Patriot's Blog

DESTROYING The Welfare State

Thomas Sowell DESTROYS The Welfare State In One Sentence

 

Black Americans still face a struggle in American society that some people do not recognize. While the United States is the land of opportunity for all regardless of race, many black Americans find getting out of poverty a nearly impossible task. It is an incredibly sad situation, but one which has clearly identifiable roots.

While the Left will claim that there is a massive system of racist repression throughout our society that black Americans need to overcome, the real issue is not something as simple as the legacies of slavery or Jim Crow. While those institutions are blights upon our history, those factors do not directly affect the everyday lives of black Americans in the same way that another institution does currently.

That institution, as discussed by economist Walter Williams, is the welfare state, and specifically its legacy of destruction on the family unit.

It’s no secret that crime rates are higher among black Americans; it is also no secret that the vast majority of births in the black American population happen outside of wedlock, 75% to be exact. But why is this the case?

The welfare state has systematically preyed upon the family unit of black Americans since its inception. The way the system is structured financially incentivizes single parent households, and organizations like Planned Parenthood have also done their part to rip apart the fabric of the family as well.

The numbers are simple staggering, as Williams notes:

“The No. 1 problem among blacks is the effects stemming from a very weak family structure. Children from fatherless homes are likelier to drop out of high school, die by suicide, have behavioral disorders, join gangs, commit crimes and end up in prison. They are also likelier to live in poverty-stricken households. But is the weak black family a legacy of slavery? In 1960, just 22 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families. Fifty years later, more than 70 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families. Here’s my question: Was the increase in single-parent black families after 1960 a legacy of slavery, or might it be a legacy of the welfare state ushered in by the War on Poverty?”

The underhanded attack on the family over the past several decades has produced tangible results. While it is difficult to quantify the importance of the family, and exactly how its existence affects a child’s life, one can see the effects of is absence clearly just by looking at families that stick together vs. those who separate.

“The bottom line is that the black family was stronger the first 100 years after slavery than during what will be the second 100 years.”

Just let that thought sink in for a second. The black family unit was more intact during the years of systemic racism and oppression than it is now, after slavery and Jim Crow have largely been erased from our nation’s politics.

“At one time, almost all black families were poor, regardless of whether one or both parents were present. Today roughly 30 percent of blacks are poor. However, two-parent black families are rarely poor. Only 8 percent of black married-couple families live in poverty. Among black families in which both the husband and wife work full time, the poverty rate is under 5 percent. Poverty in black families headed by single women is 37 percent. The undeniable truth is that neither slavery nor Jim Crow nor the harshest racism has decimated the black family the way the welfare state has.”

The welfare state’s assault on the family unit has wrought devastation on black America. Children need to have both parents in their youth. Sometimes single parents can sufficiently raise a child, but on a systemic level, as a general rule, both parents need to be together, taking an active role in raising up their children.

The results of failing to do so are increased crime rates, decreased economic activity, and further breakdown of whatever semblance of the family that remains after several generations of assault.

“Then there’s education. Many black 12th-graders deal with scientific problems at the level of whites in the sixth grade. They write and do math about as well as white seventh- and eighth-graders. All of this means that an employer hiring or a college admitting the typical black high school graduate is in effect hiring or admitting an eighth-grader. Thus, one should not be surprised by the outcomes.”

Williams concludes by saying that the idea that slavery and segregation have created these problems only perpetuates what we currently see. The politicians who support government policies like the War on Poverty and labor laws backed by unions only hold down black Americans on the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder; right where they can prey on them for votes, handing out false promises that will never be fulfilled.

It’s truly saddening to see an entire population of Americans being repressed in such an underhanded way, and the means of repression are not in the form of slavery or Jim Crow laws, but in the form of an attack on the last thing upon which black Americans could rely: the family.

 

This will be the topic for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

A Growing Cancer On Congress

A Growing Cancer On Congress: The Curse Of Party-Line Voting

Just as White House Counsel John Dean famously proclaimed the Watergate cover-up of the 1970s a “cancer on the presidency,” there is now a growing cancer on Congress.  The rapid and pervasive rise of party-line voting is a cancer that is eating at the effectiveness of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  As a consequence, what was once the world’s most deliberative body, the US Senate, hardly deliberates at all, and what little is accomplished in Washington is done through party-line votes and executive orders, with devastating consequences.

The recent tax reform bill is Exhibit A, with zero Democrats voting for it in either the House or the Senate.  One Republican in the Senate and 13 in the House broke ranks to vote against it, largely out of a concern over its predicted increase in the federal debt.  With only one party at the table working on the bill, its provisions were developed last minute, with handwritten edits presented on the floor.  Deliberation, if it happened at all, was limited to one side of the aisle and a very narrow range of choices were considered in a short time frame.

Unfortunately party-line voting has become the new normal.  As recently as the early 1970s, party unity voting was around 60% but today it is closer to 90% in both the House and Senate.  If you think about the major legislative accomplishments of recent presidents, beginning with George W. Bush, you can see the problem.  Campaigning for the presidency by touting his work across the aisle as governor of Texas, Bush found that more difficult in Washington.  In his first year as president, Congress passed his No Child Left Behind education bill with strong bipartisan support, 384-45 in the House and 91-8 in the Senate.  But his next major legislation, prescription drugs for seniors, was hotly debated and the vote came largely on party lines, at least in the House, with only 8 Democrats supporting it and 8 Republicans against.

Part of Barack Obama’s “hope and change” message as a candidate included making Washington work in a bipartisan way, but that got little traction.  The Affordable Care Act, perhaps the most important piece of domestic legislation in 50 years, was passed on a straight party-line vote of Democrats.  Bipartisanship completely fell apart when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans’ “single most important thing” was making sure Obama was a one-term president, and Obama announced that he had “a pen and a phone” and would just take executive action to get things done.

Now we are shocked when Senator John McCain flies back to the Capitol from cancer treatments to announce he would not vote to repeal and replace Obamacare without a bipartisan conversation involving both parties to find the best solution.  An opinion piece in the conservative Washington Times called him “a traitor to the conservative cause.”  Apparently party discipline is more important than finding the right solution to the complex set of health care issues.

One unfortunate consequence of all this party-line voting and executive action is that policy swings back and forth or is held in the balance.  Obamacare is passed on a party-line vote and nearly repealed on one.  The same is true for Dodd-Frank.  Obama’s executive orders are simply overturned by his successor Donald Trump.  Is this any way to run a government?

One underlying problem is that the two major parties are now better sorted than before.  Whereas both the Republican and Democratic parties had some liberals, moderates and conservatives in an earlier day, now Republicans are predictably conservative and Democrats are liberal.  But another problem is that all politicians seem to care about in Washington is how a vote will best position them and their party for the next election, rather than what will make for a great piece of legislation.  Congress has devolved to marketing and winning, not deliberation and great policy.

Only when a few statesmen and the American voters stand up against party-line voting will anything change.

 

This will be the topic for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

The Problems With FISA Part 3

Lacking Congressional Oversight

In practice, congressional oversight of the FISA process and the underlying materials is severely constrained. Although they have security clearances by virtue of their office, many lawmakers are kept far away from classified documents because they do not have cleared staff to assist in processing the information, and their requests are given lower priority than members of the intelligence oversight committees.

Even members of those House and Senate intelligence committees do not always have access to everything. In the case of the Nunes memo, only the “Gang of Eight” congressional leaders and a handful of others out of the 435 members of the House of Representatives and the 100 members of the Senate reportedly had access to the underlying FISA surveillance applications and un-redacted FISC opinions.

This problem has restricted Congress members before. In 2003, when then-House intelligence committee chairman Jay Rockefeller learned of the NSA’s unconstitutional spying programs under President George W. Bush, he had little capability to fight back. He wrote to then-Vice President Dick Cheney:

“As you know, I am neither a technician nor an attorney. Given the security restrictions associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities."

Rockefeller—who knew of the programs—could not speak of them. For everyone else, reading FISA and FISC materials is close to impossible. Even after Congress passed the USA FREEDOM Act in 2015 requiring that significant FISC Opinions be released to the public, these opinions are still highly redacted and tightly guarded, and no FISA application material has never been revealed to the public.

It’s for these reasons that EFF has long called for Congress to reform how it oversees surveillance activities conducted by the Executive Branch, including by providing all members of Congress with the tools they need to meaningfully understand and challenge activities that are so often veiled in extreme secrecy.

 

This will be a four part series, this is part three of four on the topic for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

The Problems With FISA Part 2

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Its Regime of Secrecy

 

Passed in 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) dictates how the government conducts physical and electronic surveillance for national security purposes against “foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers.” FISA allows surveillance against “U.S. persons,” Americans and others in the U.S., so long as the agency doing the surveillance demonstrates and provides probable cause that the U.S. person is engaged in terrorism, espionage, or other activities on behalf of a foreign power.

Typically when law enforcement conducts a search, the Fourth Amendment requires that they get a search warrant approved by a neutral magistrate, a judge assigned to hear warrant applications. Under FISA, surveillance orders go through a slightly different review. The statute created an entirely separate court venue filled with 11 judges designated to review FISA surveillance orders. These judges make up the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).                                                                                    

Similar to how courts review standard search warrants, FISC judges review FISA surveillance applications out of public view. Judges typically hear arguments from the government and no one else, court hearings are not public, and the FISA orders themselves are kept secret.

(Notably, this warrant-like review does not happen under Section 702 of FISA, which the NSA uses to collect billions of communications without a warrant, including Americans’ communications. Under Section 702, which you can read about here, FISC judges do not review individual targets of surveillance and instead sign off on programmatic surveillance policies.)

In the FISC, secrecy in each step is heightened. The court’s opinions and any transcript or record of the proceedings are automatically classified. Even the court’s physical location is constructed to be “the nation’s most secure courtroom,” with reinforced concrete and hand scanners to keep unauthorized people out.

This secrecy is hard to unravel after the fact. When recently asked by Rep. Nunes for more information about the renewed FISA surveillance warrant on Carter Page, Rosemary Collyer, the presiding judge of the FISC wrote:

“As you know, any such transcripts would be classified. It may also be helpful for me to observe that, in a typical process of considering an application, we make no systematic record of questions we ask or responses the government gives.”

Although surveillance conducted for run-of-the-mill law enforcement is often shadowy, the FISA process is far more shielded from public view. For example, standard search warrants are used to gather evidence for later prosecutions that are by default public. That means at some point the government has to face—and knows it has to face—a defense attorney’s efforts to question the evidence gathered from the search warrant. This is known as a “motion to suppress,” and with typical search warrants, these motions are filed in a public court. When that court hears a motion to suppress, it usually issues an order discussing why the surveillance violated—or didn’t violate—the law. This is how our legal system is intended to function. Lawyers and the public actually learn what the law is through this process, because in our system it is the duty of courts to “say what the law is.” For that reason, secret law is a perversion of our system.

Moreover, the public disclosure of law enforcement search warrants serves important ends outside of any particular legal challenge. For one, they let the public know what police are doing, both in their name and with their tax dollars. Second, they allow for greater accountability when police overstep their authority or otherwise misbehave.

FISC proceedings routinely fail this test.

FISA orders are for foreign intelligence purposes, so the surveillance is rarely used in a prosecution and rarely challenged in a motion to suppress.  Moreover, even if the fruits of FISA surveillance are used in court, criminal defendants and other litigants are deprived of access to this information, so they have little way of knowing if evidence brought against them may have come from an improper FISA order. (FISA provides a mechanism for defendants to request this information, but no defendant has succeeded in doing so in FISA’s 40-year history.) This impedes a defendant’s ability to challenge their prosecution, and it prevents related, public knowledge of these challenges.

But the secrecy in FISA extends much further than FISC, adding further opaque layers between what intelligence agencies and the court do and what the public sees.

 

This will be a four part series, this is part two of four on the topic for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

The Problems With FISA Part 1

The Problems With FISA, Secrecy, and Automatically Classified Information

 

We need to talk about national security secrecy. Right now, there are two memos on everyone’s mind, each with its own version of reality. But the memos are just one piece. How the memos came to be—and why they continue to roil the waters in Congress—is more important.                                   

On January 19, staff for Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) wrote a classified memo alleging that the FBI and DOJ committed surveillance abuses in its applications for and renewal of a surveillance order against former Trump administration advisor Carter Page. Allegedly, the FBI and DOJ’s surveillance application included biased, politically-funded information.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, on which Rep. Nunes serves as chairman, later voted to release the memo. What the memo meant, however, depended on who was talking.  Some Republican House members took the memo as fact, claiming it showed “abuse” and efforts to “undermine our country.”  But Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)—who serves as Ranking Member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, across from Nunes—called the memo “profoundly misleading” and, in an opinion for The Washington Post, said it “cherry-picks facts.”

Even the FBI entered the debate, slamming the memo and saying the agency had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy." And Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd of the DOJ said releasing the memo without review would be “extraordinarily reckless.” Finally, the president said the memo “totally vindicates” him from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into his administration.

So a lawmaker made serious charges about surveillance abuses and corruption at the highest levels, and the rest of Congress and the public were ensnared in a guessing game: Could they trust Devin Nunes and what he says? Is the memo he wrote, and the allegations in it, just smoke or is there fire? Unfortunately, the information needed to evaluate his claims is hidden within multiple, nested layers of secrecy.

The secrecy starts with surveillance applications and secret court opinions, which are protected by classification that requires proper security clearance. Only a handful of lawmakers can read the materials, but even they can’t openly discuss them in public. They could write a report, but the FBI and Justice Department would ask to redact the report. After redactions, the report would be subject to a committee vote for release. If the report is cleared by committee, it ordinarily requires the president’s approval.

At any point in the process, this information could have been mislabeled, misidentified, embellished, or obscured, and we’d have almost no way of knowing.

It’s time to talk about FISA again, and the problems with its multi-layered secrecy regime.

We’re going to talk about a surveillance law that, when passed, installed secrecy both in a court system and in Congress, barring the public and their representatives from accessing important information. When that information is partially revealed, it’s near impossible for the public to trust it.

 

This will be a four part series, this is part one of four on the topic for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior

Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior

 

By age sixteen, Washington had copied out by hand, 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. They are based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. Presumably they were copied out as part of an exercise in penmanship assigned by young Washington's schoolmaster. The first English translation of the French rules appeared in 1640, and are ascribed to Francis Hawkins the twelve-year-old son of a doctor. 

 

Today many, if not all of these rules, sound a little fussy if not downright silly. It would be easy to dismiss them as outdated and appropriate to a time of powdered wigs and quills, but they reflect a focus that is increasingly difficult to find. The rules have in common a focus on other people rather than the narrow focus of our own self-interests that we find so prevalent today. Fussy or not, they represent more than just manners. They are the small sacrifices that we should all be willing to make for the good of all and the sake of living together. 

 

These rules proclaim our respect for others and in turn give us the gift of self-respect and heightened self-esteem. 

 

Richard Brookhiser, in his book on Washington wrote that "all modern manners in the western world were originally aristocratic. Courtesy meant behavior appropriate to a court; chivalry comes from chevalier – a knight. Yet Washington was to dedicate himself to freeing America from a court's control. Could manners survive the operation? Without realizing it, the Jesuits who wrote them, and the young man who copied them, were outlining and absorbing a system of courtesy appropriate to equals and near-equals. When the company for whom the decent behavior was to be performed expanded to the nation, Washington was ready. Parson Weems got this right, when he wrote that it was 'no wonder every body honoured him who honoured every body.'"

 

This will conclude the topic for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

The Border Debates' Missing Argument Part 6

How the U.S. government tackles gun trafficking — and what’s changed under Trump

 

There is an official government process in place to tackle the gun trafficking. But while critics have continued calling on the government to do more, it’s unclear whether the Trump administration has prioritized the issue.

Under an existing agreement, ATF and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a unit of the Department of Homeland Security that investigates illicit activities, work together to tackle gun trafficking to Mexico and Central America. The agencies’ cooperation is outlined in a memorandum of understanding, first reached in 2009, which established how the agencies should collaborate and share intelligence.

Currently, the two agencies meet monthly “to navigate the complexities associated with illegal international firearms trafficking and to cultivate relationships to improve the working knowledge of agencies,” said Matthew Bourke, a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The investigations agency also conducts probes and carries out arrests. According to government data, in 2018, HSI opened 1,269 investigations and made 546 arrests that were related to Counter Proliferation Investigations, a program that focuses on weapons trafficking.

Still, in recent years some government agencies have called for more action.

In its 2016 report, GAO issued another recommendation for the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) calling for a revision to the Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, a biennial report issued by ONDCP since 2007 outlining a strategy to curb the flow of illicit drugs, associated proceeds, and instruments of violence across the U.S.-Mexico border. The auditing agency recommended including in this document a set of indicators that would better measure efforts to curtail arms trafficking across the border. ONDCP has not revised the strategy since 2016 and has not yet implemented GAO’s recommendation.

“As of February of 2019, the time of our most recent outreach, there was no change in the situation,” said Jenny Grover, GAO analyst.

In March, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., requested an update to the 2016 GAO report that determined that 70 percent of firearms seized in Mexico come from the United States.

“The Trump administration talks tough, but they have turned a blind eye to this ‘iron river’ of guns flowing south. I’ve asked GAO to update its analysis of this firearms trafficking to help inform Congress’s efforts to address this challenge,” Durbin told the PBS NewsHour in a statement.

The need for more and better data on guns flowing south to Latin America from the U.S. cannot be overstated, said Matt Schroeder, a senior analyst at Small Arms Survey. Until the government has a better understanding of the problem, gun trafficking will remain a serious issue.

“Publicly available data on the arms trade — both legal and illegal — is scant,” Schroeder said. “The data that is available is often woefully inadequate for tracking illicit arms flows and identifying the sources of black market weapons.”

 

This will conclude the sixth part of this blog and will be the final part in the series. I hope you enjoyed the series and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.

The Border Debates' Missing Argument Part 5

Could stricter regulations mean less trafficking? Not necessarily

 

The availability of military assault weapons in the United States drives demand for American firearms in Mexico. “You can into gun stores in America and buy anything you need to outfit an army,” Rand said. “There’s so much lethal firepower so readily available. That’s the crux of the problem.”

Military assault weapons and ammunition bought in the U.S. can be sold for triple their original price in Mexico, which makes trafficking such a lucrative enterprise, said Zapor, the retired ATF agent.

“The firearm that I’m paying $390 for in Arizona, I’m selling in the Republic of Mexico for $4,000,” he said.

What’s more, informal firearm transactions on the so-called “gray market” — sales that occur on the margins of the legal, regulated gun market — are exceedingly difficult to monitor. That’s because straw buyers often resell the guns they buy online, where it is sometimes possible to purchase guns without a background check. And while some states require a licensed intermediary for private gun sales, others have no regulations on private sales.

The issue could be tackled by eliminating the gray market and requiring all sellers and purchasers to complete their transactions, including online sales, through a licensed dealer, Zapor said.

“The [gun] manufacturers don’t want this because the gray market accounts for millions, multiple millions of dollars in revenue from firearm sales,” Zapor said.

According to a 2017 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 22 percent of people who acquired a gun in the U.S. in the previous two years did so without a background check.

Others pointed to lax regulations at gun shows as another factor driving gun trafficking.

“The exceptions made at gun shows certainly are a weak spot, I would say for the United States and for Mexico,” Wood said. “A lot of those purchases that take place in gun shows, typically take place close to the border. “

The lack of a federal database of gun serial numbers and transactions in the U.S. plays a role as well in stymying efforts to stop trafficking. U.S. gun laws prohibit a national registry, which means that there is no database tracking gun transactions. ATF is not allowed to keep a database of gun owners. (Mexico has a database of gun applications and licenses maintained by the Secretariat of National Defense.)

When ATF wants information on a firearm, the agency “will reach out to the gun store, and then they will rely on the gun story to provide that data,” said Colby Goodman, a firearm expert and former director of Security Assistance, an organization dedicated to making information about U.S. security and defense assistance programs publicly available. “But if the gun store is in on it, you’re not going to get the right information,” he added.

In interviews, several owners of gun stores along the U.S.-Mexico border said they did not think stricter regulations would stop gun trafficking.

Store owners and employees have their own methods for weeding out potential straw buyers, said John Dury, the owner of Dury’s Gun Shop in San Antonio, Texas. Typically potential buyers are asked what they’re planning to use the gun for, and if the buyer seems unsure or lacks knowledge about the gun, the employee can stop the purchase, Dury said.

“I don’t think the problem comes from legitimate stores,” Dury said. “I think that happens more in the stolen gun market than anything. If people know there are so many background checks, they don’t want to put their name in that.”

Mike Davis, the manager of AZ Guns in Arizona, said that an individual can buy a gun in a store in the state of Arizona and “go sell it in the parking lot” without a license.

The National Rifle Association did not have a comment on whether existing gun laws play a role in gun trafficking and straw purchasing. However, in a 2009 statement on the topic, the NRA singled out Mexico’s restrictive gun laws as one of the factors that spurs weapons trafficking.

“Obviously, Mexico has a huge problem with rampant corruption that clearly cannot be blamed on the U.S.,” the NRA said in the statement at the time. “At the same time, Mexico has extremely prohibitive gun laws, yet has far worse crime than the U.S.”

 

This will conclude the Fifth part of this blog and will be broken in a series. Look forward to next week were we continue the conversation that is often missed, thank you for reading.

The Border Debates' Missing Argument Part 4

What the U.S. is doing to fight this now

ATF has four offices in Mexico, staffed by 11 special agents and 14 local staff that provide investigative support, according to Engelbert, the ATF spokesperson. The agency works with federal, state and municipal law enforcement authorities in Mexico, including the office of Mexico’s attorney general and the federal police, as well as the Mexican army, navy and customs agencies. ATF in Mexico assists local law enforcement with gun tracing and provides investigative support as well.

The agency’s personnel in Mexico initiate gun tracing operations when Mexican law enforcement request information on guns seized in homicides and other crime scenes in the country. The percentage of traces depends directly on the amount of weapons seized and reported by Mexican authorities.

And the amount of illegally trafficked weapons in Mexico is likely higher than official data suggests, since some weapons go unreported, and other weapons are stolen from the scene of the crime, said Bernard Zapor, a retired ATF agent who worked at the agency for 25 years. In some cases, Mexican authorities come across a firearm or a cache of firearms and don’t record the find or officially turn them over in a way that shows up in government statistics. “They might not ever report them. They might keep them,” Zapor said.

Data sharing, or the lack thereof, is another lingering challenge facing ATF efforts to stop gun smuggling in Mexico. In 2012, President Enrique Peña Nieto, who left office last year, initiated a policy known as Ventanilla Unica, which limited access to ATF’s gun tracing database to certain officials in the Mexican attorney general’s office. In its 2016 report on gun trafficking, the Government Accountability Office noted that U.S. officials and some Mexican officials expressed concern that limiting access to the tracing database would complicate efforts for bilateral cooperation on gun trafficking.

This limited access to ATF’s tracing database under Peña Nieto continues to be a problem.

“ATF recommends more access to eTrace by allowing accounts for other federal, state and municipal law enforcement stakeholders,” an ATF spokesperson said in an email. “Mexico believes more accounts will lead to more immediate submissions of traces and therefore quicker results for generating leads in firearms trafficking investigations.”

 

This will conclude the fourth part of this blog and will be broken in a series. Look forward to next week were we continue the conversation that is often missed, thank you for reading.

The Border Debates' Missing Argument Part 3

How guns go south

So-called “straw purchasers” play a key role in firearms trafficking from the U.S. to Mexico and other points south. Typically “straw purchasers” are intermediary or middleman buyers who purchase and execute all the paperwork required for a legal firearm transaction on behalf of someone else. These purchasers are usually American citizens who adhere to U.S. gun laws, including passing a background check or meeting other applicable federal and state gun laws.

In many cases, “traffickers will run a ring of straw buyers,” said Kristen Rand, the legislative director for the Violence Policy Center. “The traffickers are exploiting the background check system because they just find people who can have the background check, and as long as they don’t raise suspicion with the dealer, then it’s difficult to identify that this is illegal.”

Straw buyers also evade suspicion typically by avoiding buying guns in bulk. Instead of going to stores and buying 20 or 40 guns at a time, straw buyers often buy only one or two weapons, Rand said.

Once the guns are purchased, traffickers face the next challenge: smuggling them across the border without getting caught. But traffickers have ways to surmount this obstacle as well.

For starters, guns can be disassembled into many parts, making them easier to hide.The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Mexican government officials, have told the U.S. Government Accountability Office that smuggling weapon parts often limits bilateral collaboration to trace firearms, according to a 2016 GAO report that looks at U.S. efforts to combat gun trafficking.

A 2016 study by the Small Arms Survey, an independent research project that’s part of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, found that the majority of weapons trafficked from the U.S. into Mexico are smuggled over land in vehicles. The type of vehicles vary, as well as the manner in which weapons are concealed, factors that further complicate government efforts to stop the smuggling, the study noted.

Trafficking cases documented from 2009 and 2015 reveal the variety of ways gun runners hide guns in vehicles.

“Trafficked weapons were hidden in every conceivable location, including in the fuel tank, above the exhaust system, and under the bumpers,” the study said.

 

This will conclude the third part of this blog and will be broken in a series. Look forward to next week were we continue the conversation that is often missed, thank you for reading.

The Border Debates' Missing Argument Part 2

Gun laws in Mexico

On paper it’s significantly harder to legally purchase a firearm in Mexico than it is in the United States. So if it’s so difficult to buy a gun in Mexico, where do all of the country’s guns come from? The answer has as much if not more to do with U.S. gun policy than with Mexico’s, though the issue is rarely brought up in America’s political debates over gun control and border security.

The right to own guns is in Mexico’s constitution, as it is in the U.S., but Mexican gun laws are highly restrictive. The Mexican army is the only entity allowed to sell guns in the country, either to private security firms, private citizens or to local police. In fact, there is only one legal gun store in the country, which is also run by the Mexican army and located in Mexico City. Assault weapons and any weapon more powerful than a .38 caliber gun is banned from personal use, with few exceptions. Only the military is allowed to use high-powered firearms.

To apply for a gun license, applicants must have a crime-free record, employment, and to have served in the military, according to Mexico’s federal law of arms and explosives. But the army sells the majority of weapons to law enforcement entities, according to public records obtained by Stop U.S. Arms to Mexico, an organization whose goal is to stop illegal gun trade in Mexico. From 2010 to 2016, the army sold 166,763 firearms to local police forces — 55 percent of all the guns sold by the army during that period. Twenty percent – 67,725 – were retail sales to individuals.

The low number of approved licenses for carrying firearms is striking. Between 2013 and 2018 only 218 licenses to carry guns were issued, according to a public document issued by the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA), Mexico’s equivalent of the U.S. Department of Defense and the government agency in charge of issuing gun licenses.

But applications to acquire firearms have been on the rise. According to SEDENA, the agency received 55,567 applications to purchase firearms between 2013 and 2018. Between 2007 and 2012, during Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s administration, 42,431 applications were reported. From 2010 through 2016, SEDENA reported the government selling 8,000 to 12,000 guns to the public annually.

Gun manufacturers in other countries, such as Germany, also supply weapons to Mexico. But lax U.S. gun laws and proximity to Mexico are key factors that drive guns south from the United States. An ongoing study of arms trafficking to Mexico and other Latin American countries, conducted by the Violence Policy Center, shows that military-style semi-automatic firearms comprise the majority of weapons smuggled south. These can be easily purchased in the United States, and are often harder to buy legally in other countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, where automatic weapons are banned for civilians.

“As long as you have that violence continuing in Mexico, you’re going to continue to have a demand for weapons,” said Duncan Wood, the director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. “And the easiest way to get those weapons is from the United States.”

There have been efforts in Congress to create legislation to tackle firearm trafficking. In 2017, Reps. Norma Torres, D-Calif, Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., introduced legislation to stop the flow of arms to Mexico. But these efforts have stalled in Congress.

“Trafficking illegal guns to and from Mexico is currently not a federal crime. It really doesn’t get much crazier than that,” Engel said in 2017. “This is just another example of how incredibly lax our gun laws are. Gun runners can cross state and international borders right now without fear of federal prosecution. The federal government is also prohibited from compiling data on this type of activity, also due to our arcane gun laws.”

 

 

This will conclude the second part of this blog and will discuss more in part three. So look forward to next week were we continue the conversation that is often missed, thank you for reading.

The Border Debates' Missing Argument Part 1

The border debates' missing argument?

 

While an administration’s hardline approach to immigration has focused on dealing with an influx of migrants along the southern border, which Trump in speeches and tweets also ties to an influx of drugs and crime, he did not addressed a central part of the violence that drives the displacement of many families in Mexico and Central America: guns, the majority of which flow from the U.S. to Mexico.

Mexico’s murder rate is at an all-time high, according to that nation’s official figures. In 2018, the Mexican government recorded more than 30,000 intentional murders. A majority of those murders — 20,005 — were committed with firearms, according to government data.

Twenty percent of all homicides in Mexico last year were related to organized crime, according to a study from the University of San Diego, though the study noted the estimate was conservative and the figure was likely higher. The violence has been largely concentrated in drug trafficking regions in the northwest and the Pacific Coast region. The country, which has a population of 125 million, had more than 10,000 homicides recorded between January and May of this year.

Research shows that a majority of guns in Mexico can be traced to the U.S. A report from the U.S Government Accountability Office showed that 70 percent of guns seized in Mexico by Mexican authorities and submitted for tracing have a U.S. origin. This percentage remains consistent, said Bradley Engelbert, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. And the Trump administration has recently taken steps to ease rules on gun exports, which enables manufacturers to sell guns in Mexico and Central America countries.

A report from the Center of American Progress found that the United States was the primary source of weapons used in crime in Mexico and Canada. Other countries in Central America can also trace a large proportion of guns seized in crimes to the United States. For example, the report found that from 2014 to 2016, 49 percent of crime guns seized in El Salvador were originally purchased in the U.S. In Honduras, 45 percent of guns recovered in crime scenes were traced to the United States as well.

“The U.S. should immediately stop the flow of guns and bulk cash across its southern border,” Sarukhan wrote in a tweet.

Still, the gun trafficking issue has largely been overshadowed by other immigration policy debates.

 

This will conclude the first part of this blog and will be broken into a series. Look forward to next week were we continue the conversation that is often missed, thank you for reading.

Why are we blaming guns, not killers?

Why are we blaming guns, not killers?

 

It’s an interesting phenomenon that, when looking at murders, most of the time the crime is rightly blamed on the murderer. The only exception to that seems to be when it comes to firearms.  When it’s learned that a gun was used in a crime, many hide their eyes, cover their ears, close their minds and just keep repeating, “We need more gun control.” In fact, a survey from Rasmussen Reports indicates that one-third of people think that access to firearms is more at fault than the killers themselves.

Rasmussen’s telephone and online survey of 1,000 American adults asked the question point-blank: “In crimes involving use of a gun, which is more to blame—the shooter or the availability of guns in America?” An astonishing 31 percent of people placed the blame on an inanimate object, the gun, and not the person pulling the trigger. Unsurprisingly, Democrats were much more likely than Republicans—51 percent to 13 percent—to blame the object over the person.

It’s worth asking” Do these same people think access to vehicles is more at fault than drivers? Are knives more at fault than stabbers? If not, why? What makes guns different?

Actually, what makes guns different is simply a political agenda. Liberals have long been on a mission to obliterate guns, the Constitution and freedom in America. Gun control has never been about guns; it has always been about controlling people.

The only difference today is that anti-gunners are openly admitting their end game. People who blame the gun over the killer aren’t looking for real solutions. They’re simply furthering an agenda.

 

What is Critical Race Theory (CRT)

CRT was an intellectual development in the late 1970s and early 1980s in which some scholars, perturbed by what they perceived as a loss of momentum in the movement for racial equality, began to doubt that the constitutional and legal system itself had the capacity for change.

This criticism mirrored a Marxist attack long voiced in academia: that the Constitution had been a capitalist document incapable of allowing for the redistributionist change necessary to create a more equal world. To create a more equal world, the Constitution and the legal system would have to be endlessly criticized – hence critical theory – and torn down from within. 

The Marxist criticism of the system was called critical theory; the racial criticism of the system was therefore called Critical Race Theory.

So, what does CRT believe? In their primer, Critical Race Theory, Richard Delgado (one of the movement’s founders) and Jean Stefancic set out some basic principles:

  1. “Racism is ordinary, not aberrational”;
  2. “Our system of white-over-color ascendancy serves important purposes, both psychic and material.”

When taken together, these principles have serious ramifications. First, they suggest that legal rules that stand for equal treatment under law – i.e. the 14th Amendment – can remedy “only the most blatant forms of discrimination.” The system is too corrupted, too based on the notion of white supremacy, for equal protection of the laws to ever be a reality. The system must be made unequal in order to compensate for the innate racism of the white majority.

Second, these principles suggest that even measures taken to alleviate unequal protection under the law – for example, the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education – were actually taken for nefarious purposes, to serve white interests. This is exactly what Derrick Bell believed: he said that Brown had only been decided in order to prevent the Soviet Union from using American racial inequality as a public relations baton to wield against the white-majority United States.

There is some internal conflict within CRT, though. For example, some CRT writers seem to take the Martin Luther King, Jr. line that race is arbitrary, a social construct; the majority, however, suggest that minorities have a special status in society, and something unique to bring to the table. As Delgado and Stefancic write, “Minority status, in other words, brings with a presumed competence to speak about race and racism.”

So here’s what we’re left with, in simple terms. Racism cannot be ended within the current system; the current system is actually both a byproduct of and a continuing excuse for racism. Minority opinions on the system are more relevant than white opinions, since whites have long enjoyed control of the system, and have an interest in maintaining it. This is a deeply disturbing theory. It is damaging both to race relations and to the legal and Constitutional order.

 

Do Away with QaNoN

I pray that no one in this group is following QAnon Reports, the Left is having a field day with those false prophecies. It's past time to refocus and come up with a valid plan forward.

Our fight is not behind us. It's in front of us, and we must retool and put away the child's play and wishful thinking. Let's put away the foolish talk and post and come up with solutions to make this country more reflective of us and our values.

The more you exhaust your time and energy on foolishness, the more heavy lifting it will take to move toward our agenda and interest.

Archives:

2021-06 | 2021-05 | 2021-04 | 2021-03