“Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!”
By Doug Porter
The New York Times kicked off a series of investigative articles yesterday examining the gun industry’s influence and the wide availability of firearms in America. First up in the investigation: a look at industry/NRA marketing aimed at young people.
Threatened by long-term declining participation in shooting sports, the firearms industry has poured millions of dollars into a broad campaign to ensure its future by getting guns into the hands of more, and younger, children.
The industry’s strategies include giving firearms, ammunition and cash to youth groups; weakening state restrictions on hunting by young children; marketing an affordable military-style rifle for “junior shooters” and sponsoring semiautomatic-handgun competitions for youths; and developing a target-shooting video game that promotes brand-name weapons, with links to the Web sites of their makers.
The pages of Junior Shooters, an industry-supported magazine that seeks to get children involved in the recreational use of firearms, once featured a smiling 15-year-old girl clutching a semiautomatic rifle. At the end of an accompanying article that extolled target shooting with a Bushmaster AR-15 — an advertisement elsewhere in the magazine directed readers to a coupon for buying one — the author encouraged youngsters to share the article with a parent.
“Who knows?” it said. “Maybe you’ll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!”
God and Country First, Says Arizona to High School Students
Legislation proposed in Arizona will require a loyalty oath of public high school students prior receiving a diploma. House Bill 2467, was introduced by GOP Rep. Bob Thorpe, a freshman tea party member who also backs a bill preventing state enforcement of federally enacted gun safety laws. From Think Progress:
As written, the bill does not exempt atheist students or those of different faiths from the requirement, though Thorpe has pledged to amend the measure. “In that we had a tight deadline for dropping our bills, I was not able to update the language,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Arizona Republic. “Even though I want to encourage all of our students to understand and respect our Constitution and constitutional form of government, I do not want to create a requirement that students or parents may feel uncomfortable with.”
A separate measure introduced by Thorpe’s colleague would also “require all students in first through 12th grades” “to say the pledge of allegiance each day.” Currently, “schools must set aside time for the pledge each day, but students may choose whether to participate.”
Constitutional experts warn that both proposals are unconstitutional. As American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona Public Policy Director Anjali Abraham explained, “You can’t require students to attend school … and then require them to either pledge allegiance to the flag or swear this loyalty oath in order to graduate. It’s a violation of the First Amendment.”
We Don’t Need No Test-i-cation
The decision by teachers at schools in Seattle, Washington to boycott high stakes testing has attracted national attention, fueling a growing debate about the misuse of standardized tests in public education.
Teachers are refusing to administer the state’s Measures of Academy Progress tests because, saying the exams don’t evaluate learning, are a waste of time, not aligned with the curriculum and being inappropriately being used by administrators to evaluate teachers, a purpose for which it was not designed. District administrators have defended the test.
The boycott is being supported by parents and students, along with a group of more than 200 researchers, educators and education activists, including Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Kozol.
Despite support from the Obama administration and corporate funded “education reform” organizations, this boycott is part of an expanding revolt against high-stakes standardized tests and the use of students’ scores to evaluate teachers, schools, districts and states.
Parents have started to opt out of having their children take high-stakes tests; school boards have approved resolutions calling for an end to test-based accountability systems; thousands of people have signed a national resolution protesting high-stakes tests; some superintendents have spoken out, and so have teachers. The presidents of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, with more than 4.5 million members have also issued statements supporting boycott.
This movement has been building momentum in the last year, since Robert Scott, then the commissioner of education in Texas, said publicly that the mentality that standardized testing is the “end-all, be-all” is a “perversion” of what a quality education should be.
The National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing has more than 13,700 individual and almost 460 organizational endorsers. It calls on the U.S. Congress and Administration “to overhaul [NCLB,] reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability, and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators.”
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association as well as individual boards in Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Virginia have endorsed the resolution. In New York State, a letter protesting New York State’s teacher evaluation policy and its reliance on student test scores has been signed by 1,512 principals from urban, suburban and rural schools, representing more than one-third of all principals in the state.
Filner Fires Lobbyists, UT-San Diego Spins It
Mayor Bob Filner has fired the lobbyists hired by former Mayor Jerry Saunders. Since the contract for lobbying services cost the City of San Diego less than $250,000, he was entirely within his legal rights to do so, under the current ‘strong-mayor’ system.
The UT-San Diego reported the story as if the firing was representative of yet another schism between the Mayor and the City Council. The paper has actively been promoting this ‘division’, hoping to drive a political wedge between the two branches. I’ll give the Council bi-partisan credit here for refusing to play along. Council members have generally refused to give the paper quotes attacking Filner.
Here’s how the UT-San Diego spun it on Sunday:
Mayor Bob Filner has quietly fired San Diego’s lobbyists in Sacramento and Washington, threatening to further strain an already tense relationship between his office and the City Council.
The abrupt dismissals leave the city without an important voice in both capitals right when the first round of budgets and legislative priorities are being crafted.
What the paper conveniently left out of the story was the advocacy by the fired lobbyists of developments proposed by UT Publisher Doug Manchester worth hundreds of millions of dollars. From Matt Potter at the SD Reader:
According to Senate disclosure reports covering the final half of 2012, one of the hottest issues on the Patton Boggs lobbying agenda was downtown’s Navy Broadway Complex, the mammoth project promoted by GOP funder, La Jolla hotel magnate, and U-T San Diego publisher Douglas F. Manchester.
[The] So-called Navy Broadway, involving the conversion of choice Navy-owned bay front property in downtown San Diego into a giant hotel, retail and office complex, has had a tortured history, with Filner’s termination of Sanders-friendly Patton Boggs just one more chapter in the controversial saga.
Yet another twist in the long-running battle occurred this week when the California Coastal Commission filed suit in federal court here against Manchester‘s development arm, Manchester Pacific Gateway, and the Navy over the development.
Jesus Joins the Gun Debate
You knew it was just a matter of time. In their quest to rationalize the unfettered ownership of firearms, the pro-NRA types have invoked the bible. David French, over at the conservative National Review, makes the religious argument:
What does all this mean? Essentially that gun control represents not merely a limitation on a constitutional right but a limitation on a God-given right of man that has existed throughout the history of civil society. All rights — of course — are subject to some limits (the right of free speech is not unlimited, for example), and there is much room for debate on the extent of those limits, but state action against the right of self-defense is by default a violation of the natural rights of man, and the state’s political judgment about the limitations of that right should be viewed with extreme skepticism and must overcome a heavy burden of justification.
Holy crap. (Excuse the pun) Rather than rant for a couple of thousand words, I’ll let Andrew Sullivan over at The Daily Beast, who brought this blasphemy up on my radar, respond.
The whole point of Christianity, on a personal level, is a refusal to use violence even in self-defense and even when one’s own life is threatened. For centuries, this radical nonviolence was celebrated by the church in its canonization of martyrs who chose to be mauled alive by animals than submit to the civil order’s paganism. Martyrdom was the first and ultimate form of nonviolent resistance to injustice and, like the Christian-rooted civil rights movement or Gandhi’s campaign for independence, it was precisely this staggering refusal to defend oneself, the insistence on being completely disarmed, that changed global consciousness. It was what made Christians different. It’s what made Martin Luther King Jr different. To use Jesus as an advocate of armed self-defense is almost comical if it were not so despicable.
This man is now a symbol for “pro-family” and “pro-gun” Republicanism. And yet he had no property to defend, no wife to protect, no children to keep safe, no house to live in. He never carried a weapon and rebuked his friends when they used one against a mob armed with clubs and swords about to arrest and torture him to death. He was homeless, completely dependent on the good will, shelter and food of others. He was, as today’s Republicans would say, a “taker”. But of course, it is in giving that you receive in Christianity. Jesus inverted the entire maker-taker paradigm. So no, congressman Ryan, you cannot be a disciple of Ayn Rand and Jesus of Nazareth. In any way whatsoever.
Pot Policies Probed
With everything else going on, it’s easy to overlook the transformation going on in public attitudes towards the war on drugs. According to a Rasmussen poll in November, 82% of Americans believe the U.S. is losing the war on drugs and are unenthusiastic about spending more money to win it.
The Sunday LA Times took a look at what’s going on in Colorado, which voted last year to legalize recreational marijuana usage:
The state has become a nucleus of the rapidly evolving marijuana industry, offering a glimpse at what life might be like if weed is legalized nationwide, with companies, entrepreneurs and investors maneuvering for a piece of the expected boom.
Dispensaries are handing out glossy prospectuses to lure investors. Luxury cannabis leisure magazines in the vein of Cigar Aficionado are promoting the industry and cannabis tourism. Companies are jostling for various sectors of the market, from grow lights to point-of-sale systems. And marijuana growers are shedding the pothead vibe to sell their services to MBAs, who may have the capital to get started but not the arcane knowledge required to produce good weed.
The giant caveat hanging over this new marketplace is how the Justice Department will react.
The Huffington Post ran a rather lengthy tome yesterday exploring the Federal government’s schizophrenic approach to the increasingly public profile of pot. If it seems like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, that’s because it’s exactly what’s going on. For now it seems that the prohibitionists are in charge, if for no other reason than abandoning the war on drugs could lead to budget reductions.
…the Department of Justice has cracked down hard on medical marijuana, raiding hundreds of dispensaries, while the IRS and other federal law enforcement officials have gone after banks and landlords who do business with them. Fours years after promising not to make medical marijuana a priority, the government continues to target it aggressively.
The war has played out not just between federal authorities and the pot industry, but between competing factions within the federal government, as well as between local and state officials and the more aggressive federal prosecutors and drug warriors. As officials in Washington fought over whether and how to continue the war on pot, U.S. attorneys in the states helped beat back local efforts to regulate the medical marijuana industry, going so far as to threaten elected officials with jail. The willingness of elements within the Department of Justice, including its top prosecutors, to use their power in brazenly political ways is, in many ways, the untold story of Obama’s first-term approach to drug policy.
The Justice Department may respond to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington and Colorado in several ways. One option would be to go after low-level marijuana users as scapegoats and seek a court ruling that would declare federal law trumps state law. One of the more extreme options, which officials acknowledge is currently being weighed by the department’s Civil Division, would be to preempt the laws by suing the states in the same way the feds sued Arizona over its harsh immigration law. Federal authorities could sue Washington and Colorado on the basis that any effort to regulate marijuana would violate the federal Controlled Substances Act.
“The question is whether you want to pick that fight,” a former Justice official said.
Republicans Get Religion on Immigration Reform
The big news on just about everybody’s front page this morning is that proposals for immigration reform are in the works. A bi-partisan group of Senators (four of each flavor, no tea party members) have announced a “framework” for legislation that includes a “pathway” to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.
No doubt the final bill will include free ponies for those making over $250,000 a year and the promise that even more money will be spent with the corporations winning contracts to secure our borders. After all, the government spent more on border enforcement last year that all other forms of law enforcement.
The Fiscal Times reports that, over the past year, the Obama administration has spent $17.9 billion to deal with illegal immigration issues, more than what is allocated to the total budgets of the FBI, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. And the border crossing apprehensions in 2011 declined to 340,252, which is a 40-year low.
But no matter what bill (Obama’s announcing his program in Las Vegas on Tuesday) is passed, you can rest assured that more money will be allocated for border patrols. The Republican rational is simple. Here’s Sen. John McCain, who has flip flopped on immigration issues once again, on ABC’s This Week:
Well, look, I’ll give you a little straight talk. Look at the last election.Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours for a variety of reasons, and we’ve got to understand that. Second of all, we can’t go on forever with 11 million people living in this country in the shadows in an illegal status. We cannot forever have children who were brought here by their parents when they were small children to live in the shadows, as well. So I think the time is right.
On This Day: 1878 – The first telephone switchboard was installed in New Haven, CT. 1985 – The song “We Are the World” was recorded. More than 40 artists were involved. The proceeds went toward worldwide hunger prevention. 1986 – The space shuttle Challenger exploded just after takeoff. All seven of its crewmembers were killed.
On This Day: Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmers’ Markets: Escondido (Welk Resort 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive) 1pm –Sunset
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.