Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Real Reason the U.S. Doesn't Have Sensible Gun Laws


Let's get real: the true reason the U.S. doesn't have sensible gun laws has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. Instead, it has everything to do with our broken political system and our "cash & carry" legislative process, in which our politicians whore themselves out to the highest bidder.

Does the Second Amendment really forbid any and all restrictions on guns? It's a silly argument that only extremist crazies like National Rifle Association members make. But does it hold up to scrutiny?

Americans of previous generations didn't believe in unlimited gun rights. In fact, during the so-called "Wild West" era of the 1800s, many areas had stricter gun control than what we have today.

I was at a right-wing acquaintance's house recently and I noticed that he had a magnet on his refrigerator that purported to list the Bill of Rights. It included the Second Amendment---or rather a paraphrasing of it. It read: "The Second Amendment guarantees the Right to Bear Arms."

I wondered why the text didn't simply include actual wording of the Second Amendment itself. After all, the latter is only one sentence.

The Second Amendment reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

It's a convoluted, vague sentence that frankly defies any easy explanation.

To me, the words "well regulated" indicate that the Second Amendment does not give a blank check to unlimited gun rights. And the word "militia" indicates that maybe we're talking about gun rights for a militia, not ordinary individuals.

One thing I do find amusing, though, is the gun crowd's tendency to tip-toe away from the actual wording of their beloved Second Amendment. I've had a number of debates with gun lovers over the years and, invariably, I'll ask them to quote the Second Amendment. Without exception, they're stumped when I ask them to quote the Second Amendment, word for word. (This, despite the fact that they claim to know for certain exactly what it means).

Many so-called "experts" have debated how the Founding Fathers really felt about gun rights. But they're missing the real issue.

A "gun" to the Founding Fathers was nothing like the devices we call "guns" today. To the Founding Fathers, guns were bulky, unreliable, crude, primitive, often-inaccurate, contraptions that fired only one shot. They had virtually nothing in common with a modern high-precision lethal killing instrument like a Glock.

I think it's entirely misleading and idiotic to debate what the Founding Fathers thought about "guns" when the weapons of their century were so completely different from today's guns. After all, one person armed with an modern day assault rifle, fitted with a high-capacity magazine, could easily and quickly have taken out dozens of armed soldiers from the era of the Founding Fathers.

What would the Founding Fathers have thought about an AK-47? We really have no idea.

In fact, the Second Amendment doesn't even mention the word "guns." Personally, I think one way progressives could fight back against the NRA is to beat them at their own game.

If the NRA really believes there should be zero restrictions on arms, then we need to call their bluff. We need to start pushing for everyone's unlimited right to hand grenades, plastic explosives, rocket launchers and shoulder-fired missiles. We need to back the NRA into a corner and force them to finally admit that there has to be at least some limits to the ownership of arms.

Despite former Congressman Anthony Weiner's flaws, there was one thing he did that was brilliant: his 2009 amendment to repeal Medicare. Weiner's move revealed the GOP to be the hypocrites that they are, when they refused to support his amendment, despite their stated hostility toward Medicare. (True, the mainstream media didn't give this story the attention it deserved---but if progressives started using this tactic more often, we could go a long ways toward exposing the hypocrisy of the Republican Party).

Of course, all of this would require the Democrats to finally grow a backbone---and, there's little chance of that ever happening. Outside of a few tough-as-nails progressives, like Alan Grayson, today's Democrats are a bunch of wimps who are afraid of their own shadow.

In fact, on the gun control issue, we progressives get screwed in numerous ways. First, the NRA has won every battle, to the point where it has a tough time coming up with new targets to rally its base. Second, the Democrats refuse to stand up to the NRA. And third, despite the latter, the Conservatives have successfully painted the Dems as "the party that wants to take away your guns," when, in fact, the Dems have no intention of ever standing up to the NRA.

Meanwhile, the horrific massacres go on and on---as America continues to suffer from by far the highest violent crime rates of any First World nation.

Since Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were killed in 1968, an astonishing one million Americans have been shot dead with guns. For all the attention the media has given the Aurora massacre, it's important to remember that on any given day in America, many people are shot dead with guns. And we can expect the bloodshed to continue for a long, long time, thanks to our broken and corrupt political system.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Progressive Music Classics. "Privatise the Air" by Gary Clail & On U-Sound



Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.

Today's Republican Party has become so extreme that it's actually become difficult to parody their positions.

As an example, a while back, I was considering writing an article about the GOP being so ferociously opposed to President Obama that they'd even oppose a proposal by Obama to cut taxes. And sure enough, the GOP did oppose just such a proposal (Obama's payroll tax cut).

What's alarming is that the GOP is continuing to move further and further to the right. We've come a long ways since the likes of Richard Nixon set up the EPA. These days, the GOP is fighting to abolish the EPA. And I'd bet money that not one in ten thousand Republicans even knows that Nixon set it up in the first place.

Republicans have moved the U.S. so far rightward that they're actually running out of targets these days. So, in order to continue rallying the base, the GOP has to simply invent targets. "Obamacare" is a good example. The GOP would have us believe that it's "socialism" when in fact Obamacare's mandate was originally conceived by the Heritage Foundation and supported by top Republicans in the 1990s.

In 1989, the great U.K. experimental dub-master Gary Clail released End of the Century Party. On this classic album, Clail set his sights on the rampant privatization schemes that were hatched by the Thatcher government.

Thatcher succeeded in shredding Britain's social safety net, just as the GOP has gutted what remains of America's social safety net. Of course, in the U.S., the process has been more extreme. In contrast to Britain, in the U.S., there wasn't much of a social safety net in the first place.

The Republicans have succeeded in gutting America's programs for the poor and the working class. Now, they're set their sights on Medicare, via the Ryan plan. I have no doubt they'll succeed in privatizing that program, as well, (which will eliminate Medicare as we know it).

How much longer before they privatize the air, too?

Thursday, July 05, 2012

For Cost of One Month of Iraq War, 'God Particle' Could Have Been U.S. Triumph


Note: on July 10, 2012, this article ran on, which is a "daily news website of, for and by the 99% and the direct descendant of the Daily Worker."

The discovery of the Higgs boson subatomic particle, announced this week, is one of the biggest triumphs in the history of science. The discovery was announced by scientists at the CERN, the research center in Switzerland that operates the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the massive particle accelerator that detected the Higgs boson.

Once upon a time, most big scientific breakthroughs like this were made in the U.S. But in an era of declining science budgets and fewer science degrees awarded, America is increasingly no longer the leader in cutting-edge science.

The Large Hadron Collider cost around $8 billion. Although that sounds like a steep price tag, it's important to keep this figure in perspective. After all, during the Iraq War, the U.S. was typically spending $8 billion every month in that disastrous and unnecessary conflict.

For that same $8 billion that we pissed away every month in the Iraq War, the U.S. could have built its own Large Hadron Collider. And the amazing Higgs boson scientific breakthrough could well have been a U.S., not a European, triumph.

It's also important to remember that, for their $8 billion, the Europeans will almost certainly be enjoying many other benefits in the years to come, via the LHC. Who knows what other major unforeseen scientific breakthroughs the LHC will make possible? (If you doubt this, consider that the World Wide Web itself was originally invented at CERN, as a means of sharing computer data, before it went on to conquer the world).

Yes, the $8 billion spent on the LHC will likely pay benefits to Europe for decades to come.

By contrast, what, exactly, did the U.S. get for spending $8 billion per month in Iraq? We didn't get anything in return, except to draw out that disastrous war yet another bloody month.

Even today, nearly a decade after George W. Bush ordered the invasion, Iraq remains a shambles. It is still one of the most dangerous and unstable nations on earth. And Iraq must be the only nation in world history where on a given day, car bombs can kill 100 people and the world's media outlets no longer consider such a tragedy front page news.

Indeed, Iraq remains a broken, bloodied state and a shattered society, abandoned by the West. Outside of the nation's large oil reserves, the U.S. simply doesn't care about Iraq, much less its people.

The Iraq War remains one of the great tragedies of human history, with hundreds of thousands (if not a million) needless deaths. And, of course, the fiscal cost was tremendous, as well, with the U.S. sinking well over $1 trillion into the quagmire.

And for the cost of only one month of the Iraq War, the U.S. could have enjoyed one of the great scientific triumphs of history.

But that's really the story of modern day America: a nation that has increasingly gutted budgets for essentials like science and education, while lavishing trillions of dollars for death, destruction, and greedy, pampered defense contractors.