The American Impulse to Equate Guns With Freedom and Masculinity With Violence Is Killing Us

The Nation

The American Impulse to Equate Guns With Freedom and Masculinity With Violence Is Killing Us

And Trump is exactly the wrong leader for this reality.

By Joan Walsh    October 2, 2017 wait in a medical staging area after the mass shooting in Las Vegas in the early hours of October 2, 2017. (Reuters via Las Vegas Sun / Steve Marcus)

On Sunday morning, the president of the United States humiliated his secretary of state, derided diplomacy as “wasting time,” mocked North Korea’s national leader as “Little Rocket Man,” and renewed his macho threat to “do what needs to be done” to thwart North Korea’s nuclear program—at the UN last month he said he might “need” to “destroy” the country. As always, analysts struggled to make sense of Trump’s tweets—geopolitically, psychologically—but the conclusion seemed inescapable that he is itching for a military conflict with a nuclear-armed adversary.

On Sunday night, a 64-year-old retiree by the name of Stephen Paddock took at least 10 rifles, some of them semi-automatic or automatic weapons, to the 32nd floor of the gilded Mandalay Bay resort casino, and gunned down hundreds of people, killing at least 50, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Paddock shot his prey from up high and watched them scatter, like ants, like animals. There is no connection between Trump’s threat and Paddock’s massacre, except a profound lack of empathy, a toxic male willingness to indulge grievances (we don’t yet know Paddock’s, but we soon will) with violence, and an obsession with the display of absolute power.

Maybe it’s because I went to bed fearing a war, even a nuclear conflict, with North Korea, and woke up to random bloody gun terror at a country-music concert in Las Vegas that I see the two tragedies as entwined. There is something deeply wrong with the American male identification of guns as a symbol of freedom. We need to translate that correctly: By this definition, it is the capacity for brutal violence that is also a symbol, maybe even a prerequisite, of freedom. Of almost strictly male freedom, we must emphasize. This set of values wasn’t invented by the madman in the White House; he is just a symptom of a country and an electorate that value guns over children’s lives. On social media today I saw a heartbreaking impotence among many pundits and political activists, repeatedly expressed this way: If we didn’t do something to regulate guns, especially automatic weapons, after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre—in which 20 first-graders and six school staffers were murdered—we’ll never do anything. I don’t share that point of view, but I understand it.

Once again, the National Rifle Association has blood on its hands. At one time a respectable organization of gun owners promoting proper gun use and gun safety, three decades ago the NRA began to turn itself into a trade association for big gun manufacturers, and a purveyor of canny right-wing paranoia designed to spur gun sales. In the 1990s, as right-wing anti-government zealots began a backlash against what they perceived as a Democratic administration intent on taking their guns and their freedom, the NRA channeled that paranoia. Even after the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 by government-hating extremists, NRA head Wayne La Pierre was describing Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents as “jackbooted government thugs” in a fundraising letter. Guns went from being something used to hunt or—perhaps, in a rare event—to protect oneself and one’s family, to being a symbol of individual sovereignty and freedom from control of government. The Obama administration was a great gift to the NRA; gun and bullet purchases soared after the election of our first black president. Nonetheless, the NRA spent $30 million to elect Trump, who spoke at its national convention and praised LaPierre as a patriot.

Trump repaid the NRA’s investment by signing a bill that lifted Obama-era limits on gun sales to the mentally ill. Yet, with the departure of the Obama administration, gun sales have sagged; the first black president is no longer around to take your guns, and the NRA-loving Trump is in the White House, so maybe it’s safe to stop hoarding guns? Not so fast, said the NRA. In a despicable propaganda video earlier this year, NRA cheerleader Dana Loesch spun a lurid tale of Black Lives Matters protesters and Women’s Marchers as the latest threat to guns and, yes, freedom. Hollywood liberals, the fake-news media, as well as an ex-president (you know whom they mean) are painting Trump as an illegitimate “Hitler.” Only the NRA—and, yes, more guns—can protect your freedom.

On Monday morning, Trump again repaid the NRA’s $30 million investment with a pathetically passive statement that described the Las Vegas massacre as though it were a natural disaster, never once mentioning the weapons of hell that caused it. He called it “an act of pure evil,” extolled the bravery of police and first responders, and made appeals for love, prayers, and unity. He displayed his trademark lack of empathy about the victims’ families: “We cannot fathom their pain or imagine their loss.” What a strange thing to say: Many of us can, and if we can’t, it’s our human responsibility to try, to bear witness. If we really can’t fathom their pain or loss, we don’t have to do anything about it.

Sadly, we are unlikely to do anything about it. In the wake of the murders, gun stocks are soaring, anticipating a rise in gun sales as the result of a possible move to restrict firearms such as used to be routine after a bloody spree like this one. I don’t think the gun industry has much to worry about. I hope to be proven wrong. Nevada has among the most lax gun laws in the country, with no limits on the number of firearms one can own, no requirement of registration, no limits on automatic weapons. The dead suspect’s brother, Eric Paddock, told reporters: “Find out who sold him the machine gun!” Will any Nevada lawmaker be brave enough to make that an issue?

This morning, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that Trump still planned to visit Puerto Rico this week. That’s good—there’s plenty he could do to help the storm-ravaged island. One easy helpful move would be to shut down his Twitter attacks on San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz and on the people of Puerto Rico as lazy. With reports over the weekend that the commonwealth’s morgues are filling up, there may well have been more than 50 deaths last night there. But their slow-motion tragedy has been nearly blasted out of the news by this cruel assault on people Trump more easily sees as real Americans.

President Obama used to use these occasions, which hit him all too frequently in his eight years, to search for ways to prevent future tragedies, usually ideas for gun-safety legislation and mental-health funding. In his brief remarks Monday, Trump did nothing of the kind. He seemed to warn against “searching for some kind of meaning; the answers do not come easy.” I preferred the response to the massacre that came from Senator Chris Murphy, who represents Newtown, Connecticut: “It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.”

We’ll see, but I’m not optimistic. The president rode a wave of white male paranoia and perceived lost power to the White House; the GOP has stoked those emotions for 50 years. It’s hard to imagine this president, or this Congress, begin to unravel the connections they’ve woven between masculinity, power, guns, and violence. The best short-term outcome I can see? Trump may be too busy to tweet insults and up the likelihood of war with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

Joan Walsh, The Nation’s national-affairs correspondent, is the author of What’s the Matter With White People? Finding Our Way in the Next America.

If Newtown Wasn’t Enough, Why Would Las Vegas Be Enough?


If Newtown Wasn’t Enough, Why Would Las Vegas Be Enough?

Our leaders are afraid to tolerate limits on Second Amendment “freedoms.”;0,0&resize=768:*Getty

By Charles P. Pierce     October 2, 2017  

On July 4, 1854, William Lloyd Garrison, the abolitionist firebrand, burned a copy of the Constitution of the United States of America at a gathering of anti-slavery activists in Framingham Grove in Massachusetts. Garrison called the document, “a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell.” Almost 100 years later, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, writing in dissent in the case of Terminiello v. City of Chicago, opined rather famously:

“The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.”

Both of these men have been proven wrong, most recently by the events Sunday night in Las Vegas, when a 64-year old man named Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of 22,000 people gathered for a country music concert. At this writing on Monday morning, 50 people were dead and several hundred wounded. (Editor’s note: As of 11:42 a.m., 58 people are dead and 515 wounded.) The number of the dead almost assuredly will rise. This makes Paddock’s unfortunate exercise of his Second Amendment freedoms the deadliest mass shooting in history. This makes Paddock’s unfortunate exercise of his Second Amendment freedoms the 273rd mass shooting in the United States this year.;center,top&resize=768:*Getty

Paddock’s sniper’s perch was on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino and hotel. His targets of opportunity were penned into a parking lot a few blocks distant. This literally was like shooting fish in a barrel. Paddock’s weapon of choice was a military-style assault weapon. When police finally broke into Paddock’s room, they found 10 other rifles. Paddock came well-prepared to exercise his Second Amendment freedoms on a penned-in crowd of Jason Aldean fans. And he did.

Ever since Adam Lanza opened fire five years ago at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I have been struck by the argument implicit in all the rhetoric directed at defending this country’s lubriciously insane love of its firearms. It caught fire almost immediately. Wayne LaPierre, the spokesman for the National Rifle Association, the pre-eminent lobbying organization for weapons manufacturers, said this in the immediate aftermath of Lanza’s unfortunate exercise of his Second Amendment freedoms:

“The truth is that our society is 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. 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?”

“And throughout it all, too many in our national media … their corporate owners … and their stockholders … act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away. The media call semi-automatic firearms “machine guns” — they claim these civilian semi-automatic firearms are used by the military, and they tell us that the .223 round is one of the most powerful rifle calibers … when all of these claims are factually untrue. They don’t know what they’re talking about!”

That spring, at CPAC, the annual convention of conservative activists, LaPierre expanded on his original argument:

“The Second Amendment is not just words on parchment. It’s not some frivolous suggestion from our Founding Fathers to be interpreted by whim. It lies at the heart of what this country was founded upon. Our Founding Fathers knew that without Second Amendment freedom, all of our freedoms could be in jeopardy. Our individual liberty is the very essence of America. It is what makes America unique. If you aren’t free to protect yourself — when government puts its thumb on that freedom — then you aren’t free at all.”

Subsequent events have proven that LaPierre had the right of things and that William Lloyd Garrison and Robert Jackson were wrong. The Constitution is not a pact with the devil, nor is it a suicide pact. It is a formalized, legalistic ritual of blood sacrifice. There are some things that we as a society, alas, must tolerate in order to stay true to our founding beliefs and to remain free. Schoolchildren shot to pieces is one of those things. The massacre of country music fans is another one of those things, the 273rd blood sacrifice to that one provision of the Constitution this year.

The Constitution is not a pact with the devil, nor is it a suicide pact. It is a formalized, legalistic ritual of blood sacrifice.

We hear serious arguments about all the other parts of the Bill of Rights: that the First Amendment has limits on what T-shirts high-school students (“Bong Hits 4 Jesus!”) can wear; that the Fourth Amendment has limits that allow wiretaps without warrants; that the Fifth Amendment has limits that allow drug-testing without cause; that the Sixth Amendment has limits that allows the states to poison convicts to death. But only with the Second Amendment do we hear the argument that the only tolerable limit on its exercise is that there are no limits. Only with the Second Amendment do we hear that the price of freedom is the occasional Stephen Paddock, locked away in his own madness on the 32nd floor of a luxury hotel and casino, deciding coolly whose brains he will blow out next a few blocks away in the 273rd such unfortunate exercise of Second Amendment rights this year.

On January 20, 2017, the newly inaugurated president* of the United States addressed the nation for the first time. He explained to a somewhat baffled nation the exact nature of the hellspout in which they had been living for the previous eight years:

“These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public, but for too many of our citizens a different reality exists. Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories, scattered like tombstones across the across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge, and the crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

This came as something of a shock to most people, but not to those of us who remembered Wayne LaPierre’s speech to CPAC two years earlier. (This was a year after he’d explained to that same audience that Adam Lanza’s unfortunate exercise of his Second Amendment rights was just part of the price of freedom in this country.) LaPierre had walked the same dystopian landscape more than two years before the new president* had:

“Almost everywhere you look, something has gone wrong. You know it in your heart. You feel it in your gut. Something in our country has gone wrong…All across America, people come up to me and they say, ‘Wayne? I’ve never been worried about this country until now.’ They say it not in anger, but with sadness in their eyes…We fear for the safety of our families. That’s why neighborhood streets that once were filled with bicycles and skateboards and laughter in the air, now sit empty and silent.”

“We trust what we know in our hearts to be right,” he said. “We trust our freedom. In this uncertain world, surrounded by lies and corruption everywhere you look, there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns and handguns we want. We know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and there are home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers and rapers, and haters and campus killers, and airport killers, shopping mall killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all.”

Blood sacrifices are born of the fear of unseen power and invisible threat. Carve up a bull, and Zeus won’t send a thunderbolt up your ass. Cut out someone’s heart, and Tlaloc will make it rain to provide a bountiful harvest. Take your son up on a mountaintop, tie him to an altar, and unsheath your knife, hoping in your heart that Jehovah will step in and stop the whole business. Buy a gun. Buy two. Buy 10, and the monsters and knockout gamers and carjackers from the silent playgrounds will be held at bay.;center,top&resize=768:*Getty

Christians believe that the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary obviated forever the need for further blood sacrifice. However, not even that could obviate or eliminate the entirely secular desire for blood sacrifice within a society perceived to have gone astray. Christians pray to the crucified Christ. Christians also push the plungers that send the poisons into the veins of prisoners. Christians believe that atonement comes through the intercession of Jesus. Christians also believe that atonement comes from smart bombs and predator drones. The fear of unseen power and invisible threat is more than is thought of in your theologies, Horatio.

The president* and Wayne LaPierre together created an America of the mind in which blood sacrifice is the highest form of patriotism.

They have taken the legitimate right of all people to self-defense and twisted it, for their own purposes, into a demand for ritual atonement on the part of an imaginary universe filled with nothing but bogeymen. For the president*, this helped him attain the office he now holds. For LaPierre, it made the people for whom he was the frontman wealthier than they ever were before.

So now, here we sit, after another unfortunate exercise of Second Amendment freedoms, the 273rd of this year and the worst one of modern times, another opportunity for presidential leadership, the fourth one of those in a month. Storms are breaking everywhere, the carnage in America suddenly is very real, and blood sacrifices are lying all over a parking lot in Las Vegas.

If Newtown wasn’t enough, how can Las Vegas be enough? And if Las Vegas isn’t enough, how can anything be enough?

Thoughts and prayers are not enough. “Warm condolences,” as dispatched by a president* who never is at a loss for the wrong word or the bizarre reaction, are not enough. Arcane debates about whether or not Stephen Paddock used an automatic or a semi-automatic weapon for his unfortunate exercise of his Second Amendment freedoms are not enough. Absurd debates over whether or not his weapon of choice was truly “military-style” are not enough. Being sickened is not enough. Being saddened is not enough. The word “tragedy” is not enough.;center,top&resize=768:*Associated Press

All of these things are not enough because Newtown wasn’t enough. And, if Newtown wasn’t enough, how can Las Vegas be enough? And if Las Vegas isn’t enough, how can anything be enough?

If Newtown wasn’t enough, how can Las Vegas be enough?

We have become a nation that accepts the blood sacrifice of our children as an ineffable part of our constitutional order, one of those things you have to tolerate, like pornography and the occasional acquittal of an unpopular defendant, in order to live in a free society. Better that one Stephen Paddock go free than a hundred law-abiding gun owners wait a week before buying an Uzi. This is a vision of the nation that has been sold to us by a generation of politicians who talk brave and act gutless, and by the carny shills in the employ of the industries of death. Better that one Stephen Paddock go free than a hundred law-abiding gun owners wait a week before buying an Uzi. We are all walking blood sacrifices waiting to happen.

Disgust isn’t enough.

Sorrow isn’t enough.

Nothing is enough because, if Newtown wasn’t enough, then how can Las Vegas be enough? And if Las Vegas isn’t enough, then how can anything be enough?

God help us all.

UPDATE—This happened the same day as the events in Las Vegas. From the Lawrence Journal-World:

“At the scene, officers encountered a large crowd and several victims suffering from gunshot wounds, Smith said in the release. Five victims have been identified from the shooting, and three sustained fatal injuries: 22-year-old Leah Elizabeth Brown, of Shawnee, 20-year-old Colwin Lynn Henderson, of Topeka, and 24-year-old Tremel Dupree Dean, of Topeka. Two other victims were being treated at area hospitals for nonlife-threatening injuries, Smith said. Brixius said just before 3 a.m. that no one had been detained in the shooting and he could not say whether more than one suspect was involved. Police did say in a tweet late Sunday that the shooting was not a drive-by. Crime scene tape was stretched across storefronts in the 1000 block of Massachusetts Street. In front of Aladdin Cafe, 1021 Massachusetts St., a pool of blood was visible.”

Unfortunate exercises of Second Amendment freedoms will undoubtedly continue. (h/t Erik at LG&M)

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to clarify that the Lawrence, Kansas, shooting took place before the Las Vegas shooting, not after.

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Josh Abbott Band Guitarist Flips Gun Control Stance Following Las Vegas Shooting: ‘We Need Gun Control RIGHT. NOW.’

Billboard    Yahoo Music Staff

Josh Abbott Band Guitarist Flips Gun Control Stance Following Las Vegas Shooting: ‘We Need Gun Control RIGHT. NOW.’

By Bryan Rolli        October 2, 2017

Josh Abbott Band guitarist Caleb Keeter took to Twitter on Monday morning (Oct. 2) to share his thoughts on gun control in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting that left more than 50 people dead and 500 injured. Abbott Band

The Texas country group performed at the Route 91 Harvest festival on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday afternoon (Oct. 1), where hours later an active shooter began firing into the audience from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Keeter, previously a lifelong gun rights advocate, said witnessing the ensuing chaos firsthand caused him to realize how ineffective he and his crew were as the incident unfolded.

“I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd Amendment my entire life,” he wrote. “Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was. We actually have members of our crew with CHL licenses, and legal firearms on the bus. They were useless.”

The guitarist added that his bandmates and crew couldn’t access their firearms during the attack because police could have mistaken them for attackers as well. He praised the police officers for defusing the situation as quickly as possible, and said the shooting gave him a wakeup call on the need for tighter gun legislation.

“We need gun control RIGHT. NOW.,” he wrote. “My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it.”

Keeter followed up his original statement with another more hopeful, defiant tweet: “That being said, I’ll not live in fear of anyone. We will regroup, we’ll come back, and we’ll rock your f***ing faces off. Bet on it.”

Read Keeter’s statements in full below.

Years of Living Dangerously


Years of Living Dangerously

The next time someone tells you that climate change is caused by natural forces, feel free to tell them that they’re right. Just don’t forget to explain why.

The next time someone tells you that climate change is caused by natural forces, feel free to tell them that they're right. Just don't forget to explain why.Read more: Years of Living Dangerously #YEARSproject #ClimateFacts

Posted by EcoWatch on Monday, October 2, 2017

Disloyalty slur latest in series showing Trump administration’s mistrust of feds

Washington Post

Disloyalty slur latest in series showing Trump administration’s mistrust of feds

By Joe Davidson, Columnist         October 2, 2017 Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks March 29 at the Interior Department in Washington. (Molly Riley/AP)

While Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s accusation about the loyalty of his workforce is the Trump administration’s most outrageous statement about federal employees, it fits a deplorable pattern of verbal aggression against them.

Zinke’s declaration that “I got 30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag” is an escalation that demands denunciation.

“This is the latest in a long line of attacks by this administration on federal workers, starting with his claim that the country needs another ‘good shutdown,’ ” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “The idea that President Trump, Secretary Zinke or anyone else in the administration would threaten the jobs of hard-working civil servants unless they pledge loyalty to the president is grossly abusive and, if carried out, against the law.”

Zinke’s slur, and another remark comparing the Interior Department to a pirate ship, followed comments and actions that began even before Trump took office and make feds shudder, including:

  • Zinke’s suspicious transfer of dozens of senior executives, which is being investigated by the department’s inspector general.
  • Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp.” That can include much of Washington, but feds took it personally.
  • Conspiracy theories about a “deep state” of federal bureaucrats determined to sabotage the Trump administration.
  • Trump’s talk about a “good shutdown,” which would hurt federal employees more than anyone.
  • The Trump transition team’s attempt to get the names of Energy Department staffers who worked on climate change.

Defending Zinke, a former Navy SEAL commander, after his disloyalty hit, Interior press secretary Heather Swift said, “The Secretary led with the fact that Interior is full of ‘really good people’ but that a small minority are hesitant to changing policy and reforms.” Zinke’s comment about the flag, previously reported by the Associated Press, she added, “was not a literal comparison to the flag of the U.S. or even the administration. In the military structure, to which the secretary was alluding, the flag represents the command of an organization and the policies and procedures it seeks to implement.”

That’s a distinction without a significant difference. It does nothing to lessen this latest example of the administration’s toxic mistrust of the workforce. The loyalty that federal employees owe is to the Constitution, the nation and the American people. Staffers are obligated to implement the administration’s policies, but their allegiance is not to Trump and Zinke, Interior’s commanders, as individuals.

“My loyalty is to public lands and the citizens I serve,” said Leisyka Parrott, an Interior Department employee in Arcata, Calif. Fearing potential negative ramifications for speaking to me, Parrott made it clear that she did so on her own time and as a National Federation of Federal Employees representative. “If we have a difference of opinion, we are not loyal to the flag,” she asked. “I wonder if they will make being a party member a requirement of employment.”

Zinke’s comments leaves his staff dismayed, on edge and offended.

“As a member of the civil service at the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, I’d suggest Mr. Zinke needs a lesson in civics,” Rob Winthrop, of Washington, said in a Washington Post letter to the editor. “In Nazi Germany the civil service pledged personal loyalty and obedience to Adolf Hitler. This is not the way of a free society.”

The Trump administration has difficulty understanding American fidelity, as the president showed when he told then-FBI Director James B. Comey: “I need loyalty.” Trump didn’t get it and later sacked Comey.

“It is comments like the ones made by Secretary Zinke that demonstrate the absolute necessity of strong civil service protections in the federal government,” said NFFE President Randy Erwin. “Without those protections, the interests of the American people are going to take a back seat to bully leaders pushing their own personal agendas.”

Sen. James Lankford (Okla.) and Rep. Mark Meadows (N.C.), Republican chairmen of the congressional subcommittees overseeing the federal workforce, declined to comment on Zinke. Jason Chaffetz, a former GOP representative from Utah, was critical of the secretary’s remarks, though he softened it with talk about the “frustration” Trump officials feel over a “lack of cooperation” from the bureaucracy. “I don’t think it’s wise to berate public employees,” Chaffetz said. “Most are good, hard-working people.”

Chaffetz made a point of quashing fed-bashing before he left Congress this year as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. But he believes in the deep state. “I do believe there is a deep state that acts to protect itself and embarrass others. I think that, too, is wrong. But you have to find the individual perpetrators,” he said.

That doesn’t mean insulting almost a third of your employees.

If Zinke is so concerned about loyalty, why isn’t he outraged at the people and symbols, including those on Interior-controlled lands, honoring disloyal Confederates? When asked about removing Confederate monuments at the Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md., quoted Zinke saying, “Don’t rewrite history.”

What he shouldn’t do is accept the glorification of traitors while questioning the loyalty of public servants. Nothing is more disloyal to America than killing its soldiers and fighting to tear it apart in defense of slavery and white supremacy.

Zinke should “apologize to the public servants he is supposed to be leading,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (Ariz.), the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. “He often refers to his military service, so he should be well aware that loyalty is earned — and you don’t earn it, or deserve it, with divisive comments like these.”

Fly Fishing in Yellowstone: How One Veteran Found a New Life in the Outdoors


By Sierra Club Vessels

Fly Fishing in Yellowstone: How One Veteran Found a New Life in the Outdoors

By Lindsey Robinson    September 24, 2017

Evan Bogart never wanted to sleep in a tent again. Between 2004-2011, he’d served in the U.S. Army as an infantryman and spent three long combat deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. He’d spent a good portion of his years in service living in a tent in hot and hazardous deserts. He’d had enough of the outdoors; he wanted to be in places with air conditioning, electricity and no reminders of the war-torn lands he had experienced.

Evan separated in 2011 as an E6 Squad Leader, with an honorable discharge and two Purple Hearts. But his own heart was heavy and troubled. He’d become disillusioned with the U.S. military and its goals in the Middle East. The violence and destruction he’d witnessed left him feeling both angry and guilty. He distinctly remembers one moment in Iraq: “An old woman told me I was a bad man, and I realized I agreed with her.”

Leaving the Army and transitioning to civilian life proved to be a bumpy road, pocketed with heavy drinking followed by heavy cannabis use. Evan turned to a variety of substances to help him forget painful memories of his past. He moved around a few times, but felt directionless and unclear of his future. For five years, he lived with what he calls, “something of a death wish.”

Then in 2017, one of Evan’s closest friends, who had served beside him in combat, convinced Evan to participate in a trip to Yellowstone National Park with Sierra Club’s Military Outdoors program. Evan agreed, knowing he was ready to move past his current lifestyle and become an active participant in the world again. He wanted a way to transition away from the drugs and alcohol and pursue an active, outdoors life instead.

The Military Outdoors trip to Yellowstone was designed to expose participants to the National Park’s beautiful landscapes and ecosystem through the lens of fly fishing. Evan had wanted to learn the art of fly fishing for a long time, but he never knew quite how to get started or when to make time for it. The cost of gear and instruction had also been a barrier for him. This trip was exactly what he was looking for in his life.

Evan met the group of Military Outdoors vets in the Lamar Valley, where they stayed in cabins at the Buffalo Ranch. The Lamar Valley is a remote, glacier-carved region in the northeast corner of Yellowstone. It is often called America’s Serengeti because it is home to so many animal species including elk, grizzly bears, buffalo, antelope, wolves, otters, coyotes and eagles. Evan found his favorite part of the trip was taking early morning hikes from Buffalo Ranch up to Ranger Hill. He would sit on the hillside, take in the sunrise, and enjoy the solitude and peaceful quietness.

During the day, the veterans received casting instruction and practiced fly fishing on the beautiful Yellowstone River. Many rivers run through Yellowstone National Park, but the Yellowstone River is special. It flows undammed for nearly 700 miles, making it the longest free-flowing river in the continental U.S. It is also one of the best trout streams in the world because the species’ natural habitat is protected.

The veterans were joined by fly fishing guides Jesse Logan and Steve Harvey, who taught them how to cast and how to seek out the right time and place to lure the prized Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Jesse Logan shared his extensive knowledge of the greater Yellowstone area and how invasive species and floodplain development threaten the river’s ecosystem. Another guest speaker, Doug Peacock, spent time with the veterans talking about the outdoors as a restorative place and the ways veterans can help protect wild places.

Before this trip, Evan had only seen Yellowstone as a “car tourist.” Afterwards, he walked away more intimately familiar with the Yellowstone ecosystem and inspired to take his new fly fishing skills to other American rivers. Moreover, Evan felt the trip helped him get back into the outdoors and embrace an active lifestyle, which he found strengthened his mental health.

The Yellowstone outing wasn’t the only big change for Evan this summer. He also participated in an OARS’ raft guide school, thanks to a sponsorship the Military Outdoors program provides for a few veterans each year. At the end of guide school, Evan had come to enjoy the river running lifestyle so much that he accepted a summer job river guiding for OARS on the American River. He spent the summer at the OARS’ outpost in Coloma, California—living happily in a tent.

From his time with Military Outdoors, Evan says that the value of these outings is how they reconnected himself and the other veterans to the outdoors. He feels that spending time in the outdoors might be one step toward healing the trauma that he and many vets experienced while in combat. Evan also sees the skills training aspect of the outings as a way to redirect one’s life toward jobs or hobbies in the outdoors. He never imagined he’d learn to fly fish or become a river guide, but now he’s done both. “These trips turned my life 180,” he said.

Moving forward, Evan plans to stay involved with the Military Outdoors program and encourages other veterans to be part of the outdoor community. In the future he hopes to use the skills he gained to be a trip leader on other wilderness outings.

“I’d like to give my heartfelt thanks to the Sierra Club and the Military Outdoors program as well as all the volunteers at Yellowstone Forever and the personnel at OARS who have all made such a great contribution to my life and to my experience with their programs.” — Evan Bogart

Photos by Cody Ringelstein or Sarah Chillson.

General Motors to Run Ohio, Indiana Factories With 100% Wind Power


American Wind Energy Association

General Motors to Run Ohio, Indiana Factories With 100% Wind Power

By Greg Alvarez     September 23, 2017

Last week I predicted it wouldn’t be long before we had more news on Fortune 500 wind power purchases. Well, a whole seven days passed before there were new deals to report.

Wind Powers the Open Road for GM

General Motors just announced wind power purchase agreements with projects in Ohio and Illinois. The automaker is buying enough wind-generated electricity to power the Ohio and Indiana factories that build the Chevrolet Cruze and Silverado, and the GMC Sierra.

“Technology is driving solutions for mobility and safety in our vehicles, as well as the new energy solutions that build them,” said Gerald Johnson, GMNA vice president of manufacturing and labor. “This is the way we do business: offering vehicles that serve our customers’ lifestyle needs while providing sustainable solutions that improve our communities.”

GM already has plans to soon power 100 percent of its Arlington, Texas, plant using wind, where more than 100,000 SUV’s are made every year. Wind’s low cost, down 66 percent since 2009, has made it an attractive option for GM as it works toward meeting its 100 percent renewable goal.

Other Buyers Jump on the Bandwagon

GM isn’t alone in the headlines this week. Kimberly-Clark, maker of products like Kleenex and Huggies, also announced a new wind deal in recent days. The company will soon source about 33 percent of its electricity needs from wind farms in Oklahoma and Texas.

“It’s a powerful demonstration of sustainability initiatives having both great environmental and business benefits,” said Lisa Morden, Kimberly-Clark’s global head of sustainability.

Why Wind Power Makes Sense for the Fortune 500

Two recent reports looked at why companies like GM and Kimberly-Clark are pouncing on wind power.

David Gardiner and Associates examined the recent trend of manufacturers committing to buying renewables in a new report entitled “The Growing Demand for Renewable Energy among Major U.S. and Global Manufacturers.”

David Gardiner and Associates surveyed 160 large U.S. manufacturers, finding that 40 currently have a renewable energy goal in place, and 18 of those 40 have 100 percent renewable targets.

The following 10 states host the most factories for those 18 companies: California, Texas, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and North Carolina.

The report adds that manufacturers invest in renewable energy to lower energy costs, secure stable, low-risk energy prices and demonstrate corporate leadership. GM CEO Mary Barra confirms that “pursuit of renewable energy benefits our customers and communities through cleaner air while strengthening our business through lower and more stable energy costs.”

Meanwhile, Greentech Media and Apex Clean Energy surveyed 153 large corporate buyers to see what motivates companies to invest in wind.

Eighty-four percent of respondents plan to actively pursue or consider directly buying renewables over the next five to 10 years, and 43 percent plan to be more aggressive in the next 24 months. Sixty-five percent report price as a leading factor in determining purchases.

So yet again, expect to hear more on this trend before long.

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Why the Trump Tax Plan Is Doomed


This Innocent Photo of Paul Ryan Reveals Why the Trump Tax Plan Is Doomed

Sam Becker      September 30, 2017 Speaker Paul Ryan speaks during a town hall with Boeing Company CEO Dennis Muilenburg and Boeing employees at the company’s plant in Everett, Washington. Ryan also toured the factory and promoted the need for tax reform. | Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Paul Ryan, speaker of the House and the conservative movement’s intellectual darling, recently paid a visit to a Boeing plant in Everett, Washington. Everett is a medium-sized, working-class city just north of Seattle that’s been home to Boeing facilities for decades. In fact, the biggest building in the world — the Boeing Everett Factory — is the company’s crown jewel in the region.

But Ryan wasn’t there for a simple tour and to take in an AquaSox game. He was there to garner support for the Trump tax plan — a series of tax reforms Republicans claim will create jobs and spur the economy.

Right now, the details are sparse on what that plan would actually include. We know the Republican platform for a very long time has pushed for significant tax cuts for both corporations and individuals. And the basic idea is to free up money for wealthier people and employers, so they take that money and invest or spend it. Investing, in this case, means hiring more workers and buying more equipment for employers (a win-win for everyone), as well as spending money for individuals who will increase demand for goods and services. More demand? More jobs.

But the photo above, taken at the Boeing plant in Everett during Ryan’s visit, tells a larger story. While you see Ryan on stage with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, the devil is in the details. We’ll dig into the elements of the photo and what it means for Ryan, Donald Trump, the Trump tax plan, and the concept of tax reform in general.

Let’s take a quick look at why Ryan was there in the first place and what is means for you and America.

The Trump and ‘MAGA’ agenda

Paul Ryan had to convince the workers the tax plan would benefit them. | Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The Trump tax plan has yet to be fully fleshed out but includes plans for cutting corporate rates from 39.5% to 15%.

We’re still waiting on the full details of the Trump tax reform plan, but we do have an outline. During Ryan’s visit, his job wasn’t just to convince Boeing execs and workers that tax reform would benefit them — many already agree — but that it would benefit Americans of all stripes. That includes all the workers in the room, both white- and blue-collar. It’s only one prong in Trump’s grand plan to “Make America Great Again,” and that includes freeing up corporate cash to hire more workers.

But Boeing and the state of Washington have a complicated past, and we’ll get to that. First, though, let’s address the main question everyone has about tax reform.

The Trump tax plan: Will it work?

The CEO of Boeing received tax cuts for the business. | Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

In 2016, Boeing paid $1.2 billion in federal taxes — an effective rate of 23%.

Everything hinges on this one (well, maybe two) simple question: Will tax reform work? And, perhaps most significantly, can Republicans pass a new plan into law? We don’t know for sure, but we can look at what experts think and what experiments have wrought in the past.

Several analyses seem to think the Trump plan won’t work in that it won’t lead to increased economic growth. There are complicated reasons for this, but suffice it to say many think those who get the biggest tax breaks — wealthier individuals and corporations, typically — will stash the money and sit on it rather than invest or spend it. And a Tax Policy Center analysis says 20% of taxpayers will end up being worse off under the new plan than before. But for corporations and high earners? It should amount to a sweet deal.

We can’t forget about the recent tax experiment that took place in Kansas, either. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback basically took this same plan and ran with it, slashing taxes to the bone. The result? Well, it wasn’t pretty. We can just leave it at that.

How, then, is Ryan supposed to sell this idea to the American people?

Selling tax reform to workers as ‘unrigging the economy’ claims the employees will receive higher pay thanks to employer tax cuts. | Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The tax reform plan would lead to an average tax cut of $175,000 for members of the 1%.

In order to get people on board, Ryan needs to take a page from the MAGA playbook. Specifically, go back to rhetoric about the “rigged” economy and how it’s screwing everyday, hardworking people. For the middle class, who might not find tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires a very sexy idea, Republicans like Ryan have to appeal to their desires — namely, better jobs and higher pay.

That, Ryan will say, will be realized only after employers have more money — money they will keep as a result of tax breaks. The hard part is squaring the fact that there isn’t much evidence to back up what the Republicans are selling. That doesn’t mean it won’t work, of course, but it’s an uphill battle.

And getting back to the photo for a second, there’s one thing you don’t see: the laid-off and fired workers who have streamed out of Boeing factories for years now, even as Boeing has paid an effective tax rate well below the actual rate. If the company didn’t use the money to retain its workforce and hire more in the past, why would it in the future?

We’ll get into that now.

Boeing versus Washington state: A cautionary tale the tax breaks Boeing was given, it still cut jobs. | Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

In 2013, Boeing was given $8.7 billion in tax breaks as an incentive to “maintain and grow its workforce within the state.” Since then, it’s fired nearly 13,000 people and cut its Washington workforce by more than 15%.

Recently Boeing has been the recipient of massive tax cuts on the state level. In fact, Washington gave Boeing the biggest corporate tax break ever. At the time, the deal was that Boeing would get its tax breaks and keep jobs in Washington. As you can imagine, it didn’t pan out as planned.

Instead, Boeing took the money and ran. It has reduced its workforce in Washington by 15% since receiving the tax breaks and let go of around 13,000 workers. So, if you see some skeptical faces in Ryan’s crowd from our photo, that’s a big reason why.

For many who might be on the fence, a question of whether this type of plan would work nationwide is justifiably at the forefront of their minds.

Now imagine that, economy-wide in technology could mean bad news for employees. | Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson estimates that every $1 billion in tax savings creates 7,000 jobs.

While we can’t expect every employer to act like Boeing did in Washington, we can expect corporations to act in their own self-interest. Politicians may want to use tax incentives (cuts) to get employers to hire more people and raise wages, but in reality it’s a different story. You end up with what happened in Kansas. Sure, there will be investments, but they might be in automation and technologies that help make business processes cheaper and more efficient. That’s good news if you’re a corporation, but bad news if you’re Joe Sixpack.

On CNBC a few months ago, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson pushed for corporate tax breaks by saying 7,000 jobs are created for every $1 billion in tax savings. But as a New York Times writer points out, an analysis showed AT&T paid only 8% in taxes between 2008 and 2015 and actively downsized its workforce. Where did all the money go? $34 billion went toward buying back company stock in order to boost the share price.

With that, are Ryan and his Republican colleagues up to the task of selling the Trump tax plan to middle-class America?

Paul Ryan’s job is to convince workers it will be different

People aren’t convinced. | Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

A July 2017 survey shows a majority of Americans (62%) don’t approve of the Trump tax plan.

Suffice it to say, Ryan has his work cut out for him. Sitting in that room at the Boeing factory in Everett, he was facing a polarized audience. On one side, you have executives and white-collar managers who will easily buy into his rhetoric. On the other, you have the workers who have seen firsthand what happens when governments give in and hand out corporate tax breaks.

These are people who’ve been screwed. They’ve seen their co-workers and colleagues get laid off. And as all that has happened, they’ve seen stock prices soar and corporate profits reach new heights.

Again, this is an incredibly tough sell, especially for guys like Ryan and Trump.

Given Ryan (and Trump’s) history, tax reform will be a tough sell class workers are far from convinced. | Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Research from the Institute for Policy Studies shows of 92 U.S. corporations that paid less than 20% in corporate taxes, many used the money to buy back stock and increase their own share prices — not hire workers.

Tax reform isn’t very popular. It’s going to be a tough fight. And given that Republicans were unable to pass their health care plan (despite years of promises and complete control of the government), passing the Trump tax plan might prove to be even more difficult than anticipated.

You also have to look at our two central figures, Trump and Ryan, and their histories with middle-class America. In Wisconsin, unions have been decimated. Job growth has fizzled, and the state ranked 33rd in 2016. And as for Trump? He has a long history of stiffing workers and reneging on contracts. He’s not exactly the type of character middle America would trust, despite what happened in November 2016.

$4.8 Trillion in Tax Cuts? These States Are the Big Losers (and Winners) in Trump’s Tax Plan


$4.8 Trillion in Tax Cuts? These States Are the Big Losers (and Winners) in Trump’s Tax Plan

Megan Elliott         October 01, 2017 Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump attend a meeting. Ryan is part of the group working on a federal tax reform plan. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The White House and Congressional Republicans are gearing up to overhaul America’s famously complex tax code and “make taxes simpler, fairer, and lower for hard-working American families.” But if the legislation that eventually reaches Congress looks anything like the ideas floated by the Trump administration so far, average Americans might not have much to celebrate. That’s the conclusion of a report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. However, some states are more affected than others.

Proposals to streamline tax brackets, eliminate the alternative minimum tax, and get rid of many itemized deductions would result in $4.8 trillion in total tax savings through 2027. But 61.4% of all those savings would go to the top 1% of taxpayers, the organization concluded, and 14% of middle-income taxpayers would end up paying more in taxes, not less.

A tax cut for the richest Americans?

In addition to disproportionately benefiting the rich — who would receive tax cuts equivalent to 6.9% of their income, compared to 1.4% for the middle 20% — the suggested tax reforms would also benefit some states more than others. Generally, states with more rich people win big, while those with poorer people lose, though the possible elimination of deductions for state and local taxes makes the “picture somewhat more complicated,” according to the institute.

Which states will lose and benefit the most? Let’s take a look at the biggest losers first. 

The tax reform losers

The institute ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on the share of the tax cuts they’d receive relative to their share of the total U.S. population. It also looked at how different groups in each state would fare in 2018 if tax reform happens. Many, but not all, of the states that would get a smaller piece of the tax cut pie backed Trump in the 2016 election. Here are the seven that would get the worst deal.

7. Maine, Maine | Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Share of tax cuts relative to share of population: 71%; Average tax cut: $1,570

Overall, Maine would get a smaller share of the total proposed tax cuts than its share of the population. However, the tax cuts would be somewhat more equally distributed among different income groups in this state than they are in the U.S. in general. The richest 1% would get about 34% of all the tax cuts in Maine, while nationwide more than 61% of the cuts would go to the top sliver of the population. Fifteen percent of all the cuts would go to the bottom 60%, compared to 10% nationwide.

6. Oregon view of Oregon’s Mount Hood | Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images

Share of tax cuts relative to share of population: 69%; Average tax cut: $1,550

The richest 1% of taxpayers in Oregon would save $71,200 a year on their taxes if Trump’s various proposals are enacted, the institute estimated. The poorest 20% would save $110, while middle-income taxpayers would get an extra $740 in their pockets. Overall, the wealthiest 20% would get just over 70% of all the tax cuts.

5. New Mexico, New Mexico | grichenko

Share of tax cuts relative to share of population: 67%; Average tax cut: $1,790

Middle-income taxpayers in New Mexico would save an estimated $580 a year if the administration’s tax reform proposals become reality. The richest 1%, who earn more than $1.2 million on average, would save $73,070. The poorest 20% would get an extra $80 a year.

4. Kentucky farm outside of Lexington, Kentucky | Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images

Share of tax cuts relative to share of population: 66%; Average tax cut: $1,590

In Kentucky, middle-income taxpayers would save $640 a year if Trump’s tax changes become law — 1.4% of their total pre-tax income. The top 1%, on the other hand, would get an extra $68,550 per year, on average, equivalent to 5.2% of their total pre-tax income.

3. Arkansas Rock, Arkansas |

Share of tax cuts relative to share of population: 66%; Average tax cut: $1,600

Close to half of all Trump’s tax cuts would go to the richest 1% of Arkansans. This group would get to keep 6% more of their pre-tax income per year, or an average of $80,800. The middle 20% of taxpayers would get 1.3% of their income back, an average of $570 per year.

2. West Virginia state park in West Virginia |

Share of tax cuts relative to share of population: 61%; Average tax cut: $1,380

The middle 20% of West Virginia taxpayers, who earn an average of $41,200 a year, would get an extra $500 a year in their pocket under Trump’s tax proposals. That’s 7.2% of all tax cuts in the state. Nearly three-quarters of all tax cuts in West Virginia would go to the top 20%.

1. Mississippi to Mississippi. |

Share of tax cuts relative to share of population: 53%; Average tax cut: $1,290

Fifty bucks. That’s how much the poorest 20% of people in Mississippi would save on their taxes under Trump’s proposals. Overall, the people at the bottom of the economic ladder would get less than 1% of all the tax cuts going to Mississippi, while the wealthiest 1% of taxpayers in the state would get 47.8% — equivalent to an average savings of $62,390 on their 2018 taxes. The middle 20% would get 13% of the tax cut, saving an average of $850 a year.

The tax reform winners

The following seven states would get a greater share of tax reform savings relative to their total population.

7. Florida beach in Boca Raton, Florida |

Share of tax cuts relative to share of population: 146%; Average tax cut: $3,160

Florida would get a disproportionate share of total tax cuts, according to the institute’s estimates. The bottom 60% of taxpayers in the Sunshine State would get 5.5% of all the tax cuts. Just under 8% would go to people in the fourth income quintile, and the remaining 86.6% would go to the top 20% of Floridians.

6. South Dakota Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Share of tax cuts relative to share of population: 150%; Average tax cut: $3,530

The bottom three-fifths of South Dakota taxpayers, who earn an average of $59,300 per year, would receive an estimated $410 under Trump’s tax proposals. The richest 1%, who make an average of $1.77 million, would see their taxes fall by $203,110, or 11.5% of their pre-tax income.

5. Massachusetts University in Cambridge, Massachusetts | Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock

Share of tax cuts relative to share of population: 157%; Average tax cut: $3,380

People in Massachusetts may have overwhelmingly backed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, but the state still would come out ahead when it comes to Trump’s tax proposals. Most of the gains would go to the top 1%, though, who would save an average of $215,670 on their taxes. Middle-income taxpayers, who earn $60,800 per year on average, would get $1,150 in tax savings.

4. North Dakota, North Dakota | Harding

Share of tax cuts relative to share of population: 163%; Average tax cut: $3,570

More than half of the $1.3 million in tax cuts for North Dakota would go to a handful of the state’s richest residents, who each would receive an average savings of $187,660. The middle 20%, who earn $58,600 per year on average, would get 4.4% of the savings, or roughly $800 each.

3. District of Columbia Monument |

Share of tax cuts relative to share of population: 169%; Average tax cut: $3,520

Not only does D.C. get more than its share of tax cuts relative to the population, but the wealthiest individuals get an extra large share of that pie. Nearly 70% of all the tax cuts would go to the district’s richest 1%, who each would save an average of $245,770 a year. Interestingly, the bottom 15% of the top 20% of D.C. taxpayers would actually pay more under Trump’s tax proposals — an additional $600 a year on average.

2. Connecticut Point Park in Connecticut |

Share of tax cuts relative to share of population: 176%; Average tax cut: $3,960

Connecticut, home of bankers and hedge fund millionaires, would make out pretty well if Trump’s various tax reforms become law. The state would get a disproportionate share of the total cuts relative to its population, and the richest 1% would get close to 63% of all the benefit. People in this group would save an average of $253,050 per year on their taxes. The middle 20%, who earn $62,300 on average, would get $720 a year, or 3.7% of all the cuts.

1. Wyoming at Teton Range |

Share of tax cuts relative to share of population: 213%; Average tax cut: $5,030

Wyoming may have a small population, but it’s the big winner when it comes to tax cuts. The $1.38 million the state would save on taxes in 2018 works out to a little over $5,000 per person. But the state’s poorest wouldn’t see nearly that much. The bottom 20% of taxpayers would get an extra $110 per year, and the middle 20% would get a tax savings of $940. The top 1%, meanwhile, would get to keep 10% more of their income, or $308,540 on average.