Monday Reads

Tea by Fireplace dreamstime_14660067Good Morning!

So, I’m so ready for this week to be over and it’s barely started.  I need to hit the hardware store and get a new pair of shoes.   National Crass Consumerism Day makes any trip anywhere completely unpleasant so I’m tapping my toes and fingers and happy to be headed towards Carnival Season.

The great divide and debate on the role of assault weapons and military grade ammo clips continued to run amok this week on Dancing Dave’s Disco and Ammo show yesterday.  The NRA’s Chief Gun Nut still insists that armed patrols and teachers is the way to go rather than the way the rest of the civilized world has toned down it’s mass murder massacre numbers.  Disco Dave waved around an ammo clip as  LaPierre begged for more people to call him crazy.  So, I’ll oblige.   LaPierre is crazy and whoever had Diane Fienstein’s name in the drinking game spent the rest of the day drinking it all off.

“I know there’s a media machine in this country that wants to blame guns every time something happens, I know there’s an anti-Second Amendment industry in this country,” LaPierre shot back. “I’m telling you what I think will make people safe.”

The NBC moderator then confronted LaPierre with several newspaper reactions to the press conference, headlines which called LaPierre “crazy” and a “gun nut.” The NRA CEO was unfazed: “If it’s crazy to call for putting armed police in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy,” he replied.

“You don’t think guns should be a part of the conversation?” Gregory pressed again.

LaPierre responded that you could do what Sen. Dianne Feinstein wishes and ban all high-capacity magazines, but “it’s not going to make any kids safer.” He also added that he got supportive emails from gun owners saying they went to bed safer knowing they had a gun at their side.

“A feeling is not a fact,” Gregory interjected. “That’s a reassurance, not evidence.”

The two then went head-to-head over LaPierre’s proposal to arm security guards in schools, noting that the policy has “failed” in the past, as in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. The NRA head claimed that the Columbine security forces were told not to go into the school, despite exchanging fire — but they waited for SWAT to show up to enter the building.

An unconvinced Gregory asked LaPierre how the program would work and how many officers he envisions on each campus. LaPierre responded that he’d prefer that police forces figure that out, because they already know how to protect politicians, the media, and office buildings.

After pressing LaPierre further on why he is unwilling to concede gun control measures as one part of the potential solution, the NRA leader responded that “you can’t legislate morality … legislation works on the law-abiding, it doesn’t work on criminals.”

“If it’s possible to reduce the loss of life, you’re willing to try [gun control]?” Gregory repeatedly asked before holding up a high-capacity magazine of ammunition. “Isn’t it possible that if we got rid of these … isn’t it just possible that we could reduce the carnage in a situation like New Haven?” Gregory pushed.

bor121219I live in a state full of gun nuts carrying concealed weapons and we are the number one state in gun deaths.  Lotta good those guns and the carry permits do us.  It scares the daylights out of me to think that any one that doesn’t have a uniform on might have a gun on them.  I do not want to get caught in the cross fire between an aspiring Rambo and some well-armed person in a psychotic break.  It makes me want to stay home and suck my thumb, frankly.

Nowadays, however, there are four states that require no permit at all to carry a gun, and 35 states have permissive “shall issue” or “right-to-carry” laws that effectively take the decision of who should carry a weapon out of law enforcement’s hands. These laws say that if an applicant meets minimal criteria — one is not having been convicted of a felony, and another is not having a severe mental illness — officials have no choice about whether to issue a permit.

Some states go even further by expressly allowing guns where they should not be. Nine states now have “carry laws” that permit guns on campuses; eight permit them in bars; five permit them in places of worship. In Utah, holders of permits can now carry concealed guns in elementary schools.

Among the arguments advanced for these irresponsible statutes is the claim that “shall issue” laws have played a major role in reducing violent crime. But the National Research Council has thoroughly discredited this argument for analytical errors. In fact, the legal scholar John Donohue III and others have found that from 1977 to 2006, “shall issue” laws increased aggravated assaults by “roughly 3 to 5 percent each year.”

The federal government could help protect the public from lax state gun laws. For starters, the Fix Gun Checks Act, proposed last year in Congress, would close gaping loopholes in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and make a huge difference in identifying many people who should be denied permits under “shall issue” laws yet slip through the state systems.

Similarly, Congress could require that states set higher standards for granting permits for concealed weapons, give local law enforcement agencies greater say in the process, and prohibit guns from public places like parks, schools and churches. It could also require record-keeping and licensing requirements in the sale of ammunition, and strengthen the enforcement capabilities of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The one thing Congress absolutely must not do is pass a law requiring all states to grant legal status to permits from others; that would undercut states that have relatively strong laws and would turn a porous system into a sieve.

A ProPublica article shows how Rove’s strategy to get Republicans elected in 2010 created the current dysfunctional Congress.  It’s also likely to keep it that way until redistricting happens.  Read how Republican Dark Money and Ed Gillespie pulled it off.

Republican strategist Karl Rove laid out the approach in a Wall Street Journal column in early 2010 headlined “He who controls redistricting can control Congress.”

The approach paid off. In 2010 state races, Republicans picked up 675 legislative seats, gaining complete control of 12 state legislatures. As a result, the GOP oversaw redrawing of lines for four times as many congressional districts as Democrats.

How did they dominate redistricting? A ProPublica investigation has found that the GOP relied on opaque nonprofits funded by dark money, supposedly nonpartisan campaign outfits, and millions in corporate donations to achieve Republican-friendly maps throughout the country. Two tobacco giants, Altria and Reynolds, each pitched in more than $1 million to the main Republican redistricting group, as did Rove’s super PAC, American Crossroads; Walmart and the pharmaceutical industry also contributed. Other donors, who gave to the nonprofits Republicans created, may never have to be disclosed.

While many observers have noted that mega-donors like Sheldon Adelson backed losing candidates, a close look at the Republicans’ effort on redistricting suggests something else: The hundreds of millions spent this year on presidential TV ads may not have hit the mark, but the relatively modest sums funneled to redistricting paid off handsomely.

Where Democrats were in control, they drew gerrymandered maps just like Republicans. They also had their own secretive redistricting funding. (Last year, we detailed how Democrats in California worked to undermine the state’s attempt at non-partisan redistricting.) But Democrats got outspent 3-to-1 and did not prioritize winning state legislatures. They also faced a Republican surge in 2010.

Exactly how the Republican effort worked has been shrouded in mystery until now. But depositions and other documents in a little-noticed lawsuit in North Carolina offer an exceptionally detailed picture of Republicans’ tactics.

Documents show that national Republican operatives, funded by dark money groups, drew the crucial lines which packed as many Democrats as possible into three congressional districts. The result: the state’s congressional delegation flipped from 7-6 Democratic to 9-4 in favor of Republicans. The combination of party operatives, cash and secrecy also existed in other states, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan.

Redistricting is supposed to protect the fundamental principle of one-person-one-vote. As demographics change, lines are shifted to make sure everyone is equally represented and to give communities a voice. In order for Republicans to win in North Carolina, they undermined the votes of Democrats, especially African-Americans. (Party leaders in North Carolina say they were simply complying with federal voting laws.)

The strategy began in the run-up to the 2010 elections. Republicans poured money into local races in North Carolina and elsewhere. It was an efficient approach. While congressional races routinely cost millions, a few thousand dollars can swing a campaign for a seat in the state legislature

The Republican effort to influence redistricting overall was spearheaded by a group called the Republican State Leadership Committee, which has existed since 2002. For most of that time, it was primarily a vehicle for donors like health care and tobacco companies to influence state legislatures, key battlegrounds for regulations that affect corporate America. Its focus changed in 2010 when Ed Gillespie, former counselor to President George W. Bush, was named chairman. His main project: redistricting.

And so now, we either live in liberal ghettos or Rovistan.

So, BB sent me this link to  Bruce Bartlett article in the FT.  His hypothesis sounds pretty close to mine and remember, he used to be a Republican too.  It’s called “How Democrat s Became Liberal Republicans”.   I also agree with his rationale.

The dirty secret is that Obama simply isn’t very liberal, nor is the Democratic Party any more. Certainly, the center of the party today is far to the right of where it was before 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected with a mission to move the party toward the right. It was widely believed by Democratic insiders that the nation had moved to the right during the Reagan era and that the Democratic Party had to do so as well or risk permanent loss of the White House.

It is only the blind hatred Republicans had for Clinton that prevented them from seeing that he governed as a moderate conservative – balancing the budget, cutting the capital gains tax, promoting free trade, and abolishing welfare, among other things. And it is only because the political spectrum has shifted to the right that Republicans cannot see to what extent Obama and his party are walking in Clinton’s footsteps.

One of the few national reporters who has made this point is the National Journal’s Major Garrett. In a December 13 column, he detailed the rightward drift of the Democratic Party on tax policy over the last 30 years.

“In ways inconceivable to Republicans of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Democrats have embraced almost all of their economic arguments about tax cuts. Back then, sizable swaths of the Democratic Party sought to protect higher tax rates for all. Many opposed President Reagan’s 1981 across-the-board tax cuts and the indexing of tax brackets for inflation. Many were skeptical of Reagan’s 1986 tax reform that consolidated 15 tax brackets into three and lowered the top marginal rate from 50 percent to 28 percent (with a “bubble rate” of 33 percent for some taxpayers). They despised the expanded child tax credit and marriage-penalty relief called for under the GOP’s Contract With America.

“Now all of that is embedded in Democratic economic theory and political strategy. The only taxes that the most progressive Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson wants to raise are those affecting couples earning more than $267,600 and individuals earning more than $213,600 (these are the 2013 indexed amounts from President Obama’s 2009 proposal of $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals). Yes, some of this increase would hit some small businesses. But that can be finessed.”

I think that a lot of the Democratic Party’s rightward drift resulted from two factors. First is the continuing decline of organized labor from 24 percent of the labor force in 1973 to less than half that percentage in 2011. And the decline among private sector workers has been even more severe.

So, there’s a few long reads to keep you busy on a wet winter day.  I’m looking forward to severe weather and tornado threats by Tuesday.  Hopefully, you’ve got a better weather outlook in your future!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?