Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Banality of Bush White House Evil

Frank Rich
Op-Ed Columnist
The New York Times
April 25, 2009

WE don’t like our evil to be banal. Ten years after Columbine, it only now may be sinking in that the psychopathic killers were not jock-hating dorks from a “Trench Coat Mafia,” or, as ABC News maintained at the time, “part of a dark, underground national phenomenon known as the Gothic movement.” In the new best seller “Columbine,” the journalist Dave Cullen reaffirms that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were instead ordinary American teenagers who worked at the local pizza joint, loved their parents and were popular among their classmates.

On Tuesday, it will be five years since Americans first confronted the photographs from Abu Ghraib on “60 Minutes II.” Here, too, we want to cling to myths that quarantine the evil. If our country committed torture, surely it did so to prevent Armageddon, in a patriotic ticking-time-bomb scenario out of “24.” If anyone deserves blame, it was only those identified by President Bush as “a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values”: promiscuous, sinister-looking lowlifes like Lynddie England, Charles Graner and the other grunts who were held accountable while the top command got a pass.

We’ve learned much, much more about America and torture in the past five years. But as Mark Danner recently wrote in The New York Review of Books, for all the revelations, one essential fact remains unchanged: “By no later than the summer of 2004, the American people had before them the basic narrative of how the elected and appointed officials of their government decided to torture prisoners and how they went about it.” When the Obama administration said it declassified four new torture memos10 days ago in part because their contents were already largely public, it was right.

Yet we still shrink from the hardest truths and the bigger picture: that torture was a premeditated policy approved at our government’s highest levels; that it was carried out in scenarios that had no resemblance to “24”; thatpsychologists and physicians were enlisted as collaborators in inflicting pain; and that, in the assessment of reliable sources like the F.B.I. director Robert Mueller, it did not help disrupt any terrorist attacks.

The newly released Justice Department memos, like those before them, were not written by barely schooled misfits like England and Graner. John Yoo, Steven Bradbury and Jay Bybee graduated from the likes of Harvard, Yale,Stanford, Michigan and Brigham Young. They have passed through white-shoe law firms like Covington & Burling, and Sidley Austin.

Judge Bybee’s résumé tells us that he has four children and is both a Cubmaster for the Boy Scouts and a youth baseball and basketball coach. He currently occupies a tenured seat on the United States Court of Appeals. As an assistant attorney general, he was the author of the Aug. 1, 2002, memo endorsing in lengthy, prurient detail interrogation “techniques” like “facial slap (insult slap)” and “insects placed in a confinement box.”

He proposed using 10 such techniques “in some sort of escalating fashion, culminating with the waterboard, though not necessarily ending with this technique.” Waterboarding, the near-drowning favored by Pol Pot and the Spanish Inquisition, was prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II. But Bybee concluded that it “does not, in our view, inflict ‘severe pain or suffering.’ ”

Still, it’s not Bybee’s perverted lawyering and pornographic amorality that make his memo worthy of special attention. It merits a closer look because it actually does add something new — and, even after all we’ve heard, something shocking — to the five-year-old torture narrative. When placed in full context, it’s the kind of smoking gun that might free us from the myths and denial that prevent us from reckoning with this ugly chapter in our history.

Bybee’s memo was aimed at one particular detainee, Abu Zubaydah, who had been captured some four months earlier, in late March 2002. Zubaydah is portrayed in the memo (as he was publicly by Bush after his capture) as one of the top men in Al Qaeda. But by August this had been proven false. As Ron Suskind reported in his book “The One Percent Doctrine,” Zubaydah was identified soon after his capture as a logistics guy, who, in the words of the F.B.I.’s top-ranking Qaeda analyst at the time, Dan Coleman, served as the terrorist group’s flight booker and “greeter,” like “Joe Louis in the lobby of Caesar’s Palace.” Zubaydah “knew very little about real operations, or strategy.” He showed clinical symptoms of schizophrenia.

By the time Bybee wrote his memo, Zubaydah had been questioned by the F.B.I. and C.I.A. for months and had given what limited information he had. His most valuable contribution was to finger Khalid Shaikh Mohammed as the 9/11 mastermind. But, as Jane Mayer wrote in her book “The Dark Side,” even that contribution may have been old news: according to the 9/11 commission, the C.I.A. had already learned about Mohammed during the summer of 2001. In any event, as one of Zubaydah’s own F.B.I. questioners, Ali Soufan, wrote in a Times Op-Ed article last Thursday, traditional interrogation methods had worked. Yet Bybee’s memo purported that an “increased pressure phase” was required to force Zubaydah to talk.

As soon as Bybee gave the green light, torture followed: Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times in August 2002, according to another of the newly released memos. Unsurprisingly, it appears that no significant intelligence was gained by torturing this mentally ill Qaeda functionary. So why the overkill? Bybee’s memo invoked a ticking time bomb: “There is currently a level of ‘chatter’ equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks.”

We don’t know if there was such unusual “chatter” then, but it’s unlikely Zubaydah could have added information if there were. Perhaps some new facts may yet emerge if Dick Cheney succeeds in his unexpected and welcome crusade to declassify documents that he says will exonerate administration interrogation policies. Meanwhile, we do have evidence for an alternative explanation of what motivated Bybee to write his memo that August, thanks to the comprehensive Senate Armed Services Committee report on detaineesreleased last week.

The report found that Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantánamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful.” As higher-ups got more “frustrated” at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, “there was more and more pressure to resort to measures” that might produce that intelligence.

In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration’s ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee’s memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) “Downing Street memo,” in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” A month after Bybee’s memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on “Meet the Press,” hyping both Saddam’s W.M.D.s and the “number of contacts over the years” between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk.

But there were no links between 9/11 and Iraq, and the White House knew it. Torture may have been the last hope for coercing such bogus “intelligence” from detainees who would be tempted to say anything to stop the waterboarding.

Last week Bush-Cheney defenders, true to form, dismissed the Senate Armed Services Committee report as “partisan.” But as the committee chairman, Carl Levin, told me, the report received unanimous support from its members — John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman included.

Levin also emphasized the report’s accounts of military lawyers who dissented from White House doctrine — only to be disregarded. The Bush administration was “driven,” Levin said. By what? “They’d say it was to get more information. But they were desperate to find a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.”

Five years after the Abu Ghraib revelations, we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to “protect” us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from “another 9/11,” torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White House’s illegality.

Levin suggests — and I agree — that as additional fact-finding plays out, it’s time for the Justice Department to enlist a panel of two or three apolitical outsiders, perhaps retired federal judges, “to review the mass of material” we already have. The fundamental truth is there, as it long has been. The panel can recommend a legal path that will insure accountability for this wholesale betrayal of American values.

President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. It won’t vanish into a memory hole any more than Andersonville, World War II internment camps or My Lai. The White House, Congress and politicians of both parties should get out of the way. We don’t need another commission. We don’t need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tedisco Concedes To Murphy In NY-20

Valerie Bauman
The Huffington Post
April 24, 2009

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — Almost a month after a special election in a heavily Republican congressional district, the Democratic candidate claimed victory Friday when his GOP opponent conceded in a race that focused attention on President Barack Obama's stimulus plan.

After the March 31 election in New York's 20th District, Democrat Scott Murphy and Republican Jim Tedisco were separated by a handful of votes with thousands of absentee ballots to be counted. For nearly four weeks, the lead flipped back and forth but Murphy's advantage started to grow this week and was more than 400 votes on Thursday.

Murphy is a venture capitalist multimillionaire from Missouri who has lived in New York for more than a decade. He replaces Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, who succeeded Hillary Rodham Clinton in the U.S. Senate after Clinton was chosen to be Obama's secretary of state.

Surrounded by friends and family, Murphy discussed his victory as he stood outdoors in the business district of Glens Falls, 45 miles north of Albany, during rush hour Friday evening. He grinned as cars honked as they drove through a nearby roundabout and people yelled "We love you, Scott."

Murphy said he expects to be sworn in next week, and that he's looking forward to getting to Washington where "the work's piled up." He said he received calls of congratulations from Obama and Gillibrand, both of whom had endorsed him.

Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan was an issue on the campaign trail. Tedisco attacked Murphy for supporting the plan, while Murphy criticized Tedisco for refusing to take a stance on the stimulus for most of the campaign, a misstep that ultimately hurt the veteran assemblyman.

In a statement, Tedisco congratulated Murphy and said he'd work with him in his role as a state assemblyman.

"It became clear that the numbers were not going our way and that the time had come to step aside and ensure that the next Congressman be seated as quickly as possible," he said. "In the interest of the citizens of the 20th  Congressional District and our nation, I wish Scott the very best."

Murphy said he was grateful for Tedisco's offer for help in the district. He declined to talk about the frequently negative overtones of the campaign, including political ads.

The diverse district stretches from the rural Adirondack Mountains, south of the Canadian border, to the mid-Hudson Valley, north of New York City. It has more than 196,000 registered Republicans compared with about 125,000 Democrats.

Nationwide, Republicans have taken a pounding in the past two election cycles and in New York, the pain has been acute. They lost three congressional seats in 2006 and three more last year, leaving just three Republicans in the 29-seat state delegation. They also lost the state Senate for the first time in four decades last November, and every statewide elected office is held by a Democrat.

Early on, Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele declared the 20th a top priority for 2009. For Republicans, victory would have given them a claim in the heavily Democratic Northeast.

Still, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions described the race as a symbolic victory for Republicans.

"We should not ignore some of the encouraging signs that came out of this race," Sessions said in a statement. "Just a few short months ago,  President Obama carried this district and Kirsten Gillibrand won by an overwhelming margin against a well-funded challenger. For the first time in a long time, a Republican congressional candidate went toe-to-toe with a Democrat in a hard-fought battle over independent voters."

Democrats didn't waste any time celebrating and congratulating Murphy.

Murphy "courageously championed the economic plans we need to lift our nation and put it on a better path, and he will continue to do so in Congress," Obama said in a statement.

Gillibrand and  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., echoed the congratulations.

Copyright © 2009, Inc.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Bob Cesca
Bob Cesca's Awesome Blog
April 22, 2009

Why are people like Joe Scarborough in favor of government spending (not to mention torture) to "keep us safe" from terrorists, but they're vocally opposed to government spending to keep us safe from diseases and sickness?

(On average, as many Americans will die from cancer in the next two days as were killed on 9/11. Around 40,000 deaths per month and more than half-a-million per year.)

Copyright 2009 Bob Cesca's Awesome Blog

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Morning Skim: Rudy Again

Eric Etheridge
The Opinionator
The New York Times
April 21, 2009 

  • Hot Air: Allahpundit parses Rudy Giuliani’s statement yesterday against gay marriage:
  • Does anyone but anyone interpret this as anything other than pure political calculation? He needs conservative upstate votes to beat Cuomo so suddenly he’s drawing a line in the sand over gay marriage? Why not embrace gay marriage, make headlines nationwide as a “progressive” Republican on the issue, and fight Cuomo on the issue of fiscal conservatism? The gay-marriage bill is going to pass in New York with heavy margins in favor. Get on the right side of it, make your mark, and then take a stand on the hill of the economy. Hard to read this as anything other than Rudy still harboring national ambitions, which is nutty.

  • National Review: Lisa Schiffren responds to the Rudy Giuliani statement yesterday to a reporter that he was considering a run for governor of New York but, as paraphrased in the report, in “no rush to make up his mind”:
  • I like Giuliani. I supported him in the primaries and I wish he were president now, regardless of his flaws. He is far and away the best hope for the state GOP, and for New York State in general. . . . But that “no rush to make up his mind” business is exactly the same equivocating nonsense that cost him even a reasonable shot at the presidential nomination last year. It screams: “I’m not serious.” And all of his financial backers know that, having learned the hard way.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Monday, April 20, 2009

Is There Any Wonder Some People Snap Like in Binghamton and at Columbine?

Our entire way of life -- from our exploitative economy to our foreign policy -- is violent.

David Sirota
Creators Syndicate
April 20, 2009

As Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's posthumous infamy turns 10 on April 20, I wish I were surprised that Columbine-like shootings are still happening, or even that our national discussion about violence hasn't yet matured past gun control and video games.

I wish I were surprised, but sadly, I'd be surprised if it were any different because we still refuse to ask the most uncomfortable questions.

Columbine was the "Pulp Fiction" of violence: not the first of its genre, but the model to which all contemporaries are compared. And lately, Columbine derivatives have been coming at a faster clip.

After each tragedy, it's the same thing. Liberals want us to wonder why gun laws let anyone access deadly weapons. Conservatives insist we question why video games supposedly turn down-to-earth kids into murderers.

These queries satiate two desires. In a country that ascribes hubristic "exceptionalism" to itself and berates self-analysis as "hating America," we seek absolution via scapegoat, and so we upbraid bogeymen like firearms and Xboxes. Similarly, in a democracy increasingly conducting its politics through red-blue filters and 140-character Twitter updates, we crave Occam's razors -- and none are sharper than oversimplified arguments about gun control and video games.

But what about the questions and answers that aren't so simple?

For example, isn't violence a predictable byproduct of our economy? When torture victims are waterboarded, they freak out. When a winner-take-all economy tortures society, should we be shocked that a few lunatics go over the edge?

For three decades, we converted our economy into one that enriches the rich and stresses out everyone else. Paychecks dwindled, debts accumulated, health-care bills spiked. We now spend more hours working or seeking work, and fewer hours on parenting, family time and rest -- all while schools and mental-health services deteriorate.

Considering this, shouldn't we expect the recent Associated Press story telling us "the American home is becoming more violent" because of the recession? Shouldn't we expect the new Department of Homeland Security report saying that "the economic downturn" is "invigorating rightwing extremist activity, specifically the white supremacist and militia movements"? And, ultimately, shouldn't we expect the deep alienation that may lead the occasional troubled kid to turn video-game fantasies into real-world terror?

If these questions don’t make you uneasy, then how about this one: Are those video games fantasies, or are they representations of real violence that we willfully organize our economy around?

Today, one in every three dollars the government spends goes to defense and security. The killing machine and adventurism that money manufactures has delivered 1 million Iraqi casualties, thousands of American casualties and an implicit promise of future wars -- indeed, of permanent war.

Perpetuating this expenditure, bloodshed and posture in a nation of dwindling resources, humanitarian self-images and anti-interventionist impulses requires a culture constantly selling violence as a necessity. It's not just video games -- it's the nightly news echoing Pentagon propaganda and "hawkish" politicians equating militarism with patriotism and "embedded" journalism cheering on wars and every other suit-and-tie-clad industry constantly forwarding the assumption that killing is a legitimate form of national ambition and self-expression. Is it any wonder that a few crazies apply that ethos to their individual lives, and begin seeing violence as a reasonable means to express their own emotions?

Sure, the assault weapons ban's expiration is an abomination. Absolutely, some video games are appalling. But we could ban all guns and video games and there would still be mass murders because neither the availability of firearms nor of Grand Theft Auto creates the original desire for violence.

Until we face that complex reality -- or at least ask different questions -- we'll continue being terrorized by Columbine killers.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Let My Vote and Every Vote Be Counted

Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand
The Huffington Post
April 14, 2009

Today the Republicans stooped to a new low by challenging my ballot. The Republicans' challenge is frivolous and without merit.

Having spent so much time campaigning alongside Scott Murphy these past several weeks, I know Scott is the kind of hard-working and effective leader that the people of Upstate New York deserve. That is why I was so proud to vote for him to fill the seat I held in the 20th district.

All of us worked hard to elect Scott Murphy. We campaigned hard, made phone calls, and went door to door because we knew that Scott Murphy would help us change Washington and deliver for working families in Upstate New York and across the country.

I was proud to give Scott Murphy my full support in his campaign for Congress and I am deeply disturbed by the stalling tactics that national Republicans are using to delay the inevitable.

Their latest move to challenge my ballot is part of a much larger attempt to disenfranchise legal Democratic voters and delay Scott Murphy's inevitable victory in the 20th.

National Republicans are trying to turn the 20th District of New York into the next Minnesota. It is wrong.

Every day that the national Republicans waste with their dishonest stalling tactics is another day Upstate New Yorkers are deprived their Member of Congress.

The campaign in the 20th District was about who would work with President Obama to fix this economy and the voters have spoken.

Let my vote and every vote be counted.

Copyright 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Republican Point of No Return

Dylan Loewe
Democratic political strategist
The Huffington Post
April 17, 2009

There was a point not long after the 2006 midterm elections when observers began to note that Republicans were in truly terrible shape, that a staggering number of Senate and House Republicans were acutely vulnerable in their re-elections, and that in all likelihood, if the GOP failed to reconnect with voters, they would suffer even more substantial losses in 2008.

Republicans are in even weaker shape now. The party is contracting in size as it self-marginalizes; the number of voters who identify themselves as Republican is at its lowest point in decades, and nearly every poll shows a dramatic divergence of opinion between self-identifying Republicans and self-identifying Independents. The fight for the "middle voter" has been fought and won by the Democrats, who are consistently viewed as more capable on substantive policy issues than Republicans. A recent Gallup poll showed that 71 percent of voters trust Obama on the economy. That number is built on a strong coalition of Democratic and Independent voters. 97 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Independents expressed confidence in Obama's handling of the economy, compared to only 38 percent of Republicans. On an issue as critically important to voters as the economy, a 30 point divide in viewpoints between Republicans and Independents spells serious trouble going forward.

If the GOP has any hope of being competitive in the 2010 midterms, it had better figure out a way to appeal to Independents again. But if Republicans had any intention of reconnecting with those voters, this week's headlines don't give any indication.

During the much-panned Republican "tea party" protests, aimed at high taxes (and also wasteful spending and also socialism and also Obama's secret Muslim roots and also his fake birth certificate and also a few other things one might write on a poster board), Texas Governor Rick Perry threatened to secede. Tom Delay defended him - and secession. So did Rush Limbaugh. Republicans touted the protests as an impressive showing of conservative online organizing. But their success in numbers belies a serious problem.

Republicans are right to recognize how critical their capacity to organize will be toward their future electoral success. But as the Republican base gets smaller, and more ideological, organizing the base may very well mean alienating a critical group of voters - just about everyone else. Still Republican politicians are no less dependent on their base for money and volunteers, which may explain the recent propensity of national Republicans to read conspiracy-driven paranoia into the Congressional Record. The complication, of course, is that Republicans who are unable to depend on the GOP base will never build an organization capable of winning elections. But those who do depend on that base will be constrained by a policy agenda well outside the mainstream.

In Pennsylvania, the conflict between base voters and moderates might help guarantee the Democratic pickup of a 60th Senate seat. Senator Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican who has a long history with Pennsylvania voters , would be tough for a Democrat to defeat in a general election. But Specter may never get that far. He's being challenged from his right in the Republican Primary by Pat Toomey, who currently leads him by 14 points. Toomey, however, is far too conservative for Pennsylvania voters, and will almost certainly lose a race to a Democrat that Specter may have won.

In every way imaginable, the party so famous for using political wedges has spent the three months since Obama's inauguration driving one of the most politically consequential wedges between themselves and Independents. If Republicans do manage to regroup and recalibrate before 2010, if they are able to prevent further losses 19 months from now, the story will no doubt be that they adopted a strategy that could appeal to Independents, as well as conservatives.

Yet if they continue, as they have continued, to mobilize the most unsavory of the right, to speak to their issues and theirs alone, despite facts and evidence, despite polls and focus groups, despite reason and strategy, they will surely reach a point of no return and soon, a point beyond which success in the midterms will be impossible.

Already critical decisions are being made about 2010. The NRCC and NRSC are recruiting Republican candidates, studying the map, making decisions about which seats they'll need to defend as well as which Democrats they might unseat. These decisions are being made based on the framework of this current strategy and the expectation that it will continue. Sitting Members of Congress have already been forced into votes that are popular with their bases, but quite unpopular elsewhere. The far right might be proud, for example, of unanimous Republican opposition to the stimulus bill in the House. But Independent voters will no doubt wonder why Republicans voted against the biggest middle class tax cut in history, and why they continue to aggressively oppose economic policies that Independents largely support.

Without an immediate about-face, it's hard to imagine what the GOP could actually do to stop the hemorrhaging. Every day Republicans are taking public positions that will haunt them next November. As is so often the case with campaigns, these early decisions are among the most important, and they are being made at a time when the party lacks direction or purpose or message, and at a time when the incompetence of those in charge means a change in strategy is unlikely. Even at this early juncture, more than a year and half before the midterms, the Republican party has gone all-in. When panicked GOP operatives finally start looking for that point of no return coming up ahead, they better take a deep breath, then look directly behind them.

Copyright 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

On the Road

Sorry I've bad gone (Travelling to Florida). It wasn't easy blogging on the road. NewBocaGuy will resume tomorrow.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Columbine Plus 10

The New York Times
April 8, 2009

It is impossible to view last week’s killing of 13 people in Binghamton, N.Y., in isolation. It will soon be the 10th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School and the second anniversary of the mass shootings at Virginia Tech. In the last month, multiple shootings have claimed the lives of more than 50 Americans.

In this historical context, Binghamton is yet another reminder of America’s terrible gun problem and a summons to lawmakers to insist on common-sense gun laws. Yet Congress responds with a collective shrug.

There was a moment, after Columbine, when the nation engaged in a promising conversation about gun violence, and it briefly seemed as though Congress might rise above the extremists at the National Rifle Association. In May 1999, the N.R.A. lost a showdown in the Senate over closing the loophole that allows unqualified buyers to purchase weapons at gun shows without a background check.

That victory was illusory; the gun show measure died in conference in the House, and the post-Columbine urge to do something meaningful evaporated. The Virginia Tech massacre eight years later reawakened some Congressional interest. Even the N.R.A. had to support a measure making it harder for someone with a record of serious mental illness to obtain a gun.

Still, Congress merely nibbled at the problem, and today the idea of closing the gun-show loophole and taking other steps that would help save lives without violating the Second Amendment is not even seriously on the table. Inside Washington’s bubble, it is as if the shootings in Binghamton and elsewhere never took place. The N.R.A.’s ability to intimidate grown men and women in the House and Senate remains undiminished, despite its poor record in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.

So far, the Obama White House has not been a profile in courage either. Witness the chilly reception to recent calls by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to reimpose an assault weapons ban to make it harder for American gun traffickers to arm the Mexican drug cartels.

Congress actually seems to be moving backward. Last month, the N.R.A. persuaded the Senate to attach an amendment that would repeal the District of Columbia’s gun laws to a bill giving the district a voting member in Congress. This amendment would permit sniper rifles that can pierce armor up to a mile away to be possessed in unlimited quantity in the nation’s capital.

The district’s current representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton, is fighting to get the House to pass a clean version of the bill, without the amendment, but her prospects are cloudy. If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer cannot muster the votes, President Obama should intervene. He should also rescind a dangerous regulation from the Bush years allowing concealed loaded guns in national parks.

More broadly, he should place the immense persuasive powers of his office behind an across-the-board, badly overdue push for sensible gun control.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Monday, April 6, 2009

Gunnin' For The Bottom

Simply Left Behind
April 6, 2009

After only the second mass murder by a non-white American, perhaps now a legitimate dialogue about gun control can take place in this country:
As the nation gets a clearer picture of two killers who have made headlines in recent days -- one near Pittsburgh, one in Binghamton, N.Y. -- some are wondering whether Americans have too much access to guns.

[...] As the gunman, identified as 41-year-old Jiverly Voong, blasted his way through the American Civic Association, DeLucia, 61, stayed on the phone for 38 minutes, guiding police and trying to provide them with information to prevent more people from being shot. Voong killed 13 people before turning the gun on himself.

[...] On Saturday, one day after the Binghamton shootings, three Pittsburgh-area police officers were gunned down after responding to what they thought was a domestic disturbance call. Richard Poplawski, 23, the alleged shooter, was shot several times in the leg.
I suspect there's a small number of gun nuts out there now, reading about this story and realizing that yet another exclusive domain of whites, and particularly, white males, is being outsourced to lower-wage criminals: spectacular mass murder.

Sort of takes the fun out of killing people to make a political point, like the militias of Montana and Michigan would be wont to do, or the Oklahoma City terrorists when they might just as easily fire back.

A point I've always stressed in any gun discussion here is that there is a definite need for some guns in America, and Binghamton is on the cusp of an area where guns might be needed.
But certainly not automatic weapons.

Binghamton is a fairly large town, a city even, at the intersection of three interstate highways: NYS Route 17 (soon to be Federal Interstate Highway 86) and Interstates 81 & 88. I've walked the banks of the Susquehana there, and had a draft or two in some of the bars there. Indeed, I've even visited during the gay pride weekend.
Yes, it's that evolved a town.

Drive 90 minutes in any direction, and you are in the middle of the wilderness: a forest, a nature preserve, a state park. Up there, it's bear country, even puma country. You can't always call the cops and expect them to show up in the same hour, although they try their hardest. So yea, a long barrel gun is a necessity and since it's not likely you'd get a second shot quickly, even these don't have to be semi-automatic. And handguns? Forget it. You ain't taking down a bear or even a deer with a .44, sorry.

Those are guns I can support. I cannot support a gun that a man can walk into a building with and take out a dozen people in an urban setting (or suburban school or a rural church). That's just patently ludicrous and anyone who defends them should not be taken seriously.
When police departments nationwide, departments made up of people like any other average American and without any "liberal" agenda at all, can warn against the ease of purchase of guns, it's time we took the issue to heart.

Maybe now, the extremist gun owners on the far right lunatic fringe will sit down and seriously reconsider their knee-jerk reaction to even the most reasonable of controls on guns and gun ownership: licensing, registration, and criminal background checks on all gun sales. We require insurance to own a car, even the most minimal insurance. We can surely require *something* that minimizes the likelihood that we'll have to watch mass funeral services for innocent people ever again.

Copyright 2009 Simply Left Behind