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“Wayne LaPierre Is Very Afraid”: A Worldview Of Nightmares, Fears And Paralyzing Paranoia

It must be terrifying to be Wayne LaPierre, the man who has led the NRA for the past two decades. For years he has shared his nightmares and fears of daily living with us — a worldview of paralyzing paranoia, where terrorists, bad weather and Latin American gangsters lurk behind every corner, ready to prey on unarmed citizens.

“Latin American drug gangs have invaded every city of significant size in the United States. Phoenix is already one of the kidnapping capitals of the world,” he explains in his latest expression of anguish, an Op-Ed published in the Daily Caller yesterday. “And though the states on the U.S./Mexico border may be the first places in the nation to suffer from cartel violence, by no means are they the last.”

“Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals,” he continues. “These are perils we are sure to face — not just maybe. It’s not paranoia to buy a gun. It’s survival.”

While the world has always been an impossibly forbidding place, LaPierre continues, our socialist president has made it worse, naturally: “When the next terrorist attack comes, the Obama administration won’t accept responsibility. Instead, it will do what it does every time: blame a scapegoat and count on Obama’s ‘mainstream’ media enablers to go along.”

And finally, the solution: “No wonder Americans are buying guns in record numbers right now, while they still can and before their choice about which firearm is right for their family is taken away forever.”

(What LaPierre should really be worried about is a faulty “shift” button on his keyboard, as he inexplicably failed to capitalize the name of his organization here: “Now, an even stronger nra is the only chance gun owners have to withstand the coming siege.”)

This frightful fretting is nothing new for LaPierre.

When the NRA head appeared on Fox News Sunday earlier this month, he told host Chris Wallace, “My gosh, in the shadow of where we are sitting now, gangs are out there in Washington, D.C. You can buy drugs. You can buy guns. They are trafficking in 13-year-old girls. And our government is letting them!”

At his much-lampooned press conference after the Newtown massacre he said, “The truth is, that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters. People that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons, that no sane person can ever possibly comprehend them. They walk among us every single day, and does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school, he’s already identified at this very moment?

This is bread and butter LaPierre, seeded in the paranoid high crime days of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when politicians feared the rise of a generation of crack-addicted “superpredators” and when anyone aspiring to have a voice in the national public policy debate had to be “tough on crime.”

And if it wasn’t criminals, it was government you should fear, LaPierre has repeatedly warned over the past 25 years. Three months after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, when more than 160 federal employees were murdered, LaPierre went on “Meet the Press” and warned that federal law enforcement agents, in “Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms,” were out to “attack law-abiding citizens.”

That prompted former President George H.W. Bush to publicly revoke his lifetime membership to the NRA in a sharply worded letter published in the New York Times.

Eventually, everyone else moved past the heady ’90s paranoia of inner-city crime and black helicopters — LaPierre did not.

Violent crime is now at a two-decade low and urban centers are seeing a revival unlike any time in the past 100 years. But LaPierre chooses to ignore that. And he chooses to ignore the fact that most gun violence is suicide, while most homicide is inflicted by people who know each other (usually scorned lovers, angry relatives and criminals in dispute) — hardened criminals preying on innocents is relatively rare.

For instance, in his Daily Caller Op-Ed, LaPierre writes hyperbolically: “After Hurricane Sandy, we saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia. Looters ran wild in south Brooklyn. There was no food, water or electricity. And if you wanted to walk several miles to get supplies, you better get back before dark, or you might not get home at all.”

In fact, crime dropped in New York City during Hurricane Sandy, with murders plummeting a whopping 86 percent over the same period in 2011 and overall crime down 27 percent. There was a single homicide on the Monday before the storm hit, then none for the next five days.

“After a natural disaster or large-scale catastrophe like 9/11, we see conventional crime come down,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne explained. “A lot of people are indoors. Taverns are closed. You have less people out late at night and getting into disputes.”

While conditions after storm were hellish in places, there were also plenty of beautiful stories of cooperation and altruism and small acts of random kindness: Sandwich shop owners staying open 24 hours a day to serve people with no food, some giving it away for free; a hotel manager turning away marathoners to give shelter to victims; people running extension cords out their window so strangers could charge their cellphones for free; a doctor giving free healthcare to victims, etc.

LaPierre chooses to ignore all of this and see the world as nothing but a cold and scary place where you can’t trust anyone and only lethal force can protect you. Too bad for him.

 

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, February 14, 2013

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Nonpartisan No-Brainer”: Raising The Minimum Wage Is Beneficial For Individuals And Businesses

In Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, President Obama called on members of Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour, something Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) supported during the 2012 election. The president said, “This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead.”

Who could argue with that?

Two Republican leaders have voiced their opposition to the president’s proposal. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) agree that raising the minimum wage hurts businesses, claiming that increasing the cost of employment makes it difficult for businesses to sustain themselves and deters them from hiring employees.

A study released yesterday by the Center for Economic and Policy Research suggests otherwise. John Schmitt, who authored Why Does The Minimum Wage Have No Discernible Effect on Employment?, argues that raising wages actually has little to no effect on employment. Schmitt offers 11 “channels of adjustment,” ways in which businesses could respond to a raise in minimum wage. These include raising prices on goods and services (offset by higher demand), increase in worker efficiency and effort, and less difficulty in recruiting and retaining employees which “may compensate some or all of the increased wage costs, allowing employers to maintain employment levels.”

Based on the results of this study, small businesses have everything to gain in paying their employees a wage they can live on. Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman addressed the myth behind cutting minimum wage during a time of recession back in 2009. “In reality, reducing wages would at best do nothing for employment; more likely it would actually be contractionary,” Krugman said. “Proposing wage cuts as a solution to unemployment is a totally counterproductive idea.”

Larger corporations such as Walmart and McDonald’s that employ 66% of low-wage workers are rewarding their top executives in profitable years with raises, while their low-wage employees are still making minimum wage — a pay level that is not sustainable for many American families. In fact, if minimum wage matched inflation, it would be $10.58 per hour.

As stated in a Huffington Post article, “This would guarantee that workers on the lowest rung of the economic ladder don’t lose purchasing power, but it would also mean fast-food companies and other low-wage employers would have to pay higher wages just about every year, except in rare cases of deflation.”

This type of proposal was already favored in 2010, when the Public Religion Research Institute conducted a poll and found that 67 percent of respondents were in favor of increasing the minimum wage to $10.00 an hour—that includes a majority of respondents who identified as Republicans.

In 2007, President Bush signed the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which easily passed in the House 315-116, including bipartisan support from 82 Republicans. It passed the Senate — with the help of Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — by a 94-3 vote before making it to the president’s desk.

Studies clearly point to the profitable effects on individuals and businesses if earnings per hour are raised to a level where low-wage workers are actually able to support themselves and their families. If Republicans like Boehner and Rubio are truly advocating for their middle-class constituents, then supporting the president in ensuring that workers earn what they deserve — and can live on — ought to be a nonpartisan no-brainer.

 

By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, February 14, 2013

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Economic Inequality, State of the Union | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Acting Like Idiots”: Explaining The Farce Of The Hagel Hearings

It’s easy to shake your head and laugh at the incredible things said by some of the nincompoops who occupy the GOP’s backbench in Congress, whether it’s Louie Gohmert ranting about “terror babies,” or Paul Broun (an actual doctor, for whose patients I fear) saying “All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell,” or any of a thousand things Michele Bachmann has said over the years. But as we laugh, we know these people don’t shape policy, so the damage they can do is limited. Not that the rest of the Republicans on Capitol Hill are a bunch of geniuses or anything, but most of those who have that golden combination of crazy and stupid are pretty far down in the pecking order.

But looking forward to the next four years, you have to wonder if Barack Obama is, through little fault of his own, making the entire Republican party dumber with each passing day. Fred Kaplan, a thoughtful journalist who reports on military affairs for Slate, watched Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearings and can’t contain his disgust at how little the Republican senators serving on the Armed Services Committee seem to understand about things related to the armed services:

Not to sound like a Golden Age nostalgic, but there once was a time when the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee prided themselves on having an understanding of military matters. They disagreed in their conclusions and sometimes their premises. But most of them worked to educate themselves, at least to the point where they could debate the issues, or ask questions of a general without coming off like complete idiots. The sad thing about this new crop of senators—especially on the Republican side—is they don’t even try to learn anything; they don’t care if they look like complete idiots, in part because their core constituents don’t care if they do either.

There’s no doubt that Hagel’s hearings were a farce, consumed with McCarthyite accusations and Talmudic parsing of anything the nominee had ever said about Israel, all accompanied by insincere expressions of dismay. Now I’m not a Capitol Hill reporter, which means I don’t spend my time talking to these senators and the people who work for them. So I can’t say whether they’ve just ceased to bother educating themselves about the issues they allegedly care so much about. But there is something that is out of balance here.

Ordinarily, if you’re in the opposition party and there’s an issue you spend more of your time on (like military affairs if you’re on Armed Services), you have two complementary impulses shaping the way you go about your work as you approach the administration. The first is that you want to do what you can to change a set of policies you disagree with wherever possible. Sometimes, being ornery can get that accomplished, but knowing a lot about the issue—the institution of the Pentagon, the strategic challenges the country faces, the details of the administration’s policies—should help you do that. The second impulse is to just be a giant pain in the ass so as to make life as difficult as possible for the administration, not in a particularly considered way, but just lashing out with whatever seems handy, in extreme a manner as possible. Benghazi is a worse scandal that Watergate! Chuck Hagel is an anti-Semite! And so on. It does seem like Republicans are doing mostly the latter, and it’s hard to see how it helps them accomplish the goal of moving the administration’s policies more in the direction they’d prefer.

So if Mitt Romney had won the election, would the likes of Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham be carefully studying military policy so they could find places to have the greatest influence? Actually, I think they probably would. First of all, when your party is running the show, you’re more likely to have an impact on policy, so there’s more of an incentive to figure out which policies you’d like to have an impact on. But more importantly, the pressure’s off. You don’t have to prove to your constituents that you hate the president as much as they do. You don’t have to make as big a show of your opposition. The other day, I argued that while Barack Obama predicted that his re-election would make the Republican “fever” break and they’d start working with him, in truth the only thing that will break that fever is a Republican president. And I think that’s true of policy seriousness as well. At the moment, they’ve chosen to just go on TV and act like idiots, because they don’t see much margin in doing anything else.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, February 13, 2013

February 15, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Shallow, Ignorant, And Totally Unserious”: Why Republicans Can No Longer Be Trusted on National Security

It’s been clear, at least since the 2012 election, that the Republican Party has abrogated its role—really, abandoned any interest—in shaping or seriously discussing American foreign policy. But only recently has this indifference shifted into toxic territory, and on Tuesday the fumes formed a poisonous cloud, the likes of which hadn’t been witnessed in decades.

The occasion was the Senate Armed Services Committee’s vote on Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense. In the end, Hagel pulled through, but only on a party-line vote (all Democrats in favor, all Republicans opposed) and after a debate that raised doubts less about Hagel than about the modern GOP’s inclination—and the Senate’s ability—to oversee anything as consequential as national security.

Hagel’s Jan. 31 confirmation hearings had been appalling enough—not just for his own lackluster performance, but more for his inquisitors’ bizarrely narrow focus. They asked almost nothing about the issues that will face the next defense secretary: the budget, the roles and missions of the Army, the balance of drones vs. manned aircraft, the size of the Navy, the future of Afghanistan, or the “pivot” from Europe to Asia. Instead, they hectored the nominee about the adequacy of his fealty toward Israel, his animosity toward Iran, and whether he was right or wrong about the 2007 troop-surge in Iraq.

There was all that in the follow-up session on Feb. 12, plus a whiff of paranoia and sedition that’s rarely been cracked open since the days of Joseph McCarthy.

The stench started wafting through the air with the comments of Sen. David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, who trumpeted the warnings that in 2008 Hagel gave a speech to the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. Vitter called for halting the hearings until a video of the speech could be found, to see whether the nominee had voiced extremist or anti-Israeli comments.

Then came Sen. Ted Cruz, freshman Republican from Texas, who seemed to be explicitly angling for McCarthy’s inheritance. Cruz shuddered that Hagel had made $200,000 over a two-year period from Corsair Capital, which has contracts abroad, yet he could not tell the committee whether any of that money came from a foreign government. It would be “relevant to know,” Cruz intoned, “if that $200,000 … came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea. I have no evidence to suggest that it is or isn’t,” but there should be an investigation.

At that point, Sen. Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, lambasted Cruz for having “impugned the patriotism” of Hagel, for accusing him of getting “cozy” with terrorists.

Now Cruz is but a freshman; his idiocies can’t be ascribed to his party as a whole. But Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma is the Armed Services Committee’s top-ranking Republican, and he not only sided with Cruz but snapped back at Nelson’s admonitions. Hagel’s nomination had been “endorsed” by the Iranian government, Inhofe said. “You can’t get any cozier than that.”

That was too much for Sen. Carl Levin, the usually amiable and tolerant committee chairman. “I have been endorsed by people I disagree with totally,” he said. “I don’t want people who hate me to ruin my career by endorsing me.”

Sen. Claire McCaskell went further, warning Inhofe and Cruz, in a “have you no shame, senator” moment, to “be careful” with their tactics of character-smear and guilt-by-association.

Even Sen. John McCain, the erstwhile Republican leader, seemed abashed by the storm he’d helped unleashed against the nominee a month before. “I just want to make it clear,” McCain said, “Sen. Hagel is an honorable man. He has served his country. And no one on this committee at any time should impugn his character or his integrity.” It was reminiscent of the time, on the 2008 campaign trail, when a woman, fired up by the gunplay rhetoric of his running mate Sarah Palin, started going on about the socialist Muslim Barack Obama—and McCain felt compelled to dial down the passion, defending his opponent as a good American. One wonders, does McCain lie awake at night, gnashing his teeth at the hash that he’s made of his own reputation and the noisome role he’s played in turning his country’s politics into a cesspool?

Still, McCain’s move to reticence had no effect on Inhofe, who clanged the alarm bells still louder. Hagel, he said, had voted against a bill labeling the Iranian Republican Guard Corps as a terrorist organization (because, by definition, it wasn’t). He’d voted against unilateral sanctions against Iran (because unilateral sanctions have no effect). He’d appeared on Al Jazeera TV and agreed with the show’s hosts that Israel had committed war crimes (the first part is true, the second part is not).

On the few occasions during the session when Republican senators explored substantive issues, it was soon clear they had no idea what they were talking about. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire who has often stood alongside McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham to bash President Obama on Benghazi, tried to make much of Hagel’s co-authorship of a 2012 report by an ad hoc group called the U.S. Global Zero Nuclear Policy Commission. Ayotte expressed shock that, in the wake of North Korea’s third nuclear test, Hagel had not removed his name from this report, which called for eliminating one leg of our nuclear triad. “We have three legs to our nuclear triad,” she said (yes, senator, that’s why it’s called a “triad”), as if it were some nuclear holy trinity.

Ayotte too is new; she seems not to know what a nuclear triad is. She certainly isn’t aware that, even among conservative thinkers in the nuclear-weapons realm, the idea of scrapping one leg of the triad—namely, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles—is at least a respectable notion. The argument is that ICBMs are vulnerable to nuclear attack and, at the same time, tipped with multiple, highly accurate warheads that make an opponent’s ICBMs vulnerable to attack. In other words, by their very existence, ICBMs create an incentive for both sides to launch a pre-emptive attack in the event of a crisis.

But Ayotte’s remarks were seconded by Sen. Jeff Sessions, who does know something about nukes yet seems trapped in 1982. Hagel, he charged, “comes out of the anti-nuclear left,” as if, first of all, there is such a thing these days. It’s worth noting who wrote that Global Zero report along with Hagel: Thomas Pickering, a veteran U.S. diplomat and former ambassador to Moscow; Richard Burt, a State Department negotiator in the Reagan administration; retired Gen. John Sheehan, former commander-in-chief of U.S. Atlantic Command; and—not least—retired Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and, before that, head of U.S. Strategic Command, which manages the nuclear arsenal. Hardly a pack of lefties.

Not to sound like a Golden Age nostalgic, but there once was a time when the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee prided themselves on having an understanding of military matters. They disagreed in their conclusions and sometimes their premises. But most of them worked to educate themselves, at least to the point where they could debate the issues, or ask questions of a general without coming off like complete idiots. The sad thing about this new crop of senators—especially on the Republican side—is they don’t even try to learn anything; they don’t care if they look like complete idiots, in part because their core constituents don’t care if they do either.

After Tuesday’s vote, Sen. Levin adjourned the session, saying, “We thank you all, and we look forward to another wonderful year together.” The other senators laughed, but it really wasn’t funny.

 

By: Fred Kaplan, Slate, February 13, 2013

February 15, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Senate | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Pattern Of Timidity”: Press Yawns While Partisan Republicans Shred Cabinet Confirmation Process

Reporting on the contentious, drawn-out political battle surrounding President Obama’s decision to pick Republican Chuck Hagel to be his next secretary of defense, Politico recently noted the extraordinary partisan acrimony the confirmation process has produced.

With Republicans adopting an unprecedented obstructionist strategy to block a premier cabinet post by lodging all kinds of threats to “hold” the confirmation or even to try to deny Hagel a Senate vote, Politico concluded the controversy meant problems for party leaders, including Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI).

“Levin faces a conundrum,” Politico reported. “He can force a party-line vote on Hagel, but that could damage the committee’s longtime bipartisan spirit.”

This makes no sense.

By launching a drawn out campaign against Hagel, Republicans have torn up decades worth of tradition on the Senate Armed Services Committee in terms of working across party lines to confirm secretaries of defense. But according to Politico it’s the Democratic chairman who faces a “conundrum” over the lack of “bipartisan spirit” in the Senate. It’s the Democrat who has to deal with the “damage” done by Republican maneuvers.

Sometimes it seems the Beltway press will do anything to avoid blaming Republicans for their wildly obstructionist ways. It’s a pattern of timidity that has marked Obama’s time in Washington, D.C. Indeed, the press for years now has insisted on providing no framework with regards to the radical ways that now define the GOP.

By refusing to hold Obama’s opponents accountable, and by actually making media stars out of the ones who actively obstruct, the press simply encourages the corrosive behavior. (By the way, this is the same Beltway press corps that has routinely blamed Obama for not successfully changing the tone in Washington.)

Both in terms of Republican obstructionist behavior and the press’ unwillingness to call it what it is, the trend has reached its pinnacle with the current confirmation mess. And it’s getting worse. Fox News this week reported Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was threatening to block a confirmation vote on Jack Lew, selected by the president to be the next secretary of treasury.

Discarding centuries worth of advise-and-consent tradition (i.e. the winning president picks his cabinet), Republicans have radically rewritten the cabinet confirmation rulebook while journalists have stood quietly by, not bothering to inform news consumers about the dramatic shift taking place. Instead, the press treats it all as being commonplace; as just more partisan bickering.

And when not downplaying the ramifications or erroneously suggesting Obama’s “picking fights” with “controversial” cabinet picks like Hagel, journalists have bungled the story altogether, giving Republicans political cover in the process.

Appearing on Fox News on Monday to discuss the Hagel impasse and the various hurdles Republicans keep putting up while plotting ways to put off his confirmation vote, Roll Call’s associate political editor David Drucker said, “Everybody argues it’s politics, but everybody does it.” He claimed the party out of power often does this for key cabinet positions.

False.

I understand that political journalists operate under the constant threat of the Liberal Media Bias mob that the GOP Noise Machine perpetually whips up. Pointing out the Republican’s radical path of obstructionism would certainly draw the wrath of the right-wing. But sometimes that’s the price reporters have to pay for practicing journalism. And this week journalism does not mean simply reporting that Republicans continue to try to delay and block high-level cabinet appointees. It means reporting that it’s never been done with this frequency before in modern American history.

The endless, never-before-seen attacks on Obama’s Cabinet choices (and would-be choices, such as Susan Rice who was preemptively attacked; an unheard of partisan strategy) have been going on for months now since Election Day. But we’ve only recently begun to see efforts by journalists to include context regarding how unusual the Republican confirmation behavior has been.

From Politico:

But the filibuster threat — reiterated Monday by Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee — would make Hagel just the third Cabinet nominee in history to require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster on the Senate floor. The other two nominees were President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 choice to head his Commerce Department, C. William Verity, and President George W. Bush’s 2006 choice of Dirk Kempthorne to be secretary of the interior.

So this kind of obstructionism is abnormal but it’s not entirely new, Politico seemed to suggest, noting recent Republican presidents have faced similarly dug-in Democratic opponents when trying to fill out their cabinets.

Not quite.

In the case of Reagan, it was a group of Republican senators who threatened to filibuster Reagan’s Commerce pick because he wasn’t sufficiently conservative. And with regards to Bush’s pick of Kempthorne to head Interior, there was Capitol Hill chatter about a Democratic hold being placed on his confirmation, but in the end it didn’t amount to anything.

Looking back at the news coverage, the Beltway press never took seriously the idea that either Kempthorne’s or Verity’s confirmation would be blocked or that a major battle was brewing. In the end, Verity won 84 votes of support and Kempthorne was easily confirmed on a Senate voice vote.

All of which means we’ve never seen anything like the coordinated, dubious efforts by outside conservative groups and Republican members in Congress to block Hagel’s confirmation. (Or to make sure Rice was never nominated.) As Sen. Levin noted yesterday, we’ve never seen a secretary of defense nominee like Hagel be asked to provide detailed financial information about non-profit organizations that have paid him in the past.

It’s all unheard of. But if you turn on cable news you’ll hear a Beltway editor claim “everybody does it.”

They didn’t. Until now.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, February 13, 2013

February 15, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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