Posts Tagged ‘NRA’

‘Enemy of the People’? Not the Press

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

capital gazette reader

Little did I know.

A week later, an angry white male with a shotgun and a history of threats shot and killed five people at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md. For a brief time in my career, I was managing editor of the Evening Capital, which the Baltimore Sun later bought and merged with the Capital’s sister paper, the Maryland Gazette.

When I saw the first report on the shooting, I had an “Oh my God” moment. Who? But I quickly did the math and realized that, having left Annapolis more than 40 years ago, the odds that anyone I worked with was still there were slim to none. Also, the paper had long moved from its old offices on West Street — a convenient walk to the State Capitol, Governor’s Mansion, Historic District, the Naval Academy and City Dock — to a modern building farther from downtown.

Still. People were shot at The Capital, I said, processing the information, and Donald Trump keeps calling the press “the enemy of the people” and conservative commentators and “pundits” keep issuing warnings about the media’s “time being up.”

This is not only not normal, this is dangerous because the most rabid followers of Trump and the media-bashers include some people with a violent nature who are looking for any excuse to use the guns they are hoarding to attack the “enemy” as fingered by their leader. That includes, at the top of the list, those who report the facts.

For Trump, that means anyone who points out his daily lies, mistakes, failures and contradictions and their impact on the rest of us. The so-called mainstream media. The big guys, to him. But to many Trump followers, that label translates to any journalist anywhere, including Annapolis.

This is classic government by fear-mongering. Angry white males keep slaughtering school children in America and newspapers report the facts and, in many cases, publish editorials and columns calling for more responsible gun laws. Trump, after first acting like he agrees with the need to pass sensible gun restrictions and criticizing Republican congressmen for being “afraid of the NRA,” then gets in bed with the NRA and points his finger at “the enemy” — the press — for reporting “fake news.”
“Defend the Second Amendment!” shout the zealots. “It’s the press’ fault!”

They apparently never heard of, or don’t care about or understand, the First Amendment, but I think most Americans do. I also think most Americans are a bit spoiled and lazy about understanding and appreciating what Freedom of the Press means to them.

It means that reporters in Annapolis, for example, can keep readers informed on meetings of local groups and schools, report on city council or state legislative action, local sports news, the status of the Chesapeake Bay and changes at the Naval Academy and editorial writers can offer reasoned opinion on the news of the day, unswayed by political or business interests.

Does this happen so purely every day at every paper in every community in America? Of course not. But I believe it it does in most. I am convinced by more than a half century of working with journalists that getting the story right and telling it the best way possible is still the primary objective.

For most journalists, the pay is good, but not spectacular. The ego is fed by the byline. The job is alternately fun, interesting, boring, challenging, stressful and always unpredictable, which may be the best part.

I mentioned I was managing editor of The Capital briefly in the 1970s at the height of the Watergate scandal. The unpredictable happened to me one morning when I was news editor. At the regular morning news meeting, the managing editor and editor got into an argument over something of great import of which I no longer have any memory. The managing editor abruptly stood up and said, “I quit!” and marched out the door of the editor’s office. Without missing a beat (at least that’s how I remember it), the editor pointed to me and said, “Gaydos, you’re managing editor.”

I eventually left Annapolis with that good personal story and wound up in Middletown, N.Y., another small city with a lot of good local journalists telling readers what was going on in the area. Among other things, I wrote editorials calling for sensible gun control laws, not repeal of the Second Amendment. Those sentiments continue to be expressed in the local paper and reporters and editors continue to do their best to serve the public, operating with sharply reduced resources due to an industry-wide corporate culture that is more interested in maximizing income than increasing the news hole.

Those newsroom people may irritate a politician occasionally, but as I see it, that’s part of the press’s responsibility of telling the truth. They are not, however, the enemy of the people any more than the five employees of the Capital Gazette who were gunned down in Annapolis. Just average Americans doing their jobs.

Words have power. When those in position of power use words recklessly — and Trump does so routinely — innocent people can be hurt. The facts speak for themselves. The Amendments to the Constitution are in order for a reason. People should not have to live in fear for speaking or writing the truth. That’s what makes America great.

I have many memories and mixed feelings about my time in Annapolis. It’s a great town. In the end, it’s all part of my story. But I am saddened by the newspaper’s — the city’s — loss and I hope and pray that more Americans wake up soon to the real enemy of the people.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

 

And So it Went: ‘2nd Amendment people’, ‘ISIS’ … more Trump ‘do-overs’

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump ... shooting off his mouth again

Donald Trump
… shooting off his mouth again

It was The Week of the Do-Overs: Actually, for Donald Trump and Republicans, it has been nothing but one do-over after another as the disintegration of their party continues in the guise of a presidential campaign.

Most recently, the man “who tells it like it is” and “says what he means” has been going around saying that President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were the founders of ISIS. That is so absurd on the face of it that only a rabid Trump supporter would believe it. But Trump said it often enough that his spokespersons (the most hapless lot of sycophants in history I have to believe) defended it all over TV. Then Trump did what he always does — a do-over. I didn’t mean it, he said. It was “sarcasm,” he said. His lackies moved on.

Trump also said that if Clinton won the presidency there would be no way to stop her from appointing Supreme Court judges who would not be amenable to conservative points of view. Then he added that maybe the “Second Amendment people” might be able to do something about it. When even Republicans said this was a possibly treasonous call for assassination of his opponent, Trump eventually said, well, he meant that politically they might do it. A do-over.

But there are no do-overs when you suggest that killing your opponent would be an acceptable political act. Not in this country where innocent people are murdered for no reason by deranged men with guns every day and the NRA buys congressional support to defeat any reasonable efforts at gun control. Not when all it takes is for one of those unstable Trump followers to get a gun and follow his leader’s suggestion. Some of them don’t even know what sarcasm is.

Trump is a threat, an insult, a slur, a lie, a boast, an absurdity waiting to happen anytime he speaks. Life to him is one, big do-over. He doesn’t tell it like it is; most of the time he doesn’t know what it’s like. He makes it up. Then, because he’s Trump, he expects to be able to say, “That’s not what I meant” or “the media misinterpreted it” and have everything be OK. He never even suggests an apology for any possible harm his words might cause.

For example, he recently said he “always wanted to get a Purple Heart,” one of the dumbest statements I have ever heard. Trump said it in the midst of insulting a father whose son earned the medal in losing his life in combat saving many of his fellow soldiers in Iraq. Because the man is a Muslim and used the platform of the Democratic Convention to attack Trump’s targeting of Muslims, Trump belittled the man by suggesting he was possibly an ISIS agent. Then, Trump showed how small he is himself (not just his hands) by saying he “always wanted” a Purple Heart and being given one by a veteran was “easier.” Ha ha. Joke.

Thousands of men and women who earned Purple Hearts by being wounded in combat were not amused. They would take no do-overs on this slur. If Trump wants to learn more about these wounded veterans, he can visit the Purple Heart Museum in New WIndsor, N.Y.. It’s not far from where he did his only “military duty” at the New York Military Academy.

But really, this is all the same, week after week. He knows Putin; he doesn’t know Putin. He’s not so sure about supporting NATO allies. What’s a Crimea? What’s the big deal about using nukes? Trump doesn’t tell it like it is. Rather, to use the overworn phrase, he is what he is. A phony, in so far over his head that he is trying desperately to find a way out. The debates are supposedly rigged, he says, so maybe he won’t take on Clinton. The elections are also rigged, he says, so he can’t possibly win.

The ones who really want a do-over are Republican “leaders” who allowed this racist bully to claim their prized possession — candidate for president of the United States. A man with no morals, no compassion, no intellect, no regard for anyone but himself. A man who mocks people with disabilities. A man who says he wanted to punch all those Democrats saying nasty things about him. This, to him, is reasonable discourse for someone wanting to be president of the United States. For shame.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is supposedly OK with Trump avoiding the debates and is his chief apologist. Well, Priebus, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan can go on denouncing Trump’s statements and supporting his candidacy at the same time, but it only makes them look like spineless fools. The know-nothings to whom Trump appeals will stick with them. That’s not enough to save the party of Lincoln. Their day of reckoning is looming.

It seems to me that any Republican with a shred of decency and self-respect, not to mention common sense, should have abandoned Trump and the GOP apologists by now. Any Republican male with a wife or daughters, or both, should have written him off months ago for his comments about women. Any veteran, any Hispanic, any Muslim, any black, any gay, any parent, any woman, any man who respects this country and has hopes for its future needs to look in the mirror and ask, “How can I live with myself if I vote for Donald Trump?”

Evangelicals will have to reckon with their maker.

Some mistakes have no do-overs.

rjgaydos@gmail.com   

Hogan

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

NRA , sorry kid (3)Bill Hogan

Is a Rational Debate on Guns Possible?

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013
Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre, NRA chief

By Bob Gaydos

Well, all it took for America to finally enter into a serious, rational discussion of gun control was for 20 kindergarten students to get gunned down in school by a troubled young man with an automatic weapon and lots of ammo. Who says we’ve become desensitized?

I mean, it is perfectly rational for the chairwoman of a legislative committee in Ulster County, N.Y., to argue against her state’s recently enacted tough gun control law by stating: “Genocide is almost always preceded by gun confiscation. History tells us that.” That’s rational isn’t it?

After all, that threat of government confiscation of guns is right out of the literature of the National Rifle Association, proud defender of all citizens’ rights, or at least those rights as the NRA interprets them in the Second Amendment. And genocide is not a loaded word meant to inspire fear in the minds of the less-informed members of the citizenry, is it?

Of course not. All the sturm und drung among self-declared fans of the Second Amendment — the marches and demonstrations and outraged letters to the editor — are, at least as the NRA sees it, justified sensible responses to proposals by President Barack Obama and countless political leaders around the country, including in New York, to rob them of their right to own as many guns as they want, of as many types, with as much ammo, and, truth be told, the right to carry them around anywhere they want, concealed or not, whenever they want.

Because you never know when the government is going to come after you. Hey, look at Ruby Ridge, right? Right. But setting aside the right or wrong of that incident for a moment, who won that particular shootout? And if the motivation for unfettered gun ownership is to protect citizens against their own government — as the NRA leadership often claims — how in the name of anything sane could a group of heavily armed citizens — of any size — prevail against the might of the American military with an even more unfettered access to weapons of every type? Forget the fact that most Americans have no real fear that their government is going to come after them armed to the teeth, most Americans also know that would be a losing battle.

That’s why they focus their energies in the gun control debate on such sensible proposals as requiring a background check for anyone who wants to buy a gun. All recent polls say roughly 90 percent of Americans favor this idea. That obviously includes many gun owners, but not the NRA leaders. And if they fear the government coming after their guns, why do roughly 70 percent of Americans favor creation of a federal database of gun sales? To make the FBI’s job easier? Actually, yes. Because it is the sane thing to do.

As support for gun control measures have gained strength in the wake of the ghastly shooting in Newtown, Conn., the arguments against more restrictions have grown increasingly strident and outrageous by some elements of the NRA.

This is a typical, fearful response. After years of bullying and cowing politicians with threats of political defeat, the NRA leadership is faced with a growing consensus of citizens — if not politicians — who are fed up with people claiming they have the right to carry AK-47s around in public, with lots of well-stocked magazines, because our Founding Fathers gave them that right. In fact, polls show 55 to 60 percent of Americans favor a ban on semi-automatic and assault-type weapons and about 55 percent favor a ban on high-capacity ammo magazines of the type that has created such a furor in New York because the Legislature voted to downsize the capacity from 10 to 7 rounds. This has led some gun owners to fret about being “outgunned.” I for one, don’t want to be around for that shootout, whoever has the most bullets.

The point is that as ever larger numbers of average Americans have finally stepped forward to support sensible restrictions on gun ownership, the arguments by the most avid opponents of gun control have become less sensible. Kids being shot in school? Arm the teachers. Want a safer city? Let citizens strap on guns in public. A few proud Americans armed with AR15s will keep any shopping mall safe. Requiring background checks at gun shows will only keep criminals from trying to get guns there. And making it harder for criminals to get guns is bad, why?

There is no assault on the Second Amendment going on in this gun-crazy country. (There are about 300 million firearms privately owned in America, but most Americans don’t own guns. Most gun owners own two or more weapons.) Rather, there is a growing public consensus that the time of being fearful of the NRA and its most vocal advocates is gone, drowned in the blood of kindergarten students. Politicians who don’t get this are those fearful of losing political and financial support from the NRA and some of its members. It is time for courage on their part. The responsible, prudent course for them would be to suggest reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, not rail about the unfairness of some laws that were long overdue. Work to right good laws.

The NRA has waged a long, illogical campaign of fear and threat in the guise of protecting citizens’ rights. But in recent weeks it has shown through statements of its leader, Wayne LaPierre, that its agenda is not about protecting the Second Amendment, but rather removing any and all restrictions on gun ownership. But the U.N. is not coming for your guns, America. Genocide is not on the horizon. Grow up. Demand sensible gun laws that protect you from those who have no business owning deadly weapons.

Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Our Founding Fathers also believed in those rights. No one has ever needed an assault weapon to enjoy them in America.

bob@zestoforange.com 

 

 

 

 

The Limits to Our Rights

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

The hand wringing over the Second Amendment continues in the days and weeks after the Newtown Horror. In op-ed columns and letters to editors some people who support the gun lobby have expressed concern that any attempt by the government to regulate gun traffic somehow betrays the spirit of the Bill of Rights.

The framers didn’t limit the people’s basic rights 221 years ago so why should we allow limitations now, the question goes. This is specious in two important respects. For one thing, taken to its no-limitation conclusion, we may soon hear an argument by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates suggesting that to prevent someone from possession of flame throwers, nerve gas and nuclear weapons somehow deprives us of our right to bear arms. It sounds absurd, but deep down you know that someone, sometime is going to test this position.

Then there’s the generally overlooked fact that we have always placed limitations on the rights handed to the people in the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.

–The limits on free speech – including the cry of “Fire!” in a theater, calls to violence, conspiracy, slandering, and libeling – have been detailed almost to the point of cliché. But platitudes or not, they remain limits on what are generally believed to be – but are not – absolute freedoms in the First Amendment.

–The First Amendment also prevents the government from establishing an official religion, but violations of this occur almost every year around this time. Invariably, some local bodies somewhere in America allow the placement of a Christmas tree, a crèche or a menorah on municipal property, thus violating the spirit of the First Amendment.

–The Eighth Amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments,” which might come as a surprise to the two-thirds of the states with capital punishment statutes on their books.

–And then of course there is the explicit limitation in the 27 words of the Second Amendment itself: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It’s confusing in its brevity, and this puzzlement is what keeps the fight over the amendment alive. The right of the people to keep arms shall not be infringed, yet the militia – comprised of the people – will be not just regulated, but well regulated.

What does “well-regulated” mean? I suggest that my interpretation of those two words is as valid as the NRA’s, maybe more. Here’s what I mean:

No, you may not possess a hand grenade, an Abrams battle tank or an assault rifle, all of which are designed to kill large numbers and not a white tailed deer or a couple of ducks. Those weapons are for the military.

And yes, background checks on the criminal and mental health histories of prospective gun buyers will be conducted with fervor and honesty. If this results in an extended long waiting period, so be it.

What America needs are politicians with the courage to inform the National Rifle Association that the working definition of “well-regulated” will not be written by NRA flacks.

Bagels ‘n Birds: Hello from Woods Hole

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Downtown Woods Hole. Photo by Bob Gaydos

By Bob Gaydos

I wasn’t sure about filing a column this week. After all, there I was, sitting outside the Pie in the Sky in Woods Hole, Mass., drinking fresh roasted coffee and fighting off sparrows and blackbirds for my toasted buttered bagel, but I was alone. Bob Who Likes His Salad Sans Dressing wasn’t there to bounce ideas off. And Woods Hole itself is not a place to stir the stomach bile of a columnist. It’s too nice.

Woods Hole, at the tip of Falmouth on the near end of Cape Cod is probably best known for two things: It is home for the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard and it is also home for every kind of maritime, nautical research facility conceivable to man. If the word oceanographic or maritime is in the title, odds are the organization is poking around the waters somewhere in Woods Hole. Which means there are an awful lot of smart, healthy-looking people walking around town and gobbling up all the parking spaces. Some of them speak languages other than English. (I think it was French.)

Woods Hole is also one of those quaint coastal towns that has no problem expecting motorists and pedestrians to wait while a bridge is opened and raised on the main drag to let a couple of barely visible boats pass from the Great Harbor to Eel Pond. They’re right. No one minded. Not even me.

So how was I going to get worked up enough to offer my two bits on the rest of the absurd world in which we live? Well, God bless the NATION & WORLD page of the Cape Cod Times. It didn’t take more than a few minutes on page 6 of the daily to wonder, for example, what ever happened to the Wisconsin of Russ Feingold, or for that matter Barack Obama in 2008. Gov. Scott Walker, a mean SOB if there ever was one, survived a recall vote by spending nearly $50 million convincing voters that public unions are evil. Then again, a former Wisconsin senator named McCarthy once had a lot of folks convinced every actor, writer and director in Hollywood was a communist.

Moving from Walker up the page, I noted with satisfaction that Abu Yahya al-Libi, the day-to-day director of Al-Qaida in Pakistan and the coordinator of operations with Al-Qaida affiliates, was killed in a drone strike by the United States in Pakistan. Seven of his friends went to meet Allah along with him. The Pakistani government protested the drone strike as an illegal violation of Pakistani territory.

I am told by some of my more liberal friends, maybe including some reading this, that I, too, should be offended by the drone strikes against suspected terrorist sites in Pakistan and elsewhere. I am not. I think we are still fighting a major war against terrorists and, while tying to avoid civilian casualties is essential, the drone strikes are a necessary and effective weapon. Besides, Pakistan showed its duplicitous nature by shielding Osama bin Laden for years and, in fact, has never fully committed to the fight against terrorism.

I am also told by, of all people, conservative Republicans, that President Obama, who has taken the mantle of commander-in-chief literally in regard to the drone strikes, by selecting and approving them personally, is somehow to be criticized for killing off Al Qaeda’s leadership. They think W. didn’t get credit for similar efforts. What that has to do with Obama escapes me. And only one of them actually got bin Laden.

Also on the page was a story about police in Indiana, who are scared to death that a private citizen might shoot and kill one of them while performing his or her duty — and get away with it. It seems Indiana has a law that allows citizens to use deadly force in responding to “unlawful intrusions” by a “public servant” to protect themselves and their property.

The public servant element was added to the law at the urging of, surprise, the National Rifle Association, which doesn’t see what the police are complaining about. They apparently can’t put themselves in the place of an officer, issuing a presumably legal warrant and maybe having to kick down a door to do it, having to fear that the person on the other side will open fire and later claim he felt threatened by the “unlawful intrusion.”

The only sensible approach, of course, is to presume police have the right to enter the premises and sort it out later — not to shoot them first and claim unlawful entry later. Indiana, with a Republican legislature and governor (Mitch Daniels), is alone in offering this “recipe for disaster” as the head of the Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police described it. But then, you can say that about most of the NRA-backed gun laws.

And there was one last absurdity — a typically American one — on the page. In Brooksville, Fla., a 275-pound “tamed” mountain lion escaped from its cage and had the neighbor’s pet beagle, Fester, for lunch. A pet mountain lion, you ask? Well, this is Florida and the mountain lion’s owner has a license for him. The cat’s owner, of course, blamed the dog, which has to be a new standard in blaming the victim.

He said, “You’ve got a big cat and you’ve got a dog that was after his food and he was going to stop that dog any way he could.” Of course he was; he’s a mountain lion.

The dog’s owner had a different take — he worried whether the pet mountain lion might break out again and eat his granddaughter. Maybe the NRA, which has a lot of fans in Florida, can write a law for the situation.

OK, that’s about it. Gotta go and find some fried clams for lunch.

bob@zestoforange.com