Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stand With Dianne

There was movement in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday regarding gun regulation.  After GOPer leader McConnell said he would join the cowards in their filibuster, eight other GOP Senators announced they would not.  That might be enough to forestall it.  A test vote is scheduled for Thursday, though if it is apparent by then the votes aren't there, even that might not happen.

Also on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Reid vowed that all the measures voted out of committee would get a vote on the floor.  He had already reminded the GOP that it would take a majority vote to change the rules, meaning new restrictions on the filibuster.  But by whatever procedural method, it now seems more likely than it did yesterday that votes will really be taken.  There was even a story that GOPer Senators had agreed on a background checks bill.

Senator Dianne Feinstein said that Reid had promised her a vote specifically on her bill to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, to be offered as an amendment.  She appeared on Lawrence O'Donnell, who continues to refer to the bill as "massacre control" and Feinstein's effort as a countermeasure to fostering the best equipped mass murderers in the world.  He urged voters and senators to "stand with Dianne."

Feinstein, who sponsored the 1994 assault weapons ban that was overturned in 2003, was eloquent in her argument.  In addition to arguments others have offered, including President Obama, she pointed out that the assault rifle is the weapon of choice for mass murderers because it is relatively light and easy to use.  It doesn't require even a minimum of marksmanship.  It's a point and slaughter weapon.  It's only purpose is as a horrific weapon of war.  It has no non-military purpose but to slaughter.  To slaughter the innocent.

I can't see the Newtown parents without thinking of one little girl among those who were slaughtered by man with a legal assault weapon, who fired 105 rounds in 5 minutes.  Her mother mentioned in an interview that just a week before the massacre, they discovered their child had perfect pitch.  This remarkable gift, which might have led to a remarkable life and given joy to many people, ended in the first grade, in the land of guns.

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Right Time

President Obama in Connecticut on Monday (excerpts from the transcript.  Full video is above):

"We have to tell Congress it’s time to crack down on gun trafficking so that folks will think twice before buying a gun as part of a scheme to arm someone who won’t pass a background check. Let’s get that done. (Applause.)

We have to tell Congress it’s time to restore the ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 10-round limit for magazines, to make it harder for a gunman to fire 154 bullets into his victims in less than five minutes. Let’s put that to a vote. (Applause.)

We have to tell Congress it’s time to strengthen school safety and help people struggling with mental health problems get the treatment they need before it’s too late. Let’s do that for our kids and for our communities. (Applause.)

Now, I know that some of these proposals inspire more debate than others, but each of them has the support of the majority of the American people. All of them are common sense. All of them deserve a vote. All of them deserve a vote. (Applause.)"

"...And yet, there is only one thing that can stand in the way of change that just about everybody agrees on, and that’s politics in Washington. You would think that with those numbers Congress would rush to make this happen. That's what you would think. (Applause.) If our democracy is working the way it’s supposed to, and 90 percent of the American people agree on something, in the wake of a tragedy you’d think this would not be a heavy lift.

And yet, some folks back in Washington are already floating the idea that they may use political stunts to prevent votes on any of these reforms. Think about that. They’re not just saying they’ll vote “no” on ideas that almost all Americans support. They’re saying they’ll do everything they can to even prevent any votes on these provisions. They’re saying your opinion doesn’t matter. And that’s not right."

"...I thought about the mom I met from suburban Chicago whose son was killed in a random shooting. And this mom told me, I hate it when people tell me that my son was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was on his way to school. He was exactly where he was supposed to be. He was in the right place at the right time, and he still got shot. (Applause.)

The kids at Sandy Hook were where they were supposed to be. So were those moviegoers in Aurora. So were those worshippers in Oak Creek. So was Gabby Giffords. She was at a supermarket, listening to the concerns of her constituents. (Applause.) They were exactly where they were supposed to be. They were also exercising their rights -- to assemble peaceably; to worship freely and safely. They were exercising the rights of life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So surely, we can reconcile those two things. Surely, America doesn’t have to be divided between rural and urban, and Democrat and Republican when it comes to something like this."

"I've got to tell you, I've had tough days in the presidency -- I've said this before. The day Newtown happened was the toughest day of my presidency. But I've got to tell you, if we don’t respond to this, that will be a tough day for me, too. (Applause.) Because we've got to expect more from ourselves, and we've got to expect more from Congress. We've got to believe that every once in a while, we set politics aside and we just do what's right. (Applause.) We've got to believe that.

And if you believe that, I'm asking you to stand up. (Applause.) If you believe in the right to bears arms, like I do, but think we should prevent an irresponsible few from inflicting harm -- stand up. Stand up. (Applause.)

If you believe that the families of Newtown and Aurora and Tucson and Virginia Tech and the thousands of Americans who have been gunned down in the last four months deserve a vote, we all have to stand up. (Applause.)

If you want the people you send to Washington to have just an iota of the courage that the educators at Sandy Hook showed when danger arrived on their doorstep, then we’re all going to have to stand up.

And if we do, if we come together and raise our voices together and demand this change together, I’m convinced cooperation and common sense will prevail. We will find sensible, intelligent ways to make this country stronger and safer for our children. (Applause.)

So let’s do the right thing. Let’s do right by our kids. Let’s do right by these families. Let’s get this done. Connecticut, thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America."  (Applause.)

Congress of Cowards

Gabriel Giffords was a young, articulate and dedicated Member of Congress, with a bright future of public service.  She was not deterred from what she believed in, even when windows of her Colorado office were shattered right after she voted for the Affordable Care Act.  But she valued dialogue with her constituents, and went out of her way to make it easy for them to approach her.  She was gunned down in a public place, surrounded by constituents and just plain shoppers.

It took many months, heroic effort, and better medical care than most of us can hope for, until she had recovered sufficiently for the media to decide she was all better.  She's not.  Words come with great difficulty.  Her sentences are short, made up of short words.

But besides being visible and audible evidence of the damage done to her, these words and sentences can also be incredibly direct and eloquent.  After Newtown, and just as Congress was holding its first hearings towards crafting new gun control legislation, she spoke to a congressional committee.  In the course of her brief statement, she said a two word sentence, emphasizing both words.  It was the most important sentence anyone has uttered in this debate.  It was directed to her former colleagues in Congress.  "Be brave."

She knew then what we know now.  That despite majorities favoring every aspect of gun regulation on President Obama's list, and despite 90% approval of the simplest measure--universal criminal background checks--Republican Senators are falling over each other, eager to say they will prevent any of these measures from being debated or coming to a vote.  And the senators are supposed to be the sane GOPers.

They are instead redefining the 10% to include corporations that make and sell guns.  They are serving these masters, and cannot disobey.  Nor have all Democrats distinguished themselves in regard to these proposals.

With some exceptions, it is a Congress of cowards.

President Obama, in the speech I've posted above, is more constructive on the subject than I am.  He is leading a citizen revolt against this particular obstruction. He brought 12 parents whose children were killed at Newtown aboard Air Force One, to stay for the week and lobby these sniveling senators in Washington.
 Still it has to be said, because--especially set against the courage of Gabby Giffords-- this cowardice is so craven that it must be named.