The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Winter in Chicago

The temperature bottomed out at -14.4°C around 1:30 am, and has climbed ever so slowly since then to -0.3°:

Will we get above freezing? The forecast says yes, any moment now. But the sun will set in about 5 minutes. Anyway, a guy can dream, right?

Meanwhile, Chicago's teachers and schools have agreed to let the kids back tomorrow, even as the mayor herself tested positive for Covid. And the Art Institute's workforce has formed a union, which will operate under AFSCME.

And that's not all:

And finally, just as no one could have predicted that more guns leads to more gun violence, the same people could not have predicted that the NFT craze would lead to NFT fraud.

Pandemic + guns = mayhem

Chicago had almost 800 murders last year, the first time since 1996 that we've seen so many:

But that total count does not include people shot and killed in shootings on Chicago expressways, as they are the jurisdiction of the Illinois State Police. When that number is included the city reached at least 800 homicides, according to Tribune reporting in 2021.

The CPD figure also does not include self-defense shootings or fatal shootings by police officers.

All told, there were at least 4,300 gunshot victims, including those who suffered both fatal and nonfatal injuries, according to CPD data. The number is a significant increase from 2018, when 2,800 people were shot.

The increase in gun violence, mirrored in other major cities, has coincided with the two years of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, it did coincide with the pandemic, but the conservative Chicago Tribune muddies the waters a bit. In the last two years, Americans bought more guns than in any other two-year period. According to The Guardian, 5.4 million Americans bought guns for the first time in from January 2020 to April 2021, compared with 2.4 million in 2019.

The US Supreme Court's Republican majority seems poised to invalidate the last remaining restrictions on who can carry a firearm in public. What will it take to restore meaningful gun regulations in the US? Or at least in places like Chicago that need them?

"Ghost guns" aren't the problem—guns are

LTU history professor Andrew C McKevitt explains how gun capitalism fuels our gun crisis, not "ghost guns" (or "Saturday Night Specials" or mail-order guns or...):

Ghost guns are the latest iteration of this variety of moral panic, which distracts from and obscures the most direct source of the gun violence that plagues us: American gun capitalism, with its largely unrestricted production, distribution, marketing and sale of civilian firearms unequaled anywhere in the world. That system has placed a staggering 400 million guns in private hands in the United States, virtually all of them acquired through legal commerce — including the common firearm used in the Oxford High School shooting, which was purchased on Black Friday by the suspect’s father.

Moral panics over niche firearms like ghost guns enable Americans to imagine we are addressing an intractable problem. But by portraying the gun issue as an ethical one — delineating virtuous and unvirtuous uses and users of guns — gun panics ignore the economics at the heart of the problem and contribute to worse social outcomes, like greater criminalization, while failing to stem gun violence.

For seven decades, gun panics have shaped gun control politics and policy, resulting in a discussion driven by distinctions between virtuous and unvirtuous gun use. Such a dichotomy obscures the fundamental reality of gun life in America: Gun capitalism has put more than 400 million guns in Americans’ hands.

Gun panics operate on the specter of random violent crime, which has never represented the majority of gun deaths; Americans were and are much more likely to suffer gun violence at their own hands or those of people they know.

Along the same lines, journalist and retired politician David Pepper calls out broken state legislatures, such as Michigan's, that thwart the will of clear majorities of voters who favor stronger firearms regulation.

Egregiously bad parenting

Police arrested Jennifer and James Crumbley at a commercial building in Detroit today after a day-long manhunt. They're the parents of the kid who killed four of his high school classmates last week, and wow, are they in trouble:

Prosecutors allege that the parents bought the gun for their son, and that Jennifer Crumbley boasted on social media about taking her son to a shooting range to try it out. Authorities also say 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley’s parents left the gun unlocked and neglected to act on concerns expressed by school officials that he might act violently.

Hours after announcing that the pair was being charged — an extraordinarily rare move to hold parents accountable when a minor uses a weapon in a school shooting — police officials said that the couple had gone missing. They were located overnight in a commercial building after an extensive search involving police dogs, local law enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service, authorities said.

The details of how these idiots enabled their kid to shoot a dozen people boggle the mind:

According to the criminal complaint described by McDonald at a press conference, the Sig Sauer 9mm pistol that Ethan used to kill fellow students was purchased by James Crumbley at a local gun store with his son present on November 26, four days before the rampage.  

“Just got my new beauty today,” Ethan posted on social media that same day, according to the complaint, along with photos of the Sig Sauer weapon.

“Mom and son day, testing out his new Christmas present,” Jennifer allegedly posted on social media the following day.

In the days leading up to the attack, an Oxford High teacher had “observed Ethan searching ammunition on his cellphone during class,” according to McDonald—a common warning behavior in school shooting cases. That prompted attempts by worried school officials to contact his parents via phone and email; the school got no response from the Crumbleys, said McDonald. Shortly after that outreach, Jennifer exchanged text messages with her son, according to McDonald.

“LOL, I’m not mad at you,” she allegedly texted to Ethan. “You have to learn not to get caught.”

By the morning of the shooting, graphically violent images Ethan had drawn in class prompted school officials to convene an urgent meeting with the Crumbleys and their son at the school. In his backpack, Ethan had the Sig Sauer and dozens of rounds of ammunition, according to prosecutors. Whether the parents may have suspected or been aware of that is unknown, but according to McDonald they did not ask about the whereabouts of the newly purchased weapon or inspect Ethan’s backpack. They left the high school, refusing a recommendation to take Ethan with them, according to McDonald. “He was returned to the classroom,” she said. Investigators further determined that the gun had been stored in an unlocked drawer in the Crumbley’s home.

The utter depravity.

The couple have pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, they could spend the rest of their lives in prison. I hope they do.

Nice fall you've got there

While running errands this morning I had the same thought I've had for the past three or so weeks: the trees look great this autumn. Whatever combination of heat, precipitation, and the gradual cooling we've had since the beginning of October, the trees refuse to give up their leaves yet, giving us cathedrals of yellow, orange, and red over our streets.

And then I come home to a bunch of news stories that also remind me everything changes:

  • Like most sentient humans, Adam Serwer feels no surprise (but plenty of disgust) that a Wisconsin jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse: "This is the legal regime that a powerful minority of gun-rights advocates have built—one in which Americans are encouraged to settle their differences with lethal force, preferably leaving as few witnesses capable of testimony as possible."
  • Charles Blow worries about the follow-on effectsi.e., vigilantism. Says Blow, "Right-wing gun culture is not unlike the wellness industry, in that it requires the cultivation of a sustained insecurity in its audience, in order to facilitate the endless purchase of its products."
  • Dan Friedman finds Rittenhouse's acquittal terrifying: "[M]ost reasonable people would agree that armed vigilantes facing off with armed protesters, or rioters—while police hide blocks away in armored vehicles—is, by and large, bad. But in Kenosha, and much the country, it is legal. And it is becoming normal. ... [T]he biggest failure was that the events of the trial, and the public perception of it, will not deter the kind of conduct that led to it. It seems sure to cause more right-wing vigilantism, more armed confrontations, and more political violence in the streets."

Outside of Kenosha:

Finally, Israel's government has loosened the certification process for Kashrut inspectors, to the outrage (do they express any other emotion?) of the Haredim. One possible factor? "The head of the Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut division was indicted on bribery charges in 2020 after being videotaped allegedly accepting envelopes of cash from food importers." Oy gevalt!

Something new, something old

A nearly-all-white Kenosha, Wis., jury acquitted Killer Smurf Kyle Rittenhouse of all charges today, which will have the immediate effect of turning Kenosha into a war zone, and the long-term effect of escalating violence at what would otherwise be peaceful protests nationwide. I haven't followed the case closely, though I do trust the sources I've read who say an acquittal would make sense under Wisconsin law. But I doubt that most people who haven't gone to law school will see it that way, or even care.

Also this morning, in a more positive vein: President Biden availed himself of the 25th Amendment while undergoing a routine colonoscopy, temporarily making Kamala Harris the first woman ever to hold the power of the presidency in this country. I don't know of another member or former member of the British Commonwealth that hasn't yet done this, and in all of those other countries, the women in question held permanent authority, not just power for an hour or two. In fact, the first one held absolute power from 1558 to 1603, without missing a beat. Still, it's a milestone.

So, nu, how's by you?

After taking Cassie on a 45-minute walk before the heat hits us, I've spent the morning debugging, watching these news stories pile up for lunchtime reading:

Finally, Chicago architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has revealed conceptual drawings for a moon base.

The world still spins

As much fun as Cassie and I have had over the last few days, the news around the world didn't stop:

Finally, journalist Jack Lieb filmed D-Day using a 16mm home movie camera, which you can see on the National Archives blog. It's really cool.

Because conservatives love states' rights

SDCA Senior Judge Roger Benitez, a George W Bush appointee, has ruled that California's assault-weapons ban violates the 2nd Amendment:

The state’s definition of illegal military-style rifles unlawfully deprives law-abiding Californians of weapons commonly allowed in most other states and by the U.S. Supreme Court, the judge wrote.

Judge Roger T. Benitez, who has favored pro-gun groups in past rulings, described the AR-15 rifle, used in many of the nation's deadliest mass shootings, as an ideal weapon.

"Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment," he wrote in Friday's decision.

"Yet, the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR15 type rifle," Benitez continued. "Therefore, this Court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional."

What a novel theory: other states allow this thing, so California must also. And yet I would bet you an entire dollar that Judge Benitez would disagree with his own theory as regards, say, marijuana or abortions.

The hypocrisy of Republicans on this issue is a lot like their hypocrisy on many others: what they want, others must have; what they don't want, no one else can have. The Federal government can't tell states they have to allow abortions, but they can tell states they can't ban the causes of the biggest health crisis in America since the invention of the automobile.

Benitez' opinion opens with a lengthy argument that the AR-15, a weapon designed specifically to allow American infantry to kill lots of people as reliably and as easily as possible, really isn't as deadly as someone's hands (no, really, footnote 3 on page 3). But really, he goes on, the term "assault weapon" is too broadly defined to be useful, but even if the AR-15 is an assault rifle, "like all guns, [it] can be used for ill or for good" (at 8).

Judge Benitez does not elaborate on the good that an AR-15 can do.

Naturally his opinion quotes dissents from Thomas, Scalia, and Kavanaugh quite a bit. For non-lawyers, quoting a dissent usually signals that the judge knows he's on the wrong side of precedent, but hopes that he can create new precedent if the case goes all the way up on appeal. He also spends a lot of time on Heller, which, I'm sure even casual Daily Parker readers know, I think was wrongly decided and has caused no end of suffering all over the US.

I expect it will. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will probably overturn Benitez, as I would guess they have done on many previous occasions. I have little doubt that our hyper-politicized Supreme Court will grant certiorari, and if so, probably reverse the appellate court.

I'm sick of my country's gun fetish. And assholes like Judge Benitez, who proudly say "there's no way to prevent this" in the only country where this regularly happens.

Bad faith and unfair dealing

The bankruptcy court for the Northern District of Texas has dismissed the National Rifle Association's bankruptcy petition as a sham meant to avoid the New York Attorney General's case against them:

"The question the Court is faced with is whether the existential threat facing the NRA is the type of threat that the Bankruptcy Code is meant to protect against. The Court believes it is not," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Harlin Hale wrote in a 38-page decision.

The group filed for bankruptcy in January at the direction of the NRA's chief executive, Wayne LaPierre — and unbeknownst to some of the organization's board of directors and top officials.

"What concerns the Court most though is the surreptitious manner in which Mr. LaPierre obtained and exercised authority to file bankruptcy for the NRA. Excluding so many people from the process of deciding to file for bankruptcy, including the vast majority of the board of directors, the chief financial officer, and the general counsel, is nothing less than shocking," the Northern District of Texas judge wrote.

Bankruptcy judges tend not to take a lot of bullshit. I'm pretty sure Judge Hale not only found the NRA's petition baldly disingenuous, but he probably also believed that the NRA chose to file in his court because Wayne LaPierre thought a court in Texas might have some sympathy for the gun-rights organization. Maybe Hale does; but that clearly didn't translate into sympathy for LaPierre.

Pass the popcorn.