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What's the matter with South Carolina?

Columbia Journalism Review - July 29, 2014 - 11:20am
When it comes to secrecy in South Carolina, less more is more. In the last 90 days, the state Supreme Court has ruled that autopsy reports are medical records that may be kept secret; that public agencies are not required to post an agenda for a regular meeting; and that a state judge must close a hearing that will determine...

Global Warming To Boost Risk Of Kidney Stones

ThinkProgress - July 29, 2014 - 11:12am

Current U.S. ‘stone-belt’ or high-risk kidney stone area in yellow. Computer model predicts expansion of stone-belt over time in orange (2050) and in red (2095). Currently, 41% of the population is within a high-risk zone. Computer model predicts 56% of the population will be in a high-risk zone by 2050 and 70% by 2095. Via PNAS 2008.

Global warming likely increases the risk of kidney stones. I recently was diagnosed with stones. Coincidence? Probably!

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reported this month on a major study, “Climate Change May Bring More Kidney Stones.” The news release noted, “a research team found a link between hot days and kidney stones in 60,000 patients in several U.S. cities with varying climates.”

The study, published in the journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, was led by Dr. Gregory Tasian, a pediatric urologist and epidemiologist. He concluded:

“Kidney stone prevalence has already been on the rise over the last 30 years, and we can expect this trend to continue, both in greater numbers and over a broader geographic area, as daily temperatures increase. With some experts predicting that extreme temperatures will become the norm in 30 years, children will bear the brunt of climate change.”

While team denial was feigning injury at the mere notion that a potentially serious medical condition was being linked to warming, team reality noted that this isn’t a new or surprising finding in the least. Back in May 2008, the American Urological Association summarized a new study on global warming and kidney stones this way:

Rising global temperatures could lead to an increase in kidney stones…. Dehydration has been linked to stone disease, particularly in warmer climates, and global warming will exacerbate this effect. As a result, the prevalence of stone disease may increase, along with the costs of treating the condition.

The well known alarmists at the Mayo Clinic note that “Dehydration” is one of the “Risk Factors” for stones: “Not drinking enough water each day can increase your risk of kidney stones. People who live in warm climates and those who sweat a lot may be at higher risk than others.”

Dehydration reduces urine volume, which increases the chances that salt crystals will form in one’s kidneys. Back in 1996, well-known alarmists at the American Journal of Epidemiology published a study, “Relation between Geographic Variability in Kidney Stones Prevalence and Risk Factors for Stones,” that concluded “These results provide evidence that ambient temperature and sunlight levels are important risk factors for stones.” They cited many earlier studies with similar findings.

Scatter plot of U.S. prevalence rates for kidney stone by state for each gender versus the mean annual temperature for that state. Via the journal Kidney International.

The chart above comes from the well-known alarmists at the the official journal of the International Society of Nephrology. The review article, “Ambient temperature as a contributor to kidney stone formation: implications of global warming,” concludes “a body of literature suggests a role of heat and climate as significant risk factors for lithogenesis [the creation of stones]” — especially in men.

The American Urological Association wrote six years ago:

The southern United States is considered “the stone belt” because these states have higher incidences of kidney stones. Rising global temperatures could expand this region; the fraction of the U.S. population living in high-risk stone zones is predicted to grow from 40 percent in 2000 to 50 percent by 2050.

That research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (here). It is the source of the top figure.

When I mentioned to my urologist that a recent study predicted an increase in kidney stones from global warming, he could not have been less nonplussed. I, in turn, was nonplussed, but that was before I looked at some of the vast literature on the subject.

The disinformers often push the absurd myth that action on climate change would lead us back to the Stone Age — is if slowing global growth by a mere 0.06% per year is somehow a hardship. It does, however, seem that inaction on climate change will lead to a new Age of Stones.

The post Global Warming To Boost Risk Of Kidney Stones appeared first on ThinkProgress.

How NBA Players Could Benefit From Having Major Sports’ First-Ever Female Union Head

ThinkProgress - July 29, 2014 - 10:54am

CREDIT: Shutterstock

The National Basketball Players’ Association on Monday elected a new executive director who will lead the union in what may be the most contentious negotiations on the horizon for any major sports league. Michele Roberts, a DC-based lawyer, is also the first ever woman elected to head up a major sports union in North America.

“It shows how open-minded our players are,” Chris Paul, Clippers point guard and NBPA president, told CBS. “With any of the candidates, it wasn’t about race or gender. It was about who was going to be the best person in that position.”

While Roberts was Paul’s top choice for the position, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo, others involved in the process were unhappy with her lack of a background in basketball issues. Some agents involved even called on the NBPA to delay the vote. In the end, of the three finalists, Roberts was favored for her litigating background at the highly influential firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, with work focusing on white collar criminal charges. She won 32 out of the 36 votes cast by the NBPA executive committee.

In the coming months, the NBA will work through several important issues for players, including the negotiation of a new television deal that will impact player salaries and a potential lockout over the next collective bargaining agreement that could have players opting out as soon as 2017. And players might have reason to celebrate Roberts breaking the hardwood ceiling at such a volatile time.

Women don’t have many of the problems that can sometimes bring negotiations to a halt — men are more often serious risk-takers, while women are more likely to move negotiations forward. Stubbornness is a trait often rewarded among male leaders. Women, meanwhile, tend to be less corrupt and run more profitable companies. Women have been shown to bargain more aggressively than men in certain situations, particularly when they’ve been told explicitly that they should do so. Women and men also may make smarter decisions in risky, pressure-filled situations when working together, as Roberts and Paul will. When it comes to labor, women have been found to have higher win rates, as do people of color representing other people of color.

The NBPA has been in something of an ordered chaos for months. The former president stepped down after allegations emerged that he had extended his own contract without following organizational guidelines. The absence of an executive director for the Players’ Association was sorely felt at the end of last season, when Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments were caught on tape. Then, the interim director Ron Klempner handed over the reigns on the players’ response to former player and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson. Johnson and a committee that was supposed to shepherd through the process for a new executive director instead ditched that process last week, saying, “while we’d hoped to help bring this to completion, it’s clear that won’t be possible.”

Roberts’s story — a woman of color being brought in during a particularly difficult time — is a common one. Women and people of color are more likely to be hired in top positions when times are tough for an organization. And, if they can’t change the company’s course while in charge, those barrier-breakers are more likely to be let go.

After the vote, Roberts expressed optimism about the future of the NBPA. “We are going to have a team, a very strong team, what I call a team of gladiators,” she said, according to CBS, “that’s going to help these men and women, again, go in the direction they choose to go. It’s a new day.”

The post How NBA Players Could Benefit From Having Major Sports’ First-Ever Female Union Head appeared first on ThinkProgress.

In 2014, Colorado Oil And Gas Spills Are Happening Twice A Day

ThinkProgress - July 29, 2014 - 10:53am

CREDIT: Shutterstock

The more they drill, the more they spill. And the part about telling residents about it, not so much.

A Denver Post analysis of Colorado oil and gas spills so far in 2014 reveals that they are happening twice a day “and usually without anyone telling residents.”

That rate, 467 spills for the first 7 months of this year, suggests that the state will surpass last year’s record of 575, the paper reported, due to a surge in oil and gas development and more stringent reporting rules. The state oil and gas commission said that tougher enforcement is also a factor.

Colorado now has about 52,000 active oil and gas wells, with much of the recent growth occurring along the populous Front Range north and northeast of Denver. The rapid pace of drilling and its proximity to many communities has sparked a simmering revolt, with the prospect looming of an epic election season battle over ballot proposals to allow more local control of oil and gas development. A drive to obtain enough signatures to place those measures on the ballot will conclude on August 4.

Since 2010, the paper reported, about 21 percent of the nearly 2,500 reported spills have contaminated either ground or surface water.

New rules implemented this year by the oil and gas commission require operators to notify the agency whenever more than 210 gallons are released, a tougher requirement than the previous threshold of 840 gallons. Other parties that must be notified include the landowner where the spill takes place, state health officials if water is contaminated, and someone from local government.

But as the paper reports, “government officials generally don’t announce spills or otherwise notify nearby residents.”

That prompted a sharp response from Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “These oil and gas companies are engaging in a heavy industrial activity – right over the backyard fence in some instances. And with that comes the responsibility of telling people who could be affected when something goes wrong.”

The post In 2014, Colorado Oil And Gas Spills Are Happening Twice A Day appeared first on ThinkProgress.

NRA Lobbyist Compares Gun Safety Law To Nazi Germany

ThinkProgress - July 29, 2014 - 10:51am

Will Freeman is an intern with Think Progress.

Guns on display at the NRA’s annual convention.


NRA spokesperson Brian Judy took the stage at a pro-gun rally in Silverdale, Washington last Wednesday to drum up opposition to Initiative 594, a bill that is on the ballot for November and would require everyone who buys a gun in the state to pass a background check. His speech quickly devolved into making comparisons between background checks and Nazi Germany before he bitterly ridiculed Jews who support gun safety measures.

Judy launched into his anti-Semitic tirade by focusing his rage on Nick Hanauer, a billionaire Seattle entrepreneur whose family pledged a half-million dollars in support of I-594. Hanauer also published an op-ed in this month’s issue of Politico about America’s widening rich-poor gap.

In the article, Hanauer warns fellow billionaires that they must support “middle-out” economics, including a higher minimum wage, or face “the pitchforks” of a populist revolution from below. In criticizing the article, Judy made the leap from pitchforks to guns, interpreting Hanauer’s warning as a call for the one percent to confiscate the firearms of the masses in order to maintain a tight grip over society.

“Why does a small group of billionaires want to register handguns?” Judy questioned. “I know where they want to go. I’ve watched these people for 30 years, they want to ban them, but they have to register them first so they know where to get them,” he said, adding, “these billionaire plutocrats want to get rid of handguns so when things do go loose that the people only have pitchforks to come after them.”

That’s when Judy decided to play a classic pro-gun card and distastefully invoke the legacy of the holocaust. While Hanauer only mentions in passing that his family came to America after fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany, Judy made it the focus of his rant. “[Hanauer] talks about his family being run out of Germany by the Nazis. It’s like, how stupid can they be, you know?” Judy asked, met with cackles from the crowd. “Now he’s funding, he’s put half a million dollars toward this policy, the same policy that led to his family getting run out or Germany by the Nazis” Judy remarked.

In fact, as Salon notes in a take-down of gun advocates’ tired argument that the holocaust started with gun safety, Hitler signed a law in 1938 that actually reversed Germany’s previously strict gun laws, completely deregulating the sale of rifles, shotguns and ammunition for the majority of Germans. He also lowered legal gun ownership age from 20 to 18 and gave Nazi party members complete exemption from gun regulations.

Judy didn’t just get the facts wrong. He also insisted on turning his attack against Hanauer into a larger diatribe against all Jews who support gun safety. “It’s like any Jewish people I meet who are anti-gun, I think, are you serious? Do you not remember what happened? …You come to this country and you support gun control? Why did you have to flee to this country in the first place?” Suggesting that he had a better grasp on Jewish history than Jews themselves, Judy added, “It’s really sad the level of understanding some people have of history and, like they say, if you don’t understand history, you’re doomed to repeat it.”

On Monday, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle called on Judy to resign from his position with the NRA and apologize for his comments. In 2006, a shooter fired on the offices of the community group in an attack that left one dead and five injured. Cheryl Stumbo, who was badly wounded in the attack and now works for the I-594 group Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, said Washington needs “everyone working together” to make “our communities safer. Fringe ideas like Mr. Judy’s are part of the problem,” she added.

The post NRA Lobbyist Compares Gun Safety Law To Nazi Germany appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Color Me Skeptical About a Guaranteed Income for All

Mother Jones - July 29, 2014 - 10:50am

Should we have a guaranteed minimum income in the United States? Something nice and simple that would replace nearly our entire current alphabet soup of means-tested welfare programs?1 Dylan Matthews posts about this frequently, and others chime in occasionally as well. It even has some support among conservatives.

I am not so sure, myself. Keith Humphreys makes a couple of good points here, but I want to step back a bit. At a bare minimum, I need answers to four questions:

  1. How big would it be?
  2. Is it a family benefit or a personal benefit?
  3. Is it for adults only, or would children also qualify for a benefit?
  4. How would it phase out with income?

There are many more details to work out, all of them important, but I don't think you can even begin to talk about this without answers to these four basic questions.

I'm skeptical about the whole thing because I don't think you can make the details work out. Nor do I think that it's politically feasible either now or in the future.2 What's more, I'm always skeptical of ideas like this that haven't been adopted by any other country, even the ones with far more liberal welfare states than ours. I figure there must be a reason for this.

But I'm happy to be proven wrong. Just give me a policy skeleton to work with. What exactly are we talking about here?

1Proponents usually (but not always) make exceptions for education and health care, which are too variable and too expensive to be handled by a simple minimum income.

2Perhaps it's feasible in our far-distant robot future. Maybe even necessary. For now, though, let's stick to the medium-term future.

Stories I'd like to see

Columbia Journalism Review - July 29, 2014 - 10:48am
This column, a regular feature, was originally published on Reuters.com. There are so many gaps in the reporting about the effort to use economic sanctions against Russia to get President Vladimir Putin to pull back support for the Ukraine separatists that it makes sense to devote my whole column this week to listing them. Of course, it's a lot easier...

Senate Nominee Argues Low Minimum Wage Is ‘Appropriate for Iowa’

ThinkProgress - July 29, 2014 - 10:45am

Iowa Senate nominee Joni Ernst (R)

CREDIT: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Iowa Senate nominee Rep. Bruce Braley (D) released a new campaign ad on Tuesday highlighting his Republican opponent’s opposition to increasing the minimum wage. To defend itself, state Senator Joni Ernst’s (R) campaign claimed Iowans are best off with their state’s paltry $7.25-an-hour minimum.

The Braley ad features part of a June Iowa Public Radio interview in which Ernst was asked if she — like 65 percent of her fellow Iowans — supported an increase in the minimum wage. Ernst responded in the negative, explaining, “I do not support a federal minimum wage. Every state has a different economy, different cost of living. I don’t believe that’s the role of the federal government.” It also includes video of a March candidate forum at which Ernst argued that the current minimum wage of $7.25 is “appropriate for Iowa.”

A spokeswoman for Ernst told reporters that the ad was part of a “dirty, false campaign,” claiming that since Ernst “grew up working minimum-wage jobs,” she “knows first-hand how important the minimum wage is.” “While Bruce Braley thinks Washington always knows best,” she argued, “Joni understands that a minimum wage set by Iowans, for Iowans, is the best way to help working Iowans.”

But stagnant wages have not helped Iowans. The current $7.25 minimum wage — the national wage floor since 2009 — would mean that a 40-hour-a-week employee would only earn about $15,000 annually. Progress Iowa has estimated that more than 300,000 Iowans would receive a pay raise if the minimum were raised to $10.10, as Braley has proposed. That amounts to about 10 percent of the state’s population.

Neighboring Missouri and Illinois have higher wages than the national minimum. But having a national minimum wage prevents a “race to the bottom” where businesses locate jobs in states where they can get away with paying workers the least possible amounts.

This is not the first time Ernst has argued for an anti-federalist “states rights” approach. At a September candidate forum, posted online on Monday by The Daily Beast, Ernst suggested a radical “tenther” view of the U.S. Constitution that allows state legislatures to nullify federal laws that they don’t like. She told the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, “As [a] U.S. Senator why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws.” These nullification claims were popular among southern activists in the 1800s and segregationists in the 1960s.

The post Senate Nominee Argues Low Minimum Wage Is ‘Appropriate for Iowa’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Gripping New Ad Shows What Happens When You Mix Guns With Domestic Violence

ThinkProgress - July 29, 2014 - 10:22am

CREDIT: Screenshot

A man with a piercing stare peers through the blinds and knocks. The woman inside calls 911, voice quivering. “It’s my ex, trying to break in.” The police proceed to ask her questions, slowly. And in the meantime, the man has kicked in the door, grabbed the woman’s child, and pointed a gun at her head.

“Stop gun violence against women,” reads the message at the end of a 30-second TV spot. The grisly ad was produced by the newly formed gun violence group Everytown for Gun Safety, and the it will run in three states where Republican senators are vulnerable to pressure from their constituents on gun safety reform.

Watch it:

Arizona’s Sen. Jeff Flake (R) — once a popular senator viewed as a rising star — saw his poll numbers drop to the lowest in the country after he voted against the background checks bill that had overwhelming public support. Even Flake reflected after his drop in the polls, “Given the public’s dim view of Congress in general, that probably puts me somewhere just below pond scum.” He had earlier claimed he supported expanding background checks, saying, “While we may not agree on every solution, strengthening background checks is something we can agree on.”

Nevada’s Sen. Dean Heller (R) towed a similar line. He, too, claimed to support expanded background checks before voting against the Manchin-Toomey bill last May. And an overwhelming 86 percent of Nevadans supported the bill.

New Hampshire’s Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) was the only senator in the northeast to vote to block the background checks bill. And she, too, tried to claim support for background check expansion afterward by touting her support for a different Republican bill that included other provisions that would have given those with a history of mental illness more access to guns.

Each of these senators is perceived as politically vulnerable, and Everytown hopes to capitalize on that with its new ad and pressure these senators to support Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) bill to limit the availability of guns for domestic violence. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the bill Wednesday.

For women, domestic violence is the greatest risk factor associated with guns. According to Everytown, “The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be murdered,” and some Center for Disease Control statistics suggest more than 50 percent of female homicides are attributable to intimate partner violence.

Klobuchar’s bill, the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act, would close gaping holes in background check laws that don’t bar gun ownership by abusive dating partners rather than spouses, and don’t incorporate many stalking crimes.

Domestic violence is one issue where the National Rifle Association has been softening its typical reflexive and vehement opposition to any gun safety bill. In the past few months, three states passed bills to increase domestic violence protection with newfound support from the NRA. But the NRA is thus far continuing to oppose Klobuchar’s bill, saying in a recent letter to senators that the proposal “manipulates emotionally compelling issues such as ‘domestic violence’ and ‘stalking’ simply to cast as wide a net as possible for federal firearm prohibitions.”

The post Gripping New Ad Shows What Happens When You Mix Guns With Domestic Violence appeared first on ThinkProgress.

America Should Get Out of the Peacekeeping Business in Israel

Mother Jones - July 29, 2014 - 9:58am

From the Washington Post:

Anyone who has made even a passing glance at the Israeli media in the past few days will have noticed the incredible chorus of criticism being directed at John Kerry right now. The secretary of state has been lambasted by all sides for his apparent failure in attempts to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

[Examples follow]

And it's not just Israelis. Elsewhere in the Post, David Ignatius takes Kerry to task too:

Secretary of State John Kerry has made a significant mistake in how he’s pursuing a Gaza cease-fire — and it’s not surprising that he has upset both the Israelis and some moderate Palestinians.

Kerry’s error has been to....

I think we should stop right there. Kerry has made only one mistake, and that was trying to negotiate a ceasefire in the first place. He didn't fail because of any personal shortcomings; he failed because there were no terms under which either side would ever have agreed to a ceasefire. The fighting will stop when both sides decide to stop, and not a minute before. It's long past time for everyone to acknowledge this.

The United States has been trying to broker peace in the Middle East for the past 20 years. Maybe longer, depending on how you count. But 20 years at least, and every attempt has failed. Various Americans have tried, all with different approaches, and the result has been the same every time: not just failure, but a steady and inexorable deterioration of the situation. It's no longer credible to pretend that maybe a different person with a different approach and different sympathies might have made a difference in any particular situation. Blaming Kerry for this latest failure is just delusional.

Quite famously, we all "know" what a deal between Israel and the Palestinians needs to look like. It's obvious. Everyone says so. The only wee obstacle is that neither side is willing to accept this obvious deal. They just aren't. The problem isn't agreeing on a line on a map, or a particular circumlocution in a particular document. The problem is much simpler than that, so simple that sophisticated people are embarrassed to say it outright: Two groups of people want the same piece of land. Both of them feel they have a right to it. Both of them are, for the time being, willing to fight for it. Neither is inclined to give up anything for a peace that neither side believes in.

That's it. That's all there is. All the myriad details don't matter. Someday that may change, and when it does the United States may have a constructive role to play in brokering a peace deal. But that day is nowhere in the near future. For now, it's time for America to get out of the peacekeeping business. Our presence there does no good, and might very well be doing active harm. This doesn't mean withdrawing from the region, it just means getting out of the shuttle diplomacy business. Neither side is ready for it, and probably won't be for years. Let's end the charade.

North Carolina Abandons Defense Of Same-Sex Marriage Ban

ThinkProgress - July 29, 2014 - 9:23am

Same-sex couples marched in Ashville, NC last October before a protest where they requested marriage licenses they knew they would not be issued.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Adam Jennings

Following Monday’s decision by the Fourth Circuit overturning Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) has abandoned his defense of his state’s ban, calling it a “futile” cause.

“I have concluded that the State of North Carolina will not oppose the cases moving forward,” he said in a statement. “In addition, the State of North Carolina will acknowledge the 4th Circuit opinion that marriage is a fundamental right and that our office believes that the judges are bound by this 4th Circuit decision.” Given federal courts have consistently rejected all of the arguments against same-sex marriage, he concluded, “it’s time for the State of North Carolina to stop making them.”

North Carolina was the very last state to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and other unions, with voters approving the measure just back in 2012.

West Virginia and South Carolina are two other states defending same-sex marriage bans impacted by the Fourth Circuit ruling. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) has not made any comments except to say that the state’s marriage ban is still in effect.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson (R), on the other hand, was as adamant as ever about defending his state’s ban. Spokesman Mark Powell said Monday that there was no need to change course because the U.S. Supreme Court will make the final decision: “People should not rush to act or react until that time — when a decision is made by the highest court in the land.”

The Fourth Circuit’s decision was the third marriage equality ruling by a federal appeals court since the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision last year. The Tenth Circuit similarly ruled against bans in Utah and Oklahoma. There have been over two dozen state and federal court rulings over the past year, unanimously in favor of marriage equality.

The post North Carolina Abandons Defense Of Same-Sex Marriage Ban appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Brian Powell: Fox Host Claims Conservatives Aren't Talking About Impeachment 12 Days After One Called For Impeachment On His Show

Media Matters - July 29, 2014 - 9:18am

Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy displayed a striking disregard for reality, claiming that conservatives are "not talking about" impeaching President Obama while failing to note that just days ago, Fox's Andrew Napolitano called for impeachment on the same show.

On the July 29 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade suggested Obama is trying to "bait" Congress into impeaching him by overreaching on the implementation of immigration policies. Doocy replied, "Brian, to your point about impeachment, only Democrats are talking about it. Republicans, conservatives, not talking about it. Only Democrats. It's to gin up the base before November."

But just days ago, on July 17, Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano appeared on Fox & Friends and counseled the GOP to impeach the president, which Napolitano claimed would "focus his attention immediately."

Why A Popular Music Festival Banned Headdresses

ThinkProgress - July 29, 2014 - 9:14am

Coachella, obviously.

CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons – cjzp

Picture your average music festival. When it comes to attire, everyone seems to wind up in the same unofficial uniform. Ironic tees or breezy, barely-there tanks or no shirts at all; flower crowns and face-paint and neon sleeves of bracelets. And there’s always at least one attendee in a headdress.

Bass Coast, a Canadian music festival, just instated a policy banning concert-goers from wearing headdresses on-site this week in Merritt, Canada. Paul Brooks, Bass Coast communications manager, wrote the announcement and posted it on Facebook on July 23; it quickly went viral. I spoke with Brooks about the decision behind the ban, why he doesn’t want to “force other festivals” into following Bass Coast’s lead, and how to know if you should be wearing a headdresses at all. (“If you’re asking yourself the question of whether or not you should be wearing it, you probably shouldn’t be wearing it.”)

How long has the conversation about banning headdresses been happening with the Bass Coast team? How did the conversation begin and how were advisors chosen to discuss this topic?

It’s de-humanizing, the dollar store kit that people buy and put together. I know people aren’t coming with malicious intent but hopefully people will look into this and make the discovery themselves that what they’re doing is disrespectful.

The festival started in Squamish in 2009, closer to Vancouver, but we eventually outgrew our site and moved to Merritt, which sits on Aboriginal land and has a lot of Aboriginal people living there on reserves. When I started with Bass Coast last year, the conversation about the ban was already on the table. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the resources and couldn’t get the message out to our security team for 2013’s festival. We regretted not being able to implement it but did have some education on site, including a few Aboriginal groups set up with workshops talking about cultural appropriation.

Headdresses have not historically been an issue at our event and the number of people who have appeared has been very small. However, we’re a community that looks out for itself. We wanted to start discussions with people. We felt that we had to deal with this issue as it made all of the core members of our team uncomfortable. Throughout our decision process, we worked with some of the local bands here, including Coldwater & Lower Nicola as well as Upper Nicola, Nooaiatch, and Shacka, and they were all on board with us making up a policy for this. We wanted to implement this dress code not just for the Aboriginal people of the area, but also for Indigenous people across Canada and North America.

What was the tipping factor in terms of deciding to ban headdresses for the festivals attendees? Was having A Tribe Called Red as one of this year’s performers a contributing factor, given the statements they released last year to HuffPost Canada about headdresses at festivals?

This was something we had already been discussing back before we knew who would be performing. When we failed to get the policy in place last year, that was the first thing we discussed for this year saying to ourselves, “We have to do this.” We were really pushing for ATCR because we’re big fans, but we had already been pushing this headdress issue as well. I’ve been speaking with Deejay NDN [of A Tribe Called Red] since last year. I ran a segment on a radio station I work with on why people shouldn’t be wearing a headdress. He is an influence on the team but also on me personally, and having had these discussions with him, I’d say he’s definitely an inspiration on this. He’s been taking on the Washington Redskins and speaking to this issue a lot and I really admire him for that. In our conversations, I definitely got more insight into this and now often encourage people to look into the history of the war bonnet and cultural appropriation and challenge people to rethink their beliefs.

How is the security team being briefed in terms of identifying a headdress or “anything resembling them,” as was posted on your Facebook page? How is this enforcement planned to occur if someone does show up wearing one?

It won’t be heavy handed. It will come from an approach of educating the person.

Before we even wrote the post, we had gone over this with our security team. Only the supervisors of the team will be approaching individuals who might happen to don a war bonnet. I think it’s highly unlikely that it will happen, and it won’t be heavy handed, it will come from an approach of educating the person. They will be asked to put it in their car or their tent for the remainder of the festival if they’re seen wearing one. In terms of identifying them, we’ll be going over this as well. But to concertgoers, if you’re asking yourself the question of whether or not you should be wearing it, you probably shouldn’t be wearing it. People on our team have been doing research on this subject. I actually didn’t know Aboriginal people were actually banned from wearing them for a period of time in history. It’s de-humanizing, the dollar store kit that people buy and put together. I know people aren’t coming with malicious intent but hopefully people will look into this and make the discovery themselves that what they’re doing is disrespectful.

What does Bass Coast think about the national and international attention this announcement has gained? What message does Bass Coast hope to send to other music festivals by enforcing this ban?

Leadership is a strong component of what Bass Coast is all about. From our team to the thousands of people who help us on-site, those helping with lighting or parking or performances, we felt we needed to take a stand on this issue. We did it for very personal reasons; we didn’t do this looking at other festivals, and we don’t want to force other festivals into doing this. This is based on our community in which we operate. I’m amazed at how far this has gone, but obviously it’s the right time. We said it in a way that I think people are starting to comprehend the gravity of this, of the situation. I often ask myself the question: why did wearing a headdress become a part of electronic festival culture? I personally would like this to be something that isn’t associated with house music. If this inspires other festivals to do this, great, but that’s not our intention. This is a very personal decision.

Is the headdress policy something that Bass Coast expects to enforce at all shows to come?

Absolutely, for all events here on out. Bass Coast, besides being a music festival, also hosts workshops throughout the year in western Canada. A lot of people are asking questions about other instances beyond just headdresses, but nobody has yet to show us a group of people who are asking for some other potential form of appropriation to be dealt with. This is specific to the war bonnet, it has spiritual and cultural significance and we are confident that we’ve made a good decision. It’s part of what Bass Coast is about. The issue obviously resonates with a lot of people who are uncomfortable with this practice. The support has outweighed the people who don’t support it and the conversation around this is very thoughtful and inspiring. We’re very much about learning and leadership, it’s a part of who we are and if we can create positive change in the world by something as simple as writing a Facebook post, we’ll continue to stick to our guns.

In the festival video promo, you write: “A mutinous spirit manifests itself in the uniqueness of the people in the Bass Coast community. Intelligent dissent represents a mutiny against the status quo. Take heed: when we gather, a force is unleashed in which the seeds of a bright future grow.” Does this theme fall in line with your decision to ban headdresses?

I wrote that piece. The festival started incorporating themes annually, for example, last year’s theme was “zebra.” This year, Liz and Andrea (the founders of Bass Coast) came in and said the theme should be “mutiny” – [there are] all kinds of amazing applications of the term. I started looking into the etymology of the word and my writing partner and I came up with a manifesto that Bass Coast stood for. I actually didn’t really think about this year’s theme initially when we were putting this headdress policy together. Later on that day, we realized that this was a mutiny against the status quo so. It does fit in. It has been on all our minds, and it did have an influence even though we didn’t put it together immediately. Bass Coast is a mutiny against the status quo: it’s about changing the world by being unconventional and being creative. I’m excited to see how else this plays into the festival. We really lifted the positive aspect of the word – the world needs a mutiny right now, we feel.

The post Why A Popular Music Festival Banned Headdresses appeared first on ThinkProgress.

NCAA Agrees To Major Medical Reforms In Settlement Of Concussion Lawsuit

ThinkProgress - July 29, 2014 - 8:51am


The NCAA and former players suing the organization over its treatment and management of concussions across sports have reached a settlement in the class action case, coming to an agreement that will establish a fund for monitoring of the injuries and new policies for how to treat and respond to them.

The settlement was filed Tuesday morning in the Northern District of Illinois, the New York Times reported. It has not yet received approval from the judge overseeing the case.

The original case was brought by three former college athletes led by former Eastern Illinois football player Adrian Arrington. The suit alleged that the NCAA did not educate players on the dangers of concussions or properly treat or manage the injuries when they occurred.

The settlement will establish “a $70 million medical monitoring fund and a new national protocol for head injuries sustained by players during games and practices” and includes other agreements that will benefit athletes, the Times reported:

It would give all former college athletes a chance to receive a neurological screening to examine brain functions and any signs of brain damage like chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease.

The N.C.A.A. would also prevent athletes who have sustained a concussion from returning to a game or practice that day. Trained medical personnel would be required at all contact sports events like football, lacrosse, basketball, soccer and wrestling.

Court documents made public in the case showed that NCAA athletes across all sports suffered nearly 30,000 concussions between 2004 and 2009, but that the organization did little to address the problem, conducting research but refusing to institute standards for how its member schools should deal with treatment or return to play. The NCAA instead chose to require schools to come up with their own Concussion Management Plans, though there was little oversight from the NCAA itself into whether schools followed the plans and no planned enforcement if they did not institute or follow the protocols. The documents included emails that showed NCAA officials specifically saying that it did not set national standards in order to avoid legal liability, and detailed how lax its standards were. In one email, for instance, NCAA medical director David Klossner responded to a question about the strength of the NCAA’s policies relative to other leagues by saying, “Well since we don’t currently require anything all steps are higher than ours.”

The documents also showed that only two-thirds of NCAA members performed baseline concussion testing and that 39 percent had no return-to-play guidelines. The Times reported that the settlement would require preseason baseline testing for all athletes, a policy that two members of Congress have pushed for in legislation introduced last year. The settlement will also establish a $5 million concussion research fund, mandate educational training for athletes before each season, and require medical personnel on the sidelines for games in contact sports, according to USA Today.

According to the Times, the settlement will not preclude athletes who were party to the suit from pursuing their own separate lawsuits against the NCAA, and Arrington, the former football player who headlined the case, plans to continue suing the organization. The NCAA is still facing multiple other lawsuits related to concussions, including a wrongful death suit from the family of former Frostburg State University football player Derek Sheely, who died after remaining on the field after sustaining concussions during practice.

Concussion treatment has been a major issue for players challenging the NCAA on other fronts as well: the National Collegiate Players Association has long advocated for major reforms to the NCAA’s concussion policies, and the College Athletes Players Association, a spinoff of the NCPA that is attempting to become the first players union for college athletes, has cited the substandard concussion policies as one of the major reasons why athletes want to form a union.

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Workers In These Cities Should Soon Be Able To Take A Day Off If They Get Sick

ThinkProgress - July 29, 2014 - 8:39am

CREDIT: Flickr

On Monday, San Diego’s city council gave final approval to a bill that would require the city’s employers to offer their full-time workers at least five paid sick days a year. It would also increase the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 by 2017 with automatic increases for inflation after 2019.

On the same day, Eugene, Oregon’s city council passed a paid sick leave law will go into effect next July, barring a successful legal challenge. The city’s employers would have to give workers an hour of paid time off for every 30 they work, with a maximum of 40 hours a year. All businesses and nonprofits will be covered by the law. An estimated 25,000 workers in the city don’t have access to paid sick days.

San Diego’s part-time workers would be able to earn prorated sick days based on how many hours they work. An estimated 279,000 workers will now be able to earn the leave, and the bill doesn’t have any exemptions for certain industries or businesses. An earlier analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that about 433,500 private-sector workers in the city didn’t have any access to paid sick leave.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has said he will veto the bill that guarantees paid sick days and a minimum wage increase, saying that it “puts our job growth in jeopardy and will lead to higher prices and layoffs for San Diego families.” But given that the measure passed six to three and a veto override requires six votes, it’s likely that the city council will override his veto.

Assuming both ordinances eventually become law, the cities would become the ninth and tenth places in the country with a paid sick leave law on the books, joining the cities of Jersey City, NJ; Newark, NJ; New York City; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; San Francisco, CA; and Washington, D.C. and the state of Connecticut. But there is no federal guarantee to cover all workers; the United States is the only country out of 22 developed ones that doesn’t ensure that all workers can take a paid day for illness. More than 41 million American workers don’t have access to paid sick leave.

Despite Faulconer’s concern that paid sick leave will hurt job growth, evidence from these other laws shows the opposite. Two different studies of Seattle’s law have found that it didn’t hurt job growth or business growth and that in fact job growth was stronger after it went into effect. The majority of the city’s businesses support it. San Francisco’s business growth increased after its law was implemented and jobs weren’t harmed, while a majority of employers also support it there. In Washington, D.C., the law hasn’t discouraged business owners from opening up or encouraged them to move. And Connecticut’s has come with little to no burden on employers, the majority of whom support it.

San Diego also joins a growing group of states and cities in passing a higher minimum wage. Ten states have passed higher wages since January, with five at or above the $10.10 an hour level being sought by Congressional Democrats and President Obama. None have gone as far as San Diego’s $11.50 an hour, although some cities have topped it, such as Seattle, which passed a $15 minimum wage. Real life evidence again offers comfort to anyone worried that higher wages kill jobs: those whose wages increased at the beginning of the year are experiencing faster job growth, and a study of increases over the past two decades found no evidence of harm to job growth.

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Wall Street Has Raked In Almost A Billion Dollars Helping Companies Move Overseas To Dodge Taxes

ThinkProgress - July 29, 2014 - 8:09am

CREDIT: Shutterstock

As more and more American companies have used international mergers to move their profits out of U.S. tax jurisdiction, the Wall Street firms that encourage and facilitate the deals have raked in close to a billion dollars in fees. The top 10 firms to work on the so-called “inversion” deals have brought in $819.8 million from the deals in just the past three years, according to a New York Times analysis.

The top of the list of corporate offshoring advisers is full of familiar names. Goldman Sachs leads the way with an estimated $203 million in fees, followed by JP Morgan ($185 million), Morgan Stanley ($98 million), and Citigroup ($72 milion). Those figures represent just the past three years of deals and are based on both public disclosures and analyst estimates of the fees paid in various corporate deals.

The deals in question — called “inversions” because they involve an American company buying a foreign-held firm based in a low-tax country and then flipping the merged company’s address to the tax haven nation without necessarily relocating in any practical sense — have boomed in the years since the recession. But the Times figures only date to 2011, so fees paid to the banks on dozens of inversions in prior years aren’t counted.

The deals are great for banks, and the corporate tax savings from them make Wall Street’s cut of the deal look tiny. But they have come under increasing fire in the past month as the White House has called for “a new sense of economic patriotism” from the country’s business elites and billionaire investor Mark Cuban has promised to sell off his holdings of any company that ditches America in order to shrink its tax bill. A bill to close the loophole that makes inversions legal has been introduced by the House by Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), and the Joint Committee on Taxation thinks the bill would save taxpayers almost $20 billion over the next decade.

Inversions are just one facet of the many-splendored jewel that is international corporate tax evasion. The eccentricities of the tax code and the international race to the bottom among tax haven countries like Ireland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and various islands in the Caribbean mean that companies have a variety of options for legally reducing their U.S. tax bill while maintaining their day-to-day operations in America. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Caterpillar, and many other business giants use elaborate licensing deals and shell company subsidiaries to shift profits off their American books.

Despite costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars per year, companies that move profits overseas to duck taxes still receive over $1 billion per year in government contracts.

The post Wall Street Has Raked In Almost A Billion Dollars Helping Companies Move Overseas To Dodge Taxes appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Court Upholds Florida Law That Punishes Doctors For Talking About Guns

ThinkProgress - July 29, 2014 - 8:00am

CREDIT: Shutterstock

Several years ago, the American Medical Association advised doctors to ask their patients about firearms and “educate patients to the dangers of firearms to children” in the name of public health. But doctors in Florida may be suppressed from giving this medical advice, now that a federal appeals court upheld a Florida law that became known as the “physician gag rule” because it punishes doctors for talking about guns.

The ruling could have major implications as policymakers examine gun violence as a public health issue. The National Rifle Association-backed law it upheld imposes severe limits on when doctors can ask their patients about guns or keep records in their patients’ charts about firearm safety. Doctors who are found to have violated the provision risk sanctions or loss of their license.

At least ten medical associations and the American Bar Association argued that the law should be struck down because doctors must be able to discuss safety topics freely in engaging in preventive care.

In an American Bar Association resolution opposing Florida’s law, the organization reasons, “Preventive care through safety counseling is a pillar of modern medicine, and is vitally important to the health and welfare of patients.” Among other public health topics doctors may discuss with adult patients are alcohol and drug use, wearing bicycle helmets and seat belts, and storage of household toxins. Discussions of gun violence, also, may come into play, both for doctors advising parents on keeping their children safe, and psychiatrists concerned about the psychological well-being of their patients. The American Psychiatric Association has recommended that “health professionals and health systems should ask about firearm ownership whenever clinically appropriate in the judgment of the physician.”

The doctor plaintiffs in this case had argued that they have a First Amendment right to discuss these issues with their patients, and a federal trial court agreed, reasoning that the Firearm Owners Privacy Act “chills practitioners’ speech in a way that impairs the provision of medical care and may ultimately harm the patient.”

But a two-judge majority on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed that ruling and upheld the law, concluding that this speech is “professional in nature” and only has an “incidental” impact on free speech. The majority judges — appointees of Nixon and Bush — reason that the law is limited to “harassing” or “unnecessary” speech, so the law shouldn’t limit doctor remarks that are directly related to patients’ health.

Dissenting Judge Charles R. Wilson vehemently disagreed, dubbing the law a “a gag order that prevents doctors from even asking the first question in a conversation about firearms.”

“As a result of the Act, there is no doubt that many doctors in Florida will significantly curtail, if not altogether cease, discussions with patients about firearms and firearm safety,” Wilson wrote, noting that interpretations of what is “harassing” or “unnecessary” vary dramatically, and that doctors must have the discretion to decide when gun conversations are relevant.

Now that the law has been upheld by the highest court short of the U.S. Supreme Court, other states may seek to adopt similar laws. Policymakers have sought to address guns as a public health issues, as guns threaten to surpass car accidents as the leading cause of deaths among young people, and studies link the presence of guns in the home to suicide. But funding for public health research on gun violence has been thwarted by gun rights lobbying. In fact, the National Rifle Association opposed President Obama’s nomination of Vivek Murthy to become Surgeon General because he stated publicly that he views guns as a public health issue.

If the ruling is not invalidated on rehearing or by the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Wilson warns it could also have other implications for doctor speech on issues disfavored by legislators, such as the Affordable Care Act or Medicare.

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Documents for "The NRA's Murder Mystery"

Mother Jones - July 29, 2014 - 7:00am

As part of the reporting for The NRA's Murder Mystery, Mother Jones obtained a 2,100-page court file that includes a transcript of Robert Dowlut's 1964 murder trial, documents related to his appeal, and the Indiana Supreme Court's 1968 decision to reverse his conviction and order a new trial. Key records and excerpts are posted below, along with additional court and police documents mentioned in the article.

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The NRA's Murder Mystery

Mother Jones - July 29, 2014 - 7:00am

Shortly before dark on the evening of April 17, 1963, Robert J. Dowlut went looking for a gun inside the city cemetery in South Bend, Indiana. Making his way through the headstones, he stopped in front of the abandoned Studebaker family mausoleum. He knelt by the front right corner of the blocky gray monument and lifted a stone from the damp ground. Then, as one of the two police detectives accompanying him later testified, the 17-year-old "used his hands and did some digging." He unearthed a revolver and ammunition. As Dowlut would later tell a judge, the detectives then took the gun, "jammed it in my hand," and photographed him. "They were real happy."

Two days earlier, a woman named Anna Marie Yocum had been murdered in her South Bend home. An autopsy determined she had been shot three times, once through the chest and twice in the back, likely at close range as she'd either fled or fallen down the stairs from her apartment. Two .45-caliber bullets had pierced her heart.

Less than an hour after her body was found, two police officers had gone to Dowlut's home and asked him to help locate Yocum's 16-year-old daughter, whom he'd dated. After a short, fruitless search, the officers took him to police headquarters. Though Dowlut was booked as a material witness, investigators soon came to suspect that the tall, polite Army private, home on a two-week leave, had killed Yocum. After a day of intense questioning, Dowlut allegedly broke down and confessed in detail to the murder as well as to a botched robbery attempt earlier the same night in which the owner of a pawnshop was seriously wounded.

A police photograph shows Robert Dowlut (center) in the South Bend City Cemetery with investigators. Indiana Supreme Court

At first, Dowlut insisted that he'd thrown his gun into the St. Joseph River, but the detectives kept pushing. One officer, Dowlut later testified, "just grabbed me by the shirt, told me that I was a son of a bitch, and that I'd better show them where the gun was really at." Not long afterward, Dowlut told his interrogators that he'd lied: "I said the gun was in the city cemetery." According to one detective, Dowlut reeled off the weapon's serial number from memory.

The gun Dowlut unearthed less than a half mile from the murder scene was a Webley Mark VI, a British-made six-shot military revolver commonly sold in the United States after World War II. The Indiana State Police Laboratory determined that it had fired a bullet recovered from Yocum's body, one retrieved from her apartment, and another found at the pawnshop.

The following morning, Dowlut was charged with first-degree murder. A year and a half later, a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder. Before the judge handed down a life sentence, he asked the defendant if there was any reason why he shouldn't be put away. Dowlut replied, "I am not guilty." A day later, the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City registered Dowlut, now 19, as prisoner number 33848.

Less than six years later, Robert Dowlut would be a free man—his murder conviction thrown out by the Indiana Supreme Court because of a flawed police investigation. The court ordered a new trial, but one never took place. Dowlut would return to the Army and go on to earn college and law degrees. Then he would embark on a career that put him at the epicenter of the movement to transform America's gun laws.

Police accused Dowlut (left, in photo) of murdering his girlfriend's mother (inset) and wounding a store owner. South Bend Tribune

Today, the 68-year-old Dowlut is the general counsel of the National Rifle Association. As the NRA's top lawyer, he has been a key architect of the gun lobby's campaign to define the legal interpretation of the Second Amendment. He helped oversee the NRA's effort to strike down Chicago's handgun ban in the 2010 Supreme Court case McDonald v. Chicago, and he is the longtime secretary of the organization's Civil Rights Defense Fund, which has spent millions assisting gun owners in court and sponsoring gun rights researchers. Dowlut's journal articles have been cited by federal judges and are quoted by pro-gun activists. Chris W. Cox, the executive director of the NRA's lobbying operation, has praised him as "a longtime distinguished Second Amendment scholar." Dowlut's behind-the-scenes legal work may have done as much to tighten the NRA's grip on gun policy as its blustery talking heads and provocative PR campaigns.

Browse primary documents cited in this investigation.

Among Second Amendment lawyers and scholars, Dowlut is admired for his intellect and calm. "He is a really reliable and exhaustive source for legal input on the issue," says Robert Levy, the chairman of the Cato Institute's board of directors and one of the lawyers behind the landmark 2008 Heller case, in which the Supreme Court affirmed an individual right to own guns. Dowlut is "a human encyclopedia" on the subject of state gun laws, says David T. Hardy, a lawyer and prominent pro-gun writer who has known him "longer than I can remember." (Dowlut and current NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre attended Hardy's wedding in 1982.)

Yet Dowlut maintains an extremely low profile. "Bob is a man who does his job and doesn't go looking for attention," Hardy says. He rarely speaks in public and does not appear on NRA radio or video programming. While his wife, a lawyer and genealogist, maintains a website with postings on family history, gun rights, and an NRA law seminar she helped organize, Dowlut himself is conspicuously absent from those pages. He made a rare appearance on the site in a photo—removed a couple of years ago—titled "The Fantasy Supreme Court." The group portrait shows a smiling Dowlut, his wife, and a who's who of top Second Amendment lawyers and scholars at the NRA annual meeting in 2010. It is captioned: "These are the men who, over a span of more than 30 years, built the foundation that restored the Second Amendment as an individual right."

Dowlut with "The Fantasy Supreme Court" at the 2010 NRA annual meeting, one of the few recent images of him online Alice Marie Beard via Archive.org

The story of how Dowlut walked away from a murder conviction and rose through the ranks of the NRA has never been told publicly. It begins with the transcript of his murder trial, part of a 2,100-page court file obtained by Mother Jones that includes detailed closed-door testimony not heard by the jury. Despite a series of phone calls and detailed written requests seeking comment for this article, Dowlut did not respond, nor did his wife. It is unclear whether he has ever disclosed his past to any colleagues—Hardy told me he had "no idea" about the murder conviction—or to his employer; LaPierre and other NRA leaders also did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Beyond the puzzle of a half-century-old crime is the question of what drove Dowlut to become one of the brains behind the modern gun rights movement, with its insistence that ready access to guns prevents, rather than provokes, violent crime. Court documents, Dowlut's own writings, and interviews with people knowledgeable about his career offer clues to his journey. It spans from the liberated Nazi slave-labor camp where he was born and his troubled youth in Indiana to the chambers of the US Supreme Court—and the front lines of the battle over the right to bear arms.


When Officer Edward M. Scott of the South Bend Police Department pulled up at the house on West Washington Street just before 9:30 p.m. on April 15, 1963, he found an elderly woman outside, screaming, "A lady's been shot!"

Anna Marie Yocum as she was found by the police Indiana Supreme Court

Scott and his partner entered the three-story Victorian and found a woman crumpled on the second-floor landing. "She was lying more or less on her knees in a squat position and her head was hanging down the stairway," Scott recalled at Dowlut's trial. "I noticed there was a large hole in her back and there was a pool of dark blood all underneath her body." The elderly woman, who had phoned the police, lived across the hall from the victim's small attic apartment but hadn't seen anything.

When the victim was turned over, Scott recognized her as Anna Marie Yocum, a 36-year-old waitress and single mother. One afternoon about six months earlier, he'd escorted Yocum to the hospital to see her teenage daughter, Camille, who'd fainted at a lunch counter. The girl had been with her boyfriend, Robert Dowlut, who'd told the officer how to find Yocum.

By chance, Scott had spotted Dowlut earlier on the night of the murder. About 90 minutes before they discovered Yocum's body, he and his partner were dispatched to help investigate the shooting of Saul Berkowitz, the 65-year-old owner of a pawnshop. As the officers stopped at an intersection, Dowlut crossed in front of their car, heading in the direction of Yocum's apartment, two blocks away.

Dowlut was already familiar to the police. In January 1962, according to the South Bend Tribune, he had admitted to what a front-page article described as a "crime spree": Armed with guns stolen from the local historical society's museum, Dowlut and another teenager had robbed a café, netting about $135. Witnesses at the café said the two had brandished a pistol and a homemade zip gun, firing a shot before emptying the till. (In addition to being charged with armed robbery and burglary, Dowlut had faced counts of car theft, hit-and-run, and malicious trespass, according to a 1964 presentencing report.) Brought into juvenile court, the 16-year-old reportedly gave no explanation for his behavior and maintained that he'd never so much as broken a window previously.

Robert Dowlut's high school senior photo Washington High School

After conferring in Polish with Dowlut's parents, refugees who had immigrated after the war, Judge Frank X. Kopinski opted for lenience. "My logic tells me you should be sent away, but my heart says no," the judge told Dowlut, according to the Tribune. Dowlut was put on probation and graduated from Washington High School in January 1963 with a good academic record. At the end of the month, he enlisted in the Army and headed off to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training and a fresh start.

Corresponding with his probation officer in March 1963, the young GI sounded hopeful: He was planning to attend signal school in Georgia and perhaps try out for Airborne and a post overseas. He also indicated that he'd decided not to marry Camille, a prospect that had been weighing on him. She was pregnant but had recently said he was not the father. "I knew I would be marrying the girl from mere obligation," he wrote in the letter, which would be read into the record at his murder trial. "I will go to college as soon as I finish my obligation to Uncle Sam," he continued. "I will be out when I am twenty years old. I will be more mature and I will have a whole new outlook on life."

Those plans were dashed when Officer Scott and his partner pulled up to the Dowluts' modest home on West Dunham Street. As they drove Robert Dowlut to police headquarters, they passed by the commotion outside Yocum's building. Dowlut asked what had happened. Nothing, Scott told him. The officer then asked Dowlut what he'd been doing earlier that night. "Well, I have a lot of problems," he recounted Dowlut saying. The teen said he'd spent much of the evening wandering around by the river. He described the route he'd taken home, which did not include the intersection where Scott had seen him. "Robert," Scott replied, "you lying to me."


At the station, Dowlut was taken to an interrogation room, where a trio of detectives began questioning him. He recalled that they first asked about Yocum's daughter and who she associated with. "They thought that perhaps she did it," he testified. Camille reportedly arrived at her mother's apartment two hours after the shooting and was taken into "protective custody." The police concluded she wasn't involved in the crime. According to the South Bend Tribune, the police also detained two other young men for questioning, but they were let go. A 38-year-old man, described during the trial as "friendly" with Yocum, was also interviewed and released.

Dowlut refused to take a polygraph, and a test for gunpowder residue on his hands proved inconclusive. Yet the police believed they had enough circumstantial evidence to keep him in custody. First, there was his apparent lie about his whereabouts. The police also had learned that Dowlut had been seeing Camille against her mother's wishes and that he and Yocum disliked each other. There was an eyewitness report of a young man in his early 20s, approximately 6 feet tall, running near the site of the pawnshop shooting. (Dowlut was 6 feet tall.) And then there was Dowlut's juvenile record.

Around midnight, Dowlut testified, he asked if he could call a lawyer. Inspector Russell Hunt, the lead detective, told him, "No, you can't have one; you're under investigation for homicide." (Hunt testified that Dowlut never asked for a lawyer.) Dowlut said that when he asked what would happen if he tried to leave, an officer patted his holstered gun and growled, "You damned Polack, you step one foot out of that door and I'll kill you."

Robert Dowlut shortly before his murder trial, 1964 Indiana Supreme Court

Over the following two and a half days, Dowlut was questioned for a total of nearly 20 hours by no fewer than eight police officers. During that time, he did not see a lawyer and was not charged with any crime. His statements were not recorded. At his murder trial, details of his interrogation were revealed behind closed doors by the officers who had arrested and questioned him, and by his parents and Dowlut himself. The jury did not hear these sworn statements, but Dowlut's lawyers submitted them as part of his appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court.

While the chronologies offered by Dowlut and the police closely matched, their accounts of what was said starkly contradicted each other. According to the police, Dowlut was offered multiple chances to contact a lawyer, was treated respectfully, and volunteered his confession. In Dowlut's version, he was repeatedly denied access to an attorney and was driven to confess by threats, relentless grilling, and classic good cop-bad cop tactics.

"You damned Polack, you step one foot out of that door and I'll kill you," Dowlut said the cop growled as he patted his gun.

Dowlut's account was corroborated by his father, who saw him twice during his detention. Donald Dowlut, who wasn't at home when the police arrested his son, went to visit him at the station a few hours after his arrest. "When I saw him, he look tire [sic] and he look like crying…like scared," Donald Dowlut testified in the closed-door hearing. The Dowluts began speaking in Polish, but Hunt ordered them to speak English. Donald Dowlut asked if his son needed a lawyer; the officers told him no and that his son would soon be home.

On the night of April 16, Robert Dowlut testified, "the police started getting nasty." When police had searched the family's house earlier that day, Donald Dowlut told them that he personally had bought a gun through the mail but had since thrown it in the river. The detectives told Dowlut that his dad might be charged as an accessory after the fact and could go to the electric chair. One officer suggested that Dowlut could avoid prosecution by pretending to be "sick in the head," while another allegedly threatened to "punch me in the kisser." In his testimony, Dowlut referred by name to many of the officers who questioned him—but he said he couldn't remember which ones had physically threatened him.

According to Detective Erwin Hampton, Dowlut broke down and confessed on the afternoon of April 17:

He said that he wanted to marry his girlfriend, Cammie; he said that her mother was against this, didn't like him, was trying to prevent them from seeing one another, and he didn't like Mrs. Yocum. He said he was about due to go back to camp and that he wanted to take Cammie with him, but he needed some money, so he said that he took this gun from his home, and I asked him what kind and he said it was a Webley, a .45 Webley. He said that he took the gun and he stuck it in his pants, in his belt, under his jacket, and he said he went uptown looking for a place to rob.

Hampton said that Dowlut also admitted to shooting Berkowitz accidentally when the pawnshop owner grabbed Dowlut's gun. He fled, Hampton said, stopping to vomit in the yard of "the retarded school" about a block from where Officer Scott saw him. He then walked to Yocum's building. Hampton asked Dowlut why he went there. "I'm verbatim now," the detective testified. "He said, 'I went there to kill her.'"

The Webley Mark VI revolver that police said Dowlut dug up in the South Bend City Cemetery Indiana Supreme Court

Inside, Hampton continued, Dowlut found Yocum watching TV: "When he walked in she looked at him startled-like, and she started to get up and he fired. He went past her, she turned and went towards the door of the apartment. He was at the front end of the apartment, and he ran past her and he turned and he fired again at her, and that she fell at that time."

Dowlut initially told Hampton that he'd thrown the gun and remaining ammunition off a bridge, but he revealed their actual location and the serial number of the gun later that afternoon. Hampton also alleged that Dowlut admitted to coaching his dad to lie about the gun when they spoke briefly in Polish at the police station. (Nowhere in the trial transcript is Donald Dowlut asked if the gun was his.) When prosecutor Edward Kalamaros asked about the gun during the closed-door hearing, Dowlut admitted that he had lied about throwing it away and that he'd told the police it was in the cemetery.

The police also tried to squeeze a written confession from Dowlut. He testified that an officer dictated a message to his family, telling him to write, "I confess my crimes." Dowlut asked what that meant. "Well, he said, 'You were screwin' this girl, weren't you?' And I told him, 'Yes, I was,' and he said, 'You screwed her more than once, didn't you?' and I said, 'Yes, I did,' and he said, 'Well, those are your crimes, you screwed a minor girl.'" Dowlut said the police also dictated a note to Camille; in it, according to Kalamaros, Dowlut said he was "sorry for what he had done" and asked her "not to hate him." These notes were not allowed as evidence in the trial.

Dowlut was already known to police for a previous crime spree using stolen weapons and a homemade zip gun.

In both Dowlut's and the police's accounts, the interrogation reached its climax when Donald Dowlut returned to the station on the evening of April 17, after the gun had been retrieved from the cemetery. Dowlut recalled, "I saw him and he saw me and I felt pretty bad about it and I started crying and told Dad that the police made me confess to something that I didn't do." His father described the scene similarly. He said he again asked the police to let his son see an attorney but was told, "He not need no lawyer because he confess over."

The two police officers present also described a pathetic scene, but remembered what was said entirely differently. Edward Nawrocki, a Polish-speaking officer who knew Donald Dowlut socially, said the father and son spoke "partly [in] Polish and partly in American." He testified that Dowlut tearfully repeated his confession to his dad. When his father asked why he'd shot Yocum, Dowlut "just kept repeatin' that this mother was no good to her, that is, his girlfriend," perhaps hinting at a motive beyond wanting to run away with Camille. Donald Dowlut also admitted, in tears, that he had not gotten rid of his gun, Hampton stated. "He said he was sorry for lying to me, he didn't like to lie, but he was frightened" for his son, the detective said. Hampton also claimed that Dowlut told his dad that hiring an attorney was a waste of money because, as Dowlut put it, "I'm going to be in prison for the rest of my life."


The docket for Robert Dowlut's murder case St. Joseph County Archives and Records/Dave Gilson

An attorney enlisted by Dowlut's father arrived at the station the next morning to intervene in the interrogation. A few hours later, Dowlut was arraigned for first-degree murder. Five months shy of his 18th birthday, he was charged as an adult and bond was denied; he pleaded not guilty. Inspector Hunt boasted to reporters about cracking a case that had made front-page headlines for two days.

Dowlut was also charged with assault and battery with intent to kill in the Berkowitz shooting; he pleaded not guilty and bail was set at $100,000. Juvenile court judge Kopinski transferred the case to adult jurisdiction. "If I live to be 100 years your case will confound me," the dismayed judge, who'd given Dowlut a break a year earlier, reportedly said. "I can't fathom your actions, and I hope and pray that courts some day can obtain the intelligence to predict when a brilliant and talented young man like you will go awry in life."

Dowlut's attorney, former prosecutor William Plodowski, threw everything he could at his young, penniless client's case. Arguing that pretrial publicity had tainted the jury pool, he got the venue changed to LaGrange County, around 50 miles from South Bend. More importantly, Plodowski insisted that Dowlut's arrest and interrogation had violated his constitutional rights to counsel and against self-incrimination, arguing that all evidence produced from his detention should have been inadmissible.

"If I live to be 100 years your case will confound me," said the judge, who'd given Dowlut a break a year earlier.

Following the closed-door hearing on this motion, Judge Winslow Van Horne agreed that Dowlut's warrantless arrest had been improper but did not agree that he had been coerced into confessing. However, Van Horne ruled that the police conduct plus the defendant's youth required the court to disregard any statements obtained during his detention. As a result, the jury would not hear anything about Dowlut's interrogation and alleged confession. Jurors would be allowed to hear about the gun Dowlut dug up—just not how the police came to locate it in the cemetery.

Unmasking the NRA's inner circle

On the same day that the judge suppressed his confession, Dowlut filed a written alibi stating that he had spent all of April 15, 1963, at home, except for a short trip to a nearby store "to purchase chewing gum." A friend of his father's testified that he had seen Dowlut at home about a half-hour before the pawnshop robbery. Plodowski also cast doubt on the idea that his client could have committed the murder, hid the gun, and gotten home by the time the police came looking for him.

The prosecution's case rested largely on Officer Scott's sighting of the suspect, the trip to the cemetery, the gun and bullets, and a jailhouse informant who claimed Dowlut had admitted everything to him. Berkowitz also took the stand, describing how Dowlut had entered his store, asked to see a guitar, and then "took out his gun, put it to my stomach, and pulled the trigger." Camille testified that a few days before her mother was shot, she saw Dowlut, who told her, "If you committed robbery in South Bend…you could get away with it." She said that he had called her mom a "bitch" and that he wanted her to come with him when his leave ended. She said she didn't want to, and "my mother wouldn't have let me."

In November 1964, a jury found Dowlut guilty of second-degree murder. (The article incorrectly states Anna Marie Yocum's age; she was 36 when she died.) Logansport Pharos-Tribune

At 1:05 a.m. on November 3, 1964, after deliberating for more than eight hours, the jury found Dowlut guilty of second-degree murder. A week later he was sentenced and put in prison. He appealed, but was denied a new trial. In early 1965, the Indiana Supreme Court agreed to review his case, and on April 1, 1968, it handed down its ruling in Dowlut v. State. The trial judge had properly rejected Dowlut's "illegal confessions," Justice Amos Jackson wrote on behalf of the four-justice majority, but he had improperly admitted the "poisoned fruit" of the interrogation: the gun in the graveyard.

The court reversed Dowlut's conviction and ordered that he be retried. The decision echoed the US Supreme Court's ruling in Miranda v. Arizona nearly two years earlier, which had affirmed criminal defendants' right against self-incrimination during police questioning. A 1978 article in the Indiana Law Review criticized the Miranda and Dowlut rulings for invalidating otherwise reliable corroborating evidence, such as the gun in Dowlut's trial: "The suspect's knowledge of where the murder weapon was hidden was conclusive proof that he had knowledge of the murder."

The state supreme court's decision left virtually no admissible evidence, and the attempt to retry Dowlut for Yocum's murder was eventually dropped. A week after the high court ruling, he was released into the custody of St. Joseph County, where he faced new charges for wounding Berkowitz. After two more years of venue changes and delays, the remaining charges against Dowlut were dismissed due to the state's failure to provide a speedy trial. On April 3, 1970, Dowlut received another chance to start over. Sam Mirkin, a now-retired public defender who represented Dowlut at the end of these proceedings, recalls the day his client was released: "Mr. Dowlut said, 'What do I do now?' I said, 'You call your father and have him pick you up.'"


Following his legal odyssey, Dowlut returned to the military. According to his official bio, he joined the 82nd Airborne Division, and then served with the Army Reserve's 12th Special Forces while he attended Indiana University-South Bend. (His bio says he was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant.) Known as "Necessity U," the small campus drew students who "likely would have had no chance for a college education," as Dowlut's wife, Alice Marie Beard, later recalled. Dowlut tried to recruit fellow vets to come to IUSB. As the 28-year-old told Beard for an article she wrote in the student newspaper in April 1974, "I try to impress upon them that I had been out of high school for nine years and that my parents were working-class people, but that I'm making it okay in college."

At Indiana University-South Bend, Dowlut (center) became active in the veterans movement. Indiana University-South Bend Archives

He joined the paper's staff and wrote a series of columns on veterans' affairs, providing advice on everything from obtaining GI Bill benefits to removing negative or embarrassing details from discharge papers. His writing, which ran alongside columns such as "Pigs Are Pigs" (about a student's run-in with the South Bend cops) and anti-Army ads ("Our best killers have been guys just like you" ), took a practical, even lawyerly, tone. Less than a year after he was interviewed by Beard, they married.

After graduating in 1975, Dowlut enrolled at Howard University School of Law. It was at the historically black school that Dowlut came to see gun rights as a civil rights issue, according to Robert Cottrol, a professor of law at George Washington University and a member of the Civil Rights Defense Fund board of trustees who is friends with Dowlut. He graduated in 1979 and was admitted to the DC Bar in 1980. By this time he had started working at the NRA.

Dowlut joined the organization just as it was being reborn. In what became known as the Cincinnati Revolt, hardliners had overthrown the NRA's moderate leadership and installed Harlon Carter as executive vice president in 1977. Under Carter, the NRA adopted uncompromising rhetoric and an aggressive political strategy that turned it into one of the nation's most powerful interest groups. Carter also envisioned recruiting "young men and women—lawyers, constitutional scholars, writers, historians, professors—who some day will be old and gray and wise, widely published and highly respected. It will be those individuals—in the future—who will provide the means to save the Second Amendment."

Gun owners, Dowlut said, were being unfairly punished for "the inability of parents to instill values in youth."

Dowlut became a key player among this new generation of under-the-radar activists, doing everything from representing the plaintiff in a 1984 lawsuit challenging the nation's first municipal handgun ban to warning housing authorities that prohibitions on tenants owning guns are unconstitutional. He has written or cowritten more than 25 amicus briefs on behalf of the NRA in state and federal cases, including a 1997 Supreme Court case aimed at striking down the Brady Law, which requires federal background checks on gun buyers. At a legal forum at the 1989 NRA convention, he warned that "the end goal of the gun prohibitionists is to ban all guns," adding that "because of the inability of parents to instill values in youth" more restrictions were "being placed on the backs of gun owners."

Dowlut has also helped fulfill Carter's vision of reshaping Second Amendment jurisprudence from outside the courtroom. In the late 1970s, a small cadre of law professors and lawyers began arguing that most judges—including generations of Supreme Court justices—had gotten gun rights all wrong. In its first 200 years, the Supreme Court had considered just four Second Amendment cases; it had never affirmed an individual right to bear arms beyond the context of militia service. The only 20th-century case was in 1939, when the justices unanimously ruled against two men who claimed the federal prohibition on transporting unregistered sawed-off shotguns violated their Second Amendment rights. The new wave of pro-gun scholarship by Dowlut and his allies declared that this legal consensus was not only wrong but dangerous: The Second Amendment needed to be rescued from gun-hating judges, politicians, and activists.

In 2012, the NRA observed Dowlut's 35 years of service with the organization. Civil Rights Defense Fund/Facebook

Dowlut's first articles on gun rights appeared in the early 1980s. A piece in the Oklahoma Law Review in 1983 laid out the basic premise of the modern gun rights movement: Beyond the awkward and archaic preamble about a "well-regulated militia," the Second Amendment unequivocally secures a broad individual right to keep firearms for self-defense and "to deter governmental oppression." As Dowlut wrote, "Draconian gun laws are an ugly form of repression often cloaked in liberal trappings."

"Historically," Dowlut wrote, "the police have opposed any extension of constitutional rights to individuals under their control."

Dowlut's piece was one shot in a sudden volley of pro-gun scholarship. According to an analysis by political scientist Robert J. Spitzer, between 1912 and 1969, just three law journal articles endorsed this expansive view of the Second Amendment. Between 1970 and 1989, 27 did, while 25 supported the prevalent court interpretation. By the 1990s, articles supporting the broader interpretation outnumbered those espousing the traditional view 2 to 1; 27 were written by seven authors who had worked for the NRA or other pro-gun groups, including Dowlut, who wrote three.

In 1997, Dowlut published his most forceful and sweeping article yet in the Stanford Law & Policy Review, justifying the Clinton-era militia movement and predicting that the Supreme Court would eventually strike a blow against the "bigotry, political correctness, and federal courts who give [Americans'] Second Amendment rights no respect." That same year, ruling on the Brady Law case, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas noted the "growing body of scholarly commentary" that had "marshal[ed] an impressive array of historical evidence," and hinted at his eagerness to hear a Second Amendment case. Justice Antonin Scalia, in his 1998 book, A Matter of Interpretation, stated that "dispassionate scholarship" suggested there was a personal right to keep and bear arms. The revisionist view of the Second Amendment had gone mainstream.

Otis McDonald outside the Supreme Court after it heard oral arguments in his challenge to Chicago's handgun ban. Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

Dowlut has also spent decades helping build the NRA's Civil Rights Defense Fund (originally the Firearms Civil Rights Legal Defense Fund), a nonprofit founded in 1978 to establish legal precedents strengthening Second Amendment rights. It has recently backed cases in 35 states and Washington, DC, involving a range of issues from self-defense claims and assault weapons bans to the court-martial of a US soldier charged with murdering an Iraqi detainee. In 1996, it contributed $20,000 to the defense of Bernhard Goetz, who was sued by one of the men he had shot and wounded in the New York City subway in 1984. In 2010, the fund awarded Sen. Ted Cruz its Harlon B. Carter-George S. Knight Freedom Fund award for his work in support of Heller and McDonald as Texas' solicitor general. Since the late 1990s, the fund has given roughly $2.5 million to pro-gun researchers; Hardy, for instance, has received at least $467,000 for various projects, including a documentary film.

Dowlut got to witness the culmination of his work on March 2, 2010. Dressed in an Airborne-maroon beret, scarf, and overcoat, he stood in the brisk darkness outside the Supreme Court as his wife handed out cookies to court watchers waiting in line. The Supreme Court was about to hear oral arguments in McDonald v. Chicago, its second gun rights case in as many years.1

1 In Heller, Dowlut and Beard cowrote an amicus brief on behalf of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Immediately after the 2008 Heller ruling, in which the court had struck down Washington, DC's strict handgun regulations, the NRA contested Chicago's 1982 handgun ban. The finding from Heller—that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep arms for self-defense—did not apply only to the capital, the NRA argued, but to the nation as a whole. Its case became part of McDonald v. Chicago, whose lead plaintiff was Otis McDonald, a retired African American maintenance engineer who had sought to buy a gun for self-defense. On June 28, 2010, the court reaffirmed its earlier ruling, 5-4. Together, these decisions emboldened the gun rights movement, setting off a surge of new challenges to local and state laws.

Dowlut testified that the atrocities his parents experienced in the Nazi slave-labor camp "made me frightened of police officers."

Writing for the majority in McDonald, Justice Samuel Alito said that the Second Amendment applied to the states, echoing an argument that Dowlut and his colleagues had been making for nearly 30 years. In their opinions, the majority cited NRA legal fund trustee Cottrol, as well as legal fund recipients Hardy and Stephen Halbrook. Though Dowlut was not mentioned by name, his influence could be seen between the lines. A popular gun rights blogger wrote, "We also should not overlook the work of NRA General Counsel himself, Bob Dowlut, whose work on this issue goes back to the '70s."

Dowlut has helped realize Harlon Carter's vision of venerable scholars sitting atop an enduring legal foundation. Yet his story evokes Carter's legacy in another way: In 1931, when Carter was 17, he was convicted of confronting, shooting, and killing a 15-year-old Mexican American boy in his hometown of Laredo, Texas. Carter's conviction was later overturned on grounds that the judge had not adequately instructed the jury on the law of self-defense. The managing editor of the Laredo Times, which uncovered Carter's past, noted, "When Carter applied for his job with the NRA I doubt whether he told them he had killed a man." When the incident was reported in 1981, the then-NRA head first denied it, but came to acknowledge it. Asked about the case in 1984, Carter said, "It hasn't hurt me with the American people. It still comes up every now and then but it will never have any effect. That was almost 53 years ago."

The abandoned Studebaker family mausoleum in South Bend's city cemetery, February 2014. Dave Gilson


It is all but impossible to know exactly what happened on that night in South Bend more than 50 years ago. The South Bend Police Department has Yocum's murder classified as an open case. Nearly everyone involved in Robert Dowlut's trial—the judge, lawyers, police officers, and other witnesses—is dead. Camille left South Bend; documents indicate she married the man described during the trial as having been "friendly" with her mother. He died in 1996. Reached by phone, Camille hung up when asked to comment for this story. A registered letter sent to her address was refused three times.

For now, a stack of grainy court documents contains the most detailed account of this grueling chapter of Dowlut's life. The pages hold hints of an even more complex story, such as the moment when, according to Detective Hampton's account of Dowlut's interrogation, the teen turned philosophical: "He leaned back in his chair and he said, 'Well, you know, Sergeant, it's just like a person is two people.' And I said, 'What do you mean by that?' and he said, 'Well, if one part of me can love and the other part can kill.'"

Meet the NRA's board of directors.

Without hearing from Dowlut himself, it's also difficult to know exactly how his experience as a criminal defendant influenced his work. Yet it seems clear that it combined with memories of his family's painful past to shape his views of government authority and the need to possess guns.

Dowlut's parents grew up in eastern Poland, in what is now Belarus. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Donald (originally named Dyonizy), Olga, and their infant son, Victor, were sent to Dachau with other non-Jewish Poles. The Dowluts were later taken to Augsburg, a slave-labor camp outside Munich that made armaments. There the baby became sick. As Alice Beard explained in an online family history, "A Nazi physician told Olga to hold her baby as Dyonizy watched. The doctor gave Victor an injection; the baby began convulsing immediately and died."

Robert was born in Augsburg in September 1945, less than five months after the US Army liberated it and converted it to a refugee camp. He was originally named Bogdan, meaning "given by God." In 1949, the family emigrated to Wisconsin, and then South Bend. Donald did manual labor, and Olga worked in the cafeteria at Notre Dame University. (Olga Dowlut died in 1972. Donald Dowlut died in 1989; the South Bend Tribune reported that the coroner determined that the 75-year-old had shot himself in the head.)

The detective claimed the teen turned philosophical: He said, "'Well, you know, Sergeant, it's just like a person is two people.'"

During the murder trial, Dowlut's attorney drew on the family's tragic history to undermine the police's claims that his client had confessed voluntarily. He presented evidence that Dowlut had grown up with an intense fear of armed men in uniform due to his parents' wartime experience. During his closed-door testimony, Dowlut said their accounts of Nazi camp guards "made me frightened of police officers." He also said that he'd read news articles about police brutality in the United States: "Mostly they have to do with civil rights. They said that police used clubs, fire hoses, police dogs."

Read more of Mother Jones' coverage of gun politics and mass shootings.

Former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman, who first met Dowlut in the mid-'80s, says that Dowlut drew a connection between his past and his passion for the Second Amendment: "My recollection was that his parents grew up in a totalitarian society and he saw the gun as an expression of the freedom given to Americans." This resonates with one of the key tenets of contemporary gun rights rhetoric, that the framers of the Constitution saw the right to bear arms as a bulwark against tyranny.

Dowlut's writings also express skepticism about the government's ability to protect citizens and their rights, including those of the accused. In his 1997 article in the Stanford Law & Policy Review, he wrote, "Historically the police have opposed any extension of constitutional rights to individuals under their control." In his 1983 article, he cited the Supreme Court's affirmation in Miranda of "the right to remain silent and have counsel present during a custodial interrogation." He disapprovingly quoted Justice Byron White's dissent, which predicted that the ruling "will return a killer, a rapist or other criminal to the streets." 2

2 The prosecutor in Ernesto Miranda's retrial was Robert Corbin, who went on to serve as the NRA's president from 1992 to 1994 and as the vice chairman of the NRA's legal fund.

The Second Amendment, Dowlut has argued, must be viewed in this context. Like the criminal suspect's right against self-incrimination, the ordinary citizen's right to bear arms is a fundamental protection against government overreach.

Dowlut is adamant that guns do not facilitate crime or enable violent criminals. In his Stanford article, he quoted a study on gun ownership that asserted, "It perhaps goes without saying that the 'average' gun owner and the 'average' criminal are worlds apart in background, social outlooks, and economic circumstances. The idea that common, ordinary citizens are somehow transformed into potential perpetrators of criminally violent acts once they have acquired a firearm seems farfetched, most of all since there is substantial evidence that the typical gun owner is affluent, Protestant, and middle-class."

There is a clear, bright line between law-abiding gun owners and criminals, Dowlut holds: "Those who argue that a significant share of serious violence is perpetrated by previously nonviolent 'average Joes' are clinging to a myth." Only a criminal, not a gun, can turn a moment of anger or panic into a tragedy. By this reasoning, the good need never apologize—and the bad are beyond redemption. ∎


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