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“Donald Trump’s Corrupt Bargain On Guns”: Where The Party’s Elites Pretend To Share The Base’s Cultural Values And Priorities

Donald Trump speaks before the National Rifle Association’s convention today, where he will enact a charade of cultural affinity for the assembled members, one utterly laughable in its insincerity. Not being there to ask them, I can’t say whether anyone in the hall actually believes that he means what he’ll say to them.

But as long as he hits the right notes — vowing to make sure guns are brought into as many places by as many people as possible, pouring sneering contempt on city slickers and egghead liberals, painting ludicrously paranoid pictures of America as a post-apocalyptic hellscape of crime and chaos, insisting that Hillary Clinton will singlehandedly destroy every right they treasure — it’ll be good enough for them.

This is a perfect expression of the larger Republican bargain, where the party’s elites pretend to share the base’s cultural values and priorities, and in exchange are put into office where they pursue an agenda of tax cuts and regulatory rollback. You can see it played out with one constituency group after another. For instance, when Trump stood before an audience of evangelicals and cited “Two Corinthians,” he quoted from the verse, then said, “Is that the one? Is that the one you like? I think that’s the one you like.”

The audience snickered at his ham-handed attempt at pandering, and when Trump says that the Bible is his favorite book (even better than The Art of the Deal!), nobody thinks he’s being honest. But guess what: Trump will have no trouble holding on to the evangelical vote in the fall. After some doubts, they came around to him, just like every Republican constituency group either has already or will before long.

It does take a bit of rationalization, but that’s often a part of the presidential campaign process. Once somebody is your party’s nominee, you’re going to work hard to convince yourself that he’s not just the least bad option, but somebody who’s actually terrific. So in the latest CBS/New York Times poll, 67 percent of Republican voters say Trump “shares their values,” even though for so many of them he plainly doesn’t. That number will probably climb higher between now and the election.

As for the NRA faithful, Trump is about as far from their values as he could be. A born-and-bred city dweller, he used to support an assault weapons ban and expanded background checks. In his 2000 book The America We Deserve he wrote that “The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions.”

But now he’s turned himself into a parody of a gun nut. He says he has a concealed-carry permit, he wants to rescind President Obama’s executive actions expanding background checks, he thinks assault weapons are tremendous, and he wants to make any permit you get in any state valid in the 49 other states, so people can bring their guns even where other states don’t want them. And as for gun-free zones, “My first day, it gets signed, okay? My first day. There’s no more gun-free zones.”

Trump is saying to gun advocates: Is that the one? Is that the one you like? I think that’s the one you like.

Gun advocates certainly get something substantive out of the deal: inaction. Fortunately for them, Trump doesn’t actually have to do much for them, since the status quo isn’t that bad as far as they’re concerned (forget about him wiping away gun-free school zones with a stroke of a pen on his first day — that exists as the result of a law passed by Congress in the 1990s, and it would take another act of Congress to repeal it). But the real appeal is cultural, and they want candidates to genuflect before that culture, no matter how baldly phony the act might be.

The NRA, which believe it or not used to be an organization devoted to promoting gun safety and good marksmanship, has succeeded over the last couple of decades in freighting guns with all kinds of cultural associations, making them one of the most powerful markers of identity in American life. They’ve encouraged people to think that gun ownership makes you self-reliant, independent, masculine, strong, capable, and patriotic — and anyone who thinks that 30,000 Americans killed by guns every year is a problem worth addressing must not be any of those things.

Those voters will be told that if they don’t get out and vote Republican, Hillary Clinton will send her jackbooted government thugs to break down their doors and take their guns, leaving them defenseless against the dusky horde of low-lifes lying in wait to kill them and rape their women. They will be told that it’s an emergency, that the gun-grabbing is set to begin the day after inauguration, that their lives and freedom and everything they hold dear hang in the balance.

“If you cherish Second Amendment rights, the stakes have never been higher than they are in this election,” says an NRA spokesperson, which is an amazing coincidence, considering that the stakes were never higher than they were in the last election, and the stakes were never higher than they were in the election before that, and the election before that and the election before that.

The cultural argument also helps cloud the fact that Republican politicians have chosen to take the positions of the NRA leadership, which are far more extreme not just than those held by the public, but even by the group’s own membership. The NRA opposes universal background checks, which are supported not only by around nine in ten Americans, but by three-quarters of NRA members. With just a few exceptions, nearly every Republican in Congress lines up with the NRA leadership and against their own constituents.

The group successfully tells gun owners: Forget about that, because Democrats want to grab your guns. There can be no compromise. And when Donald Trump goes before them and acts like Yosemite Sam, either they’re foolish enough to think he means what he says, or they decide that it doesn’t really matter.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 20, 2016

May 23, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Gun Deaths, Gun Free Zones, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“More Frequent Than You Might Think”: Do We Really Want To Lead The World In Toddler Shootings?

I remember last fall when I saw this article by Christopher Ingraham I hesitated to share it because it is so sad.

This week a 2-year-old in South Carolina found a gun in the back seat of the car he was riding in and accidentally shot his grandmother, who was sitting in the passenger seat. This type of thing happens from time to time: A little kid finds a gun, fires it, and hurts or kills himself or someone else. These cases rarely bubble up to the national level except when someone, like a parent, ends up dead.

But cases like this happen a lot more frequently than you might think. After spending a few hours sifting through news reports, I’ve found at least 43 instances this year of somebody being shot by a toddler 3 or younger. In 31 of those 43 cases, a toddler found a gun and shot himself or herself.

This week, Ingraham updated the numbers.

There have been at least 23 toddler-involved shootings since Jan. 1, compared with 18 over the same period last year.

In the vast majority of cases, the children accidentally shoot themselves. That’s happened 18 times this year, and in nine of those cases the children died of their wounds.

Toddlers have shot other people five times this year. Two of those cases were fatal: this week’s incident in Milwaukee, and that of a 3-year-old Alabama boy who fatally shot his 9-year-old brother in February.

I know we all despaired when even the shooting of 20 first and second graders in Newton wasn’t enough to unseat the power of the gun lobby in blocking the implementation of small steps towards common sense gun control. But are we really willing to be the world’s leader in toddler shootings?

Recently President Obama initiated one step in a process that could prevent these kinds of tragedies.

President Obama will use the power of his office to try to jump-start long-stalled “smart-gun” technology that could eventually allow only the owner of a firearm to use it, the White House announced Friday…

The administration stopped short of mandating the use of smart guns by federal agencies but said it saw promise in committing more federal money and attention to a technology that has evolved in fits and starts over more than two decades.

The idea behind the smart-gun technology is to limit the use of a firearm to its owner, through personalized identifiers like a biometric sensor on the gun grip, a ring sensor worn by the owner or a digital pass code entered on a wristband.

Advocates see the technology as a way of stopping criminals from using stolen guns — or children from accidentally shooting themselves or others.

In reporting on this, the Fox News headline reads: Obama set to push for ‘smart gun’ tech despite concerns. You might wonder about the source of those “concerns.”

The NRA does not oppose the technology. But in responding to the president’s controversial January executive action, the group’s Institute for Legislative Action said the private market, not the government, should drive its development.

“Although NRA is not opposed to the development of new firearms technology, we do not believe the government should be picking winners and losers in the marketplace,” the statement said.

While the administration may not be pushing an executive order mandating the purchase of smart guns, Second Amendment advocates fear a slippery slope.

There is no argument to be made here that this is an attempt by Obama to take away anyone’s guns. In light of that, the fallback position is to worry about a “slippery slope”…the case to be made when all else fails.

Second Amendment advocates can’t stop President Obama from pursuing the possibilities of this kind of technology. But in light of these numbers on toddler shootings, it actually blows my mind that they would even attempt to raise objections.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 3, 2016

May 4, 2016 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Deaths, Gun Lobby, Toddler Shootings | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“An Object Of Worship”: Mississippi Defies Feds In Brave Struggle To Bring Guns To Church

Of all the cultural divides in these allegedly “United” States, probably none is more stark than the chasm in attitudes toward possession of lethal weaponry. There used to be a general consensus that deadly force should, generally speaking, be monopolized by police officers; possession of, say, a handgun in one’s home, was an exception in recognition of exceptional circumstances. Shooting irons for hunting were another thing, but those were reserved for occasions when one was, you know, out in the woods hunting.

That may still be the prevailing attitude on the coasts, but the romance with heavily arming citizens to carry out their very own forms of justice is really running wild in parts of the heartland, where conservative lawmakers are outraged at the idea that there is anywhere on Earth that privately owned guns don’t belong, to the point of considering that the most important of all liberties.

The Great State of Mississippi is offering an illustration of this principle as we speak with the march toward enactment of legislation to recognize a right of concealed-carry in churches. And the Republican salons, who are promoting the cause of honoring the Prince of Peace by insisting on the right to shoot and kill people right there in His sanctuary, are preemptively concerned that the godless socialists in Washington might interfere. So once again, they’ve gone back to that fine antebellum doctrine of nullification to deny the power of the Feds — or at least the executive branch — to regulate firearms at all.  The Jackson Clarion-Ledger has the story:

The bill would allow churches to create security programs and designate and train members to carry concealed weapons. It would provide criminal and legal protections to those serving as church security.

The bill also would allow concealed carry in a holster without a permit in Mississippi, expanding a measure passed last year that allowed concealed carry without a permit in a purse, satchel or briefcase, and another recent law that allows open carry in public.

The bill also seeks to prohibit Mississippi officials from enforcing any federal agency regulations or executive orders that would violate the state constitution — an attempt to federal gun restrictions not passed by Congress.

Senators argued whether this last provision would violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Where did you go to law school?” Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, asked Tindell during the debate. “Are they telling people there that the Mississippi constitution trumps federal law? … You may have been wrong about things before, but you’ve never been more wrong than this. This is like arguing whether the freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This is embarrassing, hopeless.”

It’s also entirely predictable that people who think the absence of guns is more dangerous than their omnipresence would extend the principle everywhere, even to bars and, yeah, churches. Beyond that, we see the ongoing radicalization of Second Amendment ultras who think gun rights are not just part of the Constitution but fundamental to it and superior to any other provision — in effect, an object of worship. At some point, the Second Amendment could run afoul of the Bible’s Second Commandment against raising up idols.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 30, 2016

March 31, 2016 Posted by | Churches, Concealed Carry Laws, Nullification | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Emotionally Abusive Relationship”: Tea Partyers Love The Constitution So Much — They Want To Blow It Up

Sometimes I think tea partyers are in an emotionally abusive relationship with the Constitution.

One day, they proclaim its inerrancy and say it must be loved, honored and obeyed in all its original perfection. The next day, they call for a constitutional convention, arguing that it’s broken, outdated and desperately in need of a facelift.

In other words: I love you, you’re perfect, now change.

This pure, pristine document is so fervently adored by people of the parchment that some carry it around with them at all times — sometimes in their breast pockets, close to their hearts, perhaps to protect them from a stray Second Amendment-protected bullet. They cite it as they might scripture (that is, often incorrectly, and for their own purposes).

They believe that anyone who questions the Constitution’s decrees must be verbally flogged or even impeached. The United States’ sacred scroll must be feared, fetishized and followed to the letter — down to the comma, even — in its original, strictly constructed form.

Indeed, above all other national concerns, this founding document must be preserved as is.

But now a line of thinking has emerged that the best way to preserve the Constitution is to revamp it completely.

Consider Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), a tea party darling, who wants to convene a constitutional convention to amend this precious political heirloom.

And not to push through just a single amendment, but nine.

These amendments include: allowing a two-thirds majority of the states to override a Supreme Court decision; prohibiting Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one state; and requiring a seven-justice supermajority for Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law. Abbott also demands a balanced-budget amendment, which almost certainly would have been opposed by Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who was the most prolific defender of the Constitution.

These are not minor copy edits.

In a 92-page document defending his proposals, Abbott laments widespread ignorance of the Constitution and argues that his plan is “not so much a vision to alter the Constitution as it is a call to restore the rule of our current one.”

The Constitution itself is not broken,” Abbott writes in italics. “What is broken is our Nation’s willingness to obey the Constitution and to hold our leaders accountable to it.”

In other words, the Constitution says what Abbott thinks it says, not what it actually says, or what the Supreme Court decides it says — so now we just need to rewrite it so that the text fits what’s in his head.

Abbott is not the only right-wing Constitution-thumper to call for reframing the Founding Fathers’ allegedly perfect handiwork.

Marco Rubio, apparently trying to capture more of his party’s fringe, recently announced that on his “first day in office” as commander in chief, he would “put the prestige and power of the presidency behind a constitutional convention of the states.” Its agenda would be to impose term limits on federal legislators and judges, as well as a balanced-budget amendment.

Rubio assured Americans that delegates to such a convention “won’t be able to touch our important constitutional rights.”

Who determines which parts of the Constitution are important and therefore untouchable, and which are unimportant and touchable? Rubio, apparently.

Then there’s Donald Trump, who, along with others, wants to roll back the 14th Amendment to quash birthright citizenship . (In the meantime, he’ll settle for casting aspersions on his political enemies’ birthplaces.)

And Ben Carson — author of a book subtitled “What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties” — has argued that U.S. law is not subject to judicial review from the Supreme Court, contra Marbury v. Madison. (Carson has also expressed other funny ideas about what’s in the Constitution and who wrote it.) Like Rubio, Carson has supported the idea of a constitutional convention, along with fellow Republican presidential candidates Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee and John Kasich.

Then there’s Ted Cruz, who devotes a whole section on his campaign website to his pledge to “defend the Constitution” and “restore the Constitution as our standard.”

Cruz, too, has decided that the best way to “restore” the Constitution is by altering it. He supports amendments to require a balanced budget, let state legislatures define marriage and subject Supreme Court justices to periodic retention elections.

These and “many more” unspecified amendments are needed, he told reporters, “because the federal government and the courts have gotten so far away from the original text and the original understanding of our Constitution.”

Because, obviously, the best way to honor that cherished, perfect, original text is by getting rid of it.

 

By: Catherine Rample, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 14, 2015

January 15, 2016 Posted by | Constitution, Constitutional Convention, Greg Abbott, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“This Moment Was Arresting”: President Obama’s Tear A Starkly Human Thing

He didn’t bawl.

His voice only roughened for a moment and he dabbed at a couple tears that straggled down his cheek. As displays of emotion go, it wasn’t all that much. But it was, of course, more than enough.

Inevitably, President Obama’s tears became the takeaway from last week’s White House speech on gun violence. They came as he recalled the 2012 massacre of six educators and 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“Every time I think about those kids,” said the president, tears shining on his cheek, “it gets me mad.”

One grows used to thinking of politics as a craft practiced mostly by people who are only technically human. One grows used to their cynical manipulations and insincere triangulations, to their poll-tested smiles, and focus-grouped quips. Which is why this moment was arresting. The president wept and it was a starkly human thing.

Or at least, that’s surely how most of us saw it. It is a sign of how angry and hateful our politics have become that some conservatives refused to accept the moment at face value.

“I would check that podium for a raw onion,” sneered Andrea Tantaros of Fox “News.”

“He’s putting something in his eyes to create the fascist tears,” wrote John Nolte of Breitbart.

“(hashtag)Crocodile Tears” tweeted actor James Woods.

One hardly knows how to respond. There isn’t even anger. There is only embarrassment for them, only amazement that some people are so bad at being, well … people.

But the sense of disconnectedness, of the action being wholly at odds with some people’s interpretation thereof, went far beyond the president’s tears. To compare what Obama actually said as he seeks to rein in the nation’s runaway gun violence with the way it was afterward construed by his political opposites is to feel as if one has fallen down the rabbit hole into an alternate reality where people drink trees and smell music and the idea that words have fixed meaning is about as real as the Tooth Fairy.

“I believe in the Second Amendment … that guarantees the right to bear arms,” said the president.

Which House Speaker Paul Ryan interpreted as: “From day one, the president has never respected the right to safe and legal gun ownership that our nation has valued since its founding.”

Obama took a handful of modest actions, including: an executive order clarifying that anyone who makes a living selling guns is required to conduct background checks on buyers; hiring more personnel to process background checks; pushing for improved gun safety technology and tracking of stolen firearms.

Which Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump processed as: “Pretty soon, you won’t be able to get guns.”

One nation, two realities, one of them populated by the NRA and its GOP henchmen, by extremists who don’t just own guns or like guns, but who sanctify and worship guns and so regard even the most humble effort to check their destructive power as blasphemy against their god.

In the other reality live the rest of us, heartsick and frustrated that our country has come to this: Mass shootings are commonplace and we cannot muster the political will to do anything about it. So nothing happens; nothing changes. Bullets fly, the gun lobby prattles on, and in an endless loop, we mourn mothers, fathers, sisters and sons in San Bernardino, Aurora, Ft. Hood, Tucson, Charleston and, yes, Newtown, where 20 first-graders — little children — were gunned down, slaughtered.

And people are disbelieving that the president cried? It is not amazing that someone might ponder this carnage and want to weep. No, what’s amazing is that some of us ponder it and do not.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, January 10, 2016

January 12, 2016 Posted by | Gun Deaths, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association, Sandy Hook, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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