2012...orks-tea-party - %2

NRA Blames Violent Video Games for Newtown, But Partnered With Company That Makes Them

| Fri Dec. 21, 2012 2:42 PM EST

A still from the 2006 game, NRA Gun Club.

In his first public comments since last Friday's shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre sought to place the blame for gun violence where it truly belonged: the makers of video games. "There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse," LaPierre said.

But LaPierre's speech left out a key detail: His own organization has a video game, too. It's called NRA Gun Club, it was released in 2006 for PlayStation 2, and according to the top-ranked review on Amazon, it "could very well be the single worst game in the history of games." The game, which was rated "E" for kids 10 and older, featured a handgun on the cover with four bullets and consisted entirely of various target-shooting exercises. Gamers can shoot inanimate objects like watermelons, bottles, and clay pigeons, using one of over 100 different kinds of brand-name, licensed firearms like Beretta.

NRA Gun Club didn't have the kind of blood-and-guts violence LaPierre specifically attacked in his speech—but it was made by a company that makes its money off exactly that. Crave Entertainment, which produced NRA Gun Club, also released a game called Trigger Man, which, as the name suggests, is about a mob hit-man. IGN notes that as part of the game, players "will need to outfit themselves with the tools of the trade from body armor and over 14 weapons, to silencers to make the 'hit.'" Another release from Crave is Bad Boys: Miami Takedown. As you could probably guess from the Will Smith movie that inspired it, there's a lot of shooting—and not of the clay pigeon variety:

Bad Boys: Miami Takedown. Crave Entertainment

On the other hand, if the reviews were any indication, NRA Gun Club may have been its own form a gun control. As Ed Lewis wrote for the gaming website IGN, "The only time that this game inspired me to want a real gun was when I took the disc out of my PS2. Seeing this digitized crap explode into a hundred silvery slivers would have been the only bit of satisfaction it could ever deliver." Or as Game Spot's Jeff Gerstmann put it, "you're bound to rip the disc out of your PlayStation 2 and fling it across the room almost immediately after putting it in."

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NRA Chief Calls for More Guns Everywhere

| Fri Dec. 21, 2012 2:20 PM EST

At the National Rifle Association's first press conference since the Newtown massacre that killed 27 people, most of them elementary school children, the gun lobby's CEO Wayne LaPierre said the solution is more guns. 

"There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people," said LaPierre. He was talking about the entertainment industry, not groups such as the NRA that lobby for laws that allow people to get away with murder. Rolling out a list of 1990s-era conservative cultural shibboleths, LaPierre blamed a coarsening culture, and violence in movies, video games, and music for mass shootings—that is, everything but the deadly weapons the killers have used to slaughter people. 

LaPierre's "solution" is for Americans to arm themselves, and for the government to place armed guards at every public school in the country: "I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school—and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January." LaPierre did not note that Columbine High School had an armed guard when two students went on a murderous shooting rampage there in 1999, and that Virginia Tech had an armed police force with its own SWAT team equivalent when one of its students killed 33 people in 2007

The head of the nation's most powerful gun rights organization laid out a vision of a paramilitary America, where citizens are protected by armed guards until they are old enough to walk around with their own firearms on the off-chance they might need to pump a few rounds into a fellow citizen. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," said LaPierre. "Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away ... or a minute away?" Yet outside of video games, civilians rarely stop mass shooters.

While encouraging Americans to buy more guns—which would enrich the companies that fund the NRA—and station gun-toting guards at all schools, LaPierre declined to support any compromise on gun restrictions. And he engaged in a brazen act of hypocrisy. He warned of a society "populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters—people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them." He went on:

They walk among us every day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this very moment? How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame—from a national media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall attention and sense of identity that they crave—while provoking others to try to make their mark? A dozen more killers? A hundred? More? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation's refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?

Brushing aside the disturbing implications of a national database of the "mentally ill," LaPierre and the NRA have done everything in their power to ensure that people who might be credibly identified as "deranged" can easily purchase guns without a background check. The gun lobby has fiercely opposed vetting private sales of firearms outside of licensed gun stores. Creating a national database of "monsters" would mean little if mentally ill people could still acquire guns by other means without undergoing checks. It seems unlikely that LaPierre, having thwarted basic background checks, sincerely supports the much more intrusive approach of a national database. Given that he refused to take questions at the press conference, none of the reporters there could call him out.

LaPierre also neglected to mention the high-powered, military-like rifles that three spree killers have used this year or the high-capacity magazines that have allowed these criminals to murder large numbers of people without having to stop to reload. 

This press conference was bizarre. LaPierre was defiant and defensive in attacking straw men, and he refused to engage with the national debate concerning the availability of guns of tremendous lethality. He showed no signs of any willingness to engage in compromise or even a discussion with those who are now questioning US gun policies—signalling to Republicans in Congress that they shouldn't either.

As LaPierre was speaking, there were reports of another shooting spree.

A Non-Gun-Owner's Guide to Guns

| Fri Dec. 21, 2012 1:54 PM EST

A few days ago I asked Adam Weinstein to help our nation's beleaguered press corps and provide them with a short, simple primer on guns and gun terminology. Today he comes through with "A Non-Gun-Owner's Guide to Guns." Check it out if you want to be able to talk about guns without instantly incurring the wrath of gun owners everywhere. It's nothing more than the level of knowledge you'd expect someone to have about, say, global warming or Social Security if they were holding forth on those subjects. It's always good to know the basics.

NRA Exceeds Even My Expectations for Total Derangement

| Fri Dec. 21, 2012 1:38 PM EST

Guess what? It turns out that if you have only one political forecasting metric—modern conservatives are loons and will always act the part—your forecasting accuracy goes up. On Wednesday, I reminded everyone that when the NRA announced after the Newtown massacre that it was "prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again," it meant nothing of the kind. But even at that, I wasn't quite prepared for this:

In his first extensive public remarks since the mass shooting at a Connecticut school last Friday, the head of National Rifle Association called Friday for lawmakers to take action to put police officers in schools in an effort to curb violent outbreaks like the one that took place last week.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at a news conference in Washington.... “Politicians pass laws for gun-free school zones, they issue press releases bragging about them ... in doing so they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk,” said LaPierre, head of the nation’s largest gun-rights group.

You really need to read the entire transcript of LaPierre's comments, italics and all, to get a full sense of what he was saying. You can practically see the flicks of spittle in your mind's eye. Here's a small taste:

Now, I can imagine the shocking headlines you'll print tomorrow morning: "More guns," you'll claim, "are the NRA's answer to everything!" Your implication will be that guns are evil and have no place in society, much less in our schools. But since when did the word "gun" automatically become a bad word?

....With all the foreign aid, with all the money in the federal budget, we can’t afford to put a police officer in every school? Even if they did that, politicians have no business — and no authority — denying us the right, the ability, or the moral imperative to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm.

The real problems, according to LaPierre, are Hollywood, video games, the national media that reports on gun massacres, demonization of firearms, and a defenseless population. America's 300 million guns not only have nothing to do with gun massacres, they're the answer to gun massacres.

Astounding. I figured that LaPierre would at least pretend to be willing to have a "dialog" about gun laws. But no. He let us have it with both barrels, so to speak. Republicans have now gotten their marching orders.

The Great Construction Employment Mystery Revisited

| Fri Dec. 21, 2012 1:05 PM EST

Yesterday I wondered why residential construction employment was flat even though residential housing starts had doubled over the past 18 months. Today, a regular reader writes in to suggest that I'm just not being patient enough. Yes, housing starts are up, but on a historical scale they're still about as low as they've ever been. Even with the recent doubling, starts have only barely reached the level they were at in the middle of the 1991 recession, and residential construction employment is about the same as it was then (green lines in chart below). Employment is a lagging indicator, and we just need another year or two of growth before we're going to see a similar rebound in construction employment. Calculated Risk wrote about this a few months ago.

The chart below shows only residential construction employment, which tracks housing starts better than the overall construction employment figure. But even so, you can see the lag and you can see where we are compared to historical levels. Unless I hear something better, it sounds like this basically solves the mystery.

Both Sides Are Responsible for Failure of Fiscal Cliff Talks

| Fri Dec. 21, 2012 12:38 PM EST

A friend writes to explain how the punditocracy will end up describing the failure of Plan B:

I think it's pretty clear that both parties are to blame for Plan B. And by that I mean the reason for Plan B, the creation of Plan B and the failure of Plan B.

And if you cannot see how the White House / Democrats could possibly be remotely responsible for Plan B, just wait for David Gergen to explain it to you. I'm sure it's all very meta and likely comes out as both sides should have caved more sooner. And then all of this could have been avoided. I'm sure this is very clear. Somehow.

This has an unfortunate ring of plausibility, doesn't it? Bob Woodward will tell us that Obama is a terrible negotiator. David Brooks will tell us that Democrats never understood what Republicans wanted. (Oh wait....) The Washington Post editorial team will bemoan Democratic opposition to raising the Medicare eligibility age and its unwillingness to ask for more "sacrifice." Jennifer Rubin will tell us that Obama's offers were phony all along. (Oh wait....) It's gonna be a long weekend.

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The Republican Leadership Is Very Unhappy Today

| Fri Dec. 21, 2012 12:14 PM EST

Robert Costa reports on the mood within the Republican leadership last night after John Boehner called a meeting to finally concede that he didn't have enough votes to pass Plan B:

Boehner’s speech to the group was short and curt: He said his plan didn’t have enough support, and that the House would adjourn until after Christmas, perhaps even later. But it was Boehner’s tone and body language that caught most Republicans off guard. The speaker looked defeated, unhappy, and exhausted after hours of wrangling. He didn’t want to fight. There was no name-calling. As a devout Roman Catholic, Boehner wanted to pray. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” he told the crowd, according to attendees.

....Boehner and his leadership team soon departed. Kevin McCarthy, the GOP whip, who hours earlier was meeting with on-the-fence members over Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his office, left the Capitol looking distressed. So did Eric Cantor, the majority leader, who had spent the past two days wooing backbenchers. Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Budget Committee chairman and recent Republican vice-presidential candidate, strolled out of the Capitol with Representative Tom Price of Georgia, a popular conservative who has expressed his unhappiness with Boehner’s cliff strategy. The pair declined to discuss the drama, but they both looked tired and frustrated.

From National Journal:

“It’s the continuing dumbing down of the Republican Party, and we are going to be seen, more and more, as a bunch of extremists that can’t even get the majority of our own people to support the policies we’re putting forward,” [Rep. Steven LaTourette] said. “If you’re not a governing majority, you’re not going to be a majority very long.”

Members sat stunned by the speaker’s admission, unsure of what it meant for the fiscal cliff negotiations. The speaker pledged to call the president, said one attendee, but few members had high hopes House Republicans could cut a deal or pass legislation. “Well, I don’t know that there is a next step. We’re not coming back until after Christmas and maybe never,” said LaTourette, who's retiring.

There you have it. Merry Christmas, everyone.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for December 21, 2012

Fri Dec. 21, 2012 11:51 AM EST
Marines with Lima Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, fire M777A2 Lightweight Howitzers aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Dec. 11, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Jason Morrison.

The Republican Party's Post-Election Meltdown

| Thu Dec. 20, 2012 9:53 PM EST

Just to keep score, in the six weeks since the election Republicans have:

  • Shamefully smeared Susan Rice in order to prevent her nomination as secretary of state.
  • Shown themselves completely unwilling to compromise with President Obama over fiscal cliff legislation.
  • Begun a campaign to block the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense.
  • Almost unanimously refused to set up state healthcare exchanges to implement Obamacare.

This is after an election in which they decisively lost the presidency, lost eight seats in the House, and lost two seats in the Senate. Six weeks after.

Anyone who thought Republicans might be in a mood to face reality after their shellacking in November should be well disabused of this notion by now. By my reckoning, they've actually gotten worse.

Boehner Sabotaged by Lunatic Wing of Republican Party

| Thu Dec. 20, 2012 9:18 PM EST

Even after larding up his Plan B bill with lots of goodies, John Boehner apparently couldn't get his Republican caucus to support it. So he's now pulled the bill and adjourned the House, promising only to return after Christmas "when needed."

This is truly an epic fail. Boehner couldn't even get a piece of obvious political theater passed. He's completely unable to control the lunatic wing of his own party. So what's next?

One possibility is that this makes falling off the fiscal cliff much more likely. If the loonies won't even vote for Plan B, what are the odds they'll vote for a compromise bill along the lines that President Obama has offered? A second possibility—and I honestly don't know how likely this is—is that Boehner now knows he can't get the tea partiers to vote for anything, so he'll give up on the idea of bringing them into the fold. Instead of trying to craft a bill that can get 218 Republican votes, he'll round up 50 or 100 of the noncrazies and pass a compromise bill along with 150 Democrats. On this reading, today's failure actually makes a fiscal-cliff compromise more likely.

Maybe. It all depends on what Boehner thinks he can get away with and just how vulnerable he is to some backstabbing from Eric Cantor. Time will tell.