59 dead, hun­dreds in­jured, zilch from Congress

Cecil Whig - - OPINION -

“Co­de­named” Melo?

Is that even le­gal? To seek $200,00 of county funds for a firm that does not state its in­tent to the pub­lic? Silly me. I thought that, even though every White House staff mem­ber must now clear all words spo­ken through a sup­pos­edly-ex gen­eral (a blood­less mil­i­tary coup per­haps ben­e­fit­ting mil­i­tary con­trac­tors?) that it would still ben­e­fit the pur­vey­ors of this farce to at least main­tain a fa­cade of “free­dom” in this coun­try.

Wake up Cecil County! Aren’t most of you still pay­ing taxes? Do you not care that a firm do­ing some­thing ap­par­ently so ne­far­i­ous, that they

Project aren’t will­ing to tell us all what it is, wants to move in and make a grab for the reins? Money talks, re­mem­ber?

What an un­der­state­ment. Let’s dan­gle 450 jobs in front of their noses.

Some­one will in­evitably ham­string lo­cal gov­ern­ment for $75 mil­lion worth of in­flu­ence, and you don’t de­mand to know what they will in­flu­ence the peo­ple you di­rectly elected to do? Amer­ica sup­pos­edly “wants peace,” but how many scream about the fact that so many U.S. em­ploy­ers man­u­fac­ture killing tools? How many peo­ple scan their IRS port­fo­lios to make sure they don’t fund in­ter­na­tional mur­der in the name of “free­dom”?

Ja­cob Owens, you are sup­posed to be a re­porter. If Chris Moyer and oth­ers re­spon­si­ble for county eco­nomic devel­op­ment would not tell you the truth, you should have re­ported that, in­stead go­ing along with this covert stunt.

WASH­ING­TON —A 64-year-old white man, a mil­lion­aire gam­bler who owned a to­tal of 47 guns, rents a Las Ve­gas ho­tel suite and sprays 22,000 coun­try mu­sic fans with hun­dreds of bul­lets, leav­ing nearly 600 peo­ple slaugh­tered or griev­ously wounded. What hap­pens next? A. Politi­cians of­fer thoughts and prayers.

B. The White House, the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion and Repub­li­can lead­ers in Congress in­sist now is not the time to talk about cur­tail­ing gun vi­o­lence in Amer­ica.

C. Just about every­one agrees nothing con­crete will hap­pen. D. All of the above. You are cor­rect. It’s D. No mat­ter what hap­pens, Congress keeps re­fus­ing every ef­fort at even mod­er­ate gun con­trols.

Un­til the Ne­vada mas­sacre, the House was mov­ing to­ward loos­en­ing con­trols on si­lencers and sup­pres­sors. Don­ald Trump Jr. made a video to per­suade politi­cians that si­lencers are fun, even for chil­dren.

Na­tion­wide, the sale of $50 so­called bump stocks is soar­ing. The de­vices let gun own­ers turn le­gal semi-au­to­matic guns into il­le­gal au­to­mat­ics, de facto ma­chine guns that were osten­si­bly out­lawed in 1986. The Las Ve­gas mur­derer used 12 bump stocks to speed up his as­sault ri­fles.

Congress has re­fused to com­put­er­ize gun reg­is­tra­tion. (We now know one over­worked ATF agent in West Vir­ginia has a card file he must man­u­ally go through to try to trace the his­tory of any sus­pect gun.) There are 300 mil­lion guns in pri­vate hands in Amer­ica.

Congress let a ban on as­sault weapons ex­pire.

Congress has re­fused to toughen back­ground checks on gun buy­ers.

Open carry gun laws are pro­lif­er­at­ing. You can carry guns openly on some col­lege cam­puses. Into many churches. On many pub­lic streets. In your car. Congress now and then con­sid­ers ex­pand­ing on this.

After every mass shoot­ing, gun man­u­fac­tur­ers’ prof­its rise. The stock prices of such com­pa­nies rose after Las Ve­gas.

The NRA put $26 mil­lion in the 2016 elec­tions. Most Repub­li­can politi­cians are ter­ri­fied of los­ing NRA sup­port and fac­ing de­feat at the polls.

The NRA, which used to stand for re­spon­si­ble gun con­trols, now sees any move to pro­tect peo­ple from guns as the camel’s nose un­der the tent. The NRA whips own­ers up into a frenzy, paint­ing a night­mare sce­nario in which jack­booted gov­ern- ment thugs raid your house at mid­night, con­fis­cat­ing all your guns and leav­ing you de­fense­less against ma­raud­ing hoards. In­ci­den­tally, the most in­flu­en­tial per­son in the gun in­dus­try in Amer­ica is a reclu­sive New York bil­lion­aire fi­nancier, Stephen Fein­berg, who in­vests in gun man­u­fac­tur­ing, owns a com­pany called Cer­berus and is a big mil­i­tary con­trac­tor in Afghanistan. Oddly, his prof­its had been de­clin­ing un­der Don­ald Trump be­cause gun buy­ers slowed their pur­chases, as­sured he’d never push gun con­trol. One of the first laws Trump signed per­mit­ted 75,000 peo­ple deemed too men­tally ill to man­age their fi­nan­cial af­fairs to buy guns.

After a lone gun­man killed 20 six- and seven-year-olds and six staff mem­bers at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School in Con­necti­cut in 2012, at least 70 per­cent of Amer­i­cans said they fa­vored leg­is­la­tion to pre­vent such hor­ror from ever hap­pen­ing again. Congress re­fused to act.

A year ago, 49 peo­ple were killed at the Pulse Night Club in Or­lando. Congress re­fused to act.

Every year there are about 350 mass shoot­ings in Amer­ica. Every day 85 peo­ple die in the United States from gun shots. The U.S. has six times more gun deaths than Canada and 16 times more gun vi­o­lence than Ger­many. With 5 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, the United States has 30 per­cent of all mass shoot­ings.

The NRA fa­mously pro­claimed, “Guns don’t kill peo­ple. Peo­ple kill peo­ple.”

True. Peo­ple kill lots of peo­ple. With lots of guns.

Mil­lions of thoughts. Mil­lions of prayers. But no new gun con­trols from Congress even though two of its own, Gabrielle Gif­fords and Steve Scalise, were shot in mass shoot­ings and nearly died.

Why does any­one be­sides a sol­dier in war need an au­to­matic gun that shoots bul­lets that tear through ar­mor and evis­cer­ate hu­mans and an­i­mals?

When is the right time to dis­cuss this? Not now, said the White House. Not now, said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. It’s “pre­ma­ture” to think about more gun con­trol, said Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky.

If not now, after the worst mass shoot­ing in U.S. his­tory — to date, when?

Our con­gres­sional wimps should at least ban bump stocks, toughen back­ground checks and com­put­er­ize records.

Ann McFeat­ters is a colum­nist for Tri­bune News Ser­vice. Read­ers may send her email at am­cfeat­ters@na­tion­al­press.com. — Fake news has come to the high


At Tues­day’s ar­gu­ment be­fore the Supreme Court about ger­ry­man­der­ing — the sci­ence of us­ing map­draw­ing and Big Data to keep rul­ing par­ties in power even when a ma­jor­ity votes for the op­po­si­tion — Jus­tice Sa­muel A. Al­ito Jr. was search­ing for a way to up­hold the un­sa­vory prac­tice. But there was a prob­lem: Ger­ry­man­der­ing is mak­ing a mock­ery of the right to vote in Wis­con­sin, the fo­cus of the case be­fore the court, where a re­drawn map al­lowed Repub­li­cans to hold more than 60 per­cent of the state assem­bly while get­ting less than half the vote.

And so Al­ito re­sorted to sub­terfuge. He waited un­til the clos­ing min­utes and hit Paul M. Smith, the lawyer ar­gu­ing against the Wis­con­sin plan, with the last ques­tion of the ar­gu­ment.

“You paint a very dire pic­ture about ger­ry­man­der­ing and its ef­fects,” Al­ito said, “but I was struck by some­thing in the sem­i­nal ar­ti­cle by your ex­pert, Mr. McGhee, and he says there, ‘I show that the ef­fects of party con­trol on bias are small and de­cay rapidly, sug­gest­ing that re­dis­trict­ing is at best a blunt tool for pro­mot­ing par­ti­san in­ter­ests.’ So he was wrong in that?”

The ques­tion baf­fled Smith, who said he would need to see the con­text. “Well,” Al­ito re­torted, “that’s what he said.” No, it isn’t. I called Eric McGhee, the ex­pert, after the ar­gu­ment. The quote Al­ito pulled was not from the “sem­i­nal ar­ti­cle” McGhee co-wrote propos­ing the le­gal stan­dard for ger­ry­man­der­ing at the cen­ter of the case. It was from an ear­lier McGhee pa­per, us­ing data from the 1970s through 1990s. In the pa­per at the cen­ter of the case, by con­trast, “we used up­dated data from the 2000s,” McGhee told me, “and the story is very dif­fer­ent. It’s got­ten a lot worse in the last two cy­cles. ... The data are clear.”

Why would Al­ito re­sort to this sleight of hand? Per­haps be­cause it’s clear that if he stuck to the facts, he’d have to ac­knowl­edge that the grow­ing abuse of ger­ry­man­der­ing threat­ens democ­racy.

Po­lit­i­cal ger­ry­man­der­ing has be­come dra­mat­i­cally more pre­cise in dis­en­fran­chis­ing vot­ers with the rev­o­lu­tion in data an­a­lyt­ics — both in states such as Wis­con­sin and in Congress, where Democrats need to win the pop­u­lar vote by more than seven points to break even in the House. (Democrats abuse ger­ry­man­der­ing, too, though they hold power in fewer states.) There’s also no ob­vi­ous le­gal rea­son that the court can’t in­ter­vene to curb the prac­tice on grounds of free speech or equal pro­tec­tion.

“What’s re­ally be­hind all of this,” Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg said dur­ing ar­gu­ments, is “the pre­cious right to vote. If you can stack a leg­is­la­ture in this way, what in­cen­tive is there for a voter to ex­er­cise his vote?”

Smith pre­dicted that if the court fails to in­ter­vene in Wis­con­sin, “you’re go­ing to have a fes­ti­val of copy­cat ger­ry­man­der­ing the likes of which this coun­try has never seen. ... The coun­try is go­ing to lose faith in democ­racy.”

Three mem­bers of the court’s con­ser­va­tive bloc — Al­ito, Neil Gor­such and John Roberts Jr., the chief jus­tice — were search­ing for rea­sons not to in­ter­vene. (A fourth, the silent Clarence Thomas, pre­vi­ously voted against court in­volve­ment.) That likely leaves the de­ci­sion to Anthony M. Kennedy, who is more prone to bouts of fair­ness than his con­ser­va­tive col­leagues.

In an un­usual so­lil­o­quy, the chief jus­tice ar­gued that the court shouldn’t get in­volved in the Wis­con­sin case be­cause then it would have to in­ter­vene in oth­ers. “It’s go­ing to be a prob­lem here across the board,” he lamented.

The poor dears. Maybe, given that democ­racy is at stake, they could shorten their sum­mer hol­i­day, which just ended Mon­day?

Roberts con­tin­ued: “The in­tel­li­gent man on the street” will de­duce that, if the Supreme Court rules with Democrats in a ger­ry­man­der­ing case, “it must be be­cause the Supreme Court pre­ferred the Democrats over the Repub­li­cans. ... And that is go­ing to cause very se­ri­ous harm to the sta­tus and in­tegrity of the de­ci­sions of this court in the eyes of the coun­try.”

Now he’s wor­ried about the pub­lic stand­ing of the court? After Bush v. Gore, cam­paign fi­nance rul­ings that give the wealthy dom­i­nance over elec­tions, and the brazen pol­i­tics of the Mer­rick Gar­land fi­asco?

In the ger­ry­man­der­ing case, the jus­tices have a chance to re­store “in­tegrity” by de­fend­ing the prin­ci­ple of one per­son, one vote. Al­ter­na­tively, the five Repub­li­can ap­pointees can de­fend their pa­trons by al­low­ing this per­ver­sion of democ­racy to con­tinue.

Dana Mil­bank is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at danamil­bank@wash­post.com.

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