"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Guns Are Out Of Control”: Some Extremists Fire Guns And Other Extremists Promote Guns

Over the last two decades, Canada has had eight mass shootings. Just so far this month, the United States has already had 20.

Canada has a much smaller population, of course, and the criteria researchers used for each country are slightly different, but that still says something important about public safety.

Could it be, as Donald Trump suggests, that the peril comes from admitting Muslims? On the contrary, Canadians are safe despite having been far more hospitable to Muslim refugees: Canada has admitted more than 27,000 Syrian refugees since November, some 10 times the number the United States has.

More broadly, Canada’s population is 3.2 percent Muslim, while the United States is about 1 percent Muslim — yet Canada doesn’t have massacres like the one we just experienced at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., or the one in December in San Bernardino, Calif. So perhaps the problem isn’t so much Muslims out of control but guns out of control.

Look, I grew up on a farm with guns. One morning when I was 10, we awoke at dawn to hear our chickens squawking frantically and saw a fox trotting away with one of our hens in its mouth. My dad grabbed his .308 rifle, opened the window and fired twice. The fox was unhurt but dropped its breakfast and fled. The hen picked herself up, shook her feathers indignantly and walked back to the barn. So in the right context, guns have their uses.

The problem is that we make no serious effort to keep firearms out of the hands of violent people. A few data points:

■ More Americans have died from guns, including suicides, since just 1970 than died in all the wars in U.S. history going back to the American Revolution.

■ The Civil War marks by far the most savage period of warfare in American history. But more Americans are now killed from guns annually, again including suicides, than were killed by guns on average each year during the Civil War (when many of the deaths were from disease, not guns).

■ In the United States, more preschoolers up through age 4 are shot dead each year than police officers are.

Canada has put in place measures that make it more difficult for a dangerous person to acquire a gun, with a focus not so much on banning weapons entirely (the AR-15 is available after undergoing safety training and a screening) as on limiting who can obtain one. In the United States, we lack even universal background checks, and new Harvard research to be published soon found that 40 percent of gun transfers didn’t even involve a background check.

We can’t prevent every gun death any more than we can prevent every car accident, and the challenge is particularly acute with homegrown terrorists like the one in Orlando. But experts estimate that a serious effort to reduce gun violence might reduce the toll by one-third, which would be more than 10,000 lives saved a year.

The Orlando killer would have been legally barred from buying lawn darts, because they were banned as unsafe. He would have been unable to drive a car that didn’t pass a safety inspection or that lacked insurance. He couldn’t have purchased a black water gun without an orange tip — because that would have been too dangerous.

But it’s not too dangerous to allow the sale of an assault rifle without even a background check?

If we’re trying to prevent carnage like that of Orlando, we need to be vigilant not only about infiltration by the Islamic State, and not only about American citizens poisoned into committing acts of terrorism. We also need to be vigilant about National Rifle Association-type extremism that allows guns to be sold without background checks.

It’s staggering that Congress doesn’t see a problem with allowing people on terror watch lists to buy guns: In each of the last three years, more than 200 people on the terror watch list have been allowed to purchase guns. We empower ISIS when we permit acolytes like the Orlando killer, investigated repeatedly as a terrorist threat, to buy a Sig Sauer MCX and a Glock 17 handgun on consecutive days.

A great majority of Muslims are peaceful, and it’s unfair to blame Islam for terrorist attacks like the one in Orlando. But it is important to hold accountable Gulf states like Saudi Arabia that are wellsprings of religious zealotry, intolerance and fanaticism. We should also hold accountable our own political figures who exploit tragic events to sow bigotry. And, yes, that means Donald Trump.

When Trump scapegoats Muslims, that also damages our own security by bolstering the us-versus-them narrative of ISIS. The lesson of history is that extremists on one side invariably empower extremists on the other.

So by all means, Muslims around the world should stand up to their fanatics sowing hatred and intolerance — and we Americans should stand up to our own extremist doing just the same.


By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, June 16, 2016

June 20, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Mass Shootings, National Rifle Association, Public Safety | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Reflection Of The Ugliness Within Us”: Defeating Trump Won’t Erase The Forces That Made Him Possible

We should probably start thinking about what we’re going to do after Trump.

Of course, if the nation decides it really does want a vulgar, narcissistic bigot with the impulse control of a sleep-deprived toddler as its 45th president, the options left to thinking Americans will be few, but stark:

Either curl up in a fetal ball for four years or jam the pedal to the metal on the northbound interstate and don’t stop till you see moose. Try to get there before the Canadians build their border wall.

If, however, the more likely scenario prevails and the electorate rejects Donald Trump, we will face a different set of options. The first is to finally take a stand against the forces that brought us here.

Those forces — economic insecurity, ignorance, bigotry and fear — are hardly new. Many observers, this one included, have bemoaned them for years. Trump’s innovation has been to drag the last three into the light, to render dog whistles and codes obsolete with his full-throated, wide-open embrace of all that is ugly and shameful about us.

Assuming his rebuke in November, the natural tendency will be to mop the brow and sigh in relief at the bullet we just dodged. This would be a mistake. Defeating Trump would not erase the forces that made him possible. As the last few years have shown, those forces, like some virulent cancer, tend to redouble after setback and return stronger than before.

You thought George W. Bush was a piece of work? Meet Sarah Palin. You think Sarah Palin was scary? Meet Trump. It would not be a good idea to wait around and see who trumps Donald four years from now. So after Trump, there are things we must do:

  1. Confront economic insecurity. We need to elect leaders who understand that corporations are not people; only people are people and they are struggling. Their wages are stagnant, their finances precarious and the wealth that is supposed to trickle down from the grotesquely overfed money pigs at the top always seems to evaporate en route. It is time for this to change.
  2. Confront ignorance. It is no coincidence Trump is especially popular among the less well-educated. The less you know, the more fearsome and confounding the world can seem, and the more susceptible you are to the authoritarian figure who promises to make everything all right again. Education must be rescued from the anti-science, anti-history, anti-logic, anti-intellect agendas of conservative school boards around the country. Knowing things is important. Facts matter.
  3. Confront bigotry. Stop pretending it doesn’t exist, stop making excuses for it, stop acting as if it will go away if you only ignore it. In our schools, civic groups, mosques, churches and synagogues, we must evolve some form of truth and reconciliation that allows us to walk through disparate pain up to common ground. Only in this way can we diminish the power of bigotry as a cudgel.
  4. Confront fear. Fear is bigotry’s firstborn child. Both are heightened in an era wherein the majority feels itself, its position and prerogatives, under siege by the ascendance of various minorities — racial, religious and sexual. So it becomes ever more important to find strategies that help us to locate in one another our shared humanity.

And oh, yes…

  1. Confront apathy. Vote.

This is how we can change the paradigm, cool the temperature, drain the swamp.

Or we can pretend this temper tantrum, this national nervous breakdown, means nothing once Trump is gone. But to embrace that option is to miss the point. Donald Trump is a reflection of the ugliness within us, but only that. The ugliness itself is ours and we are long overdue to face it.

The day after he is gone would be an excellent time to start.


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 13, 2016

March 14, 2016 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, Fearmongering, GOP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Generation Later, Rubio Flubs ‘Morning In America'”: The Whole “Morning” Metaphor Is A Little Too Subtle For Marco

Marco Rubio’s new television ad is generating a fair amount of attention, but not for reasons his campaign will like. In the opening moments of the minute-long “morning in America” spot, viewers see a boat crossing a harbor – which wouldn’t be especially interesting except for the fact that it’s a Canadian harbor.

And while that’s obviously amusing, it’s not the only reason to pay attention to the ad.

The “morning in America” reference, of course, is not accidental. It’s a phrase many Americans, especially Republicans, will probably recognize as a signature theme of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign. Remember this ad from 32 years ago? For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s the script:

“It’s morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country’s history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”

And now, consider the message of Rubio’s version of the same ad. Note it’s mirror-image parallels.

“It’s morning again in America. Today, more men and women are out of work than ever before in our nation’s history. People pay more in taxes than they will for food, housing, and clothing combined. Nearly 20 trillion in debt for the next generation, double what it was just eight years ago. This afternoon, almost 6,000 men and women will be married, and with growing threats and growing government, they’ll look forward with worry to the future. It’s morning again in America and under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton our country is more vulnerable, divided, and diminished than ever before. Why would we ever want for more years, again, of that?”

Maybe the whole “morning” metaphor was a little too subtle for Marco Rubio.

The point of Reagan’s “morning in America” was optimism. “Mornings,” as a metaphor, are about new beginnings, fresh starts, and the hopes that come with a new day and new possibilities. It’s why the Republican icon made it the theme of his re-election campaign – he wanted people to feel good about the country.

Our dreams are dying; they’re just getting started. It’s not the end of an American promise; it’s the beginning.

Rubio’s ad keeps saying “it’s morning again in America,” except the Florida senator doesn’t seem to understand that he’s using “morning” incorrectly. To hear Rubio tell it, the United States is on the verge of a dystopian nightmare as our country descends into a hellhole. Rubio’s “morning” isn’t about new beginnings and new possibilities; it’s about waking up, opening the window shade, and feeling as miserable and pessimistic as possible.

It’s as if the senator got confused, and thought “morning” and “twilight” were effectively the same thing.

This is, however, part of a pattern. For months, Rubio’s polls were stagnant when he tried to run a positive, optimistic campaign, so he decided to scrap his message and adopt Trump’s script as his own. As of a couple of months ago, Rubio began telling the public the United States is “in decline”, the American dream is “dying.”

This new commercial is a continuation of the theme. Rubio is selling crushing pessimism with a smile, assuming people won’t pay attention to the fact that he’s not pitching Reagan’s message; he’s offering the literal opposite.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 16, 2016

February 17, 2016 Posted by | Marco Rubio, Morning In America, Ronald Reagan | , , , , | 3 Comments

“A Frightening, Loathsome Candidate”: Holy Sh*t! The World Really Hates Donald Trump

No doubt Donald Trump will be thrilled that the entire world is mesmerized as he steamrolls over his Republican rivals for the presidential nomination.

He probably doesn’t care that most of the international publicity is bad publicity—but even the master of ill-tempered putdowns and Twitter vitriol will struggle to keep up with the sheer number of attacks and jibes pouring in from every corner of the globe.

He does have a select band of fans—more on those later—but they are being drowned out by an incredulity that stretches from Europe’s capitals to post-conflict Afghanistan; from the African deltas to Asia’s tiger economies.

With the Iowa caucuses just days away, people simply cannot understand how a man like Donald Trump could run a successful presidential campaign in the world’s most powerful nation.

“People are in disbelief; they think he is borderline crazy,” Magnús Sveinn Helgason, an Icelandic historian who worked on the national inquiry into Iceland’s financial crash, told The Daily Beast. “People are kind of scared about what it would be like to live in a world where he is one of the most powerful leaders.”

The interest and hostility toward Trump peaked after his remarks about banning Muslims from the country. A correspondent in Nigeria, a nation of more than 70 million Muslims, says: “Trump was trending on social media and believe me, he was the one man on earth Nigerians hated the most. He still is.”

Leaders from France, Egypt, Canada, the United Nations, and Saudi Arabia were among those to publicly criticize Trump for his proposed ban on entry to America on religious grounds.

In London, politicians held an unprecedented debate in Parliament about whether to introduce a tit-for-tat ban that would prevent Trump from traveling to Britain. The debate was tabled by Labour’s Paul Flynn after more than half a million members of the public signed a petition backing a ban.

“He does seem to be reckless, arrogant, impulsive—and those are his best qualities,” Flynn told The Daily Beast. “He doesn’t fit the mold of anyone’s idea of a statesman because of his rash statements, his flying off the handle to abuse friend and foe. There are few politicians that have been so obviously reckless in modern times, there were people like that before the last war, of course.”

Gawping at Trump has become a national pastime in Britain, a nation that usually pays little attention to international politics. The window in one barbershop in St. Paul’s, in central London, reads: “If Trump becomes President, there will be hell toupee.”

Flynn said the public had turned against Trump not just over his harsh words toward Muslims but for a number of offensive statements. “His remarks about women, and against the disabled journalist came pretty high up on the levels of revulsion against politicians. There are very few countries in the world where mockery of women and the disabled is acceptable.”

In Muslim Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered a stinging critique of Trump’s political acumen. “A successful politician would not make such statement,” he said. Erdogan, who has been either prime minister or president of Turkey since 2003, said Trump would face an embarrassing situation if he ever got to the White House. “I don’t know whether or not he’ll win, but let’s suppose he won. What will happen? Will he set aside all relationships with Muslim countries? A politician shouldn’t talk like this.”

He hasn’t only got flak from the government but also his business partners, suggesting his fiery political rhetoric could have financial implications. Bulent Kural, manager of a shopping mall at the Istanbul Trump Towers, a twin high-rise commercial and residential building, condemned what he said. “Such statements bear no value and are products of a mind that does not understand Islam, a peace religion, at all,” Kural said. The Trump Tower complex in Istanbul was developed by Turkish billionaire Aydin Dogan, who pays Trump for the name. His global brand could clearly suffer.

In China, his business reputation is already compromised, despite repeated bragging that he “knows China.” Over there, he is compared to the nutty Chinese billionaire Chen Guangbiao, who once tried to buy The New York Times.

It is well-known that in the ’80s and ’90s, he went to Hong Kong to look for investors who could help bail him out of a tight spot. Some local tycoons invited him to play golf for $1 million a hole, Trump realized he was being outmuscled and declined. The investors did eventually buy up part of Trump’s mortgage, for $82 million. When they cashed out for $1.8 billion a decade later, Trump was so furious that he sued them.

The average Chinese man on the street may not be following the American election, but the Global Times, an uber-nationalistic state-run media outlet warned readers Thursday: “If you plan to visit New York sometime this year, take my advice: Try to stay away from Fifth Avenue because Donald Trump may be lurking there with a gun.”

Indeed, Gordon Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China and Daily Beast contributor, said Beijing was paying close attention. “China is obsessed with Trump, just as Trump is obsessed with China,” he said. “State media takes his candidacy as proof that American democracy is flawed, comparing him to a ‘celebrity potato,’ for instance. Chinese netizens generally denigrate him as well, but in a country where Communist Party leaders are highly scripted, you can be sure they secretly admire someone who speaks his mind.”

On the other side of China’s mountainous border with Afghanistan, government officials in Kabul were equally unimpressed.

Zardasht Shams, the deputy minister of information, said they were still waiting to hear a real policy on how Trump would deal with the U.S. drawdown and post-conflict resolution. “Sorry, I’m not well updated on this fool’s policy or stand on Afghanistan,” he told The Daily Beast. “In general, Afghanistan, being a conservative and radical Muslim society, would hate and extremely dislike [Trump becoming president] and feel uncomfortable because of his anti-Muslim statements.”

The hostility toward Muslims has gone down better with some in Israel, where the statements have resonated with a growing far-right movement, which has called upon Israeli politicians to revoke Israeli Arabs’ citizenship and residency rights as a form of collective punishment.

These extremists see Muslims and Arabs as a barbaric enemy that understand only power and with whom the enlightened “Western” world cannot negotiate, and some see parallels here in Trump’s own worldview.

Within that far-right movement, a lot of Israelis see Trump’s brash racism as a refreshing dose of truth. While Trump scares many in the Israeli left, he has won credit among even the mainstream right for saying that the world should recognize Jerusalem as the country’s capital and Israel’s need for a separation wall, both of which President Obama and the international community have criticized.

Another potential friend is lounging on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. Silvio Berlusconi, now 79, has had a low profile in Italy since being banned from public office in 2013 for tax fraud. He recently said his party still needs him, so he is claiming that his ousting was unconstitutional, and friendly words from Trump have been warmly welcomed. “I love Italy,” Trump said. “Berlusconi? He’s a great guy. I like him.”

Berlusconi seems to think this will help him back into power. He has always maintained close personal ties with Vladimir Putin and one might envision the three of them in a sort of club of global misfits if Trump is elected and Berlusconi is back in power.

In the rest of Western Europe, mainstream politicians and the media have been largely critical of the American property tycoon. In Germany, Der Spiegel published an article explaining “Trump’s World.” They concluded: “You can laugh about it, get angry about it—this man lives on his own planet.”

The Dutch magazine Elsevier tried harder to explain Trumps’ popularity in the polls. “Trump chooses Fort America… he’s obsessed with national identity. It is a mistake to dismiss him as a clown without ideology. He certainly has a nationalist ideology, which is in tune with the international Zeitgeist.”

Deeyah Khan, a filmmaker born in Norway, said there had been a real effect on Europe’s Muslim population, especially after Muslim and Sikh citizens were thrown out of Trump events.

“The Trump phenomenon shows us how much fear of Muslims there is out there, and how easily it can be exploited,” she told The Daily Beast. “The reaction of his followers to Rose Hamid and Arish Sing is deeply scary.”

When he announced his presidential run last summer, Le Monde described him in its headline, flatly but correctly, as an “eccentric billionaire.”

Since then, people in France and Belgium have learned that he casts his insults far and wide. At the beginning of the week, in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business, she asked Trump about his plans to stop Muslims from entering the United States. He cited Paris and Brussels as places where Muslims were out of control and unassimilated: “You go to Brussels —I was in Brussels a long time ago, 20 years ago, so beautiful, everything is so beautiful—it’s like living in a hellhole right now.”

When the Belgian press translated hellhole idiomatically, it came out as “trou à rats,” or, literally, rat hole.

Brussels alderman Philippe Close, responsible for the city’s tourism, called Trump “a totally vulgar clown.” And people started posting beautiful images of the city with the ironic hashtag #hellhole.

One showed a beautiful shot of La Grand Place, the square at the heart of Brussels, alongside Trump shouting: “WHERE is the #hellhole @realDonaldTrump? Brussels or your mouth???”

Someone else proposed a novel way to shut Trump up—and blocked up his mouth on Photoshop with a huge Belgian waffle.


By: Nico Hines, The Daily Beast, January 29, 2016

January 30, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Global Economic Community, INternational Politics, London Parliament | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Maybe Ted Cruz Isn’t Eligible To Be President”: Cheney Posing As A Wyoming Citizen Was A Fraud

I’m not qualified to second guess the considered judgment of constitutional scholars about the original meaning of the term “natural born citizen.” I think it may well be the case that anyone who was not born in the United States of America cannot be considered eligible to serve as president of the United States. I also think it’s possible that they can be.

Either way, there’s a distinction to be made between people like John McCain and my brother, Phil, who were born abroad in military installations while their fathers were serving in the military, and Ted Cruz, who was born in Calgary, Canada because that’s where his parents were voluntarily living at the time.

It’s my strong suspicion that the Founding Fathers would not have wanted to punish the children of citizens who they had sent to serve abroad. But they would not have been willing to make an exception for citizens who were living in another country for their own reasons.

I can imagine some tricky cases, like a mother who was spending a summer in Europe rather than actually relocating there. But the basic intent of the constitutional provision seems clear to me. If you are born a Canadian, you can’t become president.

A separate question is whether anyone is really interested in enforcing this provision in a case like Ted Cruz’s.

For me, I have no such interest. His mother was a citizen. As far as I am concerned, that’s good enough. I don’t like Ted Cruz but I don’t think he’ll sell us out to Ottawa.

If some people want to be sticklers, I think they have that right. I don’t feel like being a stickler.

You know, there’s another provision of the Constitution that (sort of) says that the president and vice-president cannot come from the same state. I think it’s an outdated provision and we shouldn’t care about it. But it should have been discussed more when George W. Bush selected Dick Cheney as his running mate. They were both residents of Texas at the time, and I don’t think Dick Cheney maintaining a second residence in Wyoming should have allowed him to pretend that he didn’t live in Texas. As it turned out, Cheney registered to vote at his second residence which was actually critical because the Electors from Texas were prohibited from casting their votes for more than one Texan. Because the Electoral College vote was so close (271-266), if Cheney hadn’t been considered a citizen of Wyoming, Bush could been elected but Cheney could not have been.

I thought Cheney posing as a Wyoming citizen was a fraud. But, I actually didn’t care too much about it. I didn’t see any real reason why we should still care if the president and vice-president come from the same state.

Likewise, I don’t care that Cruz was born in Calgary. But some people will care. And I will laugh my ass off if the Republicans discover that after falsely accusing the current president of being born in another country they wind up having a problem electing a president because he actually was born in another country.


By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 12,2016

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Birthright Citizenship, Dick Cheney, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | 2 Comments

%d bloggers like this: