Gun safety campaigns merge to form grassroots approach

background checks

A new gun control campaign backed by $50 million from former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged on Wednesday to focus its efforts outside Washington, claiming to be the first nationwide movement to rival the National Rifle Association.

Despite initial attention on wealthy backers such as Bloomberg and Warren Buffett, leaders of the group, Everytown For Gun Safety, insisted their strategy differs from previous attempts at reform because they would seek to influence politicians through grassroots campaigning rather than primarily by lobbying Congress…

The two groups merging to form Everytown – Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America – already have 34,000 smaller donors, insisted Feinblatt, who rejects the top-down characterisation of the group by its opponents.

Everytown aims to grow the groups’ combined membership from 1.5m to 2.5m over the next year, through a range of initiatives from a traditional political action committee through to “stroller jams” and “diaper-dumps” outside city hall offices, said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action…

A year ago on Thursday, attempts to pass limited background checks on gun buyers fell five votes short of the 60 needed to make progress in the US Senate despite a wave of national revulsion following the Newtown shooting.

All but three of the 45 senators who blocked passage of the bill had received campaign contributions from firearms lobbyists, and they raised record sums from their members and gun manufacturers in the months following Newtown.

But senators who voted against last year’s background check bill, particularly four rebel Democrats, fear the negative political consequences of crossing the NRA far more than direct campaign contributions.

Some of this is due to spending on attack ads against reformers running in conservative states, but Everytown concedes much of it is also due to the effective political mobilisation of gun rights campaigners.

The ideologues who think they can maintain their position of prominence and control of political hacks – Congressional and closer to home – are whistling in the dark. If they had brains to match their hubris they might look around their Conservative Fortress and wonder what ever happened to the George Wallace Brigade, the Birchers who pledged a battle to the death against miscegenation, the much larger Legions of Christian Wrath defending biblical definitions of marriage [other than polygamy, ahem]?

Will the conflict between good sense and regulation for safe ownership of firearms on one hand versus nutball fanatics who believe every felon has as much right to a gun as the cops trying to arrest them – last for years? You betcha. In the end, will generations growing up in mainly urban and urbane America find politics which needs a Beretta to have balls, an Uzi to protect a uterus – to be nothing more than demented? You betcha.

That’s the confidence side of my cynicism.

Fundraising Is the main business of Congress


Good ol’ Rodney when he switched to the GOP

Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), who was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 2002 and then switched to the GOP in 2004, announced he wouldn’t run again. In an interview with the Norman News Star, Alexander said he’d done all he could do in Congress, and he looked forward to life beyond the gilded halls of Capitol Hill.

The most interesting part of Alexander’s interview, though, was his description of how fundraising dominates the life of a member of Congress. Here’s what he said:

But the time has come for someone else to advance that cause now. I made that decision when one stops aggressively raising money, well then people start to ask questions. And that’s an unfortunate part of the business that we’re in. But it’s the main business, and it’s 24 hours a day raising money. It’s not fair. It’s not fair for the member, not fair for constituency to have to be approached every day or two or week ore two about campaign contributions. So it’s just a grueling business and I’m ready for another part of my life.

“Twenty-four hours a day” is hyperbole, of course, but it’s nonetheless a eye-opening statement. In making these comments he joins a list of outgoing lawmakers who, freed from the burdens of fundraising, have embraced their inner Bulworth and vented about the exhausting fundraising hamster wheel.

In January, after announcing his forthcoming retirement, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said that Congress barely functions because members spend too much time buckraking. “The time is so consumed with raising money now, these campaigns, that you don’t have the time for the kind of personal relationships that so many of us built up over time,” he said. “So in that way, fun, I don’t know, there needs to be more time for senators to establish personal relationships than what we are able to do at this point in time…”

It takes a whole lot of phone calls, breakfasts at the Capitol Hill Club, skeet shootings, beer bashes, ski trips, and Star Wars-themed fundraisers to raise that much money. For Rep. Alexander, it was all too much.

Not that I think we need to waste any tears on Congress-creeps. The few worthy folks on board may have to rely on dollars and cents from folks like me – without a payroll full of lobbyists. Most of the rest are there to be bought and paid for, anyway.

Mail me a penny postcard when politicians who whine about dollars owning Congress actually get up on their hind legs and vote against the practice.

Best reason – this week – to put your money in a bank!

An elderly lady in southern China has lost all her savings to termites.

The £42,000-worth of cash was given to the woman by her children six months ago.

But instead of depositing the money in the bank, she wrapped it up in a plastic bag and stored it in a wooden drawer in her house, according to the state-run CCTV channel.

The unlucky lady, whose identity has not been released, only realised her cash had been munched through by termites in April when she opened the drawer to take out some money to pay for decorating work.

In a panic, she took the banknotes – which had all been damaged – to a local bank in the hope that they could be still identified.

After several rounds of scanning and comparing, the bank managed to verify around £35,000.

She still lost about 15%.

Boy takes his parents’ savings, $4,000 – spends it on candy

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy spent nearly $4,000 on candy in several days, the money coming from his parents’ savings hidden in a couch.

“The disappearance [of the money] was first spotted by his father. He opened the stash and saw it was empty,” said Tatyana Kushnerova of the Konotop, Ukraine police department.

After an argument, the son admitted taking the money during his autumn school holiday, $3,300 in U.S. cash and about 600 euros, converting it to Ukrainian hryvnas with the help of an adult acquaintance and spending it on candy, which he shared with friends…

He should be sick for a year. Which is OK – it’s likely to be that long before his family lets him back in the house.

The super donor All-Star trading cards

Collect ’em all: Super donor trading cards

Backer of Democrats and hedge fund billionaire James H. Simons jumps to No. 8 on The Center for Public Integrity’s list of top donors to super PACs, surpassing his former protégé,GOP supporter Robert Mercer, who ranks No. 9.

Democrats also came up with a counter to pro-Republican homebuilder Bob Perry (No. 3), who backed efforts in Texas to pass laws that lower jury verdicts. Husband-and-wife trial lawyers Steve and Amber Mostyn, also of Texas, make their first appearance on the list at No. 10.

Get detailed profiles on all and view “trading cards” of this election’s biggest super PAC donors.

Folks at the Center for Public Integrity get nothing but kudos from me. They work diligently at some of the most boring data mining possible – dedicated to turning up decisions, behavior based on what passes for ethical standards in our political life. Practically mutually-exclusive terms, nowadays.

Mitt Romney Is not the face of Mormonism

When the news of Mitt Romney’s Florida video broke on Monday evening, I was incensed — but not for its political implications. His arrogant and out-of-hand dismissal of half the population of this country struck me at a visceral level, for it sullied the religion that he and I share — the religion for which five generations of my ancestry have lived and sacrificed, the religion whose official mantra is “to take care of the poor and needy throughout the world.”

My first impulse was to rent an airplane towing a banner: “Mitt Romney is Not the Face of Mormonism!”

I was a supporter of Romney 1.0. That was in late 2007, when we had far more in common. We are both Mormons and we both served foreign missions for our church at the same time, he in France and I in Brazil. Some of my best friends had been some of his best friends for decades. Although I am a registered Democrat, his accomplishments as Governor of Massachusetts appealed to me. I contributed the maximum amount to his early presidential primary bid…

Early in 2008, to my dismay, Romney 1.0 became Romney 2.0 by moving far enough to the right to lose my support. He has kept moving ever farther to the right. He has made this move in a successful attempt to gain the nomination, and in an ongoing attempt to persuade no more than 53 percent of the country that he should be the next President.

…That he is the only Mormon ever to be the nominee for the Presidency of a major political party makes it inevitable that even if people do not judge him because of his religion, they will judge his religion because of him. Given the unfolding news of this week, I regret to say that Mitt Romney is not the face of Mormonism.

…The face of Mormonism is the one that calls on some of its members, particularly bishops and stake presidents, to devote as many hours gratis to their church jobs as they do to their professional jobs. It is the one that summons up extraordinary acts of love, compassion and generosity, often in response to the deepest tragedies of life — and death.

But it is not the one that dismisses out-of-hand half the population of the United States by saying, “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives…”

The very basis of Mormon community, stretching back to the earliest years of Mormonism nearly two centuries ago, is that the more able have a sacred obligation to assist the less able…

Judge Mitt Romney as you will, and vote for or against him as you will; but do not judge Mormonism on the basis of the Mitt Romney that was unveiled to the public this week. He is not the face of Mormonism.

Well said, Gregory Prince. A leading Mormon scholar, a historian who puts a generational persona on the dialectic stream that becomes the present – Prince stands up for the values that formed this religion like many other Christian religions. Love, kindness and aid for your fellow human beings.

Romney behaves like the princes of today’s Catholic Church or the Bible Belt hustlers who sell religious cred through their universities, pre-recorded prayers and genuine virgin acrylic bubba hats. He demeans the reasons believers want to believe. He’d rather they were True Believers. Unquestioning. Bigoted. Stuck in the past that never was.

He is the face of Mammon – not Mormon.

Dumb crooks of the day!


NOT the way to bring up your kids!

Police in North Port, Fla., say a man was arrested for robbery after uploading pictures of himself on Facebook posing with the loot and a gun linking him to the crime, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

Jovan Cummings, 24, and his girlfriend, Nicole Catherine Eaton, 22, were arrested for allegedly robbing a Dollar General in March of $3,000 after assaulting one store employee and binding him with duct tape.

The newspaper says a detective looking at surveillance video thought the robbers looked like Cummings and Eaton, who had previously had run-ins with the law.

A check of photos on Cumming’s Facebook page showed him holding a wad of cash and also wearing what police said was “the exact same hat” as the store robber.

There was also a video of him brandishing a handgun like the one used in the robbery, the newspaper says, quoting police.

Same as it ever was. You don’t spend time committing armed robbery because you have the highest IQ on the block.