Thursday, June 29, 2017

The NRA and American fascism

From Daily Kos:

...Since Donald Trump’s election, the organization of gun manufacturers and retailers known as the National Rifle Association has found it difficult to raise sufficient levels of paranoia. Gun sales are way down, and the highly profitable AR-15 style assault rifles that were snapped up when right wing media could simply point their cameras at a black man running the country, have been gathering dust.

How can the NRA restore sales? By convincing half of America to declare war on the other half.

Using quick cuts and black and white images, the video splices together incidents from across years and across the nation to make it appear as if America is already embroiled in a civil war. Though most of the images are of nothing but people marching or standing at protests, the fast cuts and violent language send clear signals of danger and threat.

Those images, of course, include an injured man in a Donald Trump T-shirt and a waving American flag. The injured man is from a scuffle that took place more than a year ago between groups of pro and anti Trump protesters, but in the video both the man and the flag are examples of how they are after us.

With more than 1 gun per person in the United States, and sales falling, the NRA clearly feels that they need to do something to bolster their “brand.” Civil war seems like just the ticket to sell a lot of guns. And even more ammo.

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The SMART train and reality

Conductor engineer, Mike Clift boards the SMART train as it leaves the Petaluma train station en-route to the San Rafael station, for a demonstration run on Wednesday June 28, 2017 in Petaluma, Ca. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle
Photo: Michael Macor

The Chronicle's story today on the SMART train (Engine that could) could have been a press release by SMART's "media center":

The soft launch of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system brought back memories for the railroad historian, who was invited on an hourlong “preview” ride between Petaluma and San Rafael — a trip that authorities hope will be popular with regular commuters beginning at a still unspecified date this summer. “Marin County was full of railroads at one time,” said [Fred]Codoni, who edits publications for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historical Society. “You look across America and rail service is coming back everywhere. It’s about time. We can’t continue to drive ourselves into oblivion.”

Not at all clear that "rail service is coming back" in the US (See Randal O'toole's Is your transportation project a boondoggle?) But Codoni is a rail buff who writes nostalgic books about extinct rail service in Marin and elsewhere. The Chronicle story quotes only Codoni and SMART's general manager.

The Independent Journal's story doesn't do much better, but it always has a lively, must-read discussion in the comments to its SMART stories. This story had 74 comments last time I looked. Comments by Richard Hall are particularly well-informed.

From the Chronicle's story:

Questions remain about whether enough riders will board to make the system worthwhile and cost-effective. But Codoni said there were plenty of riders who used the Northwestern Pacific Railroad when it chugged along the same tracks in the first five decades of the last century. “People say, ‘Look at BART, it didn’t do anything to relieve congestion.’ Well, it did so,” Codoni said. “It takes 500,000 commuters off the streets every day. What would congestion be like if it wasn’t there?”

Codoni has never met a train system he doesn't like.

I've never heard anyone say that BART doesn't relieve traffic congestion, but it's unlikely that a significant number of people need to commute between Santa Rosa and San Rafael.

The only unanswered question is how much public money will be required to subsidize the operation of the SMART system.

This train will be an updated version of the Napa Valley wine train, since it has "a snack bar that will serve local wines and craft beer."

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