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“Real Guns Vs Virtual Guns”: Curious Conclusions That Overlook The Evidence

It’s been nearly two months since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., and in that time, there’s been quite a bit of debate about gun violence. Some of it, however, has led segments of the population to draw curious conclusions.

Last week, for example, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told MSNBC, “I think video games is [sic] a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people.” It was an odd thing for anyone, least of all a sitting senator, to say on national television.

But the sentiment, however strange, appears to reflect the opinions of Alexander’s party.

As Republican leaders insist that the debate over gun violence in America should also address the role of violent entertainment, the latest findings from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling released Thursday showed that the vast majority of GOP voters nationwide believe video games are a bigger threat than guns.

Given the choice between the two, 67 percent of Republican voters said violent video games represent a bigger threat to safety than guns. Fourteen percent said guns are the bigger safety threat.

I’ll gladly concede that societal violence is an extremely complex, multi-faceted problem, and there are cultural factors to consider.

But to think virtual guns pose a more serious threat to the public than actual guns — by a lopsided margin — is to overlook the available evidence.

To reiterate what we discussed last week, even if we put aside the irony of the underlying point — blaming simulated, pixelated guns is fine; blaming actual guns is not — these arguments aren’t new. Plenty of officials have been arguing for years that violent games desensitizes young people to violence and contributes to a larger corrosive effect on the culture.

There’s just very little evidence to support the claims. Hunches and cultural criticisms notwithstanding, social science research does not bolster the contention that gaming and gun violence are connected. (Adam Lanza was reportedly obsessed with “Dance Dance Revolution” — which is a game, as the name suggests, about moving feet, not shooting weapons.)

For that matter, the United States is not the only country with young people who play a lot of video games, but it is the only country with high rates of gun violence.

Gaming is a huge cultural phenomenon in countries like South Korea, England, Japan, and Canada — and they’re all playing many of the same games Americans enjoy — and yet, none of these countries comes close to the U.S. when it comes to deadly shootings.

And why not? Sociologists can speak to the differences in more detail, but I suspect it has something to do with access to firearms. It may seem tautological, but let’s state it for the record anyway: societies with fewer guns have less gun violence, whether they’re playing “Halo” or not.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 8, 2013

February 9, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Sleight Of Hands”: A Contradictory RNC Message On Race And Diversity

In the wake of their 2012 election defeats, the Republican Party hasn’t been willing to change much, but GOP officials have at least been willing to acknowledge their demographic problem. The party’s core group of supporters is old, right-wing, and white, which isn’t a recipe for success in a modern, increasingly diverse nation.

Whatever their other faults, Republican leaders realize the current trends are unsustainable for them, and at least rhetorically, seem eager to bring in new supporters. With that in mind, Reince Priebus traveled to Atlanta yesterday to do some outreach.

During a stop in Atlanta to talk with black voters Thursday, Priebus said the answer is more about framing than about substance.

“I think freedom and liberty is a fresh idea,” he said after a closed-door session with about two dozen black business and civic leaders. “I think it’s always a revolutionary idea. I don’t think there’s anything we need to fix as far as our principles and our policies.” […]

The priority, Priebus said, will be investing time in the African-American community. “I don’t think you can show up a few months before the election,” he said.

What’s wrong with this? Nothing, really. I’m not convinced repackaging a stale and ineffective Republican agenda can be sold as “fresh,” but I think it’s entirely worthwhile for the RNC chairman to reach out to African Americans, listen to concerns from the community, and make a meaningful investment that doesn’t start “a few months before the election.”

In fact, it’s worth noting that we’ve seen this before. In 2005, as part of a similar outreach effort, then-RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman gave a terrific speech at an NAACP convention, in which he conceded that the Republican Party made a conscious decision not to “reach out” to black voters, instead choosing to “benefit politically from racial polarization.” Mehlman admitted that his party was “wrong.”

Five years later, then-RNC Chairman Michael Steele conceded his party was wrong to pursue a deliberately racially-divisive “Southern Strategy” for four decades, but he hoped Republicans would start to put things right going forward.

And now Priebus wants to undo some of the damage, too. But in his case, there’s a catch.

With one hand, the current chairman of the Republican National Committee is reaching out to the African-American community. With his other hand, Priebus is also working on new voting restrictions that disenfranchise — you guessed it — the African-American community.

Even if we put aside how detrimental the Republican policy agenda would be to minority communities, there’s an important disconnect between what Priebus is asking for (the support of African-American voters) and what Priebus is doing (encouraging the most sweeping voting restrictions since Jim Crow).

I don’t imagine the RNC chairman will be eager to talk about this during his so-called “listening tour,” but I hope some of the folks he encounters ask him about the recent war on voting. Deliberately long voting lines? Unnecessary voter-ID laws? Bogus allegations of voter fraud? A scheme to rig the electoral college? Efforts to weaken the Voting Rights Act? All of these have two things in common: (1) they disproportionately and adversely affect the African-American community; and (2) they’re all supported, encouraged, and celebrated by today’s Republican Party.

Let’s make this easy for Reince Priebus: can you explain the contradiction of asking for African-American votes while simultaneously endorsing measures to make it harder for African Americans to vote.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 8, 2013

February 9, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Missing Voices”: Gun Owners Supporting Sensible Reform Must Speak Out

Bob Barker, the retired game-show host, has no idea why he ended up on the National Rifle Association’s enemies list. I know exactly why the NRA cited me.

I’ve spent years pushing for sensible gun-safety laws, including universal background checks, a ban on assault-type weapons and a waiting period before firearms purchases. I wasn’t surprised to learn that my name was among those on a surprisingly long and eclectic list of corporations, Hollywood celebrities, medical groups and even sports teams that the NRA has declared “anti-gun.”

By contrast, the 89-year-old Barker keeps a handgun on his bedside table and has never demanded more stringent gun laws, he told Time magazine. He has, however, protested a live pigeon-shoot in Pennsylvania and doesn’t think civilians need assault weapons or high-capacity magazines.

Of course, if you know anything about the NRA, you know that’s enough. Its extremism is dangerous, absurd and viciously dogmatic — dismissing anyone who doesn’t think civilians should own their own shoulder-fired rocket launchers as an “enemy.” It is a radical organization of paranoid conspiracy theorists who believe they might have to fight off their government with their assault rifles. Think of that goofy 1984 movie, Red Dawn, wherein a group of high school kids fights off a Soviet invasion, and you’ll get some idea of its mindset.

It’s easy enough to mock the NRA; its representatives are parodies in motion. But a look across the political and civic landscape suggests that much of the gun lobby’s extremism has invaded the broader culture, creating a deeply polarized view of firearms use that relies on stock stereotypes, not reality.

Take the silly kerfuffle that followed President Obama’s recent disclosure that he enjoys skeet shooting at Camp David. While it struck me as revealing of next-to-nothing, it set off rounds of debate, derision and ridicule on the political left as well as the right. The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart blasted Obama for pandering to gun owners, saying, “It’s not going to work.”

The Washington Post’s vaunted fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, even weighed in with this opinionated and oddly non-salient observation about Obama’s first campaign: “He certainly did not speak like a politician who had once used a firearm.” What kind of speaking would that have been?

Allow me to disclose that I have never shot skeet. I have, however, shot squirrels. Growing up in a small town in Alabama with a dad who loved hunting, I occasionally accompanied him into the woods. I don’t disclose that to appease gun owners, but rather to remind you that advocacy for sensible gun laws is no indication of a visceral anti-gun mindset.

When did the nation forget that? How did we come to separate ourselves into pro- and anti-gun? If we set strict requirements for the operation of automobiles, does that make our state governments anti-car?

It is quite possible to own firearms, to enjoy hunting and to brag about bagging an 11-point buck while still endorsing stricter gun control measures. My father was stringent about safety, only hunting with others who were similarly cautious. A combat veteran, he also knew the dangers of arming people who had little practice using firearms under pressure.

It turns out, moreover, that there are many gun owners who don’t fall into the false pro-/anti-gun categories. According to the Pew Center, half of those with a gun in the household believe that allowing citizens to own assault weapons makes the country more dangerous. So there are plenty of gun owners in American who would support sensible gun-control measures.

Their voices, however, are missing from this vital debate. The NRA certainly doesn’t represent them. Wayne LaPierre insists that any reasonable form of gun control will open the gates to government confiscation of all firearms and re-education camps for red-blooded, freedom-loving Americans. Really. That’s what he wants his members to believe.

Reasonable gun owners should form their own group: Hunters for Gun Control, or Target Shooters Against Assault Weapons, or Bob Barker’s Anti-Absolutist Brigade. They need to take back the public square from the gun nuts who give them a bad name.

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, February 9, 2013

February 9, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Having Clearly Learned Nothing”: Michele Bachmann Keeps Seat On House Intelligence Committee

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) will remain a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the 113th Congress — despite leading a widely discredited anti-Muslim witch hunt against government personnel last year.

According to the committee list released Friday, Bachmann will stay on the powerful committee despite calls from People for the American Way and others for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) to remove her. Instead, Boehner in his statement making the announcement praised the lawmakers “charged sacred task of supporting that mission by ensuring the intelligence community has the resources and tools it needs to stay ahead of the evolving threats we face, and by conducting effective oversight of the administration.”

Dismay towards Bachmann’s continuing presence on the committee stems from her use of that position to lead a witch-hunt against then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin and other U.S. government personnel. In the letter sent to the State Department, Bachmann suggested that Abedin and others were allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, seeking to infiltrate the U.S. government and affect policy decisions. The charges were clearly false, based mostly on the conspiracy theories of noted Islamophobe Frank Gaffney.

Bachmann’s actions split the Republican Party, with several prominent members — including former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton — signing onto her conspiracies. Many other Republicans — including Boehner himself — abandoned Bachmann to her quixotic pursuit of imaginary infiltration. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), then-Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) and others joined President Obama and Clinton in condemning Bachmann’s scare tactics.

Joining Bachmann in being renamed to the committee are Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), who signed onto the original letter sent to State about Abedin. The clearly Islamophobic stances of these committee members makes their position on the committee, with its oversight of the National Security Agency and CIA’s activities, particularly troubling.

Bachmann in particular clearly learned nothing from her experience smearing Abedin. Not only did she stand by the content of her letter to State, as recently as December, but she also compared a letter from a Muslim advocacy group to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.


By: Hayes Brown, Think Progress, February 8, 2013

February 9, 2013 Posted by | Islamophobia | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let’s Enjoy The Spectacle”: Karl Rove’s Republican Defeat Project Hits The Road

The long simmering war between the GOP establishment and the Tea Party has finally come to a boil. Last week Karl Rove, the “brains” behind the Republican super PAC American Crossroads announced the creation of a new super group, the Conservative Victory Project.

I’m a Democrat who believes in the axiom that the best thing to do when Republicans are lined up in a circular firing squad is to stay out of the way, watch, and enjoy the spectacle. Rove’s brainchild is wrong on so many levels that I don’t know where to start.

But I’ll start with visibility. Up to this point, the war between the Republican Party has been confined to party confabs like state conventions and cocktail hour at the Heritage Foundation. The creation of the Conservative Victory Project means that the battle will be a lot more visible taking place on television in front of the faces of millions of voters.

What is worse, two feet of snow in the Northeast or Karl Rove’s two feet of clay? Then there’s the question of effectiveness. American Crossroads was a miserable failure in 2012. Rove’s super PAC spent close to $200 million, almost all of it in races where the Republican candidate lost. If the Conservative Victory Project performs as poorly against the Tea Party as it did the Democratic Party, then there will be even more hapless Tea Party candidates like Christine O’Donnell and Todd Akin who win primaries and lose to Democratic candidates. If Rove wants to spend millions of dollars to defeat Tea Party candidates instead of Democrats, I’m all for it. Democrats are licking their chops at the prospect.

If Rove and his moneyed minions were serious about taking on the Tea Party, they should have done it before the Tea Party took over the Republican Party in 2009. If Rove and his acolytes were really serious about crushing the extremists in the GOP, they would step up to the plate and take on Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity who rile up the crazies in the GOP daily. Hannity may rhyme with sanity but the two words are not synonyms.

A Tea Party official suggested the name: Conservative Victory Project group was “Orwellian” because the real goal of the group was to defeat conservative candidates. I don’t get a vote but in my opinion, a more appropriate name would be the Republican Defeat Project.


By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, February 8, 2013

February 9, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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