The decency censors at the NY Times will never print my response to Ross Douthat’s utterly mendacious column, so I’m posting it here. Not that anyone will notice:
Mr. Douthat: Used to read you occasionally even while disagreeing with your positions because you seemed like a reasonable human being, but in this column you prove yourself a hack. As others have already pointed out, the president’s opponents in your party have relentlessly lied, distorted, dog-whistled, and obstructed. And now you — and they — are complaining that the president is being too negative. As Arlo Guthrie once put it, “You got a lot of damn gall.” This morning, your preferred presidential candidate is keeping things positive by distributing an outright lie about the Obama administration’s attempt to roll back GOP voter suppression efforts in Ohio. Man, how do you sleep at night?
President Obama comes out for some efforts to curb gun violence. This is valuable not so much because anything much is likely to happen soon at the federal level, but because it is important to stand up to gun culture & the purveyors of gun porn.
The president’s spokesman said yesterday that the president supports “common-sense measures that protect Second Amendment rights of Americans, while ensuring that those who should not have guns under existing law do not get them.” Sorry, that’s not good enough.
Jay Carney’s statement for the president is an insult to both the dead & the living. By focusing on “protecting Second Amendment rights,” it gives aid & comfort to the cynical gun pornographers who secretly admire what James Holmes did. (And yes I mean you, Wayne LaPierre.) I think it’s fine that in the immediate aftermath of the killings in Colorado that Mr. Obama limited his remarks to platitudes and homilies; but now is the time for political courage. If not now, when? Clearly, the serial flip-flopper Mitt Romney is not going to go out of his way to remind voters that as Massachusetts governor he signed an assault weapons ban, saying at the time, “These guns are not made for recreation or self-defense. They are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.”
President Obama should come out unequivocally for legislation at the national level that would ban assault weapons & high-capacity clips, as well as sales at guns hows without background checks. The NRA will attack him, you say? They have already turned him into a black fantasy of vast proportions–right-wing websites are already saying that he orchestrated the Aurora killings in order to impose gun control. Even as a matter of pure political calculation, what has the president got to lose? The gun fetishists are not going to vote for him. Again, as a matter of political calculation, he’d get credit for taking a courageous stand in the face of a truly mad collection of gun pornographers like Glenn Reynolds & Russell Pearce.
Given the number of guns already in circulation, no gun control law is going to have an immediate effect, but standing up to the NRA’s firearms pornography & their dark fantasies of tyranny would make an important political statement. Americans ought to be as disgusted by gun porn as they are by child pornography. Look, the NRA supports what James Holmes did in that theater. They think it’s cool. All that crap about an armed citizenry opposing tyranny & defending the innocent? It’s a smokescreen. The NRA & their fellow-travelers want to make it easy for the next James Holmes to get what he needs to shoot your children while they play or go to school or take in a movie. That is their agenda.
The time for homilies has passed; now is the time to show leadership & courage.
“I have an issue with people being able to buy ammunition and weapons on the Internet,” Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey of the Philadelphia police said on the ABC program “This Week” on Sunday. “I don’t know why people need to have assault weapons. There needs to be reasonable gun control put in place. “And we talk about this constantly, and absolutely nothing happens, because many of our legislators, unfortunately, at the federal level, lack the courage to do anything.” (NYT)
I know that attributing false consciousness to others is the height of elitism, but this article, Has the One Percent Already Won This Thing?, captures as aspect of American society that cannot be denied. Middle- & Working-class Stockholm Syndrome. Capital has so abused the vast majority of American citizens that they have become, not proletarians–that requires a modicum of class consciousness–but peasants, serfs.
Long story in The Guardian about attempts to reduce Dengue Fever incidence using genetically modified mosquitoes & the predictable blowback of hysteria from middle-class Western activists. Now, I am deeply skeptical of GM crops, mostly because of the corporatist economic model on which they are based, but the opposition to the modified mosquitoes is really just an anti-science aesthetic that has noting to do with either the actual science nor with any reasonable cost / benefit analysis. Ask the Cambodian or Vietnamese farmer what he or she thinks about reducing the incidence of Dengue & I suspect you would get a different response than you get from the Western liberals who have the luxury to comment from a safe distance.
Update: On the other hand, I draw the line at this sort of genetic modification. Not so much on the science as on the motive.
This article in the NY Times provides one more piece of evidence–as if any more were needed–in an indictment of American callousness regarding the legacies of the American War against Vietnam. In Vietnam, Cambodia, & Laos, thousands of people, many of them children, have been killed, and tens of thousands injured, by unexploded bombs, landmines, and other lethal garbage left from the American War. I am glad that the Lao government took Secretary Clinton to see the actual human damage caused by these devices. Here are some reliable statistics that give some idea of the scope of the problem. Technologies exist for dealing with these devices, but the moral will, apparently, is lacking, at least in the United States. It occurs to me that the Secretary’s husband, former President Bill Clinton–so famous for being able to “feel your pain”–might gall up a few of his rich & super-rich pals, or talk to them on the golf course, and put together a fund dedicated to removing all the explosives over, say, a ten-year period. It was President Clinton who normalized relations with Vietnam in 1995. More than twenty-five years later, the United States needs to take moral responsibility for this ongoing tragedy. There is simply no excuse not to act. We could begin by signing the international treaty against cluster bombs. Perhaps Secretary Clinton could suggest this modest step to her boss the current president.