A DISCUSSION ABOUT GUN VIOLENCE V: TWO MONTHS AFTER SANDY HOOK

It has been two months to the day since “Sandy Hook” went from being a noun, to a descriptive verb, to a rallying cry.  America has been forever changed by the massacre of 20 children and 7 adults that morning in Newtown, Ct.  The evidence of that change is found in the fact that people everywhere are sharing their experiences, their concerns, their fears and more importantly their wishes and desires about gun regulations and about the consequences of gun violence in their communities.

So, it seems we can have a discussion about guns after all.  Truth be told, though, this is a discussion that has been going on all along.  What is sad is that it has taken the tragic events of the last few months to raise the volume.  I’ve been tracking the comments on the various sites across the internet and it is absolutely amazing what is being revealed.  People do care about the violence in their cities and towns, in their neighborhoods, in their schools, churches, and movie theaters.

In August of last year, when I began writing about gun violence, the loudest voices in the room were those who claimed to be defenders of the 2nd Amendment.  I say claimed to be, because, as it has become quite obvious, it is not the constitution that they are defending, it is their right to be paranoid and afraid.  The 2nd Amendment is not under attack, what is, though, is the sensibilities and security of the American people.

That is why it is so important that we, the no longer silent majority, continue to make feelings known.  The more we discuss guns and the consequences of gun ownership, the more we see and hear that Americans are concerned about those consequences.

Let’s take a look back over the last two months and see where the discussion has led, and is leading, us.

“It has scarred the soul of America.”

That was Joe Scarborough speaking about the horrors of the massacre that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Ct., on December 14 of last year:

“This week, after the most horrific act, I think, in recent American history other than 9/11 — I can’t think of anything that has scarred the soul of Americans more than what happened at Sandy Hook — you have had complete, utter silence from Republican leaders on some of these key issues. And, so, there are Americans out there who are thinking, “Wait a second. Is this the party of lower taxes or is this the party of assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips?”

You could tell by listening to him and watching his face on television how deeply he was affected by that tragedy. But that was nothing compared to what was to come.

It was during the second hour of the three-hour Morning Joe program that former Florida Congressman Joe Scarborough hosts along with Mika Brzezinski that Kansas Representative Tim Huelskamp came on to discuss the breakdown in negotiations between Republicans over the looming “fiscal cliff,” that aired on December 21, 2012.

As the segment appeared to be coming to an end, Mika asked the congressman if it was time to reconsider his position on the assault weapon ban that had expired in 2004?

Rep. Huelskamp said that, as a congressman, he was bothered by how individuals politicized the tragedy so quickly.  He said that the country has a cultural problem, and added, it’s not a gun problem, it’s a people problem.

Moments later, Joe Scarborough laid into Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp, after the congressman accused the MSNBC host and other gun control advocates of pushing “a political agenda” in wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Here’s how the discussion went:

“There’s been a lot of misleading statements including those that have been said right here … that’s the reality here. It’s not a gun problem. There’s a person doing that,” Huelskamp pressed.

“Oh really?” Scarborough said. “Do you think I have a constitutional right to have an assault weapon?”

Huelskamp said it was a constitutional issue and added, “Let’s step back. Let’s not build on the tragedy in Connecticut and use that to actually push a political agenda.”

Scarborough seemed to grow incensed. “Use that? To push a political agenda?” Scarborough asked.

“Oh, absolutely,” Huelskamp said. “This president and his folks are using this to push—”

Scarborough interrupted the Kansas congressman and said, “Let’s talk about September 11th, congressman. Were there some changes made in this country because of the tragedy of September 11th? Was that just using a tragedy — 3,000 deaths — to try to make americans safer? Do you dare come on my show and say I am using the slaughter of 20 little 6 and 7-year-old children; I’m using that for political purposes, Tim?”

“Joe, how many children do you have?” Huelskamp asked.

“I’ve got four children, Tim. Answer my question,” Scarborough said.

“So do I. And I refuse to let you say that because you have children, or anybody else, that we need to actually politicize this. But I see folks in Washington — I don’t know about you. I don’t watch your show. You’re trying to politicize this,” Hueslkamp charged.

“Tim, I’m not going to let you say that I am, quote, politicizing the slaughter of 26 or 27 children. But you said anybody that’s talking about this … Maybe some of us just believe that we have to do whatever we can — whether it’s looking at mental health, whether it’s looking at violent culture of video games and Hollywood movies, whether it’s looking at the proliferation of these weapons, whether it’s looking at what happened in Oregon, what happened in Colorado, what happened in Virginia, what happened in Connecticut, what continues happening, congressman.”

He added, “So we can’t at least talk about guns without you questioning my integrity and saying that I’m using the death of 20 children to try to make life for my children a little bit safer? We can’t even talk about it without you coming on this show and insulting me personally?”

It seemed to me watching this back and forth, that Joe, a staunch 2nd Amendment supporter, and let me say a constitutional and fiscal conservative had, or has, come to grips with the hard reality of what life is like outside of the bubble.  The tragic deaths of those 27 people on that otherwise quiet and ordinary Friday morning struck home to him much in the same way it strikes home for so many Americans each and every day.  You can watch the interview at:   http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036789/ns/msnbc_tv-morning_joe/#50268883

N.R.A. Response to Sandy Hook

That same day, a few hours later, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre appeared at what was called a press conference, but was really more of a speech.  When most of America was expecting some form of acknowledgement of the problems brought on by this insane proliferation of “Weapons of Mass Murder,” what we were given was a doubling down on their stance that this is not a gun problem.  He called it a “cultural problem,” a “mental health problem,” he blamed movies and video games.  In fact, what he stated was that we need to arm teachers, place armed guards in our schools.

Mr. LaPierre’s words:

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”

And later in his “speech”:

“Before Congress reconvenes, before we engage in any lengthy debate over legislation, regulation or anything else, as soon as our kids return to school after the holiday break, we need to have every single school in America immediately deploy a protection program proven to work —and by that I mean armed security.”

 Well, Mr. LaPierre, there were good guys with guns at Fort Hood, there were good guys with guns at Virginia Tech, there were good guys with guns at Columbine High School and at the Tulsa Courthouse.  Still, people were killed!

And what about the psychological and sociological effects of having our children studying and trying to learn in “armed camps?”  Think for a moment just what type of learning environment that might be.

President Obama’s Response

On the 19th of December President Obama announced the establishment of the “Gun Violence Task Force.”

“The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing.”

“The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence.”

These were the President’s words as he tasked Vice-President Biden with the responsibility of overseeing the development of policy’s that will address causes and consequences of gun violence in America.  President Obama also promised to speak about gun violence in his upcoming inaugural address.  (Which he did.)

Meanwhile More Madness

As of Friday January 11, at 4:00 pm, four weeks after the tragedy, http://www.Slate.com and @GunDeaths was reporting that 734 people, Americans, had been killed since the start of the massacre at Sandy Hook.  That’s more than 28 people, Americans, per day.

During that same time, we had several “gun advocates” appear on various media outlets, to defend guns and the right to own them.  Their lack of sensitivity to what is happening all around them, indeed, all around America was absolutely amazing.

This was Alex Jones, radio host, on the Piers Morgan program on CNN, January 7th:

“I’m here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms! Doesn’t matter how many lemmings you get out there on the street, begging for ’em to have their guns taken. We will not relinquish them. Do you understand?! That’s why you’re going to fail, and the establishment knows, no matter how much propaganda, the republic will rise again!”

Then there was James Yeager, CEO of a company called Tactical Response who, on January 9th, posted a video on YouTube.  This is from the site “LiveLeak.com” :

In the original video, he started by admitting that he’s “kind of mad.” Then, he launched into a diatribe about Vice President Joe Biden’s recent claim that President Barack Obama may rely upon executive orders to tackle the issue.

“Vice President Biden is asking the president to bypass Congress and use executive privilege, executive order to ban assault rifles and to impose stricter gun control,” said Yeager. “F**k that.”

And he wasn’t done there. The Tactical Response leader said that such actions on behalf of the Obama administration would “spark a civil war” and that he would be “glad to fire the first shot.”

“I’m not putting up with it. You shouldn’t put up with it,” he continued. “And I need all you patriots to start thinking about what you’re going to do, load your damn mags, make sure your rifle’s clean, pack a backpack with some food in it and get ready to fight.”

From there, his comments only intensified. After pledging that he wouldn’t put up with increased gun control initiatives being advocated by the federal government of late, Yeager pledged — to the extreme – to defend his right to firearms.

“I’m not letting my country be ruled by a dictator. I’m not letting anybody take my guns!,” he added. “If it goes one inch further, I’m going to start killing people.”

You can read the entire article and view the YouTube video at:   http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=a73_1357945092

On January 11th on CNN, there was Larry Ward, national chairman for “Gun Appreciation Day,” speaking about the event scheduled for January 19th, two days before the national holiday designated to celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King.  There is no small irony in the fact that this “first-ever” event was announced on January 8th, 25 days after Sandy Hook, and scheduled for the Saturday preceding Rev. King’s birthday holiday.  But what is really disgusting is his assertion that Rev. King would co-sign on this idiocy.

This is from a January 11, article published in the Huffington Post by writer Cavan Sieczkowski:

Larry Ward, chairman of Gun Appreciation Day, appeared on CNN Friday to defend the nationwide gun rally, which is scheduled for Jan. 19 — just two days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Talking Points Memo notes.

Ward insists that Gun Appreciation Day, which calls on gun activists across the nation to rally in support of the right to bear arms and against President Barack Obama’s “post-Sandy Hook assault on gun rights,” actually “honors the legacy of Dr. King.”

“We are looking for a peaceful protest,” Ward said. Continuing, “I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would agree with me if he were alive today that if African-Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country’s founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history.”

Maria Roach, founder of United for Change USA, an organization dedicated to prison reform and gun violence prevention, called Ward’s comments simply “ridiculous.”

“Slavery means that you are a possession,” she said on CNN. “Slaves were a possession, just like a gun.” She continued to criticize Ward for celebrating weapons just two days before celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated in 1968 by a single shot.

Think Progress’ Aviva Shen notes the caveats in Ward’s armed-slaves argument:

Ward also neglects to mention that in fact there were many armed uprisings by slaves, as early as 1526. Armed revolts almost always failed, and often led to retribution by the slave owners, who had the justice system on their side. Most famously, Nat Turner led a rebellion that resulted in 60 white deaths and 100 black deaths. The state later executed 56 blacks accused of being involved in the insurrection, and white mobs beat and killed at least 200 others in revenge.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/11/larry-ward-guns-african-americans-prevented-slavery-_n_2457479.html

You can watch the entire CNN interview at:

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2013/01/11/exp-costello-gun-appreciation-day.cnn

And finally there is Ted Nugent.  Ted’s a man of many quotes, but the only truly relevant one is this, spoken at the NRA convention in April 2012:

”If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

All of these people have “moon-walked” back from their statements, saying they were either miss-quoted or miss-construed, except Ted (April’s coming, though), but this speaks to the insanity that we are dealing with, as this discussion goes forward.

The People Speak

When President Obama charged VP Biden and the task force with bringing to him a list of proposals that he, and the American people, might consider as potential solutions to the gun violence problem in our country he asked that it be completed within 2 months.  Mr Biden’s efforts took half of that time.

Here is what the Vice President’s task force presented:

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

11. Nominate an ATF director.

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

Upon reading this list, you will notice that none of the proposals in any way limits the legal acquiring, possession, or use of guns.  You can’t tell that by listening to many of the so-called 2nd amendment advocates, though.  Nowhere is there any discussion about gun confiscation.

Here are excerpts from the Presidents speech in Newtown, before signing the executive order for these proposals:

“And so what we should be thinking about, is our responsibility to care for them, and shield them from harm, and give them the tools they need to grow up, and do everything that they’re capable of doing. Not just to pursue their own dreams, but to help build this country. This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.

And that’s why last month, I asked Joe to lead an effort, along with members of my cabinet, to come up with some concrete steps we can take right now to keep our children safe, to help prevent mass shootings, to reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country.

And we can’t put this off any longer.

Just last Thursday, as TV networks were covering one of Joe’s meetings on this topic, news broke of another school shooting, this one in California.

In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun — 900 in the past month.

And every day we wait the number will keep growing.

So I’m putting forward a specific set of proposals based on the work of Joe’s task force. And in the days ahead I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality.

Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there’s even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”

Read the entire speech at:   http://www.defensivecarry.com/forum/second-amendment-gun-legislation-discussion/157317-transcript-obamas-speech1-16-13-a.html

They Were “For It Before They Were Against It”

Nothing, in the Newtown speech, was said about taking away a person’s guns, either.  As the discussion continued we began to learn more about those who are arguing against change.  Some of them, particularly in the conservative leadership, and the NRA, have supported gun restrictions in the past.

In an article “Don’t Blame Liberals for Gun Control” in FrontPageMagazine.com,  Monday, January 8, 2001, Richard Poe writes:

“ANTI-GUN CRUSADERS seem worried about the advent of a Republican administration. Heaven knows why. Republicans, in recent years, have managed to do nearly as much damage to the Second Amendment as Democrats.In 1969, journalist William Safire asked Richard Nixon what he thought about gun control. “Guns are an abomination,” Nixon replied. According to Safire, Nixon went on to confess that, “Free from fear of gun owners’ retaliation at the polls, he favored making handguns illegal and requiring licenses for hunting rifles.”

It was President George Bush, Sr. who banned the import of “assault weapons” in 1989, and promoted the view that Americans should only be allowed to own weapons suitable for “sporting purposes.”

It was Governor Ronald Reagan of California who signed the Mulford Act in 1967, “prohibiting the carrying of firearms on one’s person or in a vehicle, in any public place or on any public street.” The law was aimed at stopping the Black Panthers, but affected all gun owners.

Twenty-four years later, Reagan was still pushing gun control. “I support the Brady Bill,” he said in a March 28, 1991 speech, “and I urge the Congress to enact it without further delay.”

One of the most aggressive gun control advocates today is Republican mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York City, whose administration sued 26 gun manufacturers in June 2000, and whose police commissioner, Howard Safir, proposed a nationwide plan for gun licensing, complete with yearly “safety” inspections.

Another Republican, New York State Governor George Pataki, on August 10, 2000, signed into law what The New York Times called “the nation’s strictest gun controls,” a radical program mandating trigger locks, background checks at gun shows and “ballistic fingerprinting” of guns sold in the state. It also raised the legal age to buy a handgun to 21 and banned “assault weapons,” the sale or possession of which would now be punishable by seven years in prison.

Gun control crusaders argue that the Republicans are simply yielding to grassroots pressure, to gain political advantage. But polls show little evidence of such pressure.”

http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=22064

The NRA once had a far more moderate opinion on gun restrictions, evidenced in the article “The NRA vs. The NRA” by , posted on the LA Progressive site:

“The NRA was generally silent on the issue of gun control as a national issue until the National Firearms Act of 1934 was being debated in Congress. The legislation imposed a steep tax, along with registration requirements, on what was termed “gangster guns”: machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. Aside from exempting handguns from the act, arguing that people needed them for home protection, the NRA supported the legislation as “reasonable, sensible, and fair.”

In the 1960s, in the wake of the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Dr. Martin Luther King, the NRA once again supported the push for new federal gun laws. When the final version of the Gun Control Act was adopted in 1968, NRA President Franklin Orth said the “measure as a whole appears to be one that the sportsmen of America can live with.”

But during this same period, fewer people were buying guns for hunting, and more for protection. Ironically, this attitude was held both by whites, and by newly forming black militant groups like the Black Panthers (originally the Black Panther Party for Self Defense).

It was during this time that then-Governor Ronald Reagan voiced his support for gun control.

Supporting legislation by Alameda County Assemblyman Don Mulford to control armed black militants like Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, Reagan said he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons,” calling guns a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.” In a later press conference, Reagan said the Mulford Act “would work no hardship on the honest citizen.”

It was during this time, also that the NRA suffered its version of a palace coup, when hard-liner factions led by Harlon Carter transformed the NRA into a lobbying powerhouse, committed to a more aggressive view of what the Second Amendment promised.

Soon after this, the NRA began demonizing any Federal law enforcement agencies, particularly the BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) as “jack-booted government thugs.” Current NRA president Wayne LaPierre warned members that anyone who wears a badge has “the government’s go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens.”

In an effort to exert further influence on national electoral politics, the NRA endorsed its first presidential candidate in 1980. Ironically, their choice was Ronald Reagan, the governor who gave California one of the strictest gun control regimes in the United States.”

http://www.laprogressive.com/national-rifle-association/

Wayne LaPierre’s warning about people with badges, at that time, sounds eerily  like the same warning coming from the Black Panther Party, just a few short years before.

A few years later, Mr. LaPierre and the NRA’s positions shifted once again.  Speaking before the Congress in May of 1999, in the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy, Mr. LaPierre had this to say:

“We think it ‘s reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone. That means closing the Hinckley loophole so the records of those adjudicated mental ill are in the system.

This isn ‘t new, or a change of position, or a concession. I’ve been on record on this point consistently, from our national meeting in Denver, to paid national ads and position papers, to
news interviews and press appearances. But I ‘ve repeatedly emphasized that this Administration must stop illegally keeping records of lawful gun buyers.

In fact, it ‘s the media ‘s well-kept secret that the NRA was an early architect and supporter of the National Instant Check System now in place. Congressman McCollum knows we worked with him on instant checks more than a decade ago.

We think it ‘s reasonable to provide for instant checks at gun shows just like at gun stores and
pawn shops. But what ‘s unreasonable is how the proposed Lautenberg legislation ignores the 250,000 prohibited people like felons who ‘ve walked away from gun stores –instead of being prosecuted for a federal felony for trying to buy a gun.”

http://judiciary.house.gov/legacy/lapierre.htm

The “Lautenberg” legislation referred to in the quote is the “Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban” sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) as an amendment to “Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997, that was enacted in 1996.  The act bans shipment, transport, ownership and use of guns or ammunition by individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, or who are under a restraining (protection) order for domestic abuse in all 50 states. The act also makes it unlawful to knowingly sell or give a firearm or ammunition to such persons.

Many Faces, One Voice, for Change!

There were a number of other actions and some restrictions that Mr. LaPierre and the NRA found reasonable, all having the same of similar caveats, but virtually all are considered non-reasonable deal breakers now.  But there is now another group in the game offering the American people a different deal, a better deal.  This is no longer just a “my thoughts and prayers” or “my heart goes out to” group, these people are asking the question, “what can we do help solve this problem, now?”

The just mentioned “other group” is not just one concerned entity but several, previously non-connected, but now united in their efforts to bring about change.  Included are these organizations:

There are others, local and national, that need your face, your voice, your support.  If you search “gun control advocacy groups” on the internet, you will find them.

Many of us have joined one or more of these groups, and others like them, for reasons not related to gun violence and it’s effects on our society, and for many of these groups their priorities  have been adjusted to include this fight.

What we now have is many faces but one voice speaking out for change.  We are fighting this battle on all fronts, from municipalities to the federal government and this time is different.  Where a company stands on this issue is now becoming a determinant as to where we spend our time and resources, and it is having a real effect.

A significant percentage of Americans support changes in our gun policies as evidenced by a Fox News Poll conducted by Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R). (Jan. 15-17, 2013. 1,008 registered voters nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.)

“Do you favor or oppose each of the following proposals to reduce gun violence? . . .” Each asked of half the sample, margin of error ± 4

 
    Favor Oppose Unsure    
    % % %    
 
 

“Requiring criminal background checks on all gun buyers, including those buying at gun shows and private sales”

 

1/15-17/13

91 8 1    
 

“Providing services for mentally ill people who show violent tendencies”

 

1/15-17/13

89 9 2    
 

“Improving enforcement of existing gun laws”

 

1/15-17/13

86 12 3    
 

“Requiring mental health checks on all gun buyers”

 

1/15-17/13

83 15 2    
 

“Requiring criminal background checks on anyone buying bullets and ammunition”

 

1/15-17/13

80 19 1    
 

“Putting armed guards in schools for protection”

 

1/15-17/13

60 36 4    
 

“Banning high-capacity ammunition clips that can shoot dozens of bullets without stopping to reload”

 

1/15-17/13

56 38 6    
 

“Banning assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons”

 

1/15-17/13

54 42 3    
 

“Reducing access to violent movies and video games”

 

1/15-17/13

52 43 5    
 

“Allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns on school grounds”

 

1/15-17/13

42 52 6

http://www.pollingreport.com/guns.htm

President Obama has used both his inaugural and the state of the union addresses to speak to this problem and rally the support of responsible thinking Americans.  The problems we face extend far beyond gun violence, but the solutions to many of our problems begin with reducing it and the impact that it is having throughout our nation.

Where companies build or expand their businesses is determined by how safe an area is.  Where people chose to invest in home ownership is determined by how safe and secure an area is.  Where we send our children to school, where we shop, where we play, all of these are areas where people want to feel safe and secure.  We can and must do everything in our power to make this change.

The President, Vice-President and their task-force have spoken.  Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly have spoken.  The citizens of the cities of Newtown, Aurora, Oak Creek, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and so many more are bravely speaking up.

The polls say “now is the time.”  It’s time to add your face, your voice, to this call for action.  It’s time for a change!

WELCOME TO THE 2014 ELECTION! “IT’S ON AND POPPIN’!”

Two weeks removed from national election, that re-elected President Barack Obama, the 2014 mid-term elections are “on and poppin’.”  I wonder if the Democratic Party has sufficiently learned from the debacle of 2010.

It is obvious that the Republican’s have not learned any lessons from this last election season, so the test is, will the Democratic Party stand by what they profess and force the Republican Party to stand by their failed logic, and their total disdain for the American people, and the election process, that returned the President to office, and gained seats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives for them?

At stake, for the Democrats, at the national level, is a possible re-taking of the House of Representatives and gaining a filibuster-proof Senate.  At the local level there are several “red-state” Governorship’s and State Legislatures in play.

From what I’ve read, the assault on women’s reproductive choices, by Republicans, has resumed with refreshed attempts around the country to try to circumvent Roe v. Wade, using the states as their primary vehicle.  The war on the uninsured and the poor is advancing with Republican Governor’s rejecting certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Provisions such as the “insurance exchanges” for entrepreneurs and small businesses with less than 50 employees, and refusing to expand Medicaid services for individuals and families living at or near poverty levels, and the poor.

Yogi Berra said it best, “It’s like deja vu all over again.”

As for the battle over reproductive choices, that’s a battle Democrat’s and Progressives should welcome.  A true conservative court will stand by the rights of the individual against the state.  A Republican court will not.  Chief Justice Roberts has shown, with his decision on the ACA, that he does not want his court to be branded as the “Republican Court.”  Notwithstanding some of the other Justices, it is my belief that the right’s of the individual will prevail.  We’ve seen that already with laws like “stand your ground,” and “open carry” laws, for guns.  We just have to be prepared, and willing to fight for what’s right.

Now, about the ACA.  Caught inside the Republican bubble, they believed that the President would not be re-elected, they believed that the ACA would not stand constitutional muster, they believed that their party would win the Senate and increase their majority in the House.  After the ACA was upheld by the SCOTUS, they believed that, when elected, a Romney/Ryan administration would repeal it, or at the least not fund or enforce it.  With this as their thinking, many of them simply did not prepare to commit to the exchanges by the deadline.  They also knew that the Federal government would step in and create the exchanges if they fail to do so.

As you know, the Medicaid expansion provision will mean approximately 17 millions people will receive coverage they otherwise would not have, and will mean the hiring or re-hiring of thousands of people nationwide, to handle the increased case loads.  The Republican Governors, as one of their excuses, claim they cannot afford to implement the exchanges or the expansion, though the Act will pay 100% of the cost for 2 years and 90% of the cost of the expansion for many years after that.  Another excuse is that they don’t want the Federal Government interfering in their state policies.  Their reticence means that millions will not be covered and thousands of jobs will not be made available, simply, because of their politics.

That being said, [this] becomes a prime opportunity for Democratic candidates as they begin their campaigns.  Many of November’s winning Democratic Party candidates ran on these very issues.  I wouldn’t wait another minute in these “Red States,” to force the Republican politicians, from the state legislatures to the Congress, to declare where they stand, on the record, about these issues, and challenge them publicly, about their stance.

These red states are among the most in need of the ACA and their Governor’s, State Houses, and Congressmen and women, should be forced to explain to their constituents why Obamacare is not being made available to them.  At the same time, the “Blue State Governments” should boldly tout the advantages of the Act to their constituents.  Their “red state” neighbors, seeing the benefits of the Act will challenge their leadership to comply, or opportunities will be created for Democrats to take over these State Houses and Legislatures, and to represent them in the Congress.

These are just a couple of the issues that will define this election.  There’s also Planned Parenthood, personhood, voter ID, state election laws, and much more.

We, Democrats and Progressives, must understand that we cannot relax.  2014 will be here before we know it and the race to the “mid-terms” has already begun.  It’s “ON AND POPPIN’.”

HEY MITT, YOU DIDN’T BUILD THIS DEFEAT BY YOURSELF!

Hey Mitt,

I’m going to resist the temptation to gloat.  Well, maybe just a little bit ( NAH-NA-NA-NAH-NAH).  Okay, now I’ve got that out of my system.  Seriously though, I and a whole lot of American’s had real problems with you, from tax returns to policy shifts.  But, it seems that you had a whole lot help in bringing about this defeat.

Let’s start with you first.  Your refusal to reveal your tax documents was a problem, but not your most significant one.  The truth is [that] if you had revealed them it may have helped you.  It’s possible that had you done so it would have given the voters a look at just who the real Mitt Romney is.  America doesn’t have a problem with wealthy people.  We’ve had many leaders that have come from privilege.  Given the cost of getting elected today if you don’t have significant resources, or access to them, it is difficult to run for any office at any level.  That’s not your problem, that’s a problem for America.

But without the anchor of an identity, you seemed to most of us to be like a ship without a rudder, cast upon the sea of our democracy, with no discernible direction, no way for us, the voters, to know just where you would lead us.  So with no real understanding of the captain of the “great ship republican” at sea, we only had the republican ship to see.  What we saw, well, was downright scary.

Just take a look, from our perspective, and you can see what we saw.  We saw Todd Akin and Richard Murdock.  We saw Scott Walker and, your own choice for VP, Paul Ryan.  We saw John Kachich and John Husted.  We saw Rick Scott and Rick Detzner.  We saw Jeff Flake in Arizona telling people to go to the wrong polling place.

We heard John Sununu and Donald Trump.  We heard Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck,  Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham,  Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.  We heard Newt Gringrich and  Grover Norquist.

We read the Washington Times and The National Review.

We saw the attacks on President Obama, the our of context quotes, the distortions, the outright lies.

We saw the assault on women’s rights to reproductive choices and access to healthcare.

We saw the disdain your party had for Latinos, the contempt for the LGBT community.

We saw how the African-American community was discounted.

We watched your party’s attempts to suppress the vote.  We watched them attempt to game the system.  We even saw overt, blatant attempts to cheat.  The margin for the President was about 3 million votes, but we will never know how many voters were affected by your party’s efforts, how those efforts affected down ballot races and initiatives.

Now I know you will say that they are not you, but since you chose not to reveal who you were, and you chose not to rebuke them, we were left to conclude that they “are” you, or at least that you believe and feel as they do.

Even your opponents agreed that you are a good man.  A family man with strong values and principles.  But we never got to see that part of you.  By not taking a stand you became a part of a stance that America rejected.

So you see, it was a collective effort.  What just occurred was not a rejection of just you, but a rejection of what your party has become.  If only you had been you, someone with a recognizable identity, someone we could relate to and understand, then perhaps….

You know the last republican president was also a good man.  A man of values and principles.  But ideology led him, and the people around him, to take America to a place where the needs of the few outweighed the needs of the many.  We’ve been there and we’ve decided that’s not where we want to be.

So it wasn’t just your many you’s, that lost last Tuesday, it was your party and the way it operates.  There’s plenty of blame to go around and plenty of people to share the blame.

You did not build this by yourself.

OH(BAMA) WHAT A NIGHT!!!!!

OH WHAT A NIGHT.

Candidate Barack Obama made history in November 2008.  That’s true.  But what President Barack Obama has done in November  2012 is truly historic.  When all is considered, when the story is told, not through the simplistic lens of who won and who lost, America will shudder at revelations revealed by this electoral process, but in the end stand tall in revelry at her ability to stand up against the powerful whose will is, not to live up to the founder’s intent to “form a more perfect union,” but to create a union that “perfectly” suits their purposes.

The Republicans, over the last four years, have used virtually every underhanded tactic imaginable.  They’ve lied, they’ve deceived, they’ve cheated, they’ve attempted to make a mockery of the very process that makes this the greatest country in the world.  They vowed to obstruct the President, and turned around and attempted to blame him for the slow recovery of our economy.  They’ve challenged his birth origin, his citizenship, his legitimacy as President.  They’ve challenged his love of America.  They’ve call him a liar, a Muslim, they’ve refused to acknowledge any of his accomplishments.  Indeed many Republicans, including Romney, have tried to co-op the things he has been able to get done, while at the same time, retreating from their own policies simply because the President embraced them and tried to implement them.  They accused President of “palling around with terrorist,” said that “he has apologized for America around the world,” castigated him for attending a church with a radical preacher (is he Muslim or Baptist?)  They’ve attacked his wife, and family.  They even went after his dog.  They didn’t stop with the kitchen sink, they threw the whole damn kitchen at him and he didn’t flinch.  He didn’t back down.

The amazing thing about this race, is that it was so close.  How, in the face of all the lies, in the face of all the stupid challenges, in the face of all the obstructive tactics by the Republicans, with their attacks on minorities, with their assault on women’s rights, their shifting positions on issues, with their disdain for the LGBT community, their overt attempts to suppress the vote, could anyone have voted for Romney or any of the republicans running for office.  It’s amazing to me.

But, in the end, “Oh what a night.”

I was at the Michigan Democratic Headquarters, in the Grand Ballroom at the MGM Grand Hotel, on election night, and there was, remarkable as it may seem, an air of confidence in the room as I arrived, about 8:30.  Everyone that I spoke with was upbeat, even as the early returns showed the electoral count favoring candidate Romney.  When the polls in the east began to close, the early projections showed the challenger with a 33 to 3 lead, with Romney winning the early vote in the south plus Indiana and the President winning Vermont.  Still I didn’t sense any panic among his supporters.  There was an energy in the calm, though.  There was much on the table with the US Congress elections and several other important down ballot contests and initiatives, that had the attention of the attendee’s.

By 9:00, with more polls beginning to close, more projections had been made.   The President had been projected to win all of New England (except New Hampshire, which soon came on board), Michigan, Illinois, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.  But with Romney winning Arkansas and Tennessee, CBS News projected that Romney was leading the President in electoral votes 88 to 78.  With each state projection there were cheers or boos depending on who won or lost, but there was no panic, just an expectation that everything was going to be just fine.

An hour and a half into the evening  you could feel the excitement building inside the room.  A little past 9:30 newly re-elected Congressman John Conyers approached the podium to address the crowd and a raucous cheer erupted in the room.  Conyers, who had faced a primary challenge after being the victim of redistricting by a republican state legislature that moved him from the 14th district to the newly aligned 13th district handily, defeated Republican challenger Harry Sawacki.  (This is another example (alignment of voting districts),  a perfect example, of why elections matter.  Even down ballot.

After a few words the congressman introduced newly re-elected Senator Debbie Stabenow to the crowd.  The crowd went berserk  as the Senator took to the podium.

The Senator, armed with the endorsement of the republican-leaning Michigan Farm bureau, easily defeated republican Pete Hoekstra to return to Washington for a third term.  Hoekstra, if you’ll remember was widely criticized for running a controversial ad that featured an Asian woman talking in broken english about China taking our American jobs.  An ad that even some republicans rebuked as racially tinged and insensitive.  He attempted to brand Sen. Stabenow as the “follower-in-chief” because of her relationship with President Obama, and ran numerous negative ads on TV and the internet as he tried to bring her down, but the Senator stayed strong and positive.  “I am proud that we stuck with our positive message about what we’ve gotten done for Michigan,” said Stabenow.

As we approached 10:00 we had more projections.  Pennsylvania for Obama.  Moments later New Hampshire, Wisconsin (so much for the VP home-state bump), and Minnesota.  The vote was so close at this point that CNN was projecting Romney ahead by 152 -143, NBC projected Obama ahead 158-153, and Fox News Channel had it as a tie 153 electoral votes a piece.

Between 10 and 11:00 Romney picked up Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, Utah and Montana and there was a slight nervousness in the crowd, but that all went away at 11:00 when the west coast polls closed.  Pandemonium broke out in the ballroom when it was announced that California, Washington State, Hawaii, followed by New Mexico and Iowa were going to The President.

The exuberance began to ebb, somewhat, as we became aware that Ohio was pending.  At 11:13 NBC announced that President Obama was going to win Ohio and moments later announced Barack Obama would be re-elected President of the United States.  As you can imagine the excitement, the energy, the anticipation all came together and the ballroom could not contain it all.  It spilled out of the room, down the hallways, throughout the hotel.  It was Christmas and New Years eve all wrapped up in one.

I don’t know about you guys, but I was ready for a cigarette.  What a night!  I wasn’t surprised by the outcome (I had predicted that President Obama would win with 331 electoral votes.  He finished with 332).  As much as I believed in the President, I also believed in the American People.  Yes, the republican party did everything possible to steal this election.  Yes, their candidate flip-flopped all over the place and outright lied about himself and the President.  But America saw through it all and did the right thing.  I wrote in a previous post a thank you to the voters, and I really mean it.  There is much yet do and I believe our President is going to get it done, from completing his healthcare initiative to Wall Street reform.  We are going to have tax and immigration reform.  Hopefully we’ll get campaign finance reform, a change in the way we conduct national elections and a change in the filibuster.  President Obama, not burdened by re-election, can use his executive powers to enact programs if the congress does not.  America is moving forward and the Republicans can’t stop us.  It’s time to get to work.

First though, I’m gonna have that smoke.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *

Here’s some more pictures from election night at the MGM Grand Hotel:

Senator Debbie Stabenow greets her supporters

Supreme Court Candidates, (left to right)Connie Kelley, Sheila Johnson and Bridget McCormack.
McCormack was the only winner.

EVENT ATTENDEES:

CONGRATULATIONS PENNSYLVANIA!!!!!

Congratulations Pennsylvania!

“Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, Mighty is your name,

Steeped in glory and tradition, Object of acclaim.

Where brave men fought the foe of freedom, Tyranny decried,

Til the bell of independence filled the countryside.”

I’m singing your praises Pennsylvania.  What needed to be done, has been.  Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson has blocked implementation of the Voter Photo ID Law until after the election.  Now, while the move by the court only delays this law until after this years election, we will now see if there was ever any reason beyond preventing President Obama’s reelection for this law to be in place.

We will see if voter fraud was a problem or if this was, simply, a fraudulent attempt to suppress votes.  My guess is [it was] the later.

This in fact may be the most telling part of this entire charade.  And when I say telling I mean that it was them, the republicans, doing the telling.  On June 23, 2012 State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R) stated:

  • “Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done.”
  • “First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done.”
  • “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

Since the 1960’s, there has not been a more blatant attack on America’s civil rights, indeed, an attack of the most basic right of our society, the right to vote.

This is not just about Pennsylvania, though.  Their’s was the most restrictive of many such laws passed in more than 30 states over the last few years.  Some have been struck down by the Voting Rights Act (that’s come under fire lately), and others by Local and State courts that have determined that the laws were an unnecessary intrusion on our voter franchise.

My guess is, though, this is not just a one shot deal.  Most of this talk about in-person voter ID fraud will quietly dissipate, but it won’t disappear.  Voter suppression and manipulation is as important down-ticket, at the State and Local level, as it is nationally.  What this process has shown us is that State Houses, State Legislatures, and locally elected Judges play as much a part in this scenario as the National ticket.  We must be aware, and beware.  The war continues.

It is in the local courts where laws are being upheld that are restricting or eliminating more of our basic freedoms. Like freedom of choice for women, freedom to choose who to marry, freedom to bargain collectively.  Even the right to be governed by our lawfully elected officials is being challenged.  State Legislatures are realigning voting districts to dilute the power of constituency voting.

So the war is not yet won.  The battlefield has shifted. Diligence and determination are the weapons with which we must arm ourselves, as we continue moving “Forward.

So, congratulations Pennsylvania.  A battle won, but the war goes on.

“Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, May your future be,

filled with honor everlasting as your history.”

DEBATE or DE(THE)BAIT

Looking forward to Wednesday’s debate between President Obama and candidate Romney, I began to wonder, can the President lose or can the candidate win?  The only way, I believe that the President can lose is if he takes the bait, and get’s drawn into a lot of tangential hypothetical’s.  You know, the could’ve, would’ve, or should’ve(s).

The common wisdom on the right is that President Obama can not run on his record.  What they are counting on is that the vilification of his accomplishments and his efforts to improve life in these United States has worked, or is working.  I don’t believe that it has, or will.

As more and more of his policies roll out, policies that were, in many cases delayed or watered down by a congress committed to bring him down, the American people are seeing the benefits of Obama’s presidency.  With the Affordable Care Act, Financial Reform, Workplace Equality, the ending of the War in Iraq, the killing of Osama bin-Ladin, the decimation of Al-Qaeda, the fall of Khaddafi, and [of] Mubarak, the drawing down of the War in Afghanistan, the Auto Bailout, and perhaps the most important, The American Recovery Act, without which the country, as we know it, would not have survived, there is much the American people and the President can point to with pride.

When all of this is considered, along with the fact that the Republican leadership, including House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senate Minority Leader McConnell,  and the entire Tea Party caucus, have walked lock-step in their attempt to defeat his efforts even at the expense of America’s recovery, these accomplishments seem all the more remarkable.

This is, though, where the potential problems may arise.  The president does not need to oversell his accomplishments, though there may be some temptation to do so.  The risk is to become the “I” candidate.  The president has been careful, over his time in office, to encourage the American people to become more involved, more vocal, and it has worked.  Much of what he has been able to do has come as a consequence of an energetic, involved, citizenry.  If he is baited into defending or overselling what he has done, he risks turning off the support his accomplishments have garnered.

The other trap, would be to be baited into ascribing  motive’s  to the constant stream of misrepresentations, distortions, and outright lies coming from his opponents on the right.  To play the victim.  He should let “them” explain their motives.  The American people see them for what they are (lies).  They also know who is telling them.   These are not just lies “about” him, they are lies “to” the American people.  I believe we (the people) are smart enough to realize that.

Now, I know I haven’t mentioned how it may be possible for candidate Romney to win.  Well that’s the truth.  I mean, “the truth” is the reason that Romney can’t win.  If he tells the truth, the American people see him for who he really is.  If he doesn’t, well, the American people will see him for who he really is.  Either way he can’t win.  This first debate will, rightfully, include discussions about the candidate’s campaign, the republican convention, his ill-timed misstatements about the events in Libya, and definitely about his 47% comments.  I can’t wait to hear his responses.

This is President Obama’s debate to win.  As long as he doesn’t take the “bait.”

WRITE A “LETTER FROM THE HEART” TO MICHELLE

FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES
MICHELLE OBAMA
Please make your mark in history.  Write your letter to our First Lady Michelle Obama now.  Please do this for our First Lad and yes, do it for yourself so you can be a part of a history making project.  Your letter will be part of a book that is being published in honor of our First Lady.  Your letter can be 12 words or up to 2012 words  So, do it.  Deadline November 5, 2012.
Go ahead and let Ms. Obama know you are so proud to call her First Lady!
Please share this notice.
You can email your letter to: firstladyletters@gmail.com
You can also mail your letter to:
Letters from the Heart,
3826 Burlingame Street
Detroit, Michigan 48206
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