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.
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Thursday Reads: Crazy Republicans, Nuclear Meltdowns, MLB Follies, and More

Good Morning!!

According to Politico, Republicans are escalating their game of chicken with demands they want met before they agree to raise the debt limit.

One day after being named to a presidential task force to negotiate deficit reduction, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor fired off a stark warning to Democrats that the GOP “will not grant their request for a debt limit increase” without major spending cuts or budget process reforms.

The Virginia Republican’s missive is a clear escalation in the long-running Washington spending war, with no less than the full faith and credit of the United States hanging in the balance.

Wait a minute…Obama put ERIC CANTOR on a deficit task force??!! Okay, the joke’s over. This guy cannot legitimately run on a Democratic ticket in 2012.

Cantor says he’s ready to plunge the nation into default if the GOP’s demands are not met. People close to Cantor say that he hopes to make clear that small concessions from Democrats, including President Barack Obama, will not be enough to deliver the GOP on a debt increase….

Republicans are floating a wide range of major structural reforms that could be attached to the debt limit vote, including statutory spending caps, a balanced budget amendment and a two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases and debt limit increases.

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has finally admitted that nuclear fuel in reactors 1, 2, and 3 has melted. From reading the article, it isn’t exactly clear what has happened, but I still detect efforts to minimize the damage. There’s a little more detail in an article from the Irish Times:

The head of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, Takashi Sawada, said yesterday that fuel rods in reactors 1 and 3 have melted and settled at the bottom of their containment vessels, confirming fears that the plant suffered a partial meltdown after last month’s huge earthquake and tsunami.

Engineers have been struggling since to bring four reactors under control by pouring water onto overheating nuclear fuel, and that water is highly contaminated as a result. Mr Sawada warned the condition of the plant could worsen if another strong quake knocks out power to its cooling systems.

“That would destabilise pressure and temperatures inside the reactors and the situation would become extremely unpredictable again,” he said.

The story also says that there was an aftershock yesterday centered around 25 miles from the plant.

All the news outlets are covering the BP oil gusher and the damage it has done to the Gulf, because yesterday was the anniversary of the explosion that killed 11 oil rig workers. Don’t worry, they’ll drop the subject like a hot potato in a couple of days. Here’s an article from the NYT.

Even in the worst days of the BP spill, coastal advocates were looking past the immediate emergency to what the president’s oil spill commission called “the central question from the recovery of the spill — can or should such a major pollution event steer political energy, human resources and funding into solutions for a continuing systemic tragedy?”

That tragedy is the ill and declining health of the Gulf of Mexico, including the enormous dead zone off the mouth of the Mississippi and the alarmingly rapid disappearance of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, roughly 2,000 square miles smaller than they were 80 years ago. Few here would take issue with the commission’s question, but the answer to it is far from resolved.

Eclipsed by the spill’s uncertain environmental impact is the other fallout: the vast sums in penalties and fines BP will have to pay to the federal government. In addition to criminal fines and restitution, BP is facing civil liabilities that fall roughly into two categories: Clean Water Act penalties and claims from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, whereby state and federal agencies tally the damage caused by the spill and put a price tag on it. This could add up to billions, perhaps tens of billions, of dollars.

Awwww, gee. Poor BP. It sounds like the writer feels sorry for them.

In Wisconsin, JoAnne Kloppenburg has asked for a recount in the race for the state supreme court.

JoAnne Kloppenburg arrived at the state Government Accountability Board’s office in Madison barely an hour before the 5 p.m. local time deadline by which she had to ask for a recount or concede defeat. According to the vote count finalized by the state last week, she trails Justice David Prosser by 7,316 votes out of nearly 1.5 million cast in the April 5 election.

“Today, my campaign is asking the Government Accountability Board to conduct a statewide recount,” Kloppenburg said at a news conference. The announcement was met with applause and cheers of “thank you.” She’s requesting the recount “in part to determine what the proper outcome of the election will be and to ensure that elections form this point forward will be fair.

“I do not make this decision lightly … I have weighed the options and I have considered the facts,” Kloppenburg, currently an assistant state attorney general, said. The tight margin — small enough to trigger a provision allowing the state to pay for the recount process — means that “the importance of every vote is magnified and doubts about every vote are magnified as well,” she said.

And in silly Republican news, eight Wisconsin doctorswho wrote excuses for protesting teachers are being investigated.

The state Department of Regulation and Licensing and the Medical Examining Board said Wednesday that they had opened investigations into eight individuals who allegedly wrote doctor excuse notes for protesters at the state Capitol during rallies in February.

Last month, the Department of Regulation and Licensing said it had identified 11 people who may have provided the medical excuses, and it asked them to submit information about their activities at the Capitol.

Three members of the Medical Examining Board reviewed the information and decided to open investigations on eight of the 11, according to a department news release.

The eight being investigated are all licensed physicians, department spokesman David Carlson said.

Are Wisconsin taxpayers going to have to pay for this silliness? How ridiculous.

As a Kindle owner, I’m excited about this news. Amazon’s Kindle Will Offer E-Books From Libraries

Bookworms who own Amazon.com Inc.’s popular Kindle electronic reader will finally be able to borrow digital books from public libraries….

The move is likely to have major repercussions for public libraries and the digital-reading market generally, since Amazon currently dominates the e-book industry and its actions in the space are closely watched. There are an estimated 7.5 million Kindles in the U.S., which gives Amazon a two-thirds share of the $1 billion digital-book market, said Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey.

Many major public libraries, including those in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, offer free digital-book lending. A physical trip to the library isn’t required. Instead, library-card holders can download books from library websites. Each library sets its own digital-book lending policy, but typical lending periods are 14 or 21 days.

Major League Baseball has seized the LA Dodgers and will now control day-to-day operations for the team. Owner Frank McCourt is having financial problems.

The move was prompted by a number of issues surrounding the Dodgers, including owner Frank McCourt’s recent receipt of $30-million personal loan to meet payroll and the parking-lot attack at Dodger Stadium on March 31 that left a San Francisco Giants fan in a coma, according to a league source.

“This has been like watching a soap opera unfold,” said Gary Toebben, the president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. “We want a financially solvent Dodgers. We want a winning team.”

The league will now have approval rights over every significant expenditure by the team, including a trade or contract extension. This will likely put the franchise on the path to being sold.

The commissioner’s move adds to the turmoil surrounding a team already embroiled in divorce proceedings between McCourt and his wife, Jamie, who is seeking joint ownership.

McCourt tried to buy the Red Sox back when the the former owner died. Thank goodness he didn’t succeed in buying the team–they probably never would have beat the curse and won the World Series twice.

Some nutty right wing talk show host says the Bible forbids net neutrality.

The idea that all Internet traffic should be treated equally is against the teachings of the Bible and America’s Founding Fathers, according to evangelical Christian minister and political activist David Barton.

During his radio show on Tuesday, he said that net neutrality violated the Biblical principle of free markets, a principle upheld by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.

“That is part of the reason we have prosperity,” Barton said. “This is what the Pilgrims brought in, the Puritans brought in, this is free market mentality. Net neutrality sounds really good, but it is socialism on the Internet.”

“This is really, I’m going to use the word wicked stuff, and I don’t use that word very often, but this is wicked stuff,” he added.

Well that settles it then!

Monday was the 40th anniversary of Charles Manson’s conviction, so some media types decided to give him an opportunity to spout a bunch on nonsense. Manson’s new lawyer has asked the president to let the maniac out of prison, but Manson ruined his chances by giving his honest opinion of Obama.

Manson, 76, called Obama foolish in reference to Wall Street, saying he considered the president “a slave of Wall Street.”

“He doesn’t realize what they are doing. They are playing with him,” he said, according to the magazine.

Bla, bla, bla … so what else is new?


That’s about it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?