Let’s get one thing straight right at the get-go: Gun silencers really do not work like they do in the movies. They definitely do NOT reduce the sound of a gunshot to a barely detectable “Pfffft.”
But they are called silencers for a reason: a silencer significantly reduces the sound made when a gun is fired. It is undeniable that a shooter using a weapon equipped with a silencer in a school or a movie theater or from high up in a hotel room will make less noise while killing people than a shooter with an un-silenced weapon. Similarly, it defies logic to suggest a silencer-equipped weapon will be as easy to detect and neutralize in a crisis situation as is an un-silenced, un-muffled weapon.
In 1934, at the end of Prohibition and the gangster era, the U.S. Congress was composed of a sufficient number of reasonable people to understand these undeniable facts. In 1934 the National Firearms Act became law. It regulated silencers along with machine guns and short-barreled rifles and shotguns.
Ask yourself, in this era of mass shootings do you suppose a bill named the Gun Muffler and Silencer De-regulation Act would sail through Congress? Hardly, but that would be truth in packaging, and truth and transparency is not the stock in trade of the Republican Party.
Enter the devotees of the National Rifle Association and the Congresspeople who depend on NRA fervor for their prospects for re-election. The Republican/Libertarian/NRA propaganda machine is expert at re-framing bills to obscure their real purpose.
So we have H.R. 367, The Hearing Protection Act, the simple purpose of which is to de-regulate gun mufflers and silencers, but which the Republicans and the NRA have framed as though it should be supported by everyone. Who, after all, is against “protecting hearing?” McMorris Rodgers is a co-sponsor.
At the Green Bluff town hall on Tuesday, May 29. I challenged McMorris Morris on her co-sponsorship of The Hearing Protection Act, presenting my credentials as a shooter who wears inexpensive and effective ear protection devices. I made the argument regarding mass shootings I just presented. I have a recording of the event. I have transcribed the resulting exchange (the bold is mine):
CMR:The legislation was brought forward by those that…by local law enforcement and by others…who…yes! [in response to challenge] and they say it’s a silencer but it doesn’t…
ME: (interrupting) I’ve shot with silencers. I know what they do. They diminish the sound.
CMR: OK, yes, they diminish the sound… Ah,…well, it was brought forward as the hearing protection amendment. Now…I hear what you’re saying and…with everything going on I tend to think that this is one…that now is not the right time.
ME: So you’re likely to withdraw your co-sponsorship?
CMR: Well, umm, I’m definitely going to take a look again.
“Now is not the right time.” Really? When is the right time for you to co-sponsor and vote for such a dishonestly named bill? Sure, if you want to put up a bill named the “Gun Muffler and Silencer Deregulation Act,” a name that might alert your constituents to discuss its contents on their actual merits, then fine. Do so. Argue for its passage in open forum. But don’t lie to us. Don’t feed us NRA talking points about silencers in movies when we bring up the bill’s actual purpose.
It was only as I transcribed the recording that I realized she had betrayed her real feelings. “…not the right time.” In other words in her eyes my argument had no merit. When there is a lull in student deaths at school shootings, she will gladly push her support for this bill, such is her desire to dismantle all regulation around firearms, such is her devotion to the NRA, such is her dependence on NRA propaganda.
I want a representative who doesn’t depend on deceiving her constituents to pass legislation. She and her Party have rotted from the inside. With Trump’s election the rot is appearing on the surface.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. Note the NFA did not outlaw, but, instead, regulated.and taxed silencers, machine guns and other weapons. If you want to dive into the weedy details of definitions and court challenges I recommend the wikipedia article on the National Firearms Act. Some gun aficionados and devotees have been fighting over and picking at the NFA ever since it was enacted in 1934. The Hearing Protection Act is just the newest and most cleverly framed attack.
Click here to watch Ms. Borelli in action.
The choice of featured speakers at the June 2nd Spokane County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner & Fundraiser reveals something I find very disquieting about the local Spokane GOP. When the GOP picks two talking heads from one pervasive “news” network, it might say something about where the Party faithful get their “news” and what “news” the Party is comfortable with. In this case both talking heads, Jason Chaffetz and Deneen Borelli, are “contributors” to Fox News.
I discussed Jason Chaffetz, former Republican Representative to Congress from Utah, in an earlier post. For me, he will forever be linked to his asinine comment about personal responsibility, forgoing the “latest version of the iPhone,” and being able to buy health insurance.
Today I want to encourage you to spend a few moments watching Deneen Borelli as an example of the sort of thing she preaches and what the local Spokane GOP seems inclined to listen to and, apparently, to accept as truth. If you have not done so already, click here to watch her diatribe on the “Deep State.” This was posted by the Spokane County GOP as an example of Borelli “getting it right” as an ad for their Lincoln Day Dinner on their Facebook page on May 24th at 12:11AM. (Once you’re at the page, scroll down to that date.)
It turns out that Ms. Borelli is a “network contributor” for Fox while her main presence is on “Conservative Review” TV (CRTV) in her own program entitled “Here’s the Deal.” A short listen suggests to me that Ms. Borelli’s polemic lies somewhere to the right of Rush Limbaugh’s. I imagine the faithful might bathe in this swamp for hours having their worst biases echoed and amplified.
If you, like I, have been tempted to wonder if the most rabid of people you used to think of as your Republican friends inhabit an entirely different planet, listening to Ms. Borelli for a while will help you understand why you feel that way. That Chaffetz and Borelli were chosen by the leadership of the Spokane GOP to speak as representative of the current Republican Party leaves me feeling sad, angry, and frightened for the future of our country. That the woman who poses as representing Eastern Washington in Congress, McMorris Rodgers, could listen to this and then step up to the same podium with her signature smile makes me queasy.
I dread to think the average Eastern Washington voter could listen to, follow, and accept as truth what was uttered in the not-so-smoke-filled room at the Lincoln Day Dinner. In fact, I have Republican friends who, when I mention the assault rifle auction at the dinner, are appalled. My hope is they would also be appalled by the propaganda served there. If not, this country is in for a wild ride.
To end I offer a glimmer of hope. Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a retired military and a traditional conservative, left Fox News in fear and disgust. I quote from last Monday’s The Weekly Sift:
“Here’s an unforgettable exchange from Wednesday’s Anderson Cooper 360:
Former Fox News military analyst Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters (retired): As a former military officer of the United States, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. And I saw, in my view, Fox — particularly their prime time hosts — attacking our constitutional order, the rule of law, the Justice Department, the FBI, Robert Mueller, and (oh, by the way) the intelligence agencies. And they’re doing it for ratings and profit, and they’re doing it knowingly — in my view, doing a grave, grave disservice to our country.
Anderson Cooper: Do you think, some of the hosts in prime time, do they believe the stuff they’re saying about the Deep State, what they’re saying about the Department of Justice, about the FBI?
Lt. Colonel Peters: I suspect Sean Hannity really believes it. The others are smarter. They know what they’re doing.”
Keep to the high ground,
McMorris Rodgers beat the drum for the “Balanced Budget Amendment” at several recent town halls. It is a perennial favorite on the right. Currently it stands zero chance of passage, but she votes for it as a demonstration of her supposed credentials as a fiscal conservative.
But there is something wrong here. McMorris Rodgers constantly harps about “getting control of the federal budget” and “the hard work of the appropriations process” and how “entitlements” must be controlled since they represent so much of non-discretionary part of the federal budget. All that sounds really important and difficult and essential, doesn’t it? She must be really smart to have her head wrapped around all that.
In my childhood my parents taught me about budgets. I was expected to keep track of every penny in a little notebook. Back then I was taught budgets have both an income and an expense side. Making my budget balance required me to have…and to maintain…an income.
McMorris Rodgers wants us to focus on the expenditures, but she really, really wants to keep us from thinking about the income side. Government budgets, just like personal budgets, have both. The income side of a government budget is taxes. McMorris Rodgers slashed that federal income last December with her vote for the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” In fact, she cannot quit talking about that vote and how proud it makes her. Eighty percent of that government income was turned around and given to corporations and the already wealthy.
The federal government does some really important things. It is supposed to fund maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure, the interstate highway system, bridges, dams, weather prediction, flood control structures. It certainly maintains substantial expenditures dedicated our common defense. It maintains relations with other nations. It provides funding for scientific research, looks after the purity of our food, guards against the spread of disease, tries to keep our air breathable and our water drinkable. Until recently, our federal government tried to improve the efficiency of energy use so as to make us less dependent on foreign oil. The federal government, at least since the 1930s forward has helped maintain and administer a social safety net. These are just a very few of what most of us think of as essential functions of our federal government.
So why are McMorris Rodgers and her Republican colleagues so proud of reducing the income stream that helps support all this? Their donors certainly took notice. As an example close to home, the Schweitzers of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in Pullman waited until it was clear they were going to receive a good chunk of that money as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Then they wrote checks for more than a half a million dollars to McMorris Rodgers’ campaign and Republican interests.
If you wish to “Balance the Budget,” Cathy, you have to consider both sides of the ledger. You just gave away a significant chunk of federal income (1.3 trillion over ten years). You gave most of that to corporations and the already rich.
Oops! Horrors! After that income giveaway, suddenly we’re poor as a nation so we need to tighten out belts, we need to “rein in entitlements” we need to “balance the budget.”
Let us remember “entitlements” are things like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, programs that offer some small security for the common man. “Entitlements” aren’t something that benefit someone else, some imaginary faceless, nameless, lazy, undeserving slacker. No, “entitlements” are by and large the programs put in place starting with Roosevelt’s “New Deal” in the 1930s, programs many Republicans would like us to think sap the common man’s will to work.
Of course, McMorris Rodgers has to use that word “entitlement” careful discrimination. For instance, the Steve Gleason Act, directing Medicare to foot the bill for expensive voice synthesis machines, well, the money for that can’t be an “entitlement.” Heavens no, that would be an “empowerment.”
McMorris Rodgers’ often touted ABLE Act benefits people with disabilities like Cole, McMorris Rodgers’ son with Down Syndrome. I’m very much in favor of helping the disabled, all of them, not just the ones who happen to have relatives with money. ABLE offers a tax loophole for those folks demonstrating a disability before age 26. It allows each such person to establish or have established for them a special savings account in which money earned within the account accumulates tax free. Of course, someone has to have the money (maximum of $15,000 annually) to put in the account in the first place. The foregone taxes on the money earned in the account is money off the income side of the federal budget, isn’t it? Well, we certainly wouldn’t want to call that an “entitlement,” would we? (I prefer this to further enriching the already wealthy out of our tax coffers, but from a budget perspective it is still money removed. On top of that, isn’t this “picking winners and losers” among the disabled? Isn’t that supposed to be a terrible no-no for every Republican?)
Then there is the renewal of the Medicare pass-through for, among others, an eye drug of negligible utility, a renewal McMorris Rodgers slipped into the Appropriations package. That was a 26 million dollar benefit to the Omeros Corporation, a drug company, over ten years, Apparently, that wasn’t an “entitlement” for Omeros’ stock holders. No, that would be a “improving access to life-changing drugs.”
Isn’t it odd how it matters what you call things? A tax cut sounds appealing, but a giveaway of national income? Well, not so much. Yet, an income giveaway to corporations and the mega-wealthy is what McMorris Rodgers’ touted tax cut was.
Budgets have two sides. McMorris Rodgers wishes us not to notice when she robs the income side of budget to give to the wealthy and when she chooses corporate and individual winners and losers. Now she wants to ratchet down on programs she has put in artificial jeopardy.
Keep to the high ground,
On Friday, June 1, the newest Staff Assistant, Collin Tracy, was assigned to meet with three high school students from University High and Central Valley High School at McMorris Rodgers’ Congressional office in downtown Spokane. It was the beginning of National Gun Violence Awareness Day: Wear Orange Weekend. The students, shaken by school shootings and animated by the students of Parkland Florida, presented a letter demanding a series of actions of their Representative to tighten restrictions on the purchase and ownership of weapons of war. Another twenty-five fellow students gathered on the sidewalk outside the Peyton Building.
According to notes by one of the students, Mr. Tracy told them, “CMR is a supporter of 2nd Amendment rights” and “CMR wants a solution for people’s rights and safety without stomping on the other.” A joint focus on mental health was offered. None of the specific demands was addressed. Apparently, “support of 2nd Amendment rights” closes the door to any rational discussion of what those rights include…and don’t. Case closed. Door slammed shut.
The very next day McMorris Rodgers attended and spoke at the Spokane County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner & Fundraiser held at the Davenport Grand Hotel. An internet search sheds some light on why McMorris Rodgers’ mind is closed. There, amid the fevered commentary offered by two contributors to the Fox News bubble, the Spokane County GOP auctioned off a M&P®15 SPORT™ II along with “8hrs of training” provided by Inland Northwest Action Shooters. In March, in the wake of the Parkland school massacre, the Spokane GOP was “weighing” whether to go ahead with a planned raffle of an AR-15 at the Lincoln Day Dinner. Kip Hill quoted GOP Chairwoman Stephanie Cates as saying an AR-15 “definitely wouldn’t be among the items available at the annual fundraiser this year.”
So what did they do?
The website showing the auction items for the event strategically omits a photograph of Item #150, the M&P®15 SPORT™ II. Perhaps because it is an assault rifle, a military weapon, an AR-15 knockoff, everything an AR-15 is but by another name. It is the people-killer of choice used by many school shooters and the Las Vegas shooter, to devastating effect. The characterization of its “purpose” on the Smith and Wesson website as “Home Protection, Hunting, Recreational Shooting” is laughable. It might be essential for “home protection”…if your home were attacked by an army division. No respectable hunter I know would consider this a preferred hunting arm. “Recreational shooting?” Sure, it’s fun to shoot, and shooting competitively is a real skill.
It is also fun to blow things up with dynamite and it requires some real skill, care, and responsibility not to kill someone or oneself while handling dynamite. Note that the purchase, sale, and storage of dynamite is highly regulated. Since 1934 (National Firearms Act of 1934) the purchase, sale, and possession of full automatic firearms, silencers, and switchblades are also regulated. The regulations are appropriate and court-tested.
Now McMorris Rodgers, the Spokane County GOP, and the National Republican Party not only peddle assault weapons, the like of which are used to kill our children, but hand-in-hand with the NRA they are waging a campaign to dismantle what they can of existing gun regulations (H.R. 38, H.R. 367, see Congress.gov). Apparently to them, any regulation at all is a “stomp” on the 2nd Amendment.
I’ve been involved in shooting sports since I was twelve. I have a concealed carry permit. I own an assault rifle. I am not fearful for my 2nd Amendment rights but I also I see no need to expand them. Like all rights in the Bill of Rights, the 2nd Amendment right has limitations. It is time to vote out people like McMorris Rodgers whose minds are so closed they cannot even discuss what the limitations ought to be.
Keep to the high ground,
Today I defer to Shawn Vestal’s article in the Spokesman from Wednesday, June 6th. It concerns James Allsup, an enthusiastic attendee of the Charlottesville torchlight parade, former President of the WSU College Republicans, current GOP Precinct Committee Officer in Whitman County, “Identitarian” and recent speaker at Identity Evropa. This is the supposedly respectable version of what in my youth was called, plainly and simply, a Nazi. That, of course, was a time when many were still alive and walked among us who fought to free the world from such people and their ideas. Today, In an era in which we have a President who refuses to explicitly denounce these people (for fear of losing his base?), we need to pay special attention to the folks his movement would vilify, deport, or worse. So come out on Saturday before you go canvassing (see above) and celebrate some of the diversity Mr. Allsup would love to quash for the sake of his sense of purity.
In school it used to be taught (and perhaps still is) that the U.S. Supreme Court’s wise judges with their king-like, life-long appointments served the purpose of interpreting the Constitution, assuring the “rule of law”, and guaranteeing that our majority-rule democracy did not run roughshod over the human and Constitutional rights of the minority. It all sounded very august and comforting. I recall only vague awareness of dissent over how the Supreme Court functioned. I saw, but did not really understand, the “Impeach Earl Warren” bumper stickers. In high school history there may have been a passing mention of FDR’s attempt to “pack” the court with sympathetic judges.
I was blissfully naive. With the perspective of age, experience, travel, and thought I now understand the Supreme Court merely as a sort of ballast to wildest impulses of the Congress, the President, and the people. The Republican/Libertarians have understood this for decades and have worked systematically to fill the Court with judges sympathetic to the concerns of the wealthy. You might ask “What about abortion? What about the ‘right’ to keep and bear arms? Aren’t those those the rallying cry of the Republicans?” Well, in a word, no. Certainly many Republican voters are passionately devoted to these issues, as carefully framed by the Republican thought machine and spoon fed by Fox News, Sinclair News, Rush and company. Indeed, one can hardly be a Republican without paying homage to gun rights and banning abortion…but they are just rallying cries, not the main point. Does anyone think most of the mega-wealthy members of the Koch donor group are passionately devoted to gun rights and banning abortion? Hardly.
A primary, perhaps the primary, goal of the Koch donor group is to change the composition of the Supreme Court to represent the interests of business and the mega-wealthy over the interests of lesser folk, workers, unions, and, of course, Democrats.
Soon you will hear of the Supreme Court decision in the case of Janus v. AFSCME. It is likely to be another 5-4 decision, couched in supposed defense of the First Amendment Right of “free speech.” You might recall the deceptively named “Citizens United” decision (Citizens United-Part I) was also based on a supposed “free speech” right. In Citizens United “free speech” was the personal right of corporations to political speech.
On the one hand corporations are supposed to have the “free speech” right as persons to spend unlimited money on political advertising. On the other hand, “free speech” is applied as a cudgel against mandatory union dues in Janus v. AFSCME. Read the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity logic around Janus’ “free speech” here. Mr. Janus contends that, based on “free speech” he need not pay union dues. Never mind the union bargains for all employees and Janus would benefit from the results of that bargaining. In fact, there is even a unanimous Supreme Court case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, from 1977, that will be overturned when the current court finds in favor of Janus.
When Janus v. AFSCME was argued back in February, Grover Norquist (famous for his quip about shrinking government to a size where it could “drown in a bathtub”) commented tellingly on his partisan hope for the Supreme Court to declare Janus the winner: “Try funding the modern Democratic Party without union dues. Good luck.”
Why does Mitch McConnell deserve a special place in hell? I offer this quote about Janus v. AFSCME from an article I encourage you to read here entitled “Little Scalia”:
It was for moments like these that Senator Mitch McConnell, in 2016, had engineered the unprecedented nullification of President Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia, when he blocked a Senate vote on Merrick Garland. To partisan Democrats, McConnell’s galling land grab wound up being a fitting antecedent to Donald Trump’s election: first a stolen Court seat, then an illegitimate president. For partisan Republicans, though, a solid right-wing vote on the Supreme Court made the chaos and lunacy of the Trump presidency tolerable. “But Gorsuch” has become the “Keep Calm and Carry On” of Trump-era conservatism.
Never forget that Mitch McConnell stole a seat on the Supreme Court from a moderate nominee, Merrick Garland, in order to push a 5-4 doctrinaire majority on the Supreme Court that shifts the judicial ballast toward the mega-wealthy, a shift that could far outlast the horror of the Trump Presidency by decades. This is not just “playing politics,” this is class warfare on a grand scale. The Koch funded Republican chattering class is using specious arguments around the First Amendment to tip the judicial scales back to the 1920s, possibly to the Gilded Age of the late 18th Century. Those focused just on guns and abortion are missing the point.
Keep to the high ground,
In McMorris Rodgers we have a Representative in Congress who seems to have lost her voice. “Donald Trump was elected President” is her stock phrase when asked about her support for the leader of her Party. She is all about falling in line in order to advance the agenda. Instead of standing up for what she claims to believe, the values she claims to support, it is all about her “leadership” position in the Party. The disconnect is nowhere more apparent than in her stance on DACA.
Below is a quote from an excellent article in The Inlander by Daniel Walters, one of several articles of his concerning McMorris Rodgers, all of which are well worth the time to click and read [the bold is mine]:
One by one, the DACA students told their stories that evening. One says she didn’t know she wasn’t an American citizen until she applied for college. Another lost his legal status because of a clerical error.
As McMorris Rodgers listens, according to several attendees, tears well up in her eyes.
…”I have personally observed a journey of compassion and heart-shifting in Cathy,” McAuley [a church engagement director for Youth For Christ] says. “I can state that unequivocally.”
At the DACA meeting, some of the pastors and DACA students push McMorris Rodgers to take a stronger stance beyond words uttered in private. Sponsor a bill. Let one go to the floor. Give a passionate speech.
She doesn’t bite, attendees say. She talks about the political limitations. She says she doesn’t want to push a bill that Trump would veto.
The sentiment of the last sentence was also on display at the Green Bluff mini town hall on May 29th. There she mentioned the discharge petition signed by all but one Democrat and twenty-three Republicans, a discharge petition to bring DACA to the House floor against the wishes of Republican leadership. McMorris Rodgers carefully avoids any mention she has not signed it. She said “we” are working on a compromise, not saying “we” probably means just Republicans. Finally, “I don’t believe the President will sign it without a path forward on the wall.” Asked if she would prefer a stand alone DACA bill, she answered, “I would have to look at it.” Really, Cathy? You have tears in your eyes listening to Dreamers tell their stories and you don’t know if you personally would prefer a stand alone bill? Suddenly you’re all about the practical details of legislation, not your values, not your heart. You don’t want to push a bill that doesn’t have a chance of passage? You prefer to use your “leadership” position to work behind the scenes in the dark, not make waves. The more I ponder that sentiment the more angry it makes me.
You, McMorris Rodgers, say you don’t want to “push a bill” your President would veto. May I remind you that Barrack Obama was also “your President?” Do you wish to deny that accolade to a man who actually won the popular vote? While Barrack Obama was the duly elected President, “our” President, how many bills did you vote for, in your “leadership” position, that had no chance of passage in the Senate and, if they did, would certainly have faced a veto?
How many times did you vote for your “Balanced Budget Amendment,” knowing full well it had zero chance of passage, knowing it was pure political theater?
How many times during your period of “leadership” did you vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act knowing the bill was dead on arrival?
How many times did you vote for bills constructed around the bogus term “Partial Birth Abortion?”
How many times did you vote to support gag rules concerning information about abortion while you spoke out of the other side of your mouth about the importance of ‘free speech?”
How many times did you vote to please the NRA, making a joke out of locally issued Concealed Carry Weapons Permits. How do you justify pushing a bill (co-sponsoring it) to remove silencers from weapons regulations that have been in existence since 1934?
And now you have the unmitigated gall to tell us that you don’t want to “push a bill the President would veto?” You are so enamored of the ways in which THIS president can advance Republican goals that you refuse to notice, much less speak out against, the manifest horror of his bullying, pandering to white supremacists, scapegoating of immigrants, name-calling, and demeaning of the judiciary? Why can you not consider any legislation to curb this man’s autocratic tendencies? How can you stand by and listen to him demean mainstream media, media that actually still funds investigative research instead of thinly veiled propaganda?
Spare me, McMorris Rodgers. Hypocrisy is not a leadership skill. You may shed a genuine tear over the plight of the Dreamers, but you have too much fealty to your rotting Party to stand up and actually offer the Dreamers any help unless you can extract money for Trump’s wall and avoid the threat of their becoming real citizens and able to cast a vote.
Keep to the high ground,