A Mitch McConnell scout on patrol

Mitch McConnell is no stranger to massacres involving semi-automatic assault weapons.

In 1989, a workplace massacre in downtown Louisville took the lives of eight and wounded 12 using an AK-47, and it remains the deadliest mass shooting in Kentucky history.  McConnell, well into his first term as a U.S. Senator from Kentucky, said he was “deeply disturbed,” declaring, “We must take action to stop such vicious crimes.” And he added: “We need to be careful about legislating in the middle of a crisis.” And in the days and weeks after, he did not join others in calling for a ban on assault weapons like the AK-47 used by the shooter.

Following the Sandy Hook massacre of 2012, the Obama White House embarked on a robust policy response.  McConnell — then the Senate minority leader — vigorously downplayed that effort.

Fact is:  McConnell has never wavered on his absolute objection to any sort of gun control legislation.

On the day after the Uvalde elementary school massacre, Senate minority leader McConnell took to the Senate floor to declare himself and the nation “sickened and outraged by the senseless evil” that left at least 19 students and two teachers “innocent young lives murdered for no apparent reason at all.”

No mention of guns or any potential legislation, just the statement, ‘Words simply fail.’

After tasking Sen. John Cornyn (R, TX) to negotiate with Democrats on potential legislative actions to stop the epidemic of gun violence in America, McConnell went on the record stating, “Background checks and ‘red flags’ will probably lead the discussion — those are for sure two items that will be front and center.”

What?  No mention of high-velocity high-capacity semi-automatic military style weapons?  No mention of high-capacity magazines which allow the shooter to mimic a machine gun?  No discussion about military style ammunition which launches at 3,000 + feet per second, and has the likelihood to fragment and/or expand to create an exit wound the size of an orange?

What?  No mention of studies on human brain development which have proved that female brain development occurs at a more rapid pace than males of a similar age? The frontal cortex — the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act — develops later in males than in females.  The majority of research tells us that females tend to reach maturity toward the end of adolescence; where in males, the frontal cortex is still changing and maturing well into adulthood.

We know that: (1) Over 85% of U.S. homicides are committed by males; (2) Male brain development is delayed to early adulthood; and (3) The vast majority of mass homicides in the U.S. over the past decade have been committed by American males under 25 using a military-style assault weapon with high-capacity magazine(s).

Yet, McConnell stays focused.  “We have a Second Amendment to the Constitution. We take it seriously. There’s the right to keep and bear arms in this country,” McConnell said.  “And so what I’ve done is encourage some bipartisan discussions that are going on. In fact, I just had a call with one of the members of it to see if we can find a way forward consistent with the Second Amendment that targets the problem.”

And another McConnell soundbite: “I am hopeful that we could come up with a bipartisan solution that’s directly related to the facts of this awful massacre. I’m going to keep in touch with them, and hopefully we can get an outcome that can actually pass and become law rather than just scoring points back and forth.”

Translation:  McConnell will encourage and support activities related to school security and mental health, but don’t expect him to ever say “gun”. Mitch may be the very best Silver Tongued Orator we will ever encounter live and in person.

The time for action on responsible gun control has long passed, yet the opportunity is front and center.

Wayne LaPierre carved out a very lucrative career for himself based on a concept that former Chief Justice Warren E. Burger called “one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public.”

In 1996, under extraordinary pressure from the NRA and other pro-gun rights factions, Congress essentially shut down support for CDC-supported-research into the causes of gun violence.

Human Brain Development: Despite a paucity of research on gun violence, we can look to dozens of studies on human brain development which have provided a rich array of data strongly supporting the fact that female brain development occurs at a more rapid pace than males of a similar age.

Specifically, the frontal cortex — the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act — develops later in males than in females.  The majority of research tells us that females tend to reach maturity toward the end of adolescence; where in males, the frontal cortex is still changing and maturing well into adulthood.

One research paper from an independent private college published in 2015 asserted that, “Men commit over 85% of all homicides, 91% of all same-sex homicides and 97% of all same-sex homicides in which the victim and killer aren’t related to each other.”

The vast majority of mass homicides in the U.S. over the past decade have been committed by American males under 25 using a military-style assault weapon with high-capacity magazine(s).

Although we lack irrefutable proof of causality, it seems reasonable to postulate that eliminating the availability of firearms, accessories and ammunition which are derived from and/or modelled on military grade assault weapons would likely reduce — and eventually eliminate — the opportunity for young American males to obtain and/or use these deadly weapons.

Silver tongued orators: While many of our elected officials in Congress have used their silver tongues to concurrently placate the people and please the NRA, our nation has been violated by domestic terrorists, generally armed with AR15-style weapons.

AR-15: The small-bore, high-velocity AR-15 rifle was originally designed for military use under the mandate: “high-velocity; full and semi auto fire; 20 shot magazine; 6lbs loaded; able to penetrate both sides of a standard Army helmet at 500 meters.” When it entered Army service in the 1960s, it was renamed the M16.

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994) outlawed the manufacture, transfer, or possession of “semiautomatic assault weapons” for civilian use. Unfortunately, that Ban expired in 2004, and since then we have observed the NRA (and some other groups) spending millions of dollars annually on lobbyists to quash any attempts to even discuss rational and reasonable gun control measure.

Example:  An Assault Weapons Ban bill introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein with 37 co-sponsors (S.736 — 117th Congress) was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary in March 2021 where it has languished ever since.

NRA response to Feinstein’s bill:  ‘Outlawing commonly owned semi-automatic rifles every day Americans use for hunting, recreational shooting, and self-defense will not reduce gun crimes or firearm related homicides. The ban she’s currently offering is just one more attack on the rights of law-abiding gun owners that will have zero effect on crime.’

The NRA has long taken the position that semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 are used for “recreational target shooting, hunting, and home defense” and states that ‘law-abiding firearms owners shouldn’t be penalized because of homicidal loners who use semi-automatics like the AR-15 for criminal purposes.’

The vast majority of independent firearm experts don’t support this position.

Recreational target shooting?  Sure.  Who could refute the adrenaline rush of firing a weapon that is as close to a machine gun in operation as you can legally possess?

Hunting?  Not so much.  The best practice guideline for hunters incorporates a ‘quick clean kill’ which ideally is a one-shot kill, resulting in an immediate downing of the animal; minimizing suffering; reducing damage to the meat; and making the harvest and field dressing much easier.

The AR-15 variants are often effective due to their ability enable anyone to ‘Spray and Pray’ – not for conformance with the one-shot kill preferred by responsible sport hunters.

Home defense?  Not in my home, and hopefully not in my neighborhood. Although the AR-15 is a ‘relatively short’ long-gun, it can be tough to maneuver and aim in tight quarters. With a muzzle velocity in excess of 3,000 fps, it will over-penetrate, sending bullets through the walls of your house, endangering family members and possibly into the walls of your neighbor’s house.  When equipped with a quick-change 30 round magazine — and firing at a rate of 45 rounds per minute — it’s not hard to imagine how many rounds can be launched in a very short period of time.

The core solutions to put a halt to senseless massacres — primarily orchestrated by young domestic terrorists — are well-known.  Eliminating assault weapons is # 1.

Congressional Focus and Priorities:  Instead of working collaboratively to fix a myriad of strategic and critical domestic problems, a rather sizable number of our U.S. elected officials seem to prefer to focus their time and effort on banning books; legislating elementary school curriculum and content; and punishing those who don’t agree with them.

It’s time for our Congress to tell the NRA that they will support rational legislation on 2nd Amendment Rights, with the caveat that in a modern, polite and peaceful society, there is no place for civilian possession and /or use for firearms, accessories and ammunition which are derived from and/or modelled after military- grade assault weapons.

President Biden:  You are absolutely on the right track.

Members of Congress:  No more groveling; no more boot-licking; no more vacillating at or with the NRA.  You still have the time and ability to redeem yourselves as decent human beings. Please don’t squander this opportunity.  Support, fast-track and pass S. 736.

A timeless and highly polarized topic….

The AR-15 was designed by ArmaLite in 1957 in response to a request from the U.S. Army to develop a rifle with “high-velocity; full- and semi-auto fire; 20 shot magazine; 6-lbs loaded; able to penetrate both sides of a standard Army helmet at 500 meters”.

When it entered Army service in the 1960s, it was named the “M16”. When the semi-automatic version of the rifle was later introduced by ArmaLite to the civilian market, it was known as the “AR-15”.

From 1994 to 2004, AR-15-style rifles were subject to (the now-expired) Federal Assault Weapons Ban which outlawed manufacture of these and other assault-style weapons for civilian use.

Following the expiration of the Ban, AR-15-style weapons attained great popularity in the U.S. They have been used in countless mass shootings across the U.S. (including: Buffalo; Sandy Hook; Aurora; Boulder; Parkland; Las Vegas; San Bernardino; Sutherland Springs; Nashville; Midland–Odessa; Poway; and the Tree of Life Synagogue.

I wonder if the epidemic of mass shootings in the U.S. could be directly correlated to the extreme popularity of this weapon?

Meanwhile, most independent firearm experts don’t consider the AR-15 (or its clones) to be a good choice for either hunting or home-defense uses.

One reason is that its standard .223 caliber ammunition doesn’t offer much stopping power for anything other than small game. It is a very high velocity cartridge (muzzle velocity > 3,000 fps). When combined with the capacity to fire up to 45 rounds per minute, the AR becomes extremely dangerous to bystanders in home defense situations due to over-penetration and random ‘spray’.

Many hunters find the rifle controversial, arguing that AR-15-style rifles encourage a “spray and pray” technique which is contrary to best practices.

One way to reduce over-penetration and improve stopping power is to use hollow point or soft point ammunition; some opt for the more controversial ‘green tip’ rounds vs. the standard full metal jacket rounds.

One hunter, a former soldier himself, said it well, “I served in the military and the M-16 was the weapon I used. It was designed as an assault weapon, plain and simple. A hunter doesn’t need a semi-automatic rifle to hunt. If he says he does, he sucks as a marksman, and should go play video games. During hunting season, you can see more men running around the bush all cammo’d up with assault vests and face paint with tricked out AR’s. These are not hunters but wannabe weekend warriors.”

The folks in Ukraine are fighting for their very existence against an outside enemy that wants to destroy them and their entire country. Here at home, we experienced another mass shooting at an elementary school, this time in Texas (5/24/22). The solutions to put a halt to these senseless massacres — primarily orchestrated by young domestic terrorists — are well-known.

But, instead of fixing critical domestic problems, a rather sizable number of our U.S. elected officials prefer to focus their time and effort on banning books; legislating elementary school curriculum and content; and punishing those who don’t agree with them.

It’s very sad, indeed.

When I was growing up in Buffalo, we learned about current events from regulated media sources, including radio and television broadcasts.  These entities were regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an entity which was created by the federal Communications Act of 1934 which combined and organized federal regulation of telephone, telegraph, and radio communications.

One of the critical purposes of the Communications Act pertained to national security, law enforcement, and intelligence activities.

In my household, we also subscribed to morning and evening print newspapers which were privately owned, independently distributed by subscription only, yet still subject to some limited oversight and regulation by the FCC.

The Telecommunications Act of 1966 updated much of the Communications Act of 1934 to encompass technology changes to include broadcast television and cable stations which had not been subject to laws governing the public airwaves.

Today, the FCC regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

The FCC is an independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress which serves as the primary authority for U.S. communications law, regulation and technological innovation, and it continues to serve as a primary resource for national security, law enforcement, and intelligence activities.

No one could argue that technology has evolved exponentially since 1966, with digital technology transforming the business of news, including profound implications for information dissemination, publishing and operations.

The most dramatic impacts on operating models have been in production and distribution, transforming from a single product to a multi-products array of channels and formats, such as:

  • Desktop, tablet, mobile and watch sites/apps;
  • Channels, including on-platform owned products; and off-platform (email, Facebook, text); and
  • Third party, off-platform (Snapchat, Apple news, Yahoo) formats: Video, interactive graphics, messaging, podcasts, and many more.

This shift in distribution flows through to production, including the shift from a process geared around the “daily miracle” of a print newspaper to a 24/7 digital news cycle and the use of data & analytics to assess performance and make decisions on both content and delivery.

How can it be that the FCC has been unable to adapt to these rapidly evolving technology changes?  The FCC failed us by not identifying, encompassing and including new and emerging means of mass communication delivered on the internet, including such social media platforms as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Virtually all of the dangers the FCC was intended to protect us from have been incubated and nurtured on the internet, including: (a) promotion and amplification of conspiracy theories; (b) empowerment of fringe groups; (c) foreign influences into American politics; (d) infusion of false narratives into current events; and (f) cyber-attacks on electric-grid and other crucial infrastructure which have been confirmed in the US, the Middle East, Germany, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

Our national well-being depends not just on our confidence in our government but also on the integrity and reliability of private companies through which we lead our digital lives.

Recently, hundreds of armed, self-proclaimed militiamen converged on Gettysburg after a single Facebook page promoted the fake story that Antifa protesters planned to burn American flags there. Prior to the 2020 Presidential election, e-mails and videos which eventually were attributed to the Iranian government were sent to voters in Arizona, Florida, and Alaska, purporting to be from the Proud Boys urging recipients to “Vote for Trump or we will come after you.”

A physical wall along our southern border with Mexico is a great soundbite, but the 21st Century threats to our national security have little to do with migration of aggrieved and oppressed people who are clawing for survival and self-sufficiency.

The real threats to our national security are from conspiracy theorists; fringe groups; foreign influencers; religious extremists; the infusion of false narratives into current events; and cyber-attacks on infrastructure similar to those which have been confirmed in the US, the Middle East, Germany, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

Our Congress needs to shift its primary priorities toward critical strategic issues (i.e. regulatory oversight of national security issues), and to put less critical – but still important – issues into a secondary status.

Twitter currently has almost 400 Million users, about half of whom use the platform on a daily basis.

The announcement that Elon Musk will acquire Twitter is a wakeup call to our Congress.

This is no reflection on Elon Musk:  No doubt his intentions are honest and pure.  But:  What if the next entity which steps in to acquire a virtually independent and unregulated key strategic asset in our emerging 21st century communications infrastructure is a foreign entity, perhaps a foreign oligarch?

When will our elected officials draw a line between focusing on false narratives and trivia, and focusing in on critical national security issues?

“The legacy of Mitch McConnell’s obdurate and unwavering positions will haunt us for many decades.”

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the federal mask mandate for airplanes and other modes of public transportation on April 18, 2022, writing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had exceeded its authority and failed to follow proper rulemaking procedures.

Her decision led to U.S. airlines and other transportation hubs to promptly drop their mask mandates.

Judge Mizelle sits on the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Florida. She was nominated by former President Donald Trump in September 2020 at age 33, and confirmed by a 49-to-41 Senate vote later that year.

She graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law in 2012; worked at the U.S. Department of Justice and in private practice, and served as a law clerk for several federal judges as well as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.  She belongs to the conservative Federalist Society, which advocates for an originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

Following her nomination as a Federal Judge, the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary said that a majority of the group had deemed that Mizelle did not meet the requisite minimum standard of experience necessary to perform the responsibilities required by the high office of a federal trial judge.”

Despite the ABA’s recommendation to McConnell and the Senate to reject Mizelle’s nomination, the U.S. Senate confirmed her nomination in November 2020 along partisan lines.

Republican Leadership 2022

The lock-step renouncement today of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson by all 11 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee shows us that Dixiecrats still are a major factor in American politics.

Back in the day, they were called “Dixiecrats” – a tribute to their roots as southern Democrats elected to represent the lingering base of southern confederate-centric white voters, still visibly angry that the North had claimed victory in the Civil War.

Whatever political party they associated with, Dixiecrats were White Segregationists, pure and simple.

The term “Dixiecrat” dates to the 1948 States’ Rights Democratic Party, when a breakaway group of Southern Democrats objected to a civil rights agenda in the Democratic platform at the party’s national convention.

Immediately following the national Democratic convention in 1948, the Dixiecrats organized and held their own convention. They garnered significant support from 13 Southern states, hell-bent on gaining control over 127 electoral votes, thus potentially throwing the election to the House where they could use their power to force the major parties to abandon any civil rights intentions.

Back then, Dixiecrats were powerful men — frequently featured in prominent media stories and widely quoted.  Most of them ruthlessly used their offices and esteemed titles to spread racial fear and thwart the aspirations of black Americans.

Strom Thurmond, then governor of South Carolina, was the leader of the 1948 Dixiecrats. Thurmond was elected to the Senate in 1954, and he became a Republican in 1964 reflecting a metamorphosis in political party platforms across the U.S.

Today in 2022, the party affiliation of current Dixiecrats remains consistent with Strom Thurmond’s conversion almost 60 years ago. Each of them identifies and runs as a Republican.

Although they are no longer called ‘Dixiecrats’, their staunch commitment to Confederate values, particularly focused on White Supremacy, has never been stronger.

History does repeat itself, and not necessarily verbatim. One time, it may be blue, another time red, or maybe green.

The most important lesson we can learn from history centers on the theme, “Those who are unable or unwilling to study and learn from history are most likely to become victims of a new iteration of horrible outcomes orchestrated by bad actors who adapt and/or emulate bad behaviors from the past.”

Sarah Palin announces run for Congress

We currently have an excess supply of Wombats, Obstructionists, and probable Seditionists serving in Congress.

Some of these characters include: Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia; Jim Jordan of Ohio; Lauren Boebert of Colorado; Matt Gaetz of Florida; Madison Cawthorne of North Carolina; Louie Gohmert of Texas; Paul Gosar of Arizona; and several more.

These are folks who were nominated by their Party and encouraged to run for public office; and who were then elected to represent their constituents in Congress.

These also are the same folks who live large in public media, seemingly hell-bent on destroying the foundations of the American political system and American political values.

We recently learned of the death of Don Young of Alaska, a highly respected and the longest-serving Republican in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives.

A special election to fill his vacant seat will be held August 16, and the winner of the special election will finish the remainder of Young’s term, which ends in January 2023.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has announced her intention to run for Congress to replace Don Young.

In her announcement, Palin said our nation “is at a tipping point,” and she spoke of the need to address “out-of-control inflation, empty shelves, and gas prices that are among the highest in the world.”

“I’m in this race to win it and join the fight for freedom alongside other patriots willing to sacrifice all to save our country,” Palin said.

Sarah certainly knows the right words to say; she only lacks the knowledge and abilities to deliver on whatever promises she intends to make.

We’ve seen enough of Sarah Palin’s wisdom, experience and character from her run as the VP candidate under John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

We certainly don’t need Sarah Palin in Congress to further degrade and destroy the foundations of our American political system and political values.

Is Sen. Hawley a danger to our democracy?

Josh Hawley, the junior senator from Missouri, was mostly unknown until he joined a few other newsworthy seditionists to attempt to deny certification of Joe Biden’s election on January 6, 2021.

Hawley became a poster boy for the cause, caught on camera fist-pumping outside the Capitol just prior to the insurrection. 

Sen. Josh Hawley at the Capitol, January 6, 2021

His re-election campaign now uses this photo to embellish a number of trinkets available on his website – for example, a coffee mug is available for just $20.00.

Hawley graduated from a private Jesuit high school where he was valedictorian; is a graduate of Stanford; and of Yale Law School where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal and also served as president of the Yale Federalist Society chapter. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2018, he held a number of positions, including a stint as an associate professor at the University of Missouri Law School, where he taught constitutional law.

But, please don’t be fooled by his pedigree, boyish good looks or his melodious baritone delivery.

Hawley clearly has a penchant for disloyalty and rebellious activities focused on undermining the workings of the United States government.

And, his recent performance interrogating Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has given new meaning to the phrase “badgering the witness.”

During my college years, I was introduced to the writings of Franz Kafka; that may help explain my rather bizarre sense of humor.

Day by day, week by week: The behaviors of many of these elected officials devolves toward the bottom, the base, the nadir.

Fact-based Research?

August 8, 2019

When I was in school, there was zero tolerance for opinion-based research.

You either backed up your work with validated facts from reliable sources, or you didn’t pass the class.

In 1996, under extraordinary pressure from the NRA and other pro-gun rights factions, Congress essentially shut down support for CDC-supported-research into the causes of gun violence.

Why is this important?

The commonly accepted proactive method to solve difficult problems is known as “Root Cause Analysis”.  It relies on a rigorous independent methodology to identify the Root Cause of an intractable situation; that is, zeroing in on the primary factor that is the foundational cause of the dilemma.

Removing the Root Cause of a problem prevents the problem from recurring.  Removing a causal factor (one that may affect an event’s problematic outcome) certainly can improve an outcome, but it does not prevent its recurrence with certainty.

More than 2 decades after the Congressional ban on gun violence research, the paucity of research leaves some of our elected officials and media pundits to conjecture that ‘violent video games’, ‘mental illness and hatred’, ‘soft targets’ and plenty of other ingredients contribute toward increasing occurrences of domestic gun violence events.

A surprising number of elected officials have recently emerged, seemingly unable or unwilling to consider that access to military-style weapons could be the Root Cause of our gun violence problem.

Instead, we read or hear assertions that…‘racism, bigotry and white supremacy is the trigger. It’s not the gun’.

Research provides fact-based evidence.

There is no research which supports any notions that video games, mental illness or racism play a primary role in domestic gun violence incidents.

Despite the arbitrary Congressional moratorium on public funding toward the causes of gun violence, we have seen some compelling research from small private colleges and universities.

One research paper from an independent private college published in 2015 asserted that, “Men commit over 85% of all homicides, 91% of all same-sex homicides and 97% of all same-sex homicides in which the victim and killer aren’t related to each other.”

Many studies on human brain development have provided a rich array of data which strongly supports the fact that female brain development occurs at a more rapid pace than males of a similar age.

Specifically, the frontal cortex — the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act — develops later in males than in females.  The majority of research tells us that females tend to reach maturity toward the end of adolescence; where in males, the frontal cortex is still changing and maturing well into adulthood.

If we know that:

(1) Over 85% of U.S. homicides are committed by males;

(2) Significant scientific research supports the theory that male brain development is delayed to early adulthood;

(3) The vast majority of mass homicides in the U.S. over the past decade have been committed by American males under 30 using a military-style assault weapon with high-capacity magazine(s);

Lacking any specific research, what should we do right now to put a halt to these massacres?

Institute an immediate ban on the production, sale or civilian possession of military-style assault weapons, military-style ammunition and high-capacity magazines in the U.S.

AR-15 (AK-47, and similar weapons) have no place in a civil society, except perhaps for military and limited law enforcement use.

Removing assault weapons from civilian access on a temporary – say 5 year time-frame – will provide a window of opportunity to conduct meaningful contemporary research.

Is there a precedent to this “call to action” at the federal level?

Yes, there is.  The Public Safety Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (1994) prohibited the manufacture, transfer, or possession of “semiautomatic assault weapons” as well as “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” — defined as “any magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device” which had “the capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition”.

That legislation passed in September 1994 with a sunset provision for the assault weapon ban section. The law expired on September 13, 2004, and nothing has occurred at the federal level over the past 15 years to reign in the proliferation of civilian ownership of assault weapons, military grade ammunition and high capacity magazines.

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As a nation, we have everything to lose – and nothing to gain – by refusing to face the facts we have at hand, and to engage in proper research to help guide our future policy.