Where Do We Go From Here?

There are 28 dead, 20 of them small children, in this morning’s Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shooting, with the dead shooter, Adam Lanza, 20, having first shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their nearby home.  The school goes from Kindergarten through fourth grade, so these are very young children.

From Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

“But this one seems, feels like it’s in a whole different category — the age of the children, the number of fatalities. I’m not sure any of that requires saying more. You get it.

“I read a couple days ago that there are some 300 million guns in the US. Just under half the population owns a firearm. Let’s assume some truly radical shift in public opinion in the country and new regulations and laws get that number down to 200 million. What does that accomplish exactly?

“And let’s further note that the courts have moved decisively in favor of a much fuller interpretation of the 2nd Amendment which would make almost any sort of serious gun control impossible. Just days ago a federal court essentially made ‘conceal and carry’ the law of the land, or at least within that circuit for now. So what seemed a bit crazy a few years ago is now a constitutionally protected gun right.

“We know many cases of schools where people have to go through metal detectors. How much more on permanent lockdown do we want schools to be? Let’s call that half a rhetorical question. But only half.

“Don’t mistake me: I’m not making the argument that gun control wouldn’t be effective or the standard arguments that the guns were bought legally or by people with no history mental illness, whatever. I’d be ready to support pretty much all the things that normally go under the heading of ‘gun control’. But I’m hearing a lot of people saying we need to talk about guns, restart that conversation. And I agree, at least in the abstract. But what exactly are we talking about? And how we propose to get from here to there?

“I don’t want to hear about these tragedies being rooted in evil or the human heart. We know the human heart is a substandard product. It’s offensive to put this forward as part of a discussion about policy as opposed to theodicy and meditation. We know that the vast, vast proportion of gun owners use them legally and safely. We also know that gun deaths are rare in many other countries quite similar to the USA for the simple reason they don’t have so many friggin’ guns all over the place. …

“I’m not trying to stop the discussion. I want to start it. But I’m looking for some guidance on how it can be about more than words.”

In the abstract, I welcome the idea of a population armed to the teeth, ready to take to the hills and defend ourselves against possible tyranny.  And I believe that’s what the Second Amendment is about — tyranny, not hunting.  So part me really takes comfort in the knowledge that there’s all these guns and ammunition in private hands in our country because I think of all the dictatorships, current and historical, where the people are/were disarmed.  But on a day like this, facing so many actual dead innocents, there is no comfort to be found, and it’s almost impossible not to focus on the present danger from our fellow crazy citizens rather than some theoretical danger from our government.

Mr. President, Please Read Fortune’s Fast and Furious Article

A day before the House votes on whether Attorney General Eric Holder is in contempt, Fortune magazine is up with a piece* based on a six-month investigation which finds that the ATF never intentionally allowed “gun walking,” as both lawmakers and the media have assumed.

I encourage beg you to read the whole article and get everyone you know to read it, but here are some excerpts:

“Quite simply, there’s a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal.  Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands.  Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic.  But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic.  They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked.  Just the opposite:  They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.

“Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that [head Phoenix ATF agent] Voth and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies.  Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case.  Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time.

“How Fast and Furious reached the headlines is a strange and unsettling saga, one that reveals a lot about politics and media today.  It’s a story that starts with a grudge, specifically [ATF agent] Dodson’s anger at [his boss] Voth.  After the terrible murder of agent Terry, Dodson made complaints that were then amplified, first by right-wing bloggers, then by CBS.  Rep. Issa and other politicians then seized those elements to score points against the Obama administration….

Republican senators are whipping up the country into a psychotic frenzy with these reports that are patently false,” says Linda Wallace, a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation unit who was assigned to the Fast and Furious team (and recently retired from the IRS).  A self-described gun-rights supporter, Wallace has not been criticized by Issa’s committee.

The ATF’s accusers seem untroubled by evidence that the policy they have pilloried didn’t actually exist.

“Irony abounds when it comes to the Fast and Furious scandal.  But the ultimate irony is this:  Republicans who support the National Rifle Association and its attempts to weaken gun laws are lambasting ATF agents for not seizing enough weapons — ones that, in this case, prosecutors deemed to be legal.”  Italics in original, emphasis added.

To me this isn’t  irony,  it just shows that however much the GOP loves guns, they hate Obama more.  Fast and Furious may be a Seinfeld Scandal —  a scandal about nothing. 

Much as I’d love to blame Fox, CBS initially behaved shamefully here, believing the bad apple (Dodson) over the good apple (Voth) and taking Voth’s email out of context to say he was referring to gunwalking, when he was not.

* “The truth about the Fast and Furious scandal,” Katherine Eban

Maybe Some Good Will Come from Fast and Furious

All administrations have embarrassing episodes, and Fast and Furious is certainly one of those.

But there’s embarrassing and then there’s crazy.  If the GOP pushes their insane conspiracy theory that Fast and Furious was really designed to take away our Second Amendment rights, then maybe some good will come of it.   It will reveal how radical and how crazy the Republicans have become, how unworthy of being one of our two mainstream parties.  The GOP hasn’t just refused to stand up to the nuts, it has let them take over.

This conspiracy theory makes no sense to me.  We’re supposed to believe that our providing a bunch of guns to Mexican drug lords would result in so much killing of Mexicans that Americans would be begging for more gun control.

But, really, why would Americans care if Mexicans get killed?  The truth is that about 100,000 Americans are shot or killed by guns every year (some of them children sitting in their living rooms watching TV when a bullet comes through the window), and we don’t demand more gun control.

If shootings of our own people don’t spur us to action, why would Mexican deaths?

Prez to Issa: Drop Dead

You know things aren’t going well when Drudge features a picture of Richard Nixon with President Obama’s eyes photoshopped in.  No one wants to be compared to Tricky Dick, ever.

Today, Obama claimed executive privilege for the first time in his presidency over documents Congress has subpoenaed in the “Fast and Furious” gun running operation.  Bush 43 claimed the privilege six times, and Clinton 14 times, so this day was inevitable.  At some point, presidents and Congress clash.

This is no longer about Fast and Furious itself.  We know what happened.  In a sting operation to sell guns to Mexican drug cartels, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives didn’t make arrests as quickly as it could because it sought to build a bigger case.  This is known as “gun walking,” and it led to the Bureau’s losing track of about 2,000 guns, two of which were found when a Border Patrol agent was shot in December of 2010.

The Justice Department has already given Congress almost 8,000 documents related to the operation.  What’s in dispute are internal emails after February 4, 2011, about Congress’ investigation into the bungled operation.

Justice officials in D. C. gave Congress incorrect information based on false assurances they received from Arizona-based officials that gun walking had not occurred.  They may have been a little too quick and willing to accept those assurances and pass them along to Congress.

Congress is now looking to embarrass the Justice Department (and President Obama) as Justice scrambled to cover its tush after giving Congress false information about gun walking.

Basically, what did Eric Holder know, and when did he know it?

Obama is sticking his neck way out for Holder, rather than letting him twist in the wind or take the fall.  The GOP will do everything it can to make Holder — and Obama — look bad.

Today, Obama looks tough and loyal.  Not sure how he’ll look in a few weeks or months.  I hope Holder has been straight with him.

This isn’t about losing guns in Mexico, this is about losing the election in the U. S.

The War of the Waiting Periods

As states now seek to increase waiting periods for abortions from 24 hours to 72 hours, I was thinking today that the people who are demanding these restrictions are the exact same people who oppose any waiting periods for gun purchases.  God forbid, that someone who wants a gun shouldn’t be able to get one immediately.

I believe a 72-hour waiting period for an abortion is unconstitutional.  In many parts of the country, especially in the south and the mid-west, there aren’t many abortion providers, so women have to travel far from their homes.  These waiting periods mean long trips back and forth; missing work; arranging child care; extra expenses for motels, buses, gas.

If  a woman isn’t absolutely sure she wants to terminate a pregnancy, she waits and reflects until she is certain one way or the other about this most personal of decisions.  Once a woman makes an appointment for the procedure, she’s sure, her decision should be respected, and she shouldn’t have to wait any longer.

The GOP Has No Solutions for the Twenty-First Century, But Loves the Eighteenth

Tea Party metaphors have taken over the 2012 presidential race.  In Iowa, Chris Christie’s reps are quaintly urging activists to “keep their powder dry,” while Rudy Giuliani’s people are saying exactly the same in New Hampshire.  Does the NRA know that the GOP is nostalgic not just for pre-New Deal days, but pre-bullet days?

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin doesn’t care if your powder is wet or dry, she just keeps asking for money.