Sensible 90%+ public-supported background checks FAILS Republican-led Senate filibuster

There is no silver bullet to curb violence, hate, fear–which in the American chip-on-the-shoulder gun culture results in world-leading gun massacres. BUT, the timid little step of requiring background checks–even THAT failed BY BOUGHT AND PAID FOR Washington politicians. Note whoever voted against this, mark their names and vote them OUT next time. They don’t give a damn about you, me or the cause of peace and harmony.

Obama Speaks On Gun Control After Vote Fails

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/17/background-checks-bill_n_3103341.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

President Barack Obama hits back at Sen. Rand Paul for saying Newtown families were ‘props’ in gun debate

http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20130417/NEWS01/304170078/President-Barack-Obama-hits-back-Sen-Rand-Paul-saying-Newtown-families-were-props-gun-debate?fb_action_ids=10151407624463733&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_ref=artsharetop&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/17/background-checks-bill_n_3103341.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

Pistols, and rifles, and guns! Oh, my!

While walking down the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy had a quite a menagerie of companions to accompany her on her travails. There was the Cowardly Lion, Brainless Scarecrow, and Heartless Woodsman. Through a long series of trials, tribulations, and adventures Dorothy learns that she could have gone home at anytime by using the magic shoes she stole from a dead woman her house landed on, and her friends all discover that they already possessed select qualities but didn’t know how to recognize these traits in themselves. Unfortunately, Sen. Feinstein isn’t going to discover that her companions on her latest walk down the legislative golden path are possessing of admired traits, and she’s not wearing ruby red shoes.

At some point today Sen. Dianne Feinstein is set to introduce a bill proposing a new assault weapons ban. Unfortunately, a number of the provisions in this bill don’t target assault weapons, but simply guns in general. Her bill doesn’t merely limit the number of rounds that a magazine may contain, but also limits the freedoms of law abiding gun owners.

Sen Feinstein has made a carrier out of riding tragedy to success. By her own admission, she used the assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk, the nation’s first openly gay elected official to propel herself into a successful political carrier. Since then she’s been a tireless champion of gun control, authored the original 1994 assault weapons ban, and has been pushing to reinstate and strengthen the assault weapons ban since it expired in 2004.

While Sen. Feinstein’s dedication to her cause is admirable, her reasoning is full of holes so large that monkeys wearing funny outfits could fly through them. Firstly, there’s the obvious hypocrisy of the whole situation. Sen. Feinstein doesn’t want you to own a gun, but has no problem buying one to protect herself. In addition to that, there’s the blatant manipulation of public opinion through the obfuscation of basic gun facts. If you’re wanting to sway my opinion then use accurate information to make a well reasoned argument supporting your stance. Don’t try to mislead me by confusing the difference between a semi-automatic firearm and an assault weapon. They are two very different beasts.

Frankly, gun control laws aren’t going to stop tragedies such as what occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary. People like to paint these events as problems of the times, but unjustifiable gun violence of this nature has been with us for decades. Gun laws aren’t going to keep criminals from getting guns, nor will criminals respect these laws. It doesn’t matter how many exceptions your bill has for hunters and sportsman. When you limit the ability of law abiding citizens to procure effective means of defending themselves then you invite tyranny into our homes. As many before me have argued, the right the bear arms isn’t enshrined in the Constitution so people can visit the shooting range at their leisure, but to enable the people to overthrow a tyrannical government should one ever arise in the United States. So long as the municipal police departments have AK-47s, body armor, and armored vehicles then every American has reason to believe they need similar hardware. If you feel there’s a need to remove such weapons from my home then I feel there’s a need to remove such weaponry from the police department. If the police department can’t protect me without a semi-automatic rifle then how can I be expected to protect myself without one? If it takes the police several minutes to arrive at my door once I’ve called 911 then I need the means to protect myself until they do.

The recent gun control debate isn’t about safety. Taking guns away from people doesn’t stop gun violence. The debate isn’t about assault weapons. Most of the massacres of the previous years didn’t involve assault weapons, but semi-automatic weapons. The debate isn’t even about criminals having guns! Most of the mass shootings have been committed by people who were perfectly law abiding before they starting shooting people. The debate is about our rights. Do we, the people, have the right to defend ourselves or not? While gun control is being debated there will be many questions asked, but perhaps the most poignant question won’t be voiced. Do we have a need to defend ourselves? The undeniable answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. As long as crazy, murderous, lunatics exist there will be a need for the common person to respond with force to unjust aggression. Perhaps Sen. Feinstein needs to recognize that. Perhaps, also, she needs to recognize that a person doesn’t need to be a senator before they have need of a gun because I’m willing to bet she felt safer after buying a .38 special.

It’s a long fall from the top

It what has to be the most sensationalized fall from grace in recent memory Lance Armstrong sat down with Oprah Winfrey to confess his sins before the pulpit of public opinion. While it’s always entertaining to watch the mighty made miniscule on the big screen perhaps we should remember that this is somebody who made a living riding a bicycle around. This isn’t the Watergate scandal, or Monica Lewinsky. The scandal isn’t the shock of learning that a beloved athlete took performance enhancing drugs, lied about it, and got caught. That’s considered typical daytime entertainment. The scandal is in the lives that were ruined in the process.

When you place somebody’s income at the mercy of their personal saleability, and then tie that saleability into their performance at a physical activity, they will find a way to make their job easier. Professional sports isn’t about sportsmanship or competition, it’s about money. Large sums of money. All through Lance’s cycling carrier he’s needed to be faster, stronger, more personable, and better selling than his competitors. His livelihood has depended upon riding that bicycle for our entertainment. At times, he may have felt that his very life depended upon his performance. Cancer treatments are ungodly expensive, as we all know. Is it any surprise that he would have done something, anything, to stay ahead of his competition?

Allegations of doping have littered Lance Armstrong’s career over years. There have been books written, and discredited. Marriages have been ruined. Careers have been destroyed. Throughout it all, and hidden from the media spotlight, is perhaps the most shocking allegation: Lance Armstrong has been a bit of a dick. It’s coming out now that many people who were close to Lance Armstrong viewed him as a bully. Good liars don’t able to simply deny the truth, but sell you a falsehood. When that fails they become indignant that anyone would even suggest impropriety. What did we expect?

The scandal comes from Lance Armstrong’s believability over the course of years of accusations. We wanted to believe that his performance was natural. We wanted to believe that a cancer patient could make a full recovery, and without the use of drugs, win a major sporting event. We wanted to believe that hard work, personal effort, and a little luck would be all anyone needs to meet their goals. While it’s fun to watch the pedestal topple, we should also remember who built that pedestal.

Lance Armstrong’s cycling carrier is probably over. He might be able to make a rebound, but he’ll never enjoy the same success. Even if he proves himself athletically capable of winning another Tour de France, without drugs, he’ll never be given the opportunity. Instead, he’ll be relegated to the back of the pack as politics comes into play. Irregardless of the damage caused to his carrier, Lance Armstrong’s real punishment won’t be televised. There are people who have been wronged, called a lair by a lair, belittled, bullied, and degraded. They’re going to be wanting a few words with Lance. Some will want an apology, some will want a lawsuit. Either way, I feel that the unseen punishments are going to hurt Lance more than the public humiliation.

Algeria Hostage Crisis

A few days ago a militant group calling itself the Brigade of the Masked Ones stormed a gas plant in Algeria, and took somewhere between 132 and 650 people hostage. Since then, there has been a botched attempt to free the hostages which resulted in at least 12 hostages dieing, and 30 remain unaccounted for, but 573 people being rescued. The numbers are pretty confusing, but the situation is evolving. Getting a clear picture of what’s going on is going to be difficult. At this time, it appears that the majority of hostages have been freed, including 573 Algerians, and 100 foreign workers. There are still 30 or so people (minus 12?) who are unaccounted for.

What is clear is that there has been an inexcusable intelligence failure that allowed these terrorists to orchestrate, and execute, a hostage crisis on a massive scale which has resulted in a loss of human life. What’s also clear is who’s behind this terrorist attack: al-Qaeda. The Goldsteinesque boogeyman of yesteryear appears to have reared it’s ugly head for one last hurrah. The leader of this al-Qaeda affiliated group looks to be Mokhtar Belmokhtar who’s been described as a “one-eyed terror boss.” This is an individual who has been engaging in terrorist activities since at least 1991. is committed to his cause, founded a group called “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” and probably hasn’t gotten news that the “War on Terror” has ended. This terrorist attack is targeting westerners, and France has little to do with it.

One of the first things the terrorist did was to separate western nationals from Algerians. These people were kept tightly guarded, and the twelve confirmed deaths happened when the terrorists murdered them in anticipation of an imminent Algerian military rescue effort. While the Algerian military was able to free 573 Algerian hostages, the terrorists took special care to retain custody of the foreign nationals. Since that time, a spokesman for Belmokhtar has attempted to open negotiations, and alluded that Belmokhtar would be willing to free some of the hostages in exchange for the release of Omar Abdel Rahman, and Aafia Siddiqui. The first name should be familiar to most people: Rahman was the guy who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and is currently serving a life sentence. The second person is a Pakistani woman who’s also imprisoned in the US for terrorism related crimes.

I know terrorists are crazy, but I didn’t know they were stupid. That’s the only conclusion I can come to when examining this situation. They’re fighting a battle in a war that’s already ended, against an enemy who refuses to come to the battlefield, and making demands for a prisoner exchange from an army that doesn’t have those prisoners. Disregarding the fact that America has a long standing policy of refusing to negotiate with terrorist, the nation simply won’t get heavily involved with this mess. The US isn’t going to release two convicted terrorists because the Brigade of the Masked Ones murdered a dozen people. If anything, the US will be less likely to ever let them out. If people who have been imprisoned for years are still able to incite such violence then they’re still a public danger.

What we’re seeing in Algeria is perhaps the last gasps of a dieing movement. Terrorism has failed to promote, or advance, the goals of al-Qaeda in a number of years. Al-Qaeda swatted the hornet’s nest in 2001, and two countries were invaded as a result. Al-Qaeda associates have been hunted, and hounded, all over the planet, and Osama Bin Laden sleeps with the fishes. Additional large scale terrorist attacks are not going to do anything to change this. While Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s plan of attack may have proven successful, his strategy could use a lot of work. He’s gotten a lot of media attention for himself, but that won’t serve any terrorist group well anymore.

Expect a continued divide

We often hear people, specifically voters, say they want more neutrality in government. The proverbial “work together” slogan spoken quite frequently during campaign season, and even in times of dire legislative standoffs, yet rarely transformed from rhetoric to fruition.
And America, it’s only likely to get worse.
Federal elections aren’t decided by national voters. Yes, U.S. Congress members cast ballots on legislation that impacts the masses, yet they are tabbed for office by a small percentage of the electorate.
It’s all about the districts, and who can appease the voters in their backyards. Sen. Mitch McConnell is targeted by national Democratic think-tanks as an anti-progressive leader who is further right than the Atlantic Ocean, yet the Congressman has been able to maintain his seat because he appeals to voters in Kentucky.
Indiana Rep. Todd Young said in November — after being re-elected to a second term in Congress — that he wouldn’t back down from President Barack Obama when it comes to fiscal issues.
And true to his word, Young voted against the “Fiscal Cliff” deal, just as he cast several ballots in favor of repealing Obama’s Affordable Care Act during his first two years in the U.S. House.
While such votes may disgust middle-of-the-road voters, they are backed by many ballot casters in Indiana’s 9th District. Thanks in part to a redrawn district map that favors GOP candidates, Young easily defeated Democrat Shelli Yoder in November and won by a larger margin than in 2010 when he bested incumbent Baron Hill.
But it’s not just Republicans, there are Democrats holding seats in strongly liberal districts.
Members of Congress seated in such polar districts may not have to worry about being defeated by an opposition member in the general election, but they do have to be concerned about any votes deemed as being too soft on a certain issue coming back to haunt them in a primary runoff.
Such a scenario unfolded during Indiana’s 2012 primary, when long-time U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar was defeated by the Tea Party backed candidate Richard Mourdock.
Lugar was punished by voters in Indiana for supporting Obama on certain issues. Mourdock was later defeated by Democrat Joe Donnelly in part due to the Republican’s comments on abortion and rape in New Albany during a debate.
The point is, while many Americans may want more elected officials to meet in the middle of the aisle, our political system is setup in a way that allows a deeply political divide to occur.
Congressional members, especially in the House due to the frequency of their election cycles, always have to be wary of how their votes will play out during the next election. With many districts rooted in a certain political preference, expect most of Obama’s remaining years in office to be fraught with gridlock and last-minute bargaining.

Gun Control, Executive Orders, and Our Rights

Yesterday, Vice President Biden was quoted stating that President Obama intends to use an executive order to mitigate some of the gun violence that has been plaguing our country in recent months. While his remarks were brief the conversation that they’ve inspired is just getting started. At first, Wal-Mart declined to send a representative to the White House to discuss gun control issues, but ended up changing their mind after a public outcry. Piers Morgan got into another argument with Larry Pratt, and there were calls for him to be deported which were rebuffed by the White House. People are making comparisons, accusations, quoting statistics, misquoting them, and questioning what right the government has to limit their rights. A common denominator to be found behind every aspect of this national conversation is the influence of the media.

Unfortunately, the news is no longer “just the facts.” It’s become a machine that’s used to sway the fickle opinions of the general public instead of informing them so they can form opinions of their own. Instead of reporting the news the media is making the news. When Wal-Mart declined to send a representative to the White House there was a media firestorm followed by a predictable public backlash. Wal-Mart changed their mind, and decided to send an “expert” to the White House. When Piers Morgan proved himself to be a juvenile debater there was a media firestorm followed by a predictable public backlash. The White House ended up telling people that Mr. Morgan’s First Amendment rights trumped their discomfiture.

Firstly, since when does Wal-Mart get to send a representative to discuss executive orders with the President at the White House? I thought I had a representative working to represent me, and Wal-Mart got to send a lobbyist to ask them for consideration. If Wal-Mart gets to send a representative then who’s representing me? Wal-Mart’s economic might shouldn’t afford them a representative. They’re a store, and shouldn’t be more concerned with following the laws instead of making them. Secondly, Wal-Mart shouldn’t have been bullied into sending someone to speak with the president by an engineered media campaign to shame them. The people already have enough reason to dislike Wal-Mart, and this flip-flop shows that the company can be effectively bullied into changing it’s stance rather easily.

Additionally, the calls to deport Piers Morgan are simply disgusting. While it’s true that his oratory is lacking, his opinions not popular, and his facts questionable, his is still living in the Land of the Free. One of the beautiful things about the United States of America is the fact that we afford our rights to all persons. Every person in the US has the right to legal representation if they’re accused of a crime. Every person has the right to be free from unjust searches. Every person also has the right to express their opinion. This does not simply apply to American citizens. Thankfully, if the White House has done one thing properly, it was in shooting down these calls for deportation. And, Mr. Morgan, while there may not be guns in England there is violent crime.

While the media is busy creating news they’re doing very little reporting. While the GOP has done a good job of putting its foot in its mouth, it looks like President Obama is getting ready to shoot himself in the foot. There are three fundamental rights that Americans will certainly defend: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the freedom to bear arms. Any attempt to use executive order to increase gun control is going to backfire for President Obama. Doing so will simply drive people to the GOP, upset the current balance of power, and hand him another hostile congress after the next election. Perhaps President Obama needs to learn a little from history. In 1994 President Clinton made calls to increase gun control in his State of the Union address. The result was a media firestorm propagated by the NRA which discredited the Democrat party, got congressmen voted out of office, and helped to spark the Republican Revolution. Frankly, this whole situation doesn’t pass the smell-test. The whole situation reeks of a knee-jerk reaction. Frankly, an executive order doesn’t trump constitutional rights.

More Political Shenanigans

An interesting political action started yesterday. In addition to the swearing in of new members of the Senate, there was also a healthy does of political maneuvering. Yesterday, however, was unique in an interesting way because it was the first day of the Senate’s new session. On the first day of any session there are a lot of issues to be decided, some policy issues to iron out, credentials to be presented, desks to be assigned, and pictures to be taken. With so much getting heaped on their plates during the first day on the job it’s understandable that some senators would like a few more hours in the day. Thankfully, Sen. Reid was able to do exactly that! In fact, he didn’t add just a few hours the day, he added 432 hours to January 3rd by declaring the Senate to be in recess until January 22nd.

Why all the political shenanigans? Firstly, it has to do with what a filibuster is. Everybody seems to have their own idea concerning what a filibuster is, how it’s to be used, and how they’re to be broken. One of the main reasons for extending the first senatorial day into weeks is to allow Sen. Majority Leader Reid to delay making a decision about how the senate’s going to handle filibusters for the next couple of years. The delay opens the door to backroom finagling over the “nuclear option.” The nuclear option, or “constitutional option” as it’s known by it’s supporters, would change the Senate rules to allow a filibuster to be broken by a simple majority of 51 votes. The current rules, as most of us know, allows a filibuster to be broken only by a 2/3 majority vote. On the other end of the debate you’ll find Sen. Minority Leader McConnell wishing to maintain the status quo. The odd thing about the whole situation is Reid traditional position as an “institutionalist” who favors the 2/3 majority method.

This is simply another example of politicians bending the rules to meet their own needs. The question is whether the 113th Senate will allow the silent filibuster to continue to clog up the Senate, return to using the 2/3 majority vote, or unleash the dreaded nuclear option. While many people may be displeased with the GOP’s performance, and may wish the Senate to move on to more pressing issues instead of allowing filibusters to delay discussion, Republicans have legitimate reason to fear the nuclear option. Not simply because this would cast them deeper into the darkness of irrelevancy, but because of the effect such a change would have for minority efforts. If the nuclear option is used then it will be far easier for the majority party to silence opposition to seemingly popular bills. Instead of being allowed to speak their peace in it’s entirety dissenters could be silenced with a simple majority vote to end their filibuster. Democrats should also make more of an effort to place themselves in Republican shoes. The precedent they set “today” may come back to bite them when the political winds decide to blow in another direction.

It’s clear that the rules regarding the silent filibuster, which allows a senator to block discussion of a bill without actually speaking until he drops, aren’t beneficial to the healthy functioning of the Senate. The nuclear option is most certainty radioactive. The other remaining option, which I predict the Senate won’t choose, would be returning to the 2/3 majority vote required to end a filibuster. The filibuster has served a useful purpose, and should remain an option to allow minority opinions the chance to be fully voiced. While it’s true that it’s been abused, it shouldn’t be eliminated to serve momentary political expediency. Neither should other senate rules, such as calling a recess, be abused to allow political opponents opportunities to spar with one another behind closed doors.

Pakistan, Polio, and Assassination

Yesterday, newslines were abuzz with word from Pakistan that seven people had been murdered. While murder in the middle east is hardly shocking this case draws attention due to who the victims were. They weren’t ordinary Pakistanis caught in the crossfire of some terrorist fighting Americans. They weren’t some poor people hit by a drone strike. These were polio workers. People doing nothing more than attempting to improve the lives of all Pakistanis by vaccinating children against a deadly, horrific, disease. Additionally, five of the dead were female teachers. Guardians of youth, slayers of ignorance, and the sculptors of tomorrow. They were hunted down over the course of two days, and murdered for simply following their calling to serve children.

Why were these people killed? They were killed for trying to make a difference. They were killed simply because their murderers were too ignorant to understand that a polio shot isn’t some American “plot.” They were murdered by people who wish their society to see no improvement, to see no progress, to see no better tomorrow. These are sick people. Sick people who will hold hostage the children of an entire nation to further their military ambitions.

If anything is going to change in Pakistan then the change will need to be led by Pakistanis. Specifically, Pakistani women, and children. When women and children are educated society rises out of the dark ages. It’s a slow process, and will take considerable time, but the results are invaluable. Educated women vaccinate their kids. Educated women have children later than uneducated women, and are thus more able to provide for them. Educated women also educate their children, and improve the lives of future generations. Educated women cannot be so easily oppressed, and are less willing to simply obey. In the final analysis, perhaps that’s the real reason for the vaccination reluctance.

The Cosmopolitan 113th Congress

With the new year comes a new Congress. While the 112th Congress has gone down in history as being the most unproductive assembly since the 1940′s we can hope that the 113th will be more productive. Before the first bills come up for consideration we can take a look at the demographics, and look at what kind of congress is now representing us. The 113th Congress appears to be more diverse, more cosmopolitan, and more representative of the nation as a whole. At least, from the Democratic side. The Republic side of the isle is still made up of mostly old, white men. The Democratic side of the isle is primarily made up of minorities. For the first time in history, in fact, the Democratic side of the isle includes a majority of minorities. Also, the Democratic side of the isle is nearly half women. Tulsi Gabbard, from Hawaii, will become the first Hindu to serve in the house. Mazie Hirono will become the first Asian-American to serve in the upper chamber. Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay senator, and will be joined by five other gay people to make the 113th congress the most fabulous in history. There are record numbers of Hispanics, 28, serving in the 113th, as well.

The bottom line is that the members of the 113th Congress, at least from the Democratic side, have become more diverse as the nation has become more diverse. While Republicans hold on to the “Good Ol’ Boy” mentality the nation is passing them by. They’re becoming increasingly annoying, increasingly irrelevant, and increasingly bland. In a colorful nation comprised of a variety of different constituencies the Republicans seem to represent only one select group of Americans instead of the whole. With the new Congress comes a slew of new diversity that will allow the 113th to become truly representative of our nation.

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