Take No Prisoners

During the last legislative session in Arizona, lawmakers approved a full expansion of vouchers to all 1.1 million Arizona students against very vocal opposition. In response, Save Our Schools Arizona conducted a grassroots petition drive with over 2,500 volunteers collecting over 111K signatures to get the issue on next year’s ballot.

To fight back, privatization proponents have recently ramped up their “take no prisoners” war on public education in Arizona with attacks on Arizona’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Christine Marsh. According to The Arizona Republic, the American Federation for Children (AFC), (“dark money” group previously led by Betsy Devos), recently “unleashed robocalls” in the Phoenix area targeting Marsh. In a related effort, a Republican state legislator, Rep. David Livingston, R-Glendale, also filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, accusing her of disorderly conduct.

What is the egregious violation these women are accused of? According to voucher proponents, (during the drive to gain petition signatures for an anti-voucher referendum), both circulated petitions without a box at the top of the petition checked. The box, according to state law, is required to be checked prior to petitions being circulated, to reflect whether the circulator is a volunteer or paid petition gatherer. In Livingston’s complaint and in AFC’s robocall, Blanc and Marsh respectively, are accused of “falsifying petition sheets” by marking the boxes after the signatures were collected.

I understand the law is the law, but I’ve circulated many petitions and I can tell you that not one signatory has ever given a damn about whether that little box was checked. They don’t care who is circulating the petition, just that it is legitimate and for a cause they care about. The “box” in question likely matters to someone, but certainly not to the voting public.

Yet, AFC chose to reach into Arizona to demand Marsh “come clean on who altered” her petition. “I’m calling from the American Federation for Children with an alert about an election scandal in this district,” the call said. “Christine Marsh, candidate for state Senate, circulated a petition sheet which was later falsified and filed with the Arizona Secretary of State, a felony. Christine Marsh won’t say whether it was she or someone else who broke the law by tampering with the document. Christine needs to come forward with the truth. Christine, stop hiding behind the 5th amendment and come clean.”

Always one to cut right to the heart of the matter, Marsh told The Republic “she was ‘incredulous’ that an out-of-state special-interest group was spending money in her race 15 months before the election.”

I personally know Christine Marsh, am very proud to have had her representing our state, and understand why AFC and the pro-privatization lobby is threatened by her. Christine has taught English Language Arts for almost a quarter century and she still thinks she has the best job in the world. She is passionate about her students’ success and is a great example of the type of excellent teachers we have in our public district schools. She doesn’t do it for the money, but because she absolutely loves the students. She is also a vocal advocate for her students and public education and is not afraid to speak out to combat injustices. She is now running for the AZ Legislature (a job that will pay even less than she makes as a teacher), because she knows that is the only way she’ll have a chance at affecting real change.

Dawn Penich Thacker, spokeswoman for Save Our Schools Arizona (leaders of the referendum effort) said, “It’s telling that robocalls are coming from a Washington, D.C., area code to attack an Arizona teacher for volunteering to give Arizonans a vote on how our tax dollars are used,” she said. “For all their talk of choice, it seems our state’s pro-voucher groups have chosen a flawed national agenda over the basic respect and rights due Arizona citizens.”

The majority of AZ voters (the actual people on the ground in Arizona) are not in favor of vouchers that siphon funding from our public district schools to private and religious schools. That’s not only true in Arizona, but all across our Nation. There has not in fact, ever been a time, in ANY state, where vouchers, when referred to the ballot, were approved by the voters. Privatization proponents have only succeeded in expanding vouchers when they don’t ask voters what they want.

In Arizona, we know this is all about profit and power. We also know we are ground zero in the fight for our public district schools and in the long run, our very Democracy. Blogger Jan Resseger wrote in June about Gordon Lafer’s new book, “The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time”. In it, he explains that “far-right tax-slashers have attacked public education, including all the money to be made by privatizing large parts of our nation’s biggest and most pervasive civic institution, in which, “the sums involved… are an order of magnitude larger than any other service.” But, Jan writes, ”he believes another motive of the privatizers is far more significant:“ “Finally” says Lafer, “the notion that one’s kids have a right to a decent education represents the most substantive right to which Americans believe we are entitled, simply by dint of residence. In this sense… for those interested in lowering citizens’ expectations of what we have a right to demand from government, there is no more central fight than that around public education.”

Make no mistake, this is a war…for the very soul of America. Will we continue to be a country “of the people, by the people and for the people”, or, will we continue to move toward a complete oligarchy where the rich call all the shots and the rest of us live in a matrix of their making?

Thomas Jefferson understood civic engagement is critical for the survival of a democracy. He said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people”, and “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” This latest assault on civic engagement in Arizona, from both within and outside the state, says volumes about the true intentions of the privatization proponents. If you believe it’s really about the kids, I’ve got some Arizona ocean front property to sell you.

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Why America must fix income inequality – and do it fast

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

FACT: Economic inequality in America has been on a steep rise for over 40 years.

FAC T: The inequality curve persisted regardless of which political party controlled Congress and regardless of which political party controlled the White House.

FACT: CEO compensation has risen dramatically while worker wages have stagnated or declined.

THEORY: America is about to have a second Civil War.

Back in Feb 2016 I posted on a Politico essay by a very rich guy named Nick Hanauer: Read this one (again):The pitchforks are coming … and are central to the 2016 election.

Now yesterday morning (Aug 30 2017), NPR’s 1A interviewed Nick Hanauer on inequality and what the 1% can do to prevent the pitchforks from coming (Zillionaire To Other Zillionaires: “Pay Up”).

Billionaires: Pay up or else...
Nick Hanauer to Billionaires: It’s this or the pitchforks

You probably don’t know Nick Hanauer, but he has more money than you. As a self-proclaimed “unapologetic capitalist,” Hanauer deals in millions the way many Americans deal in hundreds … or tens.

A few years ago, Hanauer called on his fellow one percenters to address America’s growing income inequality.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

Hanauer’s advice hasn’t exactly been heeded. And he’s now telling the super-wealthy to pay workers more to avoid an uprising.

Thing is, is anyone listening?

The short answer is “no”.

Here is a 2017 update in Politico, To My Fellow Plutocrats: You Can Cure Trumpism. Pay your workers a decent wage and maybe you can stave off the pitchforks that are still coming for us. by NICK HANAUER, July 18, 2017.

My own ideas about the effect of inequality on social instability align with the work of social scientist Peter Turchin. He and his collaborators use mathematical models to study the rise and fall of societies—an analysis that postulates a new American civil war arriving as soon as 2021 (and in a highly-armed nation already suffering from an epidemic of gun violence, he doesn’t mean “civil war” metaphorically). For the first time in history, polls show that most Democrats and Republicans identify Americans from the opposing party as the biggest threat to our country. So yes—if you have a deep sense that something is very wrong with our nation, you are almost certainly correct.

This is stunning. If you want a look at what this might mean, check my post from yesterday about the American War. If the prediction about the timing is even close, it means that we have four years to correct the economic misdeeds of four decades – 40 years. I’m taking on as a project reading Turchin’s book and writing a précis of it. Stay tuned.

America can be fixed. But Trumpism is not the answer – it is the symptom of the social/political consequences of gross inequality. If you want to know what Trumpists are doing about the fear of an impending revolt, see AZBlue Meanie’s post yesterday on An authoritarian vision of ‘law and order’. Trump has just renewed the flow of military grade hardware to local police departments. Exactly who do you think such arms will be used against? Hint: it ain’t the 1%. Hanauer explains: “You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state.”

America can be fixed but, ironically, the folks best positioned to do something about it are Hanauer and his real audience – the other multi-multi-millionaires and billionaires. The solution, according to Hanauer, is to immediately raise the minimum wage. That may not be cake, but it sure as hell would put more bread on the table of millions of working Americans. Consult Hanauer’s essay for data on the effects of raising the minimum wage. In all cases studied, increasing the minimum wage proved good for the economy.

Hanauer identifies what won’t work.

President Trump promises to restore the middle class to its former glory by bringing back old industrial-era jobs—as if slashing environmental regulations could somehow make coal competitive again with plummeting solar prices, let alone our fracking-induced glut of cheap natural gas. This is magical thinking. Manufacturing as a percentage of the overall economy, and of jobs, has been declining globally for decades. This trend will not reverse. Trump cannot restore the middle class with empty promises to bring manufacturing jobs back from the dead.

Many of us wealthy folks are laudably philanthropic; we feel like we are already doing our part to improve the lives of our fellow citizens. And this is true, to some extent. But if my thesis is correct—if the only cure for what truly threatens our democracy and our capitalist economy is to enact laws and standards that ensure that businesses pay people enough to lead secure, dignified lives—then some of our effort may be misdirected. Philanthropy is useful, but only about $100 billion per year is spent on helping disadvantaged folks. Raising the minimum wage to $15 would increase income for the bottom 60 percent of Americans by about $450 billion per year. No philanthropy comes close to the scale of that one policy.

So let’s get on with fixing America. If you are reading this, you are a progressive or Democrat or Berniecrat and you most likely belong to some related organization. If your organization does not have as its top priority addressing income inequality now, your organization is part of the problem. You can quote me on that.

The House Always Wins

I’m not a gambler, but I do know that Sin City isn’t prospering because those who visit its casinos win more than they lose. Rather, the casinos of Las Vegas and those all around the world, prosper because in the end, the house always wins.

That truism comes to mind when I think about our Arizona Legislature and their non-stop assault on the state’s public education system. Yes, it is sad that on the day Save Our Schools Arizona turned in over 111,000 petition signatures for a voucher expansion veto referendum to our Secretary of State, I’m thinking about how the battle has just begun. Not only that, but I’m worrying the battle is likely to not end in the people’s favor because just like the casinos, the game is rigged against us.

Senator Debbie Lesko, the sponsor of SB 1431, (full expansion of vouchers) is no doubt already planning repeal of the law should the referendum actually qualify for the ballot. Why would she do that? Well, for one, because when Arizonans are given the opportunity to vote on public education, they usually support it. For another, if the repeal of the voucher expansion actually gets on the ballot in November 2018, she and her GOP colleagues know that the issue will bring public education supporting voters out to the polls. We know which party the majority of those voters are likely to come from, right?

Of course, there is no guarantee the referendum will qualify for the ballot in the first place. First, there is the hurdle of actually having 75,321 valid signatures and even what a valid signature is. That’s because in the last legislative session, Arizona lawmakers passed a bill to enforce “strict compliance” for voter initiatives. The AZ GOP Chairman, back in April 2017, admitted that the purpose of the new law was to make it possible for the GOP-controlled Legislature to throw out ballot initiatives for “minor errors regarding language and paperwork.” Just to be clear, those minor errors could be something as trivial as a signer’s “g” or “y” in their name dipping below the line of the box on the petition they are signing. Lawmakers know it is hard enough to collect the required number of signatures; and yet they set out to make it impossible. Organizers believe this law doesn’t yet apply, but others fully expect lawmakers to deny that claim and if so, a court of law will no doubt be the place the issue is resolved.

It is heartbreaking to know all the tremendous effort that went into this effort may be all for naught because our lawmakers are determined to thwart the will of the people. It is also sobering to realize that they will continue to get away with it, until we gain more parity between parties in the Legislature to force solutions that work for all of us. The only thing that will really make a difference is for us to elect more pro-public education candidates to our Legislature. Then, when “the house” wins, our students and their teachers win.

No matter what happens in the end, this petition signature gathering effort is an example of what Margaret Mead was referring to when she said, “Never doubt a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. It is the only thing that ever has.” Started by a few Moms, it blossomed into a statewide effort of grassroots organizing that at the very least, sent a clear message that Arizonans value our public education.

Even though I started out by saying “the house always wins”, I also believe in karma. You know, that concept that in the end, everyone gets what they deserve. I believe pro-public education advocates are on the good side of history and we will win in the long run. Let’s just hope we can recover from the damage done.

More on the Magical Moderate Makeover of Martha McSally: A "centrist" she is not

McSally and AHCA vote
From AZBlueMeanie

Cross posted from skyislandscriber.com

Now that the Obamacare repeal seems dead, I’m watching the magical moderate makeover of Martha McSally with a witches brew of some amusement and some anger. You might recall that she exhorted her Republican colleagues in the House to “get this fucking thing done”- “this” being the AHCA repeal and replace bill that would have kicked 23 million people off of health insurance. And she then voted for that bill.

Now McSally is riding a different horse. She is part of a supposed “centrist” group in the House working up a way to save Obamacare.

Before proceeding, let me remind you of how one can arrive at a “centrist” group. It’s called averaging. Suppose the group consists of two Republicans, one voting with Trump 51% of the time and the other voting with Trump 49% of the time. The average is a centrist 50%. Now suppose a different group, one Republican voting with Trump 100% of the time and the other voting with Trump 0% of the time. The average is still 50% – (100 + 0)/2. Martha McSally, until recently, was voting 100% Trump (now her record is 97.5%). I see nothing “centrist” about McSally.

Politico.com reports on Centrist lawmakers plot bipartisan health care stabilization bill.

The [so-called centrist] push was intensified after the Senate’s repeal collapsed in the wee hours of Friday morning when Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined with all Senate Democrats to reject the GOP’s “skinny repeal."

The Problem Solvers caucus, led by Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), is fronting the effort to stabilize the ACA markets, according to multiple sources. But other centrist members, including Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), and several other lawmakers from the New Democrat Coalition and the GOP’s moderate Tuesday Group are also involved.

Their plan focuses on immediately stabilizing the insurance market and then pushing for Obamacare changes that have received bipartisan backing in the past.

The most significant proposal is funding for Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies. Insurers rely on these payments – estimated to be $7 billion this year — to reduce out-of-pocket costs for their poorest Obamacare customers.

Locally, the proposal was reported in today’s Green Valley News by editor Dan Shearer in Bipartisan effort tackles health care and defended by McSally in an editorial Bipartisan collaboration will make a statement.

But this proposal may be DOA. Politico acknowledges that Trump could still kill Obamacare by withholding those payments.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut off the payments, deriding them as a “bailout” for insurance companies. White House counselor Kelly Conway said on Sunday that Trump will decide “this week” whether to scrap the subsidies — which could make the markets implode.

For more on McSally and related issues see this morning’s post, The rehabilitation of Martha McSally as a mythical moderate Republican begins, at Blog for Arizona by AZBlueMeanie

Oh, this is rich. Rep. Martha McSally, who rallied House GOP members to pass House Speaker Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act in the House with the battle cry of “Let’s get this fucking thing done!”, has now joined a bipartisan House group to stabilize “Obamacare.”

This is like the arsonist who burns your house to the ground and then pretends to be a hero by rescuing you from the fire she set. And the GOP-friendly media in Arizona is playing along with McSally’s attempt to rehabilitate her image by again pretending that McSally is a mythical moderate Republican when she votes with Donald Trump’s agenda nearly 100% of the time.

If GOP leaders actually revive an Obamacare repeal plan, you can bet that our mythical moderate Republican Martha McSally will again vote to take health care away from millions of Americans and to gut Medicaid.

Just in case there is any doubt remaining on that matter, here is part of what McSally had to say in her GV News editorial.

To be clear, I think the Affordable Care Act was not the right approach to fix the broken health care system that existed before its passage,

What other approaches might she admit and support? Yesterday in speculating about the GOP’s future I posted this:

… Last night CD2 Rep. Martha McSally was interviewed by Chris Hayes on MSNBC. He asked her if defunding the ACA cost reduction payments, as Trump has threatened, is the right thing to do. He asked and asked and got only dodges and fog. …

Now I obtained Monday’s transcript. Here are (lightly edited) snippets.

Hayes: … in congress now that efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare have yet again failed, some lawmakers are now looking for bipartisan solution to strengthen the law.

Politico reports their proposal includes funding, those cost sharing subsidies to help low income Americans, as well as easing insurance requirements for smaller employers.

And two of those lawmakers join me now. Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, and Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally of Arizona.

Congresswoman, let me begin with you. Do you think it is appropriate for the President to be essentially threatening to take away that money and spike peoples premiums as a means of gaining political leverage over the law?

McSally: Well, Chris, thanks for having us on. Let me be clear, this is a hot button issue, and we still have sincerely held different beliefs about what is a sustainable health care system. … [lots more here but no answer to the question]

Hayes: … I just want to come back because I did ask you a question, whether you think it is appropriate for the President and not just to threaten, but a thing he might do which is to hold back the money– you talk about costs are too high for people and people are having problems, that would explicitly making that problem worse. He shouldn`t do that, should he?

McSally: As you can see from our plan that we released, 43 members of congress nearly equally on both sides aisle, one of the elements is to fund those cost sharing reductions, those CSRs. But not just throwing money at the problem and not being fiscally responsible because structurally it needs some changes. So the Stability Fund is absolutely critical to address those with the highest expenses and most complex medical needs so we can help drive down premiums and provide more options so the that young healthy people are in the market.

She never did answer the question which was about the morality of Trump’s threat to stop cost sharing payments.

I wrapped up my McSally segment yesterday with this:

… Former air force pilot McSally is scarfing up all kinds of good PR with her problem solving caucus but does not have the right stuff when it comes standing up to Trump. Shame on her.

Yeah, Let’s Focus on Our Students!

In a recent Scientific American article, a U.S. Department of Education spokesperson for Betsy DeVos said “The secretary believes that when we put the focus on students, and not buildings or artificially constructed boundaries, we will be on the right path to ensuring every child has access to the education that fits their unique needs.” As good as that sounds, it is total bullshit.

Here’s the deal. As much as its proponents try to tell us otherwise, school choice does NOT put the focus on students, because the “choice” is largely that of the commercial school, not the student. We know for example that private schools have total control over what students they accept, irrespective of the students’ funding sources (taxpayer-funded vouchers included.) Charter schools are by law required to accept all, but we also know they enroll much lower percentages of special needs students, those of color, and those in poverty.

As for the secretary’s belief that we should put the “focus on students, and not buildings or artificially constructed boundaries,” puhleeeeeeeaaasssee! This is just a thinly veiled swipe at community district schools. In Arizona, over 80% of our students attend these district schools where facility maintenance and repair is severely underfunded and there are no “artificially constructed boundaries” since we’ve had open enrollment since 1994.

Incidentally, “ensuring every child has access” is not the same as “providing every child….” Access refers to “the right or opportunity to use or benefit from something.” But, it takes more than the right or opportunity, it takes the means not only to get into the school, but to get to the school and survive the school. That’s not how it works in a district school which takes all comers, and works to provide each student what they need to succeed. And, they continue to serve the student even if that student’s test scores don’t make the school look good.

The piece de resistance in the DOE statement though, is “that fits their unique needs.” Wow! Isn’t that a great sound bite? Unfortunately, it is totally undoable and DeVos knows it.

In America, one in five children live in poverty. This reality, not inadequately funded schools and under appreciated teachers, is their major hurdle to a good education. What these students need is more than district schools are charged with, or have the capacity to provide. There is just no way commercial schools will do better at bridging that gap.

It amazes me how adept the privatization advocates have been at messaging. They’ve convinced parents that school choice is the answer and that “voting with their feet” is empowering. But as a fellow blogger pointed out recently, when parents “vote with their feet” to leave district schools for greener grass, all they are really doing is relinquishing influence. There is no school choice option (aside from homeschooling) that provides a parent as much say in their child’s education as does the district school with its locally-elected governing board. Parents and taxpayers alike have the right to be heard at public board meetings and, if their elected governing board members are not responsive to parent’s concerns, they can be recalled or replaced via elections.

Yes, we should all be focused on the students. So let’s do that, okay? Let’s properly fund our local community district schools where over 80% of our students are, instead of reaching for the shiny object being dangled to distract us. Let’s demand our tax dollars are spent where there is full accountability and transparency with locally-elected governing boards responsible for producing a good return on our investment. Let’s demand our teachers are adequately compensated and treated like professionals. Let’s in other words…put our money where our mouth is. The bottom line is that parents shouldn’t have to make a choice about where to send their kids. Every public school should be a high quality one.

 

Arizona’s Voucher Battle Continues

The Arizona Republic reported today that Save Our Schools Arizona will now hire paid circulators to “boost the chances that voters get the last word on the legislatively approved expansion” of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (vouchers.) According to The Republic, leaders of SOSAZ had intended to gather the required 75,321 valid signatures with only volunteers by the August 8, 2017 deadline. Now though, the organization finds itself with unexpected money and has decided to hire paid circulators for the last push to get at least 120,000 petition signatures for sufficient cushion.

As is often the case in Arizona though, GOP leaders in the Legislature are already working to undermine the effort. Senator Debbie Lesko, a Republican from Peoria has been the prime proponent of the effort to expand vouchers and is coincidentally (or maybe not), the Arizona Chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC.) As the likelihood of getting the repeal referendum on the ballot increases, she is planning ways to end run the effort. One of those is for the Legislature to repeal SB 1431 thereby eliminating the need for a public vote. Then Lesko and her GOP pals would just pass another expansion in the next legislative session. This move would not only require opponent vouchers to start a new referendum drive from scratch, but would also prevent the voucher vote from drawing more Democrats to the polls in November 2018.

Whether the petitions are being circulated by paid circulators or volunteers, they must contain sufficient valid signatures to qualify the referendum for the ballot. If you are an Arizona voter who hasn’t yet signed one of the petitions, please go to http://sosarizona.org/events or https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurSchoolsArizona/ to locate signing opportunities. If there is no opportunity in your area, you can email SOSAZ at SaveOurSchoolsAZ@gmail.com to make other arrangements.

There is no doubt that Lesko and her buddies will do what they can to continue to thwart the will of Arizonans, as has been their modus operandi in the past. For now though, “we the people” must do what we can, to ensure our government stays “of the people.” When it comes to slowing down the attack on our public schools, repealing the full expansion of vouchers is where we need to focus our efforts now. The 95% of Arizona’s students that attend our public schools are counting on us and the future of our state depends on our engagement. Please do your part and sign a petition this week, or for sure, by August 8th!

The NRA’s False Choice

I’ve been taking a bit of a break from writing, but this article written by Marine officers (there are no former Marines) is just too “on target” (please pardon the pun) not to share. I have nothing to add other than I agree entirely, especially with these two sentences:

“Indeed, true patriotism is not partisan, and the love of country and exercise of Constitutional rights is not the purview of any one group.”

“We renounce the false choice presented by the NRA that Americans need to pick a team between the First and Second Amendments.”

The NRA Has Entered the Province of Cowards
by Joe Plenzler, flipboard.com
As Marines, we fought to defend the U.S. and its freedoms. The NRA’s new video campaign is dedicated to a xenophobic policy of violent hatred and intolerance undermining freedom.

Over the past few weeks, the National Rifle Association has deployed several hyperbolic, incoherent, irresponsible, and divisive videos demonizing half of the American population in their efforts to recruit new members—beginning with Dana Loesch, followed by Greg Stenchfield, and most recently by U.S. Navy veteran Dom Raso.

Such fear-based incitements to hate and violence are the province of cowards.

These ads are official NRA TV products sponsored by Ruger and Kimber, both firearms manufacturers.

The NRA, founded by Union officers after the Civil War, was established as an organization dedicated to civilian marksmanship, gun safety, and Second Amendment rights.

However, this recent video campaign is a crescendo of increasingly partisan rhetoric on the part of the NRA, demonstrating that they are now dedicated to a xenophobic policy of violent hatred and intolerance that increases polarization and discord within American society.

In tone and content, the videos are eerily reminiscent of the thugs and bullies that have historically executed violence in support of authoritarian regimes.

These NRA ads are a clear and sophisticated effort that use well established propaganda tricks to appeal to scarcity, fear, and the basest of human emotions. For instance, the unnamed “they” at the beginning of Loesch’s video establishes a cognitive frame for the viewer to insert their own personal boogeyman.

Moreover, the videos conflate the American public’s right to peacefully assemble, protest, and criticize their government with the violent criminal behavior of a small number of rioters.

The NRA props up the Second Amendment by undermining and vilifying the protections afforded in the First, and paints everyone who may disagree with the current administration, our country’s justice system, or the NRA’s partisan political position with a very dark and unjust broad brush.

The NRA ads depict a dystopian, violent present whose danger can only be met by heavily armed citizens, when in fact a recent 2016 FBI report shows violent crime in the US to be at a 20-year low despite the more than 33,000 gun-related fatalities in our nation every year.

Additionally, the NRA’s use of stock riot footage misrepresents the character of the anti-administration protests. The data on the protests since the inauguration show that less than 0.5% of all protests have resulted in any property damage, and even fewer have resulted in physical injury.

To the NRA, we ask Qui Bono—to whose benefit? This fear-mongering certainly does not benefit the American people.

The truth is that the NRA is engaging in shameless fear tactics to increase membership so they can put more money into the pockets of politicians in Washington so firearms manufactures can increase sales resulting in profits and returns to shareholders.

They are selling a false narrative that there is only one right way to be a patriot.

This divisive rhetoric is amplified by their deafening silence on the killing of Phillando Castile, a law-abiding gun owner.

They are preying on a fearful public, and this is unethical.

While we would expect Loesch and Stinchfield to engage in such paid partisan hyperbole, we are embarrassed that a fellow veteran like Dom Raso would stoop to partisan fear-mongering and denigrate himself in the same manner.

We expect more from our veterans.

You see, while we have spent the past 16 years fighting real wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, extreme partisans on both sides of the political spectrum have been intent on waging a culture war at home.

It is time for this to stop.

During our combined 56 years in the United States Marine Corps, we served with Americans from every conceivable political, ideological, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic background—including foreigners who joined our military and helped fight our wars so they could earn a shot at U.S. citizenship.

Our experiences serving in every clime and place have taught us to be grateful for our ever evolving experiment in democracy, and have also shown us that there is no one right way to be Americans.

Indeed, true patriotism is not partisan, and the love of country and exercise of Constitutional rights is not the purview of any one group.

Each of us who volunteer to serve swore an oath to defend the Constitution and all of its amendments for every American—even those we may disagree with.

While we deplore the riotous violence of a few—completely overblown by the NRA—we respect the rights of the people to peacefully assemble and protest. We also respect peaceful civil disobedience. These rights are the cornerstone of our democracy, codified as the First Amendment to ensure that we can disagree, protest, and express our views without resorting to the violence of the past.

We also reject the most recent phenomena of labeling anything disagreeable as false or fake news. We believe everyone is entitled to their opinions, but nobody is entitled to their own facts.

We renounce the false choice presented by the NRA that Americans need to pick a team between the First and Second Amendments.

We believe that the use of intimidation, fear-mongering, and threats of violence to crush the people’s right to peaceful assembly, redress grievances, and maintain a free press is the first step in the march towards authoritarianism.

We believe that ALL of our civil liberties are worth defending for ALL Americans—including protection from the use of excessive lethal force by those sworn to protect and serve our communities.

We reject extremism in all of its forms—both emanating from the right and the left.

We believe that the way forward to bring our Nation together does not come from a clenched fist, rather it comes from an extended hand and a commitment by sane, common-sense, and courageous people to meet in the center and work toward the common good.

We believe that veterans, given the military’s cultural emphasis on service, nation before self, and teamwork can be useful in encouraging respectful civil discourse to solve our nation’s toughest problems.

We strongly believe in the sentiment first expressed by Edmund Burke, that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.

We believe that the majority of NRA members deplore the hate and fear-based tactics of the NRA leadership yet their dues and donations continue to resource the NRA’s incitements to hate and violence.

The silence of these good men and women is deafening.

What will you do?

Craig Tucker is a retired Marine Corps Colonel and decorated 25-year combat veteran. His combat command of RCT–7 in Iraq spanned 14 months and included the first and second Battles of Fallujah, numerous smaller actions and a Purple Heart for wounds received in combat action north of Husaybah Iraq.

Kyleanne Hunter is an 11-year Marine Corps combat veteran and decorated AH–1W Cobra helicopter gunship pilot. She served combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a tour as the Marine Corps’ Liaison Officer to the House of Representatives. She is a former NRA member.

Joe Plenzler is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and decorated 20-year combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He served from 2010 to 2015 as the spokesman, speechwriter, and staff group director for the 34th, 35th, and 36th Commandants of the Marine Corps. He is a former NRA member. ■