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A Look at the Beef in Colorado's Most Important Election Race

  |   October 24, 2016    4:37 PM ET

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Mike Weisser   |   October 17, 2016    3:17 PM ET

Read More: gun violence, guns

Our good friends at the Center for American Progress (CAP) have published a new study on the link between gun laws and gun violence which is a ‘must-read’ for everyone who is concerned about reducing gun violence. Which means that nobody in Gun-nut Nation needs to read this report because Gun-nut Nation doesn’t believe that we need to regulate guns at all.  But notwithstanding the dwindling Trump supporters, for those who support the concept of reasonable discourse based on at least some attention to facts, the CAP report is a significant effort to figure out (I’m now quoting the report) “whether strong gun laws are effective at reducing gun violence.”

What makes this report so important is not the fact that the authors attempt to answer the problem stated above about the effects of strong gun laws on rates of gun violence, but for the first time we have an attempt to connect the effect of gun laws to the totality of gun violence based on data covering 10 different categories of gun violence recorded in every, single state. This is not the first time that scholars have attempted to link gun violence to the legal environment, the CAP study references the work of my good buddy Eric Fleegler and his colleagues, who found a clear link between gun laws and firearm-related deaths in a 2013 article which you can download here.

But there are two important differences between the Fleegler research and what CAP has now produced: first, the 2013 study only defined gun violence by combining state-level homicide and suicide rates, the CAP study breaks down gun violence into 10 separate categories covering every type of incident where the use of a gun creates physical harm; second, Fleegler’s group analyzed state-level gun law environments using the Brady Center-Law Center reports from 2012, and it was after 2012 (following Sandy Hook) that many states changed their gun laws, in most cases making the legal environment less restrictive in terms of access to guns. So what we get from this CAP report is not only an updated analysis of the relative strength (and weakness) of gun regulations on a state-by-state basis, we also get a much deeper analysis of the different ways in which gun violence occurs.

And what is the result? Same-old, same-old, namely, states with stronger gun laws suffer less gun violence, states with weaker gun laws suffer more. Gee, what a surprise! But don’t take my cynicism as in way a criticism of the CAP report. Because if you break gun violence down into its component parts, this at least gives you some leverage in trying to figure out not just whether gun laws work to reduce gun violence, but what kind of new gun laws might be implemented or current laws strengthened to address this issue in states where gun violence rates are simply out of control.

Montana is one of those mountain states which has a very high gun-suicide rate but very few gun homicides. It ranks 9th overall for gun violence, but 3rd for gun suicides and only 36th for gun homicides, which puts it below Massachusetts for gun homicides even though Massachusetts ranks dead last for gun violence overall.

But guess what? Montana goes back up to 16th for IPV female homicides, so gun violence in Montana isn’t just driven by suicides, it’s also a very deadly place for women involved in domestic disputes. Which means that a safe storage law in Montana might have an effect on suicides, but you can be sure that a law which allowed cops to pull guns away from people engaged in domestics would save some lives in the Big Sky State.

By breaking down gun violence into its component parts, the CAP report gives us a realistic view of what gun violence numbers really mean. Which makes this report an inestimable resource for crafting proper laws. But isn’t that what we expect from CAP in the areas of their concern?

Mike Weisser   |   October 11, 2016    8:59 AM ET

You can divide gun nuts into two groups. There are gun nuts like me, who just like to play around with guns. So we buy them, we sell them, we trade them, we collect them, it’s all for fun. At one point I decided I wanted to own every Colt handgun ever made, and my collection got up to about 70 guns, including two original Single Action Army revolvers, then I sold them all and bought a Harley Low Rider so I could pretend to be a Hog. Then I wanted to own every Star pistol, then every Walther, and on and on. And along the way, I met plenty of gun nuts just like me.

Then there are the gun nuts for whom guns represent some kind of ‘statement’ about who they are and who they want to be. Angela Stroud has figured them out pretty well in her new book, Good Guys with Guns, in which she basically says that these guys want to feel stronger and more powerful than everyone else, so they walk around with guns. And they tell everyone that they ‘need’ a gun to protect themselves and everyone else from crime, but the truth is that it’s really just empty talk because they have never actually been victims of any crime at all.

The NRA has been promoting this concealed-carry nonsense for twenty years in a scam attempt to sell more guns, but if you take a look at The Armed Citizen column, the number of actual instances – all unverified – in which an ‘armed citizen’ actually prevented a crime amounts to somewhere around 80 times per year. John Lott posts stories about armed citizens stopping crimes on his website – one here, one there. The most recent data comes from our friends at the Gun Violence Archive and puts the total 2016 defensive gun use (DGU) number at 1,349.

But if you want to prove to everyone around you that you’re really a big man, a tough guy, a real citizen-protector, who cares whether it happened or not?  The whole point of a story is the enjoyment you get by telling it and how telling it makes you feel, truth being totally beside the point.

And this was how I felt when I watched the Trump tape. Notice I don’t say which tape. The Trump tape.  Everyone knows which tape I mean. And when I watched the tape my first thought was that none of his ‘locker-room’ talk actually occurred.  Because he was obviously trying to impress Billy Bush who basically sat there and giggled and laughed at whatever The Donald said, and it was Trump who kept upping the ante, and made the comments more lewd and more vulgar as his monologue rolled on.  

By the time Trump got off the bus he had made so many claims about his sexual prowess, conquests and failures that it would be impossible to actually nail down what was false and what was true. But this is exactly the feeling I get when I’m standing in a gun shop or at a shooting range and a couple of gun nuts start comparing and competing with each other over their DGUs. This guy stopped a convenience-store robbery from taking place, that guy made someone back away who menaced him in front of an ATM. The only person I know who actually pulled out a gun and pointed it at someone was a friend I had to bail out of jail because the potential predator, who was actually going to ask him directions to the local hospital, promptly got back into his own car, called the cops who turned up and arrested my friend for menacing someone with a gun.

There’s a reason why Gun-nut Nation loves Mister Trump.  There’s a reason why Mister Trump toadies up to the NRA. They’re both in the business of concocting stories, except that Trump’s still on the ballot for November 8.

Mike Weisser   |   October 3, 2016    3:46 PM ET

What’s going on?  After year-to-year declines in the violent crime rate going back twenty years, all of a sudden in 2015 things turned around and now violent crime rates are going back up. Now the good news is that the overall violent crime rate ― 372.6 per 100,000 ― is well below what it was five years ago when it stood at 404.5.  It’s also about 20 percent lower than it was ten years ago and more than 70 percent lower than its alarming peak in 1994. So yes, we are a lot safer than we were twenty years ago. On the other hand, a two-decade drop in violent crime may have come to an end.  

What’s more disturbing about the overall increase is that the biggest year-to-year increase occurred within the murder category which is, for most of us, the sine qua non of violent crime.  Every violent crime category – murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery – showed an increase from 2014 to 2015, but rape was up 5 percent, aggravated assault increased by 4 percent, robbery was just slightly higher, but the homicide rate jumped by 10 percent, and that’s a lot more dead bodies, 1,532 more dead bodies to be exact. And although the difference was not all that great, you might as well know that the percentage of murders committed with guns also slid up from 69 percent to 71 percent.

Now according to Gun-nut Nation, as the number of privately-owned guns goes up and, in particular, the number of gun-owners who are allowed to walk around carrying a gun goes up, violent crime is supposed to go down. The idea that more guns equals less crime is not only the title of a book written by one of Gun-nut Nation’s most cherished mouthpieces, it has been the watchword of the entire marketing scheme for guns since white suburbanites became afraid of crime and people stopped hunting, both of which became kind of obvious even to the gun industry back when Ronald Reagan was making room at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the first George Bush.

Remember Willie Horton?  Bush’s 1988 opponent, Mike Dukakis, had the bad luck of having supported the furlough program which let Horton out of slam for a weekend furlough whereupon Horton went down to Maryland, raped a young woman and then was arrested and thrown back into jail.  Maybe the Horton ad swung the election for Bush and maybe it didn’t, but the one thing it certainly did was to focus attention on the issues of race and crime.  And this was the same time that the NRA began ramping up the campaign to get states to issue concealed-carry licenses (CCW), with only a handful of states going along with the idea in 1987 but more than 30 states granting near-automatic CCW by 1995.

It was also in the mid-’90s that a serious increase in violent crime due primarily to the crack-cocaine epidemic began to abate with a ten-year cycle of increasing crime rates from the mid-1980s being replaced with annual declines of violent crime which continued for the next twenty years. And what accounted for this year-after-year decline in violent crime? The ‘fact’ that so many Americans owned guns and more and more Americans were carrying concealed weapons outside their home. The argument was first made by a Florida criminologist named Gary Kleck, then refurbished and expanded by another ersatz academic named John Lott, and just before the FBI released the 2015 numbers the gun industry’s official broadcaster, the National Shooting Sports Foundation blared on its website: “Gun Crimes Plummet As Gun Sales Rise.”

But how will the NSSF explain away the increase in violent crime while gun sales and CCW permits continue to soar? I’ve got it! Just blame it on the possibility that Hillary might defeat Trump and then immediately ban all guns. No matter which way you cut it, you’ll always find someone who believes the Martians have established a colony at Area 51.

Maria Cuomo Cole   |   October 3, 2016   11:10 AM ET

The long awaited presidential debate, between two candidates who epitomize the polarized state of failed political discourse in our country, left the issue of preventing gun violence largely unaddressed. While Hillary Clinton incorporated the need for reform of gun and access to dangerous military weapons in her response to Lester Holt’s question about race, we learned nothing of Mr. Trump’s strategy. Considering just several recent mass shootings ― Orlando, Houston, Burlington, South Carolina, in addition to an average of 90 gun deaths a day due to criminal and accidental shootings ― voters deserve to know what both candidates would do as president to reduce the gun violence devastating families and communities across the country.

Let’s remember that the average of nine children who will be killed by guns each day in America are neither registered Democrats nor Republicans.

For the last three years producing Newtown, a documentary about the aftermath of the 2012 tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Ct, we learned the indelible ripple effect of trauma on the community at large. From parents who lost children, families who lost loved ones, teachers, local law enforcement, students and faith leaders we understand the grave and lasting devastation the community of Newtown has endured. Audiences not only bear witness to an unimaginable tragedy, but to a remarkable display of dignity and resilience from a community that could be any town in America. Our Newtown friends have worked to regain their lives, trying to spare others. from the emotional scarring that will last generations to come.

These accidental advocates are growing in number and strength, bound together in the club nobody wants to belong to. And as grassroots advocacy grows, the conversation deepens and more pressure on local and national leaders mounts with the demand for change. But during this critical time in the presidential election, even as we pray for the families of very recent tragedies, specific plans to stop the criminal terrorizing acts of gun violence in America have not been shared by both candidates.

It is said that the Newtown tragedy should have been the tipping point. But over 100,000 gun deaths have occurred since and recent history has proven a surge in senseless tragic acts of gun violence that must be brought to an end. We hope this critical issue will be addressed in the remaining weeks of the campaign. American voters deserve to understand both candidates’ plans for ending the repeated horrific acts of gun violence, traumatizing our families, children and communities.

Because we are ALL Newtown.

Woods Opposes Background Checks before Gun Purchases

Jason Salzman   |   September 30, 2016    1:16 PM ET

Last month, State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada/Westminster) called Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson and his running mate "gun grabbers," prompting Johnson's spokesman to say there was no truth in the comment.

Now Woods has called her Democratic challenger, Rachel Zenzinger, a gun grabber as well, even though there's no truth in that accusation as well. (Listen here at 17:45.)

None of the gun-safety measures backed by Zenzinger would result in a single gun being taken from a law-abiding citizen.

Zenzinger supports criminal background checks prior to gun purchases.

Woods, on the other hand, emphasizes her belief that all people should be allowed to openly carry a gun in public, without concealing it.

Woods is opposed to obtaining a ciminal background check before purchasing a gun at a gun show.

The Arvada Republican also opposes a Colorado law limiting the number of bullets a person can load into a gun at one time. Woods wants gun to be allowed to hold, for example, 100 bullets, if the shooter wanted.

KNUS 710-AM's host Chuck Bonniwell should correct his and Woods' gun-grabber misinformation aired on his Sept. 17 show--to clean up his mess from the airwaves.

Woods, who's a strong Trump backer, won the Jefferson County seat by 650 votes over Zenzinger during the GOP wave year of 2014. 

Mike Weisser   |   September 29, 2016    6:09 PM ET

In their endless and uncompromising quest to make sure that all Americans understand the risks of gun ownership (read: there are no risks), the NRA has just announced a partnership with the gun blog Bearing Arms, to help celebrate Domestic Violence Awareness Month which takes place every October and even rates a Presidential Proclamation issued by the guy who has finally been granted American citizenship by Donald Trump.

The NRA has been tirelessly promoting gun sales to women ever since they discovered that most of the guns that were scooped up since the Kenyan entered the White House were bought by the same old, white men.  And the problem with the white-man market is that as a percentage of people living in the United States, it’s not getting any larger, which means that at a certain point gun sales will begin to lag. In fact, the most recent survey on how many Americans actually own guns revealed that less than one-quarter of U.S. adults are gun owners, which means that Gun-nut Nation’s ‘chicken in every pot’ dream of a gun in every home just isn’t coming true.

Of course the new collaboration between the NRA and Bearing Arms isn’t what people think about when the issue of domestic violence is raised.  For most of us, advocating against domestic violence means making treatment options for abused persons more available, streamlining the process for seeking legal protection against abuse, and toughening sanctions against abusers who are charged and convicted of engaging in a domestic assault.  

Last year and the year before that and the year before that, women constituted 20 percent of all homicide victims of whom roughly half were murdered with guns. Most killings where a gun was used grow out of domestic disputes, and many result in the injuring or killing of other family members as well.  Some states make it relatively easy to disarm people involved in domestics, other states make it more difficult, and still other states have disarming laws and procedures that are so complex and so vague that usually nothing is done at all.

But if there is one consistent area when it comes to domestic abuse and guns, it has been the NRA’s opposition to disarming people involved in such affairs.  On occasion, the NRA has quietly supported legislation that disarms persons accused or convicted of domestic abuse, but generally speaking, until a guy is actually convicted of beating up his wife or girlfriend, and even in some instances after being convicted, he can still hold onto his guns or petition the Court to get them returned. In some states, the same judge who issues an Order of Protection has no legal basis for issuing an order that would remove guns from the possession of the person who was told to stay away from his wife. Which means that if the guy decides to violate the order, he can show up on her doorstep with a gun.

The NRA and Bearing Arms calls this an effort to strengthen one’s ‘personal protection plan,’ and it involves getting shooting ranges to offer training discounts to individuals who are holding an ‘active’ order of protection, which means, of course, that abuse victims also have to own a gun. The new NRA-Bearing Arms program is a cynical attempt to pretend that the best response to domestic violence is for an abused spouse or girlfriend to respond with violence as well.  

I am not arguing that anyone facing the threat of physical abuse should necessarily rule out any effective response, even if that response increases risk. But if a victim of domestic abuse decides to arm themselves, they should be aware that there is no credible study which shows that access to a gun is either effective or safe; to the contrary, the odds they will hurt themselves or some other unintended person is a more probable outcome if they have access to a gun. And that’s not something that Gun-nut Nation will ever understand.

Where Was Lester Holt And Other Things I Thought During The First Debate

Chris Weigant   |   September 27, 2016    8:40 AM ET

Well, the first presidential debate is a done deal, and as always I like to quickly type out my own personal reactions before reading everyone else's, to give you an opinion uninfluenced by the herd mentality of the rest of the media.

Because of this, I apologize in advance for any misquotes, since I am only using my hastily-scratched notes for what the candidates said. Each has at least the flavor of whatever the word-for-word transcript will say, but I may miss nuances of phrasing. Just to get that caveat out of the way... but enough of this debate prep (as it were), let's get right on to the debate itself.


Overall reactions

Did Lester Holt just leave the stage for large chunks of time during the debate? I mean, the cameras weren't on him, so he could easily have stepped out for a bite to eat or something. The absence of Holt, and his downright inability to take any sort of control of the debate, was noticeable, to put it mildly. We can argue about who won the debate, but Lester Holt definitely lost the debate, that's for sure.

Of course, with Donald Trump debating Hillary Clinton, the whole thing felt more like a cage match or a Roman gladiatorial bout in the Coliseum. I almost expected a boxing ring announcer to begin the proceedings: "In this corner, weighing it at...."

Clinton wore a power-red outfit, Trump had a subdued blue tie. For the most part, they were civil (well, civil enough) towards each other, dashing the hopes of late-night comics everywhere. Trump used both "Secretary" or "the Secretary" with an occasional "Hillary" thrown in, while Clinton mostly just stayed with "Donald" when she was addressing him directly. But there was no "Crooked Hillary" from Trump's lips during the entire evening. At one point, he even tried to be polite, asking her if "Secretary Clinton" was OK with her, "because I want you to be happy."

Clinton mostly had a pretty disdainful look for Trump the entire time (although she did break into laughter a few times). It's understandable -- if I was Hillary Clinton, I'd certainly be thinking: "How did this buffoon get on the stage with me?" if I had to stand next to Donald Trump for 90 minutes.

Trump had one strange affectation -- the loud sniffs that happened on a pretty regular basis, at least during the first half of the debate. This has led to much gleeful speculation (and the rejoicing of the late-night comics) about what exactly Donald Trump had been doing with his nose right before he appeared on stage. Tune in later tonight for the inevitable "doing lines?" jokes, that's for sure.

Kidding aside, though, while I'm not in the habit of saying "who won" debates, here are my reactions of how each candidate met the expectations set for them:

Overall, Trump mostly cleared the abysmally-low bar his team had set for him. He didn't use profanity. He didn't call Clinton ugly or a bitch or "crooked" to her face. He didn't storm off the stage in a snit. On these levels, Trump succeeded.

The absence of Holt, and his downright inability to take any sort of control of the debate, was noticeable, to put it mildly. We can argue about who won the debate, but Lester Holt definitely lost the debate, that's for sure.

Clinton, overall, gave a pretty solid performance, which met the expectation everyone had for her. She drifted off into wonkiness at times, but also got emotional and passionate when she needed to. She got in a few zingers which will be on tomorrow's news, and at least for the first half of the debate, she rarely engaged when Trump tried to bait her (mostly by interrupting her). Clinton mostly ignored these eruptions from Trump, and just finished what she was going to say anyway. Of course, things got noticeably looser in the second half of the debate, but while it lasted it was a pretty good strategy for Clinton, and showed Trump's inability to stay within the debate format.


The debate play-by-play

Lester Holt, as previously mentioned, lost control of the debate, and he lost it very early on. After a first question about jobs, both candidates gave their philosophy in a nutshell. On trade, Clinton tried her first zinger of the night, and it fell pretty flat (of course, it was hard to tell what the eventual reaction will be, since the crowd had been told to remain silent). Clinton made the case that Trump was just rehashing failed Republican policies, saying: "I call it Trumped-up trickle-down." Thud. Even if laughter had been allowed, there probably wouldn't have been much of it.

Clinton hit Trump on how he got his start in business, with a "$14 million" loan from his father. Trump responded with a line that might work its way into a future Clinton ad, calling it a "small amount." Lester Holt tried valiantly to ask the question he had actually posed (which was how Trump would actually get jobs back to America), but Trump largely ignored it for a second time. Clinton then baited Trump by pointing out that he had actually rooted for the housing crisis to happen, to which Trump snapped back: "That's called business" -- another prime candidate for a new Clinton ad.

After a round of answers on climate change and green energy, Trump baited Clinton on her husband's legacy. Clinton ignored his noise, and powered through her answer, but eventually got into a back-and-forth with Trump (only the first of many to come). Clinton got off her second zinger, and this one was much more effective, since it applies to so many of the things Trump says: "I know you live in your own reality, Donald."

Lester Holt had apparently stepped out at this point, probably to buy a hot dog from a concession stand in the hallway, or something.

At approximately one half-hour in, Trump got shouty for the first time. Clinton countered back by inviting people to visit her site, where she was providing "real-time fact-checking" for everyone's edification.

Lester Holt wandered back in at this point, tried to take control of the proceedings, and failed.

Trump got even more shouty about his non-plan for defeating the Islamic State. Lester Holt finally got a word in edgewise, and asked about the two candidates' tax plans. I thought Clinton did well here, explaining her tax plan with just enough detail to show how comprehensive it is, whereas I could barely even understand Trump's meanderings on the subject of his "tremendous" tax plan. Lester Holt tried mightily to smack down Trump's constant interruptions, but without much notable success.

Towards the end of the tax plan back-and-forth, Trump got in a very funny line, although it wasn't directed at Hillary but rather the current president: "When Barack Obama goes off to the golf course for the rest of his life...." Astonishingly enough, this was just about the only time during the entire evening that Trump tried humor in his answers. He's known for being a lot more amusing at his rallies, that's for sure. But he was trying mightily to be Trump 2.0, I suppose.

Lester Holt then tried to get Trump to answer why he wasn't releasing his tax returns, and then utterly failed to ask the proper and obvious followup question (which, as I've said before, really should be: "OK, you're under audit, but audits only go back so far, so why not release a few years from before the time period the audit covers? Why not release your 2008 or 2007 tax returns, for instance?").

Trump then issued a challenge to Clinton, which was most likely his best soundbite of the whole night, promising that he'd release his tax returns -- against the advice of his lawyers -- if Clinton would release her 30,000 deleted emails first. Clinton responded that this was classic "bait and switch."

Clinton's answer to Trump's refusal to release his returns was my favorite moment from her of the whole night, because she made her case completely and quickly, and struck right to the heart of the matter: "What is Trump trying to hide?" She ran down a quick list of what this might be: Trump's not as rich as he says he is, he's not as charitable as he says he is, he owes more money that he's willing to admit, and/or he pays zero in actual federal income taxes (which is indeed the case on the only two tax returns ever made public from Trump). Clinton truly knocked this answer out of the park.

Lester Holt then asked her about Trump's email taunt, and Clinton gave the simple answer she should have given in the first place: that she made a mistake, wouldn't do it again, and takes full responsibility for her mistake.

Trump, at this point, started wandering all over the map in his answers. Well, truthfully he had been doing a bit of this all along, but it got noticeably worse as time went on. When Clinton got to speak, she pointed out that she had invited an architect to tonight's audience who had designed a building for Trump -- but then got stiffed for his efforts. She called on Trump to apologize. This was also very well-played. Trump, of course, refused to apologize, said the guy probably did bad work for him, and then claimed he has always paid everyone (which is not true, since he's gone through bankruptcy so many times).

At roughly the halfway point through the debate, Lester Holt essentially announced that he had lost all control of the debate. This wasn't exactly news to anybody. He then pivoted to a discussion about race.

Clinton got wonky for a while. Trump began by flatly stating: "Our inner cities -- African-Americans and Hispanics are living in Hell." He followed this up by leaning heavily on his Nixonian pledge to restore "law and order," and also strongly supported stop-and-frisk policies. Trump actually then fearmongered (during a section on racial relations, no less) about "bands of illegal immigrants roaming the streets." Nothing like Republican minority outreach, folks!

Clinton got off her second zinger, and this one was much more effective, since it applies to so many of the things Trump says: "I know you live in your own reality, Donald."

Lester Holt desperately tried to salvage himself at this point, by attempting a fact-check on how stop-and-frisk was actually ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. Trump, true to form, said the judge was biased against good ol' law-n-order. Trump refused to admit there was any hint of racial profiling about the policy, which is patently not true.

Clinton pointed out that not all minorities live in Hell in our country, and that there were actually successful Black and Latino families everywhere. She agreed with Holt that stop-and-frisk was indeed ruled unconstitutional, and spoke out strongly against mandatory minimums and the practice of using private prisons. Also, a little later, pledged she'd put money in her first budget for better police training.

The two candidates then (gasp!) actually agreed on a policy. Clinton brought it up, but Trump agreed that people on the No-Fly List or Terrorism Watchlist should be banned from buying weapons. I've written before on how this idea -- while popular politically, to be sure -- is not exactly constitutional either, because it tramples all over the concept of "due process," but it certainly was interesting to see Trump and Clinton agree on anything tonight.

They then both returned to form, and had a squabble for the fact-checkers to referee on the murder rate in New York City. This was roughly an hour in to the debate, and this was the point where Trump began to lose control and revert to being shouty and all over the map on virtually every answer.

Clinton got in another excellent zinger at this point, after Trump sneered about how he had been travelling "all over," while Clinton "decided to stay home." In an obviously-rehearsed (but very well-delivered) line, Hillary responded: "I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate,And yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that's a good thing."

Lester Holt, returning from the hallway with a soft-serve ice cream cone and hastily getting back into his chair, then asked Trump directly what had changed his mind on the whole birther issue. Trump trotted out his "Hillary started it" defense, which fell mighty flat. He then tried to pivot quickly to ISIS, jobs, and his border wall, but Holt had been energized by the ice cream, and hit him again with a fact-check on Trump's birther history. Trump essentially repeated his answer, with a very bizarre "ah... the birth certificate" intonation (check the video -- this was just downright weird). Holt tried a third time, telling Trump the birther thing was insulting to African-Americans, and asking whether Trump owes them (or Obama) an apology. Trump, unsurprisingly, did not take the opportunity to do so, instead standing on his birther record.

Clinton, when asked to respond to Trump's refusal, quipped: "Just listen to what he said." She then launched into her own condemnation of Trump, stating quite accurately that he had "started his whole political career" with what she unflinchingly called a "racist lie," before also hitting Trump on getting sued by the Justice Department twice back in the 1970s for refusing to rent to minorities. Clinton summed up by stating Trump has "a long history of racist behavior," and that his birther crusade was downright insulting to Barack Obama.

Trump scored what might very well have been his best comeback of the night, pointing out some of her behavior on the 2008 campaign trail against Obama. Trump said he'd been reviewing her debate performances in preparation, and he saw Clinton "treat Obama with no respect" during them. He hit her for her campaign circulating a photo of Obama in African garb, something a lot of people have forgotten about. Trump was essentially admitting that while he was down in the mud, Hillary actually belonged right there beside him, rather than her being all "holier than thou." For anyone who remembers the 2008 campaign, Clinton is indeed a little weak on this issue.

Trump then blew it by admitting that he did have to settle the two cases from the Justice Department, using as his only defense the fact that a lot of other landlords were sued at the same time and that he managed to "not admit guilt" in the settlement. Not very convincing, to say the least. Trump also pointed out he doesn't actively discriminate at his Florida club, which also wasn't very convincing (the battles to get minorities admitted into country clubs are pretty old hat, these days).

Lester Holt then led us into some wonky territory on cyber attacks and Russia. Clinton responded in a wonky way (as is her wont, at times), then hit Trump for "publicly inviting Putin to hack America." Trump responded with his endorsements from admirals and generals, as well as ICE and the Border Patrol. He leveled probably the strongest words at Clinton of the evening, calling her a "political hack" (which, for him, barely even registers on the Trump insult-o-meter). He then sounded almost deranged, saying about the D.N.C. getting hacked: "Maybe it was Russia, maybe it was China, maybe it was a guy sitting on his bed who weighs 400 pounds." Um, what? We're under attack from obese hackers? Strange, I haven't seen that in the news....

Clinton responded with her stock line about how she has an actual plan to attack ISIS, and trots out her "I helped kill Bin Laden" line -- after an hour and a quarter, which is perhaps a new record for Clinton (for not deploying it earlier in the debate).

Trump responded with his wish to return to colonialism, saying we should have just "taken the oil" in Iraq, so ISIS never would have formed. Clinton, bizarrely, just let this one slide rather than taking it on directly. Instead, she focused in on Trump being "for the Iraq War, for what we did in Libya" and then pointed out that George W. Bush negotiated the American pullout from Iraq, not Obama. Hillary then got downright hawkish, speaking of an "intelligence surge" that sounded a lot like giving the N.S.A. the green light to do whatever it wanted (perhaps this was just my interpretation, though). We then had a little back-and-forth on NATO and the Iran nuclear deal, with both candidates saying predictable things.

Lester Holt took one last shot at relevance, and tried to get Trump to admit he had been for the Iraq War before it happened. Trump completely lost it, in response. He finally admitted the Howard Stern quote exists, but then repeated "Call Sean Hannity" for proof he was against the war before it started. One can imagine the researchers digging through Hannity's shows from 2002 and 2003, all night long, to fact-check this nugget. Holt absolutely hammered the question again and again -- his finest moment of the evening. He finally got out the original question, which was actually about temperament. Trump then (of course) said he had a wonderful temperament, that it was perhaps the most tremendous thing about him, and his temperament was better than Clinton's. I don't have this exact quote, because I was so busy rolling around the floor laughing, so my apologies for the omission.

Trump complained that Clinton's ads about him "were not nice." I mean, the absolute chutzpah to say this right after blaming Rosie O'Donnell for what Trump called her -- it was just astonishing.

Clinton responded in similar fashion: "Woo! OK...." She then debunked Trump's egotistical (and untruthful) claim to have woken NATO up to fighting terror, pointing out that NATO joined America to attack Afghanistan after 9/11. We then had some more back-and-forth over the Iran deal, with Clinton quoting Trump about Iranian ships "taunting our military" where he said we should have "blown them out of the water." Clinton quite rightly used Trump's own quotes to show how his temperament wasn't exactly presidential, and then got off her final great zinger at Trump: "A man who can be provoked by a tweet should not be anywhere near the nuclear button." This was well-delivered and entirely accurate.

Lester Holt tried to regain control to introduce the last segment, and after failing a few times, finally managed to ask Trump about first-strike nuclear policy. Trump said he wouldn't strike first, after rambling a bit about China and North Korea. He then ended by hitting the Iran deal again.

Clinton looked downright presidential in her response, which began with: "Words matter." She explained how our allies need to know that the United States is true to our word, defended the Iran deal, and ended with "Donald's secret plan to fight ISIS -- his secret is that he has no plan." This line's been working for her out on the campaign trail, so it wasn't surprising to hear it tonight.

Lester Holt then skewered Trump on a comment he made about how Hillary doesn't have a "presidential look." Trump tried to spin it that he was hitting Hillary's "stamina" instead, and Holt took another shot at reading Trump's own words to him (which Trump could not bring himself to admit he had actually said). Clinton had a good comeback for this one, stating that Trump can "talk about stamina" after he flies around the world and makes international agreements, or sits in front of a congressional committee "for 11 hours."

At this point the crowd realized that Lester Holt wasn't going to chuck them out on their ear, and there were loud cheers for Clinton's statement. The Trump fans also cheered his response, just to get in on the action.

Things at this point fell completely apart for Trump. Clinton, sensing the crowd's mood, hit Trump on how he's called women "pigs, slobs, and dogs," and told the story of one of his pageant contestants who Trump disparaged, "who is now a citizen and looking forward to voting." Trump was rattled by this entire line, you could tell, and he then displayed his "outreach to women" -- by stating baldly that "Rosie O'Donnell deserved it." Hoo boy. That one is definitely going to be in a Clinton ad coming soon!

Immediately afterwards, Trump complained that Clinton's ads about him "were not nice." I mean, the absolute chutzpah to say this right after blaming Rosie O'Donnell for what Trump called her -- it was just astonishing.

Holt had an interesting final question for both candidates (although obviously aimed at Trump): If the other person wins, will you accept the outcome and not challenge the result? Both Clinton and Trump said they would abide by the results, which is reassuring to hear from Trump (who, earlier, had flirted with calling the whole thing rigged, months before voting even started).



The first debate is now one for the history books. I'll be very interested to see how everyone else reacted to it, which I'm going to do right after I post this. As I said before, Clinton turned in a good performance. Maybe not her best debate of all time (she's done almost 40 of them), but certainly not her worst either, by a long shot. She didn't stumble or get caught out by Trump once during the evening, and she showed her verbal fighting mettle at several points. She did manage to get under Trump's skin (especially at the end) several times. The astonishing thing for Trump was that (except at the end), even when she rattled him, he was usually able to calm himself down after a few minutes of shouting. He's obviously been coached that the whole shouty thing doesn't really come across as very presidential, and you could see him forcing himself to shift gears away from it several times.

Trump kept it together more than he managed during some of the primary debates. He didn't become completely unhinged at any point during the evening, although he did dance up to the edge of doing so a few times. He insulted women, Rosie O'Donnell, Barack Obama, African-Americans, Hispanics, and many others during his performance -- which is all pretty much par for the Donald Trump course. Trump did manage to get some actual policy answers out, most notably in the earlier portions of the debate. But he doesn't do well after about the hour mark -- something that was already apparent during the primary debates and was also on full display this evening.

Who "won" the debate? Well, I'll leave that for the punditocracy to determine, without my help. I thought Clinton did a great job tonight, and looked pretty presidential for the entire evening. I thought Trump meandered all over the map and ignored many facts and truths he doesn't want to admit. But then I'm one of the roughly 85 percent of the public who knew who they were rooting for before the debate started, so you can call my conclusions biased if you'd like. That's how I saw the debate, but I'd be interested in hearing how everyone else reacted (down in the comments, as usual) as well.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Forget Lock And Load; The NRA Is All About Lock And Lie

Robert Greenwald   |   September 22, 2016    3:54 PM ET

The NRA is lying again, this time about Secretary Clinton. And while most people will notice the base lie in their latest advertisement -- the whole "she'll take away your guns" trope -- there is another lie that will get less attention. This lie -- hidden in a fear-mongering, transparent attempt to attract women to vote for a blatant misogynist -- is that the NRA cares in the slightest about safety -- anyone's safety. We have done a video to correct it.

The lie is embodied in a little-commented-on moment in the ad when the woman unlocks the safe in which her gun is stored. In state after state, the NRA has fought with all it had against legislation that would require gun owners to store their weapons safely -- as in, locked away from the curious eyes of children. One of those states was Washington where in 2013, the NRA managed to kill an attempt to mandate safe storage. One year later, Sandy Aponte's son, Eddie, was killed by another child unintentionally when the boys got a hold of a loaded gun another friend's stepfather left laying around. Sandy's story is one of those we tell in Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA. The film traces the connection between gun company profits and the NRA.

Those profits are amplified by the NRA's marketing strategy which can be summed up as "keep em' scared." That is why they have fought mandatory safe storage. The line they use is that people need to be able to get their guns quickly when someone is, say, breaking into their home. That's a terrifying thought - one that is far more likely to encourage people who are so inclined to rush out and buy a weapon than "guns should be stored safely away from children, who are extremely likely to shoot themselves or someone else accidentally if they are not."

Taming the West with Six-Guns & Fists

Dennis Miller   |   September 22, 2016    3:08 PM ET

After decades of collecting vintage western paperbacks, (published 1939-1960) I decided to downsize and part with the approximately 3,000 novels I'd acquired.

Getting rid of a collection is tough. So I decided to scan the covers. In the time-consuming process of handling each book, scanning it, and making color corrections, I picked up a strong pattern.
Westerns were a large part of pop culture in the 1940's-1960's. The primary reader was the white male, most likely a veteran of World War II or even World War I. He had lived through the Depression and was now in the Cold War era in which Communists were the enemy.


The reader was probably in a 9-5 union or office job or working the land. He might have suffered some degree of PTSD through it wasn't recognized at the time and the stoic male did not admit to suffering any mental problems whether he was a veteran or not.

Here's what I found about the vintage paperback depiction of the Old West:

Out of 3,000 covers, maybe five include black men. (Paperbacks about the Civil War, of course, included more black men).

Of the 3,000 books, women grace the covers of maybe 50. They are fairly equally divided into passive women, those being threatened, and strong women with guns.

The few Hispanics are either villains or poor ranch workers. There are no Asians.

Almost all Native Americans are villains -- primitive, hostile and violent -except the women. They're beautiful and sexy.

The vast majority of the covers depict strong, white males, mostly in some alpha state of confrontation or fighting. Nearly all have guns and most of these are six-shooters.


While the covers depict a moment of confrontation or violence from the book, the novels themselves were written by men who knew the west and created fairly accurate descriptions of the region and daily life, mainly from the 1870's through the 1890s.

The artists themselves were primarily New York City or New England residents, most of whom had never been west of Pennsylvania.

But no matter. What is important is the myth, distilled and popularized by Easterner Owen Wister with The Virginian and Zane Grey, beginning with Riders of the Purple Sage. The myth features a hero with a moral code who stands up to evil, greedy men, East Coast bureaucracy and big business.

The heroes are not formally educated. Their education is life experience - the fittest surviving by living off the land, animal instincts, hard fists, quick triggers and accurate aim. (The subhead for one novel: "Iron fists and hot lead made him the Boss of the Panamint.")


The reality of opening the west to white culture was a complex, messy affair including the genocide of Native Americans, shooting buffalo to near extinction and using Mexican and Chinese as what might as well be called slave labor.

All this was an effort to" tame the land." The irony is that savage behavior was the norm while moving white civilization into the "Wild West."

In the myth the messiness is cleaned up and simplified. The white male hero goes forth into this vast wilderness to combat evil, almost always single-handed, relying on his moral code, courage, and his six-shooter.


While the Western genre is out of favor now, the myth is as strong as ever. White males of European descent must have their guns to preserve the American Way of Life. Their "enemies" are black men, non-Christians and LGBT folks. (Even Communists seem to have fallen off the 'enemies list" since Trump began praising Putin.)

The readers of these vintage westerns have passed on. But the myth of the self-reliant, strong, white American male relying on his fists and guns has roared forth again over the past few years. It will probably be with us for a time even after white males become the minority in the near future.

A myth is hard to alter, especially when it helped create and maintain an entire culture.

Note: In a collector's desperate attempt to preserve and share, I've created a couple of Pinterest boards titled "Six Guns and Guts: Cowboys Lawmen & Mavericks," and "Great Vintage Western Art." They continue to grow as I continue to scan.

Mike Weisser   |   September 12, 2016    5:52 PM ET

Back in 2008 Obama had his ‘guns and religion’ moment, which briefly appeared to undo his presidential campaign. Now, Hillary has created her moment too with the comment about ‘deplorables.’  And while you might think that an entire national campaign never really rises or falls on a few words, just ask George Bush, the first George Bush, whether or not he’s still asking people to read his lips.

On the other hand, go back to a Reuters poll in June, and maybe the deplorability needle gauging the attitudes of Trump supporters is set just about right. Because in that poll, half the folks who described themselves as supporting Trump said that Blacks were more ‘violent’ than Whites, and also said that Blacks were more ‘criminal’ than Whites. And there is no question that Trump has been echoing and encouraging those attitudes every chance he gets, and in that respect he’s getting plenty of help from the NRA.

This whole notion of walking around with a gun in your pocket to protect yourself and others against the criminal ‘element’ has been a watchword of NRA gun propaganda since the 1980s, when the gun industry discovered that White America was no longer going out hunting but was afraid of crime.  Gallup has been asking this question since 1965: ‘Is there any area near where you live – that is, within a mile – where you would be afraid to walk alone at night?’ The affirmative response hit its high-water mark in 1982 with 48 percent saying ‘yes.’  And it was in the 1980s that the NRA unleashed ads which, for the first time, explicitly promoted gun ownership as a response to crime, and they have been running with this notion ever since. And who exactly are all these criminals committing mayhem in the streets? If you need help figuring out the answer to that question, you need a functioning brain, never mind another gun.

There really are people out there who believe they can protect themselves and others by walking around armed even if they have little, practical training or experience in using a self-defense gun. Never mind civilians, by the way, even with some degree of training, most cops can’t protect themselves or anyone else with their gun.  A study by the Police Policy Council found that when a New York City police officer encountered an armed suspect, the average ‘hit probability’ was 15 percent! A study by the RAND Corporation set the number at 18 percent. Now we’re not talking about internet scam-artists like the United States Concealed Carry Association or a former town constable named Massad Ayoob who earns a nice living going around the country as a reincarnation of Jeff Cooper’s Principles of Personal Defense. We’re talking about the RAND Corporation, OK? But why trust them when you have such noted researchers as Dana Loesch and Ted Nugent telling you that you’ll always be safe as long as you carry a gun?

The Supreme Court may have gotten it right back in 2008 when it said that the 2nd Amendment gave Americans a Constitutional protection to keep a loaded handgun in their home.  But that’s all the Court said.  It didn’t say there was any Constitutional protection for citizen-protectors who believe it is their duty to walk around armed in their neighborhood streets. Sorry, even though George Zimmerman was found innocent of second-degree murder, he wasn’t exercising any Constitutional ‘right’ when he gunned down Trayvon Martin in 2012.

My issue is not whether guns do or don’t make you safe.  And it certainly isn’t whether or not anyone should own a gun.  The issue is the fact that a gun is a very lethal product in even the most capable hands, and to pretend otherwise has become a not-so-disguised way to promote and exploit racism and fear. And God only knows that we have been getting a big dose of both from a certain New York City landlord in the current presidential campaign.

Why Anthony Weiner Can't Stop Showing His Penis

Renee Fisher   |   September 6, 2016    5:35 AM ET


The current news about Anthony Weiner presents a unique problem to Life in the Boomer Lane. Having used all of her best humor in her previous two posts about him, she isn't sure where to run with this latest inability Weiner has, to keep his penis in his pants. Weiner brings new meaning to the phrase, "Zip it shut."

Weiner, destined for a life of mockery because of his last name, has, in this latest episode of poor choices, crossed the line in two ways. The first is that his wife, Huma Abedin, is the vice chairwoman of Hillary Clinton's 2016 run for the presidency. Abedin has never in her long, distinguished career of service to Hillary, been engaged in an election as important as this one.

The second poor choice was that, among all of the sexually explicit photos he sent, was one of his underwear-clad crotch, as his four-year-old son Jordan was shown sleeping next to him in bed.

It's tough to say what drives this man. Or rather, it's tough to say that, with so much at stake in his life, he allows his dick to do the driving for him. He's lost his political career. He's lost his marriage. He's lost his reputation. The only gain he's had is to be a wealth of material for late night TV hosts and undeservedly unknown bloggers.

The Weiner episode does allow LBL a temporary respite from the daily terror of anticipating the latest news headlines. And the thought of why Weiner would continue to knowingly ruin his life is as great a mystery to her as to why she ate so much Rocky Road Haagen Dazs last night. Of course, she knows the answer to both: addiction. She is grateful that hers extends only to ice cream, chocolate and nachos. She feels pretty sure that these will not ruin her marriage or her career. Although, she also suspects that if Now Husband knew that she occasionally eats ice cream in the car (directly from the little carton, with no spoon), he might give second thought to his marital commitment.

Dovetailing with the news about Weiner was a piece about students at the University of Texas, using dildos to protest guns on campus. Their "Cocks Not Glocks" protest against Texas's "campus carry" law was held on the first day of classes. The new law permits licensed gun owners aged 21 and older to carry concealed handguns in most places on public university campuses, including dorms and classrooms.

According to The Guardian, "Demonstrators gathered to brandish sex toys in the air or strap them to their backpacks. Or other places. 'We have crazy laws here but this is by far the craziest, that you can't bring a dildo on to campus legally but you can bring your gun. We're just trying to fight absurdity with absurdity,' said Rosie Zander, a 20-year-old history student."

Throughout history, as we well know, the sight of a penis (or a huge bulge in one's Haines) has meant many things to many people. Weiner and the U of Texas students have each made choices about how to use the penis to best advantage. In this case, LBL would like Weiner to keep his permanently hidden, while she encourages the U of Texas students to keep flaunting theirs.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

Guns in Donald Trump's America

  |   August 30, 2016    4:36 PM ET

Read More:

Mike Weisser   |   August 29, 2016    6:01 PM ET

To her immense credit Hillary has raised the issue of race in a direct and immediate way. The Republicans, after all, have been playing the race card ever since Saint Reagan joked about the ‘welfare queen’ during the 1980 campaign, and it’s time that someone finally came out and called it what it is.  And let’s not screw around and pretend that Trump, with his wretched disdain for minorities, is somehow outside the mainstream of Republican beliefs. The red team has never (as in never) tried to make itself attractive to the minority vote.  In fact, if it were up to the GOP, minorities wouldn’t be able to vote at all.  Or am I wrong and did that recent North Carolina voting rights decision throw out a law pushed through the state legislature by Democrats from the Tar Heel state?

When it comes to defining political issues in racial terms, of course, Trump has also dipped quite easily into the playbook authored by the NRA.  Because if you think for one second that Gun-nut Nation’s push for concealed-carry laws is something other than a direct appeal to racial animosities and prejudices, think again.  Why should everyone be walking around with a gun?  To protect us from crime. And who are all those people committing all those crimes?  The same people who, according to Mister Trump, are going to show up on election day, vote as many times as they can, and guarantee that the result will be ‘rigged.’  

Trump’s biggest problem, and it’s been a problem for the entire Republican Party, is that they are slowly but steadily losing the party’s base.  Because it was the same Republican Party, by the way, that blocked immigration from Europe after 1924.  And it never occurred to those dopes and racists back then that what they were really setting in motion was a situation that would eventually lead to a basic change in the ethnicity of new Americans, due largely to the immigration reform law signed by Saint Reagan in 1986.  Because this law allowed American farmers to employ non-citizens as ‘temporary’ farm workers, most of whom after the harvest season decided to stick around.  Remember all those ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals’ from Mexico that Trump discovered when he first announced his candidacy?

So what we ended up with is a presidential candidate who, until he realized last week that his racist jeremiad wasn’t working, told every Ku Klux Klan rally – oops! – I mean campaign rally, that he was going to throw ‘them all the hell out.’ And, by the way, if any of those criminals and rapists are left over after the mass deportations, we can always depend on all those law-abiding, 2nd-Amendment-loving NRA members to protect us with their guns.

There’s a reason why the NRA decided to break with its own tradition of endorsing the Republican candidate in October and instead decided back in April to go with Trump. Because the NRA has been playing the same fear-mongering racial card to its own members since it began promoting gun ownership as a response to crime. And this new advertising strategy served two purposes: it helped the gun industry make a product transition from sporting and hunting to self-defense, and it gave Republican politicians a leg up in races for various Congressional seats.

When Dana Loesch makes a video for the NRA saying she needs a gun to protect her and her family against ‘street thugs,’ does anyone have any trouble figuring out the skin color of those so-called thugs?  Loesch and her NRA sponsors pander to many Americans who mistakingly believe that crime is on the rise.  And they also believe that a gun will make them safe, even if they don’t own a gun.

Calling Trump a racist takes guts but is also an easy one to see.  The real challenge for Hillary is to give Americans who are afraid of crime or terrorism ways to assuage their fears without going out and buying a gun.