This video explains it all:
Cultural change may be solution to US gun crimes
By Wang Yong | December 14, 2013, Saturday | Print Edition
Editor’s note: The following is an exclusive interview of Shanghai Daily opinion writer Wang Yong with Tom Diaz, author of The Last Gun: How Changes in the Gun Industry Are Killing Americans and What It Will Take to Stop It.
Q: The September 16 shooting carnage at the Washington Navy Yard is the latest proof of what you call “a reign of terror” by gun activists who raise the false flag of constitutional rights. Will it push the US to better regulate guns?
A: It’s wishful thinking to suppose that any single incident – no matter how horrific – will inspire significant change in gun regulation in the US. No one in their right mind likes these incidents or accepts them as normal. But, as in so many other areas, Americans are dramatically divided on what to do about it, and so we do nothing.
There are two strongly held and opposite points of view.
One side understands that the proliferation and types of guns available is the crux of the problem, not only of mass shootings but of daily “routine” shootings all over the country. Even “good” people with access to guns commit terrible crimes with them.
The other side is committed to the ideological and emotional view that the problem is “bad” people, not guns.
It so happens that these sides are in rough national political balance right now, which favors the pro-gun side because inertia makes change virtually impossible at the national level.
The hope is that, over a longer term, there will be real and widespread cultural change that will favor stricter gun control. In other words, we will reach a “tipping point” that will break the deadlock.
There is good evidence that this may be happening, as younger and more culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse communities within the US “grow into” political power. Guns do not have the same emotional and ideological appeal to these groups as they do to the old line white male population, whose grip on American politics is clearly fading.
Q: What are Obama’s chances and challenges if he really wants to make the US a safer place?
A: I have not seen and do not expect to see substantial change under President Obama. He certainly has made powerful speeches. He would clearly like to go in the correct direction.
That said, however, two factors work against administration-driven change.
One is the reluctance of the political “experts” in the Democratic party to take on tough gun control legislation.
The influence of this view reaches to the highest levels in Congress and the White House, and includes those who might otherwise be thought to be “progressive” or “liberal.”
It’s safer to keep one’s head down. Mere politics prevents bold action, and ultimately empowers the National Rifle Association and the gun industry it represents.
The other is the stark national political division that I referred to earlier.
The president has only so much “political capital” to spend, as the recent budget and debt limit confrontation showed.
It took an enormously disciplined and steel-nerved will to face down those who had locked down the government.
Yes, the president (and for that matter, the Democratic leaders in Congress) could in theory decide to make gun control an all-or-nothing fight.
But given everything that needs to be done just to keep the US functioning, I doubt that this fight will be engaged.
Q: Do you campaign for an outright ban on individual gun rights, or for better regulated individual gun rights?
A: The facts of gun violence dictate certain answers. If we really want to reduce gun violence of all types, we must limit access to guns. So, yes, I favor strong restrictions on access to and possession of certain types of guns: high-capacity semiautomatic pistols, semiautomatic assault weapons, and very high caliber (armor-piercing) sniper rifles.
Unfortunately, the “gun control movement” in the US has bought into the idea of pursuing much more limited goals.
This is because, to a large extent, the Democratic political establishment does not want an abrasive fight. The phrase “gun safety” has come into political favor and “gun control” has lost favor.
There is nothing “wrong” with most of the incremental change being pursued. Better background checks, trigger locks, and other hardware changes all would have some small effect on gun death and injury. The facts, however, are quite clear.
The preponderance of the hurricane of gun violence in the United States comes from so-called “legal” guns and is committed by people who won’t be deterred by gadgets like trigger locks.
In my view, the diversion of energy to these palliatives is a serious mistake.
The proliferation of assault weapons in the US could have been cut short as late as 1994 if the Congress and then-President Bill Clinton had acted forcefully and intelligently. Instead, they compromised on a weak law that has since expired. Now we see the results at elementary schools, movie theaters and other public places.
Q: You write: “Every year, more Americans are killed by guns in the United States than people of all nationalities are killed worldwide by terrorist attacks.” As terrorist attacks are threats to human rights, would you also call gun crimes an abuse of human rights, especially in the case of racial hatred toward non-white immigrants?
A: I have no doubt that some of our domestic gun violence is driven by fear, anger and hatred that has its roots in some of the racial and ethnic theories that have stained our history. It certainly fuels the desire to own military-style guns.
However, one must be cautious and specific in how one articulates the case for calling gun violence a case of human rights abuse. To me, the key is the extent to which the government per se is complicit in the abuse, and I see little of that in our domestic problem.
The three greatest examples of human rights abuse within the United States that I would cite all involved overt government complicity: the genocide of the Native Americans, the institution of slavery and so-called “Jim Crow” laws that followed its formal end, and explicitly racist national laws, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and subsequent “quota” restrictions on immigration.
So far as domestic gun violence goes, governments in the United States can be faulted for passivity politically, but I can’t think of a case in which the government has overt responsibility for or encourages the violence. There is, however, a different case to be made for the gun violence that occurs in other countries because of our government’s lax controls on the export and smuggling of guns.
The citizens of Mexico, Canada and other countries all over the world have suffered because of these weak export and law enforcement policies and practices.
There are many things that the federal government in particular could have done and can do today to effectively prevent much of this traffic, but chooses not to do for pragmatic reasons. That is complicity.
Guns from the United States not only take lives and injure innocent people, they have provided infrastructures through which criminal and other non-government organizations can confront legitimate governments and deprive ordinary people of the free exercise of their human rights.
Frankly, it amazes me that none of these affected governments has made an aggressive case in international courts or elsewhere based on the theory that the United States is directly complicit in these abuses. Every now and then someone talks about it, but no one really does anything.
Q: You call for the creation of a comprehensive reporting system regarding gun crimes. Has there been progress to that effect since the publication of your book?
]A: I favor not only a comprehensive data system about gun “crimes,” but also about gun violence of all sorts, which would include suicides and incidents of “road rage” and “domestic violence,” which many people think is somehow different from cases in which someone sets out to use a gun to commit another crime and kills or injures a victim.
Only a little progress has been made, largely at the direction of the president. The NRA and the gun industry have a vested interest in preventing such information from being gathered, much less made public.
Ignorance, for them, is power.
America’s on track for a another record year of mass shootings. Everybody in the country has an opinion about guns. But way too many people on all sides of the issue don’t know Jack about guns.
This free video is a straightforward, non-adversarial introduction to guns. You can watch it, download it, share it, do anything but sell it. I offer it as a public service:
In the late 19th and early 20th century, the so-called “Great Powers” of the world–Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and a few other wannabes–competed to stake out their colonies in Africa. The elbow-throwing, often violent competition became known as “The Scramble for Africa.”
The same powers had also competed for other colonies, including India and China.
The purpose of these colonies was simple–exploitation. The Great Powers ripped off natural resources and valuable commodities from the colonies. In return they forced their colonial subjects to buy goods from the imperial homeland or other colonies.
The British, for example, saw great potential in selling opium to the huge population of China. When the Chinese attempted to ban the flow of this drug, the British simply went to war (twice) and forced the defeated Chinese to take their opium.
The British and some other imperial powers (including the United States) preferred to rule “indirectly.” This means they set up systems of “native” stooges and front men to “administer” their own country on behalf of their conquerors.
A great Scramble for America has been going on in the world’s gun markets for some time. Foreign gun-makers have succeeded in carving out markets in the United States that they could never enjoy in their own countries, almost all of which have sensibly strict gun laws. America has become the last great colony in the world of guns.
Just like the Great Powers, the gun imperialists have their local boot-lickers: the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and of course, Congress and the hive of lobbyists that buzz around it.
Just as the British succeeded in mass addiction of the Chinese to opium, the gun industry has pretty much succeeded in addicting a sizable number of Americans to guns. And like drug addicts, gun buyers need a stronger “kick” after a while. The gun industry has obliged by designing and selling increasingly lethal firearms. These include assault weapons and high-capacity semiautomatic pistols.
Just as in other colonies, our indirect rule administrators are only rarely touched by the pestilence they fawningly help spread. It’s good for you, they say.
Here’s a short video on point.
Wayne LaPierre, the Grand National Orifice of the National Rifle Association, infamously said in one of his emissions of verbal flatulence that “the guys with the guns make the rules.”
Anyone who dares to speak out on the American gun crisis has learned recently that the rules of the guys with the guns are cowardly threats. LaPierre and others of his ilk have sought to mobilize fear and anger in the United States. They want to get their pathetic troops out of their masturbatory fantasies in their grandmothers’ basements and onto the street, armed and ready to kill like so many jack-booted thugs. They want to murder the First Amendment and anyone who exercises their rights under that Amendment to express an opinion with which they disagree.
This post is about an example. It’s only one example out of many one could cite.
Last April I happened to appear for a few minutes in an excellent hour-long CNBC documentary titled
“America’s Gun: the Rise of the AR-15.” Here is a relevant clip from the documentary, which I highly recommend as having fully and fairly represented all of the many facets of this complex and troubling phenomenon.
I recently got a reply to the question I raised. It was posted as a comment on this blog.
Here is that reply:
In a nutshell, one “G. Wright” answers that it is I that he (or she) — or in his (or her) squishily evasive convention “they” — would like to kill.
It turns out that I, Tom Diaz, am the very face of oppressive government. I haven’t been elected to any office. I don’t run a powerful lobby for the gun industry, like the NRA. I am nothing more than a citizen expressing my educated point of view, as is my right to do under the Constitution of the United States.
Okay, if I am truly that powerful, I decree that the United States government take the cost of one (just one) nuclear submarine out of the Pentagon’s budget and spend it instead on building a decent education infrastructure in every town, city, hamlet, and school district on America. Call me the “Education Face.”
As a rule, I do not allow trash like G. Wright’s emission into the comments section of my blog. I used to let all comments in. But I realized that I was often just underwriting ignorance, the bleating know-nothingness of the Great Pestilential Stupidity that has infected America.
However, given the obvious passion of “G. Wright,” I decided to make an exception. I emailed G. Wright and invited him to provide his name and a brief biography. I figured that if he felt so passionately about his “rights” and the commandments of his “God,” he would be proud to attach his name to his opinion.
I’ll be honest.
I was not the least bit surprised when it turned out that “G. Wright” is a coward, a snake in the grass, a weak and no doubt mentally unbalanced person who emerges from the night, spray-paints the world with his simplistic and ill-informed hatred, and leaves a fake email address as his calling card.
Here is the email I sent to him and the “bounced back” response I got:
Yep, “failed delivery” to email@example.com.
As it happens, I know exactly who G. Wright is. The following video describes him in some detail, and includes my response to his cowardly threat.
Let’s be clear about one thing. G. Wright’s threat is not about me. It’s about you, and you, and you. It’s about whoever has an opinion that people like Wayne LaPierre, G. Wright, and other “guys with the guns” don’t like and don’t want this country to hear.
Shame on them. They are no different from and no better than the masked terrorists of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, or the Ku Klux Klan.
Shame on us if we let them get away with their terrorist campaign.
They don’t make em like me no more; Matta fact they never made it like me before
Phone home, Weezy; Phone home, Weezy
Lil’ Wayne – Phone Home
Gosh, The Washington Post’s exercise on the import of the M1 Garand sounds pretty scary!
Why should I–who carry a certified NRA “Gun-Grabber” certificate–care?
Because shadow-lantern-projection hyperbole obscures real issues and feeds the beast of the gun lobby. Anyone who truly understands the M1 Garand rifle has the right to laugh at some of the fright wig stuff written and said about it.
Bad facts–or mere assertion of bad facts–do not make good policy.
The main thrust of the Washington Post piece may be fairly summed up as follows: “Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s mouthpiece, may have profited from a little side deal with a gun importing front. (Or maybe not.) That deal, combined with LaPierre’s lobbying, opened the gates to a flood of military weapons through a dangerous new loophole for “curios and relics.” The M1 rifle is one of those curios and relics and its import puts the world at mortal peril.”
LaPierre himself seems to have emerged from this piece of reporting relatively unscathed. The practice of making a personal profit in Washington from side deals is, of course, unheard of in the Metropole of the American Empire. Well, okay, maybe unheard of if you don’t count the Members of Congress whose wealth balloons over their tenures (from the steady acquisition of inside information and fawning deal-making courtiers), the navel-gazing think tank “fellows” who charge hefty fees for “appearances,” the Presidents of the United States and their spouses who write best-selling books while they are oh-so marketable, the ex-Presidents, Senators, and Other High Potentates who cash in with six-figure speechifying fees, and the new media personalities who get their fingers in every pie in town, sometimes with a (gasp!) financial or ethical conflict.
But the oddest implication left hanging in the air by this piece is that the M1 Garand is an assault rifle or some kind of precursor assault rifle.
Josh Sugarmann of the Washington-based Violence Policy Center says the 200,000 rifles imported by Blue Sky were “basically the first of the military weapons marketed to the civilian population. If you were going to draw an ‘assault weapons timeline,’ it would start with the M-1 and eventually end up where we are today.”
By 2012, nearly 1 million of what gun advocates call “modern sporting rifles” were coming into the U.S. market from foreign and domestic sources in a single year.
Tom Hamburger and Sari Horwitz, “NRA lobbyist, arms dealer played key role in growth of civilian market for military-style guns,” The Washington Post, May 3, 2013.
Or, if not that, well, at least that the import of the M1 Garand, this horrible “military weapon,” marks the start of the “assault weapons timeline.”
Or, at the very, very least, the M1 Garand is a “bad” gun. Allowing it into the country is bad policy, something on the order of importing portable mini-nukes or missiles full of sarin gas.
Time to take a deep breath about the M1 Garand, folks.
These three propositions are demonstrably not true. There are indeed problematic guns that fall under the complicated curios and relics rule, which essentially sanitizes many (but by no means all) guns that are at least 50 years old. But the M1 is not one of those problematic guns.
Let me disclose a conflict of interest here. As a young and foolish man in uniform, I was intimate with the M1 in … well … an almost Biblical sense. Yes, I slept with an M1 Garand every night for, as I recall, about one week. That was the interval between one close rifle inspection–during which it was determined that I had cut corners and kept my rifle in “dry” condition (i.e., without oil, it seemed like a good idea at the time)–and the next. Worst than that, I’ve actually stripped an M1 down. All the way, baby. And more than once. I even just narrowly escaped “M1 thumb” a few times.
So, I guess I am a bit handicapped by actually knowing what the hell I am writing about here.
OK, people. Listen up. I am only going to write this once.
The M1 Garand is not by any stretch of fevered imagination an “assault rifle.” It is, in fact, a classic example of precisely the kind of “main battle rifle” that assault weapons were designed to replace. If you were going to draw a timeline of the demise of big, cumbersome, awkward military rifles, it would start with the M1 Garand in about 1944, when the Nazi army fielded the first true assault rifle, the STG-44.
The truth is that the M1 Garand is really no scarier, no more lethal, no worse than many popular semiautomatic hunting rifles sold today.
The M1 Garand is a semiautomatic rifle. It is fed by means of an 8-round clip. (Note: The M1 Garand is not the M1 Carbine, which is an entirely different gun, with entirely different features, and is quite properly excluded from import.)
That’s eight rounds. Not 20 rounds. Not 60 rounds. Not even the 10 rounds of the “high capacity magazine” that was banned (sort of) by the puny political fiction of the 1994 federal “Assault Weapons Ban.” In fact, the M1′s design is such that it can only accept an 8-round clip! And, yes, this is one time when the word “clip” (as opposed to “magazine”) correctly describes the ammunition feeding device.
So, what is an “assault rifle” and why isn’t the M1 one of them?
Well, Kristen Rand, of the Washington-based Violence Policy Center, quite correctly defined assault rifles in her statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 27, 2013 supporting Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposed assault weapons legislation.
Ms. Rand described assault rifles as weapons that “have incorporated into their design specific features that enable shooters to spray (‘hose down’) a large number of bullets over a broad killing zone, without having to aim at each individual target.” Wow, that is really good writing!
The specific design features, according to Ms. Rand’s perceptive statement, are:
It’s hard to find a better or more succinct statement of what makes an assault rifle an assault rifle!
The M1 has zero of these features. None. Zippo.
Unlike the AK-47 and the AR-15–which are assault rifles–the shooter cannot just pop in a 10, 20, 40, 60 round magazine, or 100 round drum. Loading the clip into an M1 is by comparison a cumbersome and slow process. The clip–into which eight rounds have been previously loaded by hand–has to be pushed down into the receiver. This requires more manual dexterity than simply shoving a high-capacity magazine up into a receiver, because once the M1 insertion is fully accomplished and pressure released, the M1′s bolt flies forward. It can give the inept shooter a vicious whack on the thumb if he (or she) hasn’t gotten it smartly out of the way. Hence, the phrase “M1 thumb.”
In fact, the five-round box magazine of a modern semiautomatic hunting rifle like the Remington Model 750 can be more easily and more quickly inserted into the rifle than the clips of the M1. Bonus: no chance of M1 thumb.
No, the M1 is simply not an assault rifle by anyone’s definition. Its eight rounds are scarcely more than a semiautomatic hunting rifle’s, and it cannot be reloaded as quickly and easily as the AK-47 and AR-15 (and others) can be.
Nubbin’s question: Well, but, gosh, sir, doesn’t the M1 fire some of kind of really dangerous high-powered military ammunition? I mean (smirk) nobody would really want to shoot a deer with this thing, right?
Sarcastic Answer: What are you smoking, son?
The M1 fires basically the same round that millions of hunting rifles fire–the venerable .30-06 Springfield, which has been around for over 100 years.
The M1 was not the “first of the military weapons marketed to the civilian population.” In fact, it was one of the last to be directly marketed to civilians from surplus stocks. The fact is that millions of surplus military rifles were imported into the United States in the years following World War II. The flow was cut off by the Gun Control Act of 1968 not because the M1, or any of equivalent rifles, were particularly deadly, but because the domestic gun industry was being hurt by competition from these relatively cheap imports. It persuaded Congress to stop them. The changes in the law in the mid-1980s were simply a reconquest, a victory of gun importers over domestic producers.
Military rifles have been part of the American sporting scene since the Revolution. The M1 Garand was no different. What has changed the situation dramatically and dangerously since the 1980s is the import and manufacture of the high-capacity magazines and the semiautomatic assault weapons for which they are designed. As explained above, the M1 Garand in no such creature by any definition.
Let’s examine a little relevant history here. I would say with all due modesty that the second-best book about the American gun industry and attempts at its regulation is Robert Sherrill’s 1973 masterpiece, The Saturday Night Special. Sherrill documented and cut through the preening hypocrisy of his era (very similar to ours) with scathing documentation. Here’s what he wrote about the history of the import of military weapons into the United States:
It’s estimated that between 1959—about the time the New England manufacturers really began to get their anti-import propaganda going—and 1963, 7 million foreign weapons, mostly military surplus, were imported into the United States.
Robert Sherrill, The Saturday Night Special (New York: Charterhouse, 1973), p. 88.
Do the math and a timeline to figure out when military weapons were first marketed to civilians in large numbers.
Sherrill also cuts through the hypocrisy and cant surrounding the ban on foreign guns that was put into place by the Gun Control Act of 1968. (It is worth reading just to get perspective on how little things have changed: then and now the gun industry had great influence in Congress, and then and now many gun control nubbins really don’t know jack about guns. They just plain don’t like any of them.) For example, in 1958, then Senator John F. Kennedy offered a bill to restrict the import of military firearms:
…but he did so candidly, admitting that the bill he introduced to ban the importation of military arms was meant to keep the cash registers jingling in his home state…The imports, he said, “have helped spoil the domestic market,” and his bill was “of particular importance to five arms manufacturers in Massachusetts,” which was as close as any politician will come to telling the truth: the legislation was written by the interested parties.
Robert Sherrill, The Saturday Night Special (New York: Charterhouse, 1973), p. 91.
Kennedy’s legislation went nowhere. Among the millions of surplus military guns imported in the post-war era were about 125,000 Carcano M91 Italian army rifles. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, bought one of these by mail order from Klein’s Sporting Goods in Chicago. (“‘Cursed Gun’–The Track of C2766,” LIFE Magazine, August 27, 1965, p. 63.) “Within the context of the marketplace, Kennedy’s assassination came to the assistance of [Sen. Thomas J.] Dodd and the New England gun manufacturers.” (Robert Sherrill, The Saturday Night Special (New York: Charterhouse, 1973), p. 165.)
The rest is history. Foreign guns–and guns manufactured in the United States for use by foreign armies, like the M1s Wayne LaPierre either did or did not have a hand in getting into the US–were to a large extent shut out of the U.S. domestic civilian market until the 1980s.
The M1 was very like an attractive woman in a very short skirt with an enormous purse slung over her shoulder, who just happened to be standing on a corner in a bad neighborhood when the cops came and made a sweep to keep the politicians happy. The M1 got caught in the roundup. Its reputation has never been the same since.
“Cockroaches are a pretty good reason to call the exterminator but voters might be even more concerned if their homes were infested with members of Congress: Cockroaches 45 Congress 43″
Here are the names of two people you probably never heard of: Jim Manley and Mark Lyttle.
The worlds of these two men are a universe apart. The void between their worlds is filled with the dark matter of political influence in Washington–blood money, revolving doors, and the self-interest of career politicians. That invisible political astrophysics is what defeated the public’s desire for comprehensive background checks in the Senate last week, is defeating public health and safety measures to reduce gun violence in Washington today, and will continue to thwart the will of the vast majority of Americans for a safer country tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
Unless you get up, stand up, and do something about it, like the hundreds of Americans rallying today in Washington to shame the NRA’s lobbyists.
Mark Lyttle is the subject of a frightening article by William Finnegan in the current issue of The New Yorker magazine. Lyttle is an American citizen who was arrested for a misdemeanor in North Carolina. From there–in a horrendously Kafkaesque series of arrogant mistakes and flawed decisions by nameless, faceless, and demonstrably incompetent bureaucrats–Lyttle was thrown into the unrelenting machinery of the American Homeland-Security-Industrial-Complex. He was expelled from the United States and repeatedly arrested by Department of Homeland Security operatives.
Like Boston marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Lyttle fell through the cracks of the vastly flawed system of piously fearful pork upon which we, the taxpayers of America, have lavished at least $1.3 TRILLION since the horrible events of September 11, 2001. Trillions for “homeland security,” but not one cent for keeping children safe from gun violence!
How can this be? How can it be that the Congress of the United States can allow–indeed, encourage–waste and incompetence on such a scale for such a Byzantine structure, and yet not protect small children and the rest of us from the far greater danger of gun violence?
Enter Jim Manley, a long time aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, career Senate staffer, now turned lobbyist. Manley made the unfortunate decision to be interviewed by the brilliant John Oliver for The Daily Show on politics and guns. He fairly made an ass of himself, but in the process revealed precisely the problem. Asked what makes a politician “successful,” Manley unblinkingly answered, “Getting reelected by his or her constituents.”
Not saving lives, but getting reelected.
Manley got the classic, patented John Oliver reaction to incredibly dumb statements. As the light dawned on his smugly placid face, he began to squirm with a deer-in-the-headlights look. Gosh, if only he could have rewound the tape and started over! But see the whole revealing bit for yourself here.
So, who is this inadvertently revealing guy, Jim Manley? Here’s his official bio from QCA, the oh-so-cleverly named “public affairs” (Washington doublespeak for House of Lobbyists and Piano Players) firm for which he now works:
Jim most recently served as the senior communications advisor and spokesman for the Senate Majority Leader, where he spent six years at the nexus of communications, politics and policy for every issue facing the Senate. As a strategist, he worked with the White House and the leadership in the House of Representatives to set the Democratic tone for legislative initiatives. As the Leader’s top spokesman, he dealt extensively with the national and regional media on a daily basis to advance the Democratic agenda. He is a regarded as a top Democratic strategist in Washington and continues to serve as a trusted resource for many of the nation’s top reporters.
What neither Manley nor The Daily Show revealed about this “top Democratic strategist” and “trusted source” is that among his firm’s clients is the investment management company BlackRock. New York City’s Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio recently named BlackRock as one of the Dirty Dozen investors in the gun industry. In fact, BlackRock, with $342 million of its investors’ money invested in the killing machine business, tops de Blasio’s money manager dirty investor list.
In truth, there is nothing remarkable about Jim Manley and his pedestrian, let’s-all-go-along-to-get-reelected “strategical thinking.” He’s just another of the thousands of Capitol Hill staffers who rotate between high-paying Congressional jobs to cash in with even higher paying jobs whoring–oops, I meant “lobbying”–for one or another plutocratic or just plain evil special interest in Washington. They are only following their bosses’ example. As The New York Times‘ inimitable Gail Collins recently noted:
Members of Congress regularly glom onto high-paying jobs in the private sector, none of which involve the use of their skills in computer technology. The Center for Responsive Politics counts 373 former House and Senate members who are currently working as lobbyists.
Former Congressman Steve Buyer (what a deliciously appropriate name, and no wonder he pronounces it as if it were spelled “boy-er”!), for example, went to work flacking for the tobacco industry, the only other industry in town that even comes close to the murderous, blood-soaked, unconscionable greed of the gun industry and its lackey, the NRA.
The NRA, of course, has been throwing its money around Washington with an abandoned passion since the Moloch’s slaughter of precious, innocent, beautiful children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Not that the NRA and the gun industry need that much help with brilliant “strategists” like Jim Manley and the Third Way’s Jim Kessler advocating preemptive surrender on the gun control front. Still, every little bit helps when your business is death machines in a society of people who mostly want to live.
Among the hired guns the NRA has bought with the gun industry’s blood money is Michael E. Williams, a director in the firm of Greenberg, Taurig, another House of Piano Players in the Washington lobbying game. If Williams’ name sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because he was reported to be linked to convicted felon Jack Abramoff’s “Dream Team” of hucksters and specialists in the subornation of Congress. Here’s Williams’ official bio, which brags conspicuously about his skill at “derailing” gun control legislation, meaning the will of the American people:
Michael Williams focuses his practice on coalition building and integrating legislative, regulatory, grass tops, grass roots and public relations strategies on behalf of his clients to affect positive legislative and regulatory outcomes. Michael’s 25 years of experience on Capitol Hill has allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the interaction of policy issues and politics, as well as a wide-ranging bipartisan network of contacts within all areas of the federal government including Members of Congress, Congressional staff, the Administration and various governmental agencies.
Michael is a member of the Greenberg Political Contribution Committee which reviews and approves contributions and political activities of the Greenberg Traurig Political Action Committee. He also serves as a government affairs team representative to the Greenberg Traurig Commitment to Excellence Committee (CTE). The CTE works to ensure that the firm preserves and enhances the core values crucial to our brand: integrity, quality, service and accountability.
Prior to joining the firm in 2001, Michael Williams was a Senior Lobbyist for the National Rifle Association (NRA), the number one rated Association lobbyist team for 2001, according to Fortune magazine. For more than 11 years, as a Federal liaison for the NRA, he promoted legislative and political objectives on Capitol Hill. Michael was one of the major architects of the NRA legislative strategy to derail the 1997-1998 Clinton Gun Control legislation.
These inside ball, dark-of-the-moon, smoke-filled room operators are the mere tip of a rotting mound of corrupt influence in Washington. For more information, go here.
These people have no shame. And, by the way, there should be no place to hide for those who hire them. All of their clients are gun violence enablers, linked to the NRA and the gun industry in a frothing chain of blood money.
But who lobbies for the children of Newtown and the rest of us?
Debate has raged for two centuries about whether Napoleon Bonaparte was a self-serving egomaniac, or a supremely confident leader driven by concern for the rights of the common person.
There is universal agreement, however, that–when he was on his game–he was a brilliant strategist and a tactical genius. He chose when and where to fight, picking the ground and the time with care. He had an uncanny ability to recall in minute detail aspects of the terrain. His personal courage was unquestioned.
The textbook example is the battle of Austerlitz, fought in what is now the Czech Republic on December 2, 1805. Like all brilliant commanders, Napoleon imagined the winning fight plan. Then he stuck to it with iron nerve and cold will, even when his subordinates lost some of their will. He thrashed a larger, better-trained, better-armed coalition of forces.
There will be no such debate about the claque of professional politicians and hangers-on who now run the Democratic Party. The latest gun control debacle has proven beyond argument that these hollow men are shallow, self-serving, and unfit for battle on behalf of innocent children and other living things. They are fit only to swell a crowd at a lobbyist fund-raising reception, or fill out a scene at a mawkish media event…little more.
The only strategy they have imagined for two decades is appeasement and preemptive surrender. Like Oliver Twist, they hold up their contemptible little bowls and beg of the NRA and its right-wing allies, “Please, sir, I want some more.”
They have never, ever, not once, gotten more.
The saddest part of this ignominious disaster, this sadly inevitable thumping, is that everybody in professional political Washington wins. Only the rest of America–you, and I, and our children, and our children’s children–loses.
Harry Reid got to make a noble speech after decades–decades–of sabotaging serious gun control at the altar of the NRA and his own reelection. Pundits fawned over his “act of courage,” as if the man were only just born yesterday and had no record of perverse obstructionism.
Reid’s heir apparent, Chuck Schumer, played both ends against the middle, as is his canny wont. He avoided antagonizing the Senate’s “NRA Democrats,” yet got plenty of photo ops at weepy media events. So he’ll still get to be Senate Majority Leader.
Pat (“Brick”) Leahy got to muddle around in his peculiarly thick-witted and uninspiring public manner without doing much of anything to fulfill his public trust.
The list could and perhaps should go on.
There’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, who now professes to embrace gun control after years of cutting the throat of any Democrat–including the Attorney General of the United States–who dared raise the subject. Emanuel did as much as Wayne LaPierre to destroy the gun control movement. And Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose canonization is imminent after funding some puzzlingly bland Super Bowl commercials. Bloomberg showed up like a rich amateur in a pool hall. He had a million dollar suit and a wad of cash, and a slogan about so-called “illegal guns.” But Bloomberg never really understood the game and he still doesn’t. So he got snookered.
“Leaders” (cf., Nancy Pelosi) in the House will get a pass because the Senate’s fumbles saved them the awful embarrassment of having to actually try to do something themselves. Whew!
The NRA will be roundly—and rightfully—blamed for masterminding the smoking field of shame that was the floor of the United States Senate when dusk fell on April 17, 2013. People who used to call themselves gun control advocates—but now prefer wimpier terms like “gun violence reduction advocate,” or even “gun health advocate”—are waving their rhetorical pitchforks at the senators who voted with the NRA, promising to exact vengeance. Perhaps they shall. Much remains to be seen. At the very least, they all got some nice meetings at the White House and on the Hill to put in their scrapbooks.
I say, stop blaming the NRA.
Start blaming your own leadership, the men and women who squandered, threw away, let slip out of their hands, the last, best opportunity to truly save lives that America is likely to see for a generation.
In military terms, the bumbling field marshals of “gun safety” chose to use their puniest weapon—the vanilla-lilac-scented, impenetrable bureaucratic doubletalk of “improved” background checks—and positioned themselves in a rhetorical swamp with a river to their back. Plan B did not exist.
The operatives of this army of incompetents actually set out to aggressively sabotage any talk of such dangerous things as assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the inner councils of Washington Wisdom. Oh, no, you see, we can “respect gun rights” and find “common ground,” and that kind of talk … well, it just makes trouble in Happy Valley. Let our generals make parley with their generals in secret meetings. Like mommy and daddy, they know what to do. The polls will tell them.
Even had the NRA uncharacteristically ceded the field and allowed the pathetic Manchin-Toomey (and maybe -Schumer, who showed up at the press conference anyway) “compromise” (a weak compromise grafted onto on a weak compromise inscribed on a fig leaf) to pass, this scrivener’s curlicue on the arcane texts of the law would have had negligible effect on the blistering hurricane of gun violence that is America today. Negligible, in spite of all the hype with which “gun health groups” have hypnotized not only themselves but also many of the outraged mothers and fathers who trust the “experts” to know what to do.
It’s the guns, stupid!
The Machin-Toomey-Maybe Schumer-Pabulum would have no effect whatever on the guns. Nor would it have any effect whatsoever on the next Adam Lanza, who—mark my words—is out there right now and has, or will legally obtain, and would legally have obtained under Machin-Toomey-Maybe Schumer, his mass murder machine.
What would I have done, you may ask?
Well, I sketched out my ideas in an earlier post, here. Pick the high ground of the real world of American gun violence—the ruthless, greedy gun industry and its cynical mass-marketing of killing machines that have no place in a sane society–on which to do battle. Field a juggernaut of a bill, with the assault weapons and high-capacity magazine ban for starters, truly universal background check and waiting periods for enders, and a Draconian bed of tough regulation for the death merchants in between.
Starting with that proposal, I would have made the NRA and its minions fight their way up a long and difficult hill in the blazing sunlight, punctuated with hearing after hearing after hearing, evidential artillery pounding away at them with every step, its ammunition the bloody, sickening, graphic facts of what the industry and its products have done and are doing to our country. Fact-based images abound that are a million times more persuasive and inspiring than the brief-cases full of opinion polls favoring obscure “background check” language that the Third Way and other geniuses tote around to persuade the professional politicians they can do good without doing anything too dangerous to their careers.
Yes, I favor war on the Napoleonic model.
But “wiser” heads—the defeatists and appeasers of the Third Way and its ilk—prevailed, as they almost always do in Washington these days. The Senate leadership had, and no doubt still does not have, the stomach for a real fight. Heavens, it might cost them an election! The darling of this pusillanimously passive path, Chuck Schumer, smugly–smugly–called background checks the “sweet spot” of the legislative path. As if saving the lives of children were a baseball game.
Really? The “sweet spot?” How droll. What a clever sound-bite! The media loved it!
The strategists of defeat will slink away now and point their nubbins’ fingers at the NRA and its herd of like-minded Senators, leaders for whom it must be said at least they stand up and fight for what they believe in.
But what do the denizens of the infamous “Third Way” believe in? The latest poll results. Nothing greater, or more noble, or more inspiring. Mere politics.
Because of decades of this flawed, cowardly and self-serving, merely political, arguably immoral, and certainly not moral strategy, more Americans will inevitably die preventable gun deaths, more terrorists and more criminals will easily get military-style guns, and the fabric of our society will be further rent by random gun violence from people who could pass any background check the minds of men like Michael Bloomberg or the Third Way’s operative Jim Kessler could ever dream up.
To those who are so deeply pained by this defeat, I say this.
Call your enemies to account, yes. But hold to an even higher standard your supposed “friends.”
Sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., about two dozen LAPD officers faced an angry crowd at the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues. The cops were outnumbered to begin with, the crowd was growing into a mob, and the mob was howling mad at the police. An LAPD lieutenant, Michael Maulin, made a tactical decision that would cost him his career in the orgy of retrospective finger-pointing that followed the riots. He ordered the police officers to withdraw. The hard-charging, in-your-face, proactive thin blue line faded like a gaggle of Las Vega showgirls at curtain time. “It was widely believed in South Central that the LAPD did not want to protect the city’s poor, minority neighborhoods,” journalist Lou Cannon observed. “The shocking reality was that the LAPD was unable to provide that protection.”
Tom Diaz, No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement, p. 96.
Thus was the iron-fisted, mirrored-sun glasses, take-no-prisoners, paramilitary creation of legendary chief Darryl Gates—the proud Los Angeles Police Department—humbled by the infamous “Rodney King riots” of April 1992.
The LAPD would never be the same.
The lesson for today is quite simply this: uniforms, badges, tough-guy swagger, ballistic vests, and most of all guns do not protect law enforcement. Respect and the healthy fear of consequence do. When a society surrenders those two foundations of “law and order,” there are not enough guns in the world—not enough good guys with guns—to protect police, prosecutors, and judges from men who are willing to kill them.
Now we are seeing the truth of this implacable maxim, revealed in a prophetic spate of ruthless murders of law enforcement officers. In Colorado, the state’s prison chief is shot to death on his doorstep. In Texas, two county prosecutors are shot to death in separate incidents. In West Virginia, a sheriff is shot dead in his car.These incidents are but the latest and most recent examples of a growing trend of blatant attacks on law enforcement.
Please note that it is not the quantum, the total of law enforcement officers murdered, so much as it is the growing demonstration of willingness to confront law enforcement with armed violence. And that willingness–that willful disregard of fear and respect–is the inevitable consequence of two long-term currents in the United States.
One is the suppurating wound inflicted on America’s public discourse by the reckless gospel of insurrection that has been promoted by the National Rifle Association and the gun industry that it represents since at least the 1980s. This rotting lesion has consequences that go far beyond the kabuki theater of rhetorical exchange in Washington, a place where both sides need each other for the show, and ritual has displaced action.
The stinking, hateful matter emitted by the NRA has dangerously infected the minds of many of the dullest and worst of our society. Ideas have consequences, and when the idea that “government is our enemy” is combined in the minds of the unbalanced and the psychopath with easy access to increasingly deadly guns…well, to all but the ideologically intoxicated, the inevitable is clear.
The other factor is the utter collapse of not only moral will, but moral discernment itself, in Washington. This infection at the heart of our political discourse has paralyzed a body politic that might with capable discernment and strong will have cured itself of the hateful wound inflicted by the NRA and its ilk.
What we see today—elaborated at length in my latest book, The Last Gun—is the triumph of Third Way politics, micro-politics that seeks only political success for career politicians and their waddling retinue of mere technicians—pollsters, advisers, spin-masters, lobbyists.
These are people—Democratic party leaders and their fawning servants—who describe in great detail the polling, focus with frightening precision on the tiniest “swing” group, and then define a message that will appeal to that micro-fraction of America.
These “leaders” have, in the end, defined themselves as soulless people, willing to accept only “what we can get” and “what is politically feasible” in place of real change. They are either incapable of—or unwilling to—make grand moral judgments, define causes to lead, and stand up for principle. Reelection for its own sake is enough.
Thus has the powerful chorus of national moral outrage that followed the Moloch’s slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School been pared down to a whimper, to “negotiations” about inconsequential legalisms between the likes of the artfully consummate Third Way deal-maker Sen. Charles (“Chuck”) Schumer and the implacably thick-witted Senator Tom Coburn.
While these career politicians—many of whom have never done anything of substance in their lives other than curry elective favor—nitter and natter around the margins of America’s gun problem, the country is sinking to its gunwales in military-style firearms. Disrespect for law enforcement burgeons among radicals and career criminals alike, fueled by an irrational hatred of compromise and fact-based discourse.
If this sounds like Mexico, it is.
Conventional wisdom has always been—and still is among conventional “expert” thinkers like those of the hapless private spy agency Stratfor which, not incidentally, failed to protect its vast files from hacking some months ago—that organized gangs and transnational criminals will never attack law enforcement in the United States because the consequences would be too great.
This is the argument of the smug, the proud, and, oh, yes, by the way, the grand consultants retired from law enforcement selling their “expertise.” It can’t happen here because we are so good.
Well it is happening.
It is just as reasonable, and I would argue more reasonable, to conclude that the war for control has begun. We already see one federal prosecutor withdrawn from a major gang and drug prosecution. The drug “cartels” are not stupid. The examples recited above—no matter by whom they are ultimately found to have been perpetrated—make it clear that determined, ruthless men can indeed assassinate law enforcement officers pretty much at will in America today. So much for fear. It doesn’t matter, in the overall sense, who was behind the last four murders. What matters is the brazen impudence with which they were carried out. That’s straight outta No Country for Old Men.
Do not for one minute think that the chill of necrosis is not creeping into hamlets, counties, towns, cities, states, and even Washington. A member of Congress who received multiple death threats for simply suggesting that gun owners be required to insure themselves decided, for example, to skip a public ceremony, mindful of the recent near-fatal wounding of another member.
Vamos a ver. We’ll see.
It would be hard to find a more ignorant statement—or more accurately, a more ignorant misstatement—of history than this misshapen deposit from the muddled cloaca of low level electrical discharges that pass for the intellect of former New Jersey state trial judge Andrew P. Napolitano:
The historical reality of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, thus, with the same instruments they would use upon us. If the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto had had the firepower and ammunition that the Nazis did, some of Poland might have stayed free and more persons would have survived the Holocaust. (Emphasis added.) Andrew P. Napolitano, “Guns and freedom,” January 10, 2013, FoxNews.com, http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/01/10/guns-and-freedom/#ixzz2J6aV0NUe.
It is hard to see how—even if they were the most well-armed Jews in the world—the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto could have saved even an inch of Poland. By the time Jews of Warsaw were forced into the ghetto in October 1940, Poland’s not inconsiderable army had been defeated and the entire country occupied by the Nazis and Soviet forces (briefly allies) for over a year!
Napolitano, invested with the magnificent title of “senior judicial analyst” (do ermine-trimmed robes come with that?) is one of Fox News’ “experts” in counter-factual ideological hot air. He quite clearly, however, has no clue about the actual history of the Holocaust, the actual history of the brutal conquest of Poland in September 1939, nor does he know what actually happened in the Warsaw Ghetto and when it happened. Nor does he appear to have any idea of the actual firepower of even the most mundane military forces today. So far as his official biography at Fox News goes, Napolitan has no military service and no experience in armed combat. In sum, he is a windbag running on fumes when it comes to guns.
Like many Fox News “experts,” Napolitano seems only interested in emitting his pathetically one-dimensional debating points.
Okay, given that, what is so terribly wrong with his ignorant verborrhea, his reckless throwing around of words that are somehow in this dimmest of bulbs vaguely related to the most serious mass murder in history?
Whom exactly is Andrew Napolitano suggesting that his followers shoot? Another county judge? A police officer? A governor? A senator? A member of the National Command Authority? Put up or shut up, Andrew.
The Actual History
The German Jews. As noted in Part I of this three-part series, Napolitano and other commentators are either thoroughly confused about, or entirely ignorant of, what happened in Germany during the Nazi era. They apparently believe that the Nazis seized power at a discrete moment in a kind of violent coup, a moment at which armed Jews in Germany would have been able to “shoot them effectively” in Napolitano’s inelegant phrasing, if only they had had guns.
Wholly aside from the fact that the imbalances of firepower would have been such that the Jews would have been instantly crushed (see below, “The Jews of Poland and Eastern Europe”), there was simply was no such moment for armed resistance. Hitler was legally invited to power. Jews represented .75% of the German population. Most of the other 99.25% of the German population were down with the Nazi program. Moreover, it was almost impossible prospectively to believe that the Nazi regime would take the horrific course it did.
Jews were in fact subjected to an increasingly oppressive “cold pogrom” during the years between 1933 and the invasion of Poland. In January 1933, some 522,000 Jews by religious definition lived in Germany. Over half of these individuals, approximately 304,000 Jews, emigrated during the first six years of the Nazi dictatorship, leaving approximately 214,000 Jews in Germany proper (1937 borders) on the eve of the Second World War. Long before the Nazis began the systematic deportation of German Jews in October 1941 — almost eight years after Hitler came to power — the violent regime was thoroughly installed and enjoyed the support of the German masses. Jews had been effectively erased from the public’s consciousness. In all, the Germans and their collaborators killed between 160,000 and 180,000 German Jews in the Holocaust, including most of those Jews deported out of Germany. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “German Jews during the Holocaust, 1939–1945,” http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005469.
The Jews of Poland and Eastern Europe. Many gun lobby commentators who play the Holocaust card appear to be completely ignorant of the fact that most of the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust were actually from Poland and other East European nations. (There were others of course, from wherever the Nazi tide spread, often given up by conquered governments after their armies were thrashed by the German forces.)
The Jews of Poland did in fact have armed protection. It was called the Polish Army. When fully mobilized the Poles could potentially field an armed force of some 2.5 million men in 1939. The Jews of the other parts of Eastern Europe that the Nazis rolled over also had armed protection. It was called the Red Army. The Jews of France who were surrendered to the Nazis had armed protection, the French Army, as did the surrendered Jews of the Channel Islands, the British Army.
Contrary to popular opinion in blighted quarters, the Polish Army was not a “push over” for the more powerfully armed Nazi forces when the latter invaded Poland in September 1939:
Publicly, the Nazis liked to give the impression that, in the words of the American Naval Attaché, ‘the Poles’ performance had been pitiable and inspired nothing but contempt in the German Army’, but, as the Germans themselves knew, the reality was rather different. All in all, a French military report on the war was correct when it observed that ‘with equality of material the Polish troops were always superior to the enemy’.
Essentially, however, the Poles fought with great courage and tenacity. Had there been near equality in tanks and planes between them and the Wehrmacht, the story might have been very different. As Zaloga and Madej point out, ‘it should not be forgotten that the Polish Army fought for nearly five weeks against the full weight of the Wehrmacht and later the Red Army, even though it was substantially outnumbered. In contrast, the British, French, Belgian and Dutch armies, which outnumbered the Wehrmacht in men, tanks and aircraft […] held out for only a few weeks more’. The Polish record in Warsaw, Modlin, Hel and Westerplatte was second to none. The Poles managed to inflict considerable casualties on the Germans: 16,000 killed and 32,000 wounded, while they knocked out 674 tanks, 217 of which were destroyed. The small and outdated Air Force, combined with ground defences, also managed to destroy, at a conservative estimate, about 220 Luftwaffe planes. The cavalry, far from indulging in useless deeds of derring-do, were often used effectively. Armed with anti-tank rifles and dismounted, cavalrymen were able to surprise and destroy German armoured units. Williamson, David G. (2012-09-20). Poland Betrayed: The Nazi-Soviet Invasions of 1939 (Campaign Chronicles) Casemate Publishers. Kindle Edition.
It is impossible to imagine what greater armed force the Jews of Poland and Eastern Europe could have had than that possessed by the professional armies of Poland, France, and England —not to mention those of the Red Army of the Soviet Union that was rolled back practically to Moscow when Hitler turned on his erstwhile ally in 1941. Tanks? Aircraft? What?
Napolitano’s Goofy and Totally Inaccurate Timeline
Napolitano’s fact-free reference to the Warsaw Ghetto betrays a pitifully confused understanding of the actual sequence of events. Poland was already thoroughly defeated and long since occupied by Nazi forces before the Warsaw Ghetto even came into existence.
Napolitano’s fantastic declaration that “some of Poland might have stayed free” if Jews had guns is absurd. What planet’s history has this man studied?
Here’s a recap of what actually happened. (See, http://www.ushmm.org/outreach/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007706.)
In the next part, Fairly Civil explores the well-financed hidden hands behind the foolish prattle that Napolitano and others in the right-wing propaganda machinery spew.