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Carl Hiaasen divulges the not-so-secret purpose of the NRA

Like most gun owners in this country, I’m not an NRA member. It’s possible that Wayne LaPierre got my name off a mailing list from catalogs that sell hunting gear.

LaPierre is the NRA’s perpetually apoplectic “executive vice president.” You see him on TV preaching against gun control, practically levitating with paranoia. He signed the letter that arrived with the nifty duffel-bag offer.

One thing about Wayne, he likes to underline. He’s also fond of bold-face type, and of capitalizing important words. This rises to a fever pitch when he’s writing about “anti-gun members of Congress”:

And they will not stop until they BAN hundreds of commonly owned firearms, PROHIBIT private transfers of firearms, CLOSE gun shops and shows, and DESTROY your freedom to defend yourself, your home and your loved ones.

Here’s another beauty:

Remember, gun ban politicians and their media allies are on the attack. And the future of your freedom is at stake.

LaPierre might seem like an under-medicated whack job, but he’s just acting. His job is to frighten people, and to sell more guns.

Major firearms manufacturers such as Smith &Wesson and Beretta have given millions of dollars to the NRA. Sturm & Ruger donated a dollar from every gun sale to the organization from May 2011 to May 2012, raising $1.25 million.

This isn’t mentioned in Wayne’s letter. He calls the NRA a “grassroots membership organization,” when in reality it’s a cold-hearted lobby for the gun industry.

Psst! Look over hear. I got some punditry for you, right behind this curtain...

Joel Benenson and Katie Connolly take a look at the right's favorite gun safety dodge.

In polls, a slight majority of Americans consistently say that we need better enforcement of our gun laws. But there’s a problem with that: many don’t really know what our gun laws are. ...

In a nationwide poll our firm recently conducted for the Democratic National Committee, we asked 800 voters what action they want our government to take: “enforce current gun laws more strictly but not pass new laws” or “pass new gun laws in addition to enforcing current laws more strictly.” It came as no surprise to us that they chose better enforcement by 50 percent to 43 percent. (The remainder responded “neither” or “don’t know.”)

But in the same poll, 87 percent of voters, including nearly 90 percent of gun owners, said they support background checks for all gun sales. Significant majorities of voters and of gun owners also told us they support banning military-style assault weapons along with the high-capacity magazines that enable those weapons to fire dozens of rounds without reloading.

The whole "enforce current laws" thing is so inherently weighted to draw an emotional response that it falls right next to "when did you stop beating your wife" on the list of relevant survey questions.

Betsey Stevenson looks at myths about the minimum wage.

In February’s State of the Union address, President Obama provoked conservatives’ ire by proposing an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9. Especially in a struggling economy, wouldn’t a minimum-wage boost increase unemployment and hurt small businesses? ...

in a survey of 40 leading economists through the Initiative on Global Markets, a diverse group including both prominent liberals and conservatives, only about a third agreed that raising the minimum wage would make it harder for low-skilled workers to find employment. Because only about one in 10 thought the costs of hiring probably would be bigger than the benefits of higher wages for low-skilled workers, even that number overstates how concerned these economists are about the potential negative effects of raising the minimum wage.  

This is your Arm Yourself for Discussion read of the week.

Frank Bruni goes hunting, but doesn't exactly become a fan.

People who rhapsodize about the glory of hunting never mention what an unfair fight it is. ...
Hunting is always coming up when the country is debating new restrictions on firearms, as we are now. Opponents of such basic gun-control measures as universal background checks and an assault-weapons ban talk of slippery slopes and raise the specter of parents’ being unable to lend shotguns to their children for a wholesome duck or deer hunt. They assert the importance to hunters of certain semiautomatics that might be prohibited. ...
And it’s hooey.
I have to admit that my own good feelings about hunting are now more tied to sepia-tone images of nostalgia than desire for what ends up in the (blood proof, washable) game pocket of my jacket. Still, I don't find hunting nearly as objectionable as Bruni. Or as easy. His "preserve" experience — a superabundance of plump birds reluctant to fly — isn't even close to anything I've experienced.

The New York Times speaks for the bees, for the bees have no voice.

Every beekeeper, small or large, hobbyist or commercial, knows that honeybees are in trouble. Over the past decade, bee colonies have been dying in increasing numbers. Last year was especially bad. Perhaps as many as half the hives kept by commercial beekeepers died in 2012. The loss has created a crisis among fruit and vegetable growers, who depend on bees to pollinate their crops. ...

In mid-March, environmental groups and beekeepers sued the Environmental Protection Agency to persuade it to withdraw its approval of two of the most widely used neonicotinoids. The manufacturers of these chemicals — notably Syngenta and Bayer CropScience — have claimed again and again that they are safe. And it is true that bees face other stresses. Even so, beekeepers managed to keep their hives relatively healthy before the increased use of neonicotinoids began in 2005.

Which doesn't mean that there's necessarily a strong relationship between the deaths and these chemicals. If you thought this mystery was solved, or the bee problem on then mend... wrong.

Maureen Dowd thinks there's no doubt Hillary will run, and nearly as little doubt that she'll win.

Joe Biden wants the job. He’s human (very). But he’s a realist. He knows the Democratic Party has a messianic urge to finish what it started so spectacularly with the election of Barack Obama — busting up the world’s most exclusive white-bread old-boys’ club. And he knows that women, both Democratic and Republican, want to see one of their own in the White House and became even more militant while listening to the G.O.P.’s retrogressive talk about contraception and vaginal probes last year.
The only thing that might stop Hillary? Hillary.
Did she learn, from her debacle with health care, to be more transparent and less my-way-or-the-highway? Did she learn, after voting to support W.’s nonsensical invasion of Iraq without even reading the intelligence estimate, that she doesn’t need to overcompensate to show she’s tough? (No one, even Fox News, thinks she’s a Wellesley hippie anymore.)
...
Even top Democrats who plan to support Hillary worry about her two sides. One side is the idealistic public servant who wants to make the world a better place. The other side is darker, stemming from old insecurities; this is the side that causes her to make decisions from a place of fear and to second-guess herself. It dulls her sense of ethics and leads to ends-justify-the-means wayward ways. This is the side that compels her to do anything to win, like hiring the scummy strategists Dick Morris and Mark Penn, and greedily grab for what she feels she deserves.
Joe Nocera interviews "liberal gun lover" Dan Baum. Unfortunately, Baum's arguments break down into two categories: defeatism (it's too late to do anything, changes won't help, gun laws do more harm than good) or self promotion (repeating the phrase "gun guys", the title of Baum's book, a hundred times). Fresh insight level: zero.

Neil Irwin examines the mystery of why democracy seems so anxious to give away democracy.

On both sides of the Atlantic, democratically elected institutions have been helpless, slow or unable to act on the scale needed to protect the leading Western economies. And time and again, the central bankers—a group of secretive, unelected technocrats—have stood up while presidents and parliaments dithered.

In a democratic society, there will always be tension over which decisions should be made by expert appointees, and which by those with the legitimacy and accountability that come with competing for citizens’ votes. The technocrats can make complex decisions quickly, quietly and efficiently. The words “quick, “quiet” and “efficient” are rarely applied to the U.S. Senate or the Italian Parliament — but these institutions are imbued with an authority that comes directly from the people, the explicit consent of the governed.

So, in a crisis, which do you want: unaccountable decisiveness or inefficient accountability?

Consciously or not, we’ve made our choice: The financial crisis and its long, ugly aftermath have marked the triumph of the technocrats.

Uglier still? Irwin decides that he'll take "decisiveness" from the guys who caused the problems in the first place over messy old democracy. Gee, I wonder if they can make the trains run on time.

David Ignatius argues that Americans are tired of wars we have and leery of another.  Yes, David, and a lot of us were leery before we lost trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives in the current round of disasters.

Doyle MacManus polishes the crystal ball.

The front-runner at this point for the 2016 Republican nomination is Marco Rubio.

In two polls of Republican voters released last week, the freshman senator from Florida turned up in first place, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush fairly close behind.

...even though they can't predict the winner three years from now, these surveys tell us something about the mood of Republican voters today.

A closer look at the results tells us that it's a wide-open race. Republican voters are looking for a new face, not a familiar figure. But they're also looking, it seems, for a reliably conservative face; no moderates need apply.

Pick a guy people don't know screaming ideas people don't like. Yes, GOP, please go with that.

Leonard Pitts says that casual acceptance of rape isn't restricted to Republican candidates.

Perhaps you’re old enough to remember when, as a culture, we decided to take rape seriously. If you recall public service announcements telling you that “no means no,” if you saw police implement policies aimed at more sensitive treatment of rape victims, if you were paying attention when the boss chasing the secretary around the desk ceased to be a comic staple, perhaps you can appreciate what strange times we find ourselves in.
This is short essay. Read it.

Jacqui Cheng presents a step by step guide to cloning at home. Just remember: this is for your kids, as in something for them to try, not for your kids as in producing a small army of minions.

Originally posted to Devil's Tower on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 03:36 AM PDT.

Also republished by Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA), Shut Down the NRA, and Daily Kos.

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