Archive: May 2009

gun sales continue to rise, with april marking the sixth consecutive month of big increases in use of the fbi’s national instant background check system. since some attribute rising gun sales to fears of gun control, i wanted to know how much sales have risen since president obama was elected in november.

firearms sales are seasonal, typically peaking in december and bottoming out around may. since i was interested in the post-election period, i plotted sales from november to april of each year since the nics system came online.
there were about 8.1 million background checks from november 2008 to april 2009, an increase of 29 percent over the previous period from november 2007 to april 2008. this was by far the largest increase of the past decade, though i can’t really tell whether it was due to president obama’s election, a deepening recession, or some other factor.

background checks are closely but imperfectly related to gun sales, since some checks never result in a purchase and others result in multiple purchases. nevertheless, the sheer number of nics checks is impressive, if not astounding. in a nation of 218 million adults, i count 8,097,100 background checks in the past six months alone.

how can that figure be correct? i know that not every check represents a single individual, but i’m still having trouble getting my head around the idea of 8 million in just 6 months. it would be as if every single adult resident of wyoming, vermont, north dakota, south dakota, alaska, delaware, montana, rhode island, hawaii, new hampshire, and maine all walked into bill’s gun shop to plunk down five hundred bucks for a glock 19. i wonder what the next six months will bring…

On May 19th, California will hold a special election on several propositions related to the budget (the propositions, among other things, increase some taxes for a short period and divert money from early childhood and school programs to reduce the budget shortfall). Every poll suggests the propositions will fail. In order to increase support for the propositions, Governor Schwarzenegger is releasing his budget early in two versions — one if the props pass, another if they do not. Included in the latter is reportedly a plan to release 38,000 inmates from prison early. This will be the third time the Governor has suggested early release for some inmates — it failed miserably the first two times, largely for political reasons.

It begs the question — how far will the politics of fear get you? Will people vote for higher taxes in order to avoid releasing inmates? Will the voters choose to lay off teachers or release inmates? While these choices needn’t be pitted against one another, the press and the Governor are framing the choices this way.

Several reports also have the Governor proposing to sell San Quentin. Putting aside the apparent contradiction of why we would sell one prison while simultaneously building many more, I can’t help but wonder… do the inmates come with that?

next thursday’s join for justice event will be part fundraiser, part research release, part networking event, part entertainment, part cocktail party, and part documentary film. my research team is opening for the band, so the talk might be a bit livelier than the one we’ll give at ASA. we’ll also hear from council president judge pamela alexander — a wise and gracious leader, known to criminologists for her pioneering role in challenging gross sentencing inequities for crack and powder cocaine. all are welcome.

Join for Justice: a community gathering around issues of social and criminal justice
May 21 3-6 PM
Downtime Bar and Grill
1501 University Avenue Southeast
Minneapolis, MN 55414

3:00-3:30: Collection of donations at the door
3:30-4:00: Presentation of research (Chris Uggen, Ebony Ruhland, Hilary Whitham)
4:00-4:15: Presentation of CCJ’s work and requests for donations (Pam Alexander)
4:30-6:00: Live entertainment, networking, cocktails

o CCJ mailing list
o Felons for Felons
o Americorps VISTA mailing list
o KFAI Community Radio
o Twin Cities Daily Planet
o Hope Community
o Yo! The Movement
o Goodwill/Easter Seals
o Amicus
o St. Stephens
o University of Minnesota student groups and social science depts

according to the financial times, the sicilian mob is muscling its way into the renewable energy sector:

“Operation Wind” revealed Mafia promises to local officials in Mazara del Vallo of money and votes in exchange for help in approving wind farm projects….Prosecutors suspect the hand of the Mafia in fixing permits and building wind farms that are then sold on to Italian and eventually foreign companies. In an effort to assert its control over the sector, the Mafia is suspected of destroying two wind towers that were in storage in the port of Trapani after their delivery by ship from northern Europe, local officials told the FT.

why would organized crime get involved in clean-n-green alternative energy? because they’d like to be involved in all transactions in which large amounts of money will change hands. plus, the mobsters already have the social connections, control over territory, and “friends” in local government. from the times piece:

“It is a refined system of connections to business and politicians. A handful of people control the wind sector. Many companies exist but it is the same people behind them,” said Mr Scarpinato, whose investigations have focused on the evolution of the Mafia into a modern business organisation … Sicily’s Cosa Nostrais evolving and finding new business opportunities, including the renewable energy sector, by exploiting its historic grip over territory, construction and ability to corrupt local officials.

via utne and we are supervision: a nice selection of chicago gang calling cards from the 1970s and 1980s.

i don’t recall any mention of these in thrasher or
short and strodtbeck, but i remember seeing similar cards on st. paul’s west side in the early 1980s.

there was a righteous mullet at the theatre last weekend, which directed my attention to this minneapolis blogger:

In 1959 journalist John Howard Griffin darkened his skin for an undercover experiment with racial tensions that would later be published as ‘Black Like Me.’ Now, fifty years later, a man with markedly less courage takes on a mission with markedly lower stakes. mullet like me.

strange how a haircut can fall so far out of fashion that it becomes hip, then become such an icon of irony that it becomes painfully unhip. apart from being unfashionable today, a mullet also conveys something about working-class rural white masculinity. so, wearing it now provokes derision in middle-class urban spaces, much like stone-washed jeans. yet the local hipsters are sporting mullets today, in much the same way they affected foam trucker hats and grain belt premium a few years back.

that’s why mullet like me might be a bit too arch for a breaching experiment or sociology exercise. if a sociology student recorded the reactions to his mullet at the mall, karaoke night, and the high-end grocery store, any savvy bystander would quickly suss him out as an ironic hipster. he’d either blend into the background or get the half-smile of the half-amused.

there are, of course, men and women who can pull off a real unironic mullet with style. for example, jared allen of the vikings offers a 3-part code to living the life of the mullet:

1. In everything you do and wear, you must highlight your mullet.
2. Always respect another mullet — no matter where it’s at, a mullet always has the right of way.
3. Most importantly, sleeves are optional.

tor could really rock a mullet in his lanky preschool years, so i wouldn’t be surprised if he returns to form in college — a couple incisions in the mane and he’d be good to go.