Citizens United Responsible for the Trump Phenomenon? Yep.

donald trump singing

“Throughout the 2016 primary season, I have been irked over and again by comparisons between Democratic candidate and Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders, and loudmouth Republican cartoon Donald Trump. Beyond tapping into the frustration of their respective parties, what could these two men possibly have in common besides being white, male and over the age of 65? And then this week, as I listened to Bernie Sanders solicit campaign donations from the debate podium (resulting in a quick $1.3 million from liberals Feelin’ the Bern), it hit me.

I may not like it. Sanders might not like it. But yes, after all, these two politically divergent men have a very important connection driving their primary fortunes. Fucking Citizens United.”

Click here to read the full article on the Contemptor website.

Michael Bloomberg Picks Up James Brady’s Legacy Where Republicans Abandoned It (August 25, 2014)

Michael Bloomberg

Metaphorically speaking, it’s been a hot, violent and angry summer virtually the world over. A June 20 report from the UN News Centre offered that “the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people.” Bearing in mind that figure was proposed over two months ago, it’s worth wondering if it has crept upward. Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Libya, Israel and Gaza, children from Central America, parts of Africa – I supposed even Edward Snowden is counted in that tally.

America is grappling with civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City where recent evidence of police overreach and brutality have sparked demonstrations met with additional law enforcement violence. It’s tempting to liken these scenes to those of the 1960s and that decade’s Civil Rights movement, only with more smartphone cameras, tanks and sniper rifles.

Yet there is something demoralizing, alongside the inspiring scenes of community inspiration and activism, about the centuries-running persecution of young black American men by law enforcement and the judicial system. Something despairing in the repetitiveness and routine which the black male body is threatened, even as Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. wrote for the majority in last year’s Supreme Court decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, “Our country has changed.”

President Obama and the White House team are struggling to strike the right foreign policy note in an era where the United States can no longer monetarily or morally afford to police the globe. Yet it remains glaringly obvious that we can and should do more to combat one of the greatest threats to human life of any color right here at home – gun violence. Though it is certain that racist cops and citizens would find another weapon for expressing their vitriolic hate in the absence of a loaded gun, we don’t have to continue making execution so easy.

In this season of discontent, we lost a legend in the crusade for sensible gun reform. James S. Brady, the former White House press secretary for Ronald Reagan, died earlier this month, more than 30 years after being wounded in an assassination attempt on the President in Washington D.C. As New York Times writer James Barron wrote in an August 4 story for the paper, “The bullet damaged the right section of his brain, paralyzing his left arm, weakening his left leg, damaging his short-term memory and impairing his speech. Just getting out of a car became a study in determination.”

Had Brady retreated into a quiet life of retirement after the incident, who could have blamed him? Instead, Barron explains, “What Mr. Brady became was an advocate of tough restrictions on the sale of handguns like the $29 pawnshop special that Mr. Hinckley [Brady’s shooter] had bought with false identification. ‘I wouldn’t be here in this damn wheelchair if we had common-sense legislation,’ Mr. Brady said in 2011.”

Brady’s advocacy helped usher in a wave of reforms in the 1990s, such as The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and a federal ban on assault weapons. Unfortunately, the Republican legend lived to see a reignited NRA lobby intimidate lawmakers into rolling back signature pieces of legislation. The assault weapon ban expired in 2004 and numerous attempts to reintroduce it have been summarily thwarted.

With so much hysterical partisanship and misinformation surrounding the Second Amendment, and amidst sustained inaction on Capitol Hill, it’s fair to wonder at the specter of sane gun policy. The NRA has a big budget and cowering lawmakers at its heels, while Democrats fear being tarred and feathered as enemies of the Constitution. Thankfully there is still one big name taking on the gun lobby, a man with plenty of money in the chest and no stated desire to seek another public office. This slight, and slightly snooty, billionaire might seem a strange heir apparent to the Brady tradition, but we’ll take it.

In an August 21 piece for the Times entitled, “The N.R.A. Versus Michael Bloomberg,” Francis X. Clines writes:

“Mr. Bloomberg’s organization, ‘Everytown for Gun Safety,’ aims to hold its own in this electioneering face-off. The former mayor’s spokesman, Stu Loeser, said a strong gun-safety message helped defeat candidates last year in Illinois, California and Virginia. ‘This November, we will help defeat others who have made the mistake of aligning with the N.R.A.,’ vowed Mr. Loeser.”

James Brady was a rare conservative voice who came to believe through tragic experience that a citizen’s right to bear arms should be balanced by the collective claim to life and security. It is sad that as Brady aged, members of his party failed to coalesce around him, opting instead for a cynical approach to policy that has made the fear of public massacre a generally rational one. The scrappy, snappy Bloomberg may seem an unlikely heir apparent to Brady’s call for Second Amendment sanity, but finally we have a pet cause from a one percenter that’s in everyone’s interest.

Wayne LaPierre and NRA Directly Responsible for Ricin Letters to Gun Control Leaders (June 3, 2013)

ricin

I am old enough to recall a number of frightening sensations swirling through the nation’s collective psyche immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Those who lived in major urban centers were prone to Pavlovian responses of dread at the mere sight of a low flying aircraft. The delivery of an unexpected package elicited fleeting concerns of surprise explosives, and those receiving mail in corporate settings and government offices had to wonder if anthrax could be part of an envelope’s special delivery. It was a rightfully paranoid time.

One source of comfort to be found in terrifying circumstances is knowledge. Knowing your attacker, your would-be assailant, permits power in the form of an action plan. When the culprits of the World Trade Center and Pentagon atrocities proved to be Al Qaeda-directed terrorists, the nation came together behind an all-out assault upon the foreign groups responsible for our united fear and suffering.

In 2013, the threat of chemical attack by mail has returned, this time in the form of ricin. According to a report from Good Morning America, “The toxin, which comes from castor beans, stops cells from synthesizing proteins so victims can suffer organ failure.” Ricin has experienced pop cultural ascendancy in recent years as a recurring plot point on popular AMC drama Breaking Bad. Anti-hero Walter White, a former mild-mannered chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine kingpin, uses ricin to intimidate and control potential drug cartel enemies.

However, to ascertain the root cause of the recent spate of ricin-laced letter attacks, directed at everyone from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to President Barack Obama, we need not look to the inspiration of fictional characters. Real-life villains exist within the ranks of overreaching lobby groups, inciting chaos under the guise of Second Amendment defense.

Consider the paraphrased text of one such letter delivered to gun-control advocate Bloomberg’s New York office last week. Per a report from Fox News, New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond “Kelly said the unsigned letter says, in so many words: ‘Anyone who comes for my guns will be shot in the face.’”

Now where would this deranged domestic terrorist get the idea that President Obama and Michael Bloomberg, advocates for a safer, more rational exercise of the right to bear arms, might instead demand complete surrender of personal weapons? Let us hearken back to a February 2013 Op-Ed piece in the Daily Caller from National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. Amongst a number of verbal gems, LaPierre included this thinly veiled reference to the Newtown school shootings: “A heinous act of mass murder—either by terrorists or by some psychotic who should have been locked up long ago—will be the pretext to unleash a tsunami of gun control.”

Ok but that’s just one quote taken out of context right? LaPierre didn’t really mean to suggest that failed Congressional efforts to institute common-sense universal background checks were a threat to law-abiding gun owners. No one is that crazy.

February 10, 2012, The Washington Times: “All that first term, lip service to gun owners is just part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term.”

May 4, 2013, Huffington Post: “‘political and media elites’ have tried to use Sandy Hook and other recent shootings ‘to blame us, to shame us, to compromise our freedom for their agenda….We will never surrender our guns, never,’ LaPierre told several thousand people during the organization’s annual member meeting.”

We are a people that loves justice. The reason that so many incarnations of Law & Order and CSI have experienced television ratings success is because of the appeal of the suspense boilerplate: a crime is committed, guys in uniform discover weapon and motive, emotional trial ensues, outlaw goes to the clink. It’s simple. It’s just. It’s satisfying.

I’m no prosecuting attorney but it seems to me that there’s a direct correlation between the prolific, fear-inciting rhetoric of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA, and the homicidal threats against the lives of pro-gun control elected leaders. Is a bystander who knowingly allows harm to occur guilty of something? If the answer is yes (and it is), then Wayne LaPierre is an accessory to each and every one of these ricin crimes. He may not have supplied the chemicals, but he and his group continue to dish out motive in dangerous, irresponsible bucketfuls.

Haul him to the precinct, turn on the hot lights and file some charges. I’m serious. If it’s illegal to yell “Fire!” in a public place and incite a riot, there should be no distinction between trumping up an imagined threat to the Second Amendment and standing smugly aside as violence ensues.