Good Friday Morning! It’s been a somber week as the nation reacts to the slaughter in Las Vegas, NV, where 59 people were killed and another 489 injured. It’s the most deadly mass shooting on record in America, and the investigation into the killer’s motivation continues.
I’ll get more into that story and why it’s an odd case with more questions than answers. I’ll also cover some of the Second Amendment debate that’s been stirred up as a result. Links follow.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
I’ve said to keep an eye out the last few weeks on this section, and I’m happy to announce this piece is my first syndicated column. The Conservative Institute is still my home, but they’re giving me a weekly column that they’re syndicating out to other sites and newspapers. More exciting things to come in the future, but I’m hoping this propagates and spreads to other sites. Thank you for your support!
The piece itself covers a recent slate of op-eds in the NYT commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the Red Revolution when the communists took control of Russia. The NYT has run puff pieces extolling the few virtues they can find on communism. I trace their rocky history with communism and how it colors their columns.
The Las Vegas Tragedy and What We Know
Aside from the basics I mentioned in the beginning, we know very little about why the shooting took place. Washington Post journalists describe Stephen Paddock, the shooter, as a quiet gambler who made his money in real estate. We get no hints on any religious, political, or other affiliations.
The lack of information or motivation is disturbing because the attack itself was premeditated and planned. We know Paddock had cameras placed outside the room to watch for police. We also have reason to believe he targeted government fuel tanks near the hotel to create a massive explosion, though he thankfully failed. Finally, he had an escape plan mapped out.
The planning went beyond Las Vegas. Paddock scouted locations in Boston and Chicago. All of this information paints a picture of a meticulous planner who knew what he was doing, but we don’t understand the why.
Paddock fits none of the profiles for a typical mass murderer. He’s older, at 64 years old which makes him one of the most elderly mass murderers on record, and there’s no evidence of mental sickness.
Adding to the confusion is the insistence, from ISIS, that Paddock is one of their soldiers. They claim that Paddock joined Islam and their movement six months ago. For the same reasons Paddock doesn’t fit a mass murder profile, he also doesn’t fit the profile of an ISIS recruit. ISIS typically recruits disaffected young males, outcasts of society, and gives them purpose.
One of the best ISIS journalists in the business is NYT journalist Rukmini Callmachi. She’s not prepared to write off the ISIS possibility entirely, mainly since ISIS has been accurate, in the past, when taking ownership of an event. It’s undoubtedly possible ISIS is blowing smoke, but it’s not beyond reason to believe Paddock was radicalized.
So where does that leave us? Nowhere. Nothing adds up in the case, and officials are tight-lipped on the investigation. That does not mean the conspiracy theories floating around the internet are real. The tin foil hat crowd has cranked up the rumors on what happened. They’re all nuts, and none of their ramblings are true.
Paddock was an outlier when it comes to mass murderers. We need investigators to learn his motivations because it could help us prevent future attacks.
All of the questions that remain left unanswered leave me with this observation: We probably shouldn’t start cranking out new regulations if we don’t even know why Las Vegas happened in the first place.
The Second Amendment and Mass Murders
Predictably, in the aftermath of Vegas, the left moved into full gun control mode. The phrase “common sense gun control” reentered the American lexicon of useless phrases and many celebrities gave tearful or rage-filled rants on why Americans suffered needlessly in the 21st century.
There’s a reason you only see pushes for gun control in the wake of a tragedy: appeals to emotion are the only resort for gun control advocates. I don’t say this in a mean or disparaging way either; it’s just the sole argument they have on their side.
A great example is a recent piece in the Washington Post where a liberal set out, with FiveThirtyEight.com, to prove gun control policies worked. They looked at everything from small concepts like banning silencers to the gun ban and confiscation laws of the UK and Australia. Their piece entitled “I used to think gun control was the answer; my research told me otherwise,” concluded:
By the time we published our project, I didn’t believe in many of the interventions I’d heard politicians tout. I was still anti-gun, at least from the point of view of most gun owners, and I don’t want a gun in my home, as I think the risk outweighs the benefits. But I can’t endorse policies whose only selling point is that gun owners hate them. Policies that often seem as if they were drafted by people who have encountered guns only as a figure in a briefing book or an image on the news.
Not a single policy proposed by anti-gun lobby achieved the results they claimed. Not a one. In the end, these researchers couldn’t find a single reason for any of the proposed restrictions, including the assault weapons ban and a complete gun ban/confiscation.
Which brings me to the latest idea: banning bump stocks. One of the devices used in the Las Vegas shooting was a bump stock, which, in a nutshell, helps a semi-automatic rifle to fire at a faster rate. The NRA issued a statement asking the ATF to take a second look at regulations surrounding bump stocks.
The problem is this: a bump stock is just one method of achieving the same primary result of a faster rate of fire. You can get the same effect with either a belt loop or rubber band (though neither I nor any competent gun instructor would say that’s a wise or safe thing to do. Don’t be stupid kids). Banning bump stocks wouldn’t achieve anything. It’d just be another aesthetic law with no effect.
How do I know this would do nothing? Bump stocks have only existed for the last ten years or so. And Las Vegas was the first time we’ve ever witnessed one used in a mass murder. Before this event, anti-gun types often falsely argued that semi-automatics and “assault weapons” were no different than a fully-automatic weapon.
A bump stock is admittedly closer, but one data point is not enough to create an entire law.
Las Vegas is a tragedy, no doubt. It’s not proof we need stricter gun laws. I can’t think of any emotional argument that could overpower the reality and facts of the situation.
Russia-based Kaspersky Labs used in theft of NSA Tools
Kaspersky Labs is a computer anti-virus and protection program based in Russia and sold in the US and elsewhere. US intelligence agencies have had warned for a while that the program opened the US government and its citizens up to spying by the Russians. The hack could hamper the NSA’s ability to protect American’s from Russian hacking:
The stolen material included details about how the NSA penetrates foreign computer networks, the computer code it uses for such spying and how it defends networks inside the U.S., these people said.
Having such information could give the Russian government information on how to protect its own networks, making it more difficult for the NSA to conduct its work. It also could give the Russians methods to infiltrate the networks of the U.S. and other nations, these people said.
The breach is the first known incident in which Kaspersky software is believed to have been exploited by Russian hackers to conduct espionage against the U.S. government. The company, which sells its antivirus products in the U.S., had revenue of more than half a billion dollars in Western Europe and the Americas in 2016, according to International Data Corp. Kaspersky says it has more than 400 million users world-wide.
The hack centered on another NSA contractor, who used Kaspersky on his home computer. The hackers were able to use his home copy of Kaspersky to track down the NSA tools and steal them.
You can add this to another in a growing list of hacks of the NSA using contractors. Bradley/Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden both worked as contractors. US security depends on agencies like the NSA clamping down on these issues.
Best links of the week
I Am Tired Of Being Black: We can’t just represent ourselves. We constantly think about the population we identify with, and how certain views could further marginalize an already marginalized group. – Heather Day, Faithfully Magazine
Why Gun Control Is a Losing Issue for Democrats: Especially in red states, they have been reluctant to call for a crackdown even after the mass shooting in Las Vegas. – Josh Kraushaar, The National Journal
Here’s How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas Into The Mainstream: A cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News reveals the truth about Steve Bannon’s alt-right “killing machine.” – Joseph Bernstein, Buzzfeed
Reporters resurrect bogus narrative that Republicans made it ‘easier’ for the mentally ill to buy guns – Becket Adams, The Washington Examiner
Media Continue to Flounder During Gun Coverage – Stephen Gutowski, The Washington Free Beacon
Against Faux-Feminists Who Deny the Rights of Muslim Women and Jews: Why today’s postmodern postcolonial feminism avoids the true front lines of the battle for women’s rights – Phyllis Chesler, Tablet Magazine
The Politics of Escapism – Michael Davis, The Imaginative Conservative
Tom Petty’s crusade to save rock from the cynics and fat cats – Seth Mandel, The New York Post
Satire piece of the week
SOMEWHERE UNDERGROUND — A local conspiracy theorist believes that the recent events around the world are “just the beginning,” sources have confirmed.
“Things are about to kick off,” said Ian Landis, a self-proclaimed dissident intellectual, for the 1,260th time since September 11, 2001. “The attack in Las Vegas is nothing compared to what is coming.”
Landis began his foray into conspiracy theories 16 years ago when, as a tourist outside the White House on 9/11, he witnessed an E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (“Doomsday Plane”) incidentally flying over Washington, D.C. while the attacks were happening. The subsequent passage of the Patriot Act and proliferation of fringe hypotheses about that day only energized his obsession.
Since then, he has been constantly scanning the mainstream and alternative media for what he deems to be “warning signs.”
“The last decade-and-a-half has been building up to this,” Landis elaborated during an interview, pausing to sip Mountain Dew. “It’s really going to happen this time. Wake up, sheeple!”
Thanks for reading!