Jan 29, 2013

January 29, 2013: The NRA is a Terrorist Organization, Clear and Present Danger, None Dare Call it Treason

 "The N.R.A is a terrorist organization"
                                   ----from the "Quotations of Chairman Joe"
“No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.”
                                ---Senator Robert F. Kennedy April 5, 1968

Senator Kennedy made those remarks at the Cleveland City Club in Cleveland, Ohio on the day following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.  The cities were then exploding in riot as the nation reeled in violent reaction.  Kennedy himself, no innocent on questions of state-sponsored violence, was nevertheless stunned by the events late in his life to have travelled a significant distance along the path of self-introspection and had begun to question the assumptions upon which violence and threats of violence were then based.  Only weeks away from his own death, he serves as a poignant reminder of the costs of violence and the tolerance of it by this society.  

It does indeed go on and on and on in this country of ours.  Last year we lost over 13,000 of our fellow citizens to gun violence; over 1300 since that day last month when a clearly mentally disturbed young man opened fire in an elementary school killing 20 young children and half a dozen teachers and adults.  The public outcry in the wake of this bloodbath has finally, it seems, moved the question of gun control up to the front burner.

The Obama administration, never eager to wander into the political swamp that gun-control entails has heretofore stood mute as it witnessed and helped the nation morn the bloodbath at Virginia Tech, the temple killings, and the shooting at a Colorado movie theatre.  The Administration even stood mute when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was critically wounded and several of party including a judge and little girl were killed at a “meet your Congresswoman” event—a town meeting, the administration presided over the national shock and grief and quietly decided not to tackle the N.R.A. 

Often referred to as the most powerful lobby in a city where the lobbies are indeed powerful, at least since Al Gore lost Tennessee and West Virginia to ‘Ol Two-Cows back at the turn of the millennium, the reach and influence of the N.R.A has been inflated to such proportions as to resemble the dimensions of the much hallowed 100 foot Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man; a leviathan terrorizing the community as it ambles down the streets of America with chaos and destruction trailing in its wake.  Dubya’s payoff to the fealty of the N.R.A. to the Rescumlican cause was to let the laws passed during the Clinton Administration expire and open the way for the widespread sale of military-style assault weapons throughout the country with predictably certain consequences.  Following the trail blazed by the likes of Alex Jones, Glenn Beck and other tin hats, the NRA has steadfastly resisted every effort to bring reasonable action to bear in the name of public safety.  They have resisted the ban of assault weapons, hollow point bullets, armor piercing bullets, bullets that can pierce vests and other equipment for protection of police.  They have resisted the creation of a national registry, the screening of purchases by the emotionally disturbed.  They have even acted through their shills in Congress, as a reaction to alleged federal “crimes” at Waco and Ruby Ridge to the appointment of a new head of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm Agency.   So effective  have been the efforts of the NRA that  as of this writing, the ATF, which oversees what passes for firearms control in this country, has not had an agency head for the last six years.

One has only to witness the rant of one Alex Jones on national television a couple of weeks ago.  In their mind the real reason that we need to bear arms is to have weapons with which to “secure our freedom”.  In the minds of these whacko’s this means freedom from our enemy—which, since the days of “Ronald of the Late, Late Show” means, increasingly, our own government.  In the minds of these scholars, the militia referred to in the second amendment is organized not in defense but in opposition their own government.  Accordingly as the President, however tardily and reluctantly he takes up the issue of gun control, is roundly compared to King George if not Hitler and Stalin. 

Let’s make no mistake about it.  The idiot wrong and the gun-nuts aligned with them (Ted Nugent leaps to mind) espouse a world view rife with ignorance, paranoia, fear and loathing combined with the means of wreaking havoc upon the innocent at any time, and threatening periodically (the Oklahoma Bombings come to mind) to turn on the very government whose fundamental charge is to protect us from “all enemies foreign and domestic”

Query:  If the purpose of the militia is no longer to come to the defense of the state but to challenge it, and perhaps oppose it, does this militia thereby pass from being an “arm” of the state (as in to “bear arms” for the state), to bear arms against the state?  Does not such a militia thereby become an enemy of the state by definition?  Does it not follow that those who enable the formation and arming of such militias thereby creating a “clear and present” danger to the state.  Are not these open acts attempts to intimidate if not threatening to the state?  Are not these acts covert if not overt treason?   The N.R.A is a facilitator and an enabler of this threat.  It is, at base, a terrorist organization.   Let us hope that the Sta-Puft man can be as easily dispensed with.  Let us hope that the NRA proves to be a paper tiger, a bag of hot air, and a giant marshmallow man.  The recent lack of success in the last election cycle is encouraging.  Let us hope and pray that this be the case.

In the meantime it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.

Jan 28, 2013

January 28, 2013: A Well Regulated Militia, It Hasn’t Always Been This way, Awash in Weaponry

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

         -- --The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

So reads the Second Amendment, part of the so-called “Bill of Rights” to the Constitution of the United States.  The precise meaning and what in heaven’s name the founders were thinking when they passed this provision has been a subject of debate since the founding of the republic

Americans are bat-shit crazy about their guns. So much do they value their guns that we protest not when the State requires that we register our children to be ground up like hamburger in the maw of war, but we will passionately resist any attempt to register our beloved phallic symbol.   No nation on earth is so heavily armed.  There are more than 300 million guns about in these here United States. There are more gun stores in America than there are supermarkets and McDonalds restaurants combined.  America’s biggest retailer of firearms is none other than Wal-Mart.  If sales continue unabated we will soon have more guns in this country than people.  The result has been the predictable bloodbath.  More American’s die each year from firearms than were killed during the worst years in Vietnam.  More Americans lose their lives to gun accidence and violence than are killed each year by auto accidents.  Among some populations and age groups guns are the leading cause of death and injury
It hasn’t always been this way.   We have had eras in this country when the madness that springs from the lack of regulation has brought about public revulsion.  Such was the case during the mob violence during Prohibition in which the streets were killing fields as Tommy guns reigned supreme in places like Chicago, and the countryside was terrorized by automatic weapons in the hands of people like Baby-Face Nelson, John Dillinger, and Bonny and Clyde.  At some point the public had enough, and the state legislatures and the congress passed additional laws removing these weapons from the streets of America. 
It was settled law.  Automatic weapons and semi-automatic weapons were banned.  It was simply illegal to own them, as it was illegal to own a sawed-off shotgun.  These are not hunting weapons.  They are “street-sweepers” –military-style weapons meant to kill people.  Our ancestors understood that no good can come from having such weapons in the hands of the “people”.  The courts, ruled that the purpose of the Second Amendment centers on a well regulated  militia.  That is, in order to provide for a well regulated militia, it is necessary for the people to keep and bear arms.
The courts have never taken this too far, some would argue that the courts have never gone far enough.  But the Supreme Court, in its collective wisdom, did rule that the “Militia” clause was controlling.  The Court ruled that the so-called “right to bear arms” was meant in the context of maintaining a militia and that the state, through its inherent police powers, had a legitimate interest to regulate.  Note here too that this is one of the places in the Constitution where the word “Regulate” appears, and here the right to bear arms is in the context of the explicit charge to create and maintain a “well regulated militia”.

This was the established understanding until the idiot wrong agitated through the NRA (National Rifle Association, or National Reactionary Association, or Not Really American take your pick). and got men appointed to the Supreme Court that,  ignoring all previous legal precedent, ruled during the Renquist era that the right to bear arms meant that everyone had a right to keep and bear arms personally.  
The amendment is undoubtedly vague. What is meant by “keep and bear arms” is not further clarified.  What is meant by “keep”? In your home?  On your person?  Or in an armory?  Which arms?  Muskets and black powder pistols?  Rifles? Machine guns?  Mortars?  Anti-tank weapons?  Surface to air missiles?  Nuclear weapons?   Clearly some lines have to be drawn.
And what about ammunition?  Again, black powder?  Full metal jacket? Rocket propelled grenades?  Hollow point cop-killer bullets? Armor piercing bullets?  Hollow point bullets?  Where do we draw the line?

Even Justice Scalia, who otherwise fails to understand stare decisis, has recently mumbled on national television that some limits exist and are legitimate.  But the barn door has been opened and the country is awash with weaponry that has no other function than to commit murder and mass murder as the country reels from one tragedy to another, from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Newtown. 

Jan 27, 2013

January 28, 2013: The Untouchables, Heart of the Obama Administration, Begging the Question.

“Too big to fail is too big” ----From the ‘Quotations of Chairman Joe’

Last week PBS aired a segment of its “Frontline program entitled “The Untouchables” about the Wall Street barons who have heretofore escaped criminal prosecution for their  part in creating the financial crisis of 2007.  The tale is, by now, a dog-eared one, worn thin by constant repetition to the point where the nature of the crisis is generally understood and the reasons for the lack of the response by the Justice Department are not.

Senator Sam Ervin, head of the special Senate committee investigating Watergate was moved to famously quip “If it looks like a horse, walks like a horse, smells and eats like a horse, one can confidently conclude that it’s a horse”.   The judgments of the American People, instinctively following a similar path of reason, have come to the same conclusion.

Throughout the segment FRONTLINE reporters unearthed mid-level “Due Diligence” loan officials representing the major banks that reviewed loans from the likes of Countryside and other loan originators saying on the record that they reviewed packages of documents in which up to 50 and 60 percent of the loans did not meet their banks’ criteria as a sound investment.  These loans went under subsequent re-evaluation in which they were then approved in their near entirety and passed on to the banks investors by senior management as sound investments.  This is, at least, prima facie securities fraud yet no legal action by the Department of Justice has been initiated against any Wall Street executive.  The program leaves the lingering question “why not”?

It’s a good question and goes to the heart of the Obama administration.  Listening to the DOJ attorneys one got the impression that the congress and the people were in the eyes of one Senate staffer “being gamed”.  DOJ officials testifying before congress responded to specific questions with broad and vague assertions that such cases are difficult, complex, and, most importantly, hard to win.  One DOJ attorney even went so far as to assert that bringing such action may be deleterious to the financial institutions being prosecuted resulting in broad ranging economic impact. 

This response smacks of the attitude emanating from the Attorney General, the Department of the Treasury and, indeed the White House.  Don’t rock the boat.  So Justice is now being held hostage by the “fragility” of the very house of cards that had brought on this mess in the first place.

This begs a second and equally compelling question:  Why has there not been any meaningful anti-trust action taken by this administration?  

We have reached again a stage of national economic development where our national economy is, in each of its major industries, in the hands of a very few institutions.  The banks are an excellent example.  Six banks control 66 percent of the national economy.  These banks, leveraging the massive government bailout with huge campaign contributions have become a power unto themselves.  Powerful enough, it appears to cower the National Government.  The problem with concentrating economic power into so few hands is not simply that it masks a huge maldistribution of wealth, but the health of the national—indeed the world—economy depends on their well-being.  In a word they are too big to fail.

A good maxim is “Too big to fail is too big”.  Under this dictum the question remains “Where is the Justice Department?”

It would be easy to blame some assistant Attorney General for lack of zeal in the enforcement of law.  I think, given the realities of power, that it’s a cop-out to hold such a view.  The lack of proper legal response to the financial industry reflects a core conviction of this White House which from the beginning has been a shill for Wall Street.  It began with Paul Volker standing attentively behind the President and watching over his shoulder in the early days of his first Administration.  The appointment of Timothy Geitner, A Wall Street impresario and one of the authors of the financial crisis as his first Secretary of the Treasury.  And last, but not least, the appointment of Eric Holder as attorney General.  The DOJ has not only failed to prosecute Southern States under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for the purging of the voting rolls and other acts at voter intimidation and suppression, but it has singularly failed to act with regard to not only prosecuting Wall Street malfeasance but the Anti-Trust laws that made this crisis possible in the first place. 

January 27, 2013: The Politics of Open Contempt, Legacy of George McGovern, Sucking the Dregs

Today, on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Congressman Paul Ryan, otherwise known as the Eddie Munster of American Politics, took the stand to testify that newly minted President Obama in his inaugural address did not properly pay obeisance to their conservative agenda.  Indeed the Scums have, since the days of Bill Clinton, behaved as if it is the responsibility of the opposition to adopt in part, if not in whole, the Rescumlican position or earn the wrath of the conservative-entertainment complex and be thereby savaged from pillar to post.  The contempt, as befits “true believers”,  has manifested itself not only by the “birther” and “deather” movements but by referring to the President as Rush Limbaugh so poignantly put it as “in over his head”.  John Sunnunu, former Rescumlican governor of New Hampshire and White House Chief of staff, emerged last year as a chief spokesman for Mitt Romney calling the President “Lazy”.  Newt Gingrich has called Obama the “Food-Stamp President”.  So bad has it become that the Speaker of the House, John Boner, has declined White House invitations to six state dinners, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Rescumlican Kentucky)  has even declined invitation to a White House function to honor the NCAA National Champion University of Kentucky basketball team. 

It’s become so bad that the Scums have withdrawn support for their own proposals—tax cuts on small businesses for instance—if the White House comes across the isle and supports them.  Gridlock has descended upon Washington and it looks like at least two more years of it.

Much is being said in the national media about how the well has been poisoned and that it is due to the partisan rancor that plagues the land.  This is true, but only in part, but in any case we must remember that the people voted for it.

As discussed in previous posts, the great partisan divide, as wide as anything seen in my lifetime, certainly as divisive as anything seen since the Teddy Roosevelt led the “Bull Moosers” out of the Republican party a century ago, or perhaps since the civil war, has many causes.  First there is the fact that the middle class now controls less of the national economy since the 1920’s and is declining.  As outlined in previous posts this bifurcation of the economic strata leads to a polarization of politics.  Secondly, with the deregulation of the communications industry and the abandonment of the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” in which political expression on the nation’s or in political advertising required equal access to opposing points of view.  The result is that the airwaves have been taken over by a group of howlers and hate-merchants peddling paranoia and conspiracy in order to hype ratings and sell more soap.  The result has been the creation of the conservative-entertainment complex in which , as President Obama said so eloquently in his Inaugural Address, name-calling has taken the place of reasoned discourse.

On this note let us take a moment and note the passing of former South Dakota Senator George McGovern.  Senator McGovern passed away late last year and it is time to pay tribute to an honorable man, a courageous man, who though afraid of heights forced himself to become an aircraft pilot during the second world war and flew many bombing missions over German controlled territory.  Here was a warrior who honorably served his country and rose to oppose another war in another time and place.  His eloquence in opposition to the madness that was Viet Nam inspired a generation and for that he should be remembered.
Following the chaos that was the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the party chose Senator McGovern to head a committee to rewrite the party rules to insure that the party became as close as a mirror-image of America as was organizationally possible.  Accordingly if a local party elected a man to chair it, a woman would have to be chosen vice-chair and vice-versa.  Delegates to state and national conventions had to be chosen so that all groups, were represented proportionately.  Witness to these changes can be seen in the present national conventions in which the Democrats present themselves as the polyglot aggregate of the American “melting-pot”, whereas the Rescumlicans appear the party of angry old white men.
But there were other changes whose effect on the national polity are far more problematic.  The explosion of Presidential Primaries and Caucuses have indeed taken the selection of Presidential candidates out of the hands of the political “bosses” in their “smoke-filled rooms”, but it has given the process over to the political interest groups and the “one interest” voters, in low-turnout elections.  The result is that the tail now wags the dog, small vocal groups, organized around single issues with committed following and money can now challenge long established fixtures on the national scene and remove them from office.  Senator Richard Lugar, a 4 term senator once considered a Vice Presidential possibility and long chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was summarily dismissed by the voters of Indiana in a low turnout Rescumlican primary.   Similarly Senator Saxbee Chambliss (Resumlican GA) has announced that he will not seek another term.  A name being floated to replace him is none other than  Paul Broun, the political Neanderthal hailing from Athens Georgia.  We suck ever deeper the dregs of the barrel.  

My point is that we have not seen the last of the Boomers influence of the Republic.  As Senator McGovern wryly observed some 30 years ago “I opened the door (to the Democratic Party) and three million people ran out.  

It never occurred to the followers of George McGovern that in the wake of the party reforms the Dems suffered more than a landslide loss to Richard Nixon.  Other, more systemic and structural, damage was done to the Democratic Party and its ability to defend the American Middle Class.  Re-reading Teddy White’s  “The Making of the President 1972”  brought home the point.  I remember my class mates savaging the work when it came out, but his criticisms still stand.  The  McGovern reforms had succeeded in changing both the means of gaining representation within the Democratic Party but in so doing it also changed the nature of the party—particularly in the state and national organization.  1972 stands as a symbol of what went so terribly wrong.  New faces meant the removal of old.  It wasn’t that the new faces were mixed with the old, for in 1972 organized labor—the backbone of the old “New Deal” coalition—were, by the reforms, asked to leave the table.  Accordingly, by the fall of 1972 George Meany, President of the AFL-CIO, joined the Teamsters and other in support of Rescumlican Richard Nixon.  The war on the middle class had begun.  
 In the end even the Boomer’s, Hunter S. Thomspon and “Rolling Stone” magazine notwithstanding,  couldn’t stomach it casting the first vote of their newly-minted majority for that old scoundrel from Whittier.