Leading gun owners’ site says — It’s Time to De-Fund the NRA

❝ The National Rifle Association — America’s oldest civil rights organization — is in an existential crisis today brought on by mismanagement, cronyism, and self-dealing by its leadership. Every week brings forth a new allegation, a new bit of evidence that the the NRA’s leaders are more interested in lining their own pockets and enjoying the perquisites of power than promoting marksmanship, gun safety, and defending the right to keep and bear arms.

Every day this circus continues is a day that the NRA’s credibility as an organization takes another hit. This is a dangerous situation for the organization and for American gun owners because — whatever the reality — the identity of gun owners in this country is tightly linked to that of the NRA.

❝ We’d like to say that the NRA’s leadership has stepped up to the plate in response. We’d like to say they’ve at least mouthed the correct words, made promises of transparency going forward, committed to an independent audit of the books, expressed interest in correcting what were inarguably missteps (even if you believe the leadership is innocent of any actual wrongdoing, missteps in communications and public relations have certainly been made,) and of welcoming fresh blood and new voices to its ranks.

We can’t say any of that, though, because they haven’t.

I have a fondness for sporting firearms that goes back to my youth. I grew up in Connecticut, the arsenal of America in my day. My generation was the first in my family NOT to work sometime or other for a gun manufacturer. The two generations preceding, just about every man and a number of the women did work for one or another gun manufacturer – including a gunsmith who worked on the designs of many of today’s modern military rifles.

None of which diminishes my strong feeling about the need for strict regulatory standards. Above and beyond that, the hustlers and con artists who infest the so-called leadership of the NRA need to go. Time to clean house is overdue.

See how little Trump cares about American Families!

The dirty details are over here. Education, social services, healthcare, practically everything built over generations to help the American family find a better life for themselves, their children, their neighbors is dismissed out of hand by the fake president.

Apparently, he counts on military voters and, of course, all the corporations getting a bump in profits from his wartime budget. Except, most of his war is on ordinary Americans.

Measuring human capital — US works its way from #6 down to #27

❝ The United States ranks 27th in the world for its investments in education and health care as measurements of its commitment to economic growth, according to the first-ever scientific study ranking countries for their levels of human capital… In contrast, China’s ranking of 44th in 2016 represents an increase from its 1990 ranking of 69th.

❝ “The decline of human capital in the United States was one of the biggest surprises in our study,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. “Our findings show the association between investments in education and health and improved human capital and GDP – which policymakers here in the US ignore at their own peril. As the world economy grows increasingly dependent on digital technology, from agriculture to manufacturing to the service industry, human capital grows increasingly important for stimulating local and national economies…”

❝ “Clearly, China is on an upward trajectory, while the US, without more strategic investments, especially in education, risks falling behind even further,” Murray said.

I’m surprised that someone whose expertise is in education metrics…is surprised. I left structured education institutions decades ago. Curiosity, interest in society and progress, all combine within my lifestyle to keep me in touch with life in changing societies on this small ball of mud called Earth.

Decline in the character and culture of the United States has been visible enough to anyone willing to look critically since the days of McCarthyism, crushing the trade union movement [including buying a number of misleaders], assumption of the mantle of leading imperial power from the Brits while they dug out from the direct impact of World War 2 – all led rather logically, consistently, to the powerful ignoring most of the needs of the American working class. It was sufficient to provide scraps from a table groaning under so much wealth that maintaining power with two plastic political parties as game pieces was more like playing checkers than chess.

National Rifle Association — Follow the money because that’s all they really care about

The National Rifle Association goes to great lengths (and spends a huge sum of money) to defend the right to bear arms. It is opposed to virtually every form of gun regulation, including restrictions on owning assault weapons, retention of databases of gun purchases, background checks on purchasers at gun shows and changes in the registration of firearms.

The NRA’s influence is felt not only through campaign contributions, but through millions of dollars in off-the-books spending on issue ads. Lobbying expenditures for the National Rifle Association regularly exceed $1.5 million, as the organization’s lobbyists frequently try to exert their influence over government agencies including members of Congress, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Profile for 2014 Election Cycle

CONTRIBUTIONS
$974,152
ranks 239 of 12,337

LOBBYING
$3,360,000 (2014)
$3,410,000 (2013)
ranks 149 of 2,871 in 2014

OUTSIDE SPENDING
$27,024,618
ranks 10 of 138

RTFA for lots of links to details of the how and where these pricks get their money and spend their money.

Thanks, Papa Tom

Canada’s leaving F-35 program boosts costs for other nations, eh?


How many schools could we build for $412 million – each?

As the Pentagon prepares for Canada’s withdrawal from the F-35 jet program, lawmakers in Washington are raising concerns that the U.S. too will have to cut its numbers of stealth fighters because of increasing costs.

Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau has promised to withdraw Canada from the F-35 program, saying it has become too costly. When that will happen is still unclear, as the Liberals won’t unveil the cabinet until Nov. 4.

A Liberal government would hold a competition to replace the current fleet of CF-18s and select a cheaper alternative to the F-35…

The Conservatives committed in 2010 to buy 65 of the aircraft but put that on hold because of the increased costs of the jet and allegations that the procurement process was not properly handled.

Before they were defeated in the election, the Conservatives said no decision on the F-35 had been made. But Bogdan told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday that Canada was scheduled to buy the planes starting in 2017-18.

Harper caught in another lie.

The one-per-cent increase in the cost of the F-35 because of Canada’s decision to pull out of the program appears to be the least of the concerns for supporters of the aircraft.

The program is currently $200 billion over budget. It will cost an estimated $400 billion for the U.S. to buy the 2,443 aircraft it has determined it needs.

This is followed by threats of withholding orders from Canadian firms scheduled as subcontractors.

Trudeau said holding a competition for a new fighter jet would ensure Canadian firms receive work. Under the F-35 program, there were no guarantees Canadian companies would be entitled to a specific amount of work when Canada purchased the aircraft.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Congress to have as much economic gumption as Canada. The Beltway hacks have a consistent record of voting for hardware even when the Pentagon declares it worthless crap.

Internal corruption is what the Border Patrol really needs to crack down on


John Carnett/PopSci

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, is vulnerable to “systematic corruption” by drug cartels, smugglers and other criminals, and investigations of its internal abuses are “chronically slow,” according to a Homeland Security Department report that reveals glaring problems in the agencies that police the nation’s borders.

The abuses are so widespread that Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, should add nearly 350 criminal investigators to target internal corruption and the use of excessive and unnecessary force against migrants, the report concludes. That would boost the internal affairs roster by nearly 166%.

Arrests of border agents and customs officers “far exceed, on a per capita basis, such arrests at other law enforcement agencies,” the…report notes.

“Until this is reversed, [Customs and Border Protection] remains vulnerable to corruption that threatens its effectiveness and national security,” warns the report, which was requested by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

The scathing assessment by the Homeland Security Advisory Council, an independent group that reports to Johnson, also is the latest to slam the Border Patrol for lack of accountability for hundreds of shootings by agents…

In May, the Customs and Border Protection internal affairs office absolved dozens of Border Patrol agents of criminal misconduct in 64 shooting incidents between January 2010 and October 2012, including 19 that resulted in deaths. The Justice Department is still considering charges in three other cases.

Yup. They investigated themselves.

Critics along the Southwest border and in Mexico long have argued that the Border Patrol operates with little transparency or accountability.

Indeed, one of the report’s recommendations is that agents and officers “must wear visible name tags identifying their last name on all uniforms at all times,” a practice that critics say is often ignored. A video posted online of a 21-year-old woman in New York state being Tased at a roadside checkpoint last month shows a Border Patrol supervisor wearing a green tactical vest with no visible name tag…

Vicki B. Gaubeca, co-chair of the Southern Border Communities Coalition…said the report showed how Customs and Border Protection “falls short of law enforcement best practices” and needed to change.

She said the recommendations would help change the Border Patrol “culture of ‘we need to do our job at whatever cost and the only life that seems to be valued is the life of the agent'”…

Understand that this service is probably hiring folks who don’t qualify for TSA. Doesn’t that inspire confidence?

The real owners of “our” government on display at inauguration time


Let’s hear it for Illinois!

Incoming Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner campaigned as a reformer of the state’s often corrupt politics – but, watchdog groups say activities surrounding his inauguration Monday are among the priciest of any incoming governor and take advantage of a loophole in campaign finance that allows wealthy special interests to gain access to those who hold political power…

Rauner, a Republican, is allowing corporate donors to kick in as much as $100,000 for inauguration events, and letting individuals spend up to $25,000.

It’s only about $10 million among friends. Who cares what that money could have meant to schoolkids or the unemployed? Certainly, not the governor or his buddies.

He is hardly alone. Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, will accept up to $50,000 per donor. Corporate sponsorship packages for inaugural events by Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, both Republicans, cost $30,000 and $25,000 respectively…

The price tag for gubernatorial inaugurations is dwarfed by presidential celebrations. President Barack Obama did not allow corporate donors for his first inauguration, though just 211 individuals covered 80 percent of the $35.3 million price tag. For his second inauguration, Obama accepted unlimited corporate donations.

Inauguration events are essentially private parties that are considered non-partisan and are funded by special committees. Under federal and state campaign laws, the inauguration committees are not required to disclose spending or donor names because the inauguration exists outside the election process. All money raised for the events is meant to cover expenses, with surpluses typically given to charity.

In recent years, the events have transformed from honorary banquets to ticketed, star-studded concerts and lavish balls. Donors gain access to events and also can get their names splashed in programs and across other marketing materials.

The process has created the perception that these are veiled opportunities for lobbyists and other corporate interests to curry favor with lawmakers…

What “created the perception” means, of course, is these are public displays of who actually holds the power of the state in their hands.

According to the Illinois Observer, Rauner and his wife are also hosting a private “business roundtable and reception” in Chicago this month that costs $25,000 per couple for both events.

Rauner Spokesman Mike Schrimpf says donors will be disclosed but would not say when. He also would not say where any surplus money would go.

I have occasionally posted, edited and participated in blogs and websites where Class Warfare is acknowledged. I admit, some of the sites that use my work not only deny such an analysis; but, the owners vigorously oppose the concept – and the reality.

Welcome to the United States of America at the beginning of the 21st Century.

Sooner or later, I am confident that more and more reality will intrude into the befuddled lives of ordinary Americans. Economic and social practices affecting all of us can’t be denied by beer commercials and glorious patriotic music forever. We are, after all, a species capable of learning from our mistakes.

I just hope it doesn’t take as long as the discovery that the Earth is round.