Why Are White Men Stockpiling guns?

Scientific America:

Research suggests it’s largely because they’re anxious about their ability to protect their families, insecure about their place in the job market and beset by racial fears.

 

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What Happened at the Thailand ‘Black Site’ Run by Trump’s CIA Pick

The Atlantic:

As soon as Gina Haspel got the nomination to become CIA director, America’s debate over the use of torture came roaring back. The country has intermittently reckoned with the legacy of the Bush-era programs that sanctioned the disappearance and torture of terrorism suspects—recently, for instance, when then-candidate Trump declared in 2016 that “torture works” and that he wanted to bring back outlawed techniques like waterboarding and “much worse.” And though the CIA stopped using what it called “enhanced interrogation” methods about a decade ago, Haspel was among those who oversaw their use after 9/11.

In 2002, Haspel was in charge of a secret “black site” prison in Thailand where detainees were subject to abusive interrogation techniques. In a 6,700-page classified report on the CIA’s interrogation programs, the Senate Intelligence Committee documented among other things what agency contractors and personnel did at the site to Abu Zubaydah—a Saudi-born Palestinian citizen accused of a “key role” in al-Qaeda, including possible advance knowledge of major attacks—and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri—a Saudi national suspected of involvement in al-Qaeda’s bombing of the American destroyer USS Cole in 2000. In 2018, ProPublica retracted an earlier report that said Haspel ran the site during Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation. Haspel’s tenure began after the Zubaydah episode, according to The New York Times, but coincided with at least some of the torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. (Both are now imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, where they are considered “high value” detainees.)

The committee released a declassified summary of its report in 2014. Among other key conclusions, the committee’s majority held that the CIA had not only misled policymakers and the public about the nature of its interrogation programs, but also that the techniques used were ineffective as well as brutal. Though Haspel’s name never appears in the declassified summary, other reports have identified her as having been in charge of the Thailand site, which the summary refers to as “Detention Site Green,” subsequent to the torture of Abu Zubaydah. That site was closed by the end of 2002; it would take another four years for Abu Zubaydah to be transferred from CIA custody to Guantanamo, where he has been incarcerated for more than 11 years.

What follows is an excerpt, lightly edited for length, of the Intelligence Committee’s summary report dealing with what happened at CIA black sites, including at Detention Site Green.

Warning: the extracts from the report are profoundly disturbing.

Open Up the Registers

Andy Wightman at Land Matters:

Over the decades I have spent researching landownership, I have developed a range of methods and sources. Although the Register of Sasines and Land Register are the definitive sources, they can be impossible to use in certain circumstances, For example, if you want to know who owns a field at a junction of a country road in Fife, you won’t be able to do so from official sources since you need an address or a name of a person and even the map-based Land Register will often be unhelpful in such circumstances.

Key to success in such cases is to find out some information from other sources to enable interrogation of the Registers. One such source is a very helpful online map called Pastmap [http://pastmap.org.uk] which provides information on various elements of the historic environment. If there is a Scheduled Monument located on or near land whose ownership you wish to establish, then a link is provided to the legal documents that are registered in the Register of Sasines. These provide details of the ownership of the land at the time of scheduling.

In 2012, however, I noticed that Historic Scotland had redacted the ownership information. See the example (second page) of the Bonawe Iron Furnace Schedule before redaction and after redaction.

I wrote to Historic Scotland and asked them why the schedules were now being redacted. They replied that,

Since the publication of the online schedule we have begun to redact the names and the addresses of legal owners from the scheduling documents given the perceived additional risks and sensitivities associated with publication of this information in such a readily and widely accessible format online.”

We are also considering removing legal ownership details from our scheduling certificates completely as part of an overall review of our scheduling documentation.”

These documents are recorded and made available to the public in the Register of Sasines (and made available for public inspection in the National Records of Scotland) with no redactions, so why conceal this information on Pastmap? What exactly are the “sensitivities” over this information? And why is Historic Scotland considering removing these details completely in future? Above all, if the Scottish Government is committed (as it claims it is) to transparency, why is it seeking to conceal this information from the one freely available source to the public?

How the Daily Mail covers news appears to depend on who’s making it

For example:

 

‘Complexity’: ontology or just an epistemological tactic?

John Naughton at Memex 1.1:

I’m reading Philip Mirowski’s Never Let A Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown. In Chapter 1 he reflects on the curious fact that nothing much changed as a result. “The strangest thing”, he writes,

was that instead of leading to a collapse of the right-wing neoliberalism that had enabled the catastrophe to happen, the crisis actually seemed to strengthen the Right. It took a rare degree of self-confidence or fortitude not to gasp dumbfounded at the roaring resurgence of the right so soon after the most catastrophic global economic collapse after the Great Depression of the 1930s. “Incongruity” seems too polite a term to describe the unfolding of events; “contradiction” seems too outmoded. Austerity became the watchword in almost every country; governments everywhere became the scapegoats for dissatisfaction of every stripe, including that provoked by austerity. In the name of probity, the working class was attacked from all sides, even by nominal “socialist” parties… The pervasive dominance of neoliberal doctrines and right-wing parties worldwide from Europe to North America to Asia has flummoxed left parties that, just a few short years ago, had been confident they had been finally making headway after decades of neoliberal encroachment. Brazenly, in many cases parties on the left were unceremoniously voted out because they had struggled to contain the worst fallout from the crisis. By contrast, the financial institutions that had precipitated the crisis and had been rescued by governmental action were doing just fine — nay, prospering at pre-crisis rates — and in a bald display of uninflected ingratitude, were intently bankrolling the resurgent right. Indeed, the astounding recovery of corporate profits practically guaranteed the luxuriant post-crisis exfoliation of Think Tank Pontification. nationalist proto-fascist movements sprouted in the most unlikely places, and propounded arguments bereft of a scintilla of sense. “Nightmare” did not register as hyperbolic; it was the banjax of the vanities.

That’s just about the most succinct expression of the bewilderment that most of us felt — or certainly that I felt as I watched the UK post-crisis, Tory-led coalition government blaming the populace (or its Labour predecessor) for the debacle, and imposing ‘austerity’ as the punishment for popular irresponsibility rather than as the price of forcing the public to shoulder the costs of bankers’ greed and recklessness. And it’s why I always thought that, eventually, the penny would drop with electorates, and why the current ways of populist anger towards ‘elites’ comes as no surprise. In fact the only surprising thing about it is that it took so long to materialise.

This is the resort to ‘complexity’ as an epistemological or ideological device. It’s a way of saying that some things are beyond analysis or explanation. Sometimes this is true: complex systems exist and they are inherently unpredictable and sometimes intrinsically incomprehensible. But a banking system run as a racket does not fall into that category.

 

Firearm-related injuries drop during NRA conventions

Reuters:

Gunshot-related deaths and injuries temporarily show a dramatic decline when the National Rifle Association is holding its annual convention, according to a new analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The authors say it’s evidence that firearms – even in the hands of experienced users – are inherently dangerous and accidents don’t just happen among novices.

Dr. Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School and Andrew Olenski of Columbia University compared firearm injuries during the conventions each year from 2007 through 2015 with injury rates three weeks before and three weeks after each event.

A decline of 63 percent was seen in the states where the conventions were being held, apparently due to large numbers of gun owners being at the events, as well as, in some cases, gun venues such as firing ranges or hunting grounds having closed while their staff attended the convention.

Nationally, there was a 20 percent reduction in firearm injuries during the convention.

In contrast, gun-related crime did not decrease during the conventions.

The drop in injuries was only seen among men. It was most prominent in the states with the highest rate of gun ownership, and among people living in the South and the West.

“These findings are consistent with reductions in firearm injuries occurring as a result of lower rates of firearm use during the brief period when many firearm owners and owners of places where firearms are used may be attending an NRA convention,” they said. “Our results suggest that firearm-safety concerns and risks of injury are relevant even among experienced gun owners.”

How poverty changes your mind-set

Chicago Booth Review:

The proportion of the global population living on less than $1.90 per person per day has fallen—from 18 percent in 2008 to 11 percent in 2013, according to the World Bank. In the United States, however, the poverty rate has been more stubborn—41 million people lived below the country’s poverty line in 2016, about 13 percent of the population, nearly the same rate as in 2007. Recent policy initiatives haven’t meaningfully reduced that rate. House Speaker Paul Ryan (Republican of Wisconsin) indicated this past December that the government would make fighting poverty, but also welfare, which many Republicans believe is a failed policy, a priority in 2018.

US lawmakers have expressed frustration when investments such as welfare programs don’t pull people out of poverty. “I believe in helping those who cannot help themselves but would if they could,” said Senator Orrin Hatch (Republican of Utah) this past December, when explaining his views on government spending. “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”

Hatch’s statement reflects a common view that removing government support would force many poor people to improve their conditions themselves. Without welfare and government assistance, would able-bodied people find a job, get an education, stop buying lottery tickets, and focus on paying bills?

Not quite, indicate researchers, whose work is telling a different story of poverty. Contrary to the refrain that bad decisions lead to poverty, data indicate that it is the cognitive toll of being poor that leads to bad decisions. And actually, decisions that may seem counterproductive could be entirely rational, even shrewd. The findings suggest that to successfully reduce poverty, it would help to take this psychology into account.

 

The idea of “the liberal media” and its roots in the civil rights movement

David Greenberg in The Sixties, a Journal of History, Politics and Culture:

Scholars often ask whether the mainstream news media exhibit a liberal bias, but rarely where the idea of such a bias first came from. This article traces the idea’s origins to the civil rights movement. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, white Southerners grew resentful toward national journalists who covered the movement, whom they saw as advocating desegregation. Losing the battle for public opinion, Southern spokesmen such as Alabama Governor George Wallace adopted a populistic idiom, promoting the notion that an elite, left‐leaning Northeastern media were distorting the news to fit their politics – an idea that soon, under President Nixon, became conservative dogma.