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The NRA and Polarization in the Gun Debate

The NRA and Polarization in the Gun Debate

Today’s political landscape is deeply polarized. From liberals to conservatives, there are serious divides that are pervasive throughout politics. One group that has used the Internet and email in particular to contribute to and sustain an environment of polarization is the National Rifle Association (NRA). This paper examines how Wayne LaPierre as spokesperson for the NRA has used the rhetoric of polarization to address the gun debate in emails to members and potential members of the NRA.  Before discussing the emails that were sent, a brief history of the NRA is provided followed by an explanation of the rhetoric of polarization.

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The Inside Job

The Inside Job

The film, Inside Job, won the 2011 Academy Award for best documentary. Charles Ferguson the director of Inside Job kicked off his Oscar acceptance speech with the following statement, “Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong.” Truly, there is no place like the USA. In what other country could a bunch of bungling bankers defraud the public of trillions of dollars and get off scot free? Even better, as Inside Job details with infuriating candor, the very same people who were responsible for the 2008 financial crash were also assigned the responsibility of “rescuing” the US from the economic disaster that they had caused. Give me a break. Would anyone care to guess why not even one Wall Street wastrel has been charged with financial fraud? But it gets better. Recall that Wall Street bankers gleefully accepted billions of dollars from the federal government to bail out their bankrupted financial institutions. Without missing a beat, those villainously incompetent bankers converted taxpayer bailouts—billions that came out of your pocket and mine—into bonuses for their buddies. How’s that for justice? What a scam. Bankers crashed their financial institutions, extorted billions from the US Treasury and, as punishment for their crimes, those selfsame bankers rewarded themselves with multi-million dollar bonuses at the public’s expense. This is what people mean when they say that reality is often stranger than fiction. Who would believe that Wall Street bankers could be so openly and brazenly consumed by greed? Hmm, well, come to think of it, that hardly stretches the imagination at all… Anyway, if the infamies listed above haven’t already got your blood boiling, then don’t forget about the “jobless economic recovery.” With the help of federal bailouts and bonuses, corporate America recovered from the 2008 recession in a matter of months. Yet, even though Wall Street owed the public a huge debt of gratitude for rescuing their sorry butts, no thought of reciprocation ever flitted across their twisted minds. While corporate America popped champagne corks to toast their amazing good fortune, they showered pink slips on middle and working class Americans. No good turn ever goes unpunished. If the story ended there, Wall Streeters would certainly be overjoyed, however, I am pleased to report that we have not yet arrived at this tale’s conclusion. Indeed, another chapter is being written as we speak and, best of all, it includes a twist that Wall Street-types really dislike. Beginning on September 17, 2011, protestors occupied Wall Street in an effort to focus public attention on the wanton greed that governs the global economy. Occupy Wall Street protestors have insisted that the economy should serve the needs of the majority rather than the whims of the Wall Street minority: the richest 1% who have repeatedly and shamelessly swindled the 99% majority. However, at long last, the silent majority has decided that enough is enough. As of this writing, the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread to over 150 US cities—with more, lots more, getting on board every day. Main Street America has finally decided that it is fed up with Wall Street. If the golden goose is dead, then Wall Streeters have no one to blame but themselves. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of guys.

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As far as I am concerned, the sooner Muammar Qaddafi is gone the better. Forty-plus years of his malignant tyranny is more than enough. The only misgivings that I have about deposing Qaddafi is the inordinate time that it took for the global community to unify against him. That said, it is interesting that so few people have elected to use the “W” word in connection with the current US military intervention in Libya. Arguably, given the hostile nature of the US incursion, it seems reasonable to characterize such trespasses as acts of war. However, from the moment that the US began its assault on Libya (as of March 19, 2011), President Obama has worked hard to emphasize that the US is not now, nor will it ever be, at war with Libya. Instead, President Obama has insisted that US military operations in Libya are only intended to prevent Muammar Qaddafi from butchering his rebellious citizenry. OK. Even though I tend to be an advocate of peaceful diplomacy, I support the spirit of the US military intervention in Libya. Given the available alternatives, I would vastly prefer to see the US and NATO providing military support for Libyan rebels than standing idly by while Qaddafi exacts brutal revenge on his enemies. In part, the Obama Administration has eschewed the term “war” with regard to the US action in Libya because, technically speaking, only Congress can declare war. Nevertheless, commanders-in-chief can exercise a great deal of latitude in the deployment of military personnel for the purposes of achieving strategic diplomatic objectives. Therefore, so long as he does not usurp the power of the US Congress (i.e., using the term “war” when a well-chosen synonym will suffice), Barack Obama retains the necessary moral and legal authority to intervene in Libya on behalf of its democracy-hungry rebels. Another tactical reason to avoid the term war is that, having been embroiled in two other interminable wars, the US public has no stomach for involvement in yet another foreign war. But, perhaps more important than that, I daresay President Obama wishes to avoid calling the Libyan imbroglio a war because, at least from the US perspective, it really isn’t a war — and Obama wants to keep it that way. Recall that Barack Obama’s predecessor declared war on Iraq largely for the purposes of deposing Saddam Hussein. The problem with that particular military campaign, apart from all of the claptrap about WMDs, is that the US declared war on an entire nation in order to terminate the vile regime of one single miscreant. Certainly, the war in Iraq achieved that particular mission objective, but at what cost? Arguably, the US war in Iraq has created at least as many problems as it has solved. Worse still, after almost ten years, trillions of dollars, and untold loss of human life, there is still no end in sight. What a mess. With all of the above in mind, Barack Obama has plenty of reasons to resist identifying the US intervention in Libya as a war. For starters, the US does not want to repeat the mistakes that it made in Iraq. There’s no point in declaring war on an entire nation in order to depose one dratted trouble-maker — especially if the citizenry of the nation in question are similarly committed to ousting their local despot. Sometimes war is not the answer. Fortunately, there is more than one way to fight tyranny. In spite of the missteps that the US has taken in Iraq, the US can still fight the good fight for democracy. We just have to be smarter, and more precise. If Qaddafi is the problem in Libya, then US military operations should concentrate on surgically intervening against Muammar Qaddafi. Period. Bolstered by such interventions, the Libyan rebels will be in a better position to win their (not our) civil war. By taking this approach, the US is more likely to inspire the enduring friendship, rather than the enmity, of the Libyan people, while also avoiding the pitfalls of another foreign military quagmire. Genius. In sum, the current US military operation in Libya is an illustration of the fact that surgical operations offer the advantage of dramatically improving social health and welfare with a minimum of bloodshed. Can we build on that success? In other words, can we use the tools and techniques of the surgeon in order to do away with butchery once and for all? That may be too much to hope for, but at least with Obama’s more fine-tuned military strategy in Libya, we have a start.  

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Live Long and Prosper: The 100 Year Starship Project

Live Long and Prosper: The 100 Year Starship Project

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”—Albert Einstein The Defense Advanced Research Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently announced an extraordinary new project, the 100 Year Starship Study, www.100yss.org. Depending upon your perspective, this could either be the craziest or the coolest project ever undertaken by a US federal agency.

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