Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Deal So Far

According to the Associated Press, the Biden-McConnell talks have yielded a deal:

The contours of a deal to avert the ‘fiscal cliff’ emerged Monday, with Democrats and Republicans agreeing to raise tax rates on couples making over $450,000 a year, increase the estate tax rate and extend unemployment benefits for one year, officials familiar with the negotiations said.

But with a midnight deadline rapidly approaching, both sides were at an impasse over how to handle automatic, across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect on Jan. 1. Democrats want to put off the cuts for one year and offset the so-called sequester with unspecified revenue.

The deal in the works would return tax rates on families making over $450,000 to 39.6 percent, the same level as under former President Bill Clinton. The agreement would also raise tax on estates worth more than $5 million from 35 percent to 40 percent.

How We Got Here Re: Fiscal Cliff

Ezra Klein says:

Today’s Republican Party thinks the key problem America faces is out-of-control entitlement spending. But cutting entitlement spending is unpopular and the GOP’s coalition relies heavily on seniors. And so they don’t want to propose entitlement cuts. If possible, they’d even like to attack President Obama for proposing entitlement cuts. But they also want to see entitlements cut and will refuse to solve the fiscal cliff or raise the debt ceiling unless there are entitlement cuts.

You can see why these negotiations aren’t going well.

2013 Dead Pool

Link to 2012 Dead Pool

Link to 2011 Dead Pool

As I explained last year around this time, there are two "dead pool" lists.  One is just a random list of people who I think will pass in the upcoming year. The other is a competitive list where you pick ten (and only ten) people-to-die, and you score your points by subtracting their age-at-death from 100.  For example, Amy Winehouse was in my 2011 Dead Pool list, and she indeed did die that year.  Since she was 27, I received 73 points (100 minus 27).

So, let's see how I did with my 2012 Dead Pool(s).

First, the generic list of people I thought might die:

  • Zsa-Zsa Gabor – still alive
  • Olivia de Havilland – still alive
  • Billy Graham – still alive
  • Eli Wallach – still alive
  • Stan Musial – still alive
  • Al Jarreau – still alive
  • Norman Lear - still alive
  • Jean Stapleton - still alive
  • Yogi Berra - still alive
  • Lauren Becall - still alive
  • Jack Klugman – died December 24, 2012
  • Mickey Rooney - still alive
  • Fidel Castro - still alive
  • Ernest Borgnine – died July 8, 2012
  • Pete Seeger - still alive
  • Nanette Fabray - still alive
  • Monty Hall - still alive
  • Sid Caesar - still alive
  • Rose Marie - still alive
  • Jerry Lewis - still alive

All told, I did VERY badly this year.  And even worse for my Competitive Dead Pool list:

  1. Eli Wallach (born 12/07/1915)
  2. Zsa Zsa Gabor (born 2/06/1917)
  3. Billy Graham (born 11/7/1918)
  4. Margaret Thatcher (born 10/13/1925)
  5. James Garner (born 4/7/1928)
  6. Dick Cheney (born 1/30/1941)
  7. Penny Marshall (born 10/15/1942)
  8. Robin Gibb (born 12/22/1949)
  9. George Michael (born 6/25/1963)
  10. Charlie Sheen (born 9/3/1965)

The only one who died there?  Robin Gibb, on May 20, 2012, at the age of 62.  

Final score: 38 points.

That's terrible, especially compared to last year's 113 points.

And now onto my 2013 guesses.  For my general list, I'm just going to keep what I had, minus a couple of names:

  • Zsa-Zsa Gabor
  • Olivia de Havilland
  • Billy Graham
  • Eli Wallach
  • Stan Musial
  • Norman Lear
  • Jean Stapleton
  • Yogi Berra
  • Lauren Becall
  • Mickey Rooney
  • Fidel Castro
  • Pete Seeger
  • Nanette Fabray
  • Sid Caesar
  • Rose Marie

And for my competitive list, I'm going to play it safe.  No "Charlie Sheen" longshots:

  1. Eli Wallach (born 12/07/1915)
  2. Zsa Zsa Gabor (born 2/06/1917)
  3. Billy Graham (born 11/7/1918)
  4. George Bush (born 6/12/1924)
  5. Margaret Thatcher (born 10/13/1925)
  6. Fidel Castro (born 8/13/1926)
  7. John McLaughlin (born 3/29/1927)
  8. James Garner (born 4/7/1928)
  9. Dick Cheney (born 1/30/1941)
  10. Stephen Hawking (born 1/8/1942)

Gerard Depardieu came soooo close to getting on this year….

Bills Blocked By Republicans in 2012

1. A minimum wage increase.

House Democrats proposed legislation in June that would have raised the national minimum wage to $10 an hour, but Republicans blocked it. The minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, even though it would need to be raised to $9.92 to match the borrowing power it had in 1968. If it was indexed to inflation, it would be $10.40 today.

2. Campaign finance transparency.

The DISCLOSE Act of 2012, repeatedly blocked by Congressional Republicans, would have allowed voters to know who was funding the attack ads that flooded the airways from secretive groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS.

3. The Buffett Rule.

Senate Republicans in April filibustered the Buffet Rule, which would have set a minimum tax on millionaires. Huge majorities of Americans consistently support the rule, which would raisetens of billions of dollars per year from Americans who have seen their incomes explode while their tax rates plummeted.

4. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

ENDA, which would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, has languished in Congress for decades, and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) “hasn’t thought much” about bringing it to a vote.

5. U.N. treaty to protect the equal rights of the disabled.

Republicans blocked ratification of the United Nations treaty to protect the rights of disabled people around the world, falsely claiming it would undermine parents of disabled children. In fact, the treaty would require other nations to revise their laws to resemble the Americans With Disabilities Act and had overwhelming support from veterans and disabilities groups. It failed by 5 votes.

6. The Paycheck Fairness Act.

It’s about to be 2013, and women are still getting paid less than men for the same job. This year the Paycheck Fairness Act came up for a vote again (previous efforts to pass the law have been unsuccessful), but the Senate GOP still couldn’t get it together to pass the legislation. Republicans oppose the measure, saying it helps trial lawyers instead of women. But the country’s female doctors, lawyers, and CEOs might be inclined to disagree.

You Don’t Need A Gun (Unless You Have Gun Fantasies)

I'm not here to convince you that we need gun control, because over the next few months there are going to be huge choruses of people calling for that. Instead I'm here to convince you — meaning you personally — that you don't need a gun. You won't even really want a gun if you spend some time on the facts.

Though you might have various reasons for wanting a firearm, those rationalizations do not measure up against the cold facts or the questions I'm going to pose below if you spend some time to really think about them.

As this post points out, if you create another gun scare then you sell more guns. This makes Wayne Lapierre the biggest industry gun pimp in the US, because he's now created another run on AR's. It's basic human psych 101 – you can create demand by falsely amplifying fears while at the same time creating a sense of scarcity or depletion of the item you are selling.

More Guns sold through irrational fears of President Obama

 

There are a few questions underneath these sales that everyone with a firearm or who might be considering a firearm purchase really needs to ask themselves that I will get to in bit. First however I've got to be master of the obvious.

The US has about 83-87 firearm deaths on average every single day if you look back a decade to present. There are between 8-11,000 homicides with firearms every year, but there are about double that number of people ending their own lives through firearm suicide.

Besides the 8-11,000 homicides every year (on average about 31 per day in 2009) Two Thirds of all firearm deaths are suicides (18,735 in 2009, or an average of 51 per day.) People killing themselves with their own firearms or borrowed firearms comprise 6 out of every 10 suicides in this country, or about triple the number for suicide by suffocation (the category that slicing arteries open falls under.)

Whether you are a firearm owner, or are a prospective buyer these homicide and suicide death stats are ones you need to think long and hard about. Chances are pretty good that you know someone who is either depressed, mentally unstable, a substance abuser, or who is just going through a very rough time — even if it's not you that I am describing.

If those people end their lives with your rifle or handgun how are you going to feel? If they borrow or steal your assault rifle (and most mass killing are committed with legally obtained weapons or borrowed legal guns,) and end up putting several bullets each into a large group of people or students like the Newton massacre, how's that going to affect you?

What are the real chances of you having to use your gun in self defense?

What are the chances of really needing an AR because of societal collapse?

Both of those chances are much less than you might think, and the chances of homicide, suicide, and accidental deaths from firearms are much greater than the average person realizes. Right now they are tracking almost even with automobile deaths, and we all know someone who has died in a car wreck.

If you are older than 20 chances are pretty good that you can name several people who you knew or were acquainted with growing up who are now dead from firearms. Chances are slim that you can name a real person that you know who's driven off a zombie attack, blue helmets, or even a home burglary with a firearm.

Please think before you buy, there are better things you could use that money for, and if you own a firearm please do the sane, rational thing and consider removing it from circulation. Don't do it for political reasons, do it because you care, do it because you care about yourself, your family, your friends, and your fellow citizens. I'm really writing this for my friends and family who are still in Alaska - where they lead the pack in firearm deaths per capita.

If Black Friday shopping trends are any indication, the gift of cold, hard steel will be more popular than ever this holiday season. According to USA Today, on that day dealers called the FBI with a total of 154,873 background check requests for shoppers seeking to buy firearms. That's 20 percent more than last year's record of 129,166 calls in one day. Sixty-two percent of the Black Friday requests were for long guns like shotguns or rifles, such as the Bushmaster .223 reportedly used by the suspect in today's shooting in Newtown, Connecticut (a state where you don't need a permit to carry a rifle).

The FBI doesn't keep track of guns sold–only the background requests it fields–but that number is almost certainly higher than the number of calls received, given that consumers can buy more than one firearm per request. Overall, background requests have jumped 32 percent since 2008 (PDF). As Bloomberg Businessweek pointed out, gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson reported a record number of sales for their last quarter, up nearly 50 percent from the year before. The rise in gun sales doesn't necessarily mean that there are more first-time gun owners, though: A CNN investigation in July showed that fewer people own more and more weapons. 

[Link: www.cdc.gov…][Link: www.cdc.gov…][Link: www.vpc.org…]

and:
http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/10/929.full

Data from a US mortality follow-back survey were analyzed to determine whether having a firearm in the home increases the risk of a violent death in the home and whether risk varies by storage practice, type of gun, or number of guns in the home. Those persons with guns in the home were at greater risk than those without guns in the home of dying from a homicide in the home (adjusted odds ratio = 1.9, 95% confidence interval: 1.1, 3.4). They were also at greater risk of dying from a firearm homicide, but risk varied by age and whether the person was living with others at the time of death. The risk of dying from a suicide in the home was greater for males in homes with guns than for males without guns in the home (adjusted odds ratio = 10.4, 95% confidence interval: 5.8, 18.9). Persons with guns in the home were also more likely to have died from suicide committed with a firearm than from one committed by using a different method (adjusted odds ratio = 31.1, 95% confidence interval: 19.5, 49.6). Results show that regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home.

The Fiscal Cliff Is Like Y2K

I just want to congratulate Ryan Grim for writing the story that should be on the front page of every newspaper in the country but isn't:

On Jan. 1, 2000, the world awoke to find that little had changed since the night before. After years of hype around what was then called Y2K — the fear that computer systems across the globe would collapse, unable to handle the year shifting from '99 to '00 — the date change turned out to be a momentous non-event.

Next week, the United States is in for much the same, after months of frantic hype about the economic disruption that awaits if Congress and the president fail to reach a deal and the federal government goes "over the fiscal cliff."

The so-called fiscal cliff is a combination of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1. But the agencies responsible for implementing those changes, including the IRS and the Pentagon, are well aware that congressional and White House negotiators will most likely come to some sort of deal within weeks or months — and so they are planning to carry on as usual, according to a broad review of private and public government plans.

In other words, there will be no cliff. There won't even be a slope. Congress and the president can have their public and private dramas, but the government officials responsible for carrying out their eventual orders have seen this movie before, and they know how it ends.

He goes on to write about a number of agencies who have sent out memos saying they -plan to do … nothing.

Much like government workers, for the vast majority of the population, life on the other side of the cliff will be no different than life on this side. Those most likely to get hit, however, are the jobless, who would see unemployment benefits cut off. (They would be eligible for back benefits once a deal is cut.)

The most substantial fiscal cliff pain, then, will likely be felt by House Republicans. Indiana Rep. Dan Burton, a strongly conservative Republican, laid out on Thursday what has increasingly become conventional wisdom across party lines.

"If we go over the fiscal cliff, the president just comes back and says, 'Okay, we're going to give tax cuts to everybody under $250,000.' Who's going to vote against that? Everybody'll vote for that. Everybody," Burton told reporters in the Capitol. "Because it will be just a fait accompli. You won't be voting on whether you're going to do away with a tax cut, you're going to be reimposing tax cuts for everybody under $250,000. So the Republicans are in an untenable situation."

I'll be glad when this kabuki theater is over.

The Dick Armey Coup At Teabag Central

WTF?

The day after Labor Day, just as campaign season was entering its final frenzy, FreedomWorks, the Washington-based tea party organization, went into free fall.

Richard K. Armey, the group’s chairman and a former House majority leader, walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks’ top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.

The coup lasted all of six days. By Sept. 10, Armey was gone — with a promise of $8 million — and the five ousted employees were back. The force behind their return was Richard J. Stephenson, a reclusive Illinois millionaire who has exerted increasing control over one of Washington’s most influential conservative grass-roots organizations.

Stephenson, the founder of the for-profit Cancer Treatment Centers of America and a director on the FreedomWorks board, agreed to commit $400,000 per year over 20 years in exchange for Armey’s agreement to leave the group.

The episode illustrates the growing role of wealthy donors in swaying the direction of FreedomWorks and other political groups, which increasingly rely on unlimited contributions from corporations and financiers for their financial livelihood. Such gifts are often sent through corporate shells or nonprofit groups that do not have to disclose their donors, making it impossible for the public to know who is funding them.

In the weeks before the election, more than $12 million in donations was funneled through two Tennessee corporations to the FreedomWorks super PAC after negotiations with Stephenson over a preelection gift of the same size, according to three current and former employees with knowledge of the arrangement. The origin of the money has not previously been reported.

Read the whole article, it's just delicious. 

My Stop In Newtown

On the way home for Christmas (in New Hampshire), my long drive took me past Newtown, Connecticut, site of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre.  I didn't attempt to go to the school, knowing that it would still be roped off as a crime scene.  It was Friday, exactly one week from the shootings.  But I stopped on Main Street, a humble road about a mile or so, dotted with the town hall, a general store, and a busy funeral home.  Yes, there was a service going on.

There were makeshift memorials everywhere.  Flowers, teddy bears, you name it.  A woman stopped me, thinking I was a "local", and asked where she could find someone associated with the school system (she had brought artwork from her students).  I told her I didn't know, and before I could say I wasn't a local townsperson, she gave me a hug.  There were a lot of hugs that day.  Also a lot of cameras, although most of the network news vans had all left — just local news vans from Boston to NYC.

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I parked behind the town hall (pictured above).  In the parking lot, there were several portable storage containers, containing toys sent from other towns around the country.

Below, you cam see policemen and firemen forming a line, as they pass the toys into the sub-basement of town hall.

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On the doors to the town hall, there was a sign indicating that a counselling session was in progress.

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Everywhere were flowers and memorials, covered by tarps to protect from the rain.

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I stayed for about an hour.  As I left, I passed the St. Rose of Lima Church, where a service was taking place (Obama had spoken there only days before).  Across the street, about 60 television cameras were lined up to film the proceedings (which were happening inside at that moment), with cameramen and newspersons quietly talking and smoking cigarettes.

I took a wrong turn and passed by the theater for the Town Player of Newtown, a small black box theater where The Underpants had been playing earlier this month.

I then stopped for gas and a bite at La Paneta on the outskirts of town.  La Paneta was apparently a popular spot with the teens, who were getting out of school that day, and were all wearing the same T-shirt — something about "peace" and "We Are Newtown".  And they were smiling and laughing as teenagers do, and thinking about the upcoming holidays.  And all around in that strip mall, there were Christmas shoppers.  It could have been anywhere, USA.  Guess life does go on.

Didn’t Want Those Grapes Anyway

This article in the Boston Globe is a good wrap-up summary of the very basic ways in which the Romney campaign went so wrong… and the Obama campaign worked so well. Key paragraph informs us that Romney wasn't that into being President anyway.

More than being reticent, Romney was at first far from sold on a second presidential run. Haunted by his 2008 loss, he initially told his family he would not do it. While candidates often try to portray themselves as reluctant, Tagg insisted his father’s stance was genuine.

“He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to . . . run,” said Tagg, who worked with his mother, Ann, to persuade his father to seek the presidency. “If he could have found someone else to take his place . . . he would have been ecstatic to step aside. He is a very private person who loves his family deeply and wants to be with them, but he has deep faith in God and he loves his country, but he doesn’t love the attention.”…

Yeah.  He realized that he might actually have to work, and he wouldn't be surrounded by yes-men.

RT @tbogg: “When all you have is a gun, everything looks like a target” best describes Wayne LaPierre’s performance on Friday. #NRA

NRA press conference: turn schools into armed fortresses. #imaythrowup

Homeland, Season Two: A Review

Yeah.  Spoliers, probably.

The writers of Showtime's Homeland had a hit on their hands with Season One.  It was a unique show with clever plot twists and great acting.  And the question was: how do you follow up a hit season like that?

Well, having watched Season Two of Homeland, I have the answer: you don't.

Season Two had a real plausibility problem.  Yes, I know, I know.  The whole show is implausible in a way.  But here's the difference — in Season One, when the plot would veer to some dark and unforeseen corner, we went with it.  In Season Two, when the plot (or some odd subplot) emerged, we kind of went, "Really? Um… okay… I guess."

It started pretty early in Season Two, in Episode 2.  We see the CIA plan a hit on the arch-nemesis of Season One, Abu Nazir.  And Brody, still loyal to Nazir, is sitting in a CIA office with the Vice President and a bunch of other high-ranking people, watching it unfold on various television monitors.  How does Brody save the day?  He sends a text to Nazir.  And sure enough, Nazir lives another day (although several of his henchmen meet their maker).

Really?  Um… okay… I guess.

Then, in Episode 3, Nazir gives Brody an assignment — to go get the guy in Gettysburg who made the bomb vest, and take him to a safe house before the CIA can swoop in on him.

Brody?  Isn't there anyone else who can do this?  Why would Nazir ask a Congressman to do this rather menial task?

Really? Um… okay… I guess.

Episode 4 had an unconvincing moment as well.  Carrie is talking to Brody in a bar — it's a set-up; she's trying to get information from him.  In the course of the conversation, he asks her about electro-shock therapy, and she breaks down.  Afterwards, she calls the CIA (who have been watching this on the hidden cam monitors) and says that her breakdown with Brody revealed to him that she was lying about everything. "He's on to us", she insists.  (And of course, she's right). 

But how was Brody able to tell that he was being set-up merely because Carrie reacted emotionally when talking about her electro-shock?  I'm not sure what one thing has to do with the other, but…

Really? Um… okay… I guess.

Episode 5 was the course-changing plot of the entire series.  Under questioning by the CIA, Brody confesses.  He confesses everything.  EVen though he had been tortured for 8 years by al Qaeda, all it took was a stab in the hand, and Carrie's battering eyes, and he caves.

Really?  Really?  Um… okay.

And then we're treated for the rest of the series to silly subplots — e.g., the Vice President's son and Dana, Brody's daughter, get invovled in a hit-and-run, which, in the end, doesn't do much but give actress Morgan Saylor, a lot to do.

But gone are the moments where we are left in doubt as to where Brody stands.  After Episode 5, we know where he stands, and it's not as much fun.

And even toward the end… are we supposed to believe that the big bad NSA assassin refuses to kill Brody, simply because he saw how happy Brody and Carrie were at the cabin?  What kind of a pussy assassin is that?  They spent episode after episode making this guy to mean real business, and then he can't carry out his assignment?  Because his heart is softened by seeing love???

Fortunately, the Season Two finale cleanses most of Season Two, kills off many secondary charactors, and puts the show in a whole new light.  It's really a different show now, or has the potential to be.  We probably won't see much of Brody's family anymore (since he's left them for Carrie).  In fact, we may not even see much of Brody.  And it looks like Saul — still the best thing about the show — is running the CIA, given that the CIA ranks thinned out considerably.

The big baddies, Vice President Walden and Abu Nazir are gone.  Now, the show has become The Fugitive with Brody on the run for a crime he didn't commit, and Carrie being the only one who can prove his innocence.  It's a better plot-line that Season Two, and hopefully it will take some twists.

And F. Murray Abraham, too.  A star that big doesn't get on a series for five minutes in the 10th episode.

What they do with it is anybody's guess.  But hopefully, it won't be the Brody-Carrie mughy love story again.

Not The Answer

A sixth-grader in Kearns, Utah brought an unloaded handgun to his elementary school on Monday, reportedly at the urging of his parents.

According to the local Fox affiliate, the 11 year-old told his fellow students he was encouraged by his parents to bring the gun to school “for protection” following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday. Police are currently determining what role the parents had in the student’s actions, but the school acted quickly to disarm the boy after learning he had the firearm on school grounds:

The boy reportedly pulled the gun, a .22-caliber pistol, out of his backpack during recess Monday morning.

“At recess, he pointed a gun to my head and said he was going to kill me,” said Isabel Rios, one of the boy’s fellow 6th grade students.

Granite School District officials say students didn’t notify teachers about the weapon until 3 p.m.

Far-right advocates of looser gun restrictions have been advocating since Friday for more guns in schools to prevent tragedies like the one that occurred in Newtown.

Corporate America Disassociating Itself From Guns (A Little Bit)

In response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, major businesses are rethinking their relationships to firearms. As the bodies of the 26 dead are lowered into the ground this week, three companies have announced they’ll break from the sale or association with the lethal weapon that took their lives.

Here are the companies that are reassessing guns in the wake of the tragedy:

Walmart takes the Bushmaster off its website. The gunman at Sandy Hook used a military-style Bushmaster gun in the assault. Authorities have not disclosed the model of weapon, but Walmart — one of the largest companies in the world — pulled the Bushmaster Patrolman’s Carbine M4A3 Rifle from its website on Monday without releasing any statement on the decision. Walmart is one of the biggest ammunition and gun sellers in the country, and has been profiting off — and encouraging — growing gun sales in recent years

Dick’s stops selling some semi-automatic weapons. Not only has sporting goods store Dick’s removed all guns from its stores around Newtown, Connecticut, but, in a much larger step, it has also stopped selling certain semi-automatic rifles at all of its stores across the country and on its website. The company made a public statement about the move, saying it was meant as a sign of respect “during this time of national mourning,” but it is also worth noting that some reports show the gunman tried to purchase a weapon at a Dick’s store last week.

Cerberus Capital Management will divest from Bushmaster. The private equity company that owns the maker of Bushmaster said it’s selling off its investment in the company and returning any profit to investors. In a statement, Cerberus Capital Management was forthright about its decision, saying, “It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level….It is not our role to take positions, or attempt to shape or influence the gun control policy debate. That is the job of our federal and state legislators. There are, however, actions that we as a firm can take.”

RIP Daniel Inuoye

Dave Weigel, at Slate:

Tonight, for the first time, the state of Hawaii is not represented by Daniel Inuoye. The 88-year old senator entered politics in the 1950s, joining the territorial legislature, and waiting for statehood. When Hawaii became the 50th state, Inuoye ran for, and won, its sole seat in Congress. He was representing the state when a kid named Barack Hussein Obama II was born.

But these are among the least interesting details about Inuoye. At age 17, he was a medical volunteer at Pearl Harbor. At 19, he joined the army…

 

Who Is John Lott?

When the Ol' Perfessor aka Glenn Reynolds aka "Instapundit" wrote an op-ed for USA Today (aka McNewspaper) about how we should get rid of gun-free zones, his first witness was author William Burroughs, whose weaponry expertise is limited to shooting his wife in the forehead while drunk.  

Pointing

His second witness was gun "expert" John Lott.  If you watch the 24 hour news channels, Lott is on a lot these days.  He's hawking his book, More Guns, Less Crime, which — as you can imagine — is a favorite of conservatives.  But here's all you need to know about John Lott: he's the Dick Morris of gun control statistics.  He's basically an academic fraud.

Here he is sparring with Soledad:

 

Five States Where It Is Harder To Get An Abortion Than It Is To Get A Gun

1) ARIZONA: When it comes to gun regulations and restrictions, Arizona is one of the most lenient states in the country. In fact, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hired undercover agents last year to demonstrate just how easy it is to purchase firearms in Arizona without being subjected to a background check. But Arizona also passed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country, requiring women seeking abortions to undergo a 24-hour waiting period, an in-person “counseling session,” and a mandatory ultrasound. The Arizona government also recently launched a misleading website dedicated to educating women about the dangerous decision to have an abortion, even though it is a safe medical procedure.

2) MISSOURI: After state lawmakers loosened regulations for purchasing firearms in 2007, there is no longer any waiting period for gun ownership in Missouri. There’s also no limit to the number of firearms that residents can purchase at one time, and gun owners don’t have to obtain a license or register their firearms. On the other hand, women seeking abortions in Missouri have several hurdles to overcome. Women are required to wait 24 hours before they can have an abortion, make an additional visit to the clinic to receive “in-person counseling,” and confirm that they have not been coerced into the procedure. And if Missouri lawmakers have their way, it could soon be more difficult for women to obtain affordable contraception than it is for them to obtain a gun.

3) MISSISSIPPI: There’s no license or permit required to purchase a firearm in Mississippi. The state also doesn’t require any kind of firearm safety training as a prerequisite to buying or carrying a gun, and does not require handguns to meet safety standards. But while lawmakers in Mississippi may not be particularly concerned about gun safety legislation, they are worried about women’s health clinics. After state legislators passed a restrictive regulation to hold abortion clinics to unnecessary standards — an indirect method of limiting women’s reproductive freedom by targeting abortion providers — the state’s clinics were forced to stop performing the medical procedure. There’s only one abortion clinic left in the entire state of Mississippi, and it may beforced to close in January.

4) TEXAS: Texas does not require a waiting period to buy guns, but it does impose a 24-hour waiting period on women who seek abortions. Texans also don’t need a license or registration for their firearm — but women who are looking for health services rather than a gun could be out of luck, since Texas legislators have been on a crusade to defund the women’s health organizations that provide abortion services. Preventing low-income women from having access to health servicesat clinics that also perform abortions isn’t enough for Texas Republicans, though — they also want to prevent doctors from even talking about abortion with their patients, although discussing guns would probably be considered fair game.

5) UTAH: Utah imposes one of the harshest restrictions on women who seek abortions, requiring them to wait a full 72 hours before undergoing the procedure. The same isn’t true for purchasing guns, since there’s no waiting period whatsoever for buying a firearm. Utah lawmakers may hope that women end up changing their mind about getting abortion if they’re required to wait several days and attend an in-person “counseling session,” but studies have shown that imposing those hurdles don’t actually impact women’s decisions. On the other hand, there’s evidence to suggest that imposing waiting periods for gun ownership can be an effective safeguard mechanism to provide enough time for background checks to go through, as well as allow for a “cooling off period” in the cases where an emotional altercation may have encouraged one of the participants to obtain a weapon.

Kudos

Sen. Joe Manchin, NRA stalwart, stating the obvious:

"I just came with my family from deer hunting," Manchin said on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe." "I’ve never had more than three shells in a clip. Sometimes you don’t get more than one shot anyway at a deer. It’s common sense. It’s time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a common sense discussion and move in a reasonable way."

Well, that's a start.

UPDATE:  Joe Scarborough, an NRA supporter when he was in Congress, has had a change of heart as well.

To The Editors of The New Republic

So, basically,what you're saying here is that mass killings of children is the price we pay for the "benevolent protection of the Second Amendment".

I disagree.  And I think there is much we can do without running afoul of the Second Amendment.  But if you're really going to draw a line in the sand, you've got a fight coming.  And you'll lose.  We can overturn the Second Amendment.  Maybe not in my lifetime, but someday.

Reflections On Newtown

As last Friday's horrible events sink in, and get incorporated into the longer string of horribles that this nation must endure, I share the following disjointed thoughts:

1.  Mike Huckabee is a douchebag.

Mike Huckabee on Fox News (of course), saying that we shouldn't be surprised that "schools become a place of carnage" when we have "systematically removed God from our schools": 

HUCKABEE: Well, you know, it's an interesting thing. We ask why there is violence in our schools but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we've made it a place where we don't want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability – that we're not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know, a holy God in judgment. 

Listen, Mike.  The Newtown tragedy can serve as a launching point for many important discussions, and hopefully, we can pull some "good" from this, if only by enacting policies to prevent future Newtowns.

But guess what isn't on the agenda, Mike?

School prayer.

Your comment that this didn't happen when prayer was allowed in schools is the height of douchebaggery.  What exactly are you saying?  We kicked God out of schools, so the omnipotent all-knowing all-seeing God wasn't there?  He was punishing us?

Seriously.  Fuck you.

First of all, I wouldn't be so sure that prayer wasn't happening, as teachers were crouched in the closets with students.

Secondly, if your invisible sky wizard didn't show up to protect these kids, it's because your invisible sky wizard doesn't exist.

Yeah, I went there.

The Christian God is a myth.  I mean that literally.  He is a mythology created by early man, based on — indeed, stolen from — earlier mythologies.  The Christian God has survived all other myths merely because Europeans have decimated, conquered and/or enslaved other cultures, each with their own deity, which is why you don't worship a Mayan God.  God wasn't there because God doesn't exist, Mike.  Deal with it.

I say that not to show disrespect for faith.  I have no problem with anyone who chooses to believe in God.  That faith brings comfort and healing.  And groups of people, combined in their faith, bring much good upon the world through their charitable deeds.  So I'm down with all that. 

But please, let's not make this about how we have failed to properly show reverance to Adult Santa Clause.  It's disprespectful to those who lost their lives, and you're a douch, Mike Huckabee, for turning this tragedy into a call for school prayer.

2.  Obama's Finest Hour?

This was a great speech.  He spend the first half of it explaining, cogently, how we all are parents of the children we raise.  It wasn't a far throw from Hillary Clinton's "It Takes A Villiage".  And indeed, he's right.

At the 10 minute mark, he starts to lay the philosophical groundwork for changes that need to come in our laws.  And then, of course, reading the kids' names.

 

The White House wisely didn't publish photos of the President's visit to Newtown, out of respect for the privacy of the famlies there.  However, one family (who lost a child on Friday) published this photo, which I find to be uplifting and optimistic.  These are the siblings of Emile Parker:

Obama_children-thumb-512x384-56245 (1)

Life goes on.

3.  Team Gun Control versus Team Mental Health

This is going to be a long one.

Late Friday morning, White House press secretary Jay Carney said (in so many words) that "now" was not the time to have a discussion about policy, but now was the time to think of the families.

Almost immediately, he received blowback.  It's not that people were offended by Carney, but they really were tired, understandably, of the "conversation" being kicked down the road.  Because what happens is…. it gets kicked down the road, and nothing happens.

So the conversation has begun, and it's taking an interesting shape.

In one corner, you have the Mike Huckabees, who want to make this about God and school prayer.  To them, I'll add another "fuck you:.

In another corner, you have the Aaron Worthings and Glenn Reynolds, who write tweet and posts about what they see as the obvious solution: more guns.  In fact, Reynolds jumped out in the front of the pro-gun propaganda effort with a piece for USA Today attacking Gun-Free Zones.

Given that gun-free zones seem to be a magnet for mass shooters, maybe we should be working to shrink or eliminate them, rather than expand them. As they say, if it saves just one life, it's worth it.

You even morons arguing that this wouldn't happen if the teachers had been armed.  Michael Moore has the perfect response:

Of course, Lanza's mother was a gun owner.  And she was the first victim.  Her guns went on to kill 26 more.

Standing behind the "more guns iz better" croed in this corner are the mouth-breathers who write oh-so-cleverly: "Guns don't kill people; people kill people.".  I'm so sick of hearing that.  It's not clever, and worse yet — it's wrong.  Obviously, it's not that simple, seeing as how people with guns kill people massively and quickly.  And that's what we're concerned about.

These people are clowns.  They are not merely gun enthusiasts, but gun nuts.  They include survivalists, not unlike Adam Lanza’s first victim, Nancy Lanza, who bought her Bushmaster .223 to survive the "apocalypse". (See "Doomsday Preppers")

And we need to just move past them, lest we get caught up in the came cycle we've seen in the past (and depicted in this cartoon below):

TMW2012-12-19colorKOS

More guns does not mean a safer society.  Mother Jones makes the obvious point, in an article first written before Newtown:

…we set out to track mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years. We identified and analyzed 62 of them, and one striking pattern in the data is this: In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun. Moreover, we found that the rate of mass shootings has increased in recent years—at a time when America has been flooded with millions of additional firearms and a barrage of new laws has made it easier than ever to carry them in public. And in recent rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, they not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed.

America has long been heavily armed relative to other societies, and our arsenal keeps growing. A precise count isn't possible because most guns in the United States aren't registered and the government has scant ability to track them, thanks to a legislative landscape shaped by powerful pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Association. But through a combination of national surveys and manufacturing and sales data, we know that the increase in firearms has far outpaced population growth. In 1995 there were an estimated 200 million guns in private hands. Today, there are around 300 million—about a 50 percent jump. The US population, now over 314 million, grew by about 20 percent in that period. At this rate, there will be a gun for every man, woman, and child before the decade ends.

There is no evidence indicating that arming Americans further will help prevent mass shootings or reduce the carnage, says Dr. Stephen Hargarten, a leading expert on emergency medicine and gun violence at the Medical College of Wisconsin. To the contrary, there appears to be a relationship between the proliferation of firearms and a rise in mass shootings: By our count, there have been two per year on average since 1982. Yet 25 of the 62 cases we examined have occurred since 2006. This year alone there have already been seven mass shootings—and a record number of casualties, with more than 140 people injured and killed.

So now, in a more serious vein, we turn to a third corner, populated with people who want to talk about mental illness in relation to gun possession.

If you watch closely, you'll see this talk is coming primarily, although not exclusively, from conservative quarters.  The "mental illness" angle is getting heavy play on Fox News.

There's a reason why so many right wingers want to focus on the "mental health" angle – to distract attention away from the real problem: there are more than 290 MILLION guns in America, almost one for every single man, woman, and child. The right is so in love with gun culture that they'll even make dishonest arguments that contradict their own values, to pull attention away from this issue.  I'll get to that in a moment.

As for mental illness, there is no real evidence that mentally ill people are more likely to commit gun crimes. Columbia University psychiatrist Paul Appelbaum has found that less than 3-5% of American crimes are perpetrated by mentally ill people, and for crimes involving guns the percentages are even lower.

In fact, the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators: Focus on Mental Illness in Gun Debate Is Misleading.

Research by John Brekke and Cathy Prindle at the University of Southern California shows that individuals with schizophrenia are more likely to be assaulted by others than to commit violent crimes themselves, Metzl said.

By blaming people who have mental disorders for violent crime, the threats posed to society by a much larger population – the sane – are overlooked."The focus on so-called mentally ill crime obfuscates awareness of a far more important set of risk predictors of gun violence: substance abuse and past history of violence," said Metzl, a professor of psychiatry and sociology. "By blaming people who have mental disorders for violent crime, the threats posed to society by a much larger population – the sane – are overlooked."

One possible explanation for the tendency to blame mental illness for violent crimes is the fact that the debate around gun control has become so politicized that bringing up mental illness is one of the few ways to even talk about the issue, Metzl said.

Now — don't get me wrong.  Better mental health care is an important and worthy cause. The intersection between mental health, privacy rights, and gun ownership is complicated, and needs to be addressed. 

But for the right wing, the focus on mental health is merely a way to confuse and obfuscate the issues in order to hang on to their precious, precious guns.  (Others on the right simply don't want to talk about it at all, saying the only conversation to have is prayer).

Which brings us to the fourth corner: those who are talking about gun control.

I am encouraged to have read so many thought-provoking commentaries from gun owners in the wake of Newtown.  There are indeed many gun owners who hunt and enjoy guns, but who are not in lockstep with the NRA.  An example:

I hunt.  Much of the meat that my family eats during the year comes from local wild game and I derive great satisfaction from the experience of hunting and the ability to feed my family locally sourced, organic, environmentally friendly game that I procure, butcher, and prepare myself.  In addition, my son and I enjoy shooting clay pigeons at our local shooting range.  My friends and co-workers are mostly hunters as well and in my community, wild game is little more remarkable than food from the grocery or the local farmer's market.  I have had extensive formal training in gun safety and rifle marksmanship.  My guns are locked in a safe when not in use.  I should be the archetype of an NRA supporter.  But…

I am a dad.  I am the husband of an elementary school teacher who works too hard and commits too fully to her students (it's a trait that good teachers share).  And I am saddened to my core by the shootings in Connecticut.  I cannot even imagine the pain that those poor families are feeling and I will pray for peace for them tonight.

I have never joined the NRA.  I have been invited many times but I was initially turned off by their absolutist position on gun regulation and I was later repelled by their politics and by the way that they try to conflate the good that is accomplished for conservation by hunting with their interpretation of the 2nd amendment.  I hope today is the beginning of the end for their influence in our country.

***

So yes…lets have the national conversation about a more rational gun policy.  This country won't ban the private ownership of guns and I don't think it would be wise even if we did.  Similarly, it may be impossible to prevent a disturbed individual from procuring a gun if they are sufficiently motivated, but for the sake of these victims there have to be ways to make tragedies like the one in Connecticut today less likely.  Lets talk about making tactical weapons and high capacity magazines illegal for private ownership.  Lets talk about raising the regulatory oversight on those who may purchase and own small weapons like handguns that can easily be concealed.   Lets talk about proficiency requirements and regulations on the storage and registration of private firearms.  There are European countries with much stricter gun laws that also maintain rich hunting traditions.  Lets raise the penalties for crimes committed while using a gun and lets enforce the gun laws on the books.  I'm sure there are better ideas out there and I don't claim to be a 2nd amendment scholar but surely we can do better.  Lets get serious.

I have never felt that my sporting arms were threatened by those who were calling for tighter regulations on gun sales and ownership – particularly when directed at cheap handguns and guns whose value as sporting arms was marginal or specious.  The fear of a slippery slope leading from common sense gun regulation to the loss of hunting firearms is a fear that the NRA uses to sell its political agenda.  It is false.  A gun is a tool like a hammer but unlike other tools, guns are designed and optimized to deliver projectiles for the purpose of killing efficiently.  In the context of hunting, this efficiency is needed to ensure that an animal dies as quickly and humanely as possible.  However, this is also the reason why the "guns don't kill people, people do…" line of reasoning rings hollow.  One can kill another person with a hammer or with a car but that is not what hammers and cars are designed to do.  Guns are a special case and we should start by acknowledging that.  

This is a guy who gets it.  He understands that guns are not the defenders of liberty.  More often, they are the thieves of it. 

That’s what philosopher Firman Debrander argued in this morning’s New York Times, and he is in my ever-humble opinion spot on.  It’s worth the time to read the whole thing, but here’s the core of his case:

…guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name — that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.

This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.’s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly — not make any sudden, unexpected moves — and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.

As our Constitution provides, however, liberty entails precisely the freedom to be reckless, within limits, also the freedom to insult and offend as the case may be. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld our right to experiment in offensive language and ideas, and in some cases, offensive action and speech. Such experimentation is inherent to our freedom as such. But guns by their nature do not mix with this experiment — they don’t mix with taking offense. They are combustible ingredients in assembly and speech.

Exactly so.

I, too, believe in the Second Amendment.  But I believe in ALL of it, including the "well-regulated" part.

It is simply to easy for anyone — disturbed or not — to get their hands on killing machines.  And this factor — more than anything else – is why this country has more homicides and mass killings than any other country.  

Some facts from the Harvard School of Public Health about the correlation between gun availability and homicides: Homicide – Firearms Research – Harvard Injury Control Research Center – Harvard School of Public Health.

1. Where there are more guns there is more homicide (literature review).

Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries.  Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.

Hepburn, Lisa; Hemenway, David. Firearm availability and homicide: A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal. 2004; 9:417-40. 

2. Across high-income nations, more guns = more homicide.

We analyzed the relationship between homicide and gun availability using data from 26 developed countries from the early 1990s.  We found that across developed countries, where guns are more available, there are more homicides. These results often hold even when the United States is excluded.

Hemenway, David; Miller, Matthew. Firearm availability and homicide rates across 26 high income countries. Journal of Trauma. 2000; 49:985-88.

3. Across states, more guns = more homicide

Using a validated proxy for firearm ownership, we analyzed the relationship between firearm availability and homicide across 50 states over a ten year period (1988-1997).

After controlling for poverty and urbanization, for every age group, people in states with many guns have elevated rates of homicide, particularly firearm homicide.

Miller, Matthew; Azrael, Deborah; Hemenway, David. Household firearm ownership levels and homicide rates across U.S. regions and states, 1988-1997. American Journal of Public Health. 2002: 92:1988-1993.

4. Across states, more guns = more homicide (2)

Using survey data on rates of household gun ownership, we examined the association between gun availability and homicide across states, 2001-2003. We found that states with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm homicide and overall homicide.  This relationship held for both genders and all age groups, after accounting for rates of aggravated assault, robbery, unemployment, urbanization, alcohol consumption, and resource deprivation (e.g., poverty). There was no association between gun prevalence and non-firearm homicide. 

Miller, Matthew; Azrael, Deborah; Hemenway, David. State-level homicide victimization rates in the U.S. in relation to survey measures of household firearm ownership, 2001-2003. Social Science and Medicine. 2007; 64:656-64.

So there you have it.  Availability of guns kills people.

And you have to wonder why we're such a gun-happy country.

Well, I hate to go to the obvious scapegoat, but to my mind, it's a combination of machismo and fear, along with strong interests (the NRA) willing to exploit that.  Take a look at this ad — an ad for the very gun that was used to kill the Newtown kids, as well as the theatre-goers in Aurora, Colorado, and the shooter two weeks ago in the Oregon mall:

BushmasterAd

Your "man card"??

Guns are bought for the macho thrill, and if this ad doesn't confirm that, nothing does.

So while the conversation has many facets, the one that must be addressed is the most obvious, and the one politicians shy away from: the access to guns, particularly assault weapons.  When the assault weapons ban went away in 2004, it was mildly insane for us as a nation not to continue it.  That has to be first on the agenda.  Then, limits on magazine capacity.

I don't want to hear "but then only criminals will have guns".  Guess what?  I'm not worried about criminals.  I'm worried about the guy with the clean record — like the Newtown shooter, like the Virginia Tech shooter, like the Aurora shooter.  I want the flow of killing weapons to slow down to a trickle, if not end in its entirety.  Enough is enough.

RT @delrayser: Aaand crying again. MT @WestWingReport: No WH photos from family mtgs. But family of Emilie Parker, 6, released this: htt …

RT @fmanjoo: This tweet/photo from the school’s now-deceased principal in October is heartbreaking. po.st/VA5Tua

RT @alexblagg: 22 children in China attacked with a knife today, no deaths. Senseless violence can’t be prevented. Gun violence can.

RT @pattonoswalt: Yeah, I’ll wade right the fuck into this: MORE gun control, MORE mental health services. It’s no longer a debate. Neve …

RT @AP: BREAKING: Official with knowledge of Conn. school shooting: 27 dead, including 18 children

Breaking: School Shooting In Connecticut

Again?

Photo of kids evacuating:

 

2012-12-14__10-32-45Image1762x600

David Frum is being sarcastic, I hope:

UPDATE: He was being sarcastic.  And he adds this:

And I’ll say: I’ll accept no lectures about “sensitivity” on days of tragedy like today from people who work the other 364 days of the year against any attempt to prevent such tragedies.

It’s bad enough to have a gun lobby. It’s the last straw when that lobby also sets up itself as the civility police. It may not be politically possible to do anything about the prevalence of weapons of mass murder. But it damn well ought to be possible to complain about them – and about the people who condone them. 

Yup.

Hartford Courant is reporting multiple deaths, but they seem to be the only one.

Here’s a Courant reporter: 

The shooter was apparently the father of a student.

FYI: the Columbine shootings took 13 lives.  This is twice as bad, as school shootings go.

701996456

The NRA twitter feed is oddly silent: 

NRA  NRA  on Twitter

628x471 (1)

Shooter’s name was Ryan J Adam Lanza. Looks like it was a family squabble. His father was found dead back at the house. And….

FYI: In 2008, 2,947 children and teens died from guns in the United States and 2,793 died in 2009 for a total of 5,740—one child or teen every three hours, eight every day, 55 every week for two years. The 5,740 children and teens killed by guns in 2008 and 2009.  This would fill more than 229 public school classrooms of 25 students each, and is greater than the number of U.S. military personnel killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan (5,013). 

The number of preschoolers killed by guns in 2008 (88) and in 2009 (85) was nearly double the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2008 (41) and 2009 (48).

But as usual we have the usual suspects, this one a typical Breitbartian, regurgitating their mantra:

Yes, people the world over do go crazy and try to kill people. Sometimes they do it with knives.  But there is one big difference:

A man stabbed 22 primary school students in a knife attack in China on Friday, officials said, the latest in a series of assaults.

The attacker “has been detained”, said a spokesman for the Guangshan county government in the central province of Henan, where the stabbing happened. 

“Twenty-two elementary school students were stabbed, so was an adult villager” but none of the victims died, the official, who declined to give his name, told AFP.

That is one big honking difference, you have to admit. Spraying a room full of little kids (or a movie theater) with automatic weapon fire is much more deadly. Don’t these people get that? Even if a teacher was a quick draw artist and had a loaded handgun in her bra at all times, she couldn’t beat the automatic weapon fire and prevent those kids from being killed. Even these would-be Wyatt Earps have to know that.

This is a gun worshiping culture that has morphed into an unimaginable level of barbarism. And apparently we are all just the idiot victims in the boiling water not able to recognize that America is killing itself one kid at a time.

 

GOP Gets Its Scapegoat

Susan Rice is now the latest victim of the baying hyenas in the modern Republican Party:

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from the list of candidates for secretary of state Thursday afternoon, ending a weeks-long fight with Republicans over statements she made on television talk shows shortly after the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11.

In a letter to President Obama, Rice said: “I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time. The position of Secretary of State should never be politicized….I am saddened that we have reached this point, even before you have decided whom to nominate. We cannot afford such an irresponsible distraction from the most pressing issues facing the American people.”

I find it sad, really, that she was made into a scapegoat for the GOP's disgraceful attempt to manufacture a scandal out of Benghazi is chilling. This whole episode has been shameful.  I wonder if any Republicans — McCain, I'm looking at you — actually feel this is a "win".  She had nothing to do with Benghazi or the security policy there.  All she did was do a talk show.

The Judge Should Run For Senate

From the AP …

A Southern California judge is being publicly admonished for saying a rape victim "didn't put up a fight" during her assault and that if someone doesn't want sexual intercourse, the body "will not permit that to happen."

2013 shall be the Year of the Pancake.

RT @sorkinese: For a guy who’s read The Hobbit fourteen times, you’re not so dumb.

Worse Than Watergate Even If We Don’t Know The Facts

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has no idea what happened in Benghazi but he does know that it’s worse than Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandal times 10. Here’s King from a Washington Times article published on Wednesday:

“I believe that it’s a lot bigger than Watergate, and if you link Watergate and Iran-Contra together and multiply it times maybe 10 or so, you’re going to get in the zone where Benghazi is,” Mr. King said. “I don’t think the public has any idea, and I tell you, I don’t either, of the chronology of the events — what took place, and who was where doing what and why. And all the way down through — we still haven’t seen an autopsy report on the ambassador yet. Simple questions that you would ask in the first 24 hours have not been asked yet.”

RIP Ravi Shankar

I'm not a big fan of the sitar, but this guy was a pioneer and you gotta respect that.  He died yesterday at the age of 92.

 

 

Lie Of The Year

Politifact judges Romney Jeep ad "Lie of the Year".

And they also did a reader survey for biggest lie of the year.  First place went to Rush Limbaugh, for his comments on health care being "the largest tax increase in the history of the world." Many readers commented that they voted not for that particular statement, but because they think Limbaugh generally distorts the truth.

Here are the full results: 

*"Obamacare is . . . the largest tax increase in the history of the world." — Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh 26.6%
President Barack Obama was saying success "is the result of government," not "hard-working people," when he said, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."  – a campaign video from the Mitt Romney campaign 20%
Barack Obama "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China" at the cost of American jobs. — a TV ad from the Mitt Romney campaign 18.7%
"Under Obama’s plan (for welfare), you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check." — a TV ad from the Mitt Romney campaign 13.1%
Barack Obama began his presidency "with an apology tour."  – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney 10.4%
"Over the last four years, the deficit has gone up, but 90 percent of that is as a consequence" of President George W. Bush’s policies and the recession. — President Barack Obama 5.6%
Mitt Romney and Bain Capital are to blame in a woman’s premature deathwhen they closed the plant where her husband worked. — Priorities USA Action, a super PAC that supported Barack Obama 3.1%
Other (Examples: "Romney’s 47%", "Benghazi was caused by a video," "legitimate rapes don’t cause pregnancy") 1.6%
Mitt Romney "backed a bill that outlaws all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest." — a TV ad from the Barack Obama campaign 0.7%
When it comes to jobless workers, "Mitt Romney says he likes to fire people." — Delaware Gov. Jack Markell 0.2%
Mitt Romney "called the Arizona law a model for the nation."  – President Barack Obama 0.2%

 

 

RT @WillMcAvoyACN: Make no mistake, this legislation isn’t about making Michigan a better state for business. It’s about attacking union …

RT @JohnnyArgent: @LOLGOP Romney basically declared every other American to be a worthless parasite – but, Yeah, let’s obsess on a Kore …

If the Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage, what’s next? A moron marrying their anti-gay marriage argument to an idiotic false equivalency?

RT @tbogg: Why doesn’t SCOTUS fast-track the #Prop8 case and let Justice Kennedy announce his decision on Monday?

Breaking: SCOTUS To Review DOMA and Prop 8 Cases

The Supreme Court granted cert in the so-called "Prop 8" case from California.  They also decided to hear the appeal of a case testing the constitutionality of DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act.  Section III of DOMA prevents the federal government from treating as married for the purpose of federal law same-sex couples who are legally married under state law. For example, someone who is legally married to a person of the same sex cannot currently receive spousal Social Security benefits should his or her spouse die. Couples subject to such discrimination currently reside in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, Washington DC, New York and California, and soon in Washington State, Maryland and Maine.

The DOMA case essentially means that the Court will decide if the federal government must respect the same-sex marriage laws of states that permit same-sex marriage.

But the Prop 8 case means that the Court will also consider whether states can have same-sex marriage at all.

The Court, one might say in summary, has agreed to take up virtually all of the key issues about same-sex marriage, but has given itself a way to avoid final decisions on the merits issues.

These two cases will be heard in late March, probably back to back — with a decision coming out probably on June 27 (mark your calendars).

Taken together, I suspect there are five possible outcomes:

(1)  SCOTUS will kick the can down the road.  It is possible, though I suspect unlikely, that both cases will be disposed of on issues other than the merits.  For example, there is a standing issue in the Prop 8 case ("standing" means whether or not the plaintiffs had the right to bring the lawsuit in the first place).  Conceivably, the court could rule on that, and never reach the merits.  The DOMA case has a standing issue as well.

(2)  SCOTUS would allow each state to decide whether or not to allow same-sex marriages, and force the federal government to accept it only where states accept it.  

(3)  SCOTUS would allow each state to decide whether or not to allow same-sex marriages, but the federal government does not have to accept it.  Basically, a ruling like this would say that same-sex marriages are not protected by the U.S. Constitution, and the federal government can discriminate.  This is essentially what we have now.

(4)  SCOTUS finds that same-sex marriages are protected by the U.S. Constitution, and therefore ALL states must recognize same-sex marriages.  The best of all outcomes.

(5) SCOTUS finds that the U.S. Constitution (14th Amendment) bars states from allowing same-sex marriage.  The worst of all outcomes.

A #4 outcome is easy to predict.  We know that the four liberal justices will be in favor of it.  Kennedy, the "swing" vote on the Court, is likely to be in favor of it as well, given his opinion in Lawrence v. Texas.  But it is not a sure thing.  The conservative "five" are wary of federalism, where the federal government imposes things on states.

I see #5 as unlikely.  That would be "activist", considering that seven states now allow same-sex marriage.

In any event, it will be an interesting spring.  A media circus.  

Prediction: I give Fox News about two days before they call upon Justice Elena Kagan to recuse herself because she plays softball and …. you know.

To be continued, no doubt.

The War On Christmas 2012

No, it hasn't gone away.  It's very very real, so says Bill O'Reilly.

And now we know who is behind it… the gays!

 

MCGUIRK: The war on Christmas is very, very real, and if you ask me, in addition to some grouchy misanthropic heathen atheists it has to do — at the root of it — with two things — abortion and the gay rights agenda, because Christianity is against those things. It’s subtle but that’s why it’s so pronounced in recent years.

O’REILLY: Hundred percent agree. I absolutely agree 100 percent that the diminishment of Christianity is the target and Christmas is the vehicle because the secularists know the opposition to their agenda (legalized drugs is in that as well) comes primarily from the Judeo-Christian traditionalist people.

Oy.

All-Time Low For The Senate

So this happened yesterday:

In a tactic he thought would put the Obama Administration in an uncomfortable position, this week [Sen. Mitch] McConnell [Senate Minority leader for the Republican Party] proposed a measure that would give the president, rather than the Congress, the responsibility for raising the federal debt ceiling.

Then, when Democrats surprised him by being willing to take up the measure, McConnell reacted in the way that comes most naturally to him: by threatening a filibuster. Attentive readers will recall that over the past six years, McConnell has been responsible for most of the filibusters in America's 225-year Constitutional history. The novelty this time is that he was filibustering his own proposal. Read the details here in the Washington Post.

 

Fiscal Cliff Notes #2

I'm not writing about this much, in part because I think much of what is going on is theater.  Lots of posturing on both sides.

I will note, however, that Republicans are playing a losing game.  Most polls show that they are not trusted to avoid the fiscal cliff, and if we do go over it, the GOP will be blamed.

Popularity for raising taxes on the upper 2% remains solid.

It's just embarrassing to watch this play out.  Everyone knows what needs to be done — tax increases on the wealthy, and slashes to the budget (particularly within the military), and some entitlement reform.  Everybody in Washington just needs to hunker down and do it.

The problem, of course is the Republicans, who have to satisfy a based which is still not tethered to reality.

And speaking of reality, were you aware that 49% of polled Republicans believe that the presidential election was stolen by ACORN?  This, despite the fact that ACORN (the community organizing group) has been non-existent since 2010.

A9UTAlCCcAADNIW

Worst Punditry of 2012

(1) Conservative Pundits: Romney will win the election in a landslide

We decided that it was unfair to single out any one of these predictions, since they all met the threshold of being spectacularly off-target.

Pundit Prediction
Larry Kudlow Romney will get 330 electoral votes
Dick Morris Romney will get 325 electoral votes
Glenn Beck Romney will get 321 electoral votes
George Will Romney will get 321 electoral votes
Michael Barone Romney will get 315 electoral votes
Wayne Allyn Root Romney will win by 100-120 electoral votes

(2) Chris Matthews: Michele Bachmann will win the GOP nomination

Some have argued that Matthews was joking, but we don’t buy it. Decide for yourself.

(3) Dick Morris: Obama might pull out of the election

This prediction was too hedged to include on PunditTracker.com, but it was so outrageous — and outrageously wrong — that it justified a spot on this list.

<< As bad news piles up for the Democrats, I asked a top Democratic strategist if it were possible that President Obama might “pull a Lyndon Johnson” and soberly face the cameras, telling America that he has decided that the demands of partisan politics are interfering with his efforts to right our economy and that he has decided to withdraw to devote full time to our recovery. His answer: “Yes. It’s possible. If things continue as they are and have not turned around by January, it is certainly possible.”….. if the Republicans nominate a more moderate candidate such as Mitt Romney, Obama will not be able to rely on partisan animosity to succeed where job approval has failed. And, given all that, he might not even run. >> [Dickmorris.com]

We will announce the “winner” in two weeks, at which time we will also reveal our awards for Best and Worst Pundit of 2012.

You should go there and vote.

Papa John’s Takes A HIt

HuffPo:

The opinion of Papa John's among recent casual diners dropped precipitously after CEO John Schnatter's public comments about Obamacare, according to a new study from YouGov BrandIndex, which researches brand perception for marketing directors, brand managers and PR reps. The site conducts thousands of interviews a day, providing real-time info that shows trends and responses to different marketing techniques or in this case, public gaffes.

The national pizza chain's YouGov BrandIndex Buzz score — which the site uses as an indication of brand favorability — dropped to four at the end of November, down from 32 on election day.

Papa John's isn't the only one:

Applebee's score dropped more than 25 points after Zane Tankel — who owns 40 Applebee's in the New York area – appeared on the Fox Business Network and expressed reluctance to expand because of the health care overhaul.

Elizabeth Warren on Banking Committee

Wall Street doesn't like Elizabeth Warren, a strong advocate of Wall Street reform.  They hoped she wouldn't be elected Senator from Massachusetts, but she was.  And now, it appears that their worst nightmare is about to happen: she's going to be in a position of real power over them. The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim is reporting that sources have told him that Warren has secured a key committee assignment.

Nearly two years after Wall Street waged a successful campaign to keep consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren from running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the incoming senator will be tapped to serve on the Banking Committee, according to four sources familiar with the situation. It's a victory for progressives who battled to win her a seat on the panel that oversees the implementation of Dodd-Frank and other banking regulations.

There are very few people in Washington, D.C. who have a deeper understanding of the financial world than Warren, and basically none who have the passion to use that knowledge for good, to protect Main Street rather than Wall Street. She can light a fire, and educate, other Senators on the committee to make financial reform real. This is real change.