Nel's New Day

June 21, 2016

Senate Gun Vote: NRA – 2, U.S. Residents – 0

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:56 PM
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NRA scored more victories yesterday as Republicans turned down two measures that might have made the United States safer for everyone except killers with guns.

A 15-hour filibuster led by Chris Murphy (D-CT)—a real filibuster with his standing in front of the Senate and not the wimpy “I don’t like the bill” one—“inspired” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to put out four gun “control” measures for a vote. Just eight days after 50 people died in Orlando because a mass shooting, almost all Senate GOP members protected the NRA. Democrats wanted background checks for almost everyone and the prevention of gun sales to people on the terror watch list. Republicans wanted a 72-hour check for people on the watch list and more funding for a background check that didn’t check any more purchasers.

Democratic proposals followed by GOP versions:

Murphy Amendment #4750 on background checks: The filibuster’s measure requires a background check for all gun sales, including at gun shows and online, with some reasonable exceptions such as transfers by law enforcement, private security professionals, armed forces, loans or gifts to close family members; temporary transfer to prevent imminent bodily harm; temporary transfer for hunting trips or firing ranges. [Lost 44-56; Democratic senators Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV) and Jon Tester (MT) voted no with GOP; Mark Kirk (IL) yes with the Dems. ]

Grassley Amendment # 4751 on background checks: Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) amendment fails to close the private sale loophole but adds funding for background checks. It would allow an individual to regain the ability to buy a gun immediately upon release from a period of involuntary psychiatric treatment and let veterans who suffer from mental illness to legally buy guns. [Lost 47-53; all GOP except Kirk voted no.]

Feinstein Amendment #4720 on terror gap: Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) bill gives the Attorney General the discretion to block gun sales to a known terror suspect based on a reasonable suspicion that the individual is engaging in, preparing for, or providing material support to an act of terrorism. This amendment provides a process for individuals erroneously denied a gun on this basis to seek to have that determination reversed and their gun rights restored. [Lost 47-53; Heitkamp again votes with the Republicans and GOP Kirk and Kelly Ayotte (NH) vote with the Democrats.]

Cornyn Amendment #4749 on terror gap: John Cornyn (R-TX) would permit people on the terror watch list to buy guns unless the Attorney General can prove in court that the suspect will actually commit an act of terrorism. If the procedure is not complete within three days, the person is welcome to buy as many guns as they wish. [Lost 47-53; same as Grassley amendment.]

Gabby Giffords, the former representative shot in the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson (AZ), said the Senate “chose to do the unimaginable: nothing at all.” Giffords wrote:

“Five years ago, I was shot point blank in the head, and the Senate did nothing. When 20 young children and six educators lost their lives in Newtown, Connecticut, the Senate did nothing. San Bernardino, Roseburg, Navy Yard, Charleston, Isla Vista — nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is searching for a “moderate compromise” to let the GOP off the hook for voting to sell guns to people on the terror watch list. Her proposal allows the attorney general to prevent people on two specific lists–the “no-fly” list and selectee list requiring additional screening–from buying a weapon. No one knows how many other lists there are. People denied the right to purchase a gun can challenge the decision. Those who win are to have their legal costs paid by the government. Collins also suggested requiring the FBI to notify law enforcement if someone on the list any time during the past five years if they try to buy a gun. It still doesn’t mean that they can’t buy a gun.

At this time only three Republicans support Collins idea—not enough to get the 60 necessary votes. Democrats aren’t happy with the proposal. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said, “Her alternative is not enough to close the loophole that creates this terror gap.” On the House side, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has indicated opposition to gun purchase restrictions for anyone on the terror watch list—and he’s the gatekeeper for bills to get to the floor of that chamber.

Even knowing his reluctance, House Democrats are calling on Ryan to hold a vote on an assault weapons ban before Congress adjourns for the summer recess, according to a letter from 75 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The seven-week recess begins on July 15. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) and other Democrats are focusing on the “no fly, no buy” gun provision connected to the terror watch list, and expanded background checks for gun sales, but they also want a vote on Rep. David Cicilline’s (D-RI) Assault Weapons Ban of 2015, a bill with 139 co-sponsors. The Orlando shooter used an assault weapon—a Sig Sauer MCX rifle—that folds up for concealment.

The Terror Watch List:  Between 2004 and 2014, people on this list passed background checks and could to legally buy guns 2,043 times. With lax gun laws permitting loopholes for millions of people, many more people on the list most likely bought firearms through unregulated private purchases. The terrorists in the Middle East are right: they can easily access guns from the United States. An overwhelming majority of Americans, including 82 percent of gun owners and 77 percent of Republicans, supports closing the terror gap.

Background Checks:  Only 60 percent of gun sales happen through federally licensed firearm dealers; the other 40 percent of gun sales happen without any background check. They usually occur online—Craigslist is a big gun clearinghouse—or through newspaper classified ads or at gun shows. The GOP continues its excuse of trying to prevent a federal gun owner registry. The 55 senators who voted for either Cornyn’s or Feinstein’s measures, but not Murphy’s background checks, said that it is bad for suspected terrorists to buy firearms. Yet they want background checks for that population to be voluntary—sort of like making airport screening procedures optional.

Gun deaths: Between 2001 and 2013 (the last year the CDC has records for), 406,496 people died from being shot, whether by homicide, suicide, or accident. During the same time, 2,96 people died of terrorism on U.S. soil–2,902 on the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Donald Trump’s solution for mass shooting is racial profiling. CNN Van Jones suggested that to do so would require demographics of shooters. Far more mass shootings in the United States are caused by white, mostly young Christian men. Fitting this profile is the 19-year-old man arrested at a Trump event for trying to take a gun from a law enforcement office to use it on Trump. Jones said, “You are seven times more likely to be killed by a right wing extremist — a racist or an anti-government nutjob—seven times more likely than a Muslim.”

The Orlando shooting finally pushed the American Medical Association over the edge. The AMA, composed of some very smart people, is now calling gun violence a “public health crisis” and urges Congress fund research into the problem. The group will press Congress to overturn the 20-year-old, NRA-pushed legislation that blocks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence. At its annual meeting in Chicago, the AMA called US gun violence a crisis that requires a comprehensive response and solution.

Steven Stack, AMA president, said:

“With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence.

“Even as America faces a crisis unrivalled in any other developed country, the Congress prohibits the CDC from conducting the very research that would help us understand the problems associated with gun violence and determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries.”

In 1993, the NRA complained that research was biased toward gun control because CDC found that people in homes with firearms were at an increased risk for homicide in the home. By 1996, Congress almost totally eradicated funding for research into gun violence. Between 1996 and 2013, CDC funding for firearm injury prevention fell 96 percent, down to $100,000 in the CDC $5.6 billion budget.

Although NRA claims that the purpose of CDC research was to do away with unlimited gun rights, some research has sneaked through the restrictions. The ten states with the worst gun violence: Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Montana, Arkansas, New Mexico, Wyoming, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. These states have at least four criteria in common: fewer gun restrictions, more guns, more gun sellers, and a higher incidence of violent crime than in most of the United States. No wonder the NRA tries to quell the evidence that this nation has far more violence from guns because it has far more guns and unfettered ownership and use of them.

April 1, 2014

Fools on April Fools’ Day

April Fools’ Day! The day that kids love to play pranks on adults and other kids. The day that goes back to the Roman celebration Hilaria on the first day of the year that is longer than the night. So I’ll celebrate the day by writing about the fools of our time.

My current favorite fools are all the people who think that the Green family of Hobby Lobby, suing to keep their religious beliefs, genuinely care about their avoidance of contraception—which they call “abortion.” While the family refuses to allow their insurance to pay for employees’ contraception, they hold more than $73 million in mutual funds with manufacturers of emergency contraceptive pills Plan B and Ella, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Teva, Pfizer, Bayer, AstraZeneca—all produce contraceptives. In addition, Hobby Lobby’s health insurance covered Plan  B and Ella for years; they only dropped this coverage when they decided to file a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act.

Other fools:

Edward Farrell: Perhaps the dumbest man in the United States is the vice-mayor of Maricopa (AZ) for his praise of Fred Phelps. Known for his picketing of funerals of fallen soldiers with signs saying that they deserved to die, Phelps and followers planned to picket the Arizona funeral of the 9-year-old girl killed when then Rep. Gabby Gifford was shot. After the 84-year-old leader of the Westboro  Baptist Church in Topeka (KS) died, the satiric Onion published an “obituary” that described his achievements:

“Nowhere in this country can same-sex partners enter into domestic partnerships, file joint tax returns, or adopt children. The unmitigated failure of the gay rights movement is something that can be singlehandedly attributed to Fred Phelps and his tireless efforts to show us that this was an unholy behavior.”

On his Facebook page, Farrell wrote, “We need more Fred Phelps in this world. May you rest in peace sir.” He later retracted his statement, saying that he didn’t know who Phelps or the Onion was. Maybe Maricopa doesn’t need a vice-mayor.

Walmart: The company that gets profits from underpaying employees who then get benefits from taxpayers has discovered that it may have lost $3 billion a year by cutting back on the number of employees. That’s what the empty shelves from stocking problems have cost the company. They now plan to “add labor hours as part of an effort to bolster ‘in-store execution.’” Over the last five years, Walmart opened more than 600 new stores but employees 20,000 fewer people. The company even got downgraded by an investment research firm that found the company’s “relentless focus on costs does seem to have taken some toll on in-store conditions and stock levels.” The other fools in this story are the taxpayers who keep paying the $243 billion every year in benefits for poorly-paid employees because of the low minimum wage.

Malaysian Airlines Flight 370: The biggest fools in the disappearance of an aircraft over three weeks ago are the U.S. media that obsessively reported on—nothing. Hour after hour, CNN and Fox entertained its audience about—nothing. Only one thing was discovered: the oceans are full of human-created garbage from lost shipping containers, plastic raw industrial material, and consumer items from people living within 60 miles of coastlines. Entire houses have been found floating in the Pacific Ocean since the 2011 Japanese tsunami.

Plastic trash in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” about the size of Texas, is 100 times more than 40 years ago. Another garbage patch in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles off the coast goes from Cuba to Virginia. We’re the fools for turning our food source into a garbage dump.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS): The companies that want all foods in the United states to be genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) may have found a patsy to present its bill to Congress. A coalition of grocery, food manufacturing, farmers, and commodity groups wants a “voluntary system” for labeling food that uses GMOs. Such giants as ConAgra and Kraft say they’re just trying to correct the “enormous misinformation” spread by past failed ballot initiatives in California and Washington. Last year, Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a mandatory GMO-labeling plan. About 93 percent of the public support labeling.

Benghazi: The famous couple, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) have joined Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) “to investigate the terrorist attacks on our compounds in Benghazi.” After 18 months, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) gave up his futile attempt to tar the president and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. There has never been evidence of any wrongdoing on their part in the disaster that killed four people over 30 months ago, but the 2016 election is fast approaching. The Department of Defense has spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours for Congress’s six investigations into Benghazi with 50 congressional hearings. Issa spent almost as much time on that as the House did on the Affordable Care Act.

Ukraine:  Obama wants peace, but the GOP wants to attack any country that has anything that the United States wants. In the case of Iraq, it was oil. In Ukraine, the U.S. wants to throw Russia out of its only warm-water port and surround the country with missile bases.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stomps around the senate floor, yelling about how we should have bombed someone last week. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton accuses the U.S. of being a nation in decline because of its dealings with Russia. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the man who was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,  said that even a “trained ape” has better foreign policy skills than President Obama.

President Obama has declared sanctions toward Russia after Crimea moved back to a part of the country, eliminated Russia from the powerful G8 group, and makes plans to send ground troops to the Baltic States of Eastern Europe, but none of it satisfies the conservatives, most of them from the South. In Better off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, Chuck Thompson writes, “The southerner’s enthrallment with war and bloodshed, his veneration of defeat and disaster, his zeal for religious crusade, and easy compliance with the corporate profit motive, has repeatedly dragged the nation into unnecessary wars.”

After the growing success of the Affordable Care Act, the GOP needs another drum to beat. Thus the party has chosen their 2014 position as “Democrats are weak on national security.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) accused Obama of trying “to alienate and abandon our friends, and to coddle and appease our enemies.” Former Vice-President Dick Cheney blamed what he sees as Obama’s weakness that led Putin to take over Crimea. Putin invaded Georgia in 2008 while Cheney was vice-president, and George W. Bush did nothing.

Most of these same GOP legislators shouting that we need war avoided military service. McCain has his history of being a Vietnam POW, but the dissolution of the draft created a nation of chickenhawk lawmakers. Mike Lofgren, a 28-year member of Congress and author of The Party Is Over, wrote, “If you ever wondered how the United States came to be embroiled simultaneously in two major wars and a half dozen covert ones in the past decade, the cheerleading of Washington’s laptop commandos, with their disproportionate influence in major media, has been a major factor.”

The GOP party of no–erasing health care for everyone except the wealthy, eradicating women’s rights, taking away voters’ rights from anyone who might oppose them, and giving tax cuts to corporations and wealthy people–has no suggestions for improving the infrastructure, lowering the unemployment, and fixing the climate change disaster. Their only foreign policy is saber-rattling.

As Chuck Thompson wrote, “How depressing that we already know that the next Republican warmonger to sweep into power will do so on the same tarnished epaulets of military fanaticism enabled by the outsized influence of the southern polity on electoral America. Southerners are a military people. We were back then, still are today.”

This year we commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I. Do the chickenhawks want a third world war on this anniversary? China is nervous about the missiles pointed at Russia because China is also surrounded by U.S. naval and air bases. The two countries may declare themselves allies, and the Republicans might decide to take them on. If we take on China and Russia, we might not lose the battles, but we’ll be defeated in the ensuing economic war.

Climate-deniers: If we don’t blow ourselves up by declaring war on Russia and China, the climate will do us in. The U.N. has a second of four reports about the climate. That’s for another day, but Joe Barton (below) is representative of the backward, ignorant thinking of GOP members of Congress.

Joe Barton harnessing the wind

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