April 22, 2013
Who brought you to the dance?
In her NY Times piece, Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer in Washington and a director of the NRA spent very little time and space providing sound footing for the NRA’s undercutting the Manchin-Toomey gun control legislation. Instead she chose to chide the President for what she referred to as his “public temper tantrum” in the Rose Garden along with mocking New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $12 million dollar campaign to “Demand Action to End Gun Violence”.
If she thought the President’s temper tantrum was an isolated event she ought to check into the thousands of bloggers and millions of private citizen rages who have trashed the NRA and their gutless representatives in Congress in a more virulent manner than the Chief Executive did. And please Ms. Mitchell. $12 million is a spit in the bucket to fight for sane gun control in this country compared to the millions the NRA and other gun advocates have spent sustaining the status quo.
Though charging President Obama with “misstatements” in his speech following the Senate’s failure to pass the Manchin-Toomey bill, Ms. Mitchell makes a few herself. And let’s be clear too. This was a failure of the Senate, NOT a victory of the people, as Ms. Mitchell concludes.
The Manchin-Toomey bill failed with a 54 Senate majority supporting it. It was the excessive use of the filibuster by the GOP that sent the legislation to its death. The rules that were intended to give smaller states a bit more voice in the so-called “greatest deliberative body in the world” has become a joke when implemented by Republicans, ever since they lost their majority in 2008.
Something is terribly screwed up with our political system when a minority in this country has that much power and it speaks to the real issue that we should be focusing on So when Ms. Mitchell chortles about a Senate victory in her Op-ed piece, she’s essentially displaying her ignorance about how this bill was defeated.
The two misleading claims she argues against are 1) that this bill was a violation of the 2nd amendment and 2), there was “nothing in the legislation [that] would have prevented another Sandy Hook”. Let’s look at the second claim first.
The Cleta Mitchells of this country love to assert that Sandy Hook was a demonstration of how gun control, short of absolute prevention of gun ownership, did nothing to stop the innocent killings of 20 first graders and six adults. Why? Because Adam Lanza gained access to the weapons he used for the mass murder, NOT from the illegal sale and purchase of the weapons he used but because his Mom had purchased the weapons for herself.
The crime comes from the fact that she failed to store them in a manner that would have prevented her mentally unstable son from getting his hands on them. The guns Nancy Lanza owned were purchased from a licensed dealer where the law currently requires a background check on gun purchasers. So yes, the Manchin-Toomey bill had nothing in it that would have stopped Adam Lanza from doing his dirty deed, except maybe he would have killed fewer had he not also stolen his mom’s Bushmaster .223 caliber– model XM15-E2S rifle, like the one in the picture below. The Bushmaster .223 is an assault style weapon that can hold a 30-round magazine.
Sandy Hook is thus a distraction from what this gun legislation was really aimed at, which was to simply make it more difficult in the future for mass killings similar to the one in Aurora, Colorado, Tucson, Arizona and at Virginia Tech University to happen. It is a lame argument anyone would make that gun control measures like those in the Manchin-Toomey bill will stop most people from killing someone. But it is highly likely to prevent the mass murder killings we’ve seen over the last 30 years that allows a single person to kill higher numbers of people quicker because of their access to the fire power many police departments don’t have and is more likely to be found with military combat units.
Had the two individuals, one in China the day before the Sandy Hook killings and the other in Houston earlier this month used a gun in their assaults, many if not all of their victims would be dead now. As it happened though, their attempts at slaughter were done with a knife allowing many to escape and prevented life-threatening damage to the victims.
As to Ms. Mitchell’s claim about 2nd amendment rights being violated had this bill became law – BULLSHIT, pure and simple. The bill simply consisted of a comprehensive package that expands background checks for gun purchases, increases penalties against gun trafficking, and invests in school safety. None of this violates a person’s 2nd amendment right. In the 2005 Heller vs. D.C. case, gun-proponent and ultra-conservative justice Anton Scalia stated in the minority opinion that “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
It’s not exactly gun ownership that concerns us
What Ms. Mitchell was falsely alluding to was that the bill would have created a registry of gun owners; a fear that zealous 2nd amendment advocates claim will be a slippery slope that will lead to the government taking away the guns people now possess. This entire notion is ludicrous since there was absolutely nothing in the bill that would even imply a permanent gun registry was part and parcel to the bill.
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who drafted the background check amendment, insist a registry is expressly prohibited.
The language of the proposal says the Justice Department “may not consolidate or centralize the records” on firearms sales or possession. It goes on to say nothing in the proposal would allow the establishment of a “federal firearms registry.” SOURCE
The only slippery slope that is in play here is the one we’ve been sliding down for some time now. When every poll out there has demonstrated that the majority of Americans wanted the regulations stated in the Manchin-Toomey bill and some that were not, yet those who represent us in Congress vote against our wishes, clearly our form of government has slipped from the democratic moorings we inherited some 200 years ago. Control now lies in the hands of special interests with vast financial resources and their lobbyists handmaidens. In this case, it is the NRA.
Over the years the National Rifle Association went from one that evolved out of necessity to properly train our military in good marksmanship back in the 19th century to an expanded role where it served the general public in gun safety awareness. By the end of the 1970’s however, a core group of people who represented an anti-government mindset and with strong connections to the gun industry began to take hold of the NRA leadership. What evolved was a belligerency that fought any and every sensible gun regulation that was aimed primarily to reduce gun violence in this country by keeping firearms out of the hands of those who posed the greatest threat to society.
How do you convince sensible people to allow this bizarre change to take place? Well, you lie and exaggerate claims by portraying government as the enemy. The NRA’s cause was aided greatly by the ultra-conservative takeover of the GOP following Ronald Reagan’s election. Reagan became convinced by his brain trust and financial backers that “government [was] not the solution to our problem, government [was] the problem”.
This meme carries back to the days following FDR’s election who instituted many of the social programs that lifted millions out of poverty and gave them some security in their old age. With the aid of these policies and those of the Truman administration following WWII, we built one of the strongest middle classes of all time. Production took off with high wages for labor while the wealthiest 1% endured their high income tax rate.
But from the 1970’s on, slowly and arduously, that wealthy elite worked to get their people elected to control the legislation that would eventually put them back in the driver’s seat. The high rate the wealthy paid went from 91% under Eisenhower to the 35% under Bill Clinton. In the mean time the average income earner watched as their jobs were shipped overseas to the cheaper labor markets as wages were cut here along with health and retirement benefits that allowed most Americans to improve their lot in life over their parents and retire secured.
But what most people saw was not businesses manipulating the rules behind the scenes but the lie made by wealthy entrepreneurs that they were being forced to cut jobs and wages by government regulation. They were aided in achieving their goals by first effectively casting all liberals as anti-American and anti-Christian and then made the guilt by association claim that the Democratic base is liberal and therefore all Democrats were essentially opposed to American values.
This brought in those poor white Southern contingencies and the mid-West bible thumpers, an alliance the GOP exploited to regain control of the Senate and the House which the Democrats had almost exclusively controlled since the days of FDR.
So what we’re left with here is a charade intended to conceal the real reason behind the NRA’s opposition to the bill – the age-old battle between the haves and have-nots. The need to concentrate the greatest wealth with the fewest people and thus the ultimate control of the political power. The gun lobby, headed by Cleta Mitchell’s beloved NRA, is just another link in a struggle that has been a part of mankind’s history since they broke the yoke of political power under the medieval Feudal system where landed gentry and royalty controlled the masses.
Capitalism portrays itself as the opportunity to make life better for those who work hard and play by the rules, but in reality it has substituted itself for the aristocratic tendencies of the feudal system. What most people fail to see is that working at all is becoming more difficult as so-called “job creators” send jobs to cheaper foreign labor markets and eliminate many others through technology that replaces manual labor. And the rules no longer favor the everyman. They favor the wealthiest, who spend exorbitant amounts of money to make sure their guy or gal gets the nomination and hopefully elected to public office.
The myth that we all have an opportunity to live the American dream has never been more exposed than it is now. The “socialist” label that FDR’s programs were labeled with by the rich in the 1930’s failed to convince enough people to reject them. But as John Steinbeck pointed out later, “Socialism never took root in America because the poor saw themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” This misperception continues today and allows the powerful wealth in this country to win over enough gullible people to help them fight their cause at a grass-roots level, albeit one that is funded by wealthy special interests.
The Horatio Alger success stories in this country are not that much unlike the dreams of the poor Irish catching the leprechaun and forcing them to reveal where the pot of gold is hidden. It’s a myth that exists in all cultures and is exploited by the wealthy to keep government casted as the enemy and away from the misguided efforts that have widened the income gap in this country to historical proportions.
It is this myth that Cleta Mitchell uses in her argument to find fault with sane gun control measures. Government is not only trying to take your constitutional rights away, she argues, but they are inadequate enforcing those laws already on the books aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people. Never mind that there are no laws to cover those purchases outside of licensed dealers, where 40% of the gun sales occur. Don’t focus on that, focus on the smoke screen that the NRA is creating.
While some of us get caught up in that dog and pony show, those who are supposed to be above that and faithfully represent their constituency vote instead their fear of losing their job rather than doing the right thing. Greed is a strong force that too often knocks a good person to their knees and THAT is what the Senate’s failure to pass a sane gun control bill was really all about
A Rich Elite and Democracy: Are They Incompatible?
Words for Senators Who Voted Against Background Checks? Dastardly Lily-Livered Spineless Jellyfish
The federal ban in 1993 on assault weapons did matter.
April 19, 2013
To give everyone a break from my tirades on “stupid” in my home state of Texas I thought I would demonstrate that “stupid” is not limited to just one state.
Sex Ed classes in Ohio will become severely restricted if an amendment attached to their budget bill passes both Houses and signed off by the governor.
New sex education standards that would ban any teaching that condones “gateway sexual activity” and allows parents to sue if their child receives such instruction are among the Republican amendments added to the two-year budget bill today. SOURCE
With such a vague reference its hard to know exactly what could be classified as a “gateway sexual activity” by an ultra-conservative court so in the future here’s a possible example of sex ed in Ohio highs schools.
Teacher: Today class we will be discussing how babies are born. There will be a slide presentation and following that we will open it up for discussion. Gwen, get the lights please.
Teacher: Gwen get the lights. Any questions class?
Student: Yeh. Where’s the part about the fairy dust Jesus and the angels sprinkle over the mom to make the baby?
In a related story, an anonymous mailing was sent to all Ohio GOP House and Senate representatives with the following message
Any questions Republicans?
April 16, 2013
Texas used to have a healthy mystique about it that was often the envy of other states and far away places like Lithuania. That’s been lost for future generations now since the presidency of George W. Bush and a host of other Texas politicians who have been in the national spotlight of late. The butt of many jokes, Texas is now too often seen as a place where “stupid” comes to breed.
In a recent Senate roll call vote to see if a bill containing gun control legislation could come to the floor for a debate, the two Senators from Texas both voted against it. They were two of the 31 Senators who cast a vote against a debate on the package which includes a comprehensive package that expands background checks for gun purchases, increases penalties against gun trafficking, and invests in school safety. One of the amendments that will be proposed is a watered-down version for universal background checks offered by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. A full-throated universal background check amendment could prevent criminals, gang members and mentally unstable people from buying a gun. The Manchin-Toomey compromise falls short of this and was even spoofed on SNL
In what was once considered the world’s greatest deliberative body, Senator Cornyn and junior Senator Ted Cruz voted to oppose discussion on any gun control measure including this important issue. It’s no secret that both are opposed to most if not all attempts to rein in gun violence, especially measures to inhibit the purchase of deadly assault guns like those used in the mass shootings this country has seen over the last 30 years. But that gun control measure will do little if we don’t also try to control who purchases any firearm for the very intent of inflicting harm on innocent people.
Recent polls show that a vast majority of Americans favor this sensible type of measure over every other suggestion that gun control advocates have presented. What doesn’t make sense about ensuring that a wife beater, a vengeful gang member or someone who has a criminal record that includes armed robbery or murder is restricted from buying a weapon that puts them at a distinct advantage over their victims? Currently there are background checks required if you purchase your weapon through a licensed gun dealer. But 40% of all firearms are sold through gun shows and private sells that are not governed under the same guidelines.
Most of the Senators who oppose added gun control measures will likely vote against this bill once it comes to the floor but appeared willing to allow their constituents the right to hear their pro and con views.
I suspect however that the gun-advocate supporters in the Senate will actually say very little other than some NRA talking point that has little basis in fact. They simply didn’t want to appear foolish as someone who would deny the constitutional prerogative of speaking freely and openly on a matter of grave concern. So what were Cornyn and Cruz thinking?
This is after all, in theory at least, a democracy. Only in dictatorships or oppressive oligarchs is speech suppressed that is critical of those in power. And therein lies the rub. Where does the real power lie?
For someone like Cruz, who campaigned on the theme about how his father fled the dictatorship of Fidel Castro to come to this country and make a life where people were, among other things, able to speak freely seems contradictory for him to oppose an honest and open debate on this issue. He knows he also can vote against this bill once it’s time, so why would he and Cornyn choose not to even allow any debate that would include universal background checks?
The Power of the NRA
Though 14 years ago Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, told Congress the NRA supported “mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show”, today he and NRA President David Keene now oppose such checks for a variety of reasons, most of them that struggle with credibility issues. From complaining to how much of a hassle this regulation would impose on “law-abiding citizens” to the obvious fear mongering argument that this legislation would lead to the slippery slope of confiscation, the NRA has dodged and weaved around how nine out of ten Americans favor universal background checks.
“When you cut through the clutter of the gun-control debate,” say William Saletan with Slate.com, “this is the easiest conclusion to draw: The NRA has no compelling argument against universal background checks. Checks don’t regulate what kind of firearms or ammo you can buy. All they do is keep guns out of the hands of criminals, abusers, and mentally ill people. That’s worth $5 and two minutes of your time. Pass the law.”
Clearly then the pressure here being put on Senators Cornyn and Cruz is NOT from their constituents. Even in pro-gun Texas where the NRA is trusted more on the issue of guns than Barack Obama by a 47% to 43%, more Texans favor a ban on assault-style weapons by a 49% to 41% margin. They also oppose the NRA’s suggestion to arm public school teachers and to putting armed police officers in every school. It is highly likely then that they would also support a universal background check, especially when you consider that across the country 84% of gun-owners and 74% of NRA members are supportive for “requiring a universal background-check system for all gun sales”.
So this can only lead to one conclusion. Cruz and Cornyn, like so many other politicians are dismissive of their constituents where there are powerful corporate interests that counter them. In this case it is the gun manufacturing lobby who are pulling the strings to cancel out the people who actually elected them. And who best represents the gun manufactures than the NRA.
In its early days, the National Rifle Association was a grassroots social club that prided itself on independence from corporate influence.
While that is still part of the organization’s core function, today less than half of the NRA’s revenues come from program fees and membership dues.
The bulk of the group’s money now comes in the form of contributions, grants, royalty income, and advertising, much of it originating from gun industry sources. SOURCE
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas uses a life size photo of a Remington 750, a popular hunting rifle, to make a point about the proposed ban on certain kinds of guns
I haven’t been able to pinpoint information on donations from specific gun manufactures, but Cornyn has, over his Senate career, voted in favor of the gun industry in all of the gun-related legislation that has made it to the Senate floor for a vote, including the one in 2005 that prohibited lawsuits against gun manufacturers.
Most of the manufacturers’ donations to candidates are likely these days, in lieu of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case, to be filtered through SuperPacs that allow unlimited money while keeping donor information secret. Following the outcome of another federal court case known as SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission multiple SuperPacs began to appear. One was the Texas Conservative Fund that spent its entire load – $5,872,431 – opposing Ted Cruz’s primary opponent, David Dewhurst. Dewhurst had an A rating from the NRA but failed to get the personal endorsement of Wayne Lapierre that Cruz received.
Cruz and Cornyn are clearly patsies for the gun industry. While cowering to the moneyed special interests and allowing the wing-nuts that support an over-zealous interpretation of the 2nd amendment provide a front for them, these two have demonstrated that Texas is once again in hot pursuit of winning the race to the bottom.
* Texas GOP rejects ‘critical thinking’ skills. Really.
April 14, 2013
Extremism of any stripe is always profoundly ignorant and detached from reality. Feeling passionate about an issue always needs to be accompanied with arguments that people can identify with and that have plausibility. But don’t inform Texas politicians about this. They’ll have you skinned and boned for such heresy.
Zealots who oppose any and every kind of gun control legislation have demonstrated just how far they are willing to take their fanaticism in recent months. Abortion opponents have also gone to extreme measures to prevent any woman from ending an unwanted pregnancy. So it comes as no surprise that this duel fanaticism would show up in a political campaign and no-less than a bumper sticker slogan.
Steve Stockman is running for re-election in a the new 36th Texas congressional district that was formed by the GOP after winning majorities in the House back in 2010. The 36th includes all or part of the following counties: Chambers, Hardin, Harris, Jasper, Liberty, Newton, Orange, Polk, and Tyler. Apparently Stockman is out to take the crown away from Louie Gohmert for most bat-shit crazy congress creature in Texas. Gohmert‘s 1st district was also part of the GOP gerrymandering that allowed him to defeat the Democrat incumbent.
If Stockman’s bumper sticker isn’t evidence enough of his poor mental state then perhaps this tweet of his that expresses a convoluted thought about women and gun threats will help convince you.
Lord knows how much safer moms are with their infant children handling a gun than a criminal who , according to Stockman, will surely cross paths with them.
Now in the event that there really is anyone in his district that would take Stockman’s claim serious about babies, they would have to ignore the reality that a baby is no longer in the mother’s womb and therefore have no need to feel threatened by abortion, assuming of course their brain had developed such capabilities to think in terms of abortion. Why do I feel I even have to explain such an obvious point? Because “stupid” is starting to reach epidemic levels here in the Lone Star State
If fetuses were even capable of understanding that their prospects for a bright future are severely limited with such people as Stockman and Gohmert in positions of political leadership, they would probably pull the plug themselves.
Steve Stockman and Louie Gohmert: Two of the reasons why Texas is winning the race to the bottom and making Mississippi look like an intellectual’s haven
April 5, 2013
For a variety of reasons I have once again found myself in a week when writing something new just hasn’t found inspiration. So until that horse is running again let me offer you something from my archives. It seems to fit the the theme I’ve I’ve hit on in a couple of previous post so at least it can’t be said that I’m not consistent.
Ever get the feeling you get the news someone else thinks you need to know?
There was a news clip on the local ABC affiliate here in Dallas-Ft.Worth, WFAA, on their evening news yesterday that did something that infuriates me. A segment was dedicated to an individual whose passion and current goal in life appeared to be claiming a title and some cash for eating chicken wings faster than anyone else. His momma would be proud.
He had apparently been doing this for some time because he appeared to be about 6 feet tall, his weight was clearly twice what it should be and his body mass index (BMI) had to be off the charts. Get this ladies – he refers to himself as Big Sexy. Big, yes. Sexy, ummm.
Brian “Big Sexy” Beard doing that championship thing of his.
In that WFAA interview, Big Sexy told the reporters that he could win up to $1000 from this Wingstop® Restaurants sponsored event, but only if he wins 1st place. There was no mention of a second or third place prize but clearly the health damage to his body is already beyond a point of no return and any deductible on any health insurance he may have been fortunate to get will consume that prize money and then some on his first emergency visit to the hospital.
There are a couple of things that are disturbing about this news clip, and I use that word “news” here very loosely. The first is that it was even selected by the station managers and editors to publish for the viewing audience. In a day and age when obesity ranks as one of the most serious health risks for children the local media essentially high-fives these young people as they push their bodies to unhealthy extremes.
WFAA is really one of the better local news broadcasters in the area in my opinion. Between them, the CBS, NBC and FOX affiliates here, they do a better job at in-depth reporting and even have a segment you seldom see on news stations anymore where editorials on critical issues are given air time. These are commentaries that go beyond the fluff and false equivalents that all stations now engage in as if all sides have equal validity on important issues.
But WFAA is also guilty for presenting nothing more than glorified ads for local businesses as news. This is the second concern I have with such reports. Today it’s Wingstop® Restaurants, tomorrow it could be the Domino’s Pizza Making championships. There’s hardly a day that goes by that these time-wasters are not aired. They have no true social value and they steal valuable time on broadcast news that could be put to better use. Such shallow reporting serves only the corporate branding practices that are deeply interwoven in our media and pop culture.
Movies now get revenue from brand name companies when their logos or companies appear or are mentioned in a scene. Clothes and caps for years have been free advertising for marketers as consumers are foolish enough to pay for the privilege to oblige them. When did it become an honorable thing to proudly display commercial symbols?
It should not come as any surprise that great efforts and wealth have been expended to assimilate commercial messaging into everyday life, suggesting solutions to social ills in snappy commercial statements like Nike’s “Just Do It” ad campaign or Coca-Cola’s ‘Open Happiness’ and Enjoy Life’s Simple Pleasures. By incorporating the silly notion that a product’s use makes life more meaningful and rewarding, if only for a second, is a coup that other exploiters of the publics’ naivety have to be envious of.
It’s no wonder that corporations who pollute our air and water, use questionable chemicals to manufacture their products, send jobs overseas, keep wages flat and remove health benefits and then pay no taxes, are often seen as victims by some rather than as exploiters and manipulators of the public’s trust. By painting themselves as people just like us, we tend to forget that they have created an income gap in this country that has grown to its largest level ever.
The warm and fuzzy ads that natural gas industries are saturating the media markets with today, like BP oil did a few years back, is nothing more than an attempt to offset the legitimate concern of people about their practices for extracting gas from shale rock with polluting chemicals that have damaged local water supplies. But this is what large corporations do every day to keep the public off-balance to their questionable practices on the one hand, while on the other hand they are partnering with their media associates – or for some conglomerates, their subsidiaries – to pan their products in ways that make it look like a news worthy event.
These simple community interest stories like the WingStop championships are a sham and should be an insult to critical thinking Americans. Perhaps that is the purpose behind them however. George Carlin informed us that big corporations do not want critical thinkers. “You have no freedom of choice” Carlin tells us. “You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all of the land, the politicians and they have the judges in their back pocket. And they own all the big media companies so they control just about all of the news and information you get to here. They got you by the balls.”
So the next time you’re watching any news broadcast, local or national, and these social interest stories come on that just happen to incorporate a commercial product with them, you can be pretty sure this is a back door attempt by corporate America to use their media mouth pieces to do a little promotional side-show.
The undue influence their wealth allots them is not responsible “citizenship”, à la the human status that the Roberts court has handed them in the 2010 Citizens United case. It is exploitative and manipulative and for any televised media outlet to stoop to this practice gives credibility to Marshall McLuhan’s “wasteland” comment on this subject back in his 1967 book, “The Medium is the Message”. This theme has been prevalent since George Orwell’s“1984” and later in François Truffaut’s version of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” . We are becoming what we consume. Not in just what we feed our stomachs but in what we feed our brain. Sexy Boy is pretty clear evidence of this.