Writings and observations

To judge from the reactions on the conference call/press conference this afternoon from Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the main emotion must be relief.

That, when they conversed with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, their heads weren’t bitten off in a rage at Washington’s voters deciding that marijuana should be legal.

The conversation was pleasant, and – from their description – Holder seemed to be more in listening than in talking mode.

They have a number of things to talk about. There was nothing “dispositive,” Inslee said, on the big one: Whether the feds plan to go after Washingtonians who start doing what Washington law (though not federal law) now says is legal. What about people who sink money into businesses that the new state law contemplates will be basic parts of the process needed to make the law work? No one knows.

Two points Inslee did mention about subjects of under discussion, however, are of interest.

One is what Washington will do to “contain” state-legal marijuana, to keep it from being exported across state lines. (He said that the Washington State Patrol, among other organizations, are considering the question.) The other was the possibility of a federal lawsuit aimed at Washington (and presumably Colorado as well), though what it would seek, exactly, isn’t clear. That a judge order a state to throw out a state law because the feds don’t like it? Seemingly improbable, but Ferguson indicated that a team of attorneys are looking into defenses for the state if a lawsuit should materialize.

Inslee said he expects to chat again with Holder: “This is the first of what I think will be a continuing series of discussions,” he said. That may be the most clearly predictable point right now. – Randy Stapilus

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rainey BARRETT


I’m going to tell you a lie. You’ve heard it before. You’ve heard it many times before. You’ve heard it on Faux “News. The NRA has told you this lie many times and crazy Wayne LaP. even lied to you in his book. The nuttier gun loons have repeated it – sober or drunk – in many a saloon.

Here it is as closely as I can recall: When Hitler took guns away from the German people, they were powerless to defend themselves. Ol’ Wayne LaP. tells that one a lot. And here’s another. If the Jews had guns, they could’ve defended themselves and millions wouldn’t have been killed. That’s pretty much it. Oh, and many gun liars often publish a poster with a picture of Hitler giving the Nazi salute and the text “All in favor of gun control, raise your right hand.”

Problem is they’re all lies – top to bottom! University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt, for one, put the lie to all that in the Harvard Law Review in 2004. Before Hitler, Harcourt wrote, there was the Weimar Republic – the German government that immediately preceded him. Under surrender terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the German legislature created a 1919 law banning all firearms. That law led to confiscation. In 1928, the law was relaxed a little but citizens still had to get government permits to own, sell or carry.

The Nazi Weapon Law of 1938 did just the opposite of what LaPierre repeatedly has claimed it did. Under Hitler, that law totally deregulated bans on buying rifles, shotguns and ammunition. Opened the market, as it were. It also extended permits from one to three years and lowered the age of gun ownership from 21 to 18. Crazy Wayne lied big time. Because it suited his twisted purpose. And he keeps doing it.

But because that law did keep Jews from buying guns legally, you’ll hear another untruth – “Jews with guns would have lived and maybe won the Warsaw Ghetto battle in which many died.”

Historian Omer Bartov at Brown University says “not true.” In his words, “Just imagine the Jews of Germany exercising the right to bear arms while fighting the SA, SS and the Wehrmacht. The entire Russian Red Army lost seven-million men fighting just the Wehrmacht despite tanks, artillery and planes. Jews with pistols and shotguns would have done better?” Professor Bartov was an officer in the Israeli Defense Force before becoming an academic. He knows his guns and his Jewish history.

Then there’s Faux “News” and Judge Napolitano who repeatedly has claimed Jews would’ve been much better off if they had guns in Warsaw.

Oh, yes? Consider – in reality, only about 20 Germans were killed in the Warsaw Ghetto battles while 13,000 Jews died. Another 50,000 Jews who survived were sent off to the camps. Rifles, shotguns and a few pistols would have changed all that? Like LaPierre, Napolitano sees fit to make up history as it suits him.

Another lie from the gun huggers. They claim Hitler said “This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient and the world will follow our lead into the future.” They use it on their blogs and even posters. They claim he said that in 1935.

Problem is, it’s a lie. There’s no correlation between 1935 and German efforts at gun control and – with the Weimar law of 1919 – you would not need more “gun control” laws. Which, when he took over, Hitler actually did away with in 1938.

The liars also “quote” Stalin saying he “implemented gun control.” Again, honest history says “not true.” Stalin wanted every Russian citizen armed. Every one. He was a big believer in all citizens having guns, Comrade. When he needed ‘em, he released Gulag prisoners and gave ‘em all guns. Gave ‘em. Every one.
Napolitano, LaPierre, Alex Jones, Joe the plumber,” Limbaugh, Beck, Larson and all the other high-pitched, screaming voices are twisting facts, lying, are ignorant of history and making up scandalous accusations to fit their own money-making purposes.

The right-wing media – from Fox to Huckabee and all the rest – is a money machine. Their proclamations are an inch deep and a mile wide. Sometimes, not even that deep. They’re stoking fear, anger, hate and senseless paranoia in the name of the almighty dollar. As my grandmother used to say, “The truth is not in them.”

Nothing President Obama is considering is “gun control.” Nothing in the package of “recommendations” to him poses any threat to honest people who own – or want to own – guns. Nothing. In fact, much of what’s been presented is already covered by laws that have not been enforced. Again – “not been enforced.”

Congress should accept whatever proposed legislation MAY be forthcoming from the White House or other sources, conduct impartial hearings, amend what needs amending and take proper action. But that will not happen. No accepting. No hearings. No action. It won’t because the aforementioned liars – and others of their ilk – will intimidate, threaten, coerce and blackmail to maintain the murderous status quo. Those who could take responsible, significant steps to reduce the mass slaughter haunting this nation will do nothing. They’ll be bought off. Their “job security” will be threatened.

They’ll be lied to.

You want truth about history and guns? Go to people who know both – like academics and historians. You want more lies? Well, you can always count on the NRA and Fox News.

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trahant MARK


A new regular writer here. From his website self-description: “Mark Trahant is writing a book about austerity. He blogs, posts often on Twitter (including daily news poems). Trahant was recently a Kaiser Media Fellow and is the former editor of the editorial page for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Mark is a member of Idaho’s Shoshone-Bannock Tribe and a former president of the Native American Journalists Association. He is the author of The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars, about Henry Jackson, Forrest Gerard and the campaign for American Indian self-determination. He lives in Fort Hall, Idaho.” He’s writing now most regularly on austerity.

The next four years will be defined by austerity. President Barack Obama, indeed, the country, will jump from one economic crisis to another. And until a consensus emerges about what we should do next, well, every fight will leave both sides unsatisfied.

President Obama made the case for progressive investment by government. He said during his inaugural address: “We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher.”

He also promised hard choices ahead, yet, “we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.”

But most important he talked about promises. “The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

And so it is with Indian Country. The promises made through treaties are not gifts from Washington, but promises that ought to be secure even during an era of austerity. But how to make that so?

That’s a real challenge. Especially when the administration and Congress agree on so little about the era ahead, the hard choices that must be made, or even the promises that have been made.

But if the choices ahead are hard, the division in the country’s politics are even more so.

The most significant step the United States could take to resolve its budget and demographic imbalance is to press forward with health care reform. The Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, if you prefer, is just a baby-step. The bottom line is this: The United States spends too much on health care and gets too little in return, our health care coss 17.6 percent of gross domestic product. No other country in the worldspends that kind of money. The average among most nations is under 10 percent of the economy and even the second most expensive country, The Netherlands, only spends 12 percent on health care.

We do that one thing — fix health care — and we don’t need to rip apart the federal budget and priorities. We don’t need to strip promises made to American Indians and Alaska Natives by treaties, law or executive orders. We don’t even need to shortchange elders and soon-to-be elders from the promise that was restated in every paycheck (you know, the payroll tax).

But to make that happens we need to keep pressing for next steps in health are reform. We need to move on beyond fighting about what’s barely been started.

The Congressional Budget Office boils this down to two problems: The increasing cost of health care, or medical inflation, hitting us at the same time as the population ages.CBO says: “As aging causes the number of Medicare beneficiaries and elderly Medicaid beneficiaries to rise, higher health care spending per person has a greater impact. Conversely, when health care costs are growing, having more beneficiaries imposes a larger budgetary cost.”

I believe Indian Country offers a solution here (as I have written before). Federally-funded, but locally designed and controlled health care centers, such as the Alaska Native Medical Center, show that there is a way to bring the cost of health care down and improve the quality of that care.

At the end of this debate, if there is a resolution, then the U.S. health care system will look more like the Indian health system than the other way around.

Unfortunately, the other way to “balance” the budget is the austerity path we’re on at the present. This basically follows what’s being tried around the world with little success. The problem with cutting budgets repeatedly, and without a strategy, is that there is no way to bring back growth. A country of 315 million people cannot be stagnant.

The practical fights begin Wednesday. First Congress will revisit the debt ceiling, and then in the weeks ahead, debate over budgets and the sequester. But absent from those fights are a clear strategy about what success looks like.

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