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Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

A Teachable Moment

Folks, this is a teachable moment!

This is the moment Planned Parenthood has been waiting for. The answer to the inexplicable sacrifice Title X funds get every time a race starts to narrow and a moderate needs to appease the far right.

I am wondering if Gloria Borga of CNN is right and whether it will wind up that Congress steps in to provide supplemental coverage.

In an ideal world, the government wouldn’t be involved in sex ed, abortion services or birth control, at all. But our world is less than ideal, especially if you are a poor woman who doesn’t have a job or health insurance or who works for a small, privately held company whose bosses don’t cover it, because of their religious beliefs.

What perfect timing for Planned Parenthood to say, “If it is unfair to add a contraception mandate to a mandate a lot of family owned business already didn’t like (Obamacare), then someone needs to recognize how unfairly Title X has been treated all these years.”

I’ve been blogging for a few years in hopes of opening up new ways of thinking around the Republicans and politics in general. A swing voter or an Independent Republican, I’ve advocated just going purple and electing the best people, regardless of whether they identify blue or red.

Last weekend, I was one of three people in a car heading to a Republican political event in Columbia, Missouri . Two of us were scrambling to help the driver with directions by looking them up on our phones. We both had the same address but my Mapquest was telling me to turn left; his app was telling him to turn right. I laughed because that pretty much summed up the conversation we had been having on the car ride down about the direction of the Republican Party.

But now, the Supreme Court, which used to be above party politics, represents not only that intractable ideological divide between the Republican and Democratic parties but also the gender divide. OMG. Yes, I know that OMG is a bad pun. But, maybe it’s time for the justices, once charged with rising above the political rancor, to cast off the black robes and just wear the red and/or blue.

The male justices were right that you can’t violate religious freedom. And the female justices were right that many women will need access to the contraceptive methods at the heart of the case, sometimes for reasons other than birth control.

In an ideal world, no one gets their rights infringed on. But no one knows better that life is less than ideal than Planned Parenthood. They’ve always been there to fill the gaps in contraception. To fill the gaps in education. To fill the gaps in income and access. To fill the gaps between what people wish would happen and what did.

 

House Passes 1.1 Trillion Dollar Spending Bill / New York Times

In Defeat for Tea Party, House Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill

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Speaker John A. Boehner on Wednesday after the vote on a spending bill that left some conservative groups fuming. J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday, 359 to 67, to approve a $1.1 trillion spending bill for the current fiscal year, shrugging off the angry threats of Tea Party activists and conservative groups whose power has ebbed as Congress has moved toward fiscal cooperation.

The legislation, 1,582 pages in length and unveiled only two nights ago, embodies precisely what many House Republicans have railed against since the Tea Party movement began, a huge bill dropped in the cover of darkness and voted on before lawmakers could possibly have read it.

The conservative political action committee Club for Growth denounced it and said a vote for it would hurt any lawmaker’s conservative scorecard. Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, castigated it as a profligate budget buster that is returning Washington to its free-spending ways.

“Has Congress learned nothing from the Obamacare disaster?” said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots. “We need members in the House and the Senate who are willing to keep their campaign promises, stand up for the people and protect Americans from Washington’s tax, borrow, spend and spend and spend mentality.”

The response in the Republican-led House was a collective shrug, with 166 Republicans voting for it and 64 opposing it. The Senate, controlled by Democrats, is expected to pass it easily this week.

“If I started voting how they want me to, versus what I think is right, then they’ve already won,” said Representative Mike Simpson, Republican of Idaho, who is dealing with one of the best-financed Tea Party challenges of this campaign year. “Eh, it is what it is.”

The budget process that is culminating in the passage of the spending bill has ushered in a remarkable marginalization of the Republican far right. After a politically disastrous 16-day government shutdown last fall, the House voted 285 to 144 to reopen the government on Oct. 16. Only 87 Republicans voted yes; 144 voted no.

The legislation that reopened the government set the parameters for a broad budget deal that was again denounced by conservatives. But in December, that deal passed the House 332 to 94, with 169 Republicans backing it. That budget blueprint yielded more than 1,500 pages of fine print.

For the most ardent conservatives, the spending bill passed by the House on Wednesday represented a tangible backslide from fiscal discipline, a $45 billion increase in spending compared with where the budget would have been had House Republicans let another round of automatic spending cuts take effect.

Yet it passed the House with an even greater margin — and even more Republican votes.

“Our people learned a lot of tough lessons in the last year, and I think you’re seeing the tough lessons applied,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma.

In the process, Speaker John A. Boehner has reasserted control over his fractious Republican conference, leaving his far-right flank angry and isolated. The speaker’s public and private denunciations of the outside conservative groups have created conditions in which members must choose sides, and they have.

“The Tea Party groups and conservative movement in America gave the speaker his speakership, and I think it’s time for us to be grateful for what these outside groups have done,” said Representative Raúl R. Labrador, Republican of Idaho, who has remained in the Tea Party camp.

But most have aligned with the speaker in what Republican leaders say is a growing realization that incremental moves toward governance are better than the purist, ideological stands demanded by the right.

“We can push large ideas out of the House and say, ‘This is what we feel is the right thing to do,’ but if we’re going to actually move things, they’re going to have to be smaller things,” said Representative James Lankford of Oklahoma, a member of the Republican leadership.

The Heritage Foundation drafted a lengthy to-do list for the huge spending bill, which included prohibiting funds to build a prison in the United States to house detainees from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; eliminating all money for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s cherished high-speed rail projects; cutting the operating budget of the Fish and Wildlife Service; providing money for private school vouchers for the District of Columbia; and significantly reducing the Internal Revenue Service’s budget, with language requiring more oversight of the potential targeting of political groups.

All of those requests — about half the to-do list, in all — were carried out, and yet Heritage Action demanded a “no” vote.

That ideological purity has lost its power.

“They’re going to have their various metrics,” said Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “What we need to be able to do is go home and explain what’s inside the bills and why they matter.”

Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, said Wednesday that his group’s influence had not waned, but that the budget process had highlighted that “we’ve got work to do.”

“We’d love to put ourselves out of business,” he said, “but until you get a majority of economic conservatives, you’ve got to keep fighting.”

That will not sit well with Republicans now more willing to speak out against such groups.

“I hope they spend some time trying to win the United States Senate and working with us when we have a nominee to win the presidency,” Mr. Cole said. “But I don’t think condemning Republicans who are making amazing progress in a challenging environment is the appropriate thing to do.”

A version of this article appears in print on January 16, 2014, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: In Defeat for Tea Party, House Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill. Order Reprints|Today’s Paper|Subscribe

A Record Breaking Year for Inaction / Washington Post

113th Congress, going down in history for its inaction, has a critical December to-do list

By 

The good news for Congress as it heads into the final workdays of the year is that, for the first time in five years, there are no edge-of-the-cliff December crises threatening to bring the country to its knees.

The bad news is that whatever gets done in December will still be part of a year with record-low congressional accomplishment.

 From the confirmation of a new Federal Reserve chairman to the expiration of dairy pricing rules, House and Senate leaders head into the final month of 2013 with a checklist that is short but critical. But even a final burst of activity would do little to change the historic arc of this calendar year under the Capitol dome.

According to congressional records, there have been fewer than 60 public laws enacted in the first 11 months of this year, so below the previous low in legislative output that officials have already declared this first session of the 113th Congress the least productive ever. In 1995, when the newly empowered GOP congressional majority confronted the Clinton administration, 88 laws were enacted, the record low in the post-World War II era.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), pressed about what his majority had to show for its work in 2013, told reporters in mid-November that the GOP was most proud of putting a brake on tougher regulations on business and impeding efforts by President Obama to push a more liberal agenda on the country.

“Listen,” Boehner said, “we have a very divided country and we have a very divided government. And I’m not going to sit here and underestimate the difficulty in finding the common ground, because there’s not as much common ground here as there used to be.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) cited congressional dysfunction in his decision to break precedent and change rules regarding presidential nominations so that a simple majority could advance a confirmation to a final vote. He laughed last week when a radio interviewer asked whether the fallout from his unilateral move would lead to fewer accomplishments, suggesting that was not possible.

“More dysfunction? I mean, gee whiz,” Reid said to public radio interviewer Diane Rehm.

With those low expectations, it is unclear how much can get done as the GOP-controlled House and Democratic-run Senate continue to be at loggerheads on the most basic of functions.

Take their schedules, with each chamber slated to be in session two weeks and then breaking for the holiday season.

Rather than syncing up those final two weeks, the House comes in Monday and expects to adjourn for the year by Dec. 13, while the Senate does not return from the Thanksgiving break until Dec. 9 and has Dec. 20 as its tentative departure date.

That leaves only a few ­mid-December days for in-person negotiations among top congressional leaders.

And that has left hopes mixed as to whether the chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), can reach a broader pact that will set a budget framework for federal agency spending for the rest of the fiscal year. Both lawmakers have expressed optimism in the past few weeks, but that is largely because they have narrowed the scope of their aspirations. Their talks now focus on just a few possible trade-offs that give agencies some relief from the sequestration caps set in the 2011 Budget Control Act in exchange for some savings drawn from entitlement programs.

Halloween and Obamacare: Trick or Treat?

 

By M.W. Guzy, special to the Beacon

6:34 am on Thu, 10.31.13

When I was a kid, Halloween was the day we gave thanks for attending Catholic school. Because the day after is All Saint’s Day in church liturgy, we were off for a holy day of obligation while our public-school counterparts attended classes as usual after a night of trick or treating. (Suckers.)

Of course, back then Halloween was the province of children. By the time you were old enough for junior high, you were expected to hang up your costume and act your age. You might escort younger siblings around the neighborhood or help your parents hand out candy, but your days of door to door marauding were over.

Today, all that has changed. Reflecting the fashionable “All Mardi Gras – No Lent” approach to life, church attendance has dwindled while Halloween has morphed into a major commercial holiday celebrated by people of all ages. Fewer people worship on All Saints’ but far more party on its eve.

From a societal perspective, the problem with our collective Peter Pan pledge to never grow up is that we’re fast running out of adults to provide the treats. This, I suspect, is the emergent problem with Obamacare.

The disastrous first effort to fully implement the Affordable Care Act — often referred to as the plan’s “roll-out” — was mitigated by a strange miscegenation of Republican stupidity and Democratic incompetence.

The Republicans, you’ll recall, recently decided to shut down the government. The last time they tried that trick, they were treated to the re-election of Bill Clinton. Reluctant to learn from experience, they decided to stick their hand back in the fire to see if it was still hot. Not surprisingly, they again got burnt.

Ironically, the casus belli for the GOP stunt was the effort to de-fund Obamacare. Not only did they fail in that endeavor but the outrage they engendered managed to divert public attention from the shocking ineptitude displayed by the administration during the program’s initiation.

Having spent three years and hundreds of millions of dollars in preparation, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius unveiled an enrollment website on Oct. 1 that people found difficult to use because it didn’t work. Luckily for the Dems, most people were too busy cursing Republicans to take much notice.

Eventually, of course, the government resumed full operations and public attention shifted to deficiencies in the Obamacare roll-out. The computer problems actually may have provided a hidden benefit for Democrats by delaying access to the plan. It seems the hardy souls who negotiated the hurdles of the website and got to the substance of the program often didn’t like what they found there.

I heard two different case histories reported as examples of the challenges of implementing the new venture. Both are admittedly anecdotal and thus not necessarily representative of the experience of others. Consider them parables illustrating the tricks and treats of health-care reform.

CNN interviewed a woman who’d spent three weeks trying to enroll on-line. She attempted to log in at midnight when she hoped most of her fellow citizens would be asleep; she tried during morning and evening rush hours when she thought most people would be commuting.

It was never explained why she didn’t enroll by phone but she did ultimately succeed in buying health insurance through the website for herself and her daughter. This victory was more than symbolic because both women suffered from pre-existing medical conditions that had previously precluded private insurance and their medical bills had driven their household into bankruptcy. For her, Obamacare — its shortcomings notwithstanding — represented salvation. She advises that, with her worries about medical bills allayed, she can now sleep at night.

CBS reported the story of a 56-year-old Florida woman who had a less happy ending. She currently has health insurance that she feels is adequate to her needs. Her contribution for the coverage is $54 a month.

She thought the president had guaranteed that persons who were happy with their insurance could keep it. Now, she learns that her satisfaction is not enough — the president has to like her policy as well.

Her insurer recently notified her that the current policy doesn’t satisfy the criteria of Obamacare. Among its deficiencies is its failure to provide birth control and maternity benefits. Effective Jan. 1, her monthly premiums will increase to $591 for better coverage.

That’s an annual increase of $6,444 — but the post-menopausal woman will have access to free contraceptives and full pregnancy care. She understands that she may be eligible for some kind of tax credit but states she can’t afford the extra $537 a month to continue coverage in the meantime.

With the control of the Congress at stake, you’ll hear a lot stories like these during the coming off-year election season. It is estimated that about 15 percent of Americans lack adequate health-care coverage without Obamacare. But that leaves 85 percent of the population who are presently fairly comfortable without it.

Most of the insured receive coverage through their employers. Paradoxically, the new law charges employers a head tax for each employee and employee dependant they cover. The government will thus penalize the businesses that provide most of the nation’s health care for doing so. Proceeds from the tax will be used to offset the increased cost of insuring applicants with pre-existing medical conditions.

The employer will then be responsible for insuring himself, his family, his employees, their families and for paying a bonus to insurance companies for selling their product to people they don’t want to cover in the first place.  Sounds fair to me…

Democrats have about a year to convince insured Americans that Obamacare provides better treatment than they receive at present. All things considered, that sales job could be a tricky proposition.

 
 

A Season of Conciliation

If you look at the headlines out of Washington, DC right now, it isn’t hard to see why Sen. Harry Reid is saying that Washington is broken. After all, Congress is even fighting over how to fight (that’s what the question of filibuster reform is about) and for the first time in two terms, Americans are saying they do not believe President Barack Obama is honest. I disagree with a lot of this administration’s policies, particularly around Obamacare, but the person? That’s a little harsh. No wonder so many reasonable people are either getting out of Congress or opting not to run. 

In story after story, we can see how this moment is being shaped, not by what Americans want or need from their government but from the iron triangle of Congress, Special Interests and the Media. 

Except in one story. Whose significance should not be undervalued. President George H.W. Bush and President Barack Obama held a press conference at the White House to present an award to an Iowa couple who created a non-profit that feeds hungry children in 15 countries. President Obama paid tribute to the elder Bush for “how bright a light you shine” and marveled at the fact that the elder Bush parachuted out of a plane at 85.   There is no mistaking that these two Presidents are rising above the partisanship that is turning so many voters off to politics altogether. And that is leadership. 

The senior Bush said it clearly when he went on ABC’s “This Week” recently, “I think it’s very important to fix a broken system and to treat people with respect and to have confidence in our ability to assimilate people.” 

The middle, that reasonable ground in the center, where we parse through legislation and compromise, is missing in action. And when 90% of Americans say they want a federal ban on assault weapons only to watch it get shot down by the NRA, no wonder they’re losing faith in their government. What about the rollout right now on Obamacare and how hard it is to find objective information? This article http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/15/health-insurance-within-reach/ is one writer’s attempt to explain the program but even this article, while well-intentioned, claims Medicaid will be “free.”  And just a couple of paragraphs later says it’s going to cost the government a lot of money. We are our government. And that disconnect is not only expensive in a financial sense; it’s bankrupting us spiritually. That’s why we need both sides to start working together with an eye to what the American people want from them. Because the cost of all this partisan gridlock and spin is about more than dollars and cents. 

 

 

Gun change?

We could be two weeks away from some real progress on gun violence. First of all, Congress could pass universal background checks within the next couple of weeks. Yes, many of us Mothers would have liked to have seen a federal ban on assault weapons but the bottom line is it isn’t the gun but the mentally unstable shooter that Americans need protection from. Universal background checks will close the loopholes that make it so easy for guns to be bought legally than traded illegally and dropped into that tattered net that allows too many guns to end up in the wrong hands. 

Second, the National Rifle Association is expected to announce the details of its National School Shield Program tomorrow and in all likelihood, it will call for armed guards in our nation’s schools. The question is, “Is Sandy Hook far enough behind us, that the NRA will get a different response to its suggestion than the collective cringe Wayne LePierre got when he first brought up the idea?”  Slate.com  is running two articles to counter tomorrow’s NRA backed proposals. The first is a reminder that an armed guard wasn’t able to stop the shootings in Columbine; the second says we can’t afford to put armed security in our country’s schools because it will cost 5.5 billion dollars.  

In terms of what’s coming down the pike, we are really looking forward to seeing what Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri (R-Mo) is planning in terms of interventions and better treatment for the mentally ill.  Because, when all is said and done, that is the most frightening part of the gun violence equation, isn’t it? Here’s a look at what Blunt said recently about this being more important in many ways than background checks. 

From Examiner.com: 

“I won’t support any proposals that infringe on Americans’ constitutional rights or ultimately prevent two neighbors from trading shotguns,” Blunt said. “Instead, I’m focusing my efforts on improving mental health policies to ensure we’re spending federal dollars more wisely when it comes to identifying, treating, and caring for people who are mentally ill.”

Blunt is a co-sponsor of three mental health measures: the Excellence in Mental Health Act, the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2013 and Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act.

The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act “will help make communities safer by improving access to mental health services for people in the criminal justice system who need treatment,” according to Blunt. “The bill also focuses on giving law enforcement officers the tools they need to identify and respond to mental health issues, and includes a 5-year reauthorization of the ‘Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act’ (MIOTCRA), continuing support for mental health courts, and crisis intervention teams.”

In the meantime, all this gun talk is playing out against what has sadly become more background chatter than front page alarm, like the 4 year old shot by a 6 year old in Miami and the news that the shooter in the movie theatre shootings in Aurora, Colorado last summer will face the death penalty. Regardless of where you stand on the second amendment and the death penalty, at the end of the day, it’s all part of the same conversation, isn’t it?  But the reality is the conversation is approaching a low din, at least according to the latest polls, as reported by the Wall Street Journal,  

“In a CBS News poll taken in late March, 47% of adults polled said gun laws should be “more strict,” down from 57% in December, shortly after the shooting. And yet, support for broader background checks remains strong. Roughly nine in 10 Americans support a universal background check, according to an ABC News poll taken in March.”

Something needs to be done but perhaps the most important thing is to keep the conversation going. It would be a sad result if nothing changes after Moms across the country made a collective promise that the 20 students and 6 staff members who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook shootings would not have died in vain. 

 

Women caught in the spin cycle over guns

Both sides of gun control issue turn to women as mouthpieces and symbols

Susan Walsh/AP – Gayle Trotter, senior fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum, left, sits next to National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre, in Washington, on Jan. 30, as she testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence. 

Students of the decades-long gun debate said there is a clear public relations advantage for the NRA in talking about guns as a women’s issue.

“Unlike men, who may be viewed as having this self-interest of maintaining their guns for sport or as a form of aggression, women are seen as purely concerned about self-protection and safety,” said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology, law and public policy at Northeastern University.

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) urged Congress to act on gun violence during a Senate hearing on Wednesday. Giffords was shot and injured two years ago while meeting with constituents in Tucson, Ariz.

More on this story:

NRA-backed law frustrates shooting victims

NRA-backed law frustrates shooting victims

Tom Hamburger, Peter Wallsten and Sari Horwitz JAN 31

GUNS IN AMERICA | Federal law prohibiting most lawsuits against gun companies presents hurdle to victims’ families.

 

NRA’s success in states nationwide shows challenges facing Obama plan

NRA’s success  in states nationwide shows challenges facing Obama plan

Peter Wallsten and Tom HamburgerJAN 16

Legislative opponents collapse under lobbying assault as group wins right to carry in 31 states.

 

Little-noticed ‘Obamacare’ provision stifles gun research

Little-noticed ‘Obamacare’ provision stifles gun research

Peter Wallsten and Tom HamburgerDEC 30

Restrictions backed by the NRA become law in Obama’s signature health-care overhaul legislation.

But NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam rejected the suggestion that the NRA is showcasing women for political gain.

“I don’t think there’s a strategy behind it,” Arulanandam said. “A lot of it is women coming forward because they realize that their rights are in danger. . . . While in years past you had a lot of women advocating gun control, now we see an increase in the number of women advocating for gun rights.”

More women than men support gun control measures, according to a January Washington Post-ABC News poll. The survey found that 72 percent of women support a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines and 66 percent back an assault weapons ban. Among men, those rates are 57 percent and 50 percent.

Yet some women are among the more outspoken defenders of the AR-15, a series of semi-automatic rifles that are among the most popular firearms and would be prohibited under the assault weapons ban authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

“An AR-15 can be a woman’s best friend,” said Aubrey Blankenship, a spokeswoman for American Majority Action, a conservative group. “My goal with defending myself is to hit my target, and the AR-15 gives me the ability to do this. . . . Some people call it ‘the Barbie doll of rifles’ because it has such customization capacity.”

NRA President David Keene repeatedly has invoked his daughter, an Army reservist, in defense of the AR-15 rifle. He said it is the closest weapon available for civilian purchase to the one many are trained on in the military. “She can tear it apart with her eyes closed, and she can clean it, and she likes to go to the range and shoot it,” Keene told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast last week.

In her testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Trotter made waves. She argued that banning the AR-15 would put women at a “great disadvantage.” If “violent attackers” break into a woman’s home and threaten her children, she argued, “a scary-looking gun gives her more courage when she’s fighting hardened violent criminals.”

When Trotter said she speaks “on behalf of millions of American women across the country,” there were boos in the hearing room. One person yelled, “No, you don’t.”

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a shooting victim three decades ago who now champions gun control legislation, called Trotter’s argument “preposterous.”

“The thought that you need an AR-15 to protect your baby, it’s actually quite offensive to me,” Speier said. “It makes my hair curl. It sickens me. This vision of a mother with a baby on her hip and an AR-15 is repulsive to me.”

The gun industry sees an economic advantage in its focus on women. Concealed Carry Magazine recently put a woman on its cover, while other publications such as Garden and Gun showcase the feminine firearms lifestyle. At online stores like Bang Bang Boutique and Pistols and Pumps, women can purchase pink camouflage hunting gear and ammunition cases, bra-mounted holsters and concealed-carry purses.

It is difficult to know how many firearms are owned by women because the government has no official statistics. According to Gallup, 15 percent of women in the United States say they personally own a gun, a figure that has changed little over the past five years. That rate is nearly three times higher among men, at 44 percent.

But the gun industry says there is anecdotal evidence of a spike in women’s gun use. The number of women who shoot targets rose from 3.3 million to 5 million over the past decade, while those who hunt jumped from 1.8 million to 2.6 million, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the leading firearms trade association, which is based in Newtown.

It is not lost on the strategists on both sides that all six of the adult victims in December’s Newtown shooting were female. Former representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was wounded in an Arizona mass shooting, and other female survivors or victims’ relatives have emerged as leading gun control advocates.

“I think from the NRA’s point of view, they need to make sure that this doesn’t turn into a dynamic here women are demanding change, and it’s a bunch of men standing in the way,” said Matt Bennett, a senior vice president at Third Way, a centrist think tank that supports gun-control measures.

Sari Horwitz, Ed O’Keefe, Scott Clement and Peyton Craighill contributed to this report.

The Color of our Cultural Riff: Grey / Christine Doyle

The Color of our Cultural Riff: Grey / Christine Doyle

If our cultural riff had a color right now, it would be grey.

Do you know one of the most popular baby names in the last couple of years was, “Gray?” And did you know it means, “Kind King or Ruler.”

Did you also know that the Mayor of Washington, DC, a city where half of its city council has either been indicted or investigated by the feds for crimes ranging from tax evasion to drug possession, is named Mayor Vincent Gray? And that, in spite of this spotty record, Mayor Gray doesn’t believe his city council has a problem with corruption.

How about the fact that one of the most popular books last year was a book called, “50 Shades of Grey.” That WOMEN loved. How can women love a story about a mysoginst?  Well,  according to Psychologist Paul Hockmeyer from Dr. Oz.com,  once you got past a book full of fairly risque stuff, the story was really about trust and growth.

Grey has traditionally been associated with men when it comes to marketing. Think Grey Goose Vodka, Grey Flannel or Grey Vetiver cologne. Or the kind of wisdom that used to keep you in Congress, not put you at risk for getting booted out of it. Or with the weather, as in “grey skies.”

The other day I was out walking in a local park. It was a damp, muted, typical late winter day. And there were church bells ringing at 2 in the afternoon. Must have been a funeral.

I thought, “Something has died in this country, too.” When innocent children are shot at school. When a Dad testifying about the son he lost in the Sandy Hook shootings is heckled. When a talented, non-violent 15 year old from Chicago is killed in a shooting less than two weeks after singing at the President’s inauguration.

What needs to die is the black and white thinking that has blocked progress and stymied Washington. Grey matters. And right now, we need to address why this concept of “grey” is sweeping our country by storm.

I can think of no better example of someone to bust up the deadlock on guns and safety in our country than Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who is both the victim of a deranged gunman and a staunch advocate for the second amendment or the right to bear arms and defend one’s home.

ModerateMoms pulled together a group of interesting women the other day to talk about where our site goes in the next year. We all agree the conversations around politics are changing. People can predict where the line in the sand will be drawn and they are turning away as a result. If we want to pull them back, we need to challenge the status quo and to come up with a third way of looking at things. That is where the solutions will lie, in the grey matter, in the zone where perceptions and emotions, create connections. And black and white thinking destroys them.

A Gun Owner on Gun Reform

 

Gabby Giffords tells Congress ‘Too many children are dying’ from gun violence

Posted by Joann Weiner on January 30, 2013 at 11:47 pm

 On Dec. 14, 2012, after having already killed his mother, a gunman shot and killed 20 little kids and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. On Dec. 11, 2012, a gunman shot and killed two shoppers and wounded another at the Clackamas Town Center Mall near Portland, Ore.. On Aug. 5, 2012, a gunman shot and killed six worshipers and wounded three others in a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, Wis.  On July 20, 2012, a gunman shot and killed 12 people and wounded 58 others in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. On Jan. 8, 2011, a gunman shot and killed six people and wounded Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others in a grocery store’s parking lot in Tucson, Ariz.

These places — a school, a shopping mall, a temple, a movie theater, and a parking lot — aren’t dangerous places. Yet, these 53 kids, teens, and adults who were merely going about their daily lives found that on that one day, their safe place wasn’t so safe anymore.

Perhaps that’s why — finally — two years after their colleague was shot, the U.S. Congress began to try to do something about gun violence in America. On Jan. 30, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to ask the question that so many  Americans desperately want answered: “What should America do about gun violence?”

The need to do something about gun violence is imperative. In 2010, 4,097 children and young adults between the ages of 1 and 24 died after being shot by someone else, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In total, 11,078 people died from what the CDC calls an “interpersonal” firearm fatality that year. (It’s often reported thatmore than 30,000 people die in America each year from firearms. Sadly, more than half of those deaths are suicides.)

The experts offered several solutions: conduct more and better background checks for all gun buyers, including those who buy firearms at gun shows, online, and from friends; limit the number of rounds high-capacity devices can shoot before reloading; ban assault weapons; fix the country’s mental-health system; give guns to schoolteachers and station armed guards at schools.

Former astronaut Mark Kelly, whose wife, Gabby Giffords, was shot in the head by a mentally ill young man, wants to make it harder for the mentally ill to purchase guns. “I can’t think of anything that would make our country safer,” Kelly said.

Kelly, a gun-owner himself, said that he and his wife own guns to “defend ourselves, to defend our families, for hunting, and for target shooting.” We’ll “never give up our guns” he said, yet after what happened to his wife, he insists that now is the time to act to reduce gun violence. He and Giffords co-founded Americans for Responsible Solutions to try to do exactly that.

Not everyone agreed that guns are the problem. Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association, came to “give voice” to the NRA’s 4.5 million active members. After pointing out that the NRA teaches gun safety and responsibility, he said that rather than banning guns, we should “throw a blanket of security” around our school children and enforce “the thousands of gun laws already on the books.” He insisted that background controls won’t work because “criminals will never submit to them.”

LaPierre doesn’t just oppose background checks. He opposes gun restrictions of any type, including the assault weapons ban that Sen. Diane Feinstein, (D-Calif.), introduced earlier this month. “Gun ownership is a fundamental, God-given right,” LaPierre concluded.

David Kopel, adjunct professor of law at the Denver University College of Law and associate policy analyst at the Cato Institute, generally shared LaPierre’s views. Kopel said that “lawful armed self-defense in the schools, not only by armed guards, but also by teachers” is the only way to stop the violence in schools.

Kopel holds up the state of Utah as a model to emulate. In Utah, adults who pass background checks and complete a safety training class can carry guns — including teachers at schools. For those who worry that teachers might shoot each other or threaten students or that kids might wrestle the guns away from their teachers, Kopel reassured us: “We’ve never had an attack on a Utah school.”

While the experts told us what to do about gun violence, it was former Arizona congresswoman Giffords, who told us why.

“Too many children are dying. Too many children,” Giffords almost whispered, speaking slowly and with difficulty the eight most important words that anyone would utter during the entire four-hour hearing.

Joann Weiner teaches economics at The George Washington University. She has written for Bloomberg, Politics Daily, and Tax Analysts. Follow her on Twitter: @DCEcon.

The Gender Gap on Guns

The Gender Gap on Guns

By Bill Lambrecht of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

WASHINGTON • The passionate discussion over gun ownership often is cast as a debate between the National Rifle Association and people who don’t own guns.

Or between the public, which wants stricter gun laws, and a polarized Congress.

But another clear dividing line is the view toward guns between men and women.

An array of national polls this month show a double-digit gender gap between men and women on gun issues.

In a Pew Research Center poll, two thirds of women surveyed said they favor a ban on semiautomatic weapons, while fewer than half of men supported such a prohibition.

Similarly, a New York Times/CBS poll showed a 14 percent gender gap when asking simply if stricter gun laws are desirable.

And in yet another poll, this one conducted by United Technologies/National Journal, more than a third off women would go as far as to ban handguns — an unlikely development that just  22 percent of men would support.

Congress takes its biggest gun-related step of the year tomorrow when the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on gun violence with NRA headWayne LaPierre scheduled to be on hand.

One question now is whether anti-gun women can exert their muscle in Congress — and another is whether members who don’t embrace substantial changes feel the wrath of women at election time.

The capacity of female voters to sway elections is no secret, displayed in Barack Obama’s 13-point and 11-point winning margin among women voters in his last two election victories. But can they sway public policy decisions?

Democratic pollster Margie Omero believes that women feel so strongly that guns are now at the core of so-called women’s issues.

“I think we could see this issue mobilize women voters the way we saw issues mobilize women last time around,” said Omero, who has blogged about the gender gap.

If Congress doesn’t listen? “It would be another sign to women voters that Washington has become a mess and is not paying attention to them,” she contended.

Omero observed that pressure will be coming from One Million Moms for Gun Control, an organization formed after the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut but already with dozens of chapters around the country. And Gabrielle Giffords, who resigned her Arizona congressional seat a year after nearly dying from a gunshot will be leading a new lobbying effort aimed gun laws.

Omero acknowledges that it is too early to know whether women can bring sufficient pressure. Besides aiming at Republicans, the women feeling strongly about the issues also must persuade red-state Democrats fearing backlash.

“I think the question is not whether Democrats will be worried about voting for these bills. The question is whether Republicans will worry about being held accountable,” she argued.

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, believes the gender gap may be rooted in women’s lack of experience with guns. Wagner lives in a household well stocked with guns but she doesn’t shoot them, she noted.

“We (women) support the Second Amendment and we support those in our families that use them for hunting and sport and for protection. There are plenty of women who conceal and carry, I know a number of them,” she said.

Wagner, an NRA member, said she believes the nation has yet to have a needed dialogue on mental health and other issues related to guns that don’t require federal involvement.

“If you want armed guards in your schools, then that’s something an individual school board can take up,” she said.