Posts Tagged ‘hypocrisy’

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It is inevitable

January 7, 2014

By the time I’d spent a few months on Daily Kos, I figured it wouldn’t last for me. I don’t seem to possess the requisite hostility to put up with the environment indefinitely. I value causes more than in-fighting. But like a 24-hour news cycle, you can dispense with the petitions and peruse donation requests in a few minutes, which still leaves you with the rest of the day to fill up.

I’ve seen partisans on both sides of debates over whether Obama is a saint or an abomination – they’re all Democrats, but somehow they find reasons to war bitterly over things we can’t control. I’ve seen the ‘liberal’ gun enthusiasts, who try so hard to connect liberal values with anarchic gun rights and fail, troll and bait and drive off whoever gets in their way. And yesterday, I was amused to see religious privilege put so plainly it made me laugh, even as that community now seeks to drive off virulent skeptics.

If the goal of this blog were to express antireligious sentiment, I would never have come here. If you want a blog that is comfortably intolerant of religion, by all means go find one! I’m sure there are many. Intolerance of religion has never been an official or unofficial element of Daily Kos.

A comment from a believer taking offense at religion-bashing. Not xian-bashing or muslim-bashing (hell, people get away with the latter some days) but calling religion a problem. Or like the way Hitchens put it that religion poisons everything. I don’t have the same fire for the battle that I used to, but I have yet to find redeeming qualities to it that are not incidental, that cannot be found elsewhere. And yet so many believers will take offense on behalf of their religion. They seek to identify with their religion, to claim it as their identity the same way the color of their skin or their sexual preference is part of their identity.

Well, certainly people are born with their skin, subject to some change perhaps. And at least there’s data suggesting sexual preference is inborn. But religion? There’s not even compelling evidence for the ‘god gene,’ much less anything convincing about being ‘born’ xian or muslim or … whatever. Even a predilection for god-belief, however misguided, has to find a vehicle through which to manifest. And what is that going to be, but whatever religion hooks them first? Most likely, whatever religion their parents are taught to instill, because it’s so much easier to indoctrinate children.

Get ’em while they’re young. Works for cigarettes too, or so I’m told.

We Democrats have always prided ourselves on our big tent. One of the things that has prevented us from winning as many victories the past several decades has been a perceived intolerance of religion. I would suggest therefore that demonstrating tolerance for people of faith is one way the Democratic Party can expand its electoral victories.

So this commenter raised this question for me. A ridiculous question, but I’ll see if I can find an opportunity to ask it anyway, because I empathize with pragmatism and that’s what this is, a call to pragmatism. Maybe the premises aren’t all true, or maybe it’s not important enough to appease the religious majority by silencing skeptics. Or maybe it’s pointless, because of free speech someone will always speak up. But I want to ask the admins, seriously. Bashing religion is not the same as bashing people, although believers try so hard to equate it with bigotry and prejudice and shame people into silence.

They’re the ones that should be ashamed of themselves for trying to drive people off, but they obviously value their own hurt feelings more than mine. Big shocker.

Should skeptics be silent about religion in order to placate believers? Should we play along with the religious majority? Does the stated goal of Daily Kos, to elect more and better Democrats, mean we endorse this oppression of the non-religious minority by the religious majority? This actual exercise in intolerance, in bigotry, as opposed to the loud plaintive claims of the believers? Should I really get lost and find somewhere else to read and chat, some other outlet for supporting Democrats? I mean to find out. And while the believers claim such painful alienation when their precious religious beliefs are attacked, I’m already alienated enough to have stopped writing there, for months. Work slowed down enough for some new writing a while ago; I just haven’t bothered. And I already get enough email about petitions and causes to donate to. Maybe it is time to go.

So, this is more or less a reminder to self to raise the question at the next opportunity. I already know what I’d do, personally – that intolerant xian hypocrite can piss off. Take those wounded sensibilities and shove it with the actual oppression. They’re so oblivious that they complain about oppression of their ideas while trying to really drive me out of the community. Who is worse off, the ‘second class’ citizen in perception or the exile? But I’m a pragmatic sort. I’m curious to see if this fellow is an outlier or more representative of the community.

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Rape culture pops up in the strangest places

August 3, 2013

This is a post I almost want to put up on Daily Kos, but I’m thinking better of it, because of the fight it would pick there. There’s a nice community of skeptics there, but there’s also a fair share of rabid catholic defenders there and I don’t enjoy interacting with them. (who would.) Besides, the great orange satan is being overrun by libertarian anarchist types, so…

Anyway, rape culture, catholicism. This should be fun eh?

So I was listening to a little MSNBC today getting ready for work. I didn’t get a chance to see much of it, but I can check it out later at length. I already found the pertinent bit, though.

I can’t embed it, but it’s the first clip of today’s Melissa Harris-Perry show and it’s about the end of the Ariel Castro court case. For kidnapping, imprisoning and raping three women over the course of a decade, he’s finished as part of this society — he gets to be housed in a jail until he expires. But he left society with a bang.

if you’ve seen the youtube video, amanda this weekend, this right there itself proves that this girl did not go through no torture. that woman did not go through no torture. because if that was true, do you think she would be out there partying already or having fun? i don’t think so.

This was Castro offering excuses for his behavior — that since these women have been seen to be happy since they escaped his clutches, they must not have suffered as much as they say.

i seen gina in the media. she looks normal. she acts normal. a person that’s been tortured does not act normal. they would act withdrawn and everything. on the contrary, i heard the opposite. she’s happy, the victims are happy.

Naturally Melissa’s panel had no kind words for Ariel Castro, and it’s amazing that he even tried. He’s the poster case for rape! The lengths to which he went to imprison these women, the chains they found, no one’s going to mistake what he did for anything but rape. But the panel went on to speak of a rape culture, a term I haven’t seen much, but I am aware of the concept. The one man on the panel had this to say about it.

so to me, what i heard there was an appeal to us in the larger community and society and saying, hey, if i did this, would this woman be out there partying? because what happens in rape culture, what happens in sexual harassment is that women are continuously put in a position, where they have to prove their innocence before their perpetrators, you know, are found guilty of what they’ve done.

It was an appeal to men. And why not, who else would it appeal to but men? Well, perhaps some women sufficiently indoctrinated or bullied into going along, I’ll get to that…not that MHP is one of those. She mentioned being a survivor and now I’m wondering about that, but this was her take on rape culture.

you literally must die to prove that you resisted sufficiently. this seems to me, we have policies substantiating this. we were just looking at the fact that in ohio, in fact, in 31 states, in 31 states, rapists can sue for custody of children produced in the context of rape and/or for visitation rights, in 31 states this this country. in only one state where there’s a waiting period for abortion can people who have been raped or are victims of incest even get that waived, right? but that idea of, who has to claim innocence, how much is that a part of rape culture? that you, the victim, the survivor are also the one on trial.

So, up to this point I was considering a DK diary until I remembered one of the many things I despise about the catholic church. This was what reminded me:

you literally must die to prove that you resisted sufficiently.

And there’s a valid argument about catholicism to be had here; but I know the G.O.S. is not that good a place for such arguments anymore. There is a patron saint, however, of rape victims.

Maria Goretti was born in October, 1890 to a family of peasant farmers. Alessandro, her murderer, was the son of her family’s landlord. The attack took place in July, 1902, when Maria was a few months shy of her twelfth birthday. Most accounts say that Alessandro had “propositioned” her before and she had always refused him. After her death, Alessandro went to jail, where he dreamed that he saw Maria in Heaven and she forgave him. He then repented and was forgiven by both the church and Maria’s mother.

And so, the patron saint of rape victims is an 11-year-old girl who was not raped, but who died rather than “allow herself” to be raped.

The Catholic Church holds up Maria Goretti as a shining example of purity and chastity. As Pope John Paul II explained, “St Maria Goretti is an example for the new generations who are threatened by a non-commital[sic] attitude that finds it difficult to understand the importance of the values which admit of no compromise.”

The RCC has several patron saints for this purpose. There’s Agatha, who was tortured and killed for rejecting a man’s advances and refusing customers after being forced into a brothel. Agnes of Rome refused to make sacrifices to pagan gods, and to surrender her virginity by rape, and was killed for it. Antonia Messina fought a rapist to her last breath: a martyr to purity, she’s called.

Detecting a bit of a theme, here.

Maria Goretti is another of these martyrs to purity. She was called that by Pope John Paul II, as recently as 2002. He also had this to say about her. Keep in mind the story of her death.

Her martyrdom reminds us that the human being is not fulfilled by following the impulses of pleasure but by living life with love and responsibility.

Contrast this with MHP:

you literally must die to prove that you resisted sufficiently.

The old pope (two popes back now I suppose) raises some questions about the choices people have, and how the church interprets them, as pointed out by this fellow skeptic

Given the context of promoting chastity, “following the impulses of pleasure” appears to refer to normal sexual desire. If so, what does “following the impulses of pleasure” have to do with Maria Goretti? Is the pope saying that if Maria had “allowed” herself to be raped, she would have been “following the impulses of pleasure”? Or is he saying that Alessandro was “following the impulses of pleasure” by wanting to rape Maria?

If the pope was referring to Alessandro, it still shows the Catholic Church’s lack of understanding about the psychology of rape. The act of a rapist is not the same thing as normal sexual desire. Not for the rapist, or for the rape victim. Rape is a violent act of domination. The fact that this case is about a 20-year-old attempting to rape an 11-year-old should already tell us that this is not an example of normal sexual desire.

There’s no good answer here, for the pope or the church. Of course, these best-case asexual eunuchs to their crucified god aren’t the sorts of people I would go to for any kind of expertise in this area, much less understanding. Empathy seems beyond them as well, when the examples they hold up to women are martyrs to purity. That the only proper path to show innocence is to die resisting. The church teaches that rape victims — survivors — must be in some measure guilty. After all, they’re not dead. There’s your rape culture. There’s a piece of it in church doctrine. I bet their priests teach catholic victims of rape to pray to saints like Maria Goretti, and hidden in the stories of these saints is a message to survivors that they failed.

you literally must die to prove that you resisted sufficiently.

And being a religion, of course, there is no political process by which we can seek to excise this cancerous idea from our midst. The most we can hope for is that most catholics don’t know about this rot in their belief system. I expect most don’t; I sure didn’t, back when I was one of them. But like most skeptics, I’ve learned quite a bit more about religion since I gave up believing in the stuff, quite often we know more about religion than the believers do.

This isn’t an attack on catholics, though. Charitably, one could call it an attack on their ignorance. Worst case, their priesthood knows. It’s on catholicism that the attack comes. And the reason I don’t bother putting this up on DK is that the catholic defenders’ league recognizes no such difference. I would like to think that I’d have a really hard time finding voices sympathetic to Pope John Paul II’s glowing endorsement of the martyr of purity. But this culture, this rape culture is pervasive. Clearly, the 31 states where rapists can sue for custody and/or visitation rights for the products of their violation speak to it.

I think I’ve internalized it to some degree, myself. In my wandering, reading and research I came across this tumblr and started reading. A lot of horror stories seem to start in parties with alcohol as a key ingredient, so to speak. I was thinking how it’s a shame that alcohol is around to facilitate this sort of thing, that I’m glad I don’t drink, it’s a wonder women go to parties at all…

If owning a gun and knowing how to use it worked, the military would be the safest place for a woman. It’s not.

If women covering up their bodies worked, Afghanistan would have a lower rate of sexual assault than Polynesia. It doesn’t.

If not drinking alcohol worked, children would not be raped. They are.

If your advice to a woman to avoid rape is to be the most modestly dressed, soberest and first to go home, you may as well add “so the rapist will choose someone else”.

…and that thought process came to a screeching halt.

It’s true, it’s not the booze. Women ought to be able to drink and have a good time like anyone else. This should not be what happens to women if they choose to have a few drinks. There’s something wrong with this society, and there’s something wrong with me. Step one, I suppose, recognize the problem. This is one occasion where I can quote Matthew 7 at myself.

7 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and [a]by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how [b]can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Perhaps I’ve taken the log out of my eye? Or have I just figured out that it’s there. Progress either way, I guess. As a skeptic, it pays to check and examine what’s in my head as much as anyone else’s. Rooting out those sorts of assumptions will be the work of a lifetime for me. I may have been raised catholic, but I’m not even sure where this notion came from for me. It could just be from being male, in this society.

Anyway, I can work on myself along with those 31 states and the church. No one gets away scot-free. Except for the vast majority of rapists, I suppose. Also cited during the MHP show:

and it’s the rare moment where someone who has committed sexual assault is put in prison for that. right? so that’s the 3% of cases that that actually happens.

Got a lot of work to do.

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You will know fear!

March 5, 2013

[Since I have seen the Sha of Fear (and beaten him in LFR, but then who hasn’t), it seemed appropriate to include a reference to the bastich in today’s presentation of NRA fear-mongering.]

Another physical manifestation of terror

The NRA seems to have recognized its weakness on universal background checks for buying guns, as their spokesmen made the rounds yesterday, trying to reinforce their campaign of fear-mongering against this popular gun control policy. Undeterred by the demonstrable falsity of their claims, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre and Ronnie Barrett, an NRA board member and manufacturer of his namesake sniper rifle, preached messages of conspiracy theory and revisionist history, aiming to frighten any doubting conservatives, gun owners or NRA members back into line.

With three-quarters of NRA members supporting background checks, their leaders have some work to do, since they’re evidently not going to follow the will of their own membership.

*****

Let’s begin to face the peril with Wayne on Fox & Fringe, er, that is, Varney & Company on the Fox Business channel. Stuart Varney obligingly pretended to play devil’s advocate, offering a position in favor of background checks while doing nothing to counter LaPierre’s arguments. I guess he personified the straw man.

LAPIERRE: It is a huge waste of money. It’s going to be selectively enforced. It’s going to be abused. And the worst thing, you’re creating a registry of all the law-abiding people in the country that own firearms. I know the politicians say, “Hey, we’ll never use that list to confiscate.” That’s a pretty darn tall order to believe a promise from people in this town right now.

Media Matters goes on to explain, yet again, how the NRA chooses to ignore the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA), the law they worked to pass, which forbids the creation of a federal gun registry. It’s this law which has created the sticking point in Senate negotiations, as Republicans resist any kind of record-keeping — and as Democrats try to find an effective alternative to a federal agency.

The Raw Story also notes Wayne’s appearance on Fox Business, pointing out his empathic commentary on the mentally ill…

“It’s a speed bump for the law-abiding,” he said in an interview with Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney. “It has no effect in the real world on stopping crime or keeping mental defectives from committing horrible acts.”

LaPierre goes on to claim that HIPAA laws and privacy laws will prevent would-be mass shooters from being entered into the system for psychological issues. This NRA article of faith, as usual, is demolished by the facts. As can be seen in this helpful infographic from the Center for American Progress, of the nearly 2 million people blocked from purchasing guns via NICS background checks, 1.1% are categorized as “severely mentally ill.” They cite FBI data on adjudicated mental health reasons for denial, and that percentage translates into 10,690 people who tried and were stopped from buying a gun.

Mind you, this is the current, flawed, incomplete record-keeping system that President Obama and Democrats in Congress are trying to reform and improve. This system that Wayne LaPierre claims isn’t stopping anybody, in reality, has stopped almost 2 million people.

I find it interesting, if a bit odd, that the likes of Wayne LaPierre continues to rain down abuse and trash-talk on the mentally ill. It doesn’t seem to be in keeping with the NRA business model. Then again, considering the NRA’s desired result of no new gun laws, maintenance of the status quo, ever more gun proliferation, and of course profits for gun manufacturers…

All right then, don’t tell me that it’s too perilous. Let’s have just a little bit more peril. In the form of Ronnie Barrett, CEO of Barrett Firearms Manufacturing and a member of the board of the NRA. Yes, when I see an NRA board member on an NRA sponsored TV show, I see just another NRA spokesman. Barrett’s history of gun manufacturing and sales is…interesting, perhaps worth a moment to read that wiki article. This is another company who refuses to sell to law enforcement, specifically in California, as punishment for their state’s law against the company’s .50 caliber rifles.

In Ronnie’s case, he appeared on the NRA’s Cam & Company show on the Sportsman Channel. This NRA propaganda vehicle is often featured on Media Matters, and in my diaries for that matter. So here we go again, as Barrett compares gun laws to Nazi Germany and predicts genocide…

Ronnie Barrett, defender of liberty

BARRETT: In all of history when this kind of stuff has happened before, it’s bad news. You know and I hate to be one of these doomsday guys, but in past things like this result in the death of millions. You know, and World War II hasn’t been 700 years ago, it’s only been 70 years ago. And if people don’t think that these things don’t happen to modern, progressive, Christian nations like Germany was, they’re wrong, brother, I mean we’re sitting here just nearly repeating the same past of that, the disarming of the citizenry not based on any facts but based on cynical emotions that are put in and rushed through in the middle of the night before anybody has a chance to study the true facts, before their citizenry even knows what’s going on. I mean holy smokes, what kind of state government was that? I can’t believe that’s one of the members of the Union here, one of the members of our Republic. It’s just unimaginable.

Compare this to the previous video of Wayne and Stuart tut-tutting about the confiscation of guns in the United Kingdom. How about that, anyway? A law was passed there in 1997, which banned private gun ownership almost completely. Surprisingly, years later — 10 years since the full effect of the law was achieved — no genocide. Wondrous. Well, it could be Barrett is just mad with them because his company used to supply sniper rifles to the IRA; I suppose Barrett may not be selling many Light Fifties there now. And in some previous work, I’ve gone over the revisionist history used by the NRA to falsely compare gun control legislation to the Nazis. Actual history shows that the gun laws in Germany were much more strict, prior to the Nazi regime, and that the 1938 law signed by Hitler deregulated guns for most Germans, while prohibiting gun ownership for Jews and some other persecuted classes. To quote again the historian Salon consulted on the matter:

“Their assertion that they need these guns to protect themselves from the government — as supposedly the Jews would have done against the Hitler regime — means not only that they are innocent of any knowledge and understanding of the past, but also that they are consciously or not imbued with the type of fascist or Bolshevik thinking that they can turn against a democratically elected government, indeed turn their guns on it, just because they don’t like its policies, its ideology, or the color, race and origin of its leaders.”

Of course, Wayne wants his flock to believe the myth that they are a persecuted class, even as he barks about gun laws unfairly treating a hundred million gun owners. A hundred million people, as a persecuted minority class? Wayne’s absurdities don’t stand up to scrutiny. What he’s counting on, though, is a lack of scrutiny. From gun owners, from the NRA membership, and a lack of scrutiny from the media won’t hurt his chances either. Which is why I value Media Matters’ work, and make such frequent use of it. Let some light shine on these hectoring blackcoats and their false dogma. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, so the saying goes.

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Responsible, law-abiding gun owners exercising their free speech rights

March 2, 2013

[…and I’m spent. More chores to do tomorrow than today, so I do not expect to have much to write about on Sunday. Closing out the week with a mildly snarky collection of death threats and the like from some passionate gun enthusiasts, and the obvious connections to the NRA.]

Because freedom!

What can I say, it’s the weekend and I feel like mercilessly mocking some gun enthusiasts for going Godwin, issuing threats, and hoping for the rape of children. The alternatives to mockery that I’m considering seem like bad ideas.

I can’t help but be amused just a little, though, when even Republicans are forced to speak out against the threats and abuse, when they fail to pay the requisite fealty to the 2nd Amendment and then they start getting some flak.

Freedom loving, lawful and responsible gun owners, all, I’m sure.

*****

So a few days ago, this story broke about death threats and racial slurs delivered against two Democratic state representatives in Colorado. One of these Democrats, Rhonda Fields, represents the district where the mass shooting in Aurora took place last July. It seems reasonable that she’s playing a central role in the push to enact new gun laws in Colorado.

Fields, a Democrat who represents the district where 12 people were killed while watching a movie, is a leading proponent for new gun restrictions, and her role has thrust her into the spotlight.”I will not be deterred by threats,” Fields said in a statement.

Steven D’s diary from Feb. 26th goes into the details of the profanity, slurs and threats sent to these Democrats, and also mentions that Rep. Fields’ son was a victim of gun violence. So, yeah, I bet it’ll take more than that to stop her.

Unfortunately, they’re not alone. While gun enthusiasts in some states continue to push for ever more unfettered freedom to take their guns anywhere, many others have fought to pass new restrictions intended to make their states safer from gun violence. And so the diehard supporters of the NRA have spoken up across the nation.

In California, police arrested a man suspected of threatening a state senator over a bill to limit the rapid reloading of assault weapons. In Minnesota, a lawmaker who sponsored an assault weapons ban said she’s received threatening emails and calls. During hearings on gun bills this year, armed Minnesota State Patrol officers have been present, which is a rarity.

These examples demonstrate why the notion of ‘second amendment remedies’ isn’t so much of a joke, and why that contributed to

Sharron Angle’s spectacular flameout in Nevada. In addition to these examples, the news piece cites Republicans in Wyoming, who are being threatened for refusing to bring up a bill intended to exempt the state from any assault weapons ban.

Apparently, some Republicans have heard of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which makes such laws pointless and unconstitutional. Not that this has stopped all manner of local sheriffs and state legislatures, mind you. This article is worth citing for the irony alone.

From Oregon to Mississippi, President Barack Obama’s proposed ban on new assault weapons and large-capacity magazines struck a nerve among rural lawmen and lawmakers, many of whom vowed to ignore any restrictions — and even try to stop federal officials from enforcing gun policy in their jurisdictions.”A lot of sheriffs are now standing up and saying, ‘Follow the Constitution,'” said Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson, whose territory covers the timbered mountains of southwestern Oregon.

Yep, follow that Constitution, fellas. Read that Supremacy Clause and weep.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Honestly. I can understand pushing for laws at the state and federal level in support of gun rights, if that’s your bag of tea. But defying the feds, and demanding that they ‘read the Constitution’ — this stuff writes itself. Lest I leave out my charming home state of Arizona, this nullification rush has struck here, too. In fact, the proposed law here was so bad that the NRA spoke out against it

And the Constitution isn’t Smith’s only problem; he’s catching some friendly fire too. Todd Rathner, an Arizona resident who sits on the board of the National Rifle Association, told the Capitol News Service that he doesn’t like the bill because of what it would do to gun dealers, who must receive federal licenses and comply with federal regulations.“I worry about putting federal firearms licensees in the middle of a fight between us and the federal government,” he said. “It puts them between a rock and a hard place because they worry about committing a federal crime or a state crime.”

…ok, so you knew it wasn’t going to be an objection to the law as a constitutional violation, but that it might hurt gun dealers. Right? I mean, this is the NRA. And for going Godwin, I can’t forget the NRA rally in New York yesterday, with posters equating Governor Cuomo with Hitler. Of course, the NRA president David Keene was out there defending it, too.

I’m guessing the answer was no.

Asked about the Nazi imagery during an appearance on the AM 1300 radio show “Live from the State Capitol,” Keene told host Fred Dicker that the signs were in reference to the fact that dictators have historically limited citizens’ gun rights.

“Folks that are cognizant of the history, not just in Germany but elsewhere, look back to the history and say we can’t let that sort of thing happen here,” Keene said.

What gun enthusiasts are cognizant of is NRA revisionist history, and it’s popular stuff, as this piece from Salon has found. The actual history is interesting; the Nazis deregulated guns and ammunition and exempted many people from gun ownership regulations, while banning prohibited classes of people from owning guns. Salon quotes Omer Bartov, a historian at Brown University who studies the Third Reich:

He continued: “Their assertion that they need these guns to protect themselves from the government — as supposedly the Jews would have done against the Hitler regime — means not only that they are innocent of any knowledge and understanding of the past, but also that they are consciously or not imbued with the type of fascist or Bolshevik thinking that they can turn against a democratically elected government, indeed turn their guns on it, just because they don’t like its policies, its ideology, or the color, race and origin of its leaders.”

Which brings us back to the Cuomo-as-Hitler posters, the abuse and death threats heaped upon any politician — Democratic or Republican — who steps out of line, and the president of the NRA preaching to his choir that they’ll do whatever it takes to get rid of those politicians.

“Because of the fact that we, as believers in the Second Amendment, are willing to do something that most people in this country are not willing to do, which is not just to stand up for our rights, but to support those people who stand with us and work to get rid of those in public office who do not,” the NRA president told the crowd.

“So we’re with you,” Keene added. “We’ll help you defeat the politicians that would deprive you of your rights. We’ll help you overcome these statutes in court. We’ll do whatever’s necessary to make certain the Second Amendment rights that we have had passed down to us are are going to be passed down to future generations.”

Did this NRA brochure come with a tinfoil hat?

It’s interesting to contemplate the jarring difference here, between the NRA leadership and various gun enthusiast cranks across the nation — the threats, the revisionist history, the abuse — and what they perceive to be such grave threats to them. While the President and various Democrats take great pains to assuage these anxious gun owners and accommodate their paranoia, what do we get for our trouble?

Well, I did mention that rape comment at the top…so I will finish where I began, in Colorado.

“There is this extremist element where it does feel dangerous to stand up,” said Colorado state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, a Democrat who will be voting on the bills Monday. Ulibarri received a letter from someone who said they hope the senator’s daughter is raped. Ulibarri has a 2-year-old girl.

Gun enthusiasts need not ask why they now reap a whirlwind. After years of spending their money and time attacking Democrats, getting Republicans elected, and bullying anyone who dared defy them, things have changed. But this change needs to be realized in legislation — something to begin to address the plague of gun violence in this country. Our representatives endure having their lives and the lives of their children threatened. Don’t ignore their courage; speak up, and demand a vote.

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The NRA is just one part of a right wing campaign

March 1, 2013

[Although I may write more tomorrow, today I am actually looking at…a weekend! As my work schedule has flipped again. Today’s little rant is about how the NRA fits in so well with the right wing fringe, from reality denial to conspiracy theory to sneaky corporate backing.]

No, this isn’t shame — though it should be

David Keene, president of the NRA, was in New York yesterday for a rally against the recently passed gun control legislation passed by the state. Promising to do whatever’s necessary to get rid of politicians who oppose them, to the delighted cheers of what few tea partiers they could bus in for the publicity stunt, it was business as usual for the NRA.

Keene called them believers in the 2nd Amendment, making a somewhat religious argument for a fervent crowd. And the dog whistling about getting rid of their opposition by any means necessary didn’t hurt, either. I’m sure he would deny it, but Keene’s remarks are right in line with the threats coming out of the right wing, threats for anyone trying to make our society safer from gun violence.

So, I also read today a fascinating article by People for the American Way, which I found through Right Wing Watch, one of my regular stops for news of the extreme right wing. PFAW correctly places the NRA in the right wing, as part of the campaign to stop legislation intended to curb gun violence — they’re out to preserve the status quo, the ongoing slaughter, and they’ve got help.

*****

This was the NRA president in Albany, on Thursday:

“Because of the fact that we, as believers in the Second Amendment, are willing to do something that most people in this country are not willing to do, which is not just to stand up for our rights, but to support those people who stand with us and work to get rid of those in public office who do not,” the NRA president told the crowd.“So we’re with you,” Keene added. “We’ll help you defeat the politicians that would deprive you of your rights. We’ll help you overcome these statutes in court. We’ll do whatever’s necessary to make certain the Second Amendment rights that we have had passed down to us are are going to be passed down to future generations.”

Also noted in the news piece was the crowd’s response, responsible, law-abiding gun owners all, chanting “we will not comply.” Now, the crowd bussed in for the NRA rally isn’t representative of gun owners in general, or even NRA members. There’s good reason for those ‘don’t tread on me’ flags waving in the video that can be found at the linked article. That crowd is the tea party, the far right fringe of conservatism.

Mathew Staver, anti-gay crusader

And that is where the NRA has made its bed, as shown in the PFAW article. For example, they begin with a quote from Mathew Staver of the Liberty Counsel, from back in January.

Radicals in power have already devoured our First Amendment right to Freedom of Conscience through ObamaCare and have repeatedly chomped on our Freedom of Speech in the ongoing “homosexual rights” campaign. Now these insatiable socialists are drooling all over our Second Amendment right to bear arms!

It should be fairly obvious, but the Liberty Counsel has a reputation for its anti-gay agenda, and it’s never a good sign when the SPLC takes an interest in a group like this.

The LC supports the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.[3] The LC also opposes efforts to prohibit employment discrimination against gay workers.[4] The LC further opposes ‘the addition of “sexual orientation”, “gender identity” or similar provisions’ to hate crimes legislation.[5] The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Liberty Counsel as being one of twelve groups comprising an “anti-gay crusade.”[6] The LC also devotes its time to fighting against same-sex marriage, civil unions, and adoption by homosexuals.[7]

PFAW offers a list, with examples, of the different strategies used by the right wing — not just against gun control, but for a variety of issues. And they show how the NRA fits right in with these conservative extremists. When it comes to reality denial, anyone familiar with the religious right’s campaign against evolution knows all too well about the tendency for creationists to deny the science. Or, as another example, climate science denial and the right wingers and corporate interests that support that entire industry. And then there’s the NRA, denying the obvious results of scientific research; that is, when they haven’t outlawed the practice of researching gun violence.

On issues from gay rights to climate change, right-wing activists stick stubbornly to their ideology even when it is clearly controverted by scientific consensus and other reality.  On gun violence, NRA officials  and their allies refuse to acknowledge that the availability of assault weapons and high-volume ammunition clips, or the lack of background checks for private sales of guns, are problems that make it easier for a shooter to kill more innocent people quickly.  They ignore evidence that stronger gun laws can and do reduce gun crimes. According to an October 2012 report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, “When states expand firearm prohibitions to high-risk groups, and adopt comprehensive measures to prevent diversion of guns to prohibited persons, fewer guns are diverted to criminals, and there is less violence. ”

Likewise, when it comes to shifting blame away from that which is precious to the right wing, the NRA is in excellent company. While Wayne LaPierre pulled out the old standards of blaming everything else in society but guns, the religious right stood beside them issuing sermons on their god’s judgment:

Religious Right leaders and right-wing pundits played their usual parts in the spin. Religious broadcaster James Dobson said the shooting was God’s judgment for the country turning its back on scripture and on God.  Franklin Graham said much the same: “This is what happens when a society turns its back on God.”  Radio host Steve Deece blamed public schools for promoting a “culture of death” and teaching students “there is no God and thus no real purpose to their lives.”  American Family Association spokesperson Bryan Fischer said God wasn’t there to protect students because schools were not starting the day with prayer.  Newt Gingrich blamed “an anti-religious secular bureaucracy and secular judiciary seeking to drive God out of public life,” along with video games.

And that’s about…maybe half of the instances of blame-shifting documented by PFAW just for this one mass shooting. I’m reluctant to go looking back for more blame-spewing from back in 2011 after the shooting in Tucson, but I’m sure it’s out there for the googling.

There’s so much more in the PFAW article that I can’t touch on all of the ideas discussed within the limits of fair use. It is well worth your time to check it out. But they go on, and on. Hostility to compromise. Smearing opponents. Promoting conspiracy theories. None of this should be news to anyone following news of the NRA. Fickle loyalty to states’ rights — like when the NRA and ALEC push federal laws intended to force other states to abide by the concealed-carry laws of the most lax states in the union.

Ted Cruz, constitutionally challenged

Extremist interpretations of the Constitution — they cite Texas Senator Ted Cruz, in a piece from ThinkProgress, claiming reforms of gun laws violate the Constitution.

CRUZ: The reason we are discussing this is because of the the tragedy in Newtown. And every parent, my wife and I we have two girls aged four and two, every parent was horrified at what happened there. To see 20 children, six dults senselessly murdered it takes your breath away. But within minutes, we saw politicians run out and try to exploit and push their political agenda of gun control. I do not suppor their gun control agenda for two reasons. Number one, it is it unconstitutional.

Just as right-wing outfits like the NRA make a habit of reality denial, they bookend this by creating false perceptions of their own — like the mythology of their own political power. This is something I’ve written about before, but it bears repeating in the face of ongoing reality denial.

Indeed, the NRA did poorly in 2012, and not only with the millions it spent to defeat President Obama.  An analysis by the Sunlight Foundation found that less than one percent of the NRA’s political spending in 2012 supported candidates who actually won.  Early in 2012, Paul Waldman released a study of prior year elections and found that the NRA’s endorsement and spending had little impact on most races.  He challenges the notion – an article of faith among many Democrats – that Democratic support for the assault weapons ban gave control of Congress in 1994.  Waldman called the NRA a “paper tiger.”

This flies in the face of the perception that the NRA’s influence is what allowed Republicans to gain power in 1994, a myth that is perpetuated to this day, even here on Daily Kos. And it comes as no surprise that this myth is still defended, and reality still denied, even here.

But the NRA is demonstrably out of the mainstream. Their leadership is out of touch, even with their own membership. NRA members support background checks, and a majority of people in gun-owning households support the banning of high-capacity magazines for guns. The best they can do now is rally some tea partiers to their side. They belong with the rest of the right wing fringe. Their ideas deserve to be dismissed by liberals. And their influence, such as it is, shows weakness in political victories like Robin Kelly’s win in Chicago. Or in Maryland, where a new wave of gun control legislation ran a gauntlet of more than 75 amendments and votes meant to weaken it, and beat a filibuster attempt from Republicans, to pass in the state Senate.

The NRA deserves no pity or support here. They can be, they are being beaten. And in Congress, we have the opportunity to defeat the NRA again in the Senate. Keep the pressure on, and demand a vote.

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NRA paints itself into a corner on background checks

February 28, 2013

[Although gun enthusiasts have tried to distract with dead-threading comments, I found something worth writing about today, as Mark Kelly has spoken out in favor of background checks — and against NRA mythology.]

Mark Kelly has a new op-ed on Politico, about the ‘gun show’ loophole and universal background checks. In it, he makes a fairly inflammatory remark about the NRA, that they’re fighting the background check proposal on behalf of criminals.

But it’s clear that for reasons of their own, the NRA leadership has decided to dig in and — against all evidence and common sense — preserve a system that makes it easier for criminals to get guns.

Hey, I’m impressed with the plain speaking. But this could also use a little bit of investigation.

*****

Looking for evidence of the NRA’s opposition to the universal background check isn’t hard to find, at least. Wayne LaPierre has been quite forthcoming in that regard, spinning tales of conspiracy theories and ginning up fear.

“This so-called universal background check that you’re hearing about all over the media … is aimed at one thing: It’s aimed at registering your guns,” LaPierre claimed. “And when another tragic opportunity presents itself, that registry will be used to confiscate your guns.”

I’d heard about that panic attack a few days ago, sure. But in his op-ed piece, Mark Kelly fires back…with data, not conspiracy.

Criminals and the mentally ill do submit to background checks — and any effort to convince you otherwise is flat out wrong. We know roughly 1.7 million criminals and mentally ill people have been stopped from buying a gun by a background check since 1999. What we don’t know is how many of them got a gun anyway at a gun show or different private sale.

So, this is the system that we could use nationwide, that’s already stopped well over a million gun purchases…well, maybe that’s the problem, somebody’s standing in the way between gun manufacturers and their profits. And, as I see helpfully reported by the NRA, even as the measure may be picking up steam in the Senate, House Republicans are beginning to line up their expected opposition there. Like the House Judiciary chairman, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

But Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with media that such a requirement could unnecessarily inconvenience law-abiding citizens and lead to the creation of a national gun registry — something Goodlatte and many other Republicans oppose.

“It’s not a very practical thing to do and you’ll have a lot of inconvenience to law-abiding citizens at the same time you’re not going to keep many weapons out of the hands of people who are misusing them,” Goodlatte said. “I think there are better ways.”

And there’s the NRA talking point about about a gun registry. Yep, Bob Goodlatte, who received $56,250 in NRA blood money, an “A” rating, and the NRA’s endorsement. What a surprise that he would be such a skilled mimic of Wayne LaPierre! Or that Republicans would put a fox in charge of the henhouse.

Incidentally, Mark Kelly debunks this myth that the NRA is peddling about background checking leading to gun registration.

An extension of the current background check system cannot by law or by practice result in a registry of guns or gun owners. Such a registry is against the law, and the federal government does not even collect the records that would constitute a registry.

What law, I wondered? Well, the net is vast and infinite, and gave me some answers. The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 contains the prohibition, which is why today, Senators are trying to figure out some record-keeping method that will keep it out of any federal agency. Oh, but there’s more. As might be expected, the NRA waxes poetic about “the law that saved gun rights“. It’s the work of Rep. Harold Volkmer, D-MO and Sen. James McClure, R-ID. And this is especially rich — in the House, they used a discharge petition to get it through.

Rep. Volkmer knew that under the House rules there was one way around a committee chairman who bottled up a bill: a discharge petition. A successful petition would discharge the committee from considering the bill and bring it up for a vote. To succeed under the rules as they stood then, a discharge petition had to be signed by a majority of the entire House, 218 members. The names of those who had already signed were known to the House leadership, which could therefore pressure and intimidate them, but kept secret from anyone else.

I bet Tip O’Neill was mad. But yes, the same maneuver by which Nancy Pelosi broke the fiscal cliff impasse late last year. The more things change, I suppose.

Anyway, this is how the mighty NRA has fallen. They’re now in the precarious position of denying the existence of the law they pushed through — forbidding the federal government from establishing a gun registry — in order to sell their message of conspiracy and paranoia to their membership and to the country.

For my part, I am for establishing a gun registry at the federal level. But that will require more than just some new background check law. The NRA can ignore their baby, FOPA, the law that they said “saved gun rights.” But the feds can’t ignore it. It still exists in the reality-based community, and repealing that provision from FOPA is not on the table. It will have to wait for another day; it may never happen at the federal level. This doesn’t stop individual states from setting up their own, and some have, and more would be better.

But the NRA is lying about registration. And in fighting for the status quo, they are fighting to keep it easy for criminals to acquire guns. Enough about the vaunted black market. 1.7 million and counting on the folks who tried and failed to go through the existing background check system; criminals, some dangerously mentally ill, what few are reported by the states.

And who knows how many millions opting for the easy loophole on private sales. Why should gun enthusiasts want it to be so easy for criminals to get guns? The fact is, they don’t — Mark Kelly’s op-ed mentions that 74% of NRA members support background checks. So, this isn’t even a matter of the NRA vs. the country or Republicans vs. Democrats. This is the NRA leadership against everyone else.

Even the majority of NRA members, it seems, are with us. Demand a vote on universal background checks.

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Applying public health successes to reduce gun violence

February 16, 2013

[My latest Daily Kos piece, which I’ll cross-post here. Been a prolific week! Have to thank Sue for showing me the latest issue of JAMA. I might not have written at all the last couple of days without it. But this one is a lesson in moderation, skepticism; it’s about taking on ideas I don’t find palatable for a good cause, like taking the NRA a bit seriously for a change.]

Yesterday, I wrote about an article in the latest issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association to show how the NRA has silenced various government agencies and scientists, suppressing research into gun violence, in order to demonstrate the callous disregard of some gun enthusiasts for the Bill of Rights.

This was not the only JAMA article to discuss the issue of gun violence, however. Today I’d like to spread the word on what lessons we can learn from other successful public health and safety campaigns, and how doctors suggest we apply them to curb gun violence.

*****

In seeking to apply what we’ve learned from such public health campaigns as we’ve undertaken concerning tobacco, accidental poisoning, and cars, the JAMA writers suggest taking on social, cultural, and educational causes for gun violence. Not that they suggest doing this instead of the current legislative proposals addressing ideas of gun ownership.

Although such commonsense regulations on ownership warrant implementation, a broader public health perspective is imperative. Gun violence arises from sociocultural, educational, behavioral, and product safety issues that transcend gun ownership alone. Addressing this crisis will require a comprehensive, multidimensional strategy. Toward that end, much can be learned from prior public health successes in changing the prevalence, social norms, and cultures of harmful behaviors.2- 6

Using the example of taxes on tobacco products, which help to fund prevention and better represent the cost smoking exacts upon society, they recommend a national tax on guns and ammo for similar purposes.

A new, substantial national tax on all firearms and ammunition would provide stable revenue to meaningfully target gun violence prevention. This revenue should fund a national endowment to benefit those harmed by gun violence and their families; a sustained public awareness campaign to increase gun safety, reduce gun violence, and assist in recognition of at-risk individuals; and stronger enforcement of existing gun laws. Such efforts would not necessarily be intended to reduce ownership, a key regulatory and political distinction.

Given the conservative penchant for ‘sin taxes’ to reduce behavior, I wonder if that political distinction could hold in practice. But if funding is needed for better enforcement, a standard NRA line, why not secure such funding directly from guns and ammo, and thus apply some sense of responsibility to gun enthusiasts that they may currently avoid?

And when it comes to the media — movies, TV, ads, video games — the NRA is quick to blame these things for gun violence. And there is a lesson to learn from history here as well, in how we addressed cigarettes.

Strategic use of media, education, celebrities, peers, teachers, and physicians served to shift sociocultural norms toward cigarettes as symbols of “weakness, irrationality, and addiction.”3 An analogous campaign could equate gun violence with weakness, irrationality, and cowardice. In today’s society, US adults and especially youth view a staggering amount of graphic violence in television shows, commercials, movies, and video games, much of it idolized and glorified. A generation ago, many popular movie heroes smoked. Today, many movie heroes shoot at other people. To protect children, current policies strictly restrict obscenities and sexual imagery, yet remain permissive of gun violence.

The NRA of course has a documented history of hypocrisy when it comes to the glorification of gun violence in our society. They noisily lament its appearance in movies, and attack celebrities with a record of both criticizing gun enthusiasm and profiting from it through their acting careers. But the NRA does its fair share of profiteering and glorification of gun violence through the entertainment industry. This was the NRA promotional video celebrating “Hollywood Guns” that I wrote about before, since deleted from their website, but preserved for posterity by Media Matters.

http://mediamatters.org/embed/static/clips/2013/01/02/28288/nra-movies-exhibit-1

My own views on this potential use of media are mixed. Observing the NRA’s behavior, I see gun enthusiasts eager to blame something, anything else for the problem, while for their precious guns they strive to maintain the appearance of driven snow. My gut instinct is to take the opposite tack. But the JAMA article points out widespread, bipartisan conviction that decreasing the depiction of gun violence in our entertainment would reduce gun violence.

Now, a majority opinion poll doesn’t mean they are necessarily correct. But this is a democracy, and such majorities at least require respect; they may be an obstacle to overcome, but they can’t be ignored. And it may be foolish to just jerk my knee at the NRA. So while they do not get the free pass of ‘it’s video games/music/movies and not guns,’ history teaches us that taking this on from both angles may be warranted. As the JAMA writers suggest, let’s not just pass laws tackling gun ownership or address societal causes; let’s do both.

Not that I’m a big Call of Duty fan, but I have a stack of violent games and movies on my shelves. This would affect me directly! But if I’m not willing to change, what can I tell the gun enthusiasts, eh? The least I can do to possibly save lives is to modify my sources of entertainment to diminish the glorification of gun violence.

The article goes on to draw from the examples of safety measures taken to reduce accidental poisonings, and deaths from automobile accidents. They point out the substantial progress we’ve made — a 75% reduction in childhood poisonings, for example, as a result of better safety measures, changes to products, and national networks dedicated to education and prevention. Likewise, they cite a curious statistic (well, I found it curious anyway) of deaths per mile reduced by more than 90%. Fun with science, I suppose; you get some interesting units of measurement. But we’re all familiar with the variety of measures taken to make cars safer. Child seats, seat belts, education and licensing, air bags, safety glass, not to mention changes to the roads…it goes on, but just imagine that kind of comprehensive approach to making guns in our society safer.

As opposed to the current strategy: marketing by gun manufacturers, paranoia and fear ginned up by the likes of the NRA, and manufacturing simply to make guns more effective killing machines, more convenient for the user, more…sexy…if there is such a thing.

This article in JAMA sums up the different potential applications of our established public health success to reduce gun violence in a table, and I’ve included it below to hopefully promote discussion and more proposals for legislation. What I found interesting about this was that it takes the NRA’s off-handed blame-slinging seriously — I’m skeptical that gun enthusiasts do, themselves. But if they do, it seems there should be some real common ground to be found here. And to curb gun violence, if it’s there I want to find it.