It’s the guns, stupid!

In trying to decide who is guilty of a murder, investigators look for three factors that converge on the culprit: motive (a reason why the murder was committed), opportunity (the killer had to be in the place and time to carry out the plan and not have an alibi), and means (the killer needs to have access to whatever method was used for the murder). In the case of these mass murders in the US, the motives range all over the place including but not limited to racism, jealousy, anger, frustration, seeking fame, and mental breakdown. Opportunities are also plentiful, especially if you do not care about getting caught and your targets are not specific individuals. You can just wander into a mall, cinema, school, or anywhere large numbers of unsuspecting people are gathered.

But when it comes to means, a single common factor immediately jumps out and that is that these mass murders are possible because the killers had access to a powerful, military-grade assault weapons that enable the killing of large numbers of people in a very short time, so that however quickly the so-called ‘good guys with guns’ respond, it will not be quick enough to prevent a large number of casualties. We saw this in the two recent shootings where armed security were actually around and yet could not prevent the carnage.

Evidence for means as the main factor responsible for these tragedies is plentifully available. In the most recent case in Texas, the gunman legally purchased two rifles and 375 rounds of ammunition just last week, just days after his 18th birthday.
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No, this is not at all ‘incomprehensible’

Another mass shooting in the US, this time at an elementary school in Texas, has resulted in 21 people, including 19 children, dying. The governor of Texas Greg Abbott has reportedly called the shooting ‘incomprehensible’. It is only so to those who refuse to see the glaringly obvious, that if you allow powerful weapons to be obtained much more easily than a driver’s license and vast numbers of people have them, then someone will, for various reasons, inevitably end up killing huge numbers of people. It has happened time and time again, so anyone who expresses surprise is being utterly disingenuous.

Abbott continued to mouth the tired platitudes that people like him do after such tragedies.
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Back to the future in Sri Lanka

The standoff in Sri Lanka as a result of the ongoing crisis continues even though there have been some developments. The economic situation is dire and it was even announced last week that they had only enough petrol (gasoline) for just one day. That has eased very slightly. After the prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was sacrificed by his brother the president Gotabaya Rajapaksa in response to popular demands that both should leave office, a new prime minister and cabinet had to be appointed, since the cabinet automatically gets dissolved when a prime minister leaves office.

Gotabaya R picked as the new prime minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. To understand how bizarre this choice is, you need to know a little Sri Lankan political history. Wickremasinghe is the leader of the United National Party. This party was a dominant force before and after independence in 1948 and reached the pinnacle of power in 1977 when they were swept into power with a very large majority. The then party leader J. R. Jayawardene proceeded to institute massive changes that were designed to cement his party in power and keep their policies intact for decades to come, including changing the constitution to create the powerful post of executive president that he held and used to set in motion sweeping pro-business, pro-western, economic policies, as well as fanning anti-minority sentiment. It was during his presidency that the government-backed anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983 took place that resulted in my decision to leave Sri Lanka and come to the US with my family.
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News Corp in Australia seems just like in the US

Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News network are pernicious influences in US politics, spreading hate, division, and outright lies. But we should not forget that Murdoch is an Australian and his media empire has tentacles in his native land and in the UK as well.

Leading up to the recent elections in Australia, his media outlets in that country did what they do here in the US but it turned out that despite using the same playbook, they were not successful in their efforts to eliminate all the parties that were neither Liberal nor Labor and have the Liberals retain power.

 At the centre of this extraordinary detachment of political coverage from reality are the Australian newspapers of News Corp, from the national daily the Australian to the popular tabloids in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in particular.

Only the Northern Territory News, among its most visible publications, editorialised for a Labor victory.

The singular story of election night was how News Corp, with all its recourses and all its outlets, from newspapers to subscription TV news, couldn’t convince voters to follow its course, at least not in the numbers needed.

It is being seen as a demonstration of impotence in political affairs, and of absence of authority in the group’s claim to speak for the nation.

Academic and journalist Margaret Simons is no chum of News Corp but was not alone when she wrote this in the Sydney Morning Herald on 16 May: “I am not sure News Corporation bothers to deny its bias these days. But could this be the election in which the impotence of its skewed reporting is exposed?”

The election result doesn’t mean the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald convinced voters to back Labor as their election editorials recommended, but it does mean they were alert to voter movement and ready to respond.

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Dog whistles? We don’t need no stinking dog whistles!

Right-wingers used to use coded language to signal bigoted views to their followers, since openly saying what they meant was seen as going too far and risk alienating the so-called moderates in their party who may still value accepted norms such as fidelity to truth and reality. That has changed. Republicans running for political office this year, taking their cue from Trump, seem to feel no hesitation in adopting extreme positions. Either they think that there are no moderates in the party anymore and that they have all shifted into full-blown MAGA acolytes or think that those voters have no choice to but to vote for them over their Democratic rival in the general election, even if they find the Republican candidates distasteful or even repugnant.

That old sense of the need for some restraint seems so quaint these days when Republicans feel little compunction about sharing a stage with flat-out racists, as can be seen at the latest gathering of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) that is being held in Hungary. Why would a US political organization hold a major convention in a foreign country? That is because this is no ordinary foreign country. Hungary’s prime minister Victor Orban is a hero to the US right because he is an authoritarian who openly espouses all the tropes of white nationalism that the Republican party and Fox News now espouse.
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Labor party wins Australian elections

In elections held on Sunday, the conservative coalition led by the Liberal party lost its majority after being in office for almost a decade. The new prime minister will be Labor party leader Anthony Albanese who will replace Scott Morrison.

Anthony Albanese will be Australia’s next prime minister, leaving the Coalition in disarray after it lost more than a dozen seats to Labor and independents in an election that has transformed the country’s political landscape.

Declaring victory shortly before midnight on Saturday, Albanese thanked voters for the “extraordinary honour” of becoming the nation’s 31st prime minister, and said he would work in government to bring Australians together.

With 60% of the vote counted, Labor was ahead in 73 seats and on track to win enough seats to form majority government, with huge swings in Western Australia likely to flip at least three seats to Labor.

The Liberal party was also expected to lose six previously safe inner city seats to so-called teal independents, including Josh Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong, with the Coalition’s numbers likely to fall to the low 60s in the 151 seat house of representatives. There could be as many as 16 MPs on the crossbench, a record number.

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Some good news from last Tuesday’s primaries

Ryan Grim writes that SuperPACs aligned with the Republican party and the Sinema-Manchin wing of the Democratic party leadership poured a lot of money in an attempt to defeat progressive Democratic candidates in last Tuesday’s primary elections but did not succeed as well as they might have hoped for, since Summer Lee and John Fetterman won in Pennsylvania while in Oregon Jamie McLeod-Skinner is in a close race while Andrea Salinas seems poised to win.

The stunning wins come as the party debates who is to blame for Biden’s sinking approval rating and increasingly dire forecasts of upcoming midterm losses. Party establishment figures have pointed the finger at the left for making unreasonable demands couched in slogans like “defund the police” that turn off voters. The progressive wing has countered that Biden’s popularity has sunk as centrist Democrats have slowly murdered his agenda, while the left has fought to enact it. 

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