Monday, April 22, 2013
Thursday, February 28, 2013
The WaPo notes that the GOP is again resisting naming an ATF head. As it has done for 8 years--at the behest of the NRA.
In the absence of a head, the agency, already disempowered, unable to determine whether gun shops are complying with the law more than once every 8 years due to lack of staffing, cannot act in significant ways regarding gun policy.
The NRA is aware of this, which is why they have coerced members of the GOP to resist allowing the head of the agency to be allowed to lead.
This is well known.
And it is why the GOP, in following the mandates of the NRA out of personal electoral interests, have the blood of the victims of the NRAs policies--eviscerated background checks, entirely unchecked sales by "hobbyists" at gun shows and over the internet, refusing to permit research on the public health impact of guns by federal agencies, refusal to ban straw purchases, refusal to allow the NICS background check system to be updated with current data--on their hands.
Image from: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/atf/id408467237?mt=8
First, there is a gun show loop hole.
At gun shows, some of the sellers are Federal Licensed Firearms Dealers. They are required by law to check the buyer in the NICS system. While this does not rule out the issue of straw purchases, or the massive holes in the NICS system, or the three-day default rule--they are checked.
At other tables--at the same show, right next door to the ones described above, are tables where the sellers are not Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers. These tables also offer every type of gun for sale that the FLFD's do. But there is no background check required. None. At all.
In fact, the tables often have signs that read "No questions asked". And indeed, none are asked--expect "how much", and perhaps, "would you like a bag for that?"
This is because those dealers fall into the loophole where they have classified themselves as "hobbyists". Such "hobbyists" are often large scale dealers with extensive inventories, often larger than those of the FLFDs.
They purchase guns in states with very weak gun laws--often Mississippi, for example, or Virginia--and then sell these guns at gun shows in states with regulations are more strict.
The Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 listed a number of categories of individuals who, by law, could not purchase guns: Felons, the seriously mentally ill, and so on.
At gun shows, felons, the mentally ill--anyone, in fact, can walk up to one of these tables operated by a so-called "hobbyist"--even if he makes his primary imcome from this "hobby"--and buy whatever gun they want, as many as they want, any ammunition they want, as much as they want.
With no questions asked.
If gun show sales are not uniformly required to have background checks, any felon, anyone with mental illness, or anyone fro one of the other prohibited categories, who could not purchase at a FLFD, will simply go to a gun show, and buy one, or two, or three, or ten--as many as they like--with no questions asked.
The same issue applies to guns sold over the internet by such "hobbyists". Or in so called "transfers" that are not conducted by FLFDs. There are no background checks--none at all--for these sales.
This is why the NRA and its cohorts are being so fervent about the gun show loophole--which supposedly "doesn't matter", so I wonder why they would be so strident about it.
Because as long as the gun show loophole exists, anyone who wants to evade the background check system will be able to do it simply and easily, and defeat any efforts at meaningful and effective gun control, which is the goal of the NRA.
Pic from: http://www.ablogtowatch.com/astronaut-mark-kelly-interview-watches-are-necessary-in-my-profession/ via AP
Scalia's pleasure at his role as a gadfly has, with privilege and age, gradually morphed into a role as a speaker of surprisingly ill considered, and poorly support contempt.
What Scalia referred to as a "racial entitlement", Congress, by a vote of 98-0, viewed as necessary to ensure a constitutional privilege: The right to vote, which, as demonstrated by 15,000 pages of evidence, was still being uniquely undercut in covered states.
Scalia's response--a monarchical one, which anyone familiar with the Separation of Powers would shudder to hear. was that Congress was unfit to make law here.
His basis here was what was essentially a psychological analysis--an area of examination for which he is poorly suited:
“I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any senator to vote against continuation of this act. ... They are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act. Even the name of it is wonderful: the Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?”
Such an analysis would require that the Court examine each Congressional passage of legislation for each member's personal, interior reaction to the name of the Legislation--and to judge its constitutionality on that (unfathomable) basis.
What special quality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act distinguished it for Justice Scalia such that the reaction of members of Congress to its name. and to its electoral and political consequences for the member, should be held up as disqualifying?
Do members of Congress not consider the electoral and political implications of other legislative acts when they vote on them? If so, has Scalia ruled all of them to be unconstitutional?
The keys here are Scalia's words "racial entitlement" combined with the above analysis. He is stating that, unlike intimidation by the force of industries, lobbying groups, or other constituencies themselves, the concerns of this particular constituency are--somehow--invalid.
The use of Scalia's criteria for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act would, apart from undermining Congress's legislative power for that of an increasingly crankily grandiose Justice, invalidate most legislation, which is enacted by members of Congress for a variety of personal, electoral and political purposes.
Scalia pic: http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2012/04/antonin_scalias_time_to_sizzle.html
That Boehner failed to see Cantor's win-win calculation here is remarkable for a Speaker of the House. Romney wins, and Cantor is credited for a brilliant move in forstalling a grand bargain until the arrival of better circumstances, paving the way for his later assumption of the coveted chair after Boehner. Obama is elected, and Boehner fails, leaving to discontent, and a split within the party, paving the way for Cantor's earlier assumption. (Robert Caro would remind us that Lyndon Johnson would never have fallen for this). Cantor has the oft-seen Republican ability for selective self-hypnosis: Reciting that people believe that "Republicans do not have their backs", with a rote certainty of the deputy who almost believes, a sufficient substitute for belief, while otherwise serving his wealthier masters. Exceptionally dangerous, as he believes that he is doing both, depending upon when you ask him.
Nota bene: I also loved Ryan's utterly unironic citation of Mussolini. Those trains don't just run on time...they arrive an hour early!
Pic via: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.chicagonow.com/offhanded-dribble/files/2011/07/2009_0326_Getty_Eric_Cantor_0.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.chicagonow.com/offhanded-dribble/2011/05/karma-if-a-tornado-touches-down-on-eric-cantors-house/&h=303&w=300&sz=22&tbnid=ZM6N73SrrcAxSM:&tbnh=96&tbnw=95&zoom=1&usg=__fHBMMAZOwZL28Te0qAKQrr_iH_g=&docid=PwSQUBlFCbW-pM&sa=X&ei=sp8vUYXzEYS90QGtgoGACQ&ved=0CKQBEP4dMBI
Monday, January 21, 2013
John Boehner, his tan perfected for the occasion from its former mottled resemblance to the shifting colors in the grain of hardwood floor, to the more evenly distributed orange of a perfectly ripened tangelo, just barely covering the all-too-frequently present appearance of pre-speech imbibing just to the point of the controlled, slightest, heavy-tongued slur, strode to the ornate podium.
And so, in the Statuary Hall, the distribution of gifts--custom etched Lenox crystal to the President and Vice President, handsome leather bound mementos for all other attendees of the Congressional lunch--the pomp of the Inaugural ritual in its more intimate, clubbish, and, I imagine in the experience of Obama, necessary form, began.
The extended ceremonial of the day seems, for one who leans towards the introversive end of the scale, whittled, learned away through years of practice, a marathon of the multivariegated forms of political interaction--from gracious, heartfelt thanks, to centuries-old ritual, to dancing the first dance with your wife while Jennifer Hudson sings "Let's Stay Together."
Obama takes to them easily now, without the over-energized haste of his Senatorial days; embracing Sen. Leahy in a grateful hug, the movements of gratitude--the embrace, the face-to-face words of gratitude, the lean in, the grip of the shoulder, the pull away to look once again in the eyes, as he moved through the room, to the next, of so many, who awaited and deserved thanks, and who, so very often, appeared to offer them sincerely, awaited. A small degree of Lincolnesque slowness, of thinking of the steps, of self-awareness (or so we imagine, or infer from the mind of his writings and actions), a certain minute degree of physical exhaustion, and awareness of pacing--characteristic Obama traits.
As was the moment, after he had given his inaugural address, that he turned, told his retinue to wait. The writer, the introspective, the one who is aware that he wants to capture this moment, as the moments will begin to change around him, never to return to this one again, wanted to take it in fully one more time.
Obama might have felt the impulse to do this in 2009. But he would not have. And this certainty--this incremental increase in controlling his own fate, in command, in being less burdened by the height of expectation than moving in the continuum of leadership--is present in this moment.
Obama will always be thinking, rather than acting in a compensatory, justifyingly defensive manner from his gut. He will consider before acting, rather than leaping into the moment.
However, there is a sureness of feel, a sense of the more practiced and directed mind of one who has experienced the nature of those around him, has taken their measure and his; who has learned from some mistakes, and has internalized them both as lessons for action and less restricted caution. And a pleasure. Knowing that the second election would be the true confirmation of one mission of the first African American president--not only to be elected--but to be elected again.
After his swearing in, his daughter Malia turned to him, he smiled and said "I did it."
"You didn't screw it up, Daddy", she said, his daughter feeling her father's most direct concern with a child's centrality and immediacy--what Maraniss has referred to as Obama's care in "avoiding traps".
And, while there will be the countless haters, ideologues, paranoids, and even aside from them, rational political critics who may not concur with his daughter's assessment, there he stood.
The newly sworn-in second term 44th president of the United States.
Does anyone, has anyone loved the Vice Presidency as much as Joe Biden?
Yes, he's thinking about the Presidency.
But if he was not, if he were only serving the two terms as Obama's Vice President, does anyone believe that he would be a tragic, morose Lyndon Johnson-via-Robert-Caro Vice President, stunted, crippled, depressed, frustrated, feeling as if his life dreams and career were at an end?
Biden is not only seemingly impervious to the less felicitous characterizations that at times swim around them, reflecting them away with a native sunny disposition that, yes, is professional, but is also a genuine, automatic enjoyment, but brings far more to the table than the hoi polloi are often willing to give credit: A remarkable ability to charm with intellect and flexibility, with genuine care and enjoyment, but also with a powerfully sustained thought--each time.
Yes, he emerges in shades, and who knows what ultimate dreams lay behind them; yes he truly enjoys an attractive woman. But he also brings joy to those who he immediately senses need his attention, his care--he has practiced with all types, and he is willing to bring that practice to the task.
He is not condescending. He is not self-aggrandizing. People love Joe.
But while walking that fine line between being the populist and knowing that he is being one, he is more aware than the more simple lines around him that are sometimes drawn.
He is not an introspective, introversive, extremely careful Obama. And he will never be. And that will be an issue, should he become President.
He does have a tendency to roll over himself, carried by the stream of words and feeling, and this has not accrued to his benefit. He is still learning--at this stage of his life--to instill the capacity to catch himself.
But he is happy in his role. He loves the people. He balances a more introspective man, who also loves the people, but is not so fulsome and expansive in demonstration of such.
He is Joe. And he is the happiest Vice President we have seen in some time.
Osama Bin Laden.
Debt ceiling, versions past and prologue.
Romney, who already seems to have half-faded into a spectral form.
Health care town halls, which now seem ancient, yet still striking in their call to shrill irrationality.
I remember seeing the crowds of young people from my balcony, early on the morning of Inauguration Day, so filled with enthusiasm to reach the Mall that they raced towards the gates, like excited troops storming a hill, ready to take their nation back.
Obama's speech that day struck me as unusually sober--it left me with the feeling that he was scaling down expectations, a tone of seriousness, but also that if he could merely leave the nation in as good hands as when he entered, this would be a laudable, sensible target.
This tone--not too high, not too low--has shot through his Presidency, with intelligence and wisdom, with caution and over caution, as Americans became accustomed to a charismatic leader who at his core is not a spontaneous charismatic, but an introspective, at times introverted intellectual, who carries both vision and caution; his well noted pragmatism, a combination that likely was honed as it brought him to this place and position, and one, perhaps, that he has most wisely relied on, knowing that once reaching to extremism, in this nation, at this time, he would not be able to reach back.
And they would call him an extremist in any event.
He knew what they would call him if he actually began to act within the slightest parameters of their delusional fantasies.
So we are here. And crowds gather. We are in the slight remaining overcast of tragedy--one could not help but wonder just what he thought of as he thought of the events in Newtown, so close to his inauguration.
Yet, I am watching a crowd of children singing, and we are here.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
I announce here today, in the pages of this august journal, a new and persistent medical condition.
It seems to affect those primarily on the far right, although can also be seen in some hastily assembled, deadline driven reports by media.
The condition: Norquist Blindness.
1) A compulsive need to utter the phrase:
"I don't understand how Democrats can expect to reduce the deficit based only on raising the taxes of the super rich. Even if we raised the taxes of every member of the top 1% of the nation's wealthy, we would not be able to cover even a fraction of the deficit", or some variant thereof.
2) A complete, utter, persistent blindness to the fact that Democrats have repeatedly stated that both spending cuts and tax cuts are necessary as a solution to the fiscal cliff.
For example, as noted by the New York Times, Obama has said he will not sign any bill that extends the tax cuts for the rich but wants legislation that extends the tax cuts for families earning $250,000 or less. That alone would be enough to mitigate the economic impact of the fiscal cliff. He has signaled he will accept changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as part of that last portion of savings.
3) An inability to absorb or retain new information if it contains statements by Democrats that they are seeking both tax cuts and spending cuts.
Co-occurring Obsessive-compulsive hoarding; bonds, stock certificates, cash selectively obstructing eardrums; secondary gain via payment for maintaining symptomatic behavior.
Recent epidemiological studies indicate that the occurrence of Norquist Blindness has shown a sharp, significant decrease beginning in November, 2012.
Prospective modeling research indicates that the falloff of Norquist blindness should continue, until it has been entirely extinguished in the upcoming year.
Scientists may wish to preserve samples of the disorder in a bathtub in order for future medical historians to be able to suitably examine the disease.
Norquist, becoming concerned about his own increasing irrelevance, is now attempting to say that the current debate
will have nothing to do with him, in an attempt to preserve his own
One day before, he was threatening various members that exactly such actions would lead to their defeat by actions taken by ATR.
Now, as reality spreads, and is becoming viral, the air begins to flatulate out of the loose bag that is Norquist, and he says--ah, well, nothing to do with me.
Truth-revealing, a child playing sadly in the sand.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The fact that Norquist incessantly states that his pledge is not to "him" but to "the people" is one of the more repellent of the obvious and self-serving aspects of his protection scheme.
The fact that members of Congress are elected to represent the people means that they do not require an external pledge to make decisions. Rather, such a pledge binds those very representative actions through a nakedly coercive, parasitic contrivance: Receive funding from corporate sponsors who wish to have their interests protected; Use this funding to purchase mailing lists; and threaten to blanket the districts of those who refuse to submit to the pledge with a blizzard of negative advertising.
Grover takes his cut, and corporate investments receive their return, as the nation's representatives of the people are faced with a political protection racket. This wedging of himself between the interests of corporations and the legitimate functions of government in parasitic fashion is what Norquist himself regards as his "entrepreneurial genius." It acts against the people, who have chosen these representatives to act on their behalf as they fit.
It is, however, entirely consistent with Norquist's prior "entrepreneurship," such as, as detailed by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs his organization, ATR, serving as a pass through to hide the origins of funds defrauded from Indian tribes by Jack Abramoff, and passed onto Ralph Reed.
Sourcewatch reports that:
"Abramoff and partner Scanlon are alleged to have conspired with Washington power broker Grover Norquist and Christian activist Reed to co-ordinate lobbying against his own clients and prospective clients with the objective of forcing them to engage Abramoff and Scanlon to lobby against their own covert operations...Reed repeatedly denied knowing the source of the funds used to campaign against the casinos until prosecutors released emails exchanged between Reed and Abramoff. According to e-mails, Reed and Norquist contacted Abramoff separately in 1999 to say they wanted to do business. Norquist complained about a "$75K hole in my budget from last year." Reed said he was counting on Abramoff 'to help me with some contacts.'"Grover always has the slight look of pride and disbelief that he's getting away with it, though covered over with with efforts to hold up self-indoctrination and justification against what he knows to be a scheme, and insipid, childish smugness to indirect away from the essential illusory nature of his emperor-has-no-clothes contrivance and connivance.
In 2000, Abramoff warned Reed on February 7 that an initial payment for antilottery radio spots and mailings would be less than Reed thought. 'I need to give Grover something for helping, so the first transfer will be a bit lighter,' Abramoff wrote. The transfer was apparently lighter than even Abramoff expected. In a note to himself on February 22, Abramoff wrote, 'Grover kept another $25K!' Norquist claims he had permission.
Norquist is now aiming smug, contemptuous threats at those who have realized that taking the pledge has become a political liability. His desperate, at times scatological ("poopyhead") phrasing reveals the essential childish nature of the scheme; the threats reveal the inability to actually consider a larger good than his own barely justified, utterly self-serving racket.
The fact that the Republican Party is recognizing that Norquist harms their political interests means that Norquist will soon become a political curiosity; in a perfect irony, small enough to fit in his bathtub.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012
Allen West Won't Lose: Suggestions for Further Statements Other Than "I Lost" Based On His Prior Commentary
Rep. Allen West (R) has lost his reelection attempt in Florida, having been defeated by Chris Murphy (D).
The result has Murphy winning by 2,146 votes. This is a margin of 0.58 percent, beyond the requirement of .50 percent necessary by state law to trigger an automatic recount.
West nonetheless refused to accept the results.
He called for a recount in one county, St. Lucie.
The results of this recount showed that West had now fallen behind by a greater number of votes. His margin of defeat was now .65 percent.
The West campaign still refused to accept the results.
In response to a statement by the Murphy campaign that it was now time for West to do the right thing and to concede, a spokesman for the West campaign responded, diplomatically, that “As usual, Murphy's people are full of garbage."
Given West's continuing refusal to acknowledge the democratic will of the people, we provide further characteristic statements for West's use in responding to the nation's electoral process.
To provide the full degree of Westian verisimilitude, we have based these on West's own, most famed, prior statements and national commentary (annotated):
'Mr. Murphy, you are not a man, therefore shall not be afforded due respect from me! 1 Take your message of having repeatedly proven that you have won more votes that I have, and get the hell out! You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America. 2
I must confess that when I see anyone with a Murphy for Representative bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool. 3
We should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled Murphy to win and claim election on the basis of having won the greatest number of votes, and also supported him and applauding him for the efforts. 4 With regard to his recent statement that under Florida law, following the recount, he now legally must be sworn in as Representative, I say: NUTS! 5
With regard to men like Wilson who have not faced the true conflict of battle, I would take such gentlemen over and let them get shot at a few times and maybe they’d have a different opinion. 6
If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine. 7'
Annotations: (Citations via Think Progress)
(1) “YOU ARE NOT A LADY”: According to Think Progress (TP): "In July 2011, West responded to a perceived slight from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (R-FL) with a fiery letter in which he threatened her and scolded, 'You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!' West later said he had apologized, but Wasserman-Schultz said she had not received one."
(2) TP: "LIBERALS “GET THE HELL OUT”: Speaking at the Palm Beach County GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner last month, West said of liberals, 'Take your message of equality of achievement. … You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America.'West later tried to walk back the statement, claiming he was only referring to “the message” and not liberals themselves."
(3) TP: “A THREAT TO THE GENE POOL: In a July 2011 post on the website Red Country, West wrote, 'I must confess, when I see anyone with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool.'"
(4) TP: “WE ALSO SHOULD BE CENSORING THE AMERICAN NEWS AGENCIES: In response to the whistleblower website Wikileaks releasing thousands of pages of diplomatic cables, West declared: 'And I think that we also should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled [Julian Assange] to do this and also supported him and applauding him for the efforts.' West later claimed he only called for “censuring” the media. Either way, it would be a First Amendment violation."
(5) TP: “NUTS!: West has often clashed with opponents over the issue of Islam. In August 2011, a chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations asked West to sever ties with anti-Muslim activists. In response, West sent a letter which read only, 'I am writing to you with regard [sic] your recent letter: NUTS!' Why West chose this response is a mystery, although he might have been quoting a World War II general who responded that way when the Nazis told him to surrender."
(6) TP: “LET THEM GET SHOT AT”: In May 2011, the House narrowly defeated a proposal which would have required President Obama to submit a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Of those who voted for the bill, West said, 'I would take these gentlemen over and let them get shot at a few times and maybe they’d have a different opinion.' This was just months after the shooting of former Rep. Gabby Giffords."
(7) TP: "JOSEPH GOEBBELS WOULD 'BE VERY PROUD' OF DEMOCRATS: In December, West told reporters, 'If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine.' The link to Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda from 1933 to 1945, drew criticism from several members of Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, and others."