Carol Shea-Porter is Marching, Marching to Shibboleth

[Classical reference sung here.]

My current CongressCritter and perpetual toothache, Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01) has only a few peevish months left before she (voluntarily, this time) gives up her seat. In the past, she favored her constituents with an occasional "Carol's Column" for local op-ed pages. They were (frankly) hilarious, and I occasionally "fisked" them. Samples: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

That was back in 2013, though. During her current term in office, she's been much more reticent, mainly preferring the drive-by thought-free style of Twitter.

But the whole gun thing drew her out. Her latest: "Marching (and legislating) for our lives".

So: another fisking. I am reproducing her entire column here, on the (appropriate) left, with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my comments are on the right.

Five years ago, a gunman shot and killed 20 little children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I am still praying for the families of those sweet six- and seven-year-olds, who should be happy sixth graders right now. Whenever I see or hear their family members talk about how their hearts still break, mine does also. It’s a pain that I cannot imagine and that they should not have to bear. CSP takes a brave stand against little-kid murder. She has feelings about it. We all do.

Do her feelings give her any special insight into the issue? No.

Since Sandy Hook, parents and communities across the country have organized to advocate for safer gun laws. They have not been able to break the grip of the NRA on Congress, and the slaughter has continued. In 2016, Democrats in the House of Representatives sat on the floor of Congress for 25 hours, trying to force Speaker Ryan to allow a vote on legislation to prevent terrorism suspects who are barred from flying from purchasing a firearm. The only result of that was Speaker Ryan threatened to sanction the Democrats for sitting on the floor. CSP refers to a childish election-year stunt that failed to get a vote on a terrible idea: disallowing gun sales to people in (or who have the same name as someone in) the "Terrorism Screening Database". Which is a glamorous name for a list compiled by anonymous government officials, to which someone can be added without notice, from which it takes onerous steps to be removed.

It was not only the NRA who had problems with this stupid, probably unconstitutional, scheme; so did the ACLU.

But as for CSP's contention that "the slaughter has continued": any look at the numbers will tell you otherwise. See, for example, this New York magazine "Daily Intelligencer" article with the headline: "There Is No ‘Epidemic of Mass School Shootings’." (Otherwise, note, the article comes from a very much anti-gun perspective; they simply can't go along with hysterical propaganda when it's contradicted by the facts.)

On Valentine’s Day, 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The traumatized and angry students rejected the idea of a moment of silence in Congress and “thoughts and prayers” from politicians. They fought back, demanding the right to be safe in school. And now we are seeing students across the country speak up, walk out, and make their voices heard, too. You remember CSP's own "thoughts and prayers", described a mere two paragraphs previous? Never mind. The students rejected them. I'm not sure CSP noticed this.

The Republican majority in Congress continues to ignore their call to action, and Speaker Ryan is still blocking any votes, but something is different this time. The youth of America want change, and they won’t be ignored. Today, they are marching all over the United States for gun safety laws, with the appropriate slogan, “Never Again.” I am proudly marching with them. Kids, I have some advice: Democrats will happily pretend to support your harebrained ideas just as long as such support is politically useful. After that … well, acquaint yourself with the history of Cindy Sheehan. You'll be joining her in Obscureville.
The failure of leadership to act while 400 more people have been shot on school property in over 200 separate shootings since that awful December day is both immoral and inexcusable. Our children are being gunned down in their schools As even Time magazine noted: those numbers (from the "Gun Violence Archive") are wildly inflated propaganda. CSP either knows this and doesn't care, or thinks she can get away with it.

In other words: she's either gullible or dishonest. Which is a worse quality in a Congresscritter?

It’s difficult to argue with people who are looking at Congress and wondering if too many Senators and Representatives are too close to the NRA and the gun manufacturers to take any action. Too many elected leaders continue to offer their “thoughts and prayers,” all the while holding their hands out for that next campaign check and coveting an A+ NRA rating. [Oy, again with the thoughts and prayers.]

If "elected leaders" were really the craven tools of the NRA, as CSP alleges, it would be pretty easy to buy them off, wouldn't it? At Reason, Dave Kopel claims that "Michael Bloomberg and allied billionaires now far outspend the NRA" on their gun-grabbing efforts.

It could be that CSP's demonology is just flawed.

Our responsibility as elected officials extends well beyond the offering of thoughts and prayers. We were sent here to take the bold actions necessary to ensure that our children and their parents can live their lives free from fear. We are supposed to protect our citizens at school, at work, at play, at the grocery store, at the movies, at religious services, and wherever else they are--but we aren’t even allowed to vote on a single bill that could do that. [Yes, CSP is kind of a broken record on the "thoughts and prayers" thing. This is why I'm pretty sure she writes these columns on her own; no hired writer would think this mindless invocation was a good idea.]

CSP is silent on the specific dereliction of duty by law enforcement officials in Parkland; it doesn't fit her legislative priorities to point out how poorly the cops are at doing their job with existing law. But she assumes they'll magically become omnisciently efficacious, not only at schools, but also at workplaces, churches, playgrounds, retail stores, movie theatres, ‥ Once her new laws go into effect, of course. We'll all be safe everywhere, praise the holy state!

Two weeks ago, I rallied outside the Capitol with students and gun violence prevention advocates. A young girl was standing there quietly with a sign that said, “Am I next?” You know, I'm old enough to remember when it was Democrats blaming Republicans for the politics of fear. But now please witness CSP, in effect, shouting to that little girl: "Yes! You are next! Unless you can get your Mommy and Daddy to vote for Democrats!"
And so now I ask my colleagues: Will you let her be next? Or will Congress step up and address the gun violence crisis in our communities? When 18-year-olds are leading the country with moral courage, it’s time for us to respond in kind. Sorry, CSP. It takes zero courage for a kid to go along with this mindless/dishonest anti-gun crusade. The actual courageous students are the ones saying: "Hey, wait a minute."
There are steps we can take that will protect people and our Second Amendment. As a member of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, I support enacting common sense measures to reduce gun violence in America. I agree with police officers across this country who say, get the AR-15s out of the hands of dangerous people. The data is clear--the assault weapons ban worked. Gun massacres fell 37 percent between 1994 and 2004, when the previous assault weapons ban was in effect, and the number of people who died from gun massacres fell by 43 percent. After the ban expired, gun massacres increased by 183 percent, and gun massacre deaths increased by 239 percent. One law won’t stop every mass shooting, but we can make them less deadly and less frequent. CSP trots out a well-trodden fictoid. Even Politifact rates this mostly false. (And again the question arises: is CSP ignorant or dishonest? Could be both, I suppose.)

Another point: Democrats had control of the House, Senate, and White House from 2009-10. They could easily have reinstated the "assault weapons ban" then. They didn't. Why not?

Suspicion: they are much more interested in having this as political red meat they can dangle in front of their base than actually accomplishing their stated goal.

I support closing background check loopholes and improving the background check system. We must limit high capacity magazines, and ban bump stocks. These weapons of war were designed for offensive military use, not home defense. They kill humans, and kill them quickly and efficiently. CSP is, of course, protected at work (and probably elsewhere) by competent men and women of the Capitol Police equipped with (undoubtedly) "weapons of war". And, if necessary, they'll use such weapons to kill people quickly and efficiently.

Ask James Hodgkinson about this. Oh wait, you can't, he's dead.

But really, shouldn't we peons have access to the same style of protection as do CSP and her colleagues?

We also need to look at access to mental health care. I am a longtime proponent of universal access to physical and mental health care. It is sheer hypocrisy, however, for Congressional Republicans to point only to mental health as the cause of mass shootings eight years into their repeated attempts to strip mental health care from millions. CSP puts in a plug for socialized medicine. I'm unaware of any evidence whatsoever that recent shooters lacked access to "mental health care". In fact, this CBS story claims the Parkland shooter refused mental health care. Is the problem lack of access, or the lack of action on obvious warning signs?
There is some good news. We made a little progress this week. Since 1996, Congress has banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding research into gun violence prevention. However, we finally passed legislation as part of the omnibus that will allow the CDC to provide grants to look into gun violence in America. We also included legislation to improve the background check system.

While important, these changes fall far short of what will ultimately be needed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
CSP pretty much gives the game away here. When the "good news" measures prove inadequate (as they inevitably will), there will be more demands. It's a "never enough" game with CSP and her ilk.
The American people will keep their voices raised until Congress is forced to pass laws that help stop this sequence of avoidable tragedies and spare American families from such unimaginable grief. Speaker Ryan, the Republican who makes the decision about which bills get considered, must do the will of our constituents and put meaningful legislation on the floor of the House for a vote. He and his Republican Caucus must allow the debate to begin. Our people are dying, and we cannot wait any longer for gun safety action. Incoherent sloganeering. CSP says she wants to "allow the debate", but the main techniques she's bringing to the "debate" are apparently dishonesty, demagoguery, and irrational fear-mongering. And, in her tiny mind, there's only one acceptable conclusion. Why does she even pretend she's interested in debate?


[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This movie made the "Biggest Movie Bombs of 2015" lists. There was a lot of competition, including Jupiter Ascending, and Tomorrowland. But Mrs. Salad saw a preview, and asked for it to go on her portion of the Netflix queue. And so here it is.

It is the origin story of Peter Pan. Left at the door of a London orphanage by his teary mom, Peter grows up under the thumb of the tyrannical nuns that run the place. And as it turns out, the nuns are also greedy; their side business is allowing a few orphans each night to be kidnapped by pirates flying in from Neverland. Eventually, Peter is grabbed.

Yeah, but not that pirate. The head guy is named "Blackbeard" (played by Hugh Jackman), and he uses his orphans to supplement his slave labor force, working in the mines to extract fairy dust. Er, for some reason. Brings immortality, or something? I may have nodded off briefly.

Anyway: Peter meets up with fellow-prisoner Hook, who's more or less a Han Solo character here. (Even though he's called Hook, he still has both his hands in this movie.) Hook and Peter form an uneasy partnership, escape from Blackbeard's clutches and join up with Tiger Lily, whose native tribe engages in warfare to protect Neverland from Blackbeard's ecological depredations.

Also appearing: Smee, crocodiles, mermaids, Tinkerbell. The movie obviously had a very big budget. But: it can't make up its mind whether it wants to be silly or deadly serious. At times, it nearly becomes a musical. Seems a lot longer than 111 minutes. Slight spoiler: there's room for another movie between this one and standard-Disney-issue Peter Pan. But (see "bomb" comments above) that movie will never be made.


[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This movie has Oscar-intentions written all over it. Didn't work out, sorry: just one nomination for "Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)". And it lost to a song from Coco.

"Marshall" is Thurgood Marshall, and it's set just before World War II. Marshall (played by T'Challa/Jackie Robinson himself, Chadwick Boseman) is a lawyer working for the NAACP, looking to stop the judicial railroading of African-Americans wherever it occurs. And in that timeframe, it happens a lot.

The movie centers on the alleged rape of a Greenwich socialite (Kate Hudson) by her chauffeur (Sterling K. Brown). The trial is set in Bristol County, Connecticut, which is not as bad as Mississippi, but almost. Marshall hooks up with local lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) for the trial. And what follows is pretty standard courtroom drama, with the added complications of racial tension.

There's a lot of good acting here, and extra points for earnestness, but no surprises. As is standard with "based on a true story" movies, there were liberties taken with history.

Here's what I didn't remember about Chadwick Boseman: he was in an episode of Justified! It was not a recurring role, unfortunately, as his character made the mistake of waving a gun around Rachel Brooks.

Blood is the Sky

[Amazon Link]

This 2003 book is number 5 in Steve Hamilton's series about hero Alex McKnight. (Yes, I'm playing catchup with Steve Hamilton.) The back cover has advance-praise blurbs from some heavy hitters: Michael Connelly, Lee Child, T. Jefferson Parker, Harlan Coben, George P. Pelecanos. And they are not wrong: it's an excellent outing, and to my (dim) memory, head and shoulders better than the previous four books in the series. (And that's saying something, since I already liked Steve Hamilton enough to continue reading his books.)

Anyway, this book: Alex—really—wants to get out of the drama and peril of his life-so-far, and just run his tourist cabin business in the scenic Michigan Upper Peninsula. And rebuild the cabin that the bad guys in the previous book burned down. He is helped with the cabin rebuilding by reconciling with his old friend Vinnie, a Native American living up the road.

But Vinnie turns out to be no help whatsoever in keeping Alex out of the white-knight business. Vinnie's ex-con brother, Tom, has gone missing while guiding a hunting party up in the wilds of northern Ontario. And since—technically—Tom's having left the US is a parole violation, Vinnie and his family don't want to get law enforcement involved on either side of the border. So Alex and Vinnie are off to Canada to track down Tom and the hunters, based on only vague notions of where they went.

Without getting too spoilerish, what ensues is a lot of mystery, ominous/creepy suspense, mortal danger, and murderous wilderness hijinks. It really is a page-turner; although I usually take several days to read novels, I finished this one up in a single day. Found it difficult to put down.