Q:Thanks for all the work you do on this blog. A breakdown on the NSA and related stories would be great.
Thanks! I hate that I haven’t been posting for the last six weeks. A full time job + GRE studying saps the free time I had for blogging. I’ll do my best to break down the NSA and the privacy issue as soon as I can.
There is not a problem with Islam. For those of us who have studied it, there is no doubt about its true and peaceful nature. There is not a problem with Muslims in general. Most in Britain are horrified at Rigby’s murder.
But there is a problem within Islam, and we have to put it on the table and be honest about it. There are, of course, Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu ones. But I am afraid that the problematic strain within Islam is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view of religion – and of the relationship between religion and politics – that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies. At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the worldview goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So, by and large, we don’t admit it.
Breakdown: Everything about the Senate Gun Control Legislation.
Here is everything that you wanted to know - and ought to know - about the Senate gun control legislation, but probably didn’t. Bipartisan gun control legislation put forward by President Barack Obama and largely supported by the Democratic party failed in the Senate this past week, sparking a firestorm of public criticism, public support, presidential fury, and general shitstorminess. But what is going on? What did the bill say, and why and how did it fail in the midst of the seemingly unending spree of gun violence rocking the nation? That’s what I aim to answer.
What did the bill say?
On February 5th the first of the bipartisan gun control bills was unveiled in Congress, by Republican Congressmen Patrick Meehan and Scott Rigell (PA, VA, respectively) and Democratic Congressmen/women Carolyn Maloney and Elijah Cummings (NY, MD, respectively). The legislation would make firearm trafficking a federal crime, and give a hefty jail time to those who bought guns for those prohibited from buying them. Soon after, a full package of gun control measures was unveiled. In total, it included:
- Requiring background checks for online sales and sales at gun shows
- Substitute for background check bill that increases enforcement and reporting on mentally ill people.
- Renew and strengthen a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
- Limit magazine sizes to ten rounds.
- Make “straw purchasing” (buying a gun for someone prohibited from doing so) and trafficking a federal crime.
- Reauthorize and improve mental health programs.
- Impose penalties on states for releasing gun ownership data.
- State reciprocity for the carrying of concealed firearms.
- Allow only a judge to deem veterans mentally incompetent to own a gun.
This was the gun control legislation on the table. To me, it seemed logical and downright obvious. In fact, I was shocked some things like background checks for those attempting to buy a weapon designed to take human life did not exist in the first place.
Many of these measures were introduced jointly by Republicans and Democrats, as number five was. Out of all of these measures, of which background checks were arguably the most important, only six and seven were passed by the senate. Something as seemingly obvious as background checks was rejected, as was banning high capacity magazines and assault weapons. We are left only with improving mental health programs and the penalizing of states for releasing information on those who own guns. Nothing immediate or concrete is happening; the most vital measures all failed. On top of everything, six and seven will not be going into effect. They were attached to the bill at large, and since the bill at large did not pass, no new gun control legislation is going into effect. After Newton, after Aurora, after MIT - nothing.
Just WHY did these measures fail?
That is the million dollar question. In short, the bill did not receive enough votes. It needed more than 60 Senators’ support to avoid a filibuster; of the 55 Democrats and 45 Republican Senators, 52 Democrats supported the bill and only 4 Republicans. As is obvious, the gun control legislation received virtually no Republican support. President Obama, in a statement yesterday, accused Republican senators of falling prey to political pressure by the NRA instead of doing what was right. He went as far as accusing the NRA and Senators of willfully misleading the American public as to what the effects of the gun contra legislation would be. The NRA - National RIfle Association - put powerful pressure on the government to not increase gun control. According to the New York Times, they spent half a million dollars on Wednesday alone on advertisements criticizing the gun control legislation.
The senators who voted against the bill, of course dispute the President’s claims. Ohio Senator Rob Portman, like others, claims he followed his principles and his support of the Second Amendment - the right to bear arms. Republican Senator Jon Coryn of Texas claims he voted as his constituents would and not because of any NRA pressure. Polls do show, however, that 90% of Americans are in favor of the more stringent background checks. And the reasons given are confusing at best. Senator Flake of Arizona said it would require checks when a gun sale is posted on an office message board (false), while Senator Coburn of Oklahoma said it would raise taxes (what?). Senator Grassley of Iowa said that criminals would not submit to background checks, which apparently invalidates the idea of background checks entirely (?). As Jon Stewart so aptly pointed out, according to this logic it makes sense to not pass a law because hey, criminals are just going to break it anyway.
So what happens now?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used his power as majority leader to effectively “pause” the bill. The filibuster will not happen, which would take the bill off the table. Effectively, a “time out” was called, which gives those in support of the bill additional time to convert the critical number of senators necessary to approve the legislation. At any time a vote can be called again.
Now you now a bit about the gun control legislation that failed in the Senate. You know it’s main provisions, you know a bit about the excuses as to why it did not pass in the Senate. Do you think it should have, or should not? Now that you’re informed, the decisions is yours to make. I only encourage you to act on it once you make it.
Personal Opinion Alert: I support the gun control legislation. Why? Because gun violence is out of control. It is no longer the “other” in my life; it is a part of my life. Someone was murdered several days ago only a handful of blocks from my apartment. I have good friends at MIT, where a policeman was murdered only a few hours ago. Thank goodness my friends are okay, and I can only imagine the state that policeman’s family is in right now. This is real, and this is now. Gun violence will only skirt around us for so long. It is only a matter of time before someone we love gets hurt, and it becomes more real than we could ever imagine. Before that happens, I believe we need to take immediate, powerful action to curb it.
New York Times, “Drive for Gun Control Blocked in Senate”
New York Times, “New Gun Measures Considered by the Senate”
Christian Science Monitor, “Four Reasons the Gun Control Bill May be Kaput”
Doing my best to keep abreast of the situation. Stay safe, Boston.
But the fact is most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun. There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this. It came down to politics — the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections. They worried that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-Second Amendment.
And obviously, a lot of Republicans had that fear, but Democrats had that fear, too. And so they [Republican Congressmen] caved to the pressure, and they started looking for an excuse — any excuse — to vote “no.”
…So all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.
- President Barack Obama
Speaking yesterday on the failure of Congress to pass a bill that would have extended background checks for those attempting to buy a gun. Ninety percent of Democrats in Congress voted in favor of the bill. Ninety percent of Republicans voted against it.
Truer words were never spoken.
I wanted to write about this, but sometimes others just say it better. I’ve had a lot of faith in the American government, but this - this is unconscionable.
Those senators, 41 Republicans and four Democrats, killed a bill on Wednesday to expand background checks for gun buyers. It was the last, best hope for meaningful legislation to reduce gun violence after a deranged man used semiautomatic weapons to kill 20 children and six adults at the school in Newtown, Conn., 18 weeks ago. A ban on assault weapons was voted down by 60 senators; 54 voted against a limit on bullet magazines.
The Daily Breakdown: 4/16/2013
Boston Marathon: The final toll is three killed and more than 140 hurt by bombs at the Boston Marathon. The youngest victim was eight-year-old Martin Richards. Two bomb blasts detonated twelve seconds apart at approximately 2:40PM EST time yesterday. No suspects have been detained yet.
Read: “Three Killed in Marathon blast”
Earthquake: A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Iran near the Iran-Pakistan border and was felt across the Middle Eastern region. At least 45 people have been reported killed. One government official described it as “the biggest earthquake Iran has felt for forty years”.
Read: “Large Earthquake felt across Middle East”
Strike: Many prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, a United States military prison where many suspected of being “foreign combatants” have been held prisoner for more than a decade without trial, have been hunger striking for months. Almost a dozen are being force fed. On Sunday, prisoners and guards clashed as auhtorities moved striking inmates out of communal cellblocks. Lawyers for the prisoners say the strike reflects a growing disillusionment and lack of patience with a government failing to treat inmates correctly.
Read: “Clashes at Guantanamo “
Breakdown: Boston Marathon Bombing.
Update 3: As of 5:59PM EST hospitals report they are treating 69 wounded from the Boston marathon bombing.
Update 2: President Obama is to address the nation in ten minutes, at 3 PM PCT / 6PM EST.
Update 1: Boston’s Mayor Tom Menino has arranged a telephone hotline for worried friends and relatives: +1-617-635-4500.
If you’re late to the news like me, here is what we know:
- Two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon have left at least two dead and 23 injured. The first occurred at 2:50PM local time.
- Police have found and are dismantling at least two other explosive devices.
- Video and photographs from Boston show a scene of confusion, with emergency services descending on the scene and bloodied spectators being taken to a medical tent.
- “There are a lot of people down,” said one runner quoted by AP news agency.
- Police have arrested no suspects; the news that it was a “Saudi National” is patently false.
- Google has created a Runner Finder if someone you know was running the race.
The BBC News has a full photo album of stills of the tragedy. Be advised, it is not for the faint of heart. Please keep the victims in your thoughts. May justice be served swiftly and mercilessly to the perpetrators.
BBC News, “Boston Marathon rocked by twin explosions.”
“Obama phone” is the widely used — and misleading — nickname of a 28-year-old federal program known as Lifeline. It provides discounts, averaging $9.25 a month, on phone service for 13.3 million low-income subscribers.
In the three and a half years after false rumors started that the Obama administration was giving free cellphones to poor people — and six months after a racially charged video about it went viral — a once-obscure phone service subsidy is getting renewed scrutiny on Capitol Hill…
..Lifeline was begun not by President Obama but under Ronald Reagan. It expanded to include cellphone service during the presidency of another Republican, George W. Bush. In Obama’s first term, amid evidence of widespread fraud, the Federal Communications Commission moved to crack down on the program, saving what it predicts will be $400 million this year, on top of $214 million in 2012.
Never mind all that. “Obama phone” has stuck.
Washington Post, “‘Obama Phones’ Subsidy program draws scrutiny on Capitol Hill”
Sometimes I wonder if the people that laud Reagan and look to him as the ideal President actually know anything about what he did.
Source: Washington Post
The Daily Breakdown: 4/9/2013
Gun Control Resurrection: It has been announced that the Senate will hold a vote on Thursday on whether to debate a gun control law. The vote is not on the bill, but whether the Senate will discuss the gun control bill. Conservatives have been blocking the vote, but as their coalition splinters under the pressure to augment gun control, the 60 votes they need to filibuster may not be forthcoming. Though the legislation to be voted on on Thursday would expand the background checks and make gun trafficking a federal crime among other things, the assault weapons band and limits on ammunition magazine size have been dropped from the bill.
Read at: “US Senate to vote on gun control on Thursday”
Escalation: North Korea has warned foreigners in South Korea to exit the country, ostensibly because they are going to begin bombing it. A statement that apparently came from Pyongyang (capital of North Korea)’s Asia Pacific Peace Committee warned the situation in the Korean peninsula is spiraling towards thermonuclear war. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is warning the crisis may escalate out of control if it continues to develop.