Thursday Reads: Is It Finally Time for Some Hope and Change?

U.S. President Obama reads "Where the Wild Things Are" alongside first family during White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington

Good Morning!!!

Rachel Maddow is such an optimist. After I listened to her show last night, I began to have real hope for change (pun intended) on the gun control front. Rachel talked about President Obama’s announcements yesterday, and how the knee jerk reaction of the DC pundits was basically, “ho hum, it’s nice talk but there’s no chance for real change.” But the American people agree with Obama on gun safety. If he gets out there and fights for his initiatives, he could accomplish a lot.

Another encouraging note–I can’t recall if it was on Rachel or another MSNBC show–Richard Wolffe said that he saw a look in Obama’s eyes that he’s seen before. Wolfe said it was like Obama’s determination on health care, a sign that he really cares of this and will follow through. I think Joe Biden deserves a lot of credit for this too–as he did in pushing Obama to come out in favor of gay marriage last year.

As we saw with the gay marriage issue, when the President focuses on something it becomes big news. Yesterday there was lots of discussion and it was the main topic on Morning Joe this morning too. Interestingly, after a lot of excited pro-gun-safety talk, Scarborough brought on Jim DeMint to talk about the Heritage Foundation reaction, and DeMint punted. He talked in circles and refused to offer any ideas! The right wingers simply weren’t prepared for this fight. They thought the fear of the NRA would carry the day as always.

Anyway, I feel hopeful for now. Maybe Obama can continue to change the political conversation in his second term. To me the most powerful decision the president made was to enable federal support for research on the causes of gun violence. From Inside Higher Ed:

Obama issued an order to the Department of Health and Human Services to have the CDC as well as the National Institutes of Health study issues related to gun violence, and asked Congress to appropriate $10 million for additional work in the area. Obama said in his public remarks that research is part of the solution to gun violence, and he sharply criticized the past limits on studies.

“While year after year, those who oppose even modest gun safety measures have threatened to defund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence, I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it — and Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds,” Obama said in introducing his new policies. “We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.”

He followed that up immediately with a memo to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, telling her to work with the CDC “and other scientific agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services [to] conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it. The Secretary shall begin by identifying the most pressing research questions with the greatest potential public health impact, and by assessing existing public health interventions being implemented across the nation to prevent gun violence.”

The president’s actions are consistent with several requests from violence scholars in the last month, as Vice President Biden led an administration task force to develop the plan released Wednesday. Dozens of scholars of violence this month — organized by the Crime Lab of the University of Chicago — issued a joint letter to draw attention to the impact of federal policies that have effectively banned federal support for their

This is how the anti-science Republicans think: Avoid facts and data, stifle knowledge, close your eyes and ears and scream if anyone tries to break through the denial. But the American people are with Obama on this. Some people are saying that Congress will never appropriate the money for this research. I’m not so sure. If the Republicans continue their pro-gun and anti-people tantrums, they may find themselves in the minority in both houses of Congress in 2014.

Here’s the NYT writeup of Obama’s announcement on gun safety: Obama to ‘Put Everything I’ve Got’ Into Gun Control.

Surrounded by children who wrote him letters seeking curbs on guns, Mr. Obama committed himself to a high-profile and politically volatile campaign behind proposals assembled by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. that will test the administration’s strength heading into the next four years. The first big push of Mr. Obama’s second term, then, will come on an issue that was not even on his to-do list on Election Day when voters renewed his lease on the presidency.

“I will put everything I’ve got into this,” Mr. Obama said, “and so will Joe.” [….]

“I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it,” Mr. Obama said. “And, by the way, that doesn’t just mean from certain parts of the country. We’re going to need voices in those areas, in those Congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong, to speak up and to say this is important. It can’t just be the usual suspects.”

Meanwhile on the life-dying, death-affirming, ideological side of this fight, the NRA really hurt itself yesterday by going after President Obama’s daughters in an attack ad. From the National Journal: Has the NRA Finally Gone Too Far?

The National Rifle Association has been skirting the lines of decency for years, but the gun-rights group stoops to a new low with a Web ad calling President Obama an “elitist hypocrite.” The ad criticizes Obama for giving his daughters Secret Service protection while expressing skepticism about installing armed guards in schools.

The ad is indisputably misleading, and is arguably a dangerous appeal to the base instincts of gun-rights activists….

The fact is, Obama is not opposed to armed guards in schools. Indeed, many of the nation’s schools already hire security. This is what Obama is skeptical of: the NRA’s position that putting more guns in schools is the only way to prevent mass shootings.

The president wants to ban assault rifles, require background checks, and ban high-capacity ammunition. He does not want to confiscate guns, despite the NRA’s unsubstantiated warnings to the contrary.
There are fair arguments to be had over Obama’s proposals: Redefining the Second Amendment shouldn’t be done without a vigorous debate. But to drag the president’s daughters into the fight, and to question their need for security, suggests that the NRA is slipping further away from the mainstream. Over-the-top tactics discredit the NRA and its cause.

Well it sure looks like we’re going to have that “vigorous debate” now.

Joan Walsh sees the NRA ad as evidence that tone-deaf and “reality-denying” right wing attacks are losing steam.

Of course, the NRA ignores the common-sense answer to its own question: Every president’s child is protected by armed guards. They’re called the Secret Service. Outside of the fever swamps of anti-Obama hatred, no one could possibly have a problem with that, let alone call it hypocrisy.

Just the way Fox News’ insularity and reality denial has been a form of media and political malpractice, harming its viewers by shielding them from the Obama victory to come in 2012, the NRA has disabled itself by wallowing in anti-Obama hatred and paranoia. On the eve of the president’s big stand, when they most needed to show their supposedly formidable political muscle, instead they showed that they’re completely tone-deaf and politically silly. That’s because they’ve been marinating in the bile of Obama’s enemies, where the president’s modest moves on guns, in the wake of the Newtown massacre, are a trigger to call for his impeachment – thanks, Ed Meese, Mr. Iran-Contra! – or worse.

And on that fringe, of course, everyone knows the president is just a big fat elitist hypocrite. Over on that fringe, Sasha and Malia Obama don’t elicit feelings of tenderness and protectiveness like they do in the rest of the country. They elicit feelings of contempt, as the children of “elitist hypocrites,” if they provoke any feelings at all.

In the real world, we know that our first black president has faced more assassination threats than any president in history, and that the Secret Service has a particularly tough job protecting him and his family. In the NRA’s world, wingnuts pray for his death with Psalm 109, which asks God, “may his children be fatherless and his wife a widow” and “may no one … take pity on his fatherless children.)

And no, I’m not quoting some lone NewsMax commenter or a Breitbart blogger’s tweet: The verse has been popular among right-wing ministers and politicians since Obama’s inauguration. It’s spawned bumper stickers. Almost exactly a year ago, Kansas’ Republican House Speaker Mike O’Neal was emailing it around to his political allies. “At last — I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president! Look it up — it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN? AMEN!!!!!!” O’Neal refused to apologize. Then he apologized. Then he retired. Wayne LaPierre might want to look to O’Neal for inspiration.

And Michael Tomasky writes: The GOP Will Lose on Guns.

The president surrounded himself with children? One has to be sensitive about how one does such things, of course. But in this case, I should hope so! This is about children. If those 20 children in Newtown hadn’t been killed, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. An event like that leads to a simple choice for a society, and make no mistake that it is a moral choice, as profoundly moral a choice as a society can make. Either you try to do something or you don’t.

If those lives were real to you, you try to do something. Obama keeps that one girl’s drawing up on the wall of his private office? Thank God for that. She is real to him; her classmates are real to him, the event is real to him. That he is trying to do all this—up to and including the assault-weapons ban, the executive orders, all with the sure knowledge that the Republicans might not only block him but then find some grounds on which to impeach him—is evidence enough for me that it’s real to him.

It’s Limbaugh and the NRA and all the crazies for whom the shooting and the dead children are just symbols. First of all, the very phrase “human shields.” What, were the children at the White House today ordered to be there? (I know, these people would say—with no evidence, of course—that they were.) The phrase also implicitly compares Obama to al Qaeda and Hamas—and, once again, to Adolf Hitler, something of a pioneer in the human-shield trade. No one who cared about actual history would use that phrase in this context. That phrase is used solely in the service of propaganda and ideology.

What is amazing here is how much they don’t care about dead children or about America’s outrage at this state of affairs, and how openly and brazenly they want to show us they don’t care. Newtown is nothing to them. Just another occasion to inveigh against know-it-all liberals and whine about their freedom and make patently insane comments about Obama and the Constitution. To increase the membership rolls, raise money, make money.

Amen to that. The right wing institutions could crumple up like the Wicked Witch of the West if the American people exert their power. Hope and change, anyone?

To wrap this post up, I have a couple of sports stories for you. You’ve probably already heard about the latest bizarre Notre Dame Football news, broken yesterday by Deadspin: Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, the stories said, played this season under a terrible burden. A Mormon linebacker who led his Catholic school’s football program back to glory, Te’o was whipsawed between personal tragedies along the way. In the span of six hours in September, as Sports Illustrated told it, Te’o learned first of the death of his grandmother, Annette Santiago, and then of the death of his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua.

Kekua, 22 years old, had been in a serious car accident in California, and then had been diagnosed with leukemia. SI’s Pete Thamel described how Te’o would phone her in her hospital room and stay on the line with her as he slept through the night. “Her relatives told him that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would increase at the sound of his voice,” Thamel wrote.

Upon receiving the news of the two deaths, Te’o went out and led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3 upset of Michigan State, racking up 12 tackles. It was heartbreaking and inspirational. Te’o would appear on ESPN’s College GameDay to talk about the letters Kekua had written him during her illness. He would send a heartfelt letter to the parents of a sick child, discussing his experience with disease and grief. The South Bend Tribune wrote an article describing the young couple’s fairytale meeting—she, a Stanford student; he, a Notre Dame star—after a football game outside Palo Alto.

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, the stories said, played this season under a terrible burden. A Mormon linebacker who led his Catholic school’s football program back to glory, Te’o was whipsawed between personal tragedies along the way. In the span of six hours in September, as Sports Illustrated told it, Te’o learned first of the death of his grandmother, Annette Santiago, and then of the death of his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua.

Kekua, 22 years old, had been in a serious car accident in California, and then had been diagnosed with leukemia. SI’s Pete Thamel described how Te’o would phone her in her hospital room and stay on the line with her as he slept through the night. “Her relatives told him that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would increase at the sound of his voice,” Thamel wrote.

Upon receiving the news of the two deaths, Te’o went out and led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3 upset of Michigan State, racking up 12 tackles. It was heartbreaking and inspirational. Te’o would appear on ESPN’s College GameDay to talk about the letters Kekua had written him during her illness. He would send a heartfelt letter to the parents of a sick child, discussing his experience with disease and grief. The South Bend Tribune wrote an article describing the young couple’s fairytale meeting—she, a Stanford student; he, a Notre Dame star—after a football game outside Palo Alto.

Except none of it is true. Now I hadn’t heard anything about this story before yesterday and I still haven’t read enough to understand what happened, but supposedly the player claims that he is victim of this hoax–created by someone else. WTF?! I need to go back and read more about this strange story today.

Finally, for Red Sox fans if you have stuck with me and haven’t skipped to the comments already, former Red Sox manager Terry Francona has a tell-all book coming out next week, and it sounds like a doozy.

The Boston Red Sox are run by baseball haters and money-grubbing vultures who care more about being looked at than they do about winning.

This according to a man who would

Former Red Sox manager Terry Francona has a new tell-all book due out next week, and excerpts that have leaked portray the club’s bosses as being more like excitable television producers than passionate baseball owners.

The key scene went down in 2010 after a marketing research project revealed that the Red Sox were lacking in the “‘soap opera’ and ‘reality-TV’ aspects of the game.” This prompted Boston’s brain trust—majority owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and CEO Larry Lucchino—to give Francona and then-GM Theo Epstein an ultimatum.

“We need to start winning in more exciting fashion,” said Werner, via ESPNBoston.com. Then came proclamations that the Red Sox needed more “good-looking stars” and “sex symbols.”

Says Francona in the book: “They come in with all these ideas about baseball, but I don’t think they love baseball. I think they like baseball. It’s revenue, and I know that’s their right and their interest because they’re owners … and they’re good owners. But they don’t love the game.”

Read more from Tony Massaroti at The Boston Globe. Things could get interesting in Boston after the book comes out.

Sorry this post got so freakin’ long!! So….what are you reading this morning? Let us know in the comments.

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39 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Is It Finally Time for Some Hope and Change?”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    I want Terry Francona to “diss the dirt” on the past 2 seasons of utter fail. The same for Bobby V who got a real thumping duirng his one year “trial”.

    The irony is that I received a 2013 Red Sox calendar for Christmas and half the team is no longer there on the pages for each month.

    Thanks for the heads up, bb. Am going to put in my order for Terry’s book today.

  2. janicen says:

    I have every confidence that we will successfully take the first steps in reducing the number of guns and therefore gun deaths in our country. I remember the days when we thought that big tobacco was so powerful that we would never be able to hold them responsible for smoking deaths and we would never be able to restrict smoking. We got a handle on big tobacco and we will get a handle on the gun manufacturers. We have most of the country and most of the world behind us. Former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, wrote an op-ed in the NYT encouraging President Obama to continue the fight.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/opinion/australia-banned-assault-weapons-america-can-too.html?_r=0

    • bostonboomer says:

      I’m so glad to read your hopeful comment, Janicen. I feel pretty optimistic right now, as you can probably tell from my post.

      The thing I love most about this is that Obama has effectively wiped the Republicans’ debt limit tantrums off the front pages for now. Boehner and the boys are still in Williamsberg today holding their silly “retreat” while the rest of us get started on something real and important.

      • janicen says:

        I think the reality of the situation is starting to sink in for people who never spent much time thinking about it. We are not safe in shopping malls, we are not safe in movie theaters, we are not safe at political rallies, and our children are not safe at school, all thanks to the imagined rights of gun fetishists. There are more of us than there are of them and we need to use their own method of confrontation that some of them actually suggested after Newtown, that people, including children should be trained to rush the shooter. It’s time now for the peace loving majority to rush the gun lobby and not stop until we take them down.

      • RalphB says:

        janicen, That would seem like the best strategy now, Rush them and take them down.

        Great post BB. I feel good about the chances myself. I spoke with a gun nut friend yesterday and he had no objections to anything that was proposed. In fact, he was all for them.

        • The gun nut in my family had the same reaction, all for it. Yet he still is raving about getting his concealed permit and he still carries his Smith and Wesson around the house.

          • dakinikat says:

            Omigosh … he is carrying a weapon around? And he is angry? That doesn’t sound like a safe environment for you and your children. Is it loaded?

          • It’s my dad, and we had a argument about it this morning. I told him he was a hot head and shouldn’t carry a gun. I also said I was a hot head and shouldn’t carry a gun. He agreed with me, that I am a hot head and shouldn’t carry a gun.

            My life has been stressful since after Newtown’s shooting. One thing after another and I am real tired. LOL

      • bostonboomer says:

        Beautiful idea, Janicen.

      • I am glad you all are optimistic. I guess I am just too jaded. Yeah, Obama had those determined eyes for healthcare, and look at what we got. I sure hope you all are right, and things will be done regarding guns. In the meantime, my state is following along the lines of that town in Ohio, where any “administrator” in a school can carry a gun. Sigh.

      • bostonboomer says:

        JJ,

        On health care, did you know there is a new effort to pass a public option? It has been introduced by IL Rep. Jan Schkowsky and others.

      • RalphB says:

        Good to know the public option is still on life support. It would reduce health care costs!

  3. RalphB says:

    Jon Stewart: NRA Ad Looked Like ‘Elaborate, Avant-Garde’ Joke

    “I swear to you, if I didn’t know any better, and I’m not a big conspiracy guy, after seeing that ad, I would think the NRA is either an elaborate, avant-garde, Joaquin Phoenix-style joke, or a false flag operation run by Michael Moore in an attempt to discredit responsible gun owners,” Stewart said.

    So how did President Obama respond during his announcement of new gun control proposals? He said he believes the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms and that most gun owners would agree that steps can be taken to prevent violence while still respecting the Constitution.

    “Interesting open on his part,” Stewart said. “I thought he was gonna go with, ‘If you bring up my kids again, I will drone strike your shit to kingdom come.’”

  4. That sport story about Manti Te’o is really something…I mean, the dude was milking it for all it was worth. Sportscasters hyped it during the games. There were special features also during games with pictures and tales of illness and strength and perseverance. Now it is a hoax?

    Or is it lies, like Armstrong. Did you all see this? Stewart Rips ‘Liar’ Lance Armstrong And The ‘Idiots’ (Including Stewart) Who Believed Him | Mediaite

    I say get Manti an interview with Oprah….and get it all over with.

    • bostonboomer says:

      The girl didn’t exist. They’re talking about it wall to wall on the Boston sports stations. The speculation is that either Te’o is gay and was having a relationship with the guy who did this or he was in on it from the beginning hoping to get publicity for Heisman votes.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I just heard the Notre Dame actually claims to have done an extensive investigation of this, so they may have known for awhile. They say that they were able to intercept communications between people who were involved.

        The only problem with that is that Te’o told media people that he had met the girl in person. He even claimed that he originally met her at a game. He also told his family about her and they thought she was real.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        That is rich JJ!!!! I have no love for ND athletics but I think AD’s at many schools coverup the bad behavior of their athletes & coaches. College Football programs especially are big business, bringing in millions of dollars to the University, and many high-powered, influential people are among the alumni, so there’s plenty of financial incentive to spray cologne on anything that smells as much as this story does. Colleges cover the asses of their stars all the time and we’ve seen plenty of evidence to support that conclusion.

        BB…..The first thing that popped into my mind when I read the story yesterday is that he is gay and that the gf story and the tweeting was intially a cover story and that the story spun out of control. There are 2 things that many young gay people do when they’re struggling with their own sexuality or how their sexuality might/will affect their family and their lives. 1. They create cover stories for why they’re not active in the straight scene, particularly the straight dating scene. 2. They identify their love interest to family & friends as the opposite gender. I’ve known gay men to take lesbian friends, or vice-versa, to family or business functions to hide their orientation. I engaged in a few smokescreens myself to keep friends & family from trying to hook me up with a guy when I was involved with a woman, and I engaged in that diversion and sometimes deception when there was no facebook, twitter or even internet. Considering that this generation of young people share every detail of their lives, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to keep your sexual orientation private, especially if you’re a high profile person. It’s important to remember that one of the last, strongest bastions of homophobia is college & professional athletics. Te’o wants to play in the NFL and being gay or even the rumor that you’re gay is lethal. So if it turns out this young man was complicit in this deception, I’m not excusing him, I’m just attempting to understand the motivation. I hate to see any young person’s life destroyed over inferior judgment that in the long run hurts no one but themself.

      • bostonboomer says:

        That makes a lot of sense, Mouse. Interestingly, Te’o knew the perpetrator of the “hoax.” They have been photographed together a number times. Maybe they had a relationship, or maybe the perpetrator is gay and had a crush on Te’o? The whole thing is bizarre.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        It is bizarre. I read the article about Te’o being friends with the guy who owned the Twitter account that the fraudulent GF tweeted from. I considered that it might have started as a crush. Still, my instinct tells me that there’s more to it than a simple one-sided deception.

        Unfortunately most of us (L&G’s) aren’t or weren’t lucky enough to have a great advocate like Pat Johnson as our mother. We weren’t born to families where our parents or syblings or grandparents or aunts or uncles defended us and layed down rules of behavior regarding our acceptance and inclusion by family members. Most of us had to clear major hurdles just to reach a modest level of acceptance within our own families (some of us never achieved any acceptance), so navigating the rough waters of high school, college and work becomes even more difficult because those environments are perilous and painful even for straight people but for young L/G people they are more so because your support system is minimal. I’m not on the pity-potty here, just remembering the many pot holes of my youth.

        • dakinikat says:

          Yeah. I used to cover for a lot of my gay friends in high school. It also helped them not get beat up by other students let alone helping them with their parents.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I appreciate your insight, Mouse.

  5. dakinikat says:

    Oh a brighter note … I’ve finally seen the sun today!!!

  6. RalphB says:

    If you want to be extra pissed, read this from Charles Pierce’s story on Dancin Dave today. If’s disgusting how many people are bought and paid for by Peterson.

    Remapping Debate: Journalists in the service of Pete Peterson

  7. RalphB says:

    Recreational assault weapons fire riddles Ohio home, narrowly misses officer

    Two men were arrested in Ohio on Wednesday after their target practice with an AK-47 assault rifle accidentally shot up a woman’s home and nearly hit a officer who was responding to reports of gunfire.

    These idiots thought they were safely shooting at paper targets, now they’re charged with felonies.

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Idaho legislator asks representatives of ACLU if they support prostitution as well as abortion, since it’s “a woman’s choice.”

    Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene, made the comparison during a legislative breakfast presentation held by the ACLU on criminal justice reform and other legislative priorities.
    Since the ACLU supports a woman’s right to choose abortion, shouldn’t the organization also support prostitution, Mendive asked ALCU-Idaho executive director Monica Hopkins. Mendive then said that prostitution is “a woman’s choice.”

    Hopkins noted that a woman’s right to access reproductive health care is constitutionally mandated, while prostitution is illegal. She also reminded Mendive that prostitution is not always a “choice,” noting that a bill targeting human trafficking could be presented to lawmakers during the legislative session.

    “He was correlating a criminal action with something that is constitutionally protected. Those are two completely separate issues,” Hopkins said after the event. “When we’re talking about women’s rights, and a woman’s right to choose, we are talking about reproductive rights that are constitutionally protected. What Rep. Mendive was talking about in the arena of prostitution is something that the state has very clearly said is an illegal activity … in the same way that someone may choose to rob a bank, but that would be criminal activity that is not constitutionally protected.”

    Mendive, who was first elected to the Legislature last year, said he posed the question because he was incensed by what he believes is a double standard.

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Paul Ryan: House leaders are trying to explain to wing nuts that they just aren’t going to be able to use defaulting on the debt as a threat to force spending cuts. It’s not clear if the nuts are getting the message.