Republican hypocrisy on gun control ... and other musings


You didn't ask, but if you had, I would've told you:

... The head of ExxonMobil should step down or be fired, because he's revealed himself to be a caveman ill-equipped to lead the biggest U.S. oil company in the 21st century.

It happened during a speech the 60-year-old CEO, Rex Tillerson, gave to a Council on Foreign Relations audience in New York City on June 27. Responding to a question, Tillerson admitted that the fossil fuels he sells are causing climate change: "... clearly there's going to be an impact ... increasing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere (will) have a warming impact." In that moment, Tillerson seemed to end ExxonMobil's long crusade against climate-change science, in which his immensely rich corporation (more than $3 billion per month profit) funds high-profile "skeptics" and politicians who block any action against oil and gas. But then Tillerson opened a new front in the crusade, by assuring everyone that the impacts of climate change will be "manageable."

All we need to do is "spend more policy effort on adaptation ... if we think the future has sea level rising four inches, six inches ... where are the impacted areas, and what do you want to do to adapt to that?" Tillerson said. "We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around -- we'll adapt to that. It's an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions."

Tillerson's faith in engineers' ability to save the planet with a new array of 2-by-4s and nails, or whatever, no doubt stems from his University of Texas bachelor's degree in civil engineering. He condemned the legions of more-qualified scientists who say we must rein in emissions to avoid wholesale destruction of ecosystems, agriculture and coastal settlements, saying they "manufacture fear." Let's keep in mind, for his arrogant defense of oil and gas, Tillerson pockets somewhere in the range of $13 million to $29 million per year -- salary, bonuses and ExxonMobil stock -- so in his personal life, he can afford a lot of adaptation.

... Range magazine, which provides anti-environmentalist Western ranchers with anti-environmentalist screeds, has set a new record in that regard.

The Summer 2012 issue of Range features long attacks against two billionaires who fund environmental groups in the West -- Hans Wyss and George Soros. Wyss conducts a "War on the West" and a "secret political blitzkrieg" with "strategic philanthropy (that) has unfolded almost like a textbook military campaign," Range shrieks, while Soros is "a God-hating atheist, a self-hating Jew, a capitalism-hating socialist, and an America-hating globalist."

You have to wonder, have the intrepid researchers at Range ever heard of the famous billionaire right-wingers -- such as the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino boss -- who devote tons of their money to strategically crushing environmentalists or funding candidates who will do so? If Range toned down the hyperbole and insults, the magazine would be a lot more credible with its criticism of the environmental movement.

... The Republican-led attack on the federal probe of Arizona gun sales that arm Mexican cartels is complete hypocrisy. And nearly all of the journalists covering it are blind to that basic fact.

A bit of background: For many years, Mexican cartels have sent people into gun shops in Arizona and Texas to buy hundreds or thousands of guns per month. The feds have tried to slow the flow, but Republicans in Congress -- enslaved by the National Rifle Association -- block any new laws that would restrict such sales. The Republicans also try to strangle the budget for the gun-control agency (ATF, for Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), and force it to operate with no clear leadership, by refusing to approve any Obama administration nominee for the job.

Yet the ATF had the gumption to stake out Arizona gun shops selling large volumes of guns to suspicious customers, in a 2009 operation called "Fast and Furious." The agents observed sales without making arrests, because they were amassing evidence, and anyway, when they asked for indictments, Arizona prosecutors were reluctant. Two such guns were found near the body of a Border Patrol agent in 2010, and Republicans saw that as an opportunity to harass the ATF even more. Led by California Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, they've demanded headlines, charging that the Obama administration is concealing evidence of "Fast and Furious" negligence, and on June 28, they voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt.

Almost all the news coverage fails to note, the last thing the Republicans want is an effective, assertive gun-control agency. Apparently most journalists in D.C. and New York City, who determine the conventional wisdom, know nothing about gun politics. The best in-depth report comes from a business magazine, Fortune, which concludes that any "Fast and Furious" problems should be blamed on Arizona's pro-gun culture, as well as the pro-gun movement nationwide. Fortune rightly calls the Republicans' moves "political bloodlust."

... I'm still holding out my hope that President Obama will reach across party lines and choose a moderate Republican, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., as his vice-presidential candidate on the November ticket. A person needs something to hope for, you know?

... PS - I'm borrowing my lead-in phrase (You didn't ask, but ...) from one of the great columnists of my generation, Tom Fitzpatrick. Fitz, as he liked to be called, won a Pulitzer Prize for writing about the violent Days of Rage protests against the Vietnam War in 1969 in Chicago. Then he moved to Arizona and used the lead-in phrase in some of his columns for the Phoenix New Times during the 1980s and 1990s, when I became a fan. Tip of the hat to Fitz, who died in 2002. Most of his work is not available on the Internet, but here are two sample Fitz columns about Dave Foreman, founder of Earth First!, around the time the FBI busted Foreman for eco-sabotage, and a Fitz obit.

Ray Ring is an HCN senior editor.

Image of Rex Tillerson courtesy World Economic Forum.

Gun store image courtesy Flickr user Mike Saechang

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