IBI Watch 12/23/12

23 12 2012

The One or the Many  //

So many issues come down to this question. Where does the free exercise of individual rights end, and the right of the general public not to be harmed by the exercise of those individual rights prevail? And that means not just the individual citizen, but also the individual corporation. After all, Mitt Romney taught us that “corporations are people.”

Here are three issues very much in the news right now where that question is paramount:

  • Gun Violence
  • Climate Change
  • The “Fiscal Cliff”

Tragedy’s Answer? More Guns, of Course

It is hard not to be moved by the scenes and sounds of the aftermath of the dreadful Newtown CT mass murders. But moved to pity is one thing; moved to action is quite another. And there have been hints of legislators considering action to deal with the easy access in America to the deadliest of semiautomatic weapons with their capability of firing so many times in such short intervals. And certain legislators – including some staunch NRA supporters – are considering action to restrict access to the most dangerous weapons. That CNN mentioned that the NRA had been silent for a time after the latest massacre. That silence ended with a speech by NRA leader Wayne LaPierre. That speech had been hyped by the organization as offering “constructive measures.”

But anyone expecting something other than the usual prescription – more “guns in the hands of good guys” – was quickly disappointed. Watch LaPierre’s speech here. It is a masterful presentation of the NRA and gun owners as the “real” victims. It is also surreal. See how he completely ignores the protester, who got her message onto  camera briefly: “The NRA has blood on its hands.”

If a few of LaPierre’s assertions seemed odd to you, there is good reason.  Media Matters took up the task of fact-checking the NRA leader.  Here is what they came up with.

  • Gun-Free Areas Do Not Lead To Increased Gun Violence
  • School Shootings Occur In Spite Of Armed Security Presence
  • LaPierre Distorted The Obama Administration’s Position On School Safety
  • LaPierre Made Unscientific Claims About The Link Between Video Games And Homicide

And finally, he did not mention this inconvenient truth:

There is, however, a provable link between firearm availability and homicide.

That Kopel interview and the Harvard research mentioned other countries in addition to the US. These charts from the Washington Post show the stark difference between the US and other countries. A fine example of “American exceptionalism,” I guess. And LaPierre also mischaracterizes the military nature of semiautomatic weapons, when he lampoons the tendency of some to suggest they are “machine guns.” For more depth on this point, and so much more, I strongly recommend a show Terry Gross’s Fresh Air ran last week. Her guest, Tom Diaz, is author of a new book that is on my reading list The Last Gun. Note that the author is himself a former gun enthusiast and NRA member. I like the book’s subtitle: How Changes in the Gun Industry Are Killing Americans and What It Will Take to Stop It. Indeed.

The struggle between the individual right to bear arms – not seriously threatened in any way – and the public’s right to safety from the devastating effects of the most powerful weapons is clear. But this is also a struggle between the rights of corporations and the public. That’s one of the points of this EJ Dionne piece on the all-powerful gun lobby. In that Dionne piece, take a look at the prominent names on the NRA board. Who knew? And I thought Grover Norquist was a one-issue bathtub expert.

In the height of perversion, the Newtown tragedy has triggered a major boost in weapon sales, and, naturally, profits. But there is hope. Here is a story about a major investment company getting out of the weapons business.

Now is the time to call legislators and make your opinions known. I have been contacting other people’s legislators. Thanks to redistricting, I am now represented by John Kline, who is just as staunch a right-wing ideologue as Michele Bachmann – without the comedy.

If you follow only one link in this story, make it this one. As usual, Bill Moyers has the right idea. Remember the victims. And do our damnedest not to let others join them.

Climate Consequences for All

I just mentioned the famous princess of pignorance (pretend ignorance), Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and with good reason. Her reputation for spouting hogwash on climate science netted her a cameo in this brilliant five-minute video hosted by Bill Nye. (Best moment? Bill unplugs Michele!) The video, produced by the Climate Reality Project, includes a lab experiment and excellent graphics and animations.

The individual/public tension on this issue starts with the “right” to deny reality, to ignore scientific facts, and thereby to be complicit in the inertia that stymies sustainable energy and climate policy. That gets harder to do all the time, though some persist, and some will carry their ignorance (or pignorance as the case may be) to the end of their days. Here is just one illustration of why it’s so hard to be a denialist – a seven- minute video in which eight climate scientists present some of the latest evidence from all over the world.  Note – this Peter Sinclair video is NOT just talking heads.

And of course there are entire national governments acting against the public interest, motivated by desire to cater to the oligarchs who bankroll them. The US government has been the lapdog of the fossil fuel industry for a long time. But don’t think we are unique here in America. Canada’s mad rush to exploit and profit from the environmentally disastrous tar sands oil has motivated an attack on science that rivals the best that our W administration dished out. See if you don’t agree after watching this video interview.

Some people are beyond persuasion. For some, it is an extreme ideology. Senator James Inhofe (the brilliant “greatest hoax” thinker) springs to mind. Getting the Oklahoma senator to respect climate science would be akin to Wayne LaPierre to embrace a ban on large ammunition clips. But for some, it is just another conspiracy theory. That’s right, researchers have come to the shocking conclusion that denying climate science correlates with believing in alien abductions.

But there is a crowd of people in the middle, not committed ideologically to denial. That is the message of this David Roberts article that appeared on the Grist site. And more to that point, how about a sociological look at climate change and its perception by the public? And coming out of that story, here is a nine-page booklet with the promising title Debunking Handbook. There is much bunk to be debunked – this sure looks like it can help.

That’s Not Tea, It’s Kool-Aid

100-proof Kool-Aid, at least. House Speaker John Boehner actually moved toward a compromise. After months of refusing to brook any idea of restoring taxes on big earners, he put together a Plan B that raised rates on those earning over $1,000,000. Not quite what President Obama was looking for in a “fiscal cliff” plan, but it was progress.

The permanent right of certain individuals – namely the highest earners – to the historically low taxes instituted by the W administration was clearly in jeopardy. And then the fun began. I like the way Paul Krugman tells this story of ideological extremism. Salon’s Steve Kornacki suggests this could be the last time the three-cornered hats pull the rug out from under the speaker. Maybe. Steven Rosenfeld also sees a grim future for Boehner. Here is hoping that President Obama does not take a bad deal for the American people. No deal at all might be better.

Atlas Shrugs on the Water

I heard about this story from Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. Bright side? A little less light pollution.  Wait, maybe that’s the dark side.

Baaa-Studs on the Hill

Here is a special sort of holiday lighting. LED sheep. An old favorite. And the border collies would never go on strike.

“Put on a sweater.”

― Jimmy Carter

Contributed links and/or content to this posting – Bonnie Blodgett, Allyson Harper, Brendan Murphy

 

Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN

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