of Newtown, Connecticut, locals gathered outside a Methodist Church for a healing vigil. Nearly all were in shock, hardly able to articulate their bewilderment. But many were in agreement on one point: Lax gun laws were partly to blame.