The New Year's New Congress
Let's hope it's really out with the old, and in with the new
I’d like to start this month’s article by offering my heartfelt and deepest sympathies to the devastated families of Newtown, Connecticut. No parent should ever have to go through the terrible tragedy that befell them early on 12/14/2012. For a parent to outlive a child is tragic enough but to have them taken in this unspeakable fashion is to make mere words completely inadequate. Innocent lives have been taken. Innocent blood has been spilled without reason. I am, on one hand, so filled with sorrow that words fail me. On the other hand, I am enraged with our leadership’s inability to at least try and prevent these tragedies.
The list grows longer—Columbine, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University, Chardon HS in Chardon, Ohio, Oikos University in Oakland, California and now Newtown (I’m only listing the schools—there have been at least another 20 mass shootings since 1999) and more than one supposed leader says that the solution is to have more guns in our schools. Are they freaking nuts?!?
These problems cannot be fixed with more guns. What we need is to close the gun show loophole; establish a mandatory background check (including mental health history) and waiting period for any gun purchase; initiate a ban on high capacity magazines; and, a reinstallation of the assault weapons ban. When upwards of 40 percent of all gun sales are made without a background check being done, we have a real problem. When there are as many guns as there are citizens we have a serious problem.
I have never understood the need for a 30 round—or bigger—magazine in a semi-automatic rifle while one is out chasing the wily whitetail. If you need that many bullets you should be spending a lot more time at the shooting range, not out in the field. Filling the air with jacketed rounds defines a lousy hunter.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a gun owner and hunter. I fully support the 2nd Amendment to our Constitution—especially where it says “A well- regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State...”—with a heavy emphasis on the ‘well-regulated’ portion of that opening sentence. We no longer live in the ‘Wild West’. Jesse James and Wyatt Earp are long gone. We need more rational voices in this debate and I’m afraid that we haven’t heard from any of them yet.
Well, here we are—a New Year has begun. I, for one, am glad that 2012 is in our rear view mirror. It was a year that produced new standards for tragedy, ineptitude, and malfeasance in public office and wrongheadedness in every corner of the country. The only good thing that I can say that didn’t happen was that our interpretation of the Mayan calendar was—apparently—wrong.
Well, maybe not. The Mayans always did contend that the world “as we know it will change” on 12/21/2012. That seems to have been the truth. That was the day after that the 112th Congress left town thus, to all intents and purposes, throwing us off the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ they themselves created. As I write this all our duly elected Congressmen—and women—are celebrating the holidays with family and friends. I find this to be roughly akin to Nero fiddling while Rome burned. The 112th House of Representatives established new lows for accomplishments. The 112th passed 151 bills total in both years of its existence. That is far lower than the 395 passed by Harry Truman’s “Do Nothing” 80th Congress of 1947-1948.
The Senate is no better. Since it takes 60 votes to get anything past the threat of a filibuster by the GOP minority the likelihood of anything passing the Senate is two: slim and none. And, recent polls show that Americans nationwide are aware of this ineptitude as they show that Congressional approval is at 10 percent as of 12/22/2012. I’m sure that with further Congressional inaction that number will fall even further.
I personally feel that the Senate established a new low when they failed to ratify the UN Treaty that was based on our Americans with Disabilities Act of 2000, signed by President George H. W. Bush. As a treaty it needed 66 votes to be ratified and it failed because only 8 of the 46 members of the GOP minority refused to support an International Treaty that already had 155 signatories worldwide. This treaty was designed to set international standards for freedom of access and movement for all disabled people. The standards were essentially ours and 38 US Senators were worried that this would give the UN supervisory oversight over US laws. Their hubris knows no bounds.
The purpose of this treaty was to encourage the rest of the world to treat people with disabilities as they are treated within the United States. We had an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and—once again—we failed. Those that voted against this treaty should be ashamed of themselves for they have diminished our standing in the world by adopting a paranoid, parochial vision of what the treaty would do.
For more than a decade we have been creating disabled people at an astounding rate. Now, with their votes, the US Senate is saying that we don’t want to make life easier for those disabled veterans if they wish to travel or live outside the USA. The paranoid, anti-UN members of the GOP have —once again—shown how little they see of the real world and how little they care for our veterans.
Shortly after the election, a pundit took a look at the list of winners and losers in all the races and made the statement, “If you didn’t like the 112th Congress you’ll hate the 113th!” I sincerely hope that he is wrong. I believe all of our veterans have more than earned everything they receive. I believe they deserve more and I had hoped the 113th would do better. We’ll see what transpires after January 3. Until next time—take care and be sure to show your appreciation for our veterans.