Obama vs. The Senate

this article comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

senate

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the Senate prepares to begin debating new gun control measures, some of President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats are poised to frustrate his efforts to enact the most sweeping limits on weapons in decades.

These Democrats from largely rural states with strong gun cultures view Obama’s proposals warily and have not committed to supporting them. The lawmakers’ concerns could stand in the way of strong legislation before a single Republican gets a chance to vote “no.”

“There’s a core group of Democratic senators, most but not all from the West, who represent states with a higher-than-average rate of gun ownership but an equally strong desire to feel their kids are safe,” said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. “They’re having hard but good conversations with people back home to identify the middle-ground solutions that respect the Second Amendment but make it harder for dangerous people to get their hands on guns.”

All eyes are on these dozen or so Democrats, some of whom face re-election in 2014. That includes Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

The Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings Wednesday.

Interest groups, lobbyists, lawmakers, crime victims and others with a stake in the outcome will be watching these senators closely for signals about what measures they might support. The answers will say a lot about what, if anything, Congress can pass in the wake of the shootings of 20 school and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last month.

At issue are Obama’s proposals to ban assault weapons, limit ammunition magazines, crack down on trafficking and require universal background checks. Leading the charge against those ideas is the National Rifle Association. The group wields enormous power to rally public sentiment and is a particular threat to Democrats in pro-gun states who face re-election.

The political concerns of Democrats create problems for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has his own history with the NRA.

The powerful gun lobby endorsed him in previous elections, but stayed neutral in his most recent race, in 2010. Even before Obama announced the gun proposals this month, Reid told a Nevada PBS station that an assault weapons ban would have a hard time getting through Congress. That comment irked Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., author of such a ban.

“Clearly it wasn’t helpful,” she said this past week in reintroducing her measure. But Feinstein’s original assault weapons ban was a stern political lesson for Reid and other Democrats. Its passage as part of President Bill Clinton’s crime bill in 1994 was blamed for Democratic election losses that year after the NRA campaigned against lawmakers who supported the legislation. When the assault weapons ban came up for renewal in 2004, Congress, under pressure from the NRA, refused to extend it.

Reid has pledged action on gun measures. “This is an issue we’re not going to run from,” he said. But he’s under pressure from all sides.

Some major pieces of legislation are shepherded by the Senate leadership to the Senate floor. But Reid is promising that the gun bills will go through the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman is Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a gun owner and Second Amendment supporter.

Reid also is promising an open amendment process, potentially a lengthy endeavor. Those signals have some gun control activists concerned that the process will go so slowly that it will grind to a halt without action. Some question whether that’s just the outcome desired by some moderate Democrats.

“I’m concerned just because Harry Reid has a mixed record on these things and we want him to be a champion,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

On the other side, the NRA, known for rewarding friends and punishing enemies, promises it will be closely watching Reid, too.

“He’s going to be torn and a lot of people are going to be torn, particularly Democrats, but I think as the debate goes on he’ll do more good than bad from our perspective,” said David Keene, NRA president. “All this stuff has been debated before and once you get into a debate and a discussion and say will this do anything to protect children, to prevent another Newtown, I think the answer is going to come out `no.'”

Baucus, Begich, Pryor and others have been cautious in their comments on Obama’s gun proposals.

Baucus called for “a thoughtful debate.” Begich told his home state Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that passage of any element of the package was “a long haul. … There are some of us who just fundamentally believe in a Second Amendment right.” Pryor has told Arkansas media that efforts on gun safety should start with enforcing existing laws.

Another Democrat closely watching the issue is Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, known for a 2010 campaign ad where he fired a rifle shot though a copy of Democratic-written climate change legislation. Manchin recently told a West Virginia radio station that he’s working on legislation to require background checks on most gun purchases. Details weren’t clear but that’s the area where advocates are most hopeful of finding a solution that could get through the Senate and possibly even the Republican-controlled House.

The NRA generally opposes legislation mandating universal background checks and disputes gun control groups’ claims that 40 percent of purchases happen without such checks. NRA officials question whether background checks could be done effectively in a way that makes a difference and doesn’t disrupt legitimate sales.

The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, is to testify Wednesday before Leahy’s committee.

Democrats, especially those from gun-rights states, will be weighing whether to side with the NRA or follow the president, or how best to split the difference.

“We’re a Second-Amendment state. I support the rights of sportsmen and target shooters and collectors to own firearms. It’s an important part of our culture and tradition,” Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said in an interview. “But I just hear there’s such grave concern given the experiences we’ve had with Aurora, Columbine … people all over Colorado want to prevent these massacres.”

Jackson Williams.

Of Course I’m Afraid of Nuclear Fallout

J.W.

Nonsense Party

I’ve been having weird dreams lately. And sleeping kinda restlessly. Sleep is literally my favorite thing to do, so it makes me a little bit cranky when it doesn’t work out quite the way I want it to. A lot of things make me cranky, though. Like:

  • Bathrooms that don’t have toilet seat covers
  • When you think you have another mango in the fridge, but discover you don’t
  • (Related) Starting a recipe and discovering half way through that you’re missing a key ingredient
  • People that don’t signal
  • Anything sticky

I could go on for some time in this fashion, because I’m essentially an 84-year-old woman in a 33-year-old’s body. I’m fine with that.

Aaaanyway…so yes, I’ve been having cranky-making sleep as of late. And the weird dreams always linger in the morning, so I spend the first couple hours of the day trying to get over the yelling match I…

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Get the Boot!

J.W.

ipledgeafallegiance

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Filibuster: The English term “filibuster” derives from the Spanish filibustero, itself deriving originally from the Dutch vrijbuiter, meaning “privateer, pirate, or robber”. It is also the root of the English word Freebooter.

The use of the filibuster in the American Senate was a tactic used to delay or prevent the passage of legislation, usually opposed by a minority of members. In years past, real filibusters rarely happened since they required opposition senators to go to the effort of standing on their feet and speaking continuously for hours on end. Only the most intense and dedicated opposition would mount filibusters.

However, the “traditional” filibuster custom was significantly changed only a few years ago to allow senators to “filibuster” without actually speaking and consuming their own time. That would be equivalent to you not having to go to work and do your job but still being able to say that…

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Newtown, Connecticut: What Happens Next

this article comes courtesy of Reuters:

(Reuters) – Parents of children who attended Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut expressed mixed feelings on Sunday about what should be done with the facility and its grounds following a December shooting rampage that killed 20 students and six staff members.

Never Forget Newtown. 12/14/2012

Speaking at the first of two “community conversations” on the fate of the school, parents and residents of the community discussed whether to return children to the school or demolish it and build a memorial on the grounds.

Frantic parents who arrived at the school following the December 14 shooting had been directed to a nearby firehouse to learn the fate of their children.

“Unless you were a parent of a Sandy Hook student that day and had to walk to that firehouse, you don’t know how we feel,” Christine Wilford, the mother of two children who survived the shooting, said during her turn at the microphones set up in an auditorium at nearby Newtown High School.

“On that day, I looked around and it was my Sandy Hook family,” said Wilford, who echoed what most parents said at the meeting, which was they wanted to hear what families said privately about the facility’s future before deciding her own preference.

The mass killings plunged Newtown, a rural New England town of 27,000 residents about 70 miles northeast of New York City, into grief, along with much of the rest of the nation.

The shootings prompted President Barack Obama to place Vice President Joe Biden at the head of a task force that will find ways to curb gun violence. Biden is due to submit the recommendations as early as Tuesday.

The vice president has said he will recommend universal background checks for gun buyers and new limits on the capacity of magazines like those used by the Connecticut gunman. Gun rights groups said on Sunday that these restrictions would fail in Congress.

The elementary school remains closed to everyone but police investigating the attack. Its students, more than 400 children in kindergarten through fourth grade, have been relocated to a school in the neighboring town of Monroe.

Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra told the audience that the final decision on the school’s fate will come only after months of discussions with other groups, including teachers who were there during the shooting and families that lost children.

“The process ahead of us will take months,” Llodra said. “But we need to bring our Sandy Hook students home.”

‘AN ABSOLUTE INJUSTICE’

Merim Bajraliu, a senior at the high school whose sister attended Sandy Hook, said knocking the school down only increases the damage caused by the gunman.

“Some of my best childhood memories were at Sandy Hook school,” Bajraliu said. “I don’t think a psychopath should take this away from us. Razing the school would be an absolute injustice to those whose lives were cut short that day.”

Several parents agreed with Bajraliu, saying their children are asking to return to the school.

And yet one father who asked not to be identified said his first grader has said he never wanted to step foot in the school again, nor does his wife. He asked that whatever decision is made about the school’s future, that families be given the opportunity to attend any other school in the district.

Despite the differences, most of the parents agreed not to separate the children from their classmates.

“You can’t divide those kids up. They’ve been through too much,” said Jodi Markowski, mother of a second grader. “It’s not too soon. I want them to know where they are going to school.”

Families who lost children in the massacre are scheduled to meet town officials in the upcoming weeks, Llodra said. She is also meeting with the affected teachers in the temporary school.

Authorities have not offered a motive for the attack. The gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother before driving to the school. He shot himself dead following the rampage.

(Editing by James Kelleher and Philip Barbara)

Jackson Williams.

American Vignettes (I): Totalitarian Undercurrents

J.W.

The Disorder Of Things

The airport is a totalitarian space; sometimes the truth is hyperbolic.

You re-enter the United States, land of your birth, as part of the stream of arriving passengers. It is an everyday experience. You leave the airplane slowly, on stiff limbs, trickling with the mass of travellers into Newark airport.

The imperatives are issued as soon as you enter the terminal building. No smoking. No cell phones. Stand in line. Fill in your declaration form. Foreigner here. Citizen there. Wait behind the red line till you are called. The armed immigration officer checks your papers, holding the power to pronounce your worthiness to enter this sanctified space.

Border Control

With the imperatives come the questions. Where are you coming from? Where are you going? As if the answers are clear. As if these are simple questions. The man with the gun, holding your passport, asks, “Where are you flying next?” But he…

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Cultural Dynamics: Love & Marriage

J.W.

Correlation ≠ Causation

My parents are married.

They have the legal papers to prove it. They’re yellowed and old like antique documents and they’re in Chinese.

They file for taxes together, sign property papers together, make mortgage payments together, have joint bank accounts.

They call themselves husband and wife, if asked.

They don’t fight… much.

They get along and even though sometimes he rolls his eyes when he thinks she’s being a little insensible or silly and sometimes she’ll sigh with frustration when she thinks he’s being lazy and unhelpful, they don’t really fight.

They raised us well. Amazingly well, I’d say, and for that, I am grateful. My dad taught me how to sharpen my work ethic, how to prioritize and be practical, how to do complicated physics problems that my teacher in high school never made clear. My mom taught me how to be sympathetic, how to care for people and…

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