Guns And Planks

Look at this headline from a couple of weeks ago:

Mexico: Towns Arm Themselves For Self-Protection Against Organized Crime

From the story:

While the argument that American citizens will take up arms against its government, or create militias to patrol unsafe streets seems like something out of a science fiction novel, but Mexican citizens in small towns in Mexico are doing exactly that.

Now, we can look down our collective noses at a country in which its citizens feel the need to take the law into their own hands, but consider the following headlines from today’s news across our own country:

At least 1 shot outside Texas courthouse

Teen Who Performed At Inaugural Events Fatally Shot

Alabama school bus shooter is a survivalist with anti-government views

Police searching for suspect who shot 3, killing 1 in Arizona office building

6 wounded in shootings overnight across Chicago

And here is an outrageous headline and lede from here in Missouri:

Dan Brown, Missouri State Senator, Wants Gun Education In First Grade

A Republican state senator in Missouri has proposed legislation that would make gun safety a mandatory part of the first-grade curriculum.

And, perhaps most outrageous of all, the following story aired on NPR this morning:

Milwaukee Sheriff: ‘You Have A Duty To Protect Yourself’

A top law enforcement official in Wisconsin is urging people to arm themselves for their own protection.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is airing a new public service announcement telling residents that due to budget cuts, calling 911 for help is no longer their best option.

I will leave you with some wisdom from Jesus of Nazareth as applied to American civilization:

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

 

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Today is Jackie Robinson’s birthday. And, as usual, Google is celebrating in style:

google robinsonIt’s hard to believe that until 1947, black athletes weren’t allowed to play in the modern major leagues.

To Hell With The Republican Party

GOP dying? Good!”

Glenn Beck

Okay. I’m warning all of you who don’t like profanity to click away.

On Tuesday I heard yet another segment on television—perhaps the millionth by now— about what Republicans need to do to reform themselves.

Finally, I am here to say: Who gives a damn? Who cares what Republicans need to do to reform themselves? I used to. I used to care. Now I don’t. You know why? Because the party is beyond reform, that’s why.

As we get some bad economic news today—the economy didn’t grow last quarter—just think about why that is. The Republican Party has done its best to sabotage the economic recovery, mostly just because it hates Barack Obama and loves political power.

And think about this: My own senator, Roy Blunt, practically begged for funds for his constituents in Joplin, after a tornado ripped through our town in 2011. But then, when a super storm named Sandy ripped through the northeast, blunt2where all those goddamned liberals live, he said to hell with the goddamned liberals. He, and thirty-five other Republicans—most of whom have taken federal funds for disasters in their own states—voted “no” on Sandy relief.

Well, to hell with him, to hell with them, and to hell with the Republican Party.

I don’t like the GOP. I hate what it stands for. I want it to die and go away. I don’t want to waste time worrying if it can reform itself because those who mean to reform it sometimes sound as ridiculous as those who want it to remain the way it is, or, God forbid, make it worse.

Example: David Brooks is by all accounts one of the most reasonable Republicans on the planet and one who liberals love to cite. But when he can say that there ought to be a “second G.O.P.” and that this new G.O.P. would “be filled with people who recoiled at President Obama’s second Inaugural Address because of its excessive faith in centralized power,” there is no real hope for the party.

Did Brooks even watch that inaugural speech before he wrote that “excessive faith in centralized power” phrase? Are you kidding me? President Obama, in that speech, said this:

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone.  Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.

Can David Brooks hear? Can he read? Is he having a love affair with Rush Limbaugh’s brain? Brooks said the new reformed group of Republicans would be one that “recoiled” at the “excessive faith in centralized power” that Obama expressed in his speech. Except that Obama expressed no such a thing.

What the President did do was explicitly acknowledge our national “skepticism of central authority” and called government-only solutions a “fiction,” and celebrated “initiative and David Brooks, serious typist for the Timesenterprise” and “hard work and personal responsibility,” which he called “constants in our character.”

Maybe David Brooks thinks only Republicans can seriously use language like that, I don’t know. But I do know there is something seriously wrong with a political party when a moderate member, one who gets accolades from Democrats like me for not being a crazy conservative, can grossly mischaracterize a Democratic speech and remain a respected “moderate.”

Okay, I admit I could tolerate a party full of David Brooks types, even if they say stupid things like “excessive faith in centralized power” when there was no excessive faith in centralized power.

But I can’t tolerate a party that would put a man like Reince Priebus back in charge. Priebus has been reelected as Republican National Committee chairman. He’s once again the official spokesman for the party.

Someone explain to me why a political party that supposedly wants to reform itself would put one of its most disgusting leaders of all time back on top. Oh, let me remind you of what this slimy bastard said while the tragedy in Benghazi was still warm:

reince priebus

If there were a God who gave a damn about this world, Reince Priebus would be putting out fires in hell about now. But instead, the creep has been put back in charge of the Republican Party, which may amount to the same job.

Not only is Priebus the leader of the Republicans’ War on Decency, he recently was auditioning for a part in the GOP’s War on Democracy. He favors Republican-controlled states “looking at” an outrageous scheme to thwart the will of the people by changing the way those states allocate Electoral College votes.

As if the Electoral College isn’t stupid enough without the Republican Party devising a way to make a future 47%-of-the-vote-getting presidential candidate the winner. Does anyone think a party that would even contemplate such a thing is redeemable? Huh?

Want more? I finally heard about remarks made last Saturday by newly elected Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz. The remarks were about two of President Obama’s picks for cabinet members, Democrat John Kerry—who has three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star and a Bronze Star from his service in Vietnam—and Republican Chuck Hagel—who has two Purple Hearts and flesh-wrapped shrapnel from his time in Vietnam.

Here’s how HuffPo reported the remarks Cruz made on Saturday: 

“Okay, we’ve got two pending nominations, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel,” he said in responding to a question at the National Review Institute summit in Washington. “Both of whom are very prominently — “

Cruz took a pregnant pause. “Anti-us?” said a moderator.

“Less than ardent fans of the U.S. military,” he continued.

Can you believe that? Can you believe a man would first tolerate the moderator’s disgusting “anti-us” remark and then say that combat veterans and war heroes were not fans of the military? I can. That’s what this goddamned party has come to.

You can Google “Ted Cruz military service” and you will find that the arrogant SOB never served a day in the military, let alone won any medals, as did Kerry and Hagel. Cruz was, however, a champion debater at, uh, Princeton. Good for him, the brave asshole.

Lest you forget, Ted Cruz is one of the bright lights in the Republican Party. Political strategist Mark McKinnon, who like David Brooks gets credit for being a “moderate” Republican, called Cruz, “the Republican Barack Obama.”

That, my friends, is from the lips of a moderate Republican. There’s no hope for the party, is all one can conclude.

And there is no hope for a party that encourages law enforcement officials, in this case sheriffs, to disobey the law. All over the country these “lawmen” are saying they will not obey any of Obama’s executive orders related to guns. Here in Missouri, the Republican-drunk legislature may soon entertain a bill introduced by a gun-slinging legislator,

making it a felony to enforce any executive order or federal law that bans the possession of a semiautomatic firearm, among other provisions.

You tell me if such lawlessness by a political party can be fixed.

Finally, I will end this tirade with more on the gun issue and with what happened to Neil Heslin, whose six-year-old boy was killed at Sandy Hook. Heslin was testifying emotionally during a public hearing in Hartford, Connecticut. He was in favor of doing something positive, like changing our insane gun laws, sort of as a way to memorialize the dead.

Initial reports on Tuesday were that Heslin was “heckled by gun nuts” in the audience. That heckling meme made it all around the country in no time. Then what followed the heckling meme was another meme pushed by right-wingers:

No, a Sandy Hook parent did not get “heckled by gun nuts”

Well, I have seen the video. I watched Neil Heslin’s face. I heard his tortured words. I felt his pain. He was obviously still stunned by the death of his little boy. He was understandably full of emotion.  ‘THAT WAS THE LAST I SAW OF HIM’: Neil Heslin dropped off Jesse yesterday morning and planned to go back in the afternoon to help him make gingerbread houses.He was trying to find something good from the tragedy. He asked a rhetorical question,

Why anybody in this room needs to have one of these assault style weapons or military weapons or high capacity clips?

Greeted with appropriate silence, Heslin then said,

And not one person can answer that question or give me an answer.

At that point, more than one person mouthed out ridiculous statements like “Second Amendment shall not be infringed” and “you will not infringe our rights.” Real classy folks.

Now, I don’t give a damn what you call this, whether you call it “heckling” or whether you call it something else. What I call it is indecent. And it is the Republican Party that has made the world safe for extremist gun freaks who don’t have the decency to respect a still-grieving father in a moment like that.

And it is the Republican Party that not only enables such indecency, but also enables those gun freaks who demand that they have the right to play with military-ish guns and fantasize about how they need those big-ass guns and clips to combat a tyrannical government. The Republican Party makes that possible.

Add all this up and more—I didn’t even mention the party’s still hot War on Women or that Marco Rubio had to kiss Rush Limbaugh’s ass and get his blessing on immigration reform—and, as far as I’m concerned, the once-great party of Lincoln is irredeemable, hopeless. And I don’t want to hear any more bullshit about its agonizing efforts to reform itself.

____________________

To sort of follow up on my outburst, I present below a stunning “Rewrite” segment from Lawrence O’Donnell’s Tuesday evening show. It’s about what happened to Neil Heslin:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Why Conservatives Need Rush Limbaugh’s Permission To Pass Immigration Reform

There are a lot of conservatives out there in denial about the racist component of the fierce and sometimes weird opposition to President Obama. I’ve written about it often, and while I obviously don’t think all or even most of the opponents of Barack Obama are outright racists, there is a rather large group of folks on the right, the white right, who resent the browning of America.

Along those lines, Mother Jones, which has been doing great journalistic work, published today this article:

mother jones and white nationalists

You can read the article and draw your own conclusions, but I have argued that a lot of the fuel that fires up the irrational hate-Obama movement is a fear that white culture—whatever that is—is being overrun by a foreign one, or many foreign ones.

Defending a white nationalist group, one of the conservatives featured in the Mother Jones piece, James B. Taylor, said:

You’ve got the NAACP and B’nai B’rith. Why not something for white people?

That nationalist group that Taylor was defending is this one:

npi

Here is part of the NPI’s “about” page:

npi about

Look at that nice white American family, those beautiful white children. The white culture these images are meant to represent is what a lot of people on the right are fighting for, indeed, have been fighting for long before anyone ever heard of Barack Obama.

And although the cultural angst that some white folks feel didn’t start with our black president, unlike any American president before him he has the pigmented credentials that serve so well to feed the fear and paranoia that is today a part of the conservative movement.

Speaking of that fear and paranoia, isn’t it ironic that Republican Senator Marco Rubio, whose parents were Cubans and whose ethnicity Republicans are strategically, if not cynically, using to appeal to a broader base of Americans, today had to go before none other than Rush Limbaugh, the whitest of white Obama-hating conservatives, to essentially get his blessing on immigration reform.

And Limbaugh during his interview on Tuesday seemed to give Rubio permission by saying,

Well, what you are doing is admirable and noteworthy.

Ain’t that nice?

But Limbaugh asked him after that :

LIMBAUGH: This legislation that you’ve admitted is not written, but you’re here on the radio today, you’ve been doing a lot of media, who are you trying to reach with this?

RUBIO:  In terms of the —

LIMBAUGH:  The bill.  You talking Hispanics, illegals, are you talking the American people, who are you talking to?

Ahh. You see? “The American people” and “Hispanics” are not really the same thing in the mind of Rush Limbaugh, a man so powerful in the Republican Party that its most prominent Hispanic leader feels the need to get the radio host’s permission to pass immigration laws.

False Equivalence And The Immigration Issue

I have heard a lot of talk about President Obama’s interview with The New Republic, but little of it has focused on his answer to a question about the “nastiness” that has  characterized politics in Washington:

I think the issue is that we have these institutional barriers that prevent what the American people want from happening. Some of them are internal to Congress, like the filibuster in the Senate. Some of them have to do with our media and what gets attention. Nobody gets on TV saying, “I agree with my colleague from the other party.” People get on TV for calling each other names and saying the most outlandish things.

Even on issues like the response to Hurricane Sandy, Chris Christie was getting hammered by certain members of his own party and media outlets for cooperating with me to respond to his constituents. That gives you an indication of how difficult I think the political environment has become for a lot of these folks. And I think what will change that is politicians seeing more upside to cooperation than downside, and right now that isn’t the case. Public opinion is going to be what changes that.

In the follow up, TNR’s Franklin Foer rightly stated:

FF: When you talk about Washington, oftentimes you use it as a way to describe this type of dysfunction. But it’s a very broad brush. It can seem as if you’re apportioning blame not just to one party, but to both parties—

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, no, let me be clear. There’s not a—there’s no equivalence there. In fact, that’s one of the biggest problems we’ve got in how folks report about Washington right now, because I think journalists rightly value the appearance of impartiality and objectivity. And so the default position for reporting is to say, “A plague on both their houses.” On almost every issue, it’s, “Well, Democrats and Republicans can’t agree”—as opposed to looking at why is it that they can’t agree. Who exactly is preventing us from agreeing?

How gratifying that was to read. Imagine: The President isn’t as ignorant as some folks thought he was on the issue of both-sides-do-it journalism. He’s a pretty smart guy after all!

Yes, public opinion is the only way to change “the political environment.” And, yes, journalists play the lazy game of telling the public that both sides are equally guilty of the dysfunction we see.

But sometimes journalists don’t take the lazy way out and blame both parties. There is no better example of that than the immigration issue.  USA Today reports:

As President Obama prepares to lay out his immigration plan during a speech in Las Vegas on Tuesday, a group of bipartisan senators has reached agreement on a framework to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.

One doesn’t read very often that “a group of bipartisan senators” have reached agreement on anything because, well, Republicans have taken the bi out of bipartisan. So, why the change of mind on the immigration issue? I’ll let John McCain, making his trillionth appearance on a Sunday TV talk show, tell you:

Well, look, I’ll give you a little straight talk. Look at the last election. Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours, for a variety of reasons, and we’ve got to understand that.

McCain, of course, was for comprehensive immigration reform before he was against it before he was for it, so he should know why it is that Republicans have come to the table ready to deal. It isn’t because they have suddenly swelled up with compassion.

No, as President Obama said, public opinion changes things and there is no better snapshot of public opinion than an election. And the one issue where one could find good reporting—that is, explaining to people what was really happening in Congress—during the last election was on the issue of immigration. Democrats hammered Republicans on this issue and, for once, journalists didn’t engage in any false equivalence.

It was clear who was obstructing progress on immigration in Washington and it was clear that the GOP presidential candidate took a hard line on the issue because the extremists in his party would have it no other way.

And thus it was clear to the electorate, that browning and beautiful swarm of voters, who the culprits were. That, and only that, is why we finally see Republicans acting on the issue.

The lesson in all this is that if Democrats will keep hammering Republicans on their party’s dangerous hostage-taking budget strategy—and if President Obama will lead the way and keep reminding journalists that both sides are not equally guilty—then we may be able to correct at least the most destabilizing form of dysfunction in our country’s capital.

As the President told The New Republic:

Until Republicans feel that there’s a real price to pay for them just saying no and being obstructionist, you’ll probably see at least a number of them arguing that we should keep on doing it. It worked for them in the 2010 election cycle, and I think there are those who believe that it can work again. I disagree with them, and I think the cost to the country has been enormous.

Daddies Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Have Brain Damage

By now all you football fans out there (and I was one of you until the Patriots lost) have seen or heard about the following admonition by President Obama, which he offered in an interview with The New Republic:

I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football.

The President’s accompanying reasoning was entirely sound, no matter how it must have made NFL gazillionaires, who are starting to pay for the long-term health effects of their game, cringe.

But, ultimately, the lucrative NFL product, as well as the money-making product of big-time college programs, depends on millions of American fathers (and many mothers, too) bringing their little boys to youth football practice and making sure they pound the hell out of each other.nfl brain injuries

Thus, to the extent that Mr. Obama may have made a few of those parents think about what repeated head-crashing, not to mention bone-shattering and ligament-ripping, may mean in terms of their kids long-term health, he has done the country a great service.

I doubt, though, that many in this football-crazed country will listen.

Bye Bye Barracuda

I was starting to forget her, then comes the news:

The relationship between former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and Fox News has ended.

Some folks, like conservative Republican Joe Scarborough this morning, have suggested that, by this move, Fox “News” honcho Roger Ailes (who Scarborough claimed is the de facto head of the GOP) is trying to help the Republican Party become less, uh, stupid.

Hmm. Scarborough’s suggestion has the virtue of confirming four important facts about the American right-wing these days:

1) Fox “News” Channel is an arm of the Republican Party.

2) The Republican Party really has been “the stupid party.”

3) Fox “News” has been peddling stupidity for profit.

4) Peddling stupidity for profit doesn’t necessarily help elect Republicans.

Jeopardy

Catholic Church: A Fetus Is A Person Except When It Isn’t

Today is the 40th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., and I just saw Jeanne Monahan, president of the  of March for Life Education and Defense Fund, on television.

Ms. Monahan was doing her best to deny reality, which is that most Americans don’t agree with her anti-choice position on reproductive rights. She is a Catholic and has obviously embraced the Church’s theology, which teaches that fertilization = constitutionally-protected personhood. Ms. Monahan spoke today about all those “Americans” who have been killed through abortion since 1973.

All of which makes me wonder why Luke Russert, who interviewed her this morning on MSNBC, didn’t ask this Catholic leader about the following:

Catholic Hospital Chain Wins Lawsuit by Arguing Fetus Is Not a Person

Here’s the way truthdig put it:

A Catholic health provider has abandoned its beliefs by arguing that a dead fetus and a dead person are not the same thing in order to win a malpractice lawsuit.

The case stems from the death of 31-year-old Lori Stodghill, who was pregnant with twins when she died of a heart attack in 2006. The woman’s husband, Jeremy, filed a wrongful death suit against the faith-based, nonprofit hospital chain Catholic Health Initiatives, alleging its decision not to perform a perimortem cesarean section led to the deaths of the twins.

The health provider was able to win that lawsuit by arguing—against its own religious doctrine—that a fetus is not a person. The hospital chain’s strategy demonstrates that, in the end, greed and money ultimately triumph over principles and beliefs.

All of this sort of makes that rather large public outcry we heard last year about Obama and ObamaCare threatening the sacred beliefs of Catholics and other religious folks sound kind of hollow, don’t you think?

 

Second Amendment Jihad Comes To Jasper County Missouri

In what may be a futile exercise, Democrats today introduced legislation to bring at least partial sanity to our gun laws.

But because of the gun manufacturers’ outsized influence on our politics, only the mildest of reforms are expected to have even a chance of becoming law. Gun manufacturers are, of course, the reason the National Rifle Association now exists, an organization that has abandoned common sense in favor of a religious zeal normally reserved for jihadists across the sea.

If you doubt that “jihad” label as applied to the NRA and its mission, then you missed what an NRA board member, Ted Nugent, said recently:

I’m part of a very great experiment in self-government where we the people determine our own pursuit of happiness and our own individual freedom and liberty not to be confused with the Barack Obama gang who believes in we the sheeple and actually is attempting to re-implement the tyranny of King George that we escaped from in 1776. And if you want another Concord Bridge, I got some buddies. 

That reference to Concord’s north bridge and the beginnings of the Revolutionary War is nothing if it isn’t a zealot’s call for a holy war. Nugent—a tough-talking gun-toter who wasn’t so tough when it came time to serve in Vietnam and face gun-toting communists—also said:

…here is what is wrong with America today. We have a president, and everybody better write this down, and memorize this. The president of the United States goes to the Vietnam Memorial Wall and pretends to honor 58,000 American heroes who died fighting communism and then he hires, appoints and associates with communists. He pretends to pay honor to men who died fighting communism, and then he hangs out with, hires and appoints communists. He is an evil dangerous man who hates America and hates freedom. And we need to fix this as soon as possible.

How NRA board member Nugent intends to “fix” the fact that President Obama has four more years of governance isn’t exactly clear, but he does have “some buddies” — mujahideen?—with guns, so draw your own conclusion.

And speaking of jihad, here’s how jihad-friendly Breitbart.com reported on a peculiar speech by the NRA’s chief fanatic, Wayne LaPierre, speaking before something called the Weatherby Foundation International Hunting and Conversation Dinner on January 22:

lapierre

The Breitbart article explains (italics in the original):

Of these rights–the right to keep and bear arms and the right to self-defense–LaPierre said: “No government gave [them] to us and no government can take them away.”

LaPierre made it clear that Obama doesn’t like to hear this because it shows that the 2nd Amendment is not in flux but is fixed, and the rights it protects are beyond the reach of government.

It might surprise some folks that God—who for his mass-killing normally prefers fire and brimstone over, say, semi-automatic assault rifles—actually endorses a view of the Second Amendment that would allow human mass-murderers to get their hands on killing machines and high-capacity magazines that most Americans believe ought to be banned.

And it might surprise a lot of local readers that the view that God is a supporter of people-killing guns is shared by at least one local cop, Sheriff Randee Kaiser:

I can assure you that as sheriff of Jasper County, I will be an advocate for the sacred rights of citizens of this county.

Sacred“? Hmm. Definition: “dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity.” Gotcha, Sheriff.

Joplin mostly sits in Jasper County, where Sheriff Kaiser, moonlighting as a theologian, essentially pronounces that the Almighty has ordained,

Thou shalt bear arms!

Kaiser has his reasons for opposing those who would attempt to bring common sense to our gun laws:

Passing new gun laws only affects those who follow them. As we have seen from recent violent incidents involving guns, the people who engage in these horrific acts have not been identified as law-abiding citizens.

Let me see. We shouldn’t pass new gun laws because only the law-abiding will follow them, which suggests that all laws are really unnecessary. I wonder if the good sheriff thinks that way about, say, murder laws?

I have an idea: Let’s get rid of our laws against homicide! After all, as the Jesuitical Jasper County lawman said,

Passing new [insert here your law of choice] laws only affects those who follow them.

Yes! Holy anarchy!

Allahu Akbar!

Harry Reid Sings Along With Mitch

Here’s how HuffPo sees the filibuster deal between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell:

filibuster rulesThe opening paragraph from the HuffPo report:

Progressive senators working to dramatically alter Senate rules were defeated on Thursday, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), set to announce a series of compromise reforms on the Senate floor that fall far short of the demands.

So, although there are some marginal improvements in the filibuster process, individual Republicans remain free to sabotage the government in anonymity and thus with relative impunity.

The truth is, though, that given the current constitution of the House of Representatives, still gripped by Tea Party extremism, reform of the Senate filibuster is the least of the country’s worries.

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