Saturday, February 23, 2013

What Mattered This Week?

Quiet news week, no? I'll go ahead and pick the developments in Syria as something that mattered, or at least could matter. 

And a cheat for what didn't matter -- I'll pick the argument over who originally proposed sequestration. The truth of it doesn't really matter, but I argued in my Salon column today that the fact that Republicans chose that as their spin is quite bad for current and future negotiations.

So that's what I have...what do you have? What do you think mattered this week?

26 comments:

  1. I agree with your Salon analysis. The republicans have been trying to drive Obama into a corner so they can attack his positions.

    I have a question. Have presidents always been so involved in negotiations, or have most negotiations been resolved in the congress by congressional leaders? I'm not a youngster and I don't recall a president being so far out in front before - a clear target for the kind of disingenuous double dealing boehner and mcconnell have practiced. Clinton, maybe, but Obama's participation seems over the top to me.

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    1. According to what I know about US history, before Nixon et al, Presidents wielded considerable power via their party, aside from anything from the administration. So they were involved in negotiations.

      I don't see anything Obama is doing that's different than other Presidents in my lifetime.

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  2. The new drone base in Niger.

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  3. More data came out that the rise in the costs of healthcare is still slowing, new bases are going up in Africa for drones and Rick Scott's decision to opt into the Federal Medicaid expansion all mattered.

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  4. While I don't want to see the sequestration happen, I'm pretty sure the threats of countrywide destruction and mid-air plane collisions don't matter and are pretty transparent attempts to scare the populace.

    The cuts to defense will certainly matter in good (downsizing the military Industrial complex) and bad (employment) ways.

    Perhaps the most ardent critic of Obamacare accepting a medicaid expansion, big deal, no? I say it matters.

    You keep saying Syria matters and I'm sure on some scale it does, but I just don't see how. I may not understand the general politics of Syria, but for general US citizens how does it matter?

    North Korea matters. That's gonna be a big problem for China more than the US, but still we're affected.

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    1. I thing what didn't happen about sequestration matters; the big yawn of boredom across the nation shows something.

      My suspicion is that it's a combination of two things; first, a sort of dumbfounded suspicion that at the last minute, Congress will do something, most likely, kick the can some more. But the other reality is that people so no other way to get defense spending in line with our fiscal needs; they seem to welcome it as a fiscal check on a military bloat run amok.

      So what didn't happen -- huge public outrage -- seems to matter.

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    2. For my profession, what matters is that the Republicans finally came out attacking the funding for the NIH and the NSF, as I pointed out (a couple weeks ago) that they would. Most people agree that medical research's cost provides value, and the sequester really hammers us. Research has been cut to the bone already.

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  5. Oh NK happened last week, my b.

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  6. I'll go with the DOJ's leaked memo on Democratic gun control proposals:
    http://www.nraila.org/media/10883516/nij-gun-policy-memo.pdf

    And who could forget Joe Biden's latest self defense tip for women?
    http://youtu.be/D7icttUa9GU

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    1. Why? The first one doesn't seem real, the second one seems outdated and pointless.

      At least shotgun pellets are less likely to come down on your head and kill you.

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    2. Crissa, the memo has been acknowledged by the administration (Naturally, they said it was preliminary, didn’t reflect official policy, etc. etc.). The Biden video was taken from an interview this week. The point of the video is to show how unrealistic the democrats’ conception of armed self defense is. Just like all politicians, they want to control what they don’t actually understand.

      “At least shotgun pellets are less likely to come down on your head and kill you.”

      I’m not sure why you would say that. 00 buckshot has a spread of nine .33 cal pellets -- that would seem to increase your odds of accidentally hitting someone.

      While I wouldn’t want any neighbor of mine to be shooting “blasts into the air,” the AR-15 is actually the safest option, from the perspective of the neighborhood. The most common round for this rifle, .223, is less likely to penetrate walls than a round from any other caliber. That’s one reason why swat teams use it for drug raids in urban areas.

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    3. Well so the reason why the AR-15 and a shotgun are good guns in a protection situation is poor aim. A shotgun hits it's target with a wide ranging spray with one round where as firing 10-15 rounds in thirty seconds or so gives you a less wide ranging spray and 15 more bullets being fired.

      I think this is evidence of the same short sided arguments you see on the left.

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    4. Jamie, it’s much easier to hit what you aim at with a rifle or shotgun when compared with a handgun. This is because of the longer site radius and the way long guns are held against the body.

      In spite of what Biden and others have said, a shotgun does not spray a magical cloud of death that makes aiming unimportant. Even in the largest room of your home, buckshot is unlikely to spread more than the size of a baseball. (The spread of course becomes very great at longer distances.)

      For the rifle, a 30 round magazine is an obvious benefit if you’re defending your home against multiple intruders. The last thing you want to be worried about is reloading. The AR-15 also has the benefit of low recoil.

      My local police training manual covers all the benefits of an AR-15 -- less likely to over-penetrate walls, easier to use, easier to hit what you aim at... It’s so much safer that it “reduces the liability to the department.” Read pages 3-7 and 25-27:
      http://www.mlefiaa.org/files/MPTC_NEWS/Patrol_Rifle_Student_Manual_2010.pdf

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    5. Hey Couves, you never answered my question the other week. Given that there are weapons that should not be broadly available, such as shoulder-mounted RPGs, and given that the definition of which ones those are is about broaden, which ones do YOU think should be made illegal?

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    6. Anon, as I said last week, I don’t want to ban any new firearms. As it is in my own state, we have bans that need to be reversed.

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    7. Couves, let me tell you a little then, to see if I can draw you out some. My grandfather taught me to shoot at twelve, and when my father passed away I took his handguns because my other siblings wouldn't, or couldn't, keep them on hand. I've taught my own children to shoot, and proper gun safety, in their early teens as well.

      Because I live in the Northeast, I've had to get rid of these mementos. I don't want to run afoul of the laws here.

      My issue is with lockstep responses on the Republican side to changing circumstances. Everyone says the same things as LaPierre - you can't ban military-style rifles! You can't restrict clips! Firearms everywhere will only protect people!

      It's so unrealistic, it keeps your side from coming to the table to talk. Because of my heritage, because I come from the gun culture, I am doing my best to try to get the more intelligent people I see on your side to realize that things have to change. And then to try to get you to contribute to the change.

      It's the only way to make sure that side, the gun culture side, actually has a say in what happens. Otherwise you get crap like what's happened in NY, which will almost have to be reversed really soon.

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    8. Neither the DOJ memo nor Biden talking about guns mattered (if by "mattered" we mean that people noticed). But in a general sense it's fascinating to watch the pro-gun people completely and utterly destroy themselves in the current debate. It's like the heavy-weight champion throwing the fight. A few weeks ago I was surprised that my libertarian-sympathetic liberals friends switched and supported gun control. Now I'm watching my mom's conservative-leaning friends talk about common-sense gun control. The NRA should withdraw from the debate and the pro-gun people should just shut up. It might be the only way they can stop the bleeding at this point.

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    9. Anon, wasn't the NY law passed 4 hours after is was proposed? It didn't seem like there was much interest in compromise there. Even NY law enforcement is furious that they were never given an opportunity to make their opinion known (The Sheriff’s association is against most of it..).

      I live in Massachusetts, where we have universal licensing requirements and where a large number of common firearms are either illegal or banned from sale. Whether you even get a license can depend on what town you live in and whether the Chief of Police likes the looks of you. I'm sorry that you felt you had to give up family mementos... but I can understand why. That's exactly why I want to make gun laws less restrictive.

      Not so long ago, I would have agreed with you -- the issues are simple and honest people should be able to come to an agreement. I've since come to the conclusion that there is little evidence that gun control works -- it does little more than to restrict law-abiding people. But none of this really matters to the gun control side, because their motivation is to: 1) Pass gun control measures that will lead to more gun control measures (Achieving the sort of gun prohibition found in the UK and Australia seems to be the goal). 2) Win a sort of “culture war” against guns, by making ownership more difficult and therefore less common. When my state passed a restrictive new gun control law in 1998, there were 1.5 million gun owners. A few years later, that number was 200,000. The rates of homicide, suicide and robbery have gone up.

      Now we’re facing the same thing that NY is dealing with, and more… The lesson from this isn’t that compromise works, because it doesn’t -- it has only lead us to more gun control. To look at all this and blame "the Republican side" is, I think, a profound misinterpretation of events.

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    10. Anon (#2?) - Did you read the DOJ memo? Nothing the Democrats are pushing for will work. If we're having a reality-based discussion here, then that's a total game-changer.

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    11. What you've got to understand, Couves, is that Republicans have refused to enter negotiations with Democrats for maybe six years now. There's so many of us, though, with so many different opinions, that we don't miss you. We'll negotiate among ourselves.

      Unless and until Republicans make a good faith effort to enter the conversation, you'll be shut out.

      Nothing in the Patriot Act worked, either, Couves.

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    12. This is Anon 2 again. I did read the DOJ memo. How did it matter if the public didn't notice? It's not as if effective gun control legislation is going to pass Congress. This whole gun control debate is such utter nonsense... which is nothing new. It's always boiled down to rich white guys fetishizing these big guns that are worthless for anything but military-grade violence, while the excess of weapons on the market quickly enters economically depressed areas causing murder rates and gang violence to spike horrifically. I've never seen any evidence that there are any mitigating facts or details that muddy this picture. The only difference in this debate is that the pro-gun people managed to destroy their political coalition. Weigel had a piece recently about how the NRA had gotten lazy after enjoying decades of a pro-gun bipartisan coalition, and that gun rights people in general had gradually drifted very far away from the mainstream in those decades of no gun legislation. So now pro-gun people find themselves defending stupid laws by saying appalling things (like telling women they should carry assault rifles to fend off rapists. such a stupid thing to say!!!). I'm sure the Republicans and NRA-owned Democrats can block any new law... the only problem is that the issue is becoming a wedge against the Republicans.

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    13. Anon, the GOP controls the house, so they certainly do matter in this debate. I agree with you about the patriot act -- it's true that the Republicans won't hesitate to deviate from the Constitution when it suits them. Since you seem to agree that gun laws are oppressive and ineffective, I'm not really sure why you're so worked up over Republican opposition to new ones.

      Anon #2, it's good to see that you're not letting the facts interfere with any preconceptions.

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  7. Yes but the danger is obviously so much greater. I've shot both, and yes for an expert at handling weapons an AR-15 is a better weapon. For someone who is not an expert a shot gun is vastly better in the type of situation being created. I think simplifying these issues is much more complicated than you or Joe Biden allow.

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    1. Jamie, I agree that individual preference is a very complicated thing. That's exactly why I don't think government should get involved. You prefer the shotgun -- great! But that may not be someone else’s preference. For starters, some people have difficulty with the recoil produced by defensive shotgun loads. According to the police training document I linked to, even some police officers have difficulty with the recoil.

      The point is, because everyone is different, we should have the right to decide for ourselves. Anyone who wants to deprive us of that right should be under the burden of explaining why, without misrepresenting the facts.

      Regarding the “danger” of rifles… While I can understand why you might be impressed by their potential lethality (there’s a reason our military uses them), the reality is that they are rarely used to commit murder in the United States. In 2011, almost 20 times more homicides involved the use of handguns, as opposed to rifles (of all types). And since it’s much easier to survive a handgun wound, this means that even this statistic doesn’t fully represent how rare it is that a rifle would be used to commit a violent crime. This is why handguns are more heavily regulated than long guns.

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  8. I appreciate Couves's link to the DOJ memo. I thought it was interesting, even if it confirms my suspicion that nothing that is likely to be passed is going to make much of a difference. On the other hand, I wish they had evaluated the "solution" of fighting crime by making weapons more widely available.

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    1. Hi Scott, thanks for the feedback. I also remain unconvinced that gun laws make much of a difference one way or another.

      The one exception might be the prohibition on the possession of firearms by felons. Enforcing this violation of the law is a convenient way for the system to get some of the most violent unreformed criminals off the streets before they commit crime again. I'm not sure what the statistics are, but it just seems like the law is very frequently used in this way.

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