Pooh-poh this if you like, since it comes from the Center for American Progress, but the group just released a big study showing that–across 10 measures like the number of firearms homicides, number of total firearm deaths (including accidents etc.), law enforcement agents killed by firearms, and so on–the deadliest states are those with the most lax gun laws.
The “top” 10: Louisiana, Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, New Mexico, Missouri, Arkansas, and Georgia.
Now I know conservatives are thinking: No way these places are deadlier than New York and other states with big cities that have very violent neighborhoods. But according to CAP, New York and New Jersey, for example, rank 46th and 47th in gun violence. The full “bottom” 10: Nebraska, Maine, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Iowa, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii. That’s basically a combination of sparsely populated states and states with strong gun laws.
Does this check out with other information? Here’s another study showing Louisiana as the “least peaceful” state in the country. Here’s a third that also has Louisiana at the top (yes, I know that’s mainly because of Nawlins), but also features largely Southern and Southwestern states as the most violent, with New York in the bottom half.
This will never change, unless gun laws undergo some kind of serious revolution, because obviously the people who live in these places accept these levels of violence. I think it’s not merely that they are resistant to changing gun laws. There’s some deeper thing about the relationship between violence and concepts like justice and fate. That is to say, for example, that I think cultural responses to a seven-year-old girl accidentally killing herself with her father’s rifle are different in Georgia than they are in Connecticut.
I’m not saying Georgians wouldn’t care. Obviously, they’re human beings. But I am saying that they on some level would be more likely to accept that this is just how life goes sometimes. It’s a fatalism about life that probably has to do with some combination of comparative lack of opportunity and religious attitudes (that is, matters are in the Lord’s hands, etc.).
And by the way, if you haven’t been checking Joe Nocera’s blog (the NYT columnist), you may wish to do so. He’s just listing gun violence reports from around the country. It’s pretty chilling to read. There’s also the Slate gun-death tally; 3,293 gun deaths since Newtown.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 3, 2013
In all the attention paid to the drama over the fiscal cliff, most people momentarily forgot that there were a few other important things the 112th Congress was supposed to take care of before its ignominious term came to an end. But yesterday, thanks to a couple of prominent politicians criticizing their own party—something always guaranteed to garner plenty of media attention—everybody remembered that states in the Northeast, particularly New York and New Jersey, are still waiting on federal disaster aid. First New Jersey governor Chris Christie came out and gave a blistering press conference in which he blasted House Republicans for not taking up the relief bill, saying, “There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner.” Christie also said he called Boehner multiple times, but Boehner wouldn’t return his calls. Then Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York, delivered a rather extraordinary statement on Fox News, not only urging people in New York and New Jersey not to donate to members of his party, but referring to them as “these Republicans,” as though they were from a group of which he was not a part. “These Republicans have no problem finding New York when they’re out raising millions of dollars,” King said. “I’m saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to Congressional Republicans is out of their minds. Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It was an absolute disgrace.” Yow!
Obviously, it’s good politics to plead on behalf of the folks back home, but King seemed genuinely pissed off (it’s harder to tell with Christie, since pissed off is pretty much his default mood). And the GOP is about as popular as syphilis right now, so criticizing them is also good politics. That will always be true for Christie, which could complicate his potential 2016 presidential run—he can’t look too close to the national party or his popularity at home will suffer, but he can’t be too antagonistic if he’s going to win over Republican primary voters. (King won his last election without too much trouble, but his district has plenty of Democrats). But this is a good reminder that one man’s absolutely necessary emergency government expenditure is another man’s pork.
This mini-revolt also reminds us just how far south the center of gravity within the Republican party has moved. New Jersey, which has an independent commission draw its congressional districts, will have a 6-6 split in its delegation in the new Congress. But head north, and it’s tough to find a Republican. Only six of New York’s 27 members are Republicans, and there are a grand total of zero Republican representatives from the New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Christie and King are criticizing a party in which they as Northeasterners are a vanishing breed.
The fact that Sandy hit a couple of states that many members of the House GOP caucus would just as soon see go straight to hell anyway went a long way to mitigate their enthusiasm for disaster relief. This problem is both regional and ideological. The time is gone when most or all members of Congress saw Americans suffering from a natural disaster, no matter what part of the country it occurred in, and said, “Of course the federal government will help.” After all, the fact that people are looking for help from the federal government just shows that they’re 47-percenters who deserve nothing but contempt.
All that being said, there’s only so much pressure an embattled Speaker can take. After emerging battered and bruised from the fiscal cliff debacle, by the end of the day yesterday Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor basically sued Christie for peace, declaring that the new Congress will take up a Sandy relief bill on the first day of its session.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 3, 2012
We are about to have the worst presidential campaign money can buy. The Supreme Court’s dreadful Citizens United decision and a somnolent Federal Election Commission will allow hundreds of millions of dollars from a small number of very wealthy people and interests to inundate our airwaves with often vicious advertisements for which no candidate will be accountable.
One would like to think that the court will eventually admit the folly of its 2010 ruling and reverse it. But we can’t wait that long. And out of this dreary landscape, hope is blossoming in the state of New York. There’s irony here, since New York is where a lot of the big national money is coming from. No matter. The state is considering a campaign finance law that would repair some of the Citizens United damage, and in a way the Supreme Court wouldn’t be able to touch.
The idea is that to offset the power of large donors, citizens without deep pockets should be encouraged to flood the system with small contributions that the government would match. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has pledged to a state overhaul of this sort, based on the one already in force for New York City elections. In his state of the state address in January, Cuomo spoke of how urgent it is to “reconnect the people to the political process and their government.” He could make himself into a reform hero across the country if he and the Legislature created a model law for other states, and the nation.
The New York City program is straightforward: The government gives participating candidates $6 in matching funds for every dollar raised from individuals who live in the city, up to the first $175. At a maximum, this means a $175 contribution is augmented by $1,050 in public funds. That’s a mighty incentive for politicians to involve more citizens in paying for campaigns. In the city system, participating candidates have to live within certain spending and contribution limits. In a new statewide system, there are likely to be no spending restrictions but lower limits on contributions.
The beautiful thing is that this approach should answer most of the criticisms offered by those who defend the Citizens United world. I say “should” because advocates of current arrangements will find a way to oppose any reforms. But the New York Revolution, if it happens, would undercut many of their arguments — including their constitutional claims.
The New York reform does not limit anyone’s capacity to participate. It creates incentives for more people to participate. It does not reduce the amount of political speech. It expands the number of people speaking through their contributions. It does not protect incumbents. On the contrary, it opens the way for candidates who might otherwise be driven from the competition by established politicians with access to traditional funding sources.
In short, it makes our democracy democratic again.
And it works. A study of the New York City program published recently by Michael Malbin, executive director of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute, and his co-authors Peter W. Brusoe and Brendan Glavin concludes that the evidence “suggests that multiple-matching funds can stimulate participation by small donors in a manner that is healthy for democracy.”
In particular, they discovered that the reform substantially increased involvement by residents of poor and minority neighborhoods. Suddenly, politicians are hanging around with people other than those with yachts, private jets and complicated tax breaks. Malbin and his colleagues put it more soberly: A matching-funds approach means politicians “spending time with a more diverse set of constituents than he or she would if all of his or her fundraising engaged the upper middle class and rich.”
As for those who object to “taxpayer financing of elections,” consider that a candidate doesn’t get a dime unless he or she raises money from willing private donors. Besides, the Malbin paper notes, “political and civic participation are public goods” and elections “are, after all, the public’s business.” Conservatives fond of vouchers in so many other areas should see this as an opportunity to create Democracy Vouchers.
It will take courage for incumbent politicians to risk establishing a bold new system that could put some of them in danger. But in the course of our history, New York has been a proudly innovative place. A nation looking for a way out from under the money regime created by Citizens United badly needs the example of politicians who believe in democracy enough to democratize the mother’s milk of politics.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 22, 2012
Buried in this Saturday’s Washington Post Metro section was a short piece about the request from conservative Virginia Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell for $39 million in federal disaster relief for his state.
This was an initial request for 22 localities in Virginia hard hit by Hurricane Irene. According to the article, other local governments can request more aid and, in addition, McDonnell also asked for Hazard Mitigation Assistance for all Virginia localities.
This comes from a governor who, along with his Republican congressional counterpart Eric Cantor, rails against Washington and “government spending.”
What makes this quite interesting is the position taken by Cantor last week on Federal Emergency Management funding for disasters. We have had a record 66 natural disasters this year and Hurricane Irene was one of the 10 most costly ever.
Cantor, whose district was hit hard by the earthquake and the hurricane, has said that any spending for FEMA should be tied to cuts elsewhere, dollar for dollar, “Just like any family would operate when it’s struck with disaster,” says Cantor. Funny, that is not how he felt back in 2004 when he appealed for money for his district after another hurricane and voted against the amendment by Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas to do require offsets.
Did Eric Cantor ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did he ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for the Bush tax cuts for the millionaires and billionaires? Did he ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for increases to homeland security? How about border agents?
Another very conservative congressman from Virginia, Leonard Lance, totally disagrees with Cantor. Help is needed now. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, no friend of government spending, talks as though Eric Cantor has lost his marbles: “Our people are suffering now, and they need support now. And they [Congress] can all go down there and get back to work and figure out budget cuts later.”
It is time for a host of protesters to go to Cantor’s district office and call him on his absurdity. Does he believe we should help the victims of these disasters? Is that what government has done for over 200 years? Does he just want to play politics and delay help? Does he represent the people of Virginia? Does he care about the others who have been the victims of tornadoes and floods across this country?
It reminds me of a Senate debate where a certain Republican from Idaho was complaining about a bill that included funding for rat control in New York City.
“In Idaho, we take care of our own rats,” to which the New York senator replied, “In New York, we take care of our own forest fires.”
That about sums it up.
By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, September 6, 2011
So the big, bad storm huffed and puffed and didn’t blow all the houses in.
Reversing Katrina, on the sixth anniversary of that shameful episode in American history, the response to Irene was more powerful than Irene.
And that made some solipsistic Gothamites who missed their subways and restaurants grouchy. There is no greater abuse to New Yorkers than inconvenience.
Once the storm became “Apocalypse Not,” as The New York Post called it, there were those who accused Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey of overreacting to make up for their infamous underreactions to last year’s Christmas blizzard, when Hizzoner was baking in Bermuda and the Guv was playing at Disney World in Florida with his family.
In a Wall Street Journal column, Bret Stephens suggested “a new edition of the Three Little Pigs, this one for the CYA age.”
Ordered to evacuate from his Manhattan home near the Hudson River, Stephens took his family to his parents’ wood-framed house in Connecticut, where a 50-foot elm crashed in the yard. So he went hard on the Chicken Little mayor. “What’s the wisdom of the ages,” Stephens asked, “when a mayor wants to erase the stain of mishandling last winter’s snowstorms by forcibly relocating people from his zone of responsibility to places that are somebody else’s zone of responsibility?”
Should those whose job it is to prepare for the worst be punished because the worst didn’t happen?
What determines your judgment of politicians’ reaction is what happens to you. Those washed out from North Carolina to New Jersey to Vermont don’t think government overreacted. As Mel Brooks once said, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.”
Asked at a Saturday hurricane briefing about the response in relation to the debate about the role of government, Christie made it clear that saving lives was the most important thing. The Republican said he didn’t think that Democrats and Republicans were debating this: “Protecting the safety of our citizens is one of the bedrock roles of government.”
Not so bedrock for some of the Flintstones types in Washington who are now hotly debating austerity versus salvation. The impressively hands-on performances of Christie, Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York were not enough to make Tea Partiers, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor root for big government against rampaging nature.
Paul, a libertarian whose scorn of government is so great that he doesn’t even want it to coordinate in natural disasters, insisted that FEMA, which he calls “a giant contributor to deficit financing,” should be shut down.
Though his state of Virginia was the epicenter of an earthquake before being hit by Irene, Cantor has insisted that additional money for cash-strapped FEMA must be offset by spending cuts, echoing his remarks in May that money sent to traumatized tornado victims in Joplin, Mo., would mean cuts somewhere else.
The callous comments about disaster relief in recent days by Cantor, Paul and, believe it or not, the disgraced former FEMA Chief Michael “Heck of a job, Brownie” Brown infuriated Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator touring his inundated state. He told Carl Hulse of The Times that coming together to help on disasters “is what being a nation is about.”
In a briefing at the White House Monday, FEMA Director Craig Fugate said that the lesson of Katrina is for the federal government to “get things going earlier” and not wait until an overwhelmed state “says we’re going to need help.”
Too bad that didn’t occur to W. in 2005. He met with Gov. Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Air Force One and correctly assessed that they were not up to the job but then retreated behind clinical states’ rights arguments as a great American city drowned.
In his new memoir, Dick Cheney faults Blanco for dithering and not requesting that the president federalize the response to Katrina. It’s a variation on Rummy shrugging that “You go to war with the army you have.”
Always the hard-liner, Cheney notes: “President Bush has written that he should have sent in U.S. troops earlier, which may be true, but which to my mind lets state authorities off the hook too easily.” Why save lives if you can slap bumbling Democrats around? Proving once more that he is truly delusional, Vice praised President Bush in the wake of Katrina for “reaching out to people who needed to know that their government cared about them.”
The awful hypocrisy is this: As we saw when they spent trillions trying to impose democracy on Iraq and Afghanistan, W. and Cheney believe in big government, in a strong, centralized executive power. But with Katrina, they chose not to use it.
By: Maureen Dowd, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, August 30, 2011