An adult conversation about guns

Darcy Burner:

Earlier today, a gunman walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, where people were watching the midnight showing of the new Batman movie. He fired gas canisters into the crowd, and then opened fire. At least 12 people are dead and 59 people are injured. My heart and prayers go out to all of them.

On the day Gabby Giffords was shot, I was picking up my son Henry from a lesson when I got the text message saying there had been a shooting. I’d campaigned with Gabby in 2006. Henry didn’t understand why I’d stopped getting into the car and started crying.

Walking back from a haircut the other day, I passed Café Racer, where on May 30th a gunman walked in and killed four people.

It’s time we had an adult conversation in this country about guns.

On January 17, 1989, a gunman in Stockton, California walked onto a playground and opened fire, killing 5 children and injuring 30 more.

On July 1, 1993, a gunman in San Francisco walked into a law office and opened fire, killing 8 and injuring 6.

On April 20, 1999, two gunmen in Columbine, Colorado walked into their high school and opened fire, killing 13 people and injuring 21 others.
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Deal for all

Versus the Grand Bargain:

Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., are trying to get political support for a congressional resolutionthat would repudiate any “grand bargain” on the federal deficit that cuts Social Security, Medicare or other programs vital to economic security.


Their resolution calls for a “Deal for All” that would protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; contain “serious revenue increases,” including corporate tax loopholes and higher tax brackets for the highest-income earners; significant reductions in defense spending; and “strong levels of job-creating Federal investments in areas such as infrastructure and education.”000000000000000000000000000


The Caucus co-chairs issued a joint statement that said, “Congress is gearing up for high-stakes tax and budget negotiations, and we’re standing with working families to make sure we build a stronger and fairer economy. While both parties will need to make sacrifices, we cannot do so at the expense of economic growth or the middle class. A balanced approach like the Deal for All would end tax breaks for the richest 2 percent, close tax loopholes for the wealthy and special interests, and ensure Americans don’t lose the benefits they’ve paid into for decades such as Social Security and Medicare.”


The “Deal for All” stands in sharp contrast to the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction plan offered by the co-chairmen of President Obama’s fiscal commission, Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson. That plan would, among other things, lower tax rates on the wealthiest Americans while cutting more than $400 billion from Medicare and Medicaid over the next 10 years and reducing cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security recipients.


Many Democrats are being pushed into believing that such policies are necessary to keep the government and the economy from falling over a “fiscal cliff” by the end of the year. Fortunately, some of these Democrats are pushing back, arguing that this is the time to end flawed tax policies that favored the wealthy at the expense of working-class Americans, and reject the austerity policies that we see failing miserably in Europe.


So far 38 members of the House have signed on to the resolution. Ask your member of Congress if he or she will also co-sponsor the resolution.

This would be a good time to call your congress critter and push.

The joys of for-profit medicine

And people wonder why I’m suspicious about every prescription they hand me:

For years, a trio of anemia drugs known as Epogen, Procrit and Aranesp ranked among the best-selling prescription drugs in the United States, generating more than $8 billion a year for two companies, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson. But a Washington Post investigation shows that the benefits of the drugs — including “life satisfaction and happiness,” according to the FDA-approved label — had to be retracted and that potentially lethal side effects, such as cancer and strokes, were overlooked. Millions of patients were subjected to dangerous doses that might have had little advantage.

The multibillion-dollar rise and fall of the anemia drugs illustrates how the economic incentives embedded in U.S. health care can make the system not only inefficient, but potentially deadly. Through a well-funded research and lobbying campaign, the drugmakers won far-reaching approvals from the FDA. Doses tripled in size. The pharmaceutical companies conducted trials that missed the dangers and touted benefits that years later would be deemed unproven. The companies took more than a decade to fulfill their research commitments. And when bureaucrats tried to rein in the largest doses, a high-powered lobbying effort began until Congress forced the regulators to let the drugs flow.

Fighting back against National Security Letters

The fact that this lawsuit seems to involve CREDO makes me wonder if the feds aren’t simply going after left-wing political activists, and not terrorists. I am deeply disappointed over the Obama administration’s willingness to expand the warrantless surveillance state, but not surprised. It would be the same no matter who won the election — once this kind of power is legitimized, it is certain that it will be used. From the Wall Street Journal:

Early last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent a secret letter to a phone company demanding that it turn over customer records for an investigation. The phone company then did something almost unheard of: It fought the letter in court.

The U.S. Department of Justice fired back with a serious accusation. It filed a civil complaint claiming that the company, by not handing over its files, was interfering “with the United States’ sovereign interests” in national security.

The legal clash represents a rare and significant test of an investigative tool strengthened by the USA Patriot Act, the counterterrorism law enacted after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The case is shrouded in secrecy. The person at the company who received the government’s request—known as a “national security letter,” or NSL—is legally barred from acknowledging the case, or even the letter’s existence, to almost anyone but company lawyers.

“This is the most important national-security-letter case” in years, said Stephen Vladeck, a professor and expert on terrorism law at the American University Washington College of Law. “It raises a question Congress has been trying to answer: How do you protect the First Amendment rights of an NSL recipient at the same time as you protect the government’s interest in secrecy?”

Although they can’t legally confirm it, they go on to say that the process of elimination appears to point to Working Assets, which owns CREDO.

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Doing the math of global warming

Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone. Please, go read the entire article:

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.


Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.


Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world’s nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn’t even attend. It was “a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago,” the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls “once thronged by multitudes.” Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.


When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn’t yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious – our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless – position with three simple numbers.

Mass shooting

In Colorado movie theater, 12 dead and at least 50 wounded.

If there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s protecting the rights of people to stockpile weapons:

(CBS/AP) AURORA, Colo. – A gas mask-wearing gunman opened fire early Friday at a suburban Denver movie theater, leaving at least 12 people dead and dozens more injured, police said.


The violent and chaotic scene erupted about 12:30 a.m. local time as the suspected gunman, identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, stood at the front of one of the Century 16 theaters at the Aurora Mall where the latest Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” was playing. Witnesses reported that the gunman entered the theater through an emergency exit door and threw a gas canister before opening fire.


“Then it was a blur,” Spenser Sherman told “CBS This Morning” said. “Then I heard a couple gunshots.”


“I thought it was part of the movie, like a fun little prank – that it would be over in a few seconds. It obviously wasn’t.”


She said she only saw a silhouette of the suspect, and that the gunman said nothing.


“Everybody had dropped to the floor after the first couple gunshots, and then he fired some more. And then after that, there was a pause in the gunshots. Some people say he was reloading, I don’t know. But at that point, my boyfriend was like ‘This is the time, we need to go, we need to get out of the theater right now.’ So we ran.”


Jennifer Seeger told CBS Station KCNC the suspect first fired up towards the ceiling, as if to scare people, and then started spraying the audience. He pointed the gun directly at her; she ducked. “He had a gas mask on so I couldn’t see his face,” she said. “All I smelled was gunpowder in the air, and gas was getting to me.”

UPDATE: This is pretty chilling.

UPDATE: The shooter reportedly withdrew as a student from an area medical school.

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