Monday, December 17, 2012

December 17


Professor Krugman, on "Whistling Past the Gun Lobby":

Almost five years ago Thomas Schaller published an important book titled Whistling Past Dixie, which basically argued that it was time for Democrats to stop running scared of the views of Southern whites — they weren't going to get those votes anyway, and demographic change had proceeded to the point where they could win national elections without the South. Indeed, so it has come to pass: while Obama did win Virginia, he did it by appealing to the new Virginia of the DC suburbs, not the rural whites, and otherwise he had a totally non-Dixie victory.

So Nate Cohn argues that this same logic applies to gun control: the voters who care passionately about their semi-automatic weapons are rural whites who ain't gonna vote Democratic in any case — and the new Democratic coalition doesn't need them. David Atkins takes it further, saying the awful truth: the pro-gun fanatics are basically the kind of people who think that Obama is a Kenyan socialist atheistic Islamist, and the urban hordes are coming for their property any day now. People, in other words, who already vote 100 percent Republican — and lose elections…


How much do I love that this guy is also a former ambassador? Good God. We exported this:

The finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, who also was Michigan's former GOP chairman, was captured on video telling a tea party meeting that voters in Detroit get picked up at pool halls and barbershops and bused "from precinct to precinct where they vote multiple times."

Ron Weiser also said at the Aug. 9 meeting in Milford that someone not from Detroit would not want to go to the polls there at 6:30 a.m. "without a side arm."

The video of Weiser's comments, recorded by a Democratic operative shadowing GOP congressional candidate Kerry Bentivolio to a meeting where Weiser also spoke, was given to the Free Press and posted on YouTube by the Michigan Democratic Party. Weiser emphatically said Friday that he meant no offense to Detroit and was speaking about past, not current, campaigns. But his comments immediately drew sharp criticism from a civil rights activist and a Detroit lawmaker.

In a phone interview Friday evening with the Free Press, Weiser, an Ann Arbor businessman who was running for a seat on the University of Michigan Board of Regents when he appeared at the tea party gathering, initially said he didn't recall making the comments and didn't think he would have used that kind of language. He later acknowledged making the remarks.

He made the comments in the video while explaining why he thought the GOP had a strong chance of winning Michigan in the Nov. 6 presidential election.

First, Detroit's population, which heavily votes Democratic, has shrunk, Weiser said in the video.

"Secondly, no Coleman Young machine. No Kwame Kilpatrick machine. There is no Dave Bing machine. There's no machine to go to the pool halls and the barbershops and put those people on buses, and then bus them from precinct to precinct where they vote multiple times.

"And there's no machine to get 'em to stop playing pool and drinking beer in the pool hall. And it does make a difference."

Those people.

He never intended any harm, by the way. It's standard practice for the finance committee chair of the GOP to blithely announce that African-American voters routinely commit felony voter fraud, you know, if you can drag them out of the pool halls and bars and get them on a bus.

I'm still getting used to the fact that conservative politicians and paid political operatives regularly attack voters. Just think about how strange that is. A big part of their politics now is smearing certain voters. Not just Democratic elected officials. Not just powerful Democratic donors. Voters themselves. How is this punching-down smear campaign directed at voters even "politics" as we may have previously understood it? Obviously, they're not interested in persuasion or making a case or appealing to anyone outside their base, because, like with Mitt Romney and the 47% comments, this is how they talk about us when we're not in the room. Is this still "politics" or is it something else entirely?


Sorry, Mr. President, but what this country needs now is not more prayers and condolences. What we need now is someone with enough courage to face the NRA, the gunhuggers, and the firearms manufacturers, and say, "Guns kill people, and I'm going to do everything in my power to keep what happened in Connecticut today from ever happening again."


Ashley Miller agrees that there's a mental health crisis, but makes the good point that since mentally ill people are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of crime, it's counterproductive to tie the issue to Sandy Hook Elementary School.


In the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, some Americans are turning in their guns as part of local government buy-backed programs.

Residents in New York City, New York, Camden, New Jersey, Baltimore, Maryland, and San Francisco, California, sold hundreds of weapons back to the government no-questions asked, with some attributing their decisions to the Connecticut tragedy.

"After the incident yesterday, it was time to get it out of the house," Sonia White, a 65-year-old Baltimore County grandmother said. A man in San Francisco explained, "I've got kids, man." "Kids are curious. Kids don't know any better. I had it locked in a toolbox, so I don't know. … I just know it had to go."

Following this month's killings by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who shot his girlfriend dead and then turned the gun on himself, at least seven NFL players have gotten rid of their personal firearms. One player reportedly turned in multiple weapons to his franchise's security detail, "telling his team's personnel that he didn't trust himself with the guns."


Politico reported yesterday that Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has proposed a tax increase in income in excess of $1 million as part of the ongoing negotiations to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff." In exchange, the Ohio Republican reportedly wants changes to entitlement programs, including cuts to Medicare benefits.

This is the first time that Boehner has proposed raising tax rates, as opposed to just revenue, during negotiations with President Obama. But here's four reasons why Democrats should still dismiss Boehner's supposed concession:

1) Taxes on millionaires are going up anyway. As of January 1st, taxes on millionaires — and everyone else — are going to be set back to Clinton-era levels. If Democrats want to raise taxes on millionaires, or on those making more than $250,000 annually, or to set the line at any other income level, there is no need to trade away entitlement cuts to do so. Tax increases are baked into current law already.

2) Moving the line to millionaires costs billions in revenue. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, "Moving the threshold to $1 million is costly. Extending the Bush tax cuts for the first $1 million of a family's income saves 43 percent less revenue than the savings estimated with a $250,000 threshold."

3) Entitlements (and other spending) have already been cut. The Affordable Care Act included some $700 billion in cuts to Medicare (without affecting beneficiaries) and the Budget Control Act (which set the "fiscal cliff" in motion) included another $1 trillion in spending cuts, by placing caps on "programs such as defense, education, national parks, the FBI, the EPA, low-income housing assistance, medical research, and many others." So by agreeing to Boehner's deal, Democrats would be trading something that is going to happen anyway for something else that they've already done.

4) No debt ceiling increase or other measures to help the economy. Boehner's deal reportedly does not include an increase in the debt ceiling, which would set up another hostage-taking opportunity for Republicans in just a few months. Also, Boehner's proposal does not include an extension of unemployment benefits — which expire at year's end for millions of unemployed workers — or the various measures to boost the economy suggested by the administration.

Update: The Washington Post is now reporting that Boehner has also offered "to push any fight over the federal debt limit off for a year."


By Huckabee's argument that the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was due in part to restrictions on school prayer and religious materials in the classroom, more religious societies should be more peaceful and more atheistic societies should be more violent. But if we compare Europe and the middle east, we find the exact opposite correlation of violence and religiosity. In fact, logic would dictate that atheistic societies would be more peaceful, simply because everyone has one less thing to argue about.

Just as illogical is blaming violent video games or movies. Everyone has the same video games and American movies have a worldwide audience, so that makes no sense either. These don't explain why America is more violent than most places other than political and drug-related war zones.

What's different about America is that we have — by an insane margin — more guns per capita than any other country in the world. America has 88.8 guns per 100 residents — far outpacing second place Serbia, at only 58.2 per 100. The wide proliferation of guns is the problem. Period.

Anything else is just making lame excuses and ignoring the problem. It's absolutely, 100%, inarguably clear that more guns does not mean more safety. We have more guns than anyone and we're less safe than most.


The hacktivists at Anonymous are punishing Westboro Baptist Church for their plan to picket Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary. Via CNET:

As part of a campaign dubbed #OpWestBoro, KY Anonymous said yesterday it posted the personal information belonging to members of the extremist organization, which is best known for conducting protests designed to disrupt the funerals of members of the military killed in action. The data dump included the names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and physical addresses of dozens of alleged members of the religious organization. The group did not indicate where or how it acquired the data.


A 2009 study completely debunks the notion that gun-owners are safer for having a firearm in their houses during an assault.

In a first-of its-kind study, epidemiologists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that, on average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault. The study estimated that people with a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun.

The study was released online this month in the American Journal of Public Health, in advance of print publication in November 2009.

"This study helps resolve the long-standing debate about whether guns are protective or perilous," notes study author Charles C. Branas, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology. "Will possessing a firearm always safeguard against harm or will it promote a false sense of security?"

Don't let anyone get away with the self-defense argument. In fact, outcomes are exactly the opposite of what they expect.


There have been 31 school shootings in the US since Columbine in 1999. After the shootings at Columbine, background check applications and gun sales surged. After the shooting in Tuscon, Arizona, background checks and gun sales surged. After the shooting in Aurora, Colorado– background checks and gun sales surged.

In 2009, gun sales and firearms manufacturing had a $27.8 billion dollar impact on the American economy. Last year, gun sales and firearms manufacturing-related business had a $31.8 billion dollar impact on our economy. The firearms share of the economy is growing. Killing is a racket.

These numbers don't account for hundreds of millions in backlog, or sales at gun shows, where background checks are exempt, or private transfers– which means firearms sales in America is why we have more guns per capita(We're #1) than Yemen. Yemen, that place in the world where anti-government zealots and religious extremists rule the streets and draw the world's attention as a safe haven for terrorists.

With the election of Barack Obama in 2008, gun dealers have been experiencing "boon times," even through the recession, despite the fact that president Obama has actually expanded gun rights during his term.

Irrational fear and panic-inducing hyperbole on the part of the NRA and Republicans in congress have been outstanding for the mass murder business.

But what do we do as a country when right wing conservatives' interpretation of the 2nd Amendment means more kids are going to have to die because… freedom?

Think Progress:

A majority of Americans — including gun-owning Americans and National Rifle Association (NRA) members — back sensible gun regulation. In fact,new research released in July by Republican pollster Frank Luntz for Mayors against Illegal Guns, finds that gun advocates overwhelmingly support common-sense measures typically described as "gun control." These include:

1. Requiring criminal background checks on gun owners and gun shop employees.

2. Prohibiting terrorist watch list members from acquiring guns.

3. Mandating that gun-owners tell the police when their gun is stolen.

4. Concealed carry permits should only be restricted to individuals who have completed a safety training course and are 21 and older.

5.Concealed carry permits shouldn't be given to perpetrators of violent misdemeanors or individuals arrested for domestic violence.

These are all great common sense ideas, but we're never going to prevent more school shootings if we can't even say the words, "gun control" without right wing conservatives and the NRA whipping up more panic and irrational fears which will directly lead to more gun sales and subsequently more mass shootings. That's quite a cycle. It's as though we're being terrorized into silence and inaction as we continue to bury and mourn the loss of our children.

A study from The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) concludes:

The United States has far higher rates of firearm deaths-firearm homicides, firearm suicides, and unintentional firearm deaths compared with other high-income countries. The US overall suicide rate is not out of line with these countries, but the United States is an outlier in terms of our overall homicide rate.

The 2nd Amendment is rooted in the spirit of the Common defense. We must be doing it wrong. 

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