Saturday, March 30, 2013

Wayne La Pierre would never pass a background check

Buzz and I have come to the conclusion that the reason Executive Vice President of the NRA Wayne La Pierre is so opposed to background checks is that he'd never pass the mental health aspect of the check.  He did support background checks in 1999, but that was during has sane years.  Today, he is just plain nuts.
    Since I'm not much of a hunter, sportsman, or gun enthusiast, and my idea of self defense falls into the Monty Python's Holy Grail retreat, "run away!" I had to consult Buzz on this one.  Buzz is a lifetime NRA member and quite the small game hunter.  Like Mitt Romney, he hunts varmints.  He has quite the collection of stuffed squirrels, racoons, rabbits, and prairie dogs adorning his living room walls.

Newtown should have changed everything

    After the tragic deaths of 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, Connecticut, public outrage seemed to finally be on the side of gun control.  Three areas seemed ripe for reform:  background checks for all gun sales (criminal record and mental health,) limits on magazine clips (probably 10 or so per clip,) and a renewal of the expired assault weapons ban.
    The mental illness poster child Wayne La Pierre is opposed to all of these. They all infringe on the outrageous profits of gun manufacturers which La Pierre is trying to protect..... Oh sorry, I meant they infringe on the precious Second Amendment right to bear arms which La Pierre is trying to protect.
Second Amendment

    For the sake of argument, let's assume that the US Supremes were right when they decided in a 5 to 4 vote that the Second Amendment includes an individual right to bear arms (despite the clear meaning of the clause protects a state "militia's" right to bear arms.) With this said, no right is absolute.  If it were, we wouldn't have libel and slander laws or laws preventing speech which calls for imminent violence or the violent overthrow of the United States government.  (Remember, the First Amendment says, in part, "Congress shall make no law" prohibiting freedom of speech.)
La Pierre's argument that the reasonable laws being proposed are an infringement on Second Amendment rights are the stuff that should cause all reasonable gun owners to take pause and question La Pierre's sanity.

The public wants new gun laws

    94 percent of Americans polled by CNN in January favor background checks, including over 70 percent of NRA members. 61 percent favor bans on semi-automatic weapons, yet La Pierre says "nyet."
    President Barack Obama continues to press for background checks, magazine limits, and an assault weapons' ban, but it is highly unlikely that the magazine limits or assault weapons ban will pass through Congress.  Background checks do have a chance.
    La Pierre's opposition to background checks is pure bullshit.  If the NRA supports the rights of law abiding citizens to own guns, how does a background check get in the way.  No one in their right mind wants violent criminals to possess a firearm of any kind.  The same goes with those who are mentally ill.  People like the Colorado theater killer, the Gabby Giffords gunman, and the Newtown shooter should never have been within a mile of a loaded weapon.
    With regards to the magazine limits, Buzz and I were listening to satellite radio today, and they read a message from a 57 year old lifelong hunter.  In Newtown, the killer shot about 150 rounds in about 6 minutes, this 57 year old avid hunter said, "I haven't shot 150 rounds in my lifetime."  Sorta brings home the point on magazine limits.  For what lawful purpose would anyone need a 30 round magazine.  Heck, when I went through basic training, my M-16 had only a twenty round clip, and our job was to actually kill people in battle.
   The final piece is the assault weapons ban.  We had an assault weapons' ban in the US for about ten years.  Originally passed in the mid 1990s by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, the ban was allowed to lapse under the Republican Congress and President George W. Bush in 2004.  (Yes, Bush's screw ups weren't only the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, unnecessary tax cuts for the rich, running the economy into a ditch....)
    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn't even include the assault weapons' ban in his gun control bill, for fear that it could kill the background checks.  He did say it could be offered as an amendment to the bill.  Really?  Apparently too many Senators have been hanging out with La Pierre.

Time to wake up Congress

    It's time to wake up.  Congress needs to know that a good majority of the American people want new gun laws. 

   Republicans have been arguing against the new laws, in part, because they say we should enforce the laws already on the books.  Buzz and I agree, but there's no reason why we can't do both --- pass new laws and enforce the ones already out there.
    As for Wayne La Pierre, let's get him a mental health exam.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Will the GOP go the way of the Whigs

After losing the popular vote in 5 out of the last six elections and facing an electorate that just doesn't agree with a lot of their hard right policies, the Republican Party is hurting and may be headed down the road to marginalization at best or extinction at worst.  They may join the Whigs on the ash heap of history.
For about 30 years, the Whig Party was a major national political party in the United States.  They won two Presidential elections, one in 1840 with popular General William Henry Harrison, and one in 1848 with another popular general Zachary Taylor.  Both died in office.
In the 1850s, the party fell apart.  It was primarily replaced with the Republican Party, but many Whigs jumped ship and joined the Democrats or one of a number of smaller parties, including the Know Nothing Party and the Constitutional Union Party.  In fact by 1856, the party failed to nominate a standard bearer.
The major causes of the downfall of the Whig Party were a failure to keep the coalition of divergent views together and the issue of slavery.  Many Southern Whigs supported slavery, while Northern Whigs generally opposed it, at least the expansion of it beyond the Old South.
The Republican Party of today is facing its own crisis, primarily brought on by a drift to the conservative right.  There are no more moderate Republicans.  Moderate is a dirty word in the Republican Party.  It has come to take on the same bad connotations as "liberal."
This drift to the right is popular with the base, but has little to attract swing voters.  The great middle in this country that decides elections is okay with the fiscal conservative policies spouted by the GOP, but the GOP stance on women's issues, gay marriage, and immigration has turned off a substantial portion of the voters in the middle.
The Republican Party also faces a demographic problem.  The GOP has become the party of older white men.  The electorate is becoming browner and blacker and more female.  These are three groups that vote Democratic, and it appears the numbers will only get worse for the GOP.
The African American vote has been strongly Democratic for over a generation.  The Hispanic vote has dropped from around 40 percent for the GOP to about 25 percent.  The women's vote has switched from fairly even to about a 15 point edge for the Democrats.  All three of these groups are growing in numbers, with the Hispanic vote growing the fastest.
The National Republican Committee (NRC) conducted an "autopsy" on the 2012 election, and came to the obvious conclusion that they need to get a better percentage of the vote from these three groups.  The problem is they believe it is a failure to get their message across, and if they fine tune their message, these groups will flock to the GOP.
The NRC is dead wrong.  These groups have heard the GOP message loud and clear, and they don't like what the GOP is selling.  It's not the branding of the message that turns off these groups, it is the message.
A large percentage of these groups are totally turned off by the GOP's harsh stance on immigration, their attempts to suppress the African American vote, and their 1950s attitude towards women. Hispanics favor some sort of amnesty and path to citizenship for undocumented aliens, African Americans want to be able to vote without facing Jim Crow type hurdles at the polls, and women don't want the government interfering with decisions they make on their own bodies.
If the GOP doesn't break free from the stranglehold of the conservatives and religious right, they will join the Whigs on the ash heap of history.  We won't see a one party state, but it may take a while for a new party, more moderate than the GOP, to challenge the grand Democratic coalition.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Will the Roberts Court end up on the right side of history?

In 1857, Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote for a 7-2 majority in the case of Dred Scott v. Sanford.  The Taney court basically held that persons of African descent were not citizens of the United States under the Constitution. 
     Taney and his court will forever be remembered for that one case and for coming down on the wrong side of history.
     This week the John Roberts United States Supreme Court heard two cases involving same sex marriage.  Will the Roberts court come down on the right side of history, or will the Roberts court end up on the trash heap of history next to Roger Taney?
     Public opinion has come a long way since Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the mid 1990s.  It has also come a long way since Karl Rove, et. al. decided to use gay marriage as a wedge issue in the 2004 Presidential campaign.

Public Opinion has changed dramatically 

     In 1996, only 27 percent believed that gay marriage should be legal.  In 2004, about 33 percent believed gay marriage should be legal. A Washington Post poll conducted earlier this month showed that support for gay marriage had risen to 58 percent, with most recent polling showing support for gay marriage above 50 percent.
     What is even more compelling is the fact that the generational divide on this issue is enormous.  Where the Washington Post poll showed that only 44 percent of respondents over 65 supported gay marriage, the number swelled to 70 percent in the 18 to 39 demographic and 81 percent in the 18 to 29 demographic.
     The two major reasons for this change are that younger people tend to know a gay or lesbian friend or family member, and thus they are more accepting.  This can be attributed to the fact that most gay and lesbian people don't hide the fact that they are gay or lesbian anymore.  To put it simple, they are no longer "in the closet."
     The other reason is that as states pass same sex marriage laws, people have come to realize that the gay couple who got married down the street are going to destroy traditional marriage between a man and woman like we were all lead to believe by the opponents of gay marriage.
Buzz and I never understood this argument, and as people really began to think about the issue of same sex marriage, they came to the same conclusion.  The fact that two lesbians get married doesn't effect anyone's "traditional marriage" in the least bit.

Two same sex marriage cases were heard this week

     The Roberts Court heard arguments on whether California's Proposition 8 (outlawing gay marriage) should be upheld.  It's really a moot point, because if Proposition 8 were revisited by California voters in 2013, it would be soundly defeated.  This fact only may persuade the court to punt this case on some procedural ground.
     DOMA may face a similar fate.  Questions have been raised as to whether the Court has jurisdiction to hear the matter.  The Supreme Court throughout the years has been happy to boot a case and not come to a decision on the merits, especially if the justices are divided.  They can at least come to an agreement not to make a decision.
     Veteran court watchers believe that five justices (including the "swing justice" Anthony Kennedy) have serious doubts about DOMA.  The only question that remains is whether those five justices will pen a broad decision holding that marriage is a fundamental right available to all citizens, whether gay or straight, or will the court toss out DOMA on some less dramatic grounds.
     The Court could also decide the Proposition 8 case on broad or narrow grounds.

Will the decisions to strike be 5 to 4 or 6 to 3?

     What Buzz and I find particularly intriguing is where will the Chief Justice land.  As we saw in the case upholding Obamacare, the CJ was quite cognizant of his role in history when he jumped sides and penned the majority opinion. Will Roberts do the same thing with regard to gay marriage.
     If Kennedy leads a five justice majority in either of these cases, he will by virtue of his seniority decide who writes the majority opinion.  He can take it himself or assign it to another justice.  We believe he will keep both of these if he is the fifth vote. This all changes if Roberts comes down on the side of same sex marriage.
     If Roberts is in the majority, he by virtue of being the CJ will decide who writes the majority opinion.  Buzz and I would not be surprised if he does.  Roberts does not want to spend eternity next to his former fellow Chief Justice Roger "African=Americans are property" Taney.