June 29, 2016

Putin is Loving BREXIT But Wait….


                          

                                                                                               




       


There is no doubt that Moscow was hoping for Britain to leave the European Union. Its propaganda channels such as RT eagerly championed the "Leave" case, and following the narrow but clear vote in the UK to leave the EU, Russian newspapers and commentators were jubilant.
It’s not so much Brexit itself that matters to the Kremlin, but rather the hope that this will generate yet more division and distraction in the West. But Vladimir Putin ought not to regard this as an undiluted win, because there are some buried risks for Russia, too.

A Europe focused on its own internal problems is one not focused on Russia’s transgressions

The Kremlin’s calculation is that the Brexit referendum will not only lead to protracted negotiations over Britain’s withdrawal but will also encourage other fragmentary pressures.
Already, populists across Europe are calling for their own referendums, from France's Front National and the Dutch Party for Freedom on the right to the Five Stars movement in Italy on the left.
There is also a new enthusiasm for secession in Scotland by the Scottish Nationalists, who narrowly lost an independence referendum in 2014, and in Italy from the Lega Nord, which campaigns for the independence or autonomy of northern Italy from Rome.
Although there is no evidence of any meaningful Russian impact on Brexit, its propaganda machine and covert "active measures" operations are much more active and effective in continental Europe — for example, the Front National received an $11.7 million loan from a Russian bank in 2014.
Russian assets will continue to be thrown behind these various campaigns. But regardless of whether these parties and movements succeed, as long as Europe is occupied with its own internal problems, then as far as Putin is concerned, the Kremlin wins.
It’s not that Putin expects or necessarily even wants the EU to fall apart. After all, he does not harbor any imperialistic designs on Europe. What he wants is a West too disunited and inward-looking to be able meaningfully to resist Russian adventurism in its self-claimed sphere of influence.
Already, figures such as Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin have suggested that Britain’s departure will lead to a relaxation of the sanctions regime imposed on Russia since it annexed Crimea and invaded southeast Ukraine.
Putin is also hoping that turmoil in Europe will infect NATO, undermining its coherence. Governments needing to shore up their domestic support or facing separatist political campaigns at home may be less committed to maintaining or increasing their defense expenditure, for example, or to deploying troops to support their allies.
Finally, a post-Brexit Britain is likely to suffer prolonged economic troubles. Desperate to attract business, London may be tempted to ignore calls for greater transparency and accountability in its financial sector.
As a result, it would become a welcome hub for Russian dirty money and dubious business deals, allowing Moscow some opportunities to bypass the effects of Western sanctions.

But there are lots of ways this could backfire on Russia

For all this, there are some grounds to suggest the outlook will not be quite so purely beneficial for Russia.
The economic impact of Brexit is already mixed. Russia made a $3.7 billion paper profit on its gold reserves in the first 24 hours after the vote, as prices rose in response to global uncertainty.
But much of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves were in sterling, which duly shrank in value by about $1.2 billion in the same period. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak is also worried about the risks of a serious further slump in oil prices, on which the budget depends.
Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the Russian Senate’s foreign affairs committee, has warned that "if the EU gets weighed down in its own problems, and crosses the line into crisis, then it will affect our trade relations."
While Britain accounts for just 2.7 percent of Russia’s exports and 1.9 percent of its imports, the EU as a whole is the country’s main trading partner, accounting for about half of each. If Brexit has negative economic implications for the rest of the EU, then this will inevitably have knock-on effects on Russia, already stuck in a recession likely to last years.
The weaker the Russian economy, the harder it is to maintain the loyalty of the elites, to pacify the masses, and to keep spending on the modernized military on which Putin is relying for so much of his international clout these days.
Furthermore, if Brexit seriously weakens the EU, it might actually make Russia’s geopolitical position more challenging, not less.
In Moscow, it has become fashionable to sneer at the EU’s sluggish and hesitant foreign policy initiatives, constrained as they are by both bureaucratic inertia and a culture of consensus and conciliation. As one Russian foreign ministry staffer put it to me, "Europe just wants to make things nice for everybody."
However, there is also a growing recognition that the EU acts as a moderating influence on some of its more aggressive and ambitious members. A particular concern is Poland, a country with a growing economy, a desire to assert a strong regional role, longstanding antagonism toward Russia, and a strong, nationalist government.
Russia’s business ombudsman Boris Titov called Brexit "not the independence of Britain from Europe, but the independence of Europe from the US." However, while he claimed there would be a "united Eurasia" within a decade, the more immediate likelihood is that Washington will double down, not withdraw from Russia’s immediate strategic neighborhood.
If it feels that Europe is increasingly ineffective, a post-Obama White House may look more assiduously at cultivating direct regional relationships with Ukraine and in Central Asia. This would be a much more direct challenge to Moscow's authority, forcing it to come to terms with its lack of positive support and real soft power in Eurasia.
Overall, then, Putin may still have reasons to regret what he wished for. His ideal is an EU that is distracted, divided, and weakened, but not mortally so. He may, however, find that he has traded a cozy and polite neighbor for an uncertain, volatile, and sometimes aggressive one.
~~
Mark Galeotti is a senior research fellow at the Czech Institute of International Affairs, a visiting fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations, and the director of Mayak Intelligence. He blogs at In Moscow’s Shadows and tweets as @MarkGaleotti.

A Leader Most Know When to Change Strategy and Bernie Blew it


If Sanders were to endorse Clinton today, Would it matter? Not today,  Not in the least and below is why:

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton                                                             














On Monday, Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren campaigned together in Cincinnati. Their message was clear: Donald Trump is a “thin-skinned bully who is driven by greed and hate,” as Warren put it, and the Democratic Party can deliver the policies and investments to improve life for ordinary Americans. 

But more interesting than their rhetoric was the event’s tone and tenor. Warren was a compelling surrogate, giving Clinton the kind of strong and affirmative endorsement she needs to win over skeptical voters. And Clinton, in turn, was energized, touting her policies and platform—and indicting Trump for his attitudes and behavior. It was a grand display of party unity: Warren and Clinton, the left and the center-left, united against a common foe and cheered on by thousands of excited Democrats, all ready for the general election.


And where was Bernie Sanders?

Two weeks ago, after the Democratic primary’s official end, the Vermont senator gave a campaign speech that had all the trappings of a concession but lacked the part where he actually conceded. In it, he celebrated the size, scope, and success of his insurgent bid, spoke a little about cooperation with Clinton, and went on to affirm his efforts to reform the Democratic Party.

“I also look forward to working with Secretary Clinton to transform the Democratic Party so that it becomes a party of working people and young people, and not just wealthy campaign contributors,” Sanders said. “[A] party that has the courage to take on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil-fuel industry, and the other powerful special interests that dominate our political and economic life.”

Sanders wasn’t going to be the Democratic nominee, but he still held a good amount of leverage in the form of his voters. After a tough primary, they were hesitant to back Clinton, a fact apparent in the polls. Clinton stood ahead of Donald Trump, but not by much: Her lead was weakened by the party’s unbridged divisions. By holding off on a concession and an endorsement, the Vermont senator was keeping this leverage in reserve ahead of the Democratic National Convention. It made sense.

Still, it was a risky move. Whatever influence or leverage Sanders had was tied to his voters. As long as they stuck with him—and didn’t move to Clinton—he could make demands and win concessions on items like the Democratic Party’s platform, a key object of his rhetoric over the past month. But if his voters moved without his endorsement, either pushed by fear of Trump or support from other Democrats, then the value of his support would fall accordingly.

Which is what happened. In his nonconcession speech, Sanders told supporters their “major political task” was to “make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly.” It turns out that was the message that landed.

In the most recent poll from ABC News and the Washington Post, Clinton leads Trump 51 percent to 39 percent, expanding her previous lead by 5 points, as Trump has seen a complete collapse in his support. And what’s driving the move toward Clinton? Democrats and independents who supported Bernie Sanders. In May, 20 percent of Sanders supporters said they would back Trump over Clinton in the general election. In June, that number is down to 8 percent. Overall, 81 percent of Sanders backers have rallied to Clinton, surpassing the 74 percent of Clinton supporters in 2008 who fell in behind Barack Obama. By any measure, the Democratic Party is unified.

Overall, 81 percent of Sanders backers have rallied to Clinton, surpassing the 74 percent of Clinton supporters in 2008 who fell in behind Barack Obama.

Sanders’ endorsement isn’t irrelevant, but it now carries less weight, and the leverage he held at the end of the primary just isn’t there anymore. Take the Democratic platform. The good news for Team Sanders is that its advocates—like Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison—have put Social Security expansion and the $15-an-hour minimum wage into the party document, as well as a call for an “updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall,” the Depression-era law that prohibited commercial banks from engaging in investment banking activities. At the same time, these are areas of wide Democratic agreement. Most Democrats support Social Security expansion and a substantially higher minimum wage, up to and including $15-an-hour. These aren’t concessions. On those points that are more contentious, Team Sanders has lost out. The platform committee has rejected Sanders’ language on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, his stance against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, his call for a carbon tax, and his total opposition to fracking.

Maybe this was inevitable. Maybe Sanders was never going to have the full stamp he clamored for simply on account of having lost. But this underplays the initial strength of his hand. Had Sanders endorsed Clinton at the end of the primaries and recalibrated as an advocate for her campaign—in short, had he mimicked Warren—he would have gotten ahead of his voters. This is important. With an early concession and endorsement, Sanders does two things: He pre-empts any natural movement to Clinton among Democratic primary voters, which lets him claim credit for her improved numbers even if they were inevitable. Like Warren, he would take a starring role in the campaign against Trump. And as we saw in 2008 between Obama and Clinton, a partnership can open the doors to lasting influence.

As it stands, the Vermont senator has almost vanished from the news cycle, overshadowed by Clinton’s growing lead, overall Democratic unity, global events, and the never-ending emissions of Donald Trump. He’ll still matter to the shape and direction of the Democratic National Convention, but he could have had a larger, more visible role. Bernie Sanders had his shot, and he threw it away.
 

Chief Political Correspondent 
for Slate

Coalition in Congress Being Formed to Have FDA Lift Blood Ban on LGBT


Image result for gay blood                                                                                                                           
          











A coalition is building to put pressure on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to lift its ban on sexually active men donating blood.

In a letter, obtained by SFGN and addressed to FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, 116 current members of the U.S. Congress express their collective disappointment with current FDA deferral policy on blood donation for men who have sex with men (MSM).
“In practice, the current FDA deferral policy effectively leaves the majority of MSM ineligible to donate blood, as the 12-month celibacy requirement is unrealistic for most healthy gay and bisexual men to meet,” the letter reads.
Dated June 20, the letter is signed by 10 members of Florida’s delegation: Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston), Alcee Hastings (D-Miramar), Lois Frankel (D-West Palm Beach), Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton), Frederica Wilson (D-Miami Gardens), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami), Patrick E. Murphy (D-Jupiter), Kathy Castor (D-Tampa), Carlos Curbelo (R-Kendall) and Alan Grayson (D-Orlando).
“We are concerned that the 12-month deferral policy, which suggests that the sexual relationships of MSM men and transgender women inherently pose a risk of HIV transmission, furthers a stigma that we have persistently fought to eliminate,” the letter states.
The ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood has long been a bone of contention for progressive activists. Enacted in 1983 during the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the ban, scientists insist, no longer makes sense. Last year, the FDA updated its policy to allow MSM men and transgender women to donate blood following one year of celibacy.
In their letter to Commissioner Califf, members of Congress called the deferral policy “unsound.”
“The FDA questionnaire should reflect risk-based behaviors as opposed to sexual orientation,” the letter states.
The blood ban issue came to light following the atrocities at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando where 49 people were killed and another 53 wounded in what is being called the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. With blood in demand, many healthy gay and bisexual men felt helpless to come to the aid of their community.
“It is beyond time to lift this discriminatory ban,” said Murphy.
Added Grayson, “After a tragedy, giving blood is a form of showing solidarity, even citizenship.”

South Florida Gay News
John McDonald

Rugby Team That’s so Gay but Don’t Be Confused it’s just ‘Butch’



   
                                                                    



Much is said about the importance of tolerance and inclusion in all walks of life. Still, discrimmination is painfully persistent, and this is especially true in sports. While quite a few athletes have come out, raising the profile of LGBT presence and contribution in the sporting world, the truth is that the court, pitch and diamond are still sadly off-limits for many.

Looking to debunk preconceived notions and give all kinds of people an opportunity to play, South Africa’s Jozi Cats have launched an ad campaign that turns stereotypes on their heads. Players were photographed illustrating a homophobic slur with a question mark, thus challenging the term.
Flanker, Desmond Roux; © Werner Prinsloo / Jozi Cats and Havas Village South Africa
The Jozi Cats are an LGBT team that offers a safe environment for individuals to engage in a sport regardless of their sexual orientation and/or expression. But many sports, including rugby, have enough athletes to form gay leagues and even host world cups. International Gay Rugby was established in 2002 to unite the increasing number of teams around the world. Now, the competition culminates in the international Bingham Cup, one of the largest 15 A-side rugby tournaments in the world.

Also established in 2002, the National Gay Flag Football League joined the ranks of the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance (1991), International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics (1987) and North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (1977), among an ever-increasing number of sporting groups. These organizations are all part of a larger movement that offers the community more options. Where once, the local gay bar was the sole place to meet like-minded individuals, the sports arena has provided another venue to do just that in a way that also embraces healthy living.

Beyond LGBT leagues, organizations like Athlete Ally help educate and empower the athletic community to take a stand against homophobia and transphobia at all levels. Allies who have participated in workshops and campaigns include Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and Women’s National Basketball Association, among others.

In 2017 Miami will host World OutGames IV. Many of the best and most promising athletes from leagues around the world will compete for gold. Their very presence will challenge notions and inspire fellow athletes and would-be athletes of all backgrounds.

Likewise, this year’s 8th Bingham Cup — in Nashville, Tennessee — will continue its tradition of challenging stereotypes. The event was named after Mark Bingham, an avid rugby player who died on United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11. It is commonly believed Mark may have been one of the people who tackled the terrorists on that flight, preventing it from reaching its target. Pansy?
Image result for Jozi Cats rugby team

                                                                                                                                     





One day ago, Only we do that for each other


 SOLE SASTRE

June 28, 2016

Staten Islander Crowned Non-female Queen at “Fame” HS


 

image.jpeg
Matthew Crisson, a Staten Island native, was recently crowned the first non-female prom queen at Laguardia High School for the Performing Arts. (Photo: Instagram/hotmessiah)

 Matthew Crisson, an 18-year-old Staten Island native, was recently crowned the first non-female prom queen at 2016 prom of LaGuardia High School for the Perorming Arts
Laguardia is widely known as the "Fame" high school, because it inspired the 1980 movie and television series, "Fame."
Crisson is also the first "gender-fluid" prom queen — i.e. born male but identifies as non-binary, which means he does not identify as either gender.

The teen, who will be attending SUNY Purchase in the fall, has kept his head high and encourages members of the LGBTQ community to "stay strong and know that things will get better for you," according to Fox 5 News,  
"I had always struggled with social anxiety and reaching for things I really want,"  Crisson said during his interview. "Being prom queen was the first time I stepped out of my comfort zone and proved to myself that I have courage, and I have strength, and I have confidence."
He admitted to thoughts of suicide in middle school. "I'm so glad I didn't do that because there are so many great things that I accomplished this year... and that I'm going to accomplish." 
Crisson was crowned prom queen a week after the Orlando massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., which killed 49 people in the most devastating mass shooting in U.S. history. 
Dr. Gracelyn Santos | gsantos@siadvance.com
 

UK Finance Minister: Taxes Going Up Spending Down After Brexit (Inter.Grph)



                                                                         


Finance minister George Osborne said on Tuesday that Britain would have to raise taxes and cut spending to deal with the economic challenge posed after Britons voted to leave the European Union.
Include the following visualization to show how various economic forecasts have predicted the Brexit will affect the UK's GDP.

GOP Rocked by Report Indicating Their Lies and Abuses on the Benghazi Investigation


Editorial on Report

                                                                       


House Republicans were dealt a severe blow by a 339-page report from the Democrats on the Benghazi Select Committee who not only provided the evidence that Republicans have hidden but also detailed the Republican abuses and lies throughout the investigation.

House Republicans were dealt a severe blow by a 339-page report from the Democrats on the Benghazi Select Committee who not only provided the evidence that Republicans have hidden but also detailed the Republican abuses and lies throughout the investigation.

According to the report from the Benghazi Democrats:

The Democratic report also documents the grave abuses Republicans engaged in during this investigation—from A to Z. Republicans excluded Democrats from interviews, concealed exculpatory evidence, withheld interview transcripts, leaked inaccurate information, issued unilateral subpoenas, sent armed Marshals to the home of a cooperative witness, and even conducted political fundraising by exploiting the deaths of four Americans.

“In our opinion,” the Members wrote, “Chairman Gowdy has been conducting this investigation like an overzealous prosecutor desperately trying to land a front-page conviction rather than a neutral judge of facts seeking to improve the security of our diplomatic corps.” 

“We are issuing our own report today because, after spending more than two years and $7 million in taxpayer funds in one of the longest and most partisan congressional investigations in history, it is long past time for the Select Committee to conclude its work,” they wrote. “Despite our repeated requests over the last several months, Republicans have refused to provide us with a draft of their report—or even a basic outline—making it impossible for us to provide input and obvious that we are being shut out of the process until the last possible moment.”

The Chairman of the Select Committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy, has consistently refused to release full transcripts of interviews. Gowdy has also refused to give Democrats on the committee access to information, or allowed them to help draft the final report.

Gowdy has also leaked inaccurate information in an attempt to help Republicans defeat Hillary Clinton. Rep. Gowdy illegally shifted the focus of the investigation away from Benghazi and on to Hillary Clinton’s emails. The chairman has interviewed witnesses without Democrats present and has treated the Select Committee like an arm of the Republican Party that is digging for opposition research on Hillary Clinton.

The Benghazi investigation has always been an attempt to bring down the Democratic presidential nominee. House Democrats on the Select Committee aren’t standing for it. They are popping the Benghazi conspiracy theory balloon and showing that the Republican investigation was a total sham.

Democrats aren’t going to play the GOP’s Benghazi games.

Republicans Rocked By Report Detailing GOP Lies And Abuses During Benghazi Investigation added by Jason Easley

Brexit Fever Staten Island Wants Secession from NYC




The world has Brexit fever, which is both a metaphor and an actual virus that causes xenophobia, nationalism and demagoguery in its sufferers. Now that Britain has voted to leave the European Union, plenty of geographic regions are wondering "Hey, why don't we go it alone?" Texas? New York? Uh...Alaska?
New York City councilman (and Trump campaign apparatchik) Joe Borelli took to Facebook to beat the drums of Staten Island secession once more on Thursday. If he gets his way, does that mean that Staten Islanders who move here become transplants?
On Facebook, Borelli applauded Great Britain's vote, taking it as an opportunity to revive the dream of an independent Staten Island, "regardless of cost":
The CSI that Borelli was referring to isn't the hit CBS drama, but rather the College of Staten Island, which studied the issue in 1991 and 1992, then released a paper in 1993 endorsing the decision. Buried in there is the gem that back in 1992, 68% of Staten Islandites thought the city would be a worse place to live in five years, which haha, whoops. 
If you're too young to remember, or just didn't pay attention to New York City politics before you moved here from Davenport, you should be aware that the potential for New York City becoming four boroughs instead of five is a possibility. The 1993 vote for secession got 65% of the "Yes" vote, and Staten Island only remained a part of the great city of New York due to Mario "The Good Cuomo" Cuomo's insistence that any referendum be approved by the state legislature, which ultimately didn't grant the island its independence. Since then, the idea has been revived occasionally but hasn't gone anywhere.
"Regardless of cost" is certainly an interesting way to look at whether breaking away from the city is a good idea, but when you've got a bad case of freedom fever you're too busy throwing up blood to really think things through. The comments on Borelli's Facebook post suggest the idea still has plenty of support, so get ready to spend the rest of the summer talking about Staxit. 

Little Marco Could Make Hillary President {Up to Young Dem, Ind., LGBT}




                                                                       


Marco Rubio says he decided to run for re-election because it will be imperative to have people like him in the U.S. Senate if Hillary Clinton is elected president.

“There’s [a] role for the Senate that could end up being its most important in the years to come: the Constitutional power to act as a check and balance on the excesses of a president.”

But it is worth asking: Does Rubio’s decision to run make it more likely Clinton will become president?

It’s easy to envision a scenario in which it does. Eagerness to drive a political stake through Rubio’s heart could increase Democratic turnout in Florida, throwing the most important swing state — and therefore the election — to Clinton.

Think about it. Democrats hardly would be whipped into a frenzy by a desire to defeat, say, Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Most voters probably still are fuzzy at best on who, exactly, Lopez-Cantera is. But Rubio? He’s become a high-profile target.

The wish to stick it to Rubio also plausibly would be a better election-day mobilizer than any positive feeling toward either Rep. Patrick Murphy or Rep. Alan Grayson, who are battling it out to be the Democratic senatorial nominee.

Rubio’s insinuation that the Orlando massacre influenced his decision to seek re-election only heightens Democratic anger toward him. Before, the biggest knock on Rubio was that he was a slacker who couldn’t be bothered to show up to work in the Senate. Damaging, yes, but not something to make Democrats get out and vote.

Now, though, Rubio is the hypocrite who steadfastly has opposed LGBT equality and commonsense gun control yet has the gall to imply he’s running in response to the assault-weapon massacre perpetrated at a gay night club?

How epically self-serving.

Rubio’s anti-LGBT record is exactly the kind of issue that could motivate young Democrats and independents who otherwise might have stayed home to make the effort to vote. As a group, they might not even have been that enamored of Clinton. But if they take the trouble to vote against Rubio in remembrance of Orlando, they might just vote for Clinton while they’re at it.

For Clinton to win in November, she’ll need a big turnout of Democrats in the Orlando area — precisely the area that ought to be most offended by Rubio’s decision to use the Pulse horror as his excuse to run. Democratic turnout in South Florida also is a key, and that’s also an LGBT-friendly venue.

Plus, Rubio’s flip-flop on immigration is a double-whammy in those two regions. Not only does it anger Hispanics who feel he stabbed them in the back by abandoning immigration reform, it angers those who remember that gay Hispanics were targeted in the Pulse attack.

Current polls show Rubio beating either Murphy or Grayson. But if Democrats exploit Rubio’s Pulse hypocrisy with skill, Rubio might just help them beat Trump.

By Jac Wilder VerSteeg who is a columnist for the South Florida Sun Sentinel and former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post.  

Brexit is Not the End of England but Just a Part of It




                                                                       
 
                                                                  
  
This isn’t meant to scare you, but let’s consider the absolute worst-case scenarios of “Brexit.”

All over the world, political scientists and financial professionals have been hunkered down trying to game out the economic implications of Britain’s surprise decision to leave the European Union. Many of them had already done various calculations, but now that the decision is real, a surfeit of new scenarios has emerged.

Most of the war-gaming has been focused on the direct economic blow to Britain. But the catastrophe-shouting there has almost certainly been overly loud: Yes, Britain’s economy is likely to suffer in the near term as the government reconstitutes and tries to negotiate its divorce with Europe. And yes, the pound will probably continue to lose value, and the uncertainty of Britain’s relationship with Europe will paralyze investment until new rules of engagement are put in place.

All of which will makes markets around the world shudder, shrug and generally behave like petulant teenagers. “Stocks have entered a new realm of volatility, unlikely to abate anytime soon,” according to a Wells Fargo research note issued on Monday. It warned, “Get used to it.”

But it would be wrong to focus exclusively on Britain when considering the possible financial ramifications and permutations. In a truly dire scenario, Britain is just the leading domino. It’s the next dominoes — most likely across the Channel — that matter more.

“We see Brexit as just one step in a process that is unavoidable of further referendums by other nations to exit the E.U.,” Felix Zulauf, an investor who operates a hedge fund in Switzerland, wrote in a note on Monday, contending that “the damage” of Brexit “will therefore be far worse for the E.U. than for the U.K.”

Of far greater concern will be if other European Union countries attempt their own exits — even if their efforts are unsuccessful. More glimmers of no-confidence among nations in the consortium could ultimately lead to a crisis that would be felt far beyond Europe.

Consider this: Italy’s government is considering pumping as much as $45 billion into its banking system after the Brexit vote. Shares of the biggest Italian banks have fallen more than 20 percent since the results of the vote were announced. And Italian banks are considered particularly vulnerable because they hold hundreds of billions of euros in bad loans. If Brexit forces a material economic slowdown across the Continent, Italy’s banks — without a rescue plan — could significantly suffer.

Remember: There’s no need to panic now, at least not yet. But if, down the line, Italy’s economy were to falter and help from the European Union was not forthcoming without tough conditions — remember Greece and the possibility of Grexit? — we could witness the seceding of Italy, which will be the third-largest member of the consortium after Germany and France (assuming that Britain does officially leave).

That, in turn, could lead to a true catastrophe: Italy would probably be forced to return to the lira, which would most likely be tremendously devalued. An unstable lira would cause huge problems for investors and banks across the globe that have interests in Italy, as well as a massive credit crunch within the country. (By the way, you could replace “Italy” with “Spain” or “Portugal” in this scenario and end up in much the same place.)

Long before then, however, there is a decent chance that we will see another country — probably the Netherlands — try to make a run for it. After Britain voted to break away from the European Union, Geert Wilders, the populist leader of the Netherlands’ surging anti-immigrant Party for Freedom, posted on Twitter, “Hurray for the British.” He added: “Now it’s our turn. It’s time for a Dutch referendum.” He used this hashtag: #ByeByeEU.

The Netherlands is a relatively healthy country, so — as a matter of pure economics — the repercussions of its leaving the European Union would most likely be muted. But if Brexit wasn’t enough of an inspiration for other fiercely nationalistic and economically healthy countries to seek an exit, watching a place like the Netherlands that actually uses the euro (unlike Britain, which never switched from the pound) could prove to be a convincing model.

Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has already predicted that several countries will leave the European Union within the next five years, which is increasingly becoming the conventional wisdom. Given the low growth of so many countries in the union, it is hard to imagine that a populistic revolt won’t emerge.

“The global economy remains stuck in a deflationary expansion of minimal growth and minimal rates,” Merrill Lynch wrote in a note to investors on Monday. “And electorates are increasingly voting in the developed world against wage deflation, high unemployment, immigration and inequality.”

James Pethokoukis, a commentator at the American Enterprise Institute, recently found a memorandum written in 2011 during the euro crisis by Willem Buiter, the global chief economist at Citigroup, that imagined the destruction of the European Union. “A breakup of the Euro Area would be rather like the movie ‘War of the Roses’ version of a divorce: disruptive, destructive and without any winners,” he wrote, describing how “even a partial one involving the exit of one or more fiscally and competitively weak countries, would be chaotic.”

Here’s what would happen: “Exit, partial or full, would likely be precipitated by disorderly sovereign defaults in the fiscally weak and uncompetitive member states, whose currencies would weaken dramatically and whose banks would fail,” Mr. Buiter wrote at the time. “If Spain and Italy were to exit, there would be a collapse of systemically important financial institutions throughout the European Union and North America and years of global depression.”

For now, let’s hope these worst-case scenarios are just that.


“If it’s Hillary Clinton, its war,” Russia’s Putin declared, But Not if its Trump


Putin: “Trump is a colorful and flamboyant man”
                                                                       

The Russian own Putin an ex KGB agent and a relic of the cold war who apparently is a leech of chaos can survive better in the new cold war of any cold in which his hide is secured. He said that it’s Clinton who brings the real threat of war, not Donald Trump. His declaration has stressed out a lot of Russians and Romanians. “If it’s Hillary Clinton, its war,” the Russian president declared and that is what he wants because the more insecure the Russians are the more they will think they need this old 1960’s war mule.

Apparently this man does not read history if he did he will know that calling for the annihilation of the world in WW3 will not guarantee that he will survive, chances are he will not. He should take a page from the Japanese in WW2 because we did and we don’t believe in waiting for the first strike like we did with Japan. This talking about WW3 makes it more possible and since he is never had much until now that he takes the wealth of the Russians to invest outside of Russia and live the good live; Would he want it to end?
Adam Gonzalez

Putin’s declaration comes after the Obama regime’s activation on the Western Front of its European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) missile system. 
Russia warns it is a direct threat to its own EPAA missile systems — and Putin feels that a war will begin if Hillary succeeds Barack Obama as president. “I could live without teeth if there would be no war,” Putin said.. “Look at Hillary, it’s clear – she is ready to storm Russia tomorrow!”

Putin has already notified his military leaders to prepare for the potential World War 3 that’s about to happen if Clinton is elected president. He has also commanded the Aerospace Defense Forces to speed up the distribution of two or more missiles attack early warning system satellites.

Meanwhile, Putin has far more positive things to say towards Clinton’s rival. He has described Trump as a “flamboyant” or “colorful” man. And he seems to have more trust in the billionaire too, after Trump declared that he will restore Russian-American relations. “Is there anything bad there? We all welcome this, don’t you?” Putin said.

Putin also admitted that he accepts that the U.S. is the world’s “only superpower” and that Russia is willing to work with them. And in response to the sanctions made by the U.S. and the European Union on Russia after its military actions in the Ukraine, Putin says that the world needs strong countries like them.

“But we don’t need them constantly getting mixed up in our affairs, instructing us how to live, preventing Europe from building a relationship with us.”

The Civil War Inspired by the NRA will be its Doom (special gun edition)



                                                                         
                              (Credit: AP/Reuters/J. Scott Applewhite/Lucy Nicholson/Photo montage by Salon)
The National Rifle Association has remained silent in the immediate aftermath of yet another mass-shooting, as it typically does, not wanting to remind the American people of its complicity.
Of course, its many surrogates on the right are more than happy to defend it and its principles, as Donald Trump did this on TODAY, against any and all calls by Democrats to ban military-style assault rifles
           The organization’s silence is, of course, nothing if not strategic.

The packed crowd in the convention hall, lit by red, white, and blue floodlights overhead, listened expectantly to the boyish executive onstage. He asked a question: “If you’re at home and someone kicks in your door and tries to murder you and your family”—the applause was already starting—“should you have the right to defend yourself with a firearm?” Warming to his message, members attending the 145th annual meeting of the National Rifle Association of America, last May, in Louisville, began to roar. Perhaps their feelings were pent up because of the rain outside, or the extra-long lines that had kept them waiting in it, or because the featured speaker of the day, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, was rumored to be running late. But the question, from Chris Cox, the executive director of the N.R.A.’s Institute for Legislative Action, was only the beginning. 

“After eight years of dishonesty, corruption, and failure,” he continued, America had become unrecognizable. It had been “twisted” and “perverted” by the mainstream media and politicians. “Who are kids supposed to respect?” he asked the audience. “The media tells them that Bruce Jenner is a national hero for transforming his body” but ignores the veterans whose bodies have been transformed by war. He took repeated aim at Hillary Clinton and told the crowd to “get over it” if their preferred candidate in the Republican primary had not won. The most important thing was to elect a pro-gun president in the coming election, one who would fight for the Second Amendment. As he wound up and prepared to introduce the next speaker, Wayne LaPierre, the long-serving C.E.O. of the N.R.A., Cox offered this message to Hillary Clinton: “You want to turn this election into a do-or-die fight over the Second Amendment? Bring. It. On.” Cox received a standing ovation. Later in the day, Donald Trump would receive the N.R.A.’s endorsement.

No such fighting words, or anything remotely like them, had been on offer a few months earlier at another N.R.A. event, this one at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, in Harrisburg. Set amid the rolling hills and farmland of south-central Pennsylvania, the Great American Outdoor Show presented a more idyllic scene. Attendees could fish in an artificial trout pond, watch archers perform, or go to a session on “better wild-game cooking.” Children begged their parents for funnel cakes. Couples paged through brochures for hunting cabins. Mennonite teenagers took turns at a small shooting range, where N.R.A. volunteers handed out safety goggles. Rocking chairs offered a place to rest some of the 200,000 people who would visit during the course of the show. The complex is busy year-round with events such as the Penn National Horse Show, the Keystone International Livestock Exposition, and the American Rabbit Breeders Association. This outdoor show seemed of a piece with the others, except for the N.R.A.’s less-than-subtle effort to troll for new members. The N.R.A. took over the organization of the show three years ago, and at the door N.R.A. representatives dressed in hunting jackets stood alongside a sign advertising, in large red lettering, FREE ADMISSION to anyone who bought a $35 annual membership. Inside, the N.R.A. maintained a booth for its Eddie Eagle program, a safety effort aimed at children. Neither Cox nor LaPierre was in attendance in Pennsylvania to deliver a fiery call to arms. 
The difference between the two events—the one in Louisville and the one in Harrisburg—highlights a fundamental characteristic of the National Rifle Association: the vast and widening difference between its activist and angry leadership, on the one hand, and its mostly calm members on the other, many of whom don’t know precisely what the N.R.A. is advocating in their name. It is a characteristic that has been little reported and that could have immense political significance, if gun-control forces start taking it seriously. The N.R.A. today finds itself needing to compete for money, for members, for loyalty, and even for issues and influence.  The group’s very identity is up for grabs. The N.R.A. has historically represented the buyers of guns, not the sellers—that role has been played by another group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation—but its allegiance is shifting. The N.R.A.’s largest donors today are the world’s major gun, ammunition, and firearms-accessory manufacturers. The N.R.A. notes proudly that it receives the bulk of its revenue—in 2014 it was $310 million—from membership dues (the group claims to have five million members) and from other contributions. It conveys the impression that it is a grassroots operation, like the Bernie Sanders campaign. But according to a 2013 study by the non-profit Violence Policy Center, a significant part of that money is provided by a small core of large firearms-industry donors. The study reported that among the contributors of at least a million dollars each to the N.R.A. were the Italian family-owned gun company Beretta, Smith & Wesson, Brownells, Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems, and Springfield Armory. MidwayUSA, an online retailer of hunting products, including ammunition and high-capacity magazines, has participated in a program since 1992 that offers customers an option to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar and donate the difference to the N.R.A. Through this program, MidwayUSA and other gun-industry companies have helped build an N.R.A. endowment balance of more than $14 million.
The N.R.A., headquartered in a mammoth glass office building in Fairfax, Virginia, has earned a fearsome reputation over the years. LaPierre, its C.E.O., is a bookish man who arrived at the N.R.A. in 1978 as a lobbyist—and a very bad shot, though a firm believer in the Second Amendment. He has come to epitomize the organization’s ferocious rhetoric and ruthless tactics. Virtually every time the organization has lobbied to halt or roll back gun regulation in America, it has won. The carrying of a concealed firearm is today legal in all 50 states, up from 9 states in 1986. The N.R.A. has been at the forefront of attempts to expand the places where one can carry a gun—a hospital, a school, a church, a nursing home (but not inside the N.R.A. headquarters building itself, if you are a visitor). It is pushing now for “open carry” laws in all 50 states. It wields a grading system for politicians—which gun-lovers and politicians alike pay close attention to—and seeks to reward or punish officeholders according to their scores. The organization’s reputation for invincibility got a boost when Bill Clinton, after the disastrous midterm elections in 1994, was quoted saying that “the N.R.A. is the reason Republicans control the House.” 
The organization likes to present itself as continually under assault—and the only force that can keep its members from losing their guns. It is indeed under assault, but not for reasons it wants to talk about. There are so-called allies in the “gun freedom” movement who are even more doctrinaire than the N.R.A. These allies are in fact competitors, and they are pulling the N.R.A.’s leadership ever farther to the right even as they entice the more extreme N.R.A. members away. Demographic shifts in the country don’t favor the core constituency of the N.R.A., which is white and male; the group likes to present women as the “fastest growing segment” of its membership, but according to a General Social Survey conducted by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, since 1980 gun ownership among women has remained largely unchanged. The number of gun-owning households in America is shrinking: from about half in 1977 to about a third in 2015. To keep gun sales rising—as they have been—the gun industry needs to sell more guns to people who already own guns, a practice that gun critics call “hoarding” and that gun enthusiasts call “collecting.” Either way, the industry must produce ever more attractive gun models to sell to fewer people. It is this self-interested agenda on the part of manufacturers, as much as a constitutional concern about gun rights, that lies behind the N.R.A.’s opposition to any form of effective regulation. Meanwhile, technological advances, such as the 3-D printing of guns, which allows anyone with a 3-D printer to build a gun in the privacy of his home, may eventually force the N.R.A. to choose between the interests of its financial backers (gun manufacturers and distributors would hate the idea of 3-D printing, for obvious reasons) and those of some of its most ardent constituents (who love the idea).

The moment to test the N.R.A.—divided, fragile, embattled, and morally corrupt—is now at hand. At around two A.M. on June 12, a man named Omar Mateen entered a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and murdered 49 people. Fifty-three others were wounded. Mateen reportedly posted Facebook messages pledging loyalty to ISIS during his attack. Two days later, the N.R.A.’s Cox wrote in USA Today that despite renewed calls to tighten gun regulations, “radical Islamic terrorists are not deterred by gun control laws.” He blamed the Orlando attack on “the Obama administration’s political correctness.” NRA News, the group’s information outlet, then posted a video of a veteran Navy SEAL and N.R.A. commentator, Dom Raso, extolling the virtues of the AR-15, the type of rifle initially believed to have been involved in the Orlando shooting. (It was in fact a SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle, manufactured in New Hampshire.) Raso faced the camera and told his audience: “For the vast majority of people I work with there is no better firearm to defend their homes against realistic threats than an AR-15 semi-automatic. It’s easy to learn, and easy to use. It’s accurate, it’s reliable.” One of the sponsors of NRA News is SIG Sauer. 
With each new mass shooting, individual details are parsed in the media and on both sides of the gun debate. Every shooting highlights the particularities of its perpetrator. What remains constant is the N.R.A.’s position that guns are not to blame—that they are, in fact, the only solution. 
The N.R.A.’s true power has always come from its membership. Today, the group’s hardball tactics and extreme positions are trying the patience of many members. The cracks in the N.R.A. edifice come from more than one source and splay in more than one direction, but they all have the effect of separating the leadership from its base. If N.R.A. officials are nervous, it is because they may remember what happened once before, nearly 40 years ago, when a coup by the membership deposed the men at the top and radically changed the group’s course.

II. “COLD, DEAD HANDS”

The National Rifle Association is so familiar that it seems like a fixed object in the political landscape. This is far from the truth. The group was founded in 1871 by two former Union soldiers worried not about gun rights but about poor marksmanship. Its founding principle was to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.” With partial funding from New York State, the N.R.A. set up a practice range on Long Island. By the turn of the century, the N.R.A. had opened multiple ranges, and shooting was increasingly seen as a competitive sport. The organization moved to Washington, D.C., in 1907.
Between the Civil War and the turn of the century, three presidents were killed by guns. Prohibition and the Depression fed violent crime. Franklin D. Roosevelt made law and order part of his New Deal, and—hard as it is to believe—the N.R.A. helped draft the first federal gun-control law, the National Firearms Act of 1934. The law required that certain types of “crime guns” (machine guns, sawed-off shotguns) and related equipment (silencers) be registered and taxed. During congressional hearings, the president of the N.R.A. at the time, Karl T. Frederick, stated bluntly, “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns.” In 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald bought a rifle he saw advertised in the N.R.A.’s American Rifleman magazine and used it to kill President John F. Kennedy. The N.R.A. supported the law limiting interstate mail-order sales of firearms that followed. 
The N.R.A.’s leadership during this period consisted mostly of middle-class sportsmen. Guns had yet to become a potent political issue. When they became one, there was at first a racial component. In May 1967, more than two dozen Black Panther party members walked into the California state-capitol building carrying rifles to protest a proposed gun-control bill. They framed the open carrying of weapons as a constitutional right. The protest prompted then governor Ronald Reagan to say that there was “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” As urban riots stoked white fears, a restrictive California gun statute was signed into law. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy gave further impetus to regulation: the Gun Control Act of 1968 established a minimum age at which one could buy a gun, required that guns have serial numbers, and made it illegal for drug addicts and the mentally ill to own a gun. The act also made it impossible for anyone but federally licensed dealers or collectors to ship guns across state lines. The N.R.A. leadership at the time saw its role as that of beating back some of the more stringent measures, such as mandatory gun licensing and a national gun registry. But it cooperated in other areas. 
This 1968 law would be the high-water mark for gun control. A gulf had opened up between the N.R.A. leadership and the rank and file. According to Adam Winkler’s authoritative 2011 book, Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America, many N.R.A. members had been infuriated by the group’s capitulation on mail-order sales of firearms. The alleged behavior of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was another sore issue. In 1971 the A.T.F. raided the apartment of a longtime N.R.A. member named Kenyon Ballew, whom agents suspected of making hand grenades. According to coverage in American Rifleman, the agents broke down the door, shot and seriously wounded Ballew without provocation, and found nothing in his home to support their suspicions. The magazine maintained that Ballew had been taking a bath with his wife. Years later, Ballew sued the government. The suit was dismissed when a federal court determined that the agents did knock and announce their presence; that Ballew’s door was heavily barricaded; that he pointed his gun at the agents when they entered the house; that the woman in the bath was not his wife; and that he was in possession of illegal hand grenades. If one is looking for the moment when the world views of gun enthusiasts and gun-control advocates began to diverge, the Ballew case is it.

As Winkler noted, N.R.A. leaders wanted to stay away from political battles. In fact, in the mid-1970s, they were planning to move the N.R.A.’s headquarters to Colorado Springs and invest in outdoorsman activities. In 1975, John D. Aquilino, who worked for the N.R.A.’s newly formed Institute for Legislative Action—the organization’s lobbying arm—was sent by his bosses to scout out a New Mexico facility. “At the time, the N.R.A. was a house divided against itself,” Aquilino told me. The I.L.A., he explained, was dedicated to pushing gun rights even as the N.R.A. leadership toyed with the idea of taking “rifle” out of the organization’s name and turning the group into a publishing empire focused on outdoor pursuits for sportsmen. While Aquilino was gathering intelligence on the New Mexico plans, other activists were meeting with state rifle and pistol associations to encourage them to attend the national convention and vote for a slate of upstart candidates. They turned up en masse at the convention in Cincinnati, in 1977, wearing bright-orange hunting caps. The old leadership was thrown out, and a new face, Harlon Carter, was elected to lead the organization. Carter was a former head of the U.S. Border Patrol who, it was later learned, had once shot and killed a Hispanic youth during a quarrel. He helped create the first big national advertising campaign for the N.R.A., which featured the likes of Chuck Yeager, Roy Rogers, Louis Farrakhan, and even an eight-year-old boy, each holding a gun and speaking the words “I’m the N.R.A.” 
The campaign was wildly successful in mainstreaming the image of the group even as the N.R.A. adopted a more political stance. Ronald Reagan was a major supporter. In 1986, Congress passed the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, which prohibited the A.T.F. from inspecting a gun dealer more than once a year. It also prohibited the federal government from creating a national gun registry. In the 1990s, the N.R.A. found its most potent spokesman: the actor Charlton Heston. Heston could be relied on to speak out in favor of gun rights even in the wake of the most shocking events. In 1999, days after the shootings at Columbine High School, which took 13 lives, the N.R.A. held its annual convention in nearby Denver. Speaking at the convention, Heston reminded members that the mayor had warned the N.R.A., “Don’t come here.” He went on to invoke the Everyman quality of N.R.A. members, who could be found, he said, “in city hall, Fort Carson, NORAD, the Air Force Academy, and the Olympic Training Center. And yes, N.R.A. members are surely among the police and fire and SWAT team heroes who risked their lives to rescue the students at Columbine. Don’t come here? We’re already here.” The following year, Heston taunted then presidential candidate Al Gore, saying that Gore could have Heston’s gun when he pried it “from my cold, dead hands.” In Congress, the N.R.A. would rack up win after win—in many places today it is easier to buy a gun than rent a car. One momentary setback was the assault-weapons ban of 1994; it has since expired. A major victory was the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, in 2005, which barred lawsuits against gun-makers in the event of “misuse” of firearms by others.
This is the N.R.A. that we now take for granted, but it has existed as such for little more than a generation. And the crucial takeaway from recent history is that the N.R.A. is not a monolith. It is malleable. 

III. THUNDER ON THE RIGHT

The gap between the N.R.A.’s current leadership and its base is being widened by several forces. One of them is political: the group is no longer the only game in town. The N.R.A. takes ever more extreme positions out of fear—to accommodate the single-issue diehards. Moderate members look on with dismay. At a major gun show in Las Vegas, where I manned a friend’s booth—it was the annual convention of the National Shooting Sports Foundation—one exhibitor told me that the N.R.A. should spend less time talking about guns as protection. Most guns, in reality, are for sport, he said: “Nine hundred ninety-nine out of 1,000 people are going to shoot a piece of paper with a circle on it.” The diehards, meanwhile, have other options, such as the Gun Owners of America (which calls itself the “no compromise” gun group) and the National Association for Gun Rights (which calls itself “the fastest growing gun rights group in America”). 
Larry Pratt, 73, the executive director emeritus of the Gun Owners of America, comes across as a perfectly nice person to talk to until he starts speaking about guns. On the night of December 14, 2012, after that morning’s slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut—in which a young man named Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders and six teachers and staff with a semi-automatic AR-15 Bushmaster rifle—Pratt issued a statement that blamed the deaths on gun-control laws. He called for teachers to be armed. “Gun-control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands,” he said that night.
I spoke to Pratt recently about the goals of his organization. “The difference between us and the N.R.A.,” he said, “is that for a hundred years the N.R.A. was big buddies with the government.” For Pratt, there isn’t a graver insult than being a big buddy of the government’s. His own organization is based in a nondescript brick building in northern Virginia, about a 15-minute drive from the N.R.A.’s headquarters. The G.O.A. was founded in the mid-1970s expressly to combat the government. “We had this very different political philosophy from the get-go,” Pratt said. “We didn’t have any adjustment to make in terms of being an adversary to this government.” With some 300,000 members, the G.O.A. is a fraction of the size of the N.R.A., and until recently it had remained largely on the margins of the gun debate. The shootings at Sandy Hook changed all that. 
On December 18, well before the N.R.A. had made any public statement about the killings in Connecticut, Pratt appeared with Piers Morgan on CNN. Morgan, who had been outspoken in his support for stricter gun-control laws, asked Pratt why he advocated arming teachers. “The alternative is what we have seen, where people were reduced to waiting to be murdered,” Pratt responded, adding that allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons was “obvious.” Pratt added that the likes of Morgan were arguing that “it’s better that you sit there and wait to be killed” than defend yourself. The interview ended with Morgan calling Pratt “an unbelievably stupid man” and Pratt telling Morgan that Neville Chamberlain was “your role model.” Pratt told me later that “people who had never heard of us went to our Web site and they crashed the poor little thing three times.”
Three days later, Wayne LaPierre held a press conference at the Willard hotel, in Washington, D.C. LaPierre had addressed issues of school shootings before. After the Columbine killings, in 1999, he had stood before his members and said, “First, we believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools,” which meant, “no guns in America’s schools, period.” (LaPierre allowed that there may be a “rare exception” for trained security personnel to be armed.) Now, goaded by activists such as Pratt, LaPierre took a more aggressive stance. He told reporters that America should protect its schoolchildren the way it protects its president, with brute force. He called on Congress to “appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation.” He stated that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” 
Today, on the Gun Owners of America Web site, the Orlando shootings are front and center. Against a backdrop of a scene outside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, where the killings occurred, the G.O.A. warns: THE BEST WAY TO STOP EVIL . . . IS SHOOTING BACK. Not long ago, the group was rallying members in the wake of another mass shooting. “It’s easy to forget the cold, dark days of winter 2013,” Tim Macy, the current chairman, wrote in February of this year. “The horrific tragedy of Newtown had touched the hearts of the nation, and every news outlet.” Macy’s greatest concern was not with those killed at Newtown but with what he saw as misdirected finger-pointing: “Every one was blaming the Second Amendment community for what happened there.” In early 2013, Congress debated the so-called Manchin-Toomey bill, which would have expanded background checks for gun purchases while loosening restrictions on interstate sales. It explicitly outlawed a national gun registry. The proposed Manchin-Toomey legislation, in short, was thin stuff, and not far from what LaPierre himself had acknowledged to be acceptable during congressional testimony back in 1999. The N.R.A. at first seemed willing to come to the table. Even Bill O’Reilly was advocating for background checks. But in the end the N.R.A. opposed the bill and helped to kill it. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, credited the G.O.A. for the outcome. The N.R.A., he said, was “being pushed even further to the extreme” by the competition.

IV. MISSION CREEP

Meanwhile, the N.R.A. has broadened its activities into political arenas that have little to do with the actual ownership of guns. It has worked to pass bills that prevent pediatricians from speaking to patients and their families about guns they have in their homes. It has lobbied for bills that prevent military counselors from asking enlisted and former military officers about their personal firearms, even if the soldiers appear at risk of doing harm to themselves or others. The N.R.A. opposes micro-stamping, a technology that would help match bullets found at crime scenes to the guns from which they were fired. The organization opposes “smart gun” technology, used in Europe, which permits a gun to be fired only by its owner. The group has lobbied aggressively to prevent the Centers for Disease Control from studying gun violence as a public-health issue, even though the C.D.C. routinely studies the health consequences of many products and technologies, including automobiles. 
Increasingly, the N.R.A. is also weighing in on issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with guns. This is a way of expanding a shrinking base. But it also gives official backing to positions that many N.R.A. members do not care about and others may even oppose. 
 In May 2013, the N.R.A. elected a new president, James Porter II. Five months after Sandy Hook, Porter opened the N.R.A.’s annual convention, in Houston, by declaring that the debate over gun regulations “is not a battle over gun rights” but rather “a culture war”—in other words, a war on behalf of all the issues conservatives care about besides guns. Gun enthusiasts are famous for being one-issue voters, an impression that the N.R.A. has fostered and that serves it well. The group’s expansion into areas that have nothing to do with guns is a sign of weakness. In August 2014, in the run-up to that year’s midterm elections, the N.R.A. launched a multi-million-dollar television advertising campaign that Wayne LaPierre told the conservative Washington Times was “a gathering of shared values that gives a sense of right and wrong.” Not one of the 16 ads released as part of the campaign mentioned guns. The first ad in the series asked the question “Do you still believe in the good guys?” Another brought up an alleged I.R.S. tax scandal, in which the agency was accused (falsely, it turned out) of giving extra scrutiny to politically conservative groups: “What kind of country turns its tax collectors into secret police?” Each ad was narrated by an N.R.A. member and featured a range of speakers, including an African-American man, a white man, and a white woman, in an effort to show the apparent diversity within the N.R.A. It’s worth noting that diversity was not on display at any of the gun-related events that I have attended over the past few months, unless you count the women working in the booths. 
After the shootings in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015, the New York Daily News ran a front-page headline—GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS—deriding the politicians who offered only prayers for victims of mass shootings rather than any action on gun control. The accompanying story took aim at the N.R.A.’s lobbying efforts, including its resistance to a bill that would prevent people on the terrorist watch list from buying firearms. The N.R.A. responded with a video spot called “The Godless Left.” In it, the conservative radio host and N.R.A. backer Dana Loesch spoke out against those who would “destroy our history and eviscerate our rights.” She went on: “They don’t report on the drug cartels and the human traffickers who have invaded our borders and embedded in every single American city. They buried the unconscionable scandals at the V.A., the weaponizing of the I.R.S., and the disastrous billion-dollar healthcare Web site.” She accused the Godless Left of trying to “demonize Christmas and Christianity.”
Linking up with every right-wing cause imaginable comes at a price. The prominent pro-gun-rights blog Shall Not Be Questioned posted a response to the Loesch video: “I get that the prayer-shaming that followed the attack in San Bernardino made that issue tangentially gun-related,” wrote “Sebastian,” the pen name of the blog’s main writer. “But should Obama­care be an N.R.A. issue?” The N.R.A., Sebastian went on, “is tying . . . the Second Amendment to the fortunes of the conservative movement. It may be successful short term, but I worry NRA is shooting itself and the Second Amendment in the foot long term.” 

V. THE PLASTIC REVOLUTION

No advocacy group wants to have to face the skeptical question: Whose side are you on? The N.R.A.’s leadership is running into that question more and more. 
In May 2013, not long after the elementary—school shooting in Newtown, a University of Texas law student named Cody Wilson filmed himself firing from a plastic gun printed by an $8,000 3-D printer. He invited a reporter from Forbes along to watch, and posted the video on YouTube; it was viewed 2.8 million times in the two days after its release. Fifteen of the gun’s 16 functioning parts were made of plastic. Homemade guns were nothing new; home tinkerers have long created them out of parts, dismantling and rebuilding firearms in their basements. What was different about this effort was that you could make the parts yourself. Along with his video, Wilson released a digital blueprint for how to manufacture a plastic gun. Two days later, Glenn E. Smith, chief of enforcement for the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, wrote a letter to Wilson, informing him that the instructions he had posted could be “I.T.A.R.-controlled technical data.” (I.T.A.R. refers to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations—rules that control the import and export of weapons.) The department demanded that Wilson take the instructions down. 
Wilson complied, but not before the blueprints had been downloaded 100,000 times and posted on other Web sites. Since then, Wilson has sued the State Department, with the help of the Second Amendment Foundation. For him, the central point is not about guns. It’s about how technology renders many debates, as a practical matter, virtually obsolete. If you can make a gun in your home, at the press of a button, then all the talk about background checks, waiting periods, or a gun registry becomes pointless. In January 2013, as high-capacity magazines—those capable of holding more than 10 bullets—became a focus of national gun-control conversations, Wilson used a 3-D printer to create a 30-round magazine. The magazine was designed for an AR-15–style firearm—the kind of automatic rifle used in the mass shootings in Newtown, San Bernardino, and Aurora. He then released another video of himself—in a field, wearing sunglasses, and preparing to fire an automatic equipped with his plastic magazine. He tauntingly asked, “How’s the national conversation going?” 
Three-D printing is far enough away from being a mass reality that the N.R.A., for the moment, seems to feel that it can be standoffishly supportive. Most gun-lovers find that 3-D guns are still too expensive, too imprecise, and too fragile to be a real alternative to traditional guns. But the issue will not disappear, and for the N.R.A. it poses a profound dilemma: when forced to make a choice, will the group prove more loyal to its Second Amendment principles or to the needs of its gun-manufacturer donors? In a promotional brochure distributed by the N.R.A.’s “corporate partners program,” Wayne LaPierre promises donors that the N.R.A. “is geared toward your company’s corporate interests.” With statements like that, it’s difficult to tell whom the N.R.A. really represents.

VI. PAPER TIGER

There’s one more question the N.R.A is having trouble addressing: Is it actually good at what it does? In an article in The New Republic in 2013, Alec MacGillis argued persuasively that the influence of the N.R.A. had long been overstated. For much of its history, it hasn’t had much of an opposition. Back in 1994, when Bill Clinton was quoted bemoaning the N.R.A.’s power in that year’s midterm elections, he had, in fact, been urging more politicians to fight the N.R.A., according to Tom Diaz, a former N.R.A. member and the author of The Last Gun (2013), a book critical of the gun industry. In his comments at the time, Clinton held up then senator Bob Kerrey as a model for countering the gun lobby. After the senator, a Vietnam veteran, was targeted in a Charlton Heston N.R.A. ad, Kerrey created an ad of his own, featuring himself shooting a rifle, and then picking up an AK-47. With the AK-47 in hand, he told the camera that he had hunted with a weapon like that in Vietnam, and added, “But you don’t need one of these to hunt birds.” Kerrey won re-election.
The 1994 election had much more to do with partisanship and the Clintons than with the N.R.A.: the gays-in-the-military debate that resulted in the creation of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”; the 1993 tax increases; Hillary Clinton’s failed effort at health-care reform; Travelgate; Nannygate; Troopergate. But the N.R.A. was happy to take the credit. It also took credit for Al Gore’s loss in the presidential election in 2000—never mind the impact of Ralph Na­der’s independent run that year, the impasse in Florida, and the role of the Supreme Court. The N.R.A.’s LaPierre told the group’s annual meeting, “You are why Al Gore isn’t in the White House.” The impression of great influence has been mutually beneficial. Politicians can blame their own timidity on the N.R.A.’s ruthlessness and power, and the N.R.A. can present itself as a decisive factor in elections.
Richard Feldman, a onetime N.R.A. official and the author of the 2007 book Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist, told me that when speaking with lawmakers he knew to be on the fence about important legislation, he would present them with two possible letters that could be sent by the N.R.A. to the lawmakers’ constituents. One version read, in essence, “When push came to shove, your assemblyman was more concerned about what the New York Timeseditorial board was going to say about him than your rights.” The other version read, “When push came to shove, your assemblyman cared more about your rights than what the New York Times editorial board was going to say about him.” Feldman told me he would always put the lawmaker in control, saying, “I will put out a letter, but it’s up to you what version of it I send out.”

Those politicians almost always chose the N.R.A. over the Times.  But that is changing. In 2013, the Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen conducted research funded by co-founder of the Huffington Post Kenneth Lerer to determine the actual power of the N.R.A. in the 2012 elections. The study found that, while the N.R.A. was “technically successful” in defeating or electing the candidates it spent money on in 2012, more than 92 percent of the money spent by the N.R.A. actually went to elections in which the organization proved unsuccessful. When spending more than $100,000 on a candidate in 2012, it found, the N.R.A. was successful in only three cases, versus 12 elections in which its candidate lost. The report concluded that the N.R.A. takes credit for elections where it has donated a negligible amount of money and backed an obvious winner. The research turned up five victories claimed by the N.R.A. on which the group spent less than $100. One more finding: 86 percent of N.R.A. members favored universal background checks, a position that is opposed by the N.R.A.’s leadership. Background checks are the single most important step that government could take to improve gun safety. 
That gap between the leadership and the rank and file was cited by Adolphus A. Busch IV, when he resigned from his lifetime N.R.A. membership after the defeat of the Manchin-Toomey bill. “Your current strategic focus places a priority on the needs of gun and ammunition manufacturers,” he wrote, while “disregarding the opinions” of the organization’s individual members.
As for those members, what does that claimed number of five million actually represent? Mother Jones has done extensive work analyzing the actual number of members of the N.R.A., a figure the organization guards with extreme secrecy. It appears to fluctuate. Even taken at face value, the number is a tiny sliver of gun owners in America—about 6 percent. And there are good reasons not to take the number at face value. Many of those members are people who signed up in order to get into other events free—such as the people who signed up at the Great American Outdoor Show I attended. Manufacturers such as Beretta, Taurus, Browning, Wilson, and Tactical Combat have, at times, given free memberships to anyone buying one of their products. The N.R.A. itself, according to a 2012 document obtained by Bloomberg News, regards only half of its membership as “active and interested.” 
Politicians are becoming more aware of the dynamic—and of the fact that they have nothing to gain by toeing the N.R.A.’s line. In 2008, despite the shootings at Virginia Tech that left 32 dead, Democrats running for office rarely brought up the issue of gun regulation. “People were trying to establish their bona fides as duck-hunters,” recalled John Feinblatt, the President of Everytown for Gun Safety. This election cycle, Democratic candidates are openly talking about who has the strongest rec­ord fighting the N.R.A. Hillary Clinton seems poised to make it a big issue. Part of the change is due to the willingness of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg to provide a counterweight, with money and advocacy. Democratic politicians are also beginning to realize that attempts to mollify the N.R.A. are pointless. Senator Mark Pryor, a Democrat from Arkansas, voted against the Manchin-Toomey gun-control bill, arguing to supporters that by doing so he would neutralize the N.R.A. in his upcoming campaign against Republican challenger Tom Cotton. Within a week of Pryor’s vote, the N.R.A. endorsed Cotton anyway, who went on to win. There is no mollifying the gun lobby, in part because the N.R.A. can’t afford to be seen as soft. Referring to the N.R.A., one Democratic senator told me, “It’s my way or the highway every fucking time.”

VII. FREEDOM FIGHTERS

As the N.R.A. has advanced ever more radical notions of gun freedom, the group has begun to reach the outer boundaries of what it can achieve. One longtime gun-control activist told me that, ever since the Cincinnati revolt, in 1979, the N.R.A. had evolved into a group with what he called a Field & Stream membership and a Soldier of Fortune leadership. The organization has done its best to transform those hunters and fishermen into warriors, and it has its talking points lined up. When I asked Marion Hammer, the first female president of the N.R.A. and an influential N.R.A. lobbyist, how she would describe the culture of the N.R.A., she told me, “I would not call N.R.A. a culture. I would call N.R.A. a group of freedom fighters.” Until recently, one could be forgiven for thinking that the freedom fighters had won. Today’s battles appear to be fought on the N.R.A.’s terms. Shannon Watts, the head of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an organization that is funded by Michael Bloomberg, told me that her group has aggressive goals for gun safety, but when it comes down to it, “we are fighting for things that the N.R.A. used to support,” such as background checks and keeping guns out of schools. The gun-control advocates also lack certain tools. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence compiles its own N.R.A.-style report card, publicizing a list of Lap Dogs—a member of Congress who “takes treats from the corporate gun lobby and blocks progress on expanding Brady background checks.” The problem is that gun-safety advocates are typically not single-issue voters. The most extreme members of the “Second Amendment community” emphatically are.
In the wake of the Orlando shooting, bills have been introduced in Congress to try to prevent people who have surfaced on F.B.I. watch lists from purchasing firearms. There are renewed proposals for so-called universal background checks—extending them to gun shows and Internet sales. There are calls for the C.D.C. to finally be allowed to study gun violence, which it has been prevented by law from doing, largely at the instigation of the N.R.A. So far there have been no vocal efforts to properly fund the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the agency that oversees gun regulations, which has seen its funding restricted for decades, again largely thanks to the N.R.A. Meanwhile, to the list of those who stand in opposition to the N.R.A. can now be added members of the highly organized L.G.B.T.Q. community—outraged and grief-stricken by the killings in Orlando. If politicians at the state and national levels faced up to—and stared down—the N.R.A., they would find themselves confronting an organization that is weaker than it wants anyone to know. They would discover that support for effective gun-control measures is far stronger—and opposition to them far milder—than the conventional wisdom would suggest. 
After each mass shooting, gun sales spike because of a culture of fear that is stoked by the N.R.A. Both Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox sat for televised interviews on the Sunday after the Orlando shootings. During his appearance on Face the Nation, LaPierre said that “every American” needs to have a self-­defense plan, because “they’re coming and they’re going to try to kill us.” 
But this kind of talk masks a deeper reality. The N.R.A., like the Republican Party from which it draws most of its support, is fracturing. Elvin Daniel is an avid hunter and an N.R.A. member who has advocated before the Senate Judiciary Committee for universal background checks, a position vehemently opposed today by the N.R.A. leadership. Elvin’s sister Zina was killed, along with two others, in October 2012 by her estranged husband, who was under a restraining order and would have failed a background check. Instead, he was able to buy a gun off of armslist.com—the Craigslist of guns—and kill three people. Only with his sister’s death did Daniel realize that background checks are not required for online purchases of guns. Daniel told me that most of his friends are N.R.A. members and favor universal background checks. One might argue that today’s N.R.A. leadership is far too professionalized to suffer the kind of organized revolt that it did in Cincinnati in 1977. Until a few months ago, one might have made the same argument about the Republican Party.

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