Saturday Reads: The Gun Lobby and Bad-Faith Negotiations

some monsters are real

Good Morning!!

I had a tough time sleeping last night. The past couple of days’ political events have been so surreal that it feels like there’s a disturbance in the force, so to speak. I couldn’t stop thinking about that bizarre NRA press conference yesterday and the way Wayne LaPierre talked about the need for more guns in our schools while at the same time a man in Pennsylvania was “randomly” shooting and killing people and grieving families were holding funerals for first graders and school teachers and administrators in Connecticut.

If only we had a responsible mainstream media. But that’s not going to happen either. Early this morning I heard CNN reporting on Americans who are rushing out to buy more guns because they’re afraid there will suddenly be gun control laws to stop them. A man in Georgia was who was interviewed was remarking on the high cost of AR-15’s right now, because so many people want to stock up on them. He was at the store because he had long wanted one of these and was no afraid he soon wouldn’t be able to get one. The interviewer asked if he would pay the high price, and he said, “I probably will.”

Here are some more intelligent reactions to Wayne LaPierre’s so-called press conference, at which the press couldn’t ask questions.

The New York Daily News: NRA’s Wayne LaPierre was America’s mad gunman in first comments after Newtown school massacre

A week after a gunman armed with an assault rifle murdered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, and ever so shortly after the bells there tolled for the dead, LaPierre lashed out at everyone and everything but the weapons that were used to kill.

Still worse, in his arrogance and in his sense that terrible forces are out to get him, LaPierre was callous to the raw agony of the families of the slain. The hell with them — he made clear that he will fight to maintain the easy availability of assault weaponry of the kind that killed their kids.
He flayed the news media for supposedly perpetuating a culture of violence and ignorance.

He blamed video games and movies for murder, as if big-screen or small-screen entertainment matters more than easily obtained machines of death.

He mocked anyone with a single new idea to prevent deadly weapons from falling into the hands of those intent on mayhem.

And, exhibiting a level of insanity that qualifies people for commitment as a danger to themselves or others, he called for stationing armed cops at every school in the United States.

The Atlantic: The Most Paranoid, Fear-Mongering Lines in Wayne LaPierre’s Call to Expand the Gun Market to Schools

Anyone expecting the NRA to be chastened at all by the shooting in Newtown, Conn., was quickly disabused of that expectation as Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the gun industry and enthusiast lobbying group, delivered a blistering speech effectively arguing today for a major expansion of the market for the product his group represents.

It was an extraordinarily tone deaf performance, but it followed a well-worn script for product sales: Provoke anxiety — and pitch your product as the one and only solution to it.

Read the examples at the link.

Dan Bigman at Fortune: What The NRA’s Wayne Lapierre Gets Paid To Defend Guns

If you’re a transparency fanatic like me, you appreciate knowing what kind of skin public people have in the game during episodes like this. So what did the NRA pay Lapierre to say that the best way to stop school shootings is to have the government put every mentally ill person in the nation on a watch list and arm school personnel to defend schools like banks?

Just under a million bucks.

That’s according to the most recent NRA filings with the IRS.

The numbers are a bit out of date. The last filing of a Form 990 from the NRA was in 2010. Still, if you’re interested in the numbers behind America’s most powerful gun lobby, it makes for interesting reading.

The organization’s mission is simply stated, right at the top: “To protect and defend the U.S. Constitution.” To accomplish this, in 2010 the NRA reported that it had 781 full time employees, 125,000 volunteers and generated revenues of $22.5 million.

BTW, as Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out last night, banks don’t use armed guards anymore, because they don’t prevent bank robberies. But LaPierre is living in the past as he showed with his pop culture references to decades-old video games and movies.

Here’s O’Donnell’s rant. It’s pretty long, but well worth watching in full.

It’s not a response to the press conference, but Mark Ames posted a great piece on the history of the NRA a couple of days ago: FROM “OPERATION WETBACK” TO NEWTOWN: TRACING THE HICK FASCISM OF THE NRA. Ames is the author of Going Postal, a book on workplace and school shooters. His article can’t be easily excerpted from, but I highly recommend you go an read it at the link.

On a slightly more positive note, here’s an article in New York Magazine about a former school principal who has been studying school shootings ever since one happened at his own school: School-Shooting Specialist Bill Bond on Why Lockdowns Save Lives

Bill Bond, specialist for school safety at the National Association of Secondary School Principals, has spent more than a decade speaking and consulting on school violence. Here, he tells assistant editor Eric Benson about lockdown procedures and the deadly shooting he witnessed himself.
Along with Columbine, my school is the reason lockdown procedures came into being. I was principal of Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky, and we had eight shot in the lobby; three girls were killed. Back then, we had a crisis plan for the school, but what we were thinking about was a school intruder — an irate person, a mad parent, someone like that. We weren’t thinking about guns at all.
A lockdown means that all students get to the nearest classroom, regardless of whether it’s theirs or not, as quickly as possible. You lock the doors. You pull the shades. You turn the light out. You have the kids move to the back corner of the room, away from the door and windows. And you get the kids to be as quiet as possible. You want them to be quiet, because shooters react to sound and movement. If there’s someone screaming and hollering or running around, the shooter is much, much more likely to try to enter that door.

It sounds like that’s exactly what the teachers did at Sandy Hook School. Read much more at the link.

The other big story of the day is the so-called “fiscal cliff” and the way the Villagers–politicians and media–have turned this giant clusterfuck waiting to happen into an even huger and more horrible clusterfuck.

Boehner poker

Last night Jonathan Chait posted the perfect response to the insanity of the “negotiations” between Speaker Boehner and President Obama: Obama Waking Up From Dream of Grand Bargain

In recent weeks, Obama seems to have concluded that Republicans have come around, and that it is time to sit down and hash out a deal like reasonable people. He moved his position more than halfway toward Boehner’s. Democrats in Congress are, incredibly, discussing the option of compromising even more.

But reasonable compromise to avert the fiscal cliff is impossible. Republicans, as a whole, don’t even seem capable of linear thinking about the budget. They don’t know what they actually want on spending. They don’t understand why Obama wants more revenue or what role this would play in the broader fiscal picture. They don’t even seem capable of politically organizing in a way that maximizes their fanatic principles. The House Republican caucus is simply a teeming pit of revanchist anger.

Chait is hopeful that Obama’s latest remarks on the mess in which he outlined a smaller proposed solution to the standoff may be a sign that the president has once again let go of his fantasies of postpartisan cooperation.

Obama’s remarks today indicate an apparent acceptance of the dynamic and a desire to at least steer the process toward minimizing the economic harm that would result if the contractionary policies scheduled for next year take effect. Obama is again demanding a tax cut for income under $250,000 a year, along with canceling out some of the more punitive spending cuts. He can get that if he holds absolutely firm on his income threshold. Unfortunately, his offer to Boehner confused the matter. Obama offered to lift the tax hike level to $400,000 a year. Now, he was proposing to make up the revenue through reducing tax exemptions, so he really changed only the delivery system for higher taxes rather than the end result, but this fact has gotten confused in the reporting, and Obama needs to re-solidify it. (In his press conference, he didn’t.)

The president also needs to learn about the uselessness of the corporate media.

Roll Call had an interesting insider report on the goings on during the GOP battle over Boehner’s Plan B on Thursday night.

Even his allies admit that Boehner’s stunning failure to find the votes for his “plan B” tax legislation was a major blow to his credibility, provoking befuddlement and even outrage from fellow Republicans.

But there is also considerable anger in the GOP conference directed at the conservative lawmakers that forced Boehner’s shocking defeat.

That fractured reaction — coupled with the lack of a plausible challenger — mean Boehner is unlikely to face any significant challenge to his position as speaker in the near term.

“These are people that, they don’t have a leader amongst them, and they don’t want to be led,” said a GOP member and Boehner loyalist. “He had probably 200 people lined up for him, for his position. And those 200 are pretty dad gum loyal to the speaker and pretty angry at that group.”

Read lots more at the link.

Finally, Rob Urie, who describes himself as an “artist and political economist,” writes at Counterpunch on why Obama and other Democrats are determined to cut Social Security even though it is political suicide and Republicans will use it against them in successive elections–and why we might fight back: Democrats, Social Security and the Fiscal Cliff

Why cut Social Security? The program is currently solvent, is expected to remain solvent for decades to come, and projected shortfalls in the future could be better addressed by raising the incomes of the people who pay into the program, not by cutting payments to those who depend on them. What is to be gained by ‘solving’ a problem that isn’t?

If cutting Social Security isn’t necessary, why then is it being proposed? Barack Obama provided copious evidence in prior proposals, television interviews and speeches that doing so is his intent. Congressional democrats and labor leaders quickly acceded to his proposal to do so, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi going so far as to actively lie that proposed cuts will ‘strengthen’ the program. And given the cuts will eventually put tens of millions of Americans into dire poverty from a program they paid into for all of their working lives, what rationale could possibly justify doing so?

The reason I ask is a coalition of democrats, labor, liberals and progressives just re-elected Mr. Obama and democrats in Congress to what—cut Social Security? Mr. Obama created the ‘fiscal cliff’ to first push his stacked (in favor of cutting social insurance programs) ‘deficit commission’ to develop a plan to cut government spending and second, to force the issue to be revisited immediately after the election if no plan was agreed to. And Republican threats to refuse to raise the debt ceiling for leverage to ‘force’ spending cuts are idiotic—George W. Bush and congressional Republicans just led the largest increase in government spending in modern history. And that is not a difficult point to make. (And had it been on beneficial programs, it would have been laudable).

Ultimately the entire ‘debate’ is nonsense—the U.S. doesn’t fund spending directly from taxes. As the Federal Reserve is in the process of demonstrating with its QE (Quantitative Easing) programs, it can buy an unlimited quantity of government debt with money it ‘creates’ –the ‘debt limit’ is an arbitrary misdirection.

None of this is news to any of us who went into this with our eyes open about Mr. Obama, but it’s a very good summary of what’s happening and well worth reading in full.   And remember, George W. Bush did his darndest to privatize Social Security and failed miserably.  Perhaps Obama will succeed, but I believe can be tripped up too.  The Republican hatred of anything Obama wants will probably help–after all Social Security wasn’t even addressed in Boehner’s “Plan B” proposal.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the politicians have left for their luxury vacations (leaving unemployed people to wonder whether they’ll have any money at all after Dec. 31); so I guess we can relax for the moment and try to enjoy some peace and quiet for the next week.

I’ve focused on only two issues in this post, so I look forward to seeing what everyone else is reading and thinking about. What’s on your list for today?

25 Comments on “Saturday Reads: The Gun Lobby and Bad-Faith Negotiations”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    Obama needs to reconsider his “legacy” of being hailed as another Lincoln in trying to make his adminstration into another “Team of Rivals”. Different era, different people, different president.

    The instransients in DC are not about to “play ball” with a man they openly detest. He is dealing with a far different mindset and radical ideology and by “giving away” benefits that have been fought and died for he is showing us once again that he is not trustworthy.

    I never considered Obama a stupid man but right now, with the majority of the public firmly at his side, he waivers. Once again. No surprise here but a huge disappointment to those who came to believe he “finally got it”. And even if he does “get it” he doesn’t seem to much care.

    Like Karen Finney pointed out last night on some show, the optics of those congressmen and women, along with Obama boarding a plane to Hawaii, was not a pretty sight. So many are left up in the air with this sham of leadership that watching them all trot off to enjoy their holidays is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of the electorate.

    I’m off to your end of the state for the holidays, bb, and am taking the time to wish all my comrades here at Sky Dancing a safe and peaceful holiday!

    • bostonboomer says:

      Enjoy yourself with your grandchildren, Pat. I’m going to see my nephews again this afternoon for the first time since October. I decided to spend the Tuesday holiday by myself this year. I really need some peace and quiet.

    • You have a safe holiday too Pat, and BB…I envy you! Spending xmas alone…how nice that sounds.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Cleveland Plain Dealer: Does Boehner run anything but Ohio?

      Butler County Republican John Boehner has more control over Ohio’s House than over the U.S. House, which Boehner (nominally) leads. And that fact goes a long way toward explaining the mess he and we are in.
      The mess isn’t the so-called fiscal cliff. That will get taken care of as soon as Wall Street decides what it wants Washington to do.

      The mess is Congress itself, which “represents” the average taxpayer about as well as a pig farmer could “represent” a vegetarian.

      And that’s thanks to the politically safe congressional districts engineered by both parties — most recently, in Ohio, by John Boehner.

      Last month, of those Ohioans voting, 50.7 percent voted to re-elect President Barack Obama, a Democrat; 47.7 percent voted for his GOP challenger, Mitt Romney.

      Meanwhile, in electing Ohio’s 16 U.S. House members, including West Chester’s Boehner, Ohioans cast 52.1 percent of their votes for Republican congressional candidates, and 47.9 percent for Democratic candidates.

  2. alibe50alibe says:

    I hate guns. I believe there should be an immediate ban on any rifles that are semi- automatic. Clips should be outlawed. Gun shows illegal. Back ground checks stringent and each and every gun has to be insured. HOWEVER!!!! I listened to Wayne LaPierre’s speech and recommendations. And I had to agree with almost everything he said. My disagreement came with what he did not say. He ignored the insane notion that any and all guns should be sold and traded almost without any controls.
    BUT his assesment of what we can do today is spot on. Outlawing semi automatics would take years to have any effect…if ever. But he is right when he says a bad man with a gun can only be stopped with a good man with a gun. I would add good woman. The banks may not use armed guards anymore but Brinks trucks do. Anything that wants to truly be guarded has armed personnell. With the proliferation of nuts and copycats, maybe armed guards plus other trained personnell is not a bad idea. No one should be surprised if a similar event to Sandy Hook happened where you live. And I live in a place where it would be closer to an hour before help showed up. I live near Altoona and that shooting yesterday is really weird. 4 dead and 3 troopers injured. And LaPierre was spot on in assailing the violence in this culture. And mental health is in dire need of being upgraded etc. Wayne LaPierre just left out a big piece of the puzzle. But he did get most of the pieces right. He should not be attacked for leaving out one piece. MANY are only focusing on outlawing assault rifles and giving lip service to violence in the media.
    This is a mutifaceting problem and no one answer is the one, but using some of the NRA suggestions make sense. We just have to add to them….and they won’t like that.

    • dakinikat says:

      I would just like to remind you that there were armed guards at Columbine and thar the Fort Hood massacre took place at a military installation with many armed and highly trained guards. University campuses have police and most have access to weapons. That didn’t stop the Virginia Tech shootings.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Based on the article I posted on lockdown techniques, I think the Sandy Hook teachers did pretty well. I don’t think having guns in an elementary school is a good idea at all. I wouldn’t want any child I care about to be exposed to guns wielded by Blackwater-type thugs.

      • alibe50 says:

        I believe there was an armed guard at Columbine, but up to that point, school shootings were a different breed.
        And the Ft Hood shooting was done by a guy who had a gun but the soldiers on the base were unarmed. Yes, the guards at the gates may have had weapons, but within a HUGE base, weapons were stowed. Just saying. Don’t reflexively attack LaPierre, though he needs it, but think about if Hillary said what he said BUT added a part about banning assault weapons and other sensible controls.

        • dakinikat says:

          I do see the need for sensible controls. Right now, I just wish they had a database of folks out there buying massive amounts of assault weapons and clips because I can’t think of a possible reason for a civilian to own one of those unless you plan to attack people for some reason or attack our duly elected government and its officials.

          I would like to say one thing about being continually patrolled by well armed militias because after Katrina the streets of my neighborhood were patrolled by up-armored Humvees with soldiers carrying military rifles and manning mounted machine guns. It is a scary as hell feeling and nothing I’d want to live under or with again. I was one of the first people back in the neighborhood. I came out of my front door one morning only to find the National Guard of Washington state scrambling to aim rifles at me since I startled them. I was lucky they had good reflexes and my dogs hadn’t made it to the front door yet. The Guard and army was used to having the place to themselves. It was a frightening experience of the kind where your stomach jumps up into your throat. They patrolled our streets for years too. Although they remove the machine guns on the backs. You develop a under siege mentality from all that, believe me.


  3. I wasn’t able to sleep last night either. Of to read those links BB, this is a great post.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks, JJ.

    • Fannie says:

      Now is good time to say to all you here, just how much gratitude I have for all of you, your time, and endless efforts and approach to the garland of problems we all face in this country.
      I am glad I feel that I have a place to go when the struggle seems unmanageable. Also want want to thank you for all the humor you provide, and the many times you have lightened me up, it’s been better than chocolate bars at time. Thank you for sharing your experiences, your wisdom, and your loving understanding. You all are the best, and you shine, enjoy your CChristmas sky dancers.

  4. RalphB says:

    Josh on a piece in the WSJ. Doesn’t sound like Obama to me but who knows?

    TPM: “My final offer is this: nothing”

    Mr. Obama repeatedly lost patience with the speaker as negotiations faltered. In an Oval Office meeting last week, he told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn’t reach agreement, he would use his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech to tell the country the Republicans were at fault.

    At one point, according to notes taken by a participant, Mr. Boehner told the president, “I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?”

    “You get nothing,” the president said. “I get that for free.”

    Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Festivus, or whatever! I’m going to spend time spoiling my grandchildren further for the next few days. 🙂

  5. dakinikat says:

    An analysis this year from the Violence Policy Center found that “states with low gun ownership rates and strong gun laws have the lowest rates of gun death.” The report continued, “by contrast, states with weak gun laws and higher rates of gun ownership had far higher rates of firearm-related death.” According to the analysis, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut had the lowest per capita gun death rates. Each of those states had “strong gun laws and low gun ownership rates. On the other hand, “ranking first in the nation for gun death was Louisiana, followed by Wyoming, Alabama, Montana, and Mississippi.” Those states had “weak gun laws and higher rates of gun ownership.”

  6. List of X says:

    LaPierre made a point that it’s better to have an armed guard a minute away than a mile away. It’s a valid point, but during that one minute, a shooter with AR-15 assault rifle, that NRA wants to protect so much, can shoot 200-400 bullets.

    • The Newtown police dept is just at the bottom the Sandy Hook Elementary driveway. We are talking less than a block from the school. That is why these cops responded so fast. And still the killer had enough time to do what he did.