Republicans Are The Masters Of False Equivalency.

Following the shooting of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise, there were calls from both sides of the aisle to calm the extreme rhetoric. The House even made a great show of bipartisanship by kneeling together on the field prior to the annual Republican/Democrat baseball game. Senator Bernie Sanders made a forceful speech denouncing the shooter’s past support for his candidacy. Many others followed suit.

Yet, in a matter of hours following the Scalise shooting, the hateful rhetoric had returned.

A mere four days after the shooting, former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh tweeted, “Screw bipartisanship. This country is at war with itself. Choose your side and choose it now. Grab your musket and get ready.” That’s a great way to calm the anger. Don’t you think?

And Walsh was not alone. Others, including right-wing pundits Alex Jones and Newt Gingrich have also talked about a coming civil war. Of course, this comes on the heels of last year’s GOP convention during which the rabble chanted “Lock her [Hillary] up.” And it comes after then-candidate Trump speculated what might happen if he lost by saying, “…if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” Others also suggested that, if Trump lost, there might be violence.

The US is more divided, and more angry, than any point in my lifetime. Indeed, the only other times we have seen such division were during the Revolution (when the Revolutionists fought against the Loyalists) and during the Civil War.

That should give everyone pause.

Of course, the fallback for Republicans is that both sides are equally guilty. But that’s simply not true. Let’s start by noting that there have been many fewer threats of violence by liberals against conservatives. I must also point out that the majority of gun owners in the US are conservatives. Indeed, a recent NPR article stated that right-wing extremists are responsible for about 74 percent of murders committed by domestic extremists. Not coincidentally, a recent Gallup study found that 55 percent of gun owners are Republican versus 32 percent Democrat. A Pew Research poll showed an even greater disparity with numbers of 49 percent for Republicans and just 22 percent for Democrats. In addition, the Southern Poverty Law Center currently lists 917 hate groups in the US. These include the KKK, neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, anti-government militias, and Christian identity groups. They are almost exclusively right-wing.

Now let’s consider the media. Certainly, The NY Times and a few other newspapers lean to the left. But the Wall Street Journal, the Arizona Republic and many others lean to the right. That said, though their editorial columns may be partisan, most try to be impartial in reporting the actual news. Talk radio is almost exclusively right-wing…Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin…angry, screaming right-wing. Indeed, within a few years of the end of the Fairness Doctrine, talk radio was already more than 90 percent conservative.

With regard to television, the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group is one of the nation’s largest media owners. It recently ordered its local news broadcasts to advance the conservative agenda. On satellite and cable, Fox News Channel has long acted as a megaphone for the Republican party. The lower-rated MSNBC was somewhat split. It’s prime-time devoted to liberals and the morning to conservatives. In between, it was impartial. And it’s moving farther right. ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and PBS try to maintain neutrality, although their Sunday morning news programs are dominated by conservative guests.

That leaves the Internet, aka social media. There are so many Internet “news” sites, it is very difficult to make a comparison. But, if you use fake news as a determining criteria, the Internet is decidedly right-wing. The best way for me to explain is to use anecdotal evidence from Paul Horner the “King of Fake News” who appeared on a radio show I occasionally help moderate. Horner is a comedian and satirist. As such, he began writing satirical news stories during the past presidential election. He began by creating stories that would appeal to both sides. But he quickly discovered that stories aimed at liberals garnered few clicks and little money. The problem is that they would fact check his stories. Conservatives, on the other hand, bought his nonsense hook, line and sinker. As a result, almost all of his fake news was conservative. (You can listen to the interview by following this link.)

Want more evidence? Visit Breitbart “News” or any other right-wing website. Then do some fact checks.

That is not to say there aren’t some highly partisan, disgustingly angry websites, tweets and Facebook posts from the left. But there are fewer of them and even fewer of them promote violence.

Our Present And Future With Guns.

According to Harvard’s Injury Control Research Center, only 22% of Americans are gun owners. Yet there are an estimated 300 million guns in the US, not including those owned by our military. More than 6 million Americans own 10 or more guns. 10 or more? Seriously? Let’s see…a small gauge shotgun for small birds, a large gauge shotgun for larger birds, a small caliber hunting rifle for small game, a large caliber hunting rifle for large game, a small caliber handgun for accuracy, a large caliber handgun for “stopping” power, a military-style assault weapon for potential government tyrants, a .50 caliber sniper rifle for assassinations and blowing holes in the occasional engine block, and…??? That’s only 8. What am I missing? I’m at a loss to explain what more a 2nd Amendment-spouting, freedom-protecting “patriot” could need to arm themselves for any eventuality.

Obviously, the US has a love affair with guns. But though we all face the consequences, that love affair is far from universal.

As previously stated, the majority of guns are in the hands of a few. If that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, consider this: A large percentage of those 300 million guns are in the hands of the members of the 784 hate groups as recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center, including KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, Skinheads, Black Separatists, Neo-Confederates, Anti-LGBT, Christian Identity and other assorted general hate groups and individuals, such as the Sovereign Citizen Movement. Shockingly, a not insignificant percentage of their members are ex-military, active-duty military, former law enforcement officers and border patrol…even active-duty law enforcement (which may help to explain the increase in police brutality against minority populations)!

These people seem to believe that guns are the answer to most every conflict – a view endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and modeled in many US-made movies, television programs and video games. But our choices of entertainment are, most certainly, not the root of our gun problem. In fact, the source of our problem is the NRA and the gun manufacturers it represents, which have flooded our communities with guns – guns that are becoming increasingly more lethal. Though other nations share our taste in entertainment and celebrate our culture, and though many other nations are less religious than the US, no other advanced country rivals the US when it comes to the number of gun deaths (including homicides)!

The glaring difference between the US and those other countries is the availability of guns.

For example, in a recent attempt to determine how easy it is to obtain guns in the US, a reporter for The Guardian found that it took just 2 hours for him to be offered an AK-47, an illegally-modified fully-automatic AR-15 and numerous handguns – some of which had been smuggled and some of which had been purchased legally. His experience is hardly unique. In many neighborhoods in many of our nation’s cities, you can purchase a gun within a few minutes, local gun laws be damned. For example, many of the guns used in crimes in Chicago are originally purchased legally in Indiana and cities along the I-35 corridor where gun laws are weak. They are then resold in Chicago to individuals wishing to avoid background checks. This pattern is supported by studies that show the majority of guns used in crimes are purchased illegally from unlicensed gun dealers or uncaring dealers in states with the greatest gun culture and the weakest gun laws.

And, thanks to the NRA’s stated belief that the best solution for a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, there is a growing vigilante movement in the US exemplified by the armed woman who took it upon herself to shoot at shoplifters in the parking lot of The Home Depot in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Contrary to the gun lovers’ beliefs, such behavior is the worst nightmare of most law enforcement officials. After all, imagine you’re an officer responding to an active shooter situation and you see several armed people shooting at one another. Who is the good guy? Who is the bad guy? Are they all bad guys? You simply have to treat them all as threats.

And what about the legal implications of the “good guy” behavior? Disregarding the fact that few crimes are stopped by armed citizens and that armed citizens are more likely to be shot with their own guns than to stop a crime, such vigilante behavior poses problems. Police are supposed to be restricted from shooting at a suspect in a non-life-threatening situation. What about the armed “good guys?” Is it acceptable for a private citizen to shoot and kill a shoplifter? If the criminals are not armed and not threatening others, is it legally permissible to shoot to kill? If an unarmed shoplifter is subject to lethal force, is a bully engaged in a fistfight? How about a citizen engaged in a shouting match? An unarmed robber? An armed robber? Where do we draw the line?

The fact is, this nation is being held hostage by the gun lobby. We have allowed the NRA to write Conceal and Carry, Open Carry and “Stand Your Ground” laws that encourage people like George Zimmerman to shoot innocent, unarmed people. The NRA wants even more people to be armed. And it refuses to consider common sense gun safety laws. Despite a large majority of its members supporting more thorough, universal background checks, the NRA leadership has drawn a bright line in the sand. Any restriction on gun ownership is seen as a violation of the Constitution (if you choose to ignore the first phrase of the 2nd Amendment). Moreover, mass shootings are good for business as demonstrated by the gun shop owner in Roseburg, Oregon who stocked up on guns and ammo following the shooting at nearby Umpqua Community College. She knows that there is always a run on guns and ammo following mass shootings. Such greed aside, more guns are not the answer to gun violence. In fact, numerous studies have clearly shown that more guns equal more gun violence. Not less.

More important, the blatant lies of the NRA which pronounce guns the solution, not the problem, may well lead to a breakdown in our legal system. Vigilante “justice” could soon replace our courts. The entire US could resemble the Old West – only with more shootings and less shame.

The Growth Of Hate.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors hate groups and other extremists throughout the US, reports that the number of hate groups has grown by 67 percent since 2000. The SPLC website states, “Currently, there are 1,007 known hate groups of neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes and others.” It lists as reasons for the increase “anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president.”

Based on those criteria, I would suggest that nation’s largest hate group is the Tea Party. After all, the Tea Party is virulently anti-immigrant. It displays its racism on rally posters showing President Obama dressed in Nazi attire with a Hitleresque moustache. It continues to make unsubstantiated charges that the president is a socialist, a communist and a dictator. The Tea Party has launched relentless attacks on government institutions from the Environmental Protection Agency to the US Postal Service…even first responders and local school boards. Virtually every Tea Party meeting is devoted to tales of government conspiracies and fears of a “New World Order.” Moreover, Tea Party members continue to display guns at rallies and talk of “Second Amendment remedies.”

All of this paranoid nonsense is fueled by obstructionist Teapublican members of Congress, anti-government lies spread by Fox “News” Channel and right-wing hosts of hate radio, in addition to vicious attack ads paid for by a few angry billionaires. The resulting growth of hate has not merely divided our politics. It has pitted friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor, family member against family member, one race against another and the wealthy against the poor.

At its worst, this growing culture of hate can be seen in the recent “Stand Your Ground” slayings which have seen a teen killed for wearing a hoodie, another teen ruthlessly murdered for the volume of his music, and a military veteran killed for texting during movie previews and for throwing a bag of popcorn.

It may seem that these events are unrelated. They’re not. They are likely all symptoms of a growing national anger created by our toxic political environment and enabled by easy access to guns.

We have to ask ourselves, “Where will it end?”

Sovereign Citizens: America’s New (Bowel) Movement.

If you’re wondering about the headline, it’s not a typo. I feel it’s an accurate description of the freeloaders who have renounced their US citizenship and refuse to pay taxes or obey laws while taking advantage of our nation’s freedoms, services and benefits.

Each time one of these nitwits burns his driver’s license, Social Security card, birth certificate and other forms of identification, it’s as if our nation is shedding waste.

Now all we need to do is give them a good flush.

If they truly don’t want to be citizens of our nation, we should load them up and ship them to one of the many lawless nations in the world, such as Somalia, Yemen or Syria, where they can practice what they preach. There are plenty of immigrants who would gladly accept US citizenship, pay taxes and obey our laws. Indeed, many of our undocumented workers are already paying taxes knowing that they may never directly receive benefits from those taxes.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Sovereign Citizens movement is large and growing, with much of the growth coming since the election of our first president of African-American heritage. An estimated 100,000 people currently living in the United States are “hard core” Sovereign Citizens who have already renounced their US citizenship. The SPLC estimates another 200,000 are “just starting out” by resisting traffic tickets and drug charges. By conservative estimates, there are an additional 200,000 tax protesters who refuse to pay taxes. By deporting all 500,000, we would be freeing up room for 500,000 of the “Dreamers” and other grateful immigrants who are seeking US citizenship.

We would also be lowering the deficit through increased tax revenues.

At the same time, we would be making our nation safer. After all, the FBI classifies Sovereign Citizens as anti-government extremists and domestic terrorists. The SPLC classifies them as a hate group which was spawned by Christian Identity minister William P. Gale, the Posse Comitatus movement and several other racist and political groups of the lunatic fringe. (On second thought, strike the word fringe. That’s being much too kind.)

At the heart of the Sovereign Citizen movement is the belief that there are two classes of citizens in America: “original citizens of the states” and “US citizens (“Fourteenth Amendment citizens”) that include descendants of freed slaves. Since the “original citizens” of the states were here first, they claim not to be bound by federal, state or local laws. (It’s not clear how this applies to Native Americans.)

Like the Tea Party movement (that also needs to be flushed), Sovereign Citizens have selective memories and are selective readers of the Constitution. They also completely ignore the many statements made by our Founding Fathers that express the view that our Constitution placed everyone personally under federal authority.

And, like the Tea Party, Sovereign Citizens subscribe to a number of bizarre conspiracy theories and demand a return to the gold standard. The SPLC describes them this way: “Sovereigns believe that they – not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials – get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore.” They often resort to violence in defiance of authority. Indeed, many are heavily armed, posing a serious threat to anyone with whom they disagree.

They’re not only in the wrong country. They’re in the wrong century!