How Did I Miss That? Congress Occupies Congress; ISIS Attacks Music

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Assault rifles make up about a fourth of the rifles sold in the U.S. These military style weapons are available to persons who cannot fly because they are on the terrorist watch list and the background check requirement has loopholes big enough to accommodate a rifle platoon charge.

The night of June 22, Democrats led by Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) entered the well of the House chamber and refused to leave until leadership allowed a vote on the two gun safety proposals voted down in the Senate earlier in the week.

The two proposals are to close loopholes in the background check requirement and so-called “no fly-no buy,” to keep people deemed too dangerous to ride a commercial aircraft from arming themselves.

The leadership by John Lewis was critical to tempering any resort to physical removal of the protesting members, because of Lewis’ iconic status. He was almost beaten to death during the Civil Rights Movement when state troopers attacked peaceful marchers on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama, an event known as “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis carries scars from that beating as, in our times, a badge of honor.

Lewis is the last living member of the “Big Six” who organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, scene of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In his elder years, the moral authority from the risks he took makes him the conscience of Congress.

The Republicans wished to take a vote on a bill to reverse a rule by the Obama administration requiring investment advisors to act in the best interests of their clients.

Speaker Paul Ryan (Wisconsin) called the sit-in “nothing more than a publicity stunt,” and pointed out that the same gun safety laws were defeated by fake filibuster (accomplished by saying “I filibuster”) after Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) forced a vote with a real filibuster, talking for 15 hours with aid by others asking long winded questions, principally Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey).

Connecticut is a small state, and the two senators from Connecticut represent the parents of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre, an event thought at the time to be a game changer. The NRA, however, proved that a majority of Congress would remain fearful.

Ryan is right that the sit-in is a publicity stunt, but it’s a great deal more than that. The House members are seeking to follow the Senate vote and make every individual serving in this Congress go on the record supporting the wishes of a majority of voters—including gun owners—or the wishes of the NRA.

The effect would be to make the NRA spend money rather than just get their bidding done with a phone call. Chances are, the NRA will once more kill “no fly-no buy” and universal background checks just like they cut off federal funding for research into gun violence but it becomes a record vote that can be attacked at election time.

In an attempt to quash the “publicity stunt,” the House went into recess and cut the microphones and cameras. Lewis and his allies continued to speak by cell phones and the Periscope app. Using cell phone cameras on the floor is a violation of House rules, but the bootleg feed was picked up by C-SPAN.

When the bootleg signal spread to commercial TV, Ryan sought to re-impose his authority by going back into session to consider the next bill in regular order. It was not a law that made a pretty picture for the home crowd.

The "business" to be transacted was doing the bidding of bankers who do not wish to meet a fiduciary standard. Translation: the Obama administration rule under attack requires investment advisors to put their clients’ interests above their own.

Before the Obama rule, it was lawful to steer clients to investments not suitable for the client but lucrative for the advisor. Investment advisors funded an ad campaign like the “Harry and Louise” spots that sunk Hillarycare, claiming that ordinary folks would be deprived of investment advice. It failed, the rule passed, and now the Republicans are riding to the rescue of those who can’t do business in the shadow of a requirement that they not take advantage of their customers.

Ryan came to the podium. The Democrats refused to leave the well, chanting "no bill-no break." Ryan called the bill to protect crooked bankers but the chaos did not abate.

Still, the bill to allow unsophisticated investors to be cheated with impunity passed on an electronic vote. As Ryan slunk away, the members in the well of the House pointed at him and shouted "Shame! Shame!"

Shame indeed. Most of the people damaged by investment advisors not being held to a fiduciary standard are elderly or of the class of people not sophisticated in the investment game.

Having done the bidding of the investment banks, the leadership returned to doing the bidding of the NRA. The impasse continued in uncharted territory, history in the making before our eyes.

After 25 hours, Ryan put the House in recess until July 5, leaving no reason to occupy the chamber, since it’s not an appropriate place for an Independence Day weenie roast. Ryan commented, "We are not going to allow stunts like this to stop us from carrying out the people's business."

He did not say what “people’s business” was obstructed, since the Republicans got their bill to restore bankers’ rights to cheat elders. President Obama’s request for an authorization for use of military force against ISIS, immigration reform, cost cutting amendments to the Affordable Care Act—the list of critical undone “people’s business” is lengthy.

The Democrats promised to return after July 4 but they did not say if they would be bringing fireworks. Remember, the objective of the protest was not to pass gun safety. The objective was to require each lawmaker to go on the record. When that happens, it will be up to the voters.

Getting our national legislators to legislate is unlikely enough that the protesters repurposed the civil rights anthem, "We Shall Overcome," to promise:

We shall pass a bill some day!

No doubt they will pass a bill some day. The question is how many more innocent people will have to die before Congress is motivated to work?

In other crime news, CNN reported that the FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for a California serial rapist who was active for 10 years and broke into 120 homes, killing 12 of his victims. The victims were aged 13 to 41. Striking around Sacramento, he was known as the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, and the Golden State Killer. He is now thought to be between 60 and 75. A white male, close to six feet tall, with blond or light brown hair.

BBC reported that a well known bear cub called Snowy (for his white face) was killed by a hit and run driver in Grand Teton National Park. Snowy was the lone cub of a tagged bear known by her number, 399. She is of an age that she is not expected to have any more cubs.

SOFREP News, a military news source produced by veterans, reproduced a disturbing photo showing stacks of beautiful German shepherds headed “Dead Military Working Dogs Piled Up Like Trash After Contract Terminated in Kuwait.”

After I got my gag reflex under control, I read the story and found that the dogs being killed wholesale did not belong to the military. They were explosive sniffers owned by Eastern Securities, a corporation under contract to the Kuwait National Petroleum Company.

When the contract was cancelled, the corporation was left with over 140 unemployed working dogs. The corporate decision was that it was easier to kill them than feed them or go to the trouble of finding homes. The name of the corporation, once more, is Eastern Securities, known to the military as E Sec. Remember that name, for the next time they bid on contracts supported by your taxes and mine.

The Burlington Free Press reported that Didymosphenia geminata, algae known to non-scientists as “rock snot,” has been discovered to be indigenous to Vermont. They call it rock snot because an algae bloom from the species leaves a yucky coat on rocks in rivers otherwise clear and clean.

The immediate result of the discovery is that Vermont is lifting a ban on felt-soled waders, which was originally imposed to avoid tracking rock snot to other rivers when it was thought to be an invasive species. It turns out that spores the rule was intended to avoid spreading were already present, waiting for the right conditions to bloom.

My Cousin Ray Sixkiller remarked that he’d rather the law protect rock snot than investment advisors who cheat elders.

Physical Review Letters published a study by B.P. Abbott and others reporting the observation of gravitational waves caused by coalescence of two black holes 14 and eight times the mass of the sun.

Gravitational waves are disturbances in the fabric of space and time predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. It was not until decades later that instruments existed that could detect them. This is the second time gravitational waves have been detected.

Cousin Ray wanted to know if a time machine could be far behind or if those waves could just be caused when Donald Trump’s and Chris Christie’s egos passed too close to each other?

The New York Times quoted Snoop Dogg on the presumptive GOP nominee: “Donald said he wants to run for president and move on into the White House. Why not? It wouldn’t be the first time he pushed a black family out of their home.”

The so-called Islamic State released video showing various musical instruments being destroyed with sledgehammers in Libya. That night, I was privileged to attend a Gordon Lightfoot concert and I kept looking at the gear on the stage---bass and six and 12 string guitars, keyboard, drum kit---and flashing back to those barbarians destroying the instruments that bring so much joy in the hands of artists like Lightfoot, who is still touring at age 77. 

Lightfoot (who is not First Nations) played in a series of concerts that led to the establishment of the Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park and he went to Brazil with a Canadian/Cree/Nuu-chah-nulth/Haida delegation in 1989 to support the Kaiapo opposition to a dam on the Amazon.

Musicians live in the real world where they do have political interests. That video of perfectly good instruments being destroyed has stayed with me longer than some ISIS torture videos because all of the cruelty just runs together in my mind. Trying to destroy music offers a clue where the cruelty comes from. Living without music would have to produce rough edges.