FreedomWorks nearly falls apart during armed mutiny; NRA leverages massacres to ramp up gun sales; Changes could be coming to San Diego billboard ordinances; #17 Aztecs fall to #3 Wildcats
You just can’t make this stuff up. As you may or may not know, the TEA Party Astroturf group FreedomWorks has been going through a bit of turmoil lately. Most of the group’s troubles only came to light after the Nov. 6 election. Still, even though this is fringe right wing politics—we’re talking the nuttiest of the nutty—no one expected Dick Armey to come marching into FreedomWorks HQ with an armed escort to conduct a hostile takeover. Even in TEA Party politics that seemed like a bit much.
Last month, shortly after the election, it was announced that FredomWorks leader and co-founder, former Republican member of Congress Dick Armey, would be leaving the group that he helped propel to the forefront of American conservative (nee, wingnuttery) politics. The self proclaimed grass roots movement—funded and founded by the Koch brothers and kept alive via enormous donations from other wealthy conservative donors—was among the catalysts for the 2010 Republican/TEA Party wave election. Whether the movement was spurred on out of a genuine concern and zeal for conservative politics or out of a fear and hatred of a black president is still a matter that’s open for debate.
This is a supposed “grassroots” organization, remember. They’re a non-profit advocacy Super PAC. So it definitely raised some eyebrows when it became public knowledge that the group had agreed to an $8 million golden parachute for Armey in order to secure his departure. That part of the story was strange enough, but this is conservative politics, and apparently it’s not at all odd for a conservative non-profit to offer multi-million dollar severance packages.
Just imagine the outcry from conservative circles had it been an executive at a liberal group like Priorities USA or Think Progress.
But the story gets even weirder. According to a story in the Washington Post, in early September, just when the General Election was really getting revved up, Armey had decided that he was not at all pleased with the direction FreedomWorks was headed. The 72 year old Armey had been increasingly been frozen out of the group’s decision making process, although his name recognition as a former House Republican leader was used to bolster its credentials within the TEA Party movement.
According to Armey, at issue were “ethical breaches” and misuse of FreedomWorks resources by president Matt Kibbe and senior vice president Adam Brandon. The two had written a book, using FreedomWorks staff assistance entitled “Hostile Takeover,” for which Kibbe claimed sole credit and collected all of the proceeds.
Using FreedomWorks resources for personal gain, in Armey’s book, is a big no-no. Armey’s solution? A hostile takeover of his own. Determined to retake control of the organization he helped found, Armey, his wife Susan, and two staffers—one carrying a holstered gun on his hip—marched into FreedomWorks headquarters and expelled Kibbe and Brandon, among other staff, on the spot. Armey then reinstalled himself as the man in charge.
“This was two weeks after there had been a shooting at the Family Research Council,” one junior staffer told the Post. “So when a man with a gun who didn’t identify himself tome or other people on staff, and a woman I’d never seen before said there was an announcement, my first gut was, ‘Is FreedomWorks in danger?’ It was bizarre.”
So this is what they want to use their guns for……gee, I feel safer already……..I wonder what might have happened if one of the FreedomWorks staffers had been armed? Natural selection? But I digress…..
Massacres as marketing tools
We were all shocked and appalled by NRA chief Wayne LaPierre’s statements during his “press conference” last Friday and again on NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the weekend. But really, his advocacy for placing more guns in our nation’s schools shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. That’s his job, after all: To promote gun sales.
There are two ways of looking at this: After a major shooting incident, the gun nuts get paranoid about the increased chatter in favor of stricter gun regulations, and the masses run off to their nearest gun store or gun show (where no ID or background checks are required) and snatch up as many weapons as they can.
Then there’s the gun lobby: The NRA. Their job is to essentially promote the gun industry. Their function in American society used to be in safety training and responsible ownership. But as more and more money has become involved, that function has morphed into the macabre role of fear mongering to stoke that paranoia and increase gun sales.
Wayne LaPierre and the NRA have become masters at leveraging tragedies such as Columbine, Aurora, Tucson, and Sandy Hook to their purposes. The results, as noted in The Nation, have been staggering gun sales numbers in the wake of Sandy Hook.
From The Nation:
While pundits and politicians debate the possibility of new gun restrictions in the wake of the Newtown massacre, the NRA is playing it’s now-familiar role spreading paranoia, and Americans are flocking to stores to stock up on weapons—lots of them.
From Alaska to Florida, gun sales across the country are going through the roof, with thousands buying up ammunition, high-powered semiautomatic rifles and other weaponry out of concern that the federal government will enact new regulations on gun ownership. In Tennessee, officials say gun purchases likely hit an all-time high. Walmart has reportedly run out of semiautomatic rifles in five states.
And though the NRA has been roundly mocked for its public relations effort this week, officials are watching what is sure to be a flood of new cash.
Here’s why: For every gun or package of ammunition sold at participating stores, a dollar is donated to the NRA. The NRA’s corporate fundraising division has several special retail partnerships called “Add-A-Buck,” “NRA Round-Up,” and “Shooting for the Future.” In some cases, these deals allow for customers to contribute a dollar or two to the NRA at the point of purchase; others, like one with Sturm, Ruger & Co., the company led by Mike Fifer, require automatic contributions to the NRA with every purchase. Many of these retail deals are linked to the NRA’s 501(c)4 affiliate, which can, unlike other affiliates of the NRA, spend that money on political advertisements and lobbying.
This year alone, Midway USA, an ammunition company, has given the NRA $1 million through the Round Up program.
In other words, no, Wayne LaPierre may not be crazy after all. Or maybe he is—like a fox. What he most certainly is is opportunistic. Tragedies like these are the very best ways to catapult guns into the forefront of the American stream of consciousness. This is not about “freedom” or the preservation of the Second Amendment. This is about pure greed and profit. And LaPierre’s plan to put more guns in schools? It’s about selling more guns! The more “volunteers” he has trained, the more police officers that have to be hired, that means more guns have to be purchased, meaning more profits for the gun manufacturers, and more revenues for the NRA itself.
This is a departure from the normal modus operandi of the NRA. Usually they’re more interested in the short term spike in sales. But the ingenious thing about LaPierre’s proposal is that if enacted, it will ensure increased long term sales for the gun companies.
Capitalism at the expense of the safety of our kids. Brilliant!
Get ready for the billboard blitz!
The days of San Diego avoiding the Vegas like blitz of digital/video billboards may be coming to an end, if one lobbying group has its way.
San Diego’s most influential lobbying group is pushing for the city to allow a greater array of billboard advertising within the city limits, particularly in the proposed San Diego Arts and Entertainment District.
In 2007, the city’s restrictions on size and height limits survived a legal challenge by the outdoor advertising company Get Outdoors. The 9th Circuit determined that the company’s First Amendment rights were not, in fact, violated by the city’s ordinances restricting the size, height, and types of signage allowed. Having failed that avenue, firms are now putting their efforts into having the ordinances relaxed. If they get their way, San Diego could start to look like a commercial advertising paradise, with flashing billboards all over the city.
#17 Aztecs fall to #3 Arizona
Arizona guard Nick Johnson saved the game for the Wildcats with an eye popping defensive play, denying the Aztecs’ Chase Tapley the go ahead layup with two seconds left on the clock that would have won the game for San Diego State.
In one of the most anticipated college basketball matchups of the year—at least on the West Coast—the two teams that are widely considered the best in the West squared off in the finals of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii. The teams did nothing to disparage that impression. It was a game that had all the look, feel, and intensity of a second weekend NCAA Tournament game.
The Wildcats jumped out to the early lead in the first half, with both teams struggling offensively at the start. Arizona led by as many as seven in the first half—their biggest lead of the night—but the Aztecs closed to within two at the half, trailing 29-27. It was an intense, yet sometimes sloppy affair, with the Aztecs turning the ball over 11 times in the first half.
The second half saw the Aztecs take off on a 14-4 run, building what would be their largest lead of the night, eight points. Arizona went on a run of its own to regain the lead in what would become a see-saw affair in which neither team would lead by more than two points in the last 10 minutes of play.
Trailing 67-66, Wildcat guard Mark Lyons drove the lane and drew the foul with 13.1 seconds remaining in the game. He sank both free throws, giving his team a one point advantage, leaving the Aztecs one last trip down the court to earn its first victory over a top five ranked team in school history.
In the game’s final sequence, Chase Tapley received the ball at the top of the key, working around a screen into wide open lane that it appeared would lead to an easy winning bucket for San Diego State. But when you’re playing one of the top teams in the country, nothing comes easy. As Tapley went up for the left handed lay-in, Arizona’s Nick Johnson collapsed down from the free throw line—seemingly out of nowhere—to swat the ball out of Tapley’s hands and harmlessly off the backboard with two seconds remaining on the clock. A mad scramble for the ball ensued, but time ran out, and the Aztecs fell one point short.
It was a game of two heavyweights slugging it out to the bitter end–a game that could very well portend of things to come for both squads in March.