Nel's New Day

November 21, 2014

President Infuriates GOP with Immigration Executive Order

Last night, mainstream television stations refused to run President Obama’s speech, but the message still came across loud and clear: the president is moving forward on immigration reform because the GOP House won’t take action. In the first minute of the speech, he announced that about 4.4 million undocumented immigrants—parents, children, and others who have lived at least five years in the country—will not be forced out of their homes.

Undocumented parents of U.S. citizen and legal permanent children can legally stay in the country and work if they pass a background check. His 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy will be expanded by removing the top age limit of 31 and applying to all those who came to the U.S. before January 1, 2010. Relief from the deferred action will be three years, an increase from the two-year DACA program. Executive orders are temporary, made on a case-by-case basis, can be revoked, and do not put immigrants on a path toward citizenship. They are required to pay taxes but won’t be eligible for most government benefits including the Affordable Care Act subsidies.

Other benefits focus on those illegally crossing the border since the beginning of the year, convicted criminals, suspected terrorists, and possible threats to national security. The president’s new executive order will broaden opportunities for highly skilled workers and change how visas are distributed. Parents of DACA recipients and agricultural workers are not included in this relief, but they may be eligible for reprieve from other factors. Any person granted deferred action can get work authorization by demonstrating “an economic necessity for employment” and can obtain Social Security numbers.

As expected, the Party of No has doubled down on its threats to block the president and avoid helping the people of the United States:

Shut down the government: That GOP suggestion included talk on last Sunday shows. Although Sen. John Thune (R-SD) had earlier acknowledged that this move “doesn’t solve the problem,” he hasn’t rejected the option.

Defund the immigration plan: Rescission is a parliamentary procedure that lets legislators pass a budget bill and then return to cut out whatever they don’t want. Citizenship and Immigration Services is funded through fees, however, not congressional appropriations, meaning that Congress can’t take this route.

Block confirmation of all nominees, including the U.S. Attorney General and judges: This threat isn’t new; the GOP senators have been doing it during the past two congresses. They will continue, however, because they’re hoping for a Republican president in two years to pack the courts and other federal seats.

Refuse to pass any immigration legislation through Congress: It’s not as if the GOP House has been willing to do pass any legislation anyway.

Impeach the president: Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Joe Barton (R-TX), and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) have all suggested this action, useless because it requires a two-thirds vote in the senate. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) even wants to send the president to prison. He suggested the possibility that “the president’s conduct aids or abets, encourages, or entices foreigners to unlawfully cross into the United States of America” which carries “a five-year in-jail penalty.”

Sue the President: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), a presidential wannabe, called the executive action a “cynical ploy” to distract Republicans from other agenda items. Because the Republicans haven’t moved anything forward for years, this doesn’t set up an unusual situation. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has finally found a lawyer who took the case after rejection from two others. The current filing uses the Affordable Care Act as its basis but just asks for a ruling without any request for relief, injunction, or change.

The House may fail in suing the president for his executive order on immigration.   The Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. United States (2012) ruled “broad discretion” for the executive branch in immigration matters because removal is a civil, not criminal, matter. The law reads that undocumented people “may” be removed, not “must”; thus the executive branch “must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all” on a case-by-case basis. Immigration law does require custody for those who have committed a serious crime or previously “engaged in a terrorist activity.”

One reason that Republicans want to block the immigration executive order is that the president’s actions will improve the economy. With about 5 million more people obtaining work permits, wages will be increased by an average of 8.5 percent and raise an additional $3 billion in payroll taxes for just the first year and $22.6 billion for the first five years. GDP will go up by 0.9 percent, about $210 billion, and the federal deficit will shrink by $25 billion through this growth. The senate bill would have had far greater economic benefits, but it was kept from a House vote.

Immigrants do not have a negative impact on earnings of native-born workers because the two groups usually have different skill sets and look for different kinds of jobs. As new immigrants move to the U.S., the number of jobs lost to offshoring actually decreases, keeping more jobs for native-born workers and greater demand for such services as transportation of these goods throughout the country. Getting immigrant labor for lower-skilled jobs moves native-born workers in those jobs up the job ladder, giving them higher-paid jobs. Immigrants also do not displace U.S. workers because many of them start their own businesses.

Republicans ignore the executive actions on immigration taken by 11 U.S. presidents, every president both Republican and Democrat since President Dwight Eisenhower. Reagan granted deportation relief to minor children of parents who benefited from a 1986 immigration reform, and George H.S. Bush gave the same relief to about 1.5 million “family members living with a legalizing immigrant [] who were in the U.S. before passage of the 1986 law.” As the president said in his speech:

“To those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.”

President Obama’s actions are not an amnesty. Reagan was the president who strongly supported amnesty. In a presidential debate in 1984, he said, “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.”

The farthest-right members of Congress rant about the president’s actions because they think the GOP now has a mandate to take over the country. They forgot that they completely ignored any “mandate” from the 2012 election when both the elected president and Senate were Democratic and the majority of votes for the House were Democratic although gerrymandering provided a majority of GOP representatives. GOP congressional members have proceeded during the past six years with its only goal–to stop any action from the president.

While the Republicans threaten the president, they also call on violent action from people across the country by trying to terrify them. For example, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has said, “You could see violence.” He seemed to give people the right for anarchy when he explained how people think:

“If the law doesn’t apply to the president and it’s not affirmatively acted upon us as a group, like you’re seeing in Ferguson, Missouri then why should it apply to me?'”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leader in the anti-immigrant movement, said during his Sunday radio program that it’s possible that a Hispanic majority in the U.S. could conduct an “ethnic cleansing.” In a game of “us versus them” played against imagined enemies, conservatives, like terrorists such as ISIL use this method to control people and keep them from being free.

As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, the GOP immigration plan for the past 30 years is to “make America somewhere no one wants to live.” Immigrants have come to the United States to improve their standard of living. That hope is gradually disappearing through the GOP’s plans to decrease wages, eliminate health care, increase imprisonment, and expand the number of unwarranted deaths through unimpeded gun violence.

Older GOP legislators refuse to pay attention to historic and economic facts just as they reject science. Their only plan is the same one that they’ve used for the past six years to stop the president: do nothing.

November 13, 2014

President Strikes Deal GOP Wants; GOP Furious

President Obama cut a deal with China while the GOP was crowing about the election, and the Republicans are livid. Following nine months of discussion, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping announced a deal on carbon emissions.

The U.S. pledges to cut its emissions 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025, building on its current target of 17 percent reduction below that baseline by 2020. China promises to get 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030 and peak its overall carbon dioxide emissions that same year. The country will also deploy an additional 800 to 1,000 gigawatts of zero-carbon energy, approximately all the electricity generated in the U.S., by 2030. The U.S. part of the deal is doable under existing law. Emissions have already declined, and the president has created new rules on tailpipes and power plant rules. The European Union has also agreed to cut its emissions 40 percent below their 1990 levels by 2030.

The conservatives had argued that there was no reason for the U.S. to take action as long as China didn’t do anything. The president has argued that the U.S., as the world’s second-largest emitter, can’t expect other countries to step forward if this country doesn’t take action. Now China has stepped up, and the GOP lost its argument.

As both conservatives and environmentalists have pointed out, the language of the deal has wiggle room. These goals are statements of “intent”; the parties do not promise or even “agree” to accomplish these targets. The president can’t do anything on his own because foreign treaties require a two-thirds majority from the U.S. Senate for ratification.  The White House release refers to these goals as statements of “intent.” They don’t promise or even “agree” to hit these targets, they merely “intend” to.

Even before the president’s trip to China, members of the 114th Senate pledged to roll back the existing measures on the environment. The House has already voted to repeal the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and the new GOP senate will also pass the bill. It’s a guarantee that there could be no successful vote for an emission-reduction treaty.

The senate’s new Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, was quick to criticize the Beijing pact. “This unrealistic plan, that the president would dump on his successor, would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs,” he said. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) followed the party line with complaining about loss of jobs, and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the climate denier who will be head of the Environment and Public Works Committee in January, called the arrangement between the United States and China a “charade.”

Yet the senate cannot stop an announcement between China and the United States of this agreement of intentions.

Together, China and the United States produce over 40 percent of the carbon emissions for the entire planet. While China currently relies on coal and non-renewable energy to develop its economy, the United States is fighting against changing to alternative energy resources from traditional ones.

Global Carbon missionsByCountry

Republicans are already screaming about how the U.S. has to reduce emissions more steeply than previously planned while China does not have to immediately begin its reductions. Longstanding development and wealth in the United States, however, have caused this country to produce 29.3 percent of global cumulative carbon emissions, compared to only 7.6 percent from China. In the dea;, China’s plan is a model for emerging economies such as India, Brazil, and Indonesia.

cumulative pollutions

Watching the Fox network shows the real world what is being said in Conservativeland. The day before the president announced the deal, far-far-right Charles Krauthammer said that Obama should get a climate agreement with China. He said, “If we get one with China we have something real.” The week before, Krauthammer said, “If [President Obama] gets an agreement with China, which he won’t, but that’s the one area it would be historic.”

Immediately after the announcement from the president about the deal, Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy asked Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, “Is the agreement just a sign that China has a hold on us?” She said that the president is giving China a pass on important issues such as cyber attacks, bootleg software, and handbags. Doocy joined the China- and Obama-bashing. “You want to talk about climate change? First let’s talk about how you’re stealing everything from us!”

Later Doocy slipped when he said that China’s participation in cutting emissions might clean the air so “they might be able to breathe for the first time.” Bartiromo brought him back to the Fox message that cleaning air doesn’t mean cleaner air.

Fox Business commentator Stuart Varney led with “Climate Deal with China Blasted as ‘War on Coal.” He listed the year of 2030 as the peak in China’s carbon emissions as “a total cave on the part of President Obama.” Both Doocy and Varney blamed China for all the pollution. In addition to the U.S. history of emitting more pollution, we have only one-fourth the population as China but still produce almost the same emissions.

Reporter Ben Adler gave four reasons that the Republicans are in such a snit about the president’s climate deal with China:

President Obama shows that he’s not backing down on the climate issue, even after the GOP thinks its in control.

The GOP loses its “we can’t do anything because China won’t” argument

The deal is another death knell for the coal industry after China seems to want to see their sky rather than export coal.

The Republicans’ increasing isolation makes them appear increasingly foolish. Only the European Union has led the U.S. in carbon regulation until now. China’s decision might draw in other countries, leaving only Russia on the conservatives’ side.

 

Foolishness doesn’t concern Republicans, however. Almost two-thirds of them would rather destroy the country than have anything to do with the current president. After the election, 62 percent of Republicans said in a Pew Research poll that they didn’t want the Republican leaders to work with the president at all. This followed all the verbiage from next year’s GOP leaders that they were ready to “compromise.”

Satirist Andy Borowitz has a humorous—but accurate—take on the position of Republicans in Congress:

“President Obama is under increasing pressure to work closely and coöperatively with a group of people who are suing him in federal court, the people suing him confirmed today.

“ ‘Over the past six years, President Obama has been stubborn, arrogant, and oppositional,” John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, said. “His refusal to work with people who are suing him is just the latest example.’

“Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, echoed the Speaker’s criticism, adding, ‘Time and time again, the President has refused to pick up the phone and talk to me, despite my saying that I was doing everything in my power to make him a one-term President.’

140316003WM001_BOEHNER_AND_ [The country’s new leaders: Boehner (left) and McConnell (right)]

“Other members of the G.O.P. caucus blasted the President for being aloof and frosty to Republicans who had questioned his American citizenship, the authenticity of his birth certificate, and the legitimacy of his Presidency. ‘That’s no way to get things done,’ Senator James Inhofe, of Oklahoma, said. ‘He’s got a real attitude.’

“Boehner concluded his comments, however, with an olive branch of sorts for Obama. ‘Mr. President, we Republicans are eager to sit across the table from you and get to work for the American people,’ he said. “Otherwise, get ready to be impeached.’ ”

Borowitz summarized the GOP position about China with the first sentence of today’s column:

“The election of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as the Senate Majority Leader was announced on Thursday by a puff of toxic black coal smoke rising from the United States Capitol.”

Borowitz is right. We will surely see far more toxins in the environment with the GOP in control of Congress.

September 17, 2014

Borowitz on the Paycheck Fairness Act

Filed under: Discrimination,Women's issues — trp2011 @ 8:50 PM
Tags: ,

The four female U.S. senators voted against equal pay for women two days ago because maybe women didn’t deserve it, or it was political to support women, or maybe women already get equal pay. Satirist Andy Borowitz highlights the hypocrisy of their position in the New Yorker.

Borowitz-Female-GOP-690

Two days after voting against the Paycheck Fairness Act, a law that would help women to obtain equal pay, the four female Republicans in the United States Senate co-sponsored a bill that would slash their salaries to seventy-one per cent of what their male colleagues earn.

The senators—Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)—said that the best way to take a stand against big government’s intrusive attempts to mandate equal pay for women was to take a twenty-nine-per-cent pay cut themselves.

“The days of the federal government forcing us to earn as much as male senators are over,” Ayotte said. “We will not stop fighting until we make twenty-nine per cent less.”

Fischer said that after voting down paycheck equity for women across America, the female Republican senators realized that they themselves were “burdened by the tyranny of equal pay” in the U.S. Senate.

“All we are asking for is the same freedom from equal pay that other American women enjoy,” Ayotte said.

Though the bill was just proposed on Wednesday morning, Murkowski said that it already has the unanimous support of male Republicans in the Senate.

April 25, 2014

Justices Need Mandated Code of Conduct

The job of judges is to determine whether laws are constitutional. The United States has an elaborate judicial system that terminates in the U.S. Supreme Court where nine president-appointed and Senate-approved justices are the final say for everything. They can stop fairness in voting, permit unlimited, hidden campaign donations, and reinstate racist policies just by having a majority—usually five justices—ruling in favor of or against a position and calling it constitutional.

A series of studies may show how the justices determine what they consider “constitutional.” A phenomenon called “motivated reasoning” indicates that brains are not capable of disinterested reasoning. Brains reject information not in accord with strongly held beliefs. For example, common conservative misconceptions such as the beliefs that President Obama is a Muslim or the healthcare act authorizes “death panels” are perpetuated, no matter how much factual information people are provided.

Liberals also suffer from “motivated reasoning.” The brains of strong partisans of either parties resist unflattering information about their party’s presidential candidate. Yale Law Professor Dan Kahan and three colleagues studied this by taking brain scans of these people while processing negative information about the preferred candidate. They discovered that the area of the brain connected with calm, reasoned activity demonstrated little activity while processing this information. When presented with uncomfortable information about a candidate, the portion of the brain connected with emotion distress became active until it found a way to rationalize the material. The centers related to positive feelings then turned on, much in the same way as when drug addicts get their “fix,” according to Westen. Committed partisans are addicted to retraining their commitments.

When approving Supreme Court justices, senators have tried to select ones that are not ideological wild cards. Although Justice David Souter, a George H.W. Bush nominee, was quite moderate, the GOP began the cry, “No more Souters!”

At the same time, a president works to have ideologically supportive nominees who will not undo his policies. Yet strongly partisan justices are the worst choices for the Supreme Court, that carries a lifetime appointment with no mandate to follow the Code of Conduct required for all other judges. Supreme Court justices answer to no one except their consciences.

Motivated reasoning studies show that these consciences will convince them that their personal partisan preferences provide the correct reason. Studies show that highly partisan justices may more easily reach partisan decisions after listening to strong counterarguments.

The test subjects in the studies usually have strong feelings about the subject. In routine cases, justices may manage a more impartial approach. It is, however, the politically charged decisions that more seriously affect a majority of people in the nation. The Affordable Care Act, abortion, voting rights, business interests, religion, minority rights, marriage equality—all these resonate greatly with a majority of the justices. In almost all cases dealing with these issues, the votes of at least two-thirds of the justices seem to be predetermined before they hear any arguments.

No one points out the peccadilloes of people better than humorists, and Andy Borowitz is one of the best. Here are some of his viewpoints on recent SCOTUS rulings:

About McCutcheon v. FEC that vastly increases the amount of money that the wealthy can donate to political campaigns:

“Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts summarized the rationale behind the Court’s decision: ‘In recent years, this Court has done its level best to remove any barriers preventing the wealthiest in our nation from owning our government outright. And while the few barriers that remained were flimsy at best, it was high time that they be shredded as well.’

“Citing the United States Constitution, Justice Roberts wrote, ‘Our founding fathers created the most magnificent democracy in human history. Now, thanks to this decision, the dream of owning that democracy is a reality.’

“Justice Antonin Scalia also weighed in, telling reporters at the Court, ‘After all the pro-gay decisions we’ve been making around here lately, it was nice to finally have a win for the good guys.’”

About Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus that SCOTUS heard last week regarding whether political campaign advertising can knowingly lie. The ruling has not yet been announced.

“The Court [argued] that ‘any attempt to restrict or punish lying by politicians is an unconstitutional infringement on a religion they have practiced for decades.’

“The Court’s decision won praise from politicians of both parties, with many saying that the Justices’ recognition of lying as a religion was ‘long overdue.’

“Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts argued, ‘For politicians, lying is a religious observance akin to attending a church or a synagogue, except that they do it seven days a week.’”

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thompson have been the most open outside the court to announce their opinions. Both Scalia and Thomas take money from right-wing groups before judging on cases in which their decisions directly benefit these groups. Any judge outside the Supreme Court would be required to recuse themselves in these cases.

Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, has been instrumental in founding and operating far-right groups with anonymous donations made possible by Citizens United, which Justice Thomas helped pass in 2010.

Scalia suggested that people “revolt” if they think their taxes are too high. He made this comment at the same time that Cliven Bundy called the radical self-appointed militia to help him in his revolt against paying his debts to the government.

While Scalia distorts the constitution, he rails against any judges who disagree with him, calling them “activist judges” and saying that judges like these started the Holocaust. He also talks about the importance of “natural law,” which translates as Biblical or Christian law with no respect for civil law.

Another current case in which Scalia has a conflict of interest is McCullen v. Coakley, deciding on whether women’s clinics in Massachusetts can be allowed buffer zones. Scalia’s wife, Maureen Scalia, is an anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy counselor” for the anti-abortion group Nurturing Network. The purpose of these crisis pregnancy clinics is to stop women from terminating their pregnancies.

Many Supreme Court justices can no longer put aside their viewpoints, usually far right, in making their decisions. The rulings have shown a strong pro-business bent to the detriment of citizens’ civil rights. It’s time to pass a law forcing them to follow the same Code of Conduct that all other judges in the United States must comply with instead of letting them run amok.

November 8, 2013

No Help for Gun Violence

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:45 PM
Tags: , , ,

The U.S. House members aren’t in session right now except to have hearings haranguing Secretary of Health Kathryn Sebelius about the problems with Obamacare’s website. They come back next Tuesday for the month’s eight days of work—technically six days because there are no votes before 6:30 pm the first day of their week and none after 3:30 pm the last day. After their scheduled eight days in December, they can breathe a sigh of relief as they get onto the planes running on time because they tweaked sequester laws for personal benefit.

Fortunately, thanks to Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), chair of the Rules Committee, we know the complete House agenda. “Everything we do in this body should be about messaging to win back the Senate,” he said. “That’s it.” At least, the House has a wider agenda than the Senate. Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced in 2008, a nanosecond after President Obama was elected for the first time, that his entire agenda was to see that the president wasn’t re-elected. He failed which means that he has nothing on his agenda now except to get himself re-elected.

For the rest of the 113th Congress—which still has another year after the end of this one—the voters who elected the obstructionists will see no movement on any issues– immigration, gun control, anti-discrimination laws like ENDA, tax reform, lifting the sequester …. The list goes on. The farm bill may have to operate on a half-century-old law because the House won’t compromise with the Senate. We can forget about any results from the  joint House and Senate committee’s budget proposal due by December 7 with a January 15, 2014 deadline for acceptance.

Gun control is certainly dead despite the number of people killed each day. In his satiric column, Andy Borowitz described gun violence in the country:

“A new study released today indicates that Americans are safe from the threat of gun violence except in schools, malls, airports, movie theatres, workplaces, streets, and their own homes. Also: highways, turnpikes, libraries, places of worship, parks, universities, restaurants, post offices, and cars. Plus: driveways, garages, gyms, stores, military bases—and a host of other buildings, structures, and sites.

“National Rifle Association C.E.O. Wayne LaPierre applauded the study, saying that it reinforced his organization’s long-held position that the United States does not need additional gun laws. ‘This study makes it abundantly clear that Americans are in no danger of gun violence except in these isolated four hundred and thirteen places,’ he said. He added that he hoped that the study would spark a conversation ‘about the root cause of mass shootings: people who recklessly show up at places where they could be shot at.’”

Black humor aside, the NRA made it easier for a gunman to kill a TSA agent and wound six others at a LAX security checkpoint a week ago. It was the second airport shooting in six months. The NRA has consistently campaigned for firearms to be brought into airports with greater ease and criticized security for any efforts to block guns on airplanes. Although federal law prevents travelers from taking firearms past checkpoints, many state laws allow people to carry guns before they reach security checkpoints because of NRA propaganda.

Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin either permit firearms in areas of airports or prohibit them only past checkpoints. In California, where the most recent airport shooting occurred, the NRA fought 2012’s Assembly Bill 2182, requiring the arrest of people who bring guns into airports and banning them from entering airports after that arrest. Thanks to the NRA, the bill stayed in committee. Virginia, Georgia, and Ohio have recently introduced bills that would allow people to carry firearms in airports.

After a TSA agent questioned a girl carrying a firearm-shaped purse, the NRA cried harassment. Yet TSA agents confiscated 30 percent more guns, many loaded, in 2013 than the previous year. Most of them said that they “forgot” they had them, which means that the presence of guns in our society is almost everywhere. The week before the LAX shooting, the TSA found 29 firearms—27 of them loaded. The week before, the take was 39 firearms.

The NRA also gives candidates “A” rating for supporting guns in airports. The group spent more than $500,000 to make Ken Cuccinelli governor of Virginia after he voted against a 2004 bill that would have banned guns in airport terminals. The bill won, and Cuccinelli lost. The NRA may argue that looser gun laws would have stopped the LAX shooting because a bystander would have shot the gunman. That doesn’t really work, as history has shown.

The carelessness of so-called responsible gun owners is appalling:

  • Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-KS) lost her AR-15 after she left it leaning against a locker in her unlocked garage.
  • Missouri House staffer Dave Evans left his loaded gun in the men’s restroom of the State Capital Building.
  • Someone lost a loaded gun under a chair cushion in a New York hotel, and another left one on a ride at Disney World.
  • A nine-year-old boy found a loaded semi-automatic gun in the men’s room of a movie theater in Tampa (FL), and seventh-graders found another one in another movie theater in Tillamook (OR).
  • An armed guard left his loaded weapon in a public restroom at a Texas convenience store.
  • Two loaded guns were left in a tent outside a Georgia furniture store.
  • Another gun was in a Dallas (TX) courthouse restroom.
  • Gun owners held a gun legalization rally in Ohio in September to prove that gun owners are responsible. Someone left a loaded magazine behind in Oberlin’s Park Street Park after the rally.

Guns show up in public buildings, restrooms, garages, homes—everywhere. All this means that kids can find guns in restrooms or on a Disney ride or while sitting on a chair in a hotel. Three fifth-graders even found a loaded gun at an archaeological dig.

Criminals might be more responsible in knowing how stupid and careless these gun owners are. In Cincinnati (OH) a man found a note in his car: “LOADED GUN: Unlocked Car = STUPID” and “LOTS OF Children in Area.” Missing were the man’s “throwing knife, sheath, .40 caliber pistol and magazines.” The man had left his Toyota Corolla unlocked.

In at least one North Carolina state-mandated concealed carry handgun (CCH) class, necessary to get a CCH permit in the state, a law enforcement officer told attendees to store loaded guns under the bed. The state doesn’t monitor these classes to see how they are run.

People opposing any gun control laws refuse to tolerate a reasonable discourse about the subject. Guns & Ammo editor Jim Bequette wanted to generate a “healthy exchange of ideas on gun rights” by publishing a column that suggested a little regulation might fit into the Second Amendment. The backlash caused Bequette to quit and the magazine to cut ties with the column’s author. the column’s error came from defending an Illinois state law requiring training for people before they could get a concealed-carry permit in the state. The author of the column wrote:

“I firmly believe that all U.S. citizens have a right to keep and bear arms, but I do not believe that they have a right to use them irresponsibly. And I do believe their fellow citizens, by the specific language of the Second Amendment, have an equal right to enact regulatory laws requiring them to undergo adequate training and preparation for the responsibility of bearing arms.”

The mainstream media has become so blasé about mass killings that they fail to report many of these. A few days before the TSA agent will killed at LAX, a Texas man shot and killed five people. Yesterday, the killing of three people and injuring of another six by a shooter in Detroit didn’t even 

When a seventh-grader shot a teacher, two 12-year-old boys, and himself at a school in Sparks (NV), major cable news channels referred to the disaster only briefly throughout the day. The breaking news event that day was the release of Apple’s new iPad and iPad mini. The shooting was the 15th school shooting of the year but the first time that the new technology had gone on the market.

Killings are so common that police have joined in the violence with no excuse. Tyler Comstock, 19, was shot and killed by a police officer on the campus of Iowa State University because Comstock’s father wanted to teach him a lesson. After his father wouldn’t buy him a pack of cigarettes, Comstock took his father’s truck without permission. The father reported the theft to teach his son a lesson, and the police pursued Comstock. He pulled over the truck, but when he didn’t turn off the engine, a police officer fired six rounds and killed the unarmed teenager. The officer ignored two pleas from an unidentified police staffer, who said, “Hey, we know who this is. It’s a kid, back off.”  

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-sanford-neighborhood-watch-guns-20131104,0,7629896.story    I had some hope when the Sanford (FL) Police Department banned Neighborhood Watch members from carrying guns after George Zimmerman stalked and killed Trayvon Martin. Protests forced them to back down on the new policy and move to “recommending” that people leave their guns at home while looking for danger around them.

Borowitz needs to add neighborhoods and archaeological digs to the places where people aren’t safe from gun violence.

August 20, 2013

2016: Cruz Moves Forward, Borowitz Shows Christie’s Problem

Much as we hate to think about the next presidential race, it seems that the presidential competition for the 2016 election has begun in earnest. The most recent sign is Sen. Ted Cruz’s declaration that he’s renouncing his Canadian citizenship. He announced his decision after The Dallas Morning News wrote that Cruz may have dual citizenship with Canada and the United States after being born in Canada to a woman with U.S. citizenship. From his remarks, Cruz seemed astonished about his dual citizenship status:

“Assuming that is true, then sure, I will renounce any Canadian citizenship. Nothing against Canada, but I’m an American by birth and as a U.S. senator; I believe I should be only an American.”

When he completed the form to renounce his Canadian citizenship, the Harvard Law School graduate and Supreme Court attorney issued a press release explaining that he just followed his mother’s directions:

“When I was a kid, my mom told me that I could choose to claim Canadian citizenship if I wanted. I got my U.S. passport in high school. Because I was a U.S. citizen at birth, because I left Calgary when I was 4 and have lived my entire life since then in the U.S., and because I have never taken affirmative steps to claim Canadian citizenship, I assumed that was the end of the matter.”

If Cruz gets rid of Obamacare and loses his job, he might want Canadian citizenship: they have health care up north.

The president is the only elected office in the U.S. mandating that a person be a “natural-born citizen” of the United States. The term “birthers” came from the adamant statements about President Obama not being eligible for the presidency because of the falsehood that he was born in Kenya to a woman with a U.S. citizenship. The question is whether U.S. citizenship is the same as “natural born.”

At least two men not born on U.S. soil have run for president: George Romney (1967) in Mexico and John McCain (2008) in the Panama Canal Zone. The Senate declared that McCain is a natural-born citizen. Presidential eligibility problems go back over 130 years when people argued that President Chester A. Arthur was born in Canada and not Vermont, thereby not meeting the eligibility requirement for President of the United States. In 2011, the Congressional Research Service wrote that people born to U.S. citizens in foreign countries “most likely” qualify as natural-born citizens. The argument, however, is probably not over.

Another apparent interest in being interested in the presidential candidacy came from Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who tweeted a photo of himself at Dixville Notch (NH), the first town in the state scheduled to vote in the 2016 primaries. “Just poking around the back roads. Beautiful place 4 first in nation primaries & general election results.” King’s next destination is the Charleston Meeting in South Carolina, also a destination of Republican presidential wannabes. He plans a sit-down on August 26 with 20 local GOP activists, a meeting that Lin Bennett, vice-chair of the South Carolina Republican Party, indicates an interest in become a candidate.

Iowa’s Republican leaders are pleased that King decided not to run for the Senate seat left by Democratic Tom Harkin’s resignation next year. Immigration reform has made King famous across the country, particularly with rejection of giving citizenship to children brought into the U.S. illegally. “For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” according to King.

The plethora of far-right potential candidates such as Cruz, King, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is driving the less than far far right interested parties farther in the conservative direction. For example, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has gone from considering immigration reform to being very quiet about his postion.

Andy Borowitz satirizes the frantic move to the right by GOP presidential candidates:

“New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie withdrew from consideration as a Presidential candidate today after becoming embroiled in what a leading Republican strategist called “a career-ending empathy scandal.”

“After signing a law barring licensed therapists from engaging in so-called gay conversion therapy, Mr. Christie stunned his fellow Republicans by seemingly expressing compassion for gay children, thus disqualifying himself from any further role in the G.O.P.

“In a brief statement to reporters, Mr. Christie expressed remorse for what he called ‘my unfortunate and ill-considered display of understanding for people different from myself,’ and urged the people of New Jersey to remember ‘my strong record of cutting funds for schools and the elderly.’

“While Mr. Christie might try to regain his fellow Republicans’ trust by vetoing more assault-rifle bans, G.O.P. strategist Tracy Klugian says that the governor does not deserve another chance, citing his “dangerous flirtations with compassion” in the past.

“‘After Hurricane Sandy, Chris Christie worried a lot of us with his recklessly sensitive behavior,’ says Mr. Klugian. ‘But we really thought he had put this problem behind him…. But maybe this will force him to get the help he needs.’”

For progressives, however, Christie more than passes the conservative criteria. He admires the regressive Koch brothers, having attended their summer seminar in Colorado, and said he wants to reduce Medicaid and Medicare while raising the Social Security age and cutting many other government programs. His first four budgets cut women’s health funding while spending $260 million on a now-bankrupt Atlantic City casino. Christie canceled the ARC rail tunnel to Manhattan which would have provided thousands of jobs, cleared up congestion, and reduced pollution. In addition, he weakened over 100 essential environmental protections to help big corporations and land developers.

Late last Friday, hoping to hide from the media, Christie worked to get his conservative cred back when he refused to sign three gun control measures, one which he had requested. He had called for a ban on sales of the Barrett .50 caliber rifle (A3659), the most powerful weapon commonly available to civilians. The weapon fires ammunition the size of carrots and can pierce steel plate armor from several hundred yards away. It can even shoot down airplanes.

.50 caliber

Most people would rather avoid hearing about presidential candidate fantasies. But if you hear about politicians straying from their constituents into Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina, you might think about the reason.

May 14, 2013

GOP View of Benghazi Falls Apart

No one questions that the killing of four people, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, at the Benghazi consulate was a tragedy. But the fallout after this disaster has been disgusting as conservatives put everyone involved on the grill—over and over. During the GOP flack last October, Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name for consideration for Secretary of State, but the House came back for another round of hearings in January. I thought that was the end of the investigations.

Like a zombie, however, it’s come back to life after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s high level of popularity. Sunday’s Meet the Press spent most of the show on the issue with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) as the star. The real star, though, was conservative columnist David Brooks.

For 15 minutes, Issa tried to justify his accusation of a coverup because an email had 12 changes and because the administration didn’t answer all the questions. One of Issa’s big talking points was that the president was wrong because he said “act of terror” instead of “terrorist act.”  He called both former CIA Director David Petraeus and Ambassador Pickering liars, even though he was sitting beside the ambassador.  Issa looked like a fool.

The real star, however, was conservative columnist David Brooks. In a follow-up discussion, he said:

 “My reading of the evidence is that a very terrible event happened at a CIA, basically a CIA facility, they went into intense blame shifting mode, trying to shift responsibility onto the State Department, onto anywhere else, and the State Department pushed back. They said no, it is not our fault. It’s your facility. And so they push back and they say why we are suddenly releasing information that we haven’t been releasing so far. So the CIA was super aggressive, there was some pushback, out of that bureaucratic struggle all the talking points were reduced to mush and then politics was inserted into it. So I don’t think we should necessarily say this is politics intruding on a CIA pure operation.”

That’s it in a nutshell: Benghazi is not the big story that the GOP want.

Refusing to be a GOP shill, moderator David Gregory ran the list of casualties at embassies over the past decades, but Issa just ignored it in the same way that he ignored the casualties at 13 embassies and consulates during Bush’s two terms—96 people killed and at least 90 people wounded. Republican lawmakers made no outcry after 241 members of the military were killed in the Beirut Barracks Bombing of 1983, despite the fact that the blame was placed on Reagan’s administration because the president ignored then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger’s attempts to change Reagan’s military orders.

One of Issa’s arguments is that the military should have charged over to Benghazi to save the day. Bush’s and Obama’s former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates disagrees. On Face the Nation, Gates called these ideas “cartoonish” and agreed with testimony given by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Chairman of the Joint  Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.

Gates said:

“We don’t have a ready force standing by in the Middle East—despite all the turmoil that’s going on—with planes on strip alert, troops ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. And so, getting somebody there in a timely way would have been very difficult, if not impossible.”

In referring to dangers from surface-to-air missiles, he considered the sending of military aircraft in the volatile situation as too risky. “I would not have approved sending an aircraft,” Gates said, “a single aircraft, over Benghazi under those circumstances.”

Trying to make hay out of nothing, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a GOP presidential candidate in 2016, travels the country, proclaiming, “I think it precludes Hillary Clinton from ever holding office. I think her mistakes were of such significance that she should never again be in that position, to make those decisions.”

Less than two months ago, Congressional members saw what they now perceive as the damning emails when lawyers from the Office of National Intelligence briefed House and Senate Intelligence Committee members. At that time, House Speaker John Boehner declined to attend or send a representative. Both Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) had said that briefing satisfied their concerns. No one from the House raised any questions. The emails were also shared with Congressional members during the confirmation of CIA Director John Brennan, who was confirmed 63-34.

Six months and one week after the 2012 election, Karl Rove’s Super PAC, American Crossroads, has launched the first ad for the 2016 campaign, using the Benghazi disaster and targeting Hillary Clinton. Polling shows that the smear campaign isn’t making a difference. Voters trust Clinton over the GOP on Benghazi by a 49 to 39 margin, and her +8 favorability at 52 to 44 is identical to that in late March. Meanwhile Congressional Republicans have a 36 to 57 unfavorability rating. By a 56 to 38 margin, voters say that passing the immigration reform bill is more important than a focus on Benghazi, and passing a bill requiring background checks for gun purchases is higher by 52 to 43.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) described Benghazi as ten times bigger than Watergate and Iran Contra put together. Even more outrageous is former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s comment, “I think it’s one of the worst incidents, frankly, that I can recall in my career.” Even worse than the lies and intelligence failures of 9/11, the Iraq War, the outing of Valerie Plame, the disasters in Afghanistan, the travesty of Abu-Graib, the failed response to Hurricane Katrina, the stock market debacle, the recession, the deaths in consulates and embassies on his watch, …?

After the Tea Party’s three-day boycott of Fox News last weekend, protesting the network’s lack of Benghazi coverage. Fox and Friends put out a highly “edited” video of President Obama. It lies about his statements regarding the “sideshow” of the GOP party. Their falsehoods have gone viral across the Internet on right-wing blogs.

Satirist Andy Borowitz gave a quality description of  the GOP dilemma:

“A deep divide has emerged within the Republican Party over whether to waste Congress’s time investigating Benghazi talking points or repealing Obamacare, G.O.P. lawmakers confirmed today.

“House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), sounded the first discordant note at a press briefing this morning, telling reporters, ‘The time for wasting day after day investigating Benghazi is over. The American people are counting us to waste our time repealing Obamacare yet again.’

“Warning that ‘the American people don’t have an endless appetite for meaningless political theater,’ Cantor added, ‘If we’re going to do something that’s purely symbolic, pointless, and detached from reality, I say it should be repealing Obamacare for the thirtieth or fortieth time.’

“Rep. Cantor’s comments drew a strong rebuke from Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has spearheaded the investigation into Benghazi: ‘Quite frankly, we have all the time in the world to blow repealing “Obamacare. The moment to waste our time investigating Benghazi is now.’ Noting that previous attempts to repeal Obamacare had cost the taxpayers approximately fifty million dollars, Issa said, ‘I think we’re entitled to spend at least that much, if not more, investigating Benghazi again and again and again.’

“But even as the debate raged over whether Obamacare or Benghazi was more worthy of Congress’ wasted time, House Speaker John Boehner offered a third point of view: ‘Personally, I think the time we’re wasting on Benghazi and Obamacare could be better spent blocking progress on guns and immigration.’”

After her appearance on Meet the Press, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) wrote an excellent summation:

“If my Republican colleagues are serious about conducting real oversight on the tragedy in Benghazi, they should start by looking in the mirror….

“But Republicans choose to ignore these facts and are instead running negative ads and raising campaign dollars off the tragic events in Benghazi. Republicans tried and failed during the 2012 presidential election to use this tragedy for political gain and now appear eager to recycle these failed attacks. Their efforts are clearly aimed at the 2016 presidential race….

“As a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I well remember Secretary [Hillary] Clinton’s testimony following the Benghazi attack. She took responsibility and pledged to do everything in her power to put corrective measures in place….

“Republicans are shamelessly seeking to turn this tragedy into ‘Benghazi-gate’– comparing it to the Watergate scandal. Let’s remember: Watergate involved Republicans paying campaign money to break in and bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Benghazi involves Republicans cutting money for embassy security–funding that was clearly desperately needed.

“But Republican efforts to manufacture a controversy surrounding this tragedy are not only disingenuous, they are dangerous because they take our eye off the ball and divert attention from where it should be: protecting the American people and those who bravely serve our country overseas.”

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/3019154/posts  The plethora of GOP Congress members should take heed of Boxer’s advice instead of calling for a special investigative committee into Benghazi. Perhaps they will after today’s breaking news about the recently “leaked” emails. It now appears that someone falsified them to make it appear that the White House was trying to hide what happened.

After the unraveling of their Benghazi arguments, the GOP may switch their target to the IRS for targeting conservative fund-raising groups and the DoJ for obtaining Associated Press telephone records.

May 8, 2013

On the Appalachian Trail

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:31 PM
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Yes, conservatives can be unreasonable, irrational, and ignorant. But Mark Sanford’s success yesterday still shocked me. Call me naïve. My first impulse was to just publish Andy Borowitz’s satire today. But the news surrounding the election  piqued my interest.

One encouragement is that even Republicans are not happy with the results of the election. John McCain’s daughter Meaghan McCain tweeted, “Really republicans? We’re gonna get behind Mark Sanford and claim gay couples will ruin marriage. This is why young people don’t vote GOP!!!” That didn’t come as a big surprise because she’s always evidenced moderate tendencies.

Another tweet reported that Gabriel Gomez distanced from Sanford, saying he “seems pathetic,” calls him “career politician,” should “get a real job.” Of course, this is the Massachusetts candidate who is trying to replace former Democratic Sen. John Kerry so he would work on the moderate side.

But Erick Erickson wrote, “Sanford was no fan of the House GOP leadership before the NRCC pulled the plug. This is about to get even more fun.” Author of Red State blog, Erickson is also a recent Fox News addition.

USA Today wrote:

“Republican Mark Sanford won South Carolina’s congressional special election Tuesday, but the results may not conclude the drama of a disgraced former governor on the outs with his own party.

“Sanford’s quest for public and political redemption after an extramarital affair succeeded with voters Tuesday, who returned him to a congressional seat he left in 2001. Sanford will fill the seat vacated when Rep. Tim Scott was appointed to the U.S. Senate in January.

“On Thursday, however, Sanford will appear in a televised court hearing to answer a charge of trespassing from his former wife. Then he’ll head to Washington, where he made few friends during his previous three terms in office bucking the Republican leadership.”

[Note: Sanford has escaped the court appearance.]

Conservative Washington, D.C. publication The Hill wrote:

“Boehner on Tuesday morning suggested that he was less than thrilled about Sanford’s potential return to the House. And while the Speaker tweeted out a quick “congrats” to Sanford with the hash-tag #jobs, a comment from his spokesman following the results was less than a bear-hug.”

Showing the antagonism to come, Sanford’s close friend, South Carolina state Sen. Tom Davis (R), tweeted, “Sorry, NRCC. We won anyway.” Not exactly the way to show consensus on GOP ideals even if the party did abandon Sanford before the election. Even two of his new colleagues, Reps. Mick Mulvaney and Jeff Duncan endorsed one of Sanford’s primary opponents. Both the representatives are South Carolina Republicans.

In his column entitled “Sanford’s Comeback Gives Hope to Liars,” Borowitz wrote:

“Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s stunning upset in a special congressional election on Tuesday served as an inspiration to liars across the state and beyond, prominent members of the lying community said tonight.

“’In America, liars are always made to feel bad about ourselves, as if what we’re doing is wrong,’ said Harland Dorrinson, fifty-seven, a liar from suburban Charleston. ‘Mark Sanford’s victory tonight is a victory for the lying lifestyle.’

“Carol Foyler, thirty-six, a liar from Myrtle Beach, echoed those sentiments: ‘For the millions of dishonest children across America, tonight Mark Sanford has given them hope that someday, they can be somebody.’

“At his victory rally in Charleston, the former governor acknowledged the liars in the audience and said that his victory sent an important message: ‘Every lie, no matter how big or small, has value.’

“’As your Governor, I abused your trust. And as God is my witness, as your congressman, I will abuse it again,’ he said, to thunderous applause.

“Mr. Sanford, who had been behind in the polls in the waning weeks of the race, owed much of his last-minute surge to the support of the lying community, exit polls showed.

“According to those exit polls, Mr. Sanford held a three-to-one lead among voters who described themselves as liars, cheaters, or sleazebags.

“Furthermore, the polls showed, those same voters felt that Mr. Sanford’s opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, did not have the lying experience necessary to serve in Congress.”

There we have the GOP legacy for generations to come.

Politico wrote that Sanford’s win is an inspiration to Anthony Weiner, who resigned his position as U.S. representative after a scandal and is now considering a run for the position of New York mayor.

Comedian and political commentator John Fugelsang noted Sanford’s vote to impeach Bill Clinton because of his extramarital affair. “But [Sanford] did the right thing. He told us that Jesus forgave him, and said mean things about Nancy Pelosi and Obamacare, proving that it’s OK to be a horrible Christian, as long as you’re a good Christian,” Fugelsang said. “Our politicians believe Darwin was wrong, and we here in South Carolina are here to prove it,” Fugelsang concluded.

T. Steelman wrote:

“[Republicans] elect adulterers, criminals, liars and morons to a government they claim to despise. They blatantly fight anything the president proposes, even if it was their own idea. They refuse to do anything to help the U.S. economy recover. They act like they won in 2012 even though the numbers tell a different story. They have shown, time and again, that they have no concept of things like integrity, compassion, honesty or intelligence. They elect people who trample those ideals underfoot as easily as they breathe.”

Immorality aside, Sanford was named one of the worst governors in the country by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics while the Cato Institute named him the best. He bragged about refusing stimulus funding—free money—despite the extreme poverty of South Carolina. He flew first and business class at taxpayer expense as governor, a violation of state law. He claimed to get his hair cut at Supercuts, but he flew on a state plane to get that haircut. He also used taxpayer money to sneak off to Argentina to visit his mistress while he left his state without any legal leadership.

The winners in the Sanford debacle are the comedians: they’ll have fodder for years. And his ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, who gets $5,000 for court costs and fees with the promise that he won’t trespass in her house any more. We’ll see if he lives up to this agreement.

March 21, 2013

Congress Loosens Gun Laws

Yesterday Colorado’s governor John Hickenlooper signed landmark gun laws that expanded background checks and limited magazine sizes. Just hours earlier, Tom Clements, the head of Colorado’s corrections department, was shot and killed when he answered the door to his home. The county sheriff where Clements lived had promised not to enforce the new state laws.

On the day that Clements was killed, Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) withdrew a ban on assault weapons and the provision to limit magazine sizes from the planned bill to increase penalties for people who purchase guns for others barred from having them.  Tonight, after extreme pressure, Reid said that he would return the ban on assault weapons to gun legislation.

Since December 14, 2012, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has said that he’s waiting for the “Connecticut effect” to wear off. It appears that he is getting his way. After Republicans threatened to close down the United States, Congress sent the continuing resolution for government funding to the president for signing. The first gun legislation since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre actually loosens gun controls. When President Obama signs the bill, it makes four long-term gun provisions permanent:

(1) Justice Department cannot require inventories from firearms dealers to make sure weapons haven’t been stolen;

(2) the government cannot change the definition of antique guns which allows many of these weapons to be sent into the country;

(3) the Justice Department cannot deny a license to firearms dealers who report no business activity; and

(4) the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives must include language in firearms data stating that the information can’t be used to make conclusions about gun crimes.

Andy Borowitz, author of a humor column for the New Yorker, came too close to being accurate in his assessment of LaPierre’s comments when he satirized LaPierre’s position:

“I must admit, when the national conversation about guns started in those dark days of December, I thought it was a bad idea.People kept saying that things would be different this time, and that scared the bejesus out of me. I was concerned that the national conversation about guns would turn into something uglier, like congressional action. Fortunately, that danger seems to have passed.”

Borowitz continued, writing that LaPierre said that the NRA would remain vigilant in keeping the conversation from “veering off into concrete remedies that will actually change things.” And that’s exactly what the NRA CEO is doing. The people want a ban on assault rifles: 59 percent of voters support this. But the NRA lobby is powerful; even my own representative, Kurt Schrader (D-OR), gets enough money and persuasion from the NRA that he opposes any tighter gun legislation.

What the people who support tighter gun laws know is that the states with the best gun laws have the fewest gun deaths. Just using the volume of gun laws on the books shows that the states with the highest number of firearms measures have a 42-percent lower rate of gun deaths than those with the fewest number of gun laws. Massachusetts has 3.4 gun deaths per 100,000 people, only 19 percent of the 18 gun deaths per 100,000 people in Louisiana. Since the tragedy at Newtown (CT) on December 4, Kentucky has had four times the rate of gun deaths as New York.

 

Getting any research in gun deaths, however, is extremely difficult. In the early 1990s, Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR), self-identified as “point person for the NRA,” succeeded in choking off the evidence.

LaPierre has changed his own views since the 1990s. In May 1999, he said, “We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America’s schools, period.” By Sandy Hook, he had moved from gun-free zones to calling for armed, NRA-trained vigilantes patrolling all the nation’s almost 100,000 public schools.

Past pillars of the GOP have supported gun control. After George Wallace, southern governor campaigning to be president, was shot in 1972, President Richard Nixon recommended getting rid of Saturday-night specials and considered banning all handguns. Nixon said, “I don’t know why any individual should have a right to have a revolver in his house. The kids usually kill themselves with it and so forth.” He asked why “can’t we go after handguns, period?”

Republican William Safire, wrote in 1999 about the Second Amendment “[A] right that sometimes isn’t, is no right at all. After a great job on the First Amendment, the amending Founders botched the Second… Here’s how to fix a flawed amendment that is the source of so much confusion: Repeal its ambiguous preamble. Let some member of Congress introduce an amendment to strike the words before the comma in the Second Amendment.”

The attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in March 1981 that seriously wounded his press secretary James Brady led to the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Reagan advocated for the law and said, “Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns, according to Department of Justice statistics. This does not include suicides or the tens of thousands of robberies, rapes and assaults committed with handguns. This level of violence must be stopped. If the passage of the Brady bill were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land.”

The year after terrorists took down the World Trade Center on 9/11, William F. Buckley, Jr. said:

“The assertion of a right at ridiculous lengths–the absolutization of it, in the manner of the American Civil Liberties Union–is a way of undermining it. If the Constitution says you can say anything you want under any circumstances, then you can shout “fire” in a crowded movie theater. If you have the right to remain silent in all circumstances, then you can decline to give testimony vital to another citizen’s freedom and rights. If you insist that a citizen has the right to own a machine gun, you discredit his right to own a pistol or a rifle.”

The gun industry has always lobbied for more gun sales and threatened to move their companies to more sympathetic states. Their latest tactic is to refuse to sell firearms or accessories to police and police agencies “that citizens can’t buy.” Thus if a state votes to limit magazine capacity to 7, New York for example, the boycotting manufacturers will not sell magazines with higher capacity to cops, federal agents or any other law enforcement magazines.

I reflect on the attitude that all gun owners responsible. Here are a few of these “responsible” people. In Crawfordville (FL), 61-year-old Mary Frances Alday threatened a Wal-Mart employee with a gun because her $1.00 Internet coupon was not accepted. In Orange City (FL), Jose Martinez pull off five shots in a Wal-Mart parking lot with the excuse that he was defending himself from a shoplifter who ran over and injured him. The police pointed out that Martinez was bumped by the car only because he chased it and tried to open the car’s door.

A 35-year-old Florida man, Gregory Dale Lanier, was shot by his dog as they traveled State Road 17 North. The dog kicked the 9mm lying on the floor of the truck. The gun went off, hitting Lanier in the leg. (Maybe it’s just Florida?)

In a classic example of irony, the gun industry is immune from liability suits, but bb gun manufacturers can be sued for negligence. The NRA lobbied GOP lawmakers in 2005 to obtain this shield. As Jon Lowy, director of the Brady Center Legal Action project, said on The Rachel Maddow Show on March 8:

 “There’s a basic principle of civil justice which governs everyone in society. That we all have to act reasonably. And if we don’t, we are deemed negligent. We can be deemed liable. The only people that that rule does not apply to are licensed gun dealers, manufacturers and distributors.”

He continued:

“We have cases where gun dealers supply criminals profit from those sales and then they come up with defenses such as, ‘I put a gun on the counter. I turned my back. What do you know, the criminal took the gun, left money on the counter for me and I didn’t know that he was going to do that.’ That, as implausible as it sounds, is a compelling defense under this federal law that can get them off the hook.”

A lawsuit, however, is trying to make gun owners responsible, using the example of a bar held responsible for a drunk driver who seriously injured a young couple and killed a fetus in a car crash. That decision was based on the Dram-Shop law holding bars and liquor stores in some states liable for damages caused by a person who is over-served or sold to. An Ohio lawsuit is claiming that gun owners who do not properly secure their weapons or family members responsible for people using guns for crimes are liable for the damages.

A year ago, 17-year-old boy T.J. Lane used his uncle’s .22 caliber pistol to shoot and kill three boys at Chardon High School in Painesville. He also wounded three other students. The families of the three people he killed are suing Lane, his natural parents, his grandparents–also his custodial guardians –-and his uncle John Bruening, claiming that they failed to prevent the shooting. Those who think that this is outrageous must consider that Nancy Lanza, the mother of the Sandy Hook shooter, bought the weapons, trained her son in shooting, and left the weapons accessible.

November 7, 2012

Thoughts on Election Day 2012

Twenty-four hours ago, I was taking deep breaths and telling myself that everything would be okay. Now I have to keep from cheering about yesterday’s election every time I go someplace. When I went to the veterinarian to pick up something, I did discover that only one of the entire crew voted for President Obama; luckily he was the one who I talked with.

Most amazing to me is how stunned the Republicans are that they lost the presidency and the Senate. In their arrogance, they thought that white male supremacy would overcome the weak women and people of color to win these although the polls were all against them. By 1:00 this morning I had watched MSNBC for so many hours that I flipped over to Fox News to get a feel for their take on the election. It was refreshing to see four women of color with two white men on a panel discussing the reasons for Mitt Romney’s failure.

First the two men concentrated on how the Republicans failed to communicate their message. Then one of them agreed with the host that, yes, perhaps Romney should have been more open with their plans. Finally, the host turns to the women. The Fox employee talked about the importance of explaining the Republican message about economy to women.

I cheered when one of the women guests presented the simple statement that the Republican problem is not their messaging but their policies! I’ll keep that brief explanation handy in all my political discussions from now on. Another woman talked about the young people not understanding why the Republicans were anti-choice, anti-marriage equality—in short, anti-rights that they have come to expect. The women were quickly shuttled off, but not after I cheered them.

Fox News is also the source of yesterday’s funniest story. CEO Roger Ailes ordered the election team to prepare for the worst: “Guys, if things don’t go your way tonight, don’t go out there looking like someone ran over your dog.” However, American Crossroads co-founder and Fox News contributor Karl Rove isn’t used to following orders. Hearing that Fox was calling Ohio—and thus the presidency—for Barack Obama, he told the host, and the audience, that Fox’s decision desk was wrong. After all, his super-PAC had put $300 million on Romney. 

After a discussion with the host, Megyn Kelly was sent on camera to talk to the decision team. “This is Fox News,” an insider said, “so anytime there’s a chance to show off Megyn Kelly’s legs they’ll go for it.” And some people wonder why no one takes Fox “News” seriously! Rove stuck to his guns for almost an hour. He may have been surprised because of his connection to the possibly rigged voting machines in Ohio that gave George W. Bush enough votes to win the 2004 election.

As Alyssa Rosenberg wrote:

“The decision by [Fox] last night to break the firewall between its anchors and its decision team on behalf of a contributor, Karl Rove, who helped shepherd hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the outcome of an election and didn’t want to hear the final verdict on his investment, was already a sham, another illustration of a conservative allergy to facts and data. Sending an attractive woman to do that embarrassing work–rather than letting her continue to do her anchoring job, at which Kelly is frequently a credit to the network–on Rove’s behalf, to fake concern for the integrity of election results, and to send her in part so you can get her legs out from behind her desk, is strikingly juvenile and strikingly retrograde.”

After Karl Rove’s blowup, conservatives have passed around the blame for Romney’s loss. His own staff is blaming both him and other staff members. Fox News blames the media bias, especially when it insisted on reported the news about Romney’s “47 percent” mooching statements. Of course, moderators Martha Raddatz (ABC) and Candy Crowley (CNN) came in for their share of blame because of their style of moderating. The National Review wrote that people in this country are “not equipped” for liberty.

My small-town newspaper is owned by Ross Pobanz, a wealthy “self-made” entrepreneur who gets to publish an offensive weekly column about progressives because, as I said, he owns the newspaper!. Today’s column moved from toxic to rabid. After trashing President Obama’s policies in stereotypical terms, Pobanz defined those who support the president: “progressives and especially progressive women, the very young African-Americans, a majority of the Hispanics and people who can be bought with either benefits or promises of future benefits. Union members, trial lawyers, teachers, government employees, city dwellers, chronic malcontents and dedicated freeloaders such as Occupy…”

Those not in the president’s camp are “suburbanites, people without debt, ambitious people …, just about anyone with his head above the mush or at some degree of remove from government.” This is the divide in the conservative world.

As angry as Pobanz is, Donald Trump is even closer to the edge. In tweets that he tried—and failed—to erase, he wrote,  “We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!” Even so, Trump didn’t achieve the heights of Ted Nugent’s hate: “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

An apology for a mistake in yesterday’s blog: imagine my surprise when I got up this morning to find out that two of the three states voting on marijuana legalization had passed these initiatives! Living in a small, hippie-oriented areas of the Oregon Coast, I am accustomed to people talking about the use of cannabis, but my conservative Nebraska upbringing kept the notion of legalized weed from being part of my culture. Colorado and Washington voted to decriminalize small portions of the drug although Oregon failed to pass its more liberal bill. With other states legalizing medical use, the federal government will be forced to reevaluated its position on making marijuana legal.

The election of  two extra Democratic seats for the Senate and the switch in Nebraska’s seat from Democratic to Republican brought three additional women to the Senate for a total of 20. Two Democratic women are the first openly-LGBT senator, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and the first Asian-American woman, Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

The 77 women in the 113th House is also a record. Although 2 percent fewer than in the Senate, the women include two veterans, Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and two women under the age of 40, Gabbard and Grace Meng (D-NY). Gabbard is also the first Hindu in Congress.

The increased Democratic diversity in the 113th Congress means that, for the first time, white men will no longer be the majority of the Democratic caucus. Before the election, white men were 53 percent of House Democrats and 86 percent of the Republicans.

In 2012, the right-wing conservatives swept over 60 percent of state legislatures. Yesterday, Maine and Minnesota Democrats took back their Houses and Senates.  Colorado Democrats took back their House and will have the first openly gay Speaker to replace the one who blocked any consideration of a civil unions bill that had sufficient votes to pass. Iowa Democrats not only kept their Senate but also the one remaining judge who had the temerity to rule that a law opposing marriage equality was unconstitutional. The Tea Party got rid of the other three judges in 2010. California gained a supermajority in the legislature, giving them the power to overcome the gridlock from Republicans who refused to raise any taxes to keep the state solvent.

Michigan repealed its “Emergency Manager” law that allowed the governor to play dictator by overriding democratically-elected representatives in cities and schools, usually done in communities with high minority populations. It’s too late for Benton Harbor to save their park for children that a developer took over, but it saves the rest of the state. Michigan also refused to pass a law requiring a two-thirds’ majority for the legislature to raise taxes.

Any change in Arizona toward the liberal is still up in the air because many Latinos were forced to file provisional ballots. The results should in interesting.

Republicans had one success: the residents of Michigan’s 11th Congressional District elected a man who actually believes he is Santa Claus. Perhaps there’s something in the water in the district; Kerry Bentivolio replaces Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, known for his run for president, his falsification of names on petitions to run for representative, and his guitar-playing.

The best summary of the election comes from humorist Andy Borowitz.

 

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