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As was noted in yesterday’s Weekly Briefing, “A Tax Day sermon,” it can be a fascinating exercise to briefly contemplate just how far to the right American politics have been pushed in the last few decades as a result of the influx of big corporate money.

“In 2014, the United States is a place: in which a deranged Nevada cattle herder named Cliven Bundy can defy federal law and be transformed overnight into a far right celebrity, in which the party of Lincoln in one of the stronghold union states of the Civil War can vote to explore secession, in which conservative religious groups who claim to follow the teachings of a humble and un-propertied carpenter can champion tax cuts for the rich and in which North Carolina — one of the old confederate states that has made such great headway in escaping its dreadful and reactionary past – can roll back several decades of painstaking progress toward modernity in as many months.”

Here’s another rather amazing indicator: the nation’s disastrous abandonment of the settled meaning of the Second Amendment. In his new book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution” (an excerpt of which appeared recently in the Washington Post) retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (a 1975 Ford appointee) proposes returning the Second Amendment to its long-settled meaning by adding five words (italicized below) so that it would read:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

Stevens’ proposal makes obvious sense and the fact that we would have to go to such trouble shows just how far out of hand things have gotten. Here’s another amazing indicator from Stevens’ book of our mass, national departure from common sense: a quote Stevens attributes to former Chief Justice Warren Burger — another conservative Republican. This is from Stevens’ book:

“When I joined the court in 1975, that holding was generally understood as limiting the scope of the Second Amendment to uses of arms that were related to military activities. During the years when Warren Burger was chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge or justice expressed any doubt about the limited coverage of the amendment, and I cannot recall any judge suggesting that the amendment might place any limit on state authority to do anything.

Organizations such as the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and mounted a vigorous campaign claiming that federal regulation of the use of firearms severely curtailed Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Five years after his retirement, during a 1991 appearance on ‘The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,’ Burger himself remarked that the Second Amendment ‘has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.’” (Emphasis supplied).

To which all a caring and thinking person can add is: “Amen (and amend).”

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Food labelIf you’re getting ready to pop open a cup of yogurt or a can of soup for lunch today, be sure to take note of the nutrition label as it’s about to get a smidge more relevant and informative in the near future thanks to a new Food and Drug Administration directive and some helpful advocacy from First Lady Michelle Obama.  And, of course, it probably won’t be long before the denizens of the Pope Empire inform us that this is all a matter of big government quashing the “freedom” of unfettered markets.

And speaking of “free” markets, the right wing is — amazingly enough — weighing in again of late to inform us that not only is raising the minimum wage a terrible idea, but so, indeed, is the VERY IDEA of minimum wage laws. First it was the John Locke Foundation in this essay last week and then, yesterday, it was state House Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis.

And speaking of the U.S. Senate, here’s a doozy: Read More

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Demand a plan on gunsIn this must-read, Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick discusses the growing use of “stand your ground” laws across the country and poses this question:  Whatever happened to the duty to retreat, and what does that say about us as a nation?

Her answer, sadly, is an astute one.  We are now an armed and terrified people who assume that everyone has a gun and everyone is justified in using it.

I would say that, whether or not specific jurisdictions define self-defense to include a duty to retreat, and whether or not specific juries are charged to apply it, America is quickly becoming one big “stand your ground” state, as a matter of culture if not the letter of the law.

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Think about it: The National Rifle Association that has pushed so hard for “stand your ground” laws in recent years is the same National Rifle Association that has put so many guns, and such lethal guns, in so many hands—concealed carry, open carry, wave-it-around-and-call-it-free-speech carry. The gun lobby has single-handedly made certain that the very definition of what one might reasonably expect from an altercation at a Walmart, a movie theater, or a gas station has changed. By seeking to arm everyone in America, the NRA has in fact changed our reasonable expectation of how fights will end, into a self-fulfilling prophecy about how fights will end.

 

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The following is from the website Dictionary.com:

par·a·noi·a [par-uh-noi-uh], noun
1. Psychiatry. a mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions and the projection of personal conflicts, which are ascribed to the supposed hostility of others, sometimes progressing to disturbances of consciousness and aggressive acts believed to be performed in self-defense or as a mission. 2.baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others. Also, par·a·noe·a [par-uh-nee-uh]. Origin:  1805–15;  < Neo-Latin  < Greek paránoia  madness. See para-, nous, -ia

Here’s something else that the editors  might have added to the above definition:

3. The characteristic of being so absurdly and maniacally obsessed with a single public policy issue that one deludes oneself into believing that every other policy matter pales in importance and, indeed, that advocacy surrounding all other matters is really part of a conspiracy to target one’s issue. 4. The belief that millions of good people should suffer in the shadows so that it can be assured that a few thousand souls can purchase and own mass killing machines without meaningful regulation.  See for example: The American gun lobby.

If you think this is an exaggeration, check out the following news item:

The national pro-gun advocacy group Gun Owners of America issued an alert last week Read More

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Recently the staff at the Pope-Civitas Institute became concerned that some were confusing their group with an unrelated media company known as Civitas Media — which had supposedly been seeking public  records related to individuals with licenses to carry concealed weapons.

As it turns out, the story about Civitas Media was unfounded, but that didn’t stop the Pope-Civitas folks from sending out a fundraising letter last Friday featuring this photo of staff members demonstrating their support for guns and “concealed-carry.”   The photo is also posted on the Pope-Civitas website (which you can view by clicking  here).