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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The AmericanRifleman, the Democratic Debate and Drug Commercials


Read the AmericanRifleman! (an NRA publication)

I’ve been reading the AmericanRifleman, particularly NRA Excecutive Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s column.  It is convincing stuff, emotionally and statistically, for those who are against any further government (any government, Federal, state or local) restriction on gun control, or any more restrictive interpretation of the Constitution’s Second Amendment.  The rest of the editorial content of the magazine is similarly potent.  After digesting this highly opinionated material, the reader is left with many pages of articles about and ads for weapons in the AmericanRifleman, all of which are no different from the specialized articles and ads found in any sportsman’s magazine, be it devoted to golf, tennis or mountain climbing.  They don’t matter.  Or do they?

What definitely does matter, however, is the tone which the magazine sets, that the ownership of personal and efficient killing devices (guns) is perfectly normal and usual since they are useful for self-defense.   Tennis rackets, golf clubs, bowling balls, guns .... we have a right to possess them all.  Except that the ultimate purpose of guns is to kill ... and they do that to more people than tennis rackets, golf clubs and bowling balls combined do.

Wayne LaPierre, NRA Exec. V.P.

LaPierre’s November column deals with the recent shooting of two TV news people by another employee, who had purchased his weapon legally.  He had wanted “to start a race war” and had no mental health record despite some very dangerous anti-social thoughts.  LaPierre asks “What has this got to do with us?" (the NRA) and answers “Not a Single Thing.”  

The title of his column is “Gun Control is a Tool to Make Innocents Pay the Price for the Guilty” and goes on to point out that “you cannot ‘prevent’ evil” and furthermore, that gun control is “a danger to our freedom and way of life” because it implies that “one-third of the U.S. population, vastly good people who enjoy the exercise of liberty guaranteed by a God-given constitutional right should be responsible for one ‘troubled personality’.”  This approach was also taken by the NRA after other killings (Newtown, Aurora, Columbine) over the past years.  Why blame us?

Reading on in the magazine, the NRA President’s column deals with the failure of gun control to thwart crime in El Salvador and its Political Report column talks about the stakes for the NRA in the 2016 elections.  There also are numerous articles describing how good people averted being the victims of crimes because of the fact that they were armed, and a detailed article refuting the claim of gun control supporters that “armed self-defense” is rare.

There are 300,000,000 guns in the United States, many in the hands of those who should not have them.  The ones in the hands of the five million NRA members are not the ones we should be worrying about.  What we should be worrying about is the mindset of the NRA’s leadership, and many of its followers, that having a gun for self-defense is something we all have a right to have like having a refrigerator to keep food cold, an automobile to drive around in or a bathroom in which to take a shower.  That right exists, and nobody wants to take it away, but it must be controlled because it’s not the same as the right of civilized people who live in a world where law and order prevail to take showers, drive cars and eat refrigerated food with a government in place to protect them from those who would defy law and order. 

I would hope we live in such a world.  The NRA’s leadership does not …  at least so long as the magazine is filled with articles about and ads for guns, and that mindset enables guns to be readily available to those who should not have them, as well as those "vastly good people" who own guns.  That's why more gun control measures are needed.

Get your hands on a copy, old or new, of the AmericanRifleman. It's in most public libraries.  Right now you can read some of its articles by clicking on AmericanRifleman.  To defeat an enemy, one must know about them.  Read the AmericanRifleman and find out what those of us who still believe in a nation where law and order prevail  are up against. 
Jack Lippman


Advertising Drugs

I think it is obscene the way pharmaceutical companies are permitted to advertise their prescription drugs on television, pointing out their curative benefits while people using the drug, often accompanied by a dog, walk through idyllic settings in slow motion.  Viewers are urged to speak to their doctor about the drug, as if the 24 billion dollars the pharmaceutical industry spends each year “educating” physicians about their products (eight times what they spend “educating” consumers) wasn’t enough to get their message across.  This is particularly true of drugs aimed at treating malignancies, as if one’s oncologist were not aware of a drug which the patient saw in a one minute TV commercial between episodes of a sitcom.  These numbers can be reviewed graphically at http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/02/11/big-pharmaceutical-companies-are-spending-far-more-on-marketing-than-research/.

At the end of these commercials there is sometimes a briefly-displayed warning in very, very, small print that only a speed-reading expert can decipher (like the small print at the end of automobile commercials telling you the amount you have to pay up front) citing all of the hazards the drug presents.  The text of this is also provided as a gentle “voice over” as the commercial proceeds, at the same time the patient and his dog or grandchild are shown strolling in slow motion through the verdant countryside or on a beach.  The narrator often says in dulcet tones things like “occasional fatal events have occurred when using … “

And while on this subject, shouldn’t there be similar warnings in the recruiting commercials for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.  Wouldn’t a caveat like “you also run the chance of getting killed“ be appropriate?


The Democrats Debate

Sanders and Sanders
The Democratic candidates for that party’s Presidential nomination appeared in a televised debate last week and surprisingly, they cleared the air quite a bit.

Hillary Clinton’s straightforward approach indicated that she is fully conversant with the issues the nation faces and prepared to deal with them in a manner which recognizes that a change in position and compromise is sometimes necessary to get much, but not all, of what a President or the nation might want accomplished.

Bernie Sanders clearly and repeatedly enunciated his “anti-Wall Street, anti-bank, anti-corporation, Medicare and free public college education for all” mantra, but was less specific on how he might get Congress to enact the tax changes such positions require.  (His wishy-washy position on gun control, far less restrictive than Ms. Clinton’s, has caused me to remove the “Bernie” sticker I had on my car’s bumper.)

While the attacks on Hillary Clinton in regard to the Benghazi hearings were mentioned only in passing, recent news articles have suggested that, rather than coming up with “facts,” they are G.O.P. efforts aimed at discrediting her campaign for President.  Attacks on her handling of her Email were similarly dismissed as being for the same purpose with Sanders declaring, “Enough of the damn Emails, already,” and suggesting the candidates devote themselves to issues.  “Thanks, Bernie,” Hillary replied.  Nevertheless, expect such attacks to continue because the Republicans, afflicted with a cancer on their right wing,  have little else to talk about.  They cannot even elect one of their own majority as Speaker of the House. 

Martin O’Malley, a liberal Democrat, and Jim Webb, a conservative Democrat, both oozed competence and, should the Democrats win the White House in 2016, will probably end up somewhere in the administration other than behind the desk in the Oval Office.  Ex-Governor and ex-Senator Lincoln Chafee performed so badly that he probably would have difficulty running for dog catcher, even back in his native Rhode Island.

Clinton endorsed many of President Obama’s positions, thereby finessing any late entry into the Democratic race by Vice-President Biden.  I expect that by the time you are reading this, he may have made it clear that he is not in the contest.

Also interesting is the fact that of the five debaters, only two, Clinton and O’Malley, were long term Democrats.  Sanders has always been a Socialist; in fact his performance in the debate swung between his being a latter-day Norman Thomas (perennial Socialist candidate for President in the middle of the last century) and one’s nice but (to borrow a Yiddish expression) “tse-mished” uncle.   Webb was Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration and Chafee had switched parties when he felt the G.O.P. no longer represented his ideas.   

Thus, it appears that the Democratic Party now encompasses many ideas acceptable to a broad spectrum ranging from “traditional” Republican to Socialist.  Many Republicans may either stay away from the polls in 2016 or vote for the Democratic candidate, depending on how offensive to them the G.O.P.’s ultimate choice turns out to be. 

  Years and years ago there was a fictitious politician on the old "Fred Allen" radio program named "Senator Claghorn."  He was an unreconstructed Southerner to the extent that when visiting New York, he refused to drive through the Lincoln Tunnel.  I understand that some Republicans on the far right object to potential candidates for the House Speaker job because they had a reputation of "talking to Democrats."  Shades of Senator Claghorn!  The G.O.P., in its death throes, sinks even lower.

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Jack Lippman