Archive for December, 2012

War on drunk driving a model for reducing gun violence

What practical steps, within the protections of the Second Amendment, can we take to reduce mass killings and gun violence? Can such an effort even begin to make a difference in saving lives and preventing heartbreak?

Yes, it can. And we have a model of success to draw upon.

By 1982, more than 21,000 Americans were dying each year in alcohol-related accidents. Yet somehow by 2010, the number of fatalities caused by drunk driving had fallen to 10,228, a decline of more than half. We didn’t solve the problem, but clearly we have made substantial progress. We are saving more than 10,000 lives a year and preventing tens of thousands more from being crippled or maimed. Almost as important, over the years we have prevented tens of thousands of drivers from ruining their own lives by killing people while under the influence.

We did not achieve that progress by banning automobiles. We did not ban alcohol. In fact, no single dramatic change produced the turnaround. It was achieved …

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GOP concocts imaginative scheme to steal elections

A Republican presidential candidate hasn’t carried Michigan since the first George Bush did it back in 1988, seven election cycles ago. And for the GOP, the future doesn’t look much brighter than the past. In the most recent election, Barack Obama carried the state and its 16 electoral votes by a comfortable margin of 9.5 percentage points.

So what’s a losing party to do? Field a better candidate? Develop a message that voters will find more compelling? Nah. Why do things the hard way when you can “fix” the system to your advantage legislatively?

As Reid Wilson explains in National Journal, Michigan Republicans are preparing to use their control of the state Legislature to change the way in which electoral votes are awarded in their state. Rather than use the traditional winner-take-all system, they propose to award electoral votes by congressional district.

What would that mean in practice? It would mean that in 2012, Obama would have won just seven of Michigan’s 16 …

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The startling science behind Obama’s victory

The technological superiority of the Obama campaign has been well-covered, but Sasha Issenberg at MIT’s Technology Review offers us a deeper and even unsettling look at just what it accomplished. Along the way, he also introduces us to someone who may make Nate Silver of Fivethirtyeight fame not only envious, but downright anachronistic.

Political junkies will remember the hotly contested 2009 special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District. Issenberg, author of “The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns,” introduces us to Dan Wagner, who predicted the outcome of that election within a 150- vote margin. In 2010, Republican Scott Brown pulled off a surprising victory for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy. Wagner, however, had predicted Brown’s victory months before the election took place. In the 2010 congressional midterms, which the Republicans won, he correctly predicted the outcome with uncanny accuracy five months before …

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Signs of change on assault weapon ban

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, generally shies from anything that smacks of liberalism. Last fall, for example, he declined to say publicly that he would vote for Barack Obama. He also campaigned in 2010 by broadcasting a commercial in which he literally shot up an environmental bill, and has earned an A rating from the National Rifle Association for his past opposition to gun-control efforts.

So this means something:

For those unable to view videos, Manchin embraces the idea of renewing a ban on the sale of assault weapons and banning large-capacity magazines, among other steps.

“We’ve never been in these waters before. We’ve had horrific crimes throughout our country but never have we seen so many our our babies out in harms way and their life taken from them, and the grief. I mean, that’s changed me, and has changed most Americans I would think. And with that, let’s look at ways that we can bring a common-sense reasonability to this discussion and bring …

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Will our anger be buried alongside Newtown’s dead?


A flag flies at half mast on a dark, wintry night in Newtown, Conn. This week, the townspeople will bury their dead, including the bodies of 20 young first-graders murdered by an assailant who broke into their school. Coffin manufacturers have donated the 20 small caskets that will be needed in the burials. (AP)


The Bushmaster .223, the weapon used by Adam Lanza to kill 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Each victim had been shot three to 11 times, according to the coroner's report. Lanza is reported to have brought multiple 30-round magazines to the school, and at the time of his death at his own hand still possessed hundreds of rounds of ammunition.



Robbie Parker, the father of six-year-old Emilie, has had to explain her death to her two siblings, ages 3 and 4. "They seem to get the fact that they have somebody they're going to miss very much," he said.

An excerpt from President Barack Obama’s message to Newtown and the nation, delivered at a prayer …

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Newtown massacre reawakens question of gun control

The United States suffers more gun deaths and mass shootings than any other major industrialized country. It’s not even close. And of the dozen most deadly mass killings in U.S. history, half have occurred within the past five years. In other words, if you believe that these things are happening more and more often, the numbers validate that belief.

The question is why.

The NRA and its supporters say the problem is not easy access to guns. To the contrary, they often argue that the problem is a shortage of guns. If only we had more guns in circulation, fewer would die. The day before the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Michigan Legislature embraced that theory in passing a law allowing those with concealed carry permits to possess weapons in schools, churches and other formerly gun-free areas. Michigan’s governor has yet to say whether he intends to sign such a bill.

However, there is no evidence to support the NRA’s contention. Those countries with much lower …

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On a melancholy Friday, ‘Paint It, Black’

Watching the Hurricane Sandy relief concert this week, I was reminded again that a rock band that survives more or less intact for 50 years, as the Rolling Stones have now done, is simply outrageous.

Their record becomes more remarkable still when you consider that for much of that time, surviving just one year as a hard-partying Stone was like living 10 years in most other bands. Brian Jones didn’t make it through alive, but somehow the indestructible Keef Richards did. And they really don’t show many signs of slowing down.

Here’s Mick and the boys doing one of my favorites, “Paint It, Black.” Jones plays the sitar on this song, an instrument that he first saw played by George Harrison, who of course learned it from the great Ravi Shankar, who died Tuesday at the age of 92, and who was the father of Nora Jones.

– Jay Bookman

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Horror in a Connecticut elementary school


It’s hard to know what to say about the horror that took place this morning in a Connecticut elementary school. The combination of a madman, children and guns has left a reported 27 dead, including 20 children, most of them apparently executed in a single kindergarten classroom.

Again, 27 dead, and hundreds and hundreds directly connected to them have had their lives forever diminished. Even the millions of us who knew nobody in Newtown have been left chilled to the bone on this early winter day.

The 24-year-old gunman, dressed in paramilitary garb, is among those dead. His mother, a teacher at the school, is dead as well. Three weapons were reportedly found at the scene — a .223-caliber assault rifle and two semi-automatic handguns.

As always, the trauma inflicted on those families and that community is difficult to comprehend, and it is compounded by the brutal senselessness of the crime. Tragedies such as this always create questions — “How?” and “Why?” just the …

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Time for Legislature to get serious about ethics reform

If serious ethics reform passes the Georgia Legislature this year, House Speaker David Ralston will have played a major role from beginning to end.

His biggest contribution probably came in helping to inspire the public crusade that has pushed the issue to such prominence in the first place. If he had not taken his family on a $17,000 holiday trip to Europe at lobbyist expense, and if he had not responded to criticism by shrugging it off as unimportant, it is unlikely that the ethics issue would have gained so much traction. The speaker is a smart guy who is widely respected, but that trip and his handling of its aftermath was a major blunder. He turned himself into a symbol of the type of political entitlement that angers voters and leads them to distrust government.

That distrust has become a major problem, as evidenced by an AJC poll published last week. It found that a major reason for metro Atlanta’s rejection of last summer’s T-SPLOST was lack of faith in the …

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McCain’s ugly campaign against Susan Rice pays off


I wonder if John McCain feels even the slightest twinge of shame over his McCarthyesque campaign to torpedo Susan Rice. Probably not. The McCain who might once have been capable of such decency hasn’t been seen in Washington in many a moon.

It’s important to make it clear that Rice wasn’t targeted because she’s a woman or because she’s black; those defenders who make such claims do her a disservice. Instead, she was targeted because she could be. McCain and his merry little band haven’t been able to lay a glove on Barack Obama, the man who denied McCain the presidency four years ago, and their increasing irrelevance has made them frustrated. But Rice? Rice was somebody they could handle.

That’s because, as U.S. senators, they had something that Rice wanted. She needed their permission to become the next secretary of state, should Obama decide to nominate her to that post, and that made her vulnerable. Through deception and ginned-up righteousness, McCain and his pals at Fox …

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