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Obama hears the Newtown news from John Brennan

Obama hears the news about Newtown, CT from John Brennan

Elisabeth Rosenthal looks into the "more guns, less violence" mythology promulgated by the NRA and finds, shockingly, that it's mythology.

In the wake of the tragic shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month, the National Rifle Association proposed that the best way to protect schoolchildren was to place a guard — a “good guy with a gun” — in every school, part of a so-called National School Shield Emergency Response Program.

Indeed, the N.R.A.’s solution to the expansion of gun violence in America has been generally to advocate for the more widespread deployment and carrying of guns.

...

I recently visited some Latin American countries that mesh with the N.R.A.’s vision of the promised land, where guards with guns grace every office lobby, storefront, A.T.M., restaurant and gas station. It has not made those countries safer or saner.

...

As guns proliferate, legally and illegally, innocent people often seem more terrorized than protected.

Trivia point: the phrase "an armed society is a polite society," so beloved among the more guns equal less violence crowd, is not a "Robert Heinlein quote" as is so often stated. It's a line from the Heinlein novel, Beyond this Horizon. The "polite society" of the novel is one of eugenic supermen who prove their societal status and conduct their politics through duels. They look down on genetically normal people, women, and those unwilling to kill at the drop of a hat. The book was written in 1942. A very good year for quotes lauding genetically superior "heroes" who back up lofty-sounding ideals with violence.

Susan Jacoby argues that atheism presents a better platform for moral decision making that religious beliefs centered around an afterlife, a difference that has direct implications for how we react to major events.

Atheists cannot find solace in the idea that dead children are now angels in heaven. “That only shows the limits of atheism,” my colleague replied. “It’s all about nonbelief and has nothing to offer when people are suffering.”

...

It is primarily in the face of suffering, whether the tragedy is individual or collective, that I am forcefully reminded of what atheism has to offer. When I try to help a loved one losing his mind to Alzheimer’s, when I see homeless people shivering in the wake of a deadly storm, when the news media bring me almost obscenely close to the raw grief of bereft parents, I do not have to ask, as all people of faith must, why an all-powerful, all-good God allows such things to happen.

It is a positive blessing, not a negation of belief, to be free of what is known as the theodicy problem. Human “free will” is Western monotheism’s answer to the question of why God does not use his power to prevent the slaughter of innocents, and many people throughout history (some murdered as heretics) have not been able to let God off the hook in that fashion.

Francis Clines looks at efforts in Connecticut to prevent a repeat of the Newtown tragedy.
...lawmakers are already offering a raft of separate proposals, including an outright ban of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle and 30-round magazine used in the massacre last month.
They're also checking their hindsight.
The General Assembly rejected a proposed ban on such large-capacity magazines in 2011 after the National Rifle Association mounted a heavy lobbying campaign and flooded lawmakers with tens of thousands of protest e-mails.
Don't they know that high capacity magazines make people really, really polite? Like at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Gary King and Samir Soneji have horrible news. Previous projections underestimated how long Americans are living. That's horrible because it means that previous projections are wrong on when the Social Security funds will run short. Instead of projecting a shortfall in 2033, we now project 2031. Which is clearly a screaming emergency, because we're so good at projecting.

Dana Milbank looks at Fortress House of Representatives.

As a new Congress convenes, it has become an unquestioned truth among Republicans that their party has as much of a mandate as President Obama because voters returned them to power in the House. ...

But the claim to represent the voters’ will doesn’t add up.

The final results from the November election were completed Friday, and they show that Democratic candidates for the House outpolled Republicans nationwide by nearly 1.4 million votes and more than a full percentage point — a greater margin than the preliminary figures showed in November. And that’s just the beginning of it: A new analysis finds that even if Democratic congressional candidates won the popular vote by seven percentage points nationwide, they still would not have gained control of the House.

See, Republicans don't feel the need to succeed. Or to secede. They've already used Gerrymandering to create their own little Teasylvania.

Ross Douthat declares the new American hero.

Boehner has done his country a more important service over the last two years than almost any other politician in Washington.

That service hasn’t been the achievement of a grand bargain with the White House, which he has at times assiduously sought. Nor has it been the sweeping triumph over liberalism that certain right-wing activists expect him to somehow gain. Rather, it’s been a kind of disaster management — a sequence of bomb-defusal operations that have prevented our dysfunctional government from tipping into outright crisis.

See, Boehner has heroically guided the house into absolute chaos, and heroically risen to to a pitifully poor job at exactly the same kind of negotiating, leadership and deal-making that every single preceding house leader has carried out with infinitely more competence. And yes, that includes Gingrich. Now that's heroic.

Maureen Dowd has a slightly different take on the weepy speaker, and a pop-culture note for the up-beat Veep.

...fox-trotting in to save the day on the fiscal cliff as the “dancing partner” of McConnell, Biden seemed more like an indispensable partner to the detached president who loathes dealing with Congress — a capable, genial Captain Kirk balancing out Obama’s brilliant but rigid Spock.
Early in Earth's history, the sun was cooler. So how did our world keep from being a snowball over it's first two billion years? The answer lies, with Titan.
Despite being far from the sun, Titan has liquids on its surface – although no known liquid water. That is because its atmosphere has high concentrations of hydrogen and nitrogen, and the gases are under so much pressure that their molecules constantly collide, causing a chemical reaction that traps the sun's energy, much like greenhouse gases do.
So, please note: if the sun's output drops enough that the planet starts to freeze, greenhouse gases would be good. Until then...

Originally posted to Devil's Tower on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 10:14 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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