Thursday Reads: Guns and American Culture (and other news)

Morning Paper at Cap Ferrat, by Rebecca Kao Wang

Morning Paper at Cap Ferrat, by Rebecca Kao Wang

Good Morning!!

I live in a state that has very strict gun control laws. A recent study by Boston Children’s Hospital found that states with the toughest gun laws have the lowest rates of gun deaths. And Boston tends to average between one shooting victim every other day to one victim per day. I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of days since I read this article at WBUR: When Mass. Criminals Want A Gun, They Often Head North

Massachusetts gun laws are widely considered some of the toughest in the country. But with a rash of shooting deaths in Boston this year, some law enforcement officials say it’s obvious that there are ways around the rules. And when Massachusetts criminals want to get their hands on a gun, they frequently head north.

In 2012, more than half of the guns that law enforcement seized in Massachusetts and managed to trace to their origins came from other states, according to federal statistics. The biggest suppliers by far were New Hampshire and Maine, as is the case most years.

According to the article, ATF agents discovered that gun traffickers in Massachusetts were legally buying large numbers of guns from New Hampshire and Maine, where they are much easier and cheaper to buy, and reselling them to people in Massachusetts.

The flow of guns from northern New England to Massachusetts is propelled by key differences among state gun laws. It’s all about private handgun sales, in particular. In Massachusetts every private handgun sale must be recorded and reported to the state within seven days. And the buyer must have a license to carry from local police, which in turn requires a background check. The Massachusetts rules are tight.

Up north, not so much. Buyers at federally licensed gun shops in Maine and New Hampshire are subjected to a federal background check for prior felonies, or a history of severe mental illness. But when it comes to private gun sales — at a gun show, or even a commuter parking lot — no documentation is required — no background check, no record of the transaction.

Darcie McElwee, an assistant U.S. attorney in Maine, says that in her state a private seller doesn’t even have to ask the buyer for a driver’s license.

Now it’s still illegal to sell guns to a convicted felon or for a felon to buy a gun, so if someone is caught doing this, they’ll go to jail for two years minimum. And the rates of gun deaths and injuries are still lower in Massachusetts than in states with less strict gun laws.

Clearly strict state laws are not enough to prevent gun violence. We need federal laws to control gun sales and to encourage gun safety–like the Massachusetts law that requires guns to be unloaded and locked up when not in use. But how can we make that happen? According to the WBUR article, Congress has even made it difficult to keep track of guns that are used in crimes and for academic researchers to access federal government data on gun trafficking.

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey has introduced a bill to require all guns to be personalized so they can only be fired by the owner or another authorized person. These so-called “smart guns” already exist.

One of California’s largest firearm stores recently added a peculiar new gun to its shelves. It requires an accessory: a black waterproof watch.

The watch’s primary purpose is not to provide accurate time, though it does. The watch makes the gun think. Electronic chips inside the gun and watch communicate with each other. If the watch is within close reach of the gun, a light on the grip turns green. Fire away. No watch means no green light. The gun becomes a paperweight.

A dream of gun control advocates for decades, the Armatix iP1 is the country’s first smart gun. Its introduction is seen as a landmark event in efforts to reduce gun violence, suicides, and accidental shootings….

Of course the NRA will fight this tooth and nail, and it’s not going to get through the Senate, much less the House, in the current environment.

Now check this out. According to a piece at Venture Beat, you can quickly and easily buy guns on Facebook!

Fifteen minutes.

That’s all it takes for children, felons, and people without IDs to buy illegal weapons on Facebook pages dedicated to the sale and celebration of guns.

A VentureBeat investigation has uncovered dozens of pages on Facebook where guns are for sale, including semi-automatic weapons, handguns, and silencers. While the transactions don’t actually happen on Facebook, the social network is a remarkably easy way to find shady people willing to sell you a weapon — no questions asked. The illegal transactions then take place in diners, dark parking lots, and isolated country roads — away from the prying eyes of the feds and local police.

In Kentucky, Greenup County Sheriff Keith Cooper remembers when a call came into dispatch last October saying a 15-year-old student had been arrested on the Greenup County High School campus for carrying an unlicensed and loaded 9mm handgun to school. The boy was arrested and brought to Cooper’s office for an interview.

When Cooper, a former Kentucky State Trooper with a heavy Southern drawl, asked the kid where he got the gun, his reply was shocking: Facebook.

Read it and weep. Oh, and Facebook claims they don’t allow people to sell guns or explosives on their pages, but clearly they’re not enforcing these rules very well.

It’s not news to anyone that America has a love affair with guns. Guns and hunting are part of American culture, going hand-in-hand with the cult of rugged individualism. I’ve always thought it came from the frontier tradition. Most of the country was settled by pioneering who set out from the East coast to begin new lives in the Midwest and West before the arrival of the accoutrements of civilization–like law enforcement, banks, and insurance companies. In my generation at least, kids saw endless movies and TV shows about “cowboys and Indians;” and we played with toy guns–even us girls. And of course, since we were born shortly after World War II, many of us watch movies that glorified war.

Still I’ve never wanted a real gun. It seems to me that the gun culture is much stronger in some ways than in those innocent days of the 1950s and ’60s. But why? The obvious answer is the lobbying and propaganda efforts of the National Rifle Association (NRA). And what about  the recent work of ALEC and the Koch Brothers to get state “stand your ground” laws passed around the country? Dahlia Lithwick has posted a fine piece about this at Slate.

“Stand Your Ground” Nation: America used to value the concept of retreat. Now we just shoot.

Last week, Kriston Charles Belinte Chee, an unarmed man, got into a fight with Cyle Wayne Quadlin at a Walmart in suburban Arizona. Quadlin opened fire midargument and killed CheeOfficers decided not to charge Quadlin because, they concluded, the killing was in self-defense. According to the police spokesman, “Mr. Quadlin was losing the fight and indicated he ‘was in fear for his life.’” Just a week earlier, a jury in Jacksonville, Fla., found Michael Dunn guilty on four counts of attempted murder but did not convict him on the most serious charge of first-degree murder, in the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Dunn shot and killed Davis, also unarmed, because the music coming from his car was too loud. Dunn claimed he saw something like a gun in the vehicle, and that was apparently enough for some members of the jury to conclude that Dunn hadn’t committed first-degree murder.

Given all this, it’s not unreasonable to argue that, in America, you can be shot and killed, without consequences for the shooter, for playing loud musicwearing a hoodie, or shopping at a Walmart. The question is whether the wave of “stand your ground” legislation is to blame.

Is it true? Lithwick quotes doubters who say that neither George Zimmerman invoked “stand your ground,” However juries were told about the “stand your ground” principle, and could have been confused by the growing consensus in Florida that people [at least white males] have the right to shoot an unarmed person if they “feel threatened.” Lithwick writes:

It’s clear that at least some of the jurors in both cases took the principle of “stand your ground” into account to some degree during deliberations. We now know that at leastone juror, and possibly two, in Dunn’s trial took to heart the specific instruction that Dunn “had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” Whether or not jurors in Florida are technically instructed to apply the “stand your ground” component of self-defense law, it’s increasingly clear that they are, at minimum, confused about it (understandably) and may even be starting to apply it reflexively. Yes, Dunn’s attorney argued traditional self-defense. But, as former assistant U.S. attorney David Weinstein told the Associated Press, “I think people will say that because some of the language from the stand your ground statute gets embedded into the jury instructions, that stand your ground has an effect.”

I might go further. I might say that whether or not specific jurisdictions define self-defense to include a duty to retreat, and whether or not specific juries are charged to apply it, America is quickly becoming one big “stand your ground” state, as a matter of culture if not the letter of the law.

Please go read the whole thing. It’s frightening but important. Lithwick argues that the new laws are changing the culture itself–and not just in the states with “stand your ground” laws.

Now I’ve gone and written another single-subject post. I just have room for a few headlines before I turn the floor over to you.

Washington Post: Hillary Clinton makes case for ‘full participation’ and equality

Talking Points Memo: Hillary Clinton Defends Obamacare While Backing Changes

BBC News: Ukraine warns Russia against ‘aggression’ in Crimea

NPR: Crimea: 3 Things To Know About Ukraine’s Latest Hot Spot

The Daily Beast: The Spoiled Rotten Kids of the DC Elite

NYT: New F.D.A. Nutrition Labels Would Make ‘Serving Sizes’ Reflect Actual Servings

Dana Millbank: Republicans flip-flop on ‘judicial activism’

I hope Dak will weigh in on this one. Matthew O’Brien: How the Fed Let the World Blow Up in 2008

USA Today: NASA – 715 new planets found, 4 might support life

What stories have caught your interest today? Please share your links in the comment thread, and have a great day!


Thursday Reads

AX196_5590_9

Good Morning!!

Another day, another shocking, violent event. This time it’s the explosion of a fertilizer factory in the tiny town of West, Texas: ‘Like a nuclear bomb’: Deadly fertilizer plant blast devastates Texas town

(CNN) — The full extent of the devastation will have to wait until the light of day Thursday. But residents of the small Texas town of West already know what to expect.
“There are a lot of people that got hurt,” West Mayor Tommy Muska forewarned Wednesday night. “There are a lot of people that will not be here tomorrow.”

A massive explosion at a fertilizer plant on the edge of the town killed an estimated five to 15 people, wounded more than 160, leveled dozens of homes and prompted authorities to evacuate half their community of 2,800.

“It was like a nuclear bomb went off,” Muska said. “Big old mushroom cloud.”

The Wednesday night blast shook houses 50 miles away and measured as a 2.1-magnitude seismic event, according to the United States Geological Survey….[F]ire officials fear that the number of casualties could rise as high as 60 to 70 dead, said Dr. George Smith, the emergency management system director of the city.

The photo at the top of this post comes from the Dallas-Ft. Worth Morning News–you can see more photos at that link.

The paper also posted this video of the explosion, apparently taken from inside a truck. Be aware that the video is somewhat disturbing.

From the Houston Chronicle: Crews looking for victims of fertilizer plant blast

WEST — Rescue workers searched rubble that witnesses compared to a war zone early Thursday for survivors of a fertilizer plant explosion in a small Texas town. The blast injured more than 160 people and killed between five and 15. It left the factory a smoldering ruin and leveled buildings for blocks in every direction.

The explosion in downtown West, about 20 miles north of Waco, shook the ground with the strength of a small earthquake and could be heard dozens of miles away. It sent flames shooting into the night sky and rained burning embers, shrapnel and debris down on shocked and frightened residents.

“They are still getting injured folks out and they are evacuating people from their homes,” Waco police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton said early Thursday morning. “At this point, we don’t know a number that have been killed. … I think we will see those fatalities increase as we get toward the morning.”

Among those believe to be dead: A group of volunteer firefighters who responded to a fire call at the West Fertilizer Co. about an hour before the blast. They remained unaccounted for overnight.

The explosion that struck around 7 p.m. leveled a four-block area around the plant that a member of the city council, Al Vanek, said was “totally decimated.” Other witnesses compared the scene to that of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and authorities said the plant made materials similar to that used to fuel the bomb that tore apart that city’s Murrah Federal Building.

Although authorities said it will be some time before they know the full extent of the loss of life, they put the number of those injured at more than 100. West Mayor Tommy Muska told reporters that his city of about 2,800 residents needs “your prayers.”

I’m sure we’ll learn much more about this story in the course of the day today.

Eric and Kim Williams

Eric and Kim Williams

In another shocking Texas story, the wife of former Kaufman County Justice of the Peace Eric Williams whom I wrote about on Sunday has confessed to her involvement in the murders of Texas prosecutors Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland and McLelland’s wife Cynthia. The NYT reports:

KAUFMAN, Tex. — The mystery of who shot and killed two prosecutors this year clouded life in this rural county southeast of Dallas for more than two months, with investigators delving into possible leads that led to white-supremacist groups and Mexican drug cartels.

But in the end, it apparently came down to a bitter local grudge. A former justice of the peace whose legal and political career collapsed in a hard-fought legal battle was accused Wednesday of killing the two prosecutors, who had been his courtroom rivals. And his wife not only named him as the gunman, but also confessed to having been the driver in both shootings as part of her role in the vendetta, the authorities said….

The two prosecutors that the authorities say the couple conspired to kill had helped convict Mr. Williams last year on burglary and theft charges in a dispute about three computer monitors worth less than $1,500. The Williamses — he a portly, diabetic lawyer who volunteered with the Texas State Guard; she his ailing yet supportive wife of 15 years — were accused of pulling off what even ruthless criminal organizations have rarely dared in modern times: the executions of two prosecutors, and the wife of one, to avenge a guilty verdict….

According to an affidavit filed by the authorities, Ms. Williams confessed to her involvement in the shootings in an interview with investigators on Tuesday, and told them that her husband had been the one who shot Mr. Hasse in January and Mr. McLelland and his wife in March.

During her interview, [Kim Lene Williams] supplied investigators with details of both shootings that had not been made public. One law enforcement official confirmed that Ms. Williams was not a gunman in the murders, but had been the driver, and had also used the storage unit where Mr. Williams had kept a car and more than 20 guns.

Yesterday Joseph Cannon dug up some amazing information on Paul Kevin Curtis, who has been arrested for sending letters that tested positive for ricin to President Obama and other government leaders, and today the mainstream media is catching up. The gist is that Curtis claim to have uncovered a plot to harvest and self human body parts at a hospital in a hospital in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Basically, he says that he (almost literally) stumbled upon evidence that the Medical Center was involved in the illegal organ trade. He also says that his attempts to expose the problem led to retaliatory action:
I have no faith left in the Mississippi Justice system. I feel my coming forward with my story and releasing it to news media all over the USA in 2001 has helped expose the illegal body parts and organ trade market world-wide.

I personally sent out more than a million emails in one year detailing what happened to me when I found the body parts at NMMC. In 2004, 4 arrests were made in New York City. In 2006, another illegal body parts scam was discovered in North Carolina. I am confident that although no local media has agreed to put in print what happened to me in Tupelo or the trigger-happy, intoxicated assistant DA, I know in my heart that my coming forward has brought national attention to this terrible and illegal black market.

This is Kevin Curtis and I approve this report.

Read all about it at Cannonfire.

Kevin Curtis

Kevin Curtis

Also at Time, Michael Crowley writes about the history of ricin terrorism.

To be clear, ricin is no laughing matter. The toxic compound, which can be extracted from widely available castor beans with relative ease, is lethal in tiny quantities. In a John le Carré–style plotline, a pellet of ricin deployed with a jab from a pointed umbrella tip killed the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in 1978. If ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin, ricin can cause vomiting, bloody urine and seizures, then massive organ failure. It has no antidote.

Hence its appeal to some nasty characters. Saddam Hussein tried to weaponize it in large quantities. Al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate has worked to produce ricin, and the organization’s online English-language Inspire magazine touted the substance to aspiring lone-wolf terrorists in America who “possess basic scientific knowledge.”

There have actually been several domestic ricin plots in recent years, none involving jihadists and most the work of antigovernment radicals. Not that any have come close to executing a successful attack: in late 2011, for example, federal agents arrested four Georgia men with militia ties whose plans included bombmaking and killing government officials with ricin. “This is worse than anthrax,” one of them reportedly boasted. “There ain’t no cure for it either.” The men, all in their 60s and 70s, were busted before they even began brewing the substance, whichexperts said they likely would have been unable to use on the mass scale of their imagination anyway.

Read more at the Swampland blog link.

In Boston, officials say they have

isolated ­images of a suspect carrying and perhaps dropping a black bag believed to have held one of two bombs that exploded 12 seconds apart Monday near the finish line of the historic race, said an official briefed on the investigation.

Authorities were “very close” Wednesday in their pursuit of the bomber, said the ­official, who declined to be named.

A surveillance camera at the Lord & Taylor store, across Boylston Street from the ­Forum restaurant where the second bomb exploded, has provided video of the area, though it was unclear whether the image of the suspect came from that camera, the official said….

A second person briefed on the investigation indicated that the image may have come from a cellphone.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are is in Boston today to attend and interfaith service in honor of the victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

President Obama will speak at an interfaith prayer service to honor victims of the Boston Marathon bombings Thursday morning at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Titled “Healing Our City,” the service begins at 11 a.m. at the cathedral, on Washington Street in Boston’s South End. The renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma will perform, and clergy from different faiths will offer readings, prayers, and reflections.

“A violent and cruel intrusion like the bomb blast sends people scattering, and it’s terrorizing,” said the Rev. Nancy Taylor, senior minister of Old South Church, who will speak at the service. “The coming together is creating a space of unity and community in defiance of that kind of cruelty and violence.”

Four former governors will attend, Governor Deval Patrick said: Mitt Romney, William F. Weld, Michael S. Dukakis, and Jane M. Swift.

Traffic will be hell on earth, and I plan to say in my own neighborhood today and avoid it.

Gabby Giffords

Gabby Giffords

I’ll end with Gabriel Giffords’ op-ed, published in today’s NYT: A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip

SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them.

On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.

Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.

I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending.

Read the rest at the Times.

There sure has been an awful lot of awful news this week so far. What else is happening? Please let us know what’s on your mind in the comments. Take care today, everyone!


Monday Reads

library reading room NYPLGood Morning!

There’s more than just a bit of March madness in the air and you don’t have to be watching basketball to catch it.  It seems that the Republican Party’s Teabots have decided to boycott Fox News for being too liberal.  Yes, you read that right.  Fox is not fair and balanced towards their viewpoints so off with th eir heads!!!!

Among the demands the protesters have is that Fox News “be the right-wing CBS News: to break stories, to break information, and to do what news organizations have always done with such stories: break politicians,” that the network have at least one segment on Benghazi every night on two of its prime-time shows; that Fox similarly devote investigative resources to discovering the truth of Obama’s birth certificate; and that the network cease striving to be “fair and balanced.”

“We need Fox to turn right,” said Hjerlied. “We think this is a coverup and Fox is aiding and abetting it. This is the way Hitler started taking over Germany, by managing and manipulating the news media.”

The descriptions of the boycotters and their preferences for conspiracy sites is pretty obvious. Poor Fox and the Republican Party Establishment just cannot shove these loonies back into their boxes.

Agreement has been reached on what to do with Cyprus and its unstable banks.  The agreement will not be put to a vote of parliament.

Cyprus will close down one of its two biggest banks and restructure the second one as part of an international bailout, Cyprus and underwoodinternational lenders agreed on Tuesday.

Bank depositors of up to 100,000 euros will not suffer any losses but bigger depositors will contribute to recapitalizing the bank that is to be restructured – Bank of Cyprus.

Shareholders, bondholders and those who held deposits above 100,000 euros in Laiki bank, which will be closed down, will cover the cost of the resolution, euro zone ministers and the International Monetary Fund decided.

Depositors with more than 100,000 euros in the Bank of Cyprus will see their money above that threshold frozen until it is clear how much of it will be needed to recapitalize the bank so that it can reach a capital ratio of 9 percent.

Here’s some discussion of what the Cyprus fallout could be around the world by Marshall Auerback.  Moody’s says Cyprus is still at risk of default, euro zone exit should these steps resolve the current crisis.  So, what type of precedent does this set for such a risky move with no real guarantee of success?

Regardless of the ultimate form this bailout takes, it is increasingly hard to view Cyprus as a “one-off,” which has no implications for us here in the US. What Cyprus has demonstrated is that even with deposit insurance, your deposits are not in fact a risk-free guaranteed asset, but actually simply another branch in the creditor tree in relation to your bank if it fails. That was made abundantly clear by no less than the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the central bankers’ bank back in the heart of the financial crisis. The BIS noted that bank failures had become increasingly expensive for governments and taxpayers and therefore recommended an “Open Bank Resolution,” which would ensure that, as far as possible , “any future losses are ultimately borne by the bank’s shareholders and creditors.” (See primer on the Open Market Resolution concept by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.)

Why does this matter? Because, you, as a depositor are legally considered a “creditor” of your bank, not simply a customer who may have entrusted your entire life savings with the very same institution.

The science editor at BBC News wonders why there is such a fuss about extinction which leads to the question “would the world be a better place if we still had velociraptors? But, is natural extinction different than man-caused extinction?

We are certainly far better off without velociraptors slashing their way through our cities. Our streets are safer with no sabre-toothed tigers. And imagine trying to swat one of those monster prehistoric insects like a vulture-sized dragonfly.

The question of extinction most recently surfaced at the talks on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – the treaty meant to save endangered species from the devastating effects of trade.

The slaughter of rhino, the decimation of elephant, the forlorn last stand of the tiger – all had their profiles raised as the delegates in Bangkok negotiated their fate.

And anyone hearing the protests and the campaigns, and the shocking statistics about the losses, might be forgiven for thinking that extinction was some new kind of evil that was not invented until rapacious and uncaring mankind came along.

I should state right now that some of the most ghastly examples are indeed entirely the result of man’s activities, sometimes unwittingly, sometimes carelessly.

hepburn readingWe’re seeing slow, drawn out, death-by-lobbying of the hopes for better gun safety laws.  The NRA is pushing the meme that gun-free zones–like the Sandy Hook School–attract mass murderers.  Mark Follman takes on this myth.

Ever since the massacres in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., this idea has been repeated like some surreal requiem: The reason that mass gun violence keeps happening is because the United States is full of places that ban guns.

Second Amendment activists have long floated this theme, and now lawmaker sacross the nation are using it, too. During a recent floor debate in the Colorado legislature, Republican state Rep. Carole Murray put it this way: “Most of the mass killings that we talk about have been affected in gun-free zones. So when you have a gun-free zone, it’s like saying, ‘Come and get me.’”

The argument claims to explain both the motive behind mass shootings and how they play out. The killers deliberately choose sites where firearms are forbidden, gun-rights advocates say, and because there are no weapons, no “good guy with a gun” will be on hand to stop the crime.

Sound bite sophistry

With its overtones of fear and heroism, the argument makes for slick sound bites. But here’s the problem: Both its underlying assumptions are contradicted by data. Not only is there zero evidence to support them, our examination at Mother Jones of America’s mass shootings indicates they are just plain wrong.

Among the 62 mass shootings over the past 30 years that we studied, not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns. To the contrary, in many of the cases there was clearly another motive for the choice of location. For example, 20 were workplace shootings, most of which involved perpetrators who felt wronged by employers and colleagues. Last September, when a troubled man working at a sign manufacturer in Minneapolis was told he would be let go, he pulled out a 9mm Glock and killed six people and injured another before putting a bullet in his own head. Similar tragedies unfolded at a beer distributor in Connecticut in 2010 and at a plastics factory in Kentucky in 2008.

Or consider the 12 school shootings we documented, in which all but one of the killers had personal ties to the school they struck.librarian reading

Or take the man who opened fire in suburban Milwaukee last August: Are we to believe that a white supremacist targeted the Sikh temple there not because it was filled with members of a religious minority he despised, but because it was a place that didn’t allow firearms?

Despite the momentum in Congress of the NRA, Mayor Mike Bloomberg is going to spend beaucoups bux trying to get a better outcome.

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg wants new gun control legislation so bad that he’s set to spend a staggering $12 million of his own money on ads targeting US senators in a dozen states.

As the New York Times reports, Bloomberg’s new wave of ads, which begin on Monday, support universal background checks for nearly all gun purchases, but do not mention a ban on assault weapons. The ads, run under the auspices of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group funded and co-chaired by Bloomberg, will target Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Patrick Toomey (R-Penn.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

Bloomberg’s $12 million ad buy further cements his position as the main political force challenging the clout of the National Rifle Association. For decades, the NRA has used its money and manpower to oust politicians who support any new regulation of guns in America. The threat of NRA attacks helped stifle any effort at new gun laws, including requiring background checks for most gun purchases and reinstating the ban on assault rifles, which expired in 2004. Now, by pumping money into Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Independence USA, his super-PAC, Bloomberg hopes to counter the might of the NRA, while giving cover to pro-gun-control legislators.

Today, SCOTUS hears arguments on California’s Prop 8 and will begin to hear arguments on the constitutionality of DOMA.

California Attorney General Kemala Harris gave an impassioned, pithy defense of marriage equality during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s hearing on whether California’s Proposition 8, which overturned the state’s marriage equality law, is itself constitutional.

Asked by CNN’s Candy Crowley to explain why she was refusing to defend the state’s proposition, Harris insisted that the measure undermined the fundamental rights of gay Americans, taking away their equal protections under the law:

I am absolutely against a ban on same-sex marriages because [bans] are simply unconstitutional. And it is one thing to read the polls, which we have discussed which show again that a majority of Americans are in favor of same sex marriage, but it is more important to read the Constitution. And the Constitution of the United States dictates, I believe, under every court precedent that we have discussed in terms of describing marriage as a fundamental right that the same-sex couples that are before the United states supreme court — Mrs. Windsor, Miss Perry — be allowed to have equal protection under the laws as any Americans when it comes to their ability to join themselves with their loving partners in marriage and raise their children. And 61% of Californians are in favor of same-sex marriage.

Harris is considered an up and comer to the national political scene.  You can follow the link above to see the interview.  We will be following the arguments closely today and will keep you updated as things happen.

So. that’s it for me this morning.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Nite Lite: Mini

Good Friday Evening!

Just a few for you tonight, I am still overwhelmed by things out of my control. Maybe I will just have a bowl of Frosted Flakes and chill out a while.

Clay Bennett: Medicaid – Clay Bennett – Truthdig

3/17 Luckovich cartoon: His Holiness | Mike Luckovich

031713-toon-luckovich-ed

102368 600 Judging By Our Priorities, Weapons Are More Important Than Schools cartoons

102368 600 Judging By Our Priorities, Weapons Are More Important Than Schools cartoons

Obama and Republicans Have Dinner – Truthdig

 

This is an open thread…


Senate turning into the Ted Cruz Show: Would you like to play a game of “Wacko Birds”?

Yes, it’s another post demonstrating that Ted Cruz thinks he knows more than everyone else.  He continues to spew lectures more appropriate for school children than adults. Cruz lectured Senator Dianne Feinstein on the Constitution.  She fired back. You can see her response to his uppity asshole comments.

Feinstein became furious at one point with Cruz, who she saw as lecturing to her about the meaning of the Constitution and why manufactured_a_communistthe framers of that document used certain language.

“I’m not a sixth-grader,” she told the freshman Tea Party favorite. “I’m not a lawyer, but after 20 years, I’ve been up close and personal to the Constitution. I have great respect for it. … It’s fine you want to lecture me on the Constitution. I appreciate it. Just know I’ve been here for a long time. I’ve passed on a number of bills. I’ve studied the Constitution myself. I am reasonably well-educated, and I thank you for the lecture.”

Cruz responded by asking Feinstein if she also thought she had the power to interpret the First Amendment by deciding what books people could read.

Feinstein said she was happy that child pornography was illegal, and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) stepped in, bringing up controversies in Cruz’s home state over the content of its textbooks.

-courtesy-benjamin-leeTed Cruz seems to be on a fast track to replacing Jim Demint as the most bombastic–and therefore least effective–idiot in the Senate.  Given he’s got some great competition in Rand Paul, that says a lot.  He’s already  garnered comparisons to McCarthy and McCarthyism already.  CPAC has declared Cruz its new American Hero and Cruz appears ready to abuse the legacy of Ronald Reagan like the rest of the delusional Republican masses.  I wonder how many pictures of Ronald Reagan grace the focal points of Republican toilet stools throughout Red State America? Astrolube to the Stars any one?

Cruz (R-Texas) was the keynote speaker at the annual Weyrich Awards dinner in downtown Washington, a gathering of conservative groups and activists. He’ll deliver the closing speech at CPAC on Saturday evening.

Upon his arrival, Cruz joked about sequestration and Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) recent suggestion that Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) are “wacko birds.”

“It is wonderful to be among friends or, as some might say, fellow wacko birds,” he said, to laughs from the crowd. “If standing for the Constitution, standing for liberty, standing for values makes one a wacko bird … then I am pleased that birds of a feather flock together.”

Cruz, a Tea Party favorite who rode grassroots enthusiasm to defeat establishment Republican candidate David Dewhurst in a runoff last summer, has been a star of the conservative movement since he took office in January. Cruz spoke for 40 minutes and received multiple standing ovations from the crowd of a few hundred people.

 Cruz has his own concept of why Republicans lose elections these days.  They’re simply not good enough at lecturing people about their own interests, I guess.

Cruz said that in order to “win the argument” against Democrats, two key words should be “tattooed on every [Republican’s] hand”: “growth” and “opportunity.”

If Republicans can stress those two ideas instead of focusing on cuts and negative ideas, he said, they’ll be able to convince the American people that Republicans are actually the party that’s best for struggling Americans.

“One of the most painful things about being a conservative is how many elected Republicans do not understand that our policies work — and they work especially for those struggling to climb the economic ladder,” he said. “We’re not going to win the argument unless we understand that our ideas work.”

This concept is one that President Ronald Reagan understood, he said.

“President Reagan didn’t have to agonize over a speech about how to convey that because he lived it. He understood this is who we are as Americans and every one of us in this room understands that also.”

It’s a little early in his career to get a good handle on how far this particular “wacko bird” can go but I have a feeling that-unlike Demint–his type of crazy is powered by a few more braincells than your usual neoconfederate revivalist.  Get ready to embrace that old timey plantation religion.