In TNR, Clio Chang surveys the irritating wrongness of House Dems’ recent sit-in. See also Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in Jacobin, Alex Emmons and Zaid Jilani in The Intercept, and Alex Pareene in Gawker: As Pareene says, “The move is fantastic political theater. It’s also a tremendous waste of popular support and activist energy in support of a measure that isn’t just ineffective but also actively offensive.“
Honestly, this is why people can’t stand congressional Democrats. There are many, many positive actions we could take to reduce gun violence in America — banning assault weapons and armor-piercing bullets, closing the gun show loophole, funding for CDC gun violence research, mandating gun safety classes with licenses.
So what do Dems do? They almost stumble into the right thing by (finally) taking a stand on universal background checks. But then they instead make the centerpiece of their precedent-destroying gambit — and just wait until the GOP is conducting sit-ins during the Clinton administration — a stupid, racist, and unconstitutional terror watchlist that has no gun violence prevention benefit whatsoever, except as a political stunt. (Apparently, attempts to include an assault weapons ban were nixed at the very top.)
If this is what Clinton means about getting back to the “spirit of 9/12”, no thanks. We don’t need another wasted decade of useless pandering and war on terror capitulation from the ostensible left. And let’s be clear: John Lewis, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie — they’re all at fault on this one. For shame.
In its second installment, Slate’s new must-read series If It Happened There — which covers US events like our media covers other countries — chronicles the end of Michael Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor. “Bloomberg has made no secret of his ambitions for higher office, though experts believe he has limited appeal in America’s less-developed but politically influential agricultural regions, where powerful armed groups have bristled at his suggestions for limiting their access to advanced weaponry and munitions.”
In a powerful and revealing essay for The New Yorker, college friend and former Mayors Against Illegal Guns manager Arkadi Gerney reveals his own personal gun story. “Every day, an average of thirty-three Americans are murdered with guns. Another fifty or so die in gun suicides and accidents. And another two hundred or so are shot and injured. That’s a lot of stories.”
“On June 26, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court embraced the National Rifle Association’s contention that the Second Amendment provides individuals with the right to take violent action against our government should it become ‘tyrannical.’ The following timeline catalogues incidents of insurrectionist violence (or the promotion of such violence) that have occurred since that decision was issued.“
An isolated incident in Arizona? Um, not so much. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence offers a troubling timeline of “insurrectionist” violence over the past several years. (But remember: It’s just a freak coincidence that this recent tragedy, and all the others listed above, happened after several years of the GOP purposefully stoking the crazy. Really, we’re all equally at fault, etc. etc. Also, damn shame about all the guns around.)
“The court’s five most conservative members have demonstrated that for all of Justice Antonin Scalia’s talk about ‘originalism’ as a coherent constitutional doctrine, those on the judicial right regularly succumb to the temptation to legislate from the bench. They fall in line behind whatever fashions political conservatism is promoting.” In the WP, E.J. Dionne eviscerates the Scalia wing of the Roberts Court for their 5-4 decision in D.C. v. Heller yesterday. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the decision (penned by Scalia) parsed the Second Amendment in such a way as to overturn the handgun ban in the District (and seemed to simply ignore the existing precedent of US v. Miller.) As Slate‘s Dahlia Lithwick deadpanned, “today’s decision ‘will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.’“
As it turns out, the Court went 0-for-2 yesterday, also deciding 5-4 (Alito writing the majority opinion) that McCain-Feingold has been prejudicial against the wealthy. In response, Sen. Feingold noted that the millionaire’s amendment was flawed anyway: “I opposed the millionaire’s amendment in its initial form and I never believed it was a core component of campaign finance reform.” Still, the decision here may not bode well for campaign finance opinions down the pike. “‘What’s most significant here is what this means for the future,’ said Rick Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School. ‘It tells us that the long-standing limits on corporate and union campaign spending are in grave danger.’”
“‘The world is a tough place,’ he said with a chuckle. ‘You’re never going to get out of it alive.‘” A damn dirty ape no longer, Charlton Heston, 1923-2008. (Between this and Buckley, it’s been a bad year so far for the patriarchs of conservatism.)
Update: Hmmm. After reading up on him further, it seems Heston (nee John Carter!) was a late-comer to the conservative movement, and even to the NRA philosophy: “In his earlier years, Heston was a liberal Democrat, campaigning for Presidential candidates Adlai Stevenson in 1956 and John F. Kennedy in 1960. A civil rights activist, he accompanied Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights march held in Washington, D.C. in 1963…In 1968, following the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Heston…called for public support for President Johnson’s Gun Control Act of 1968…He was also an opponent of McCarthyism and racial segregation, which he saw as only helping the cause of Communism worldwide. He opposed the Vietnam War and considered Richard Nixon a disaster for America. He turned down John Wayne’s offer of a role in The Alamo, because the film was a right-wing allegory for the Cold War.“
“I know I’ve made kind of a half-assed career out of violence, but I abhor violence. I am an ardent supporter of gun control. It seems incredible to me that we are the only civilized nation that does not put some effective control on guns.” Richard Widmark, 1914-2008.
Paging Yuri Orlov: By way of Dangerous Meta, a new Congressional study finds the US atop the leaderboard in terms of selling weaponry to the developing world. “Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia were the top buyers…The study makes clear also that the United States has signed weapons-sales agreements with nations whose records on democracy and human rights are subject to official criticism.“
I’ll grant I have as much morbid curiosity as the next man, probably more, and I’ll admit to have found it interesting that — judging from his ubiquitous Youtube-suicide dump (I’m sure y’all can find it) — the Virginia Tech killer, Cho Seung Hui, also seems to have recently seen Oldboy (and The Killer.) That being said, I’m with the families of the deceased: It was ridiculously offensive on the part of the press scorps to give this murderous chump his much-desired fifteen minutes, even after death, and to plaster his visage all over every media outlet for 18 hours like a two-bit Travis Bickel. CNN’s clearly been trying to rectify by putting the victims on their front page at the moment, but too little, too late. I’m reminded of Sirhan Sirhan’s famous quote: “They can gas me, but I am famous. I have achieved in one day what it took Robert Kennedy all his life to do.” Please, let’s not play into these sick bastards’ games anymore. I’m sorry Cho’s life turned out to be a sad and pathetic one, but let him just be consigned to the ignominious dustbin of psycho killer history, where he belongs. He was a lonely, depressed, raging, and homicidal young man, who lost any claim to sympathy when he started randomly firing at people — We’re not going to understand him any better by throwing up his obscene posthumous vanity portraits in every nook and cranny of the national culture.
That being said, using Cho less as a poster-child for his own sick revenge fantasies and more as one for sensible gun control laws makes a little more sense to me. Now I understand that real gun control is sadly something of a non-starter in this country, and that mandatory gun safety training, for example, is the type of thing that might pay more dividends over time so long as the second amendment remains interpreted as it is. And naturally, the NRA is already ready to push back on any attempt to tie this awful incident to easy access to weaponry. But it seems abundantly clear: Whether we need a new law or just need to enforce the old ones, people who’ve already been declared certifiable by a federal judge should have a little harder time procuring two firearms than did Cho. Can we at least agree on that?
In the deadliest act of school violence in American history, at least 33 people lie dead at Virginia Tech after what was presumably a jilted student’s bloody shooting rampage.”‘It is difficult to comprehend senseless violence on this scale,’ said Virginia’s Governor Timothy M. Kaine in a statement.“
And, as details from this story emerge, I’ve been catching up over at Medley on the recent nightmare befalling blogger Kathy Sierra, who’s been the recipient of sexually repugnant death threats as a result of her posting on, of all things, tech issues. (Not to say that posting on anything else would justify the depraved sexist bile thrown her way, but I’ve sadly come to half-expect that sort of vileness from Freepers, the uglier elements of dKos, and the like.) I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised by the disgusting misogyny pervading this latter incident — it’s sorta like people acting surprised that we’ve found a racist in our midst in Don Imus, as if bigoted old white guys in positions of power were a dwindling species or something. And, true, these two events have little or nothing to do with each other, except that I’m finding out about them at the same time. Still, I have to say, sometimes all the rage, ugliness, and despair that seems to lurk just under the brittle crust of our society is overwhelmingly disheartening. Let’s get it together, people. To go back to Auden again, we must love one another or die.
Update: Exhibit C in today’s litany of horrors, this ghastly assault on a Columbia Journalism grad student, which occurred not more than twenty blocks from here over the weekend. Sweet merciful Jesus, this is a sick, sick world sometimes. Update 2: They got him.