Monday, December 31, 2012

Metropolitan | The New York Times
Stephen Kroninger
The Times’s Metro reporters forecast what will make news in the city and region in the coming year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Amid investigations, Vito Lopez parties on

Embattled assemblyman serves up food and booze at his annual holiday bash

Bryan Pace for New York Daily News

Despite facing criminal probe and ethics investigation, Assemblyman Vito Lopez still toasted the holiday season.

This was one holiday party where it was best to avoid the mistletoe.
Assemblyman Vito Lopez is still facing criminal and ethics investigations in a sexual harassment scandal but still toasted the season at his annual holiday soirée.
A couple hundred of Lopez’s still-loyal supporters attended the shindig at Our Lady of Snow Hall in Brooklyn Thursday night. The invitation noted the celebration was for “adults only.”
Wearing a red sweater and red tie under a black jacket, Lopez greeted his guests warmly, even kissing a few women on the cheek.
The party featured an open bar and buffet with bountiful trays of baked ziti, lasagna and eggplant.
“We’ve done this 18 years. Some people would like us not to do any of it,” said Lopez, addressing the crowd. “This is a celebration of the holidays.”
Supporter John Doyle, 62, of Mineola, L.I., happily attended the party and scoffed at the sordid allegations against Lopez. “I’ve known him for a number of years and he’s always been considerate to me,” Doyle said. “I felt it was important to reciprocate.”
While Mayor Bloomberg and Bill Clinton have been to past Lopez parties, this year’s event appeared to be more for Lopez’s Brooklyn constituents.
Brooklyn Sen. Martin Dilan, a Democrat and close ally of Lopez, said he had no reservations about attending the party — which was being held in his Senate district.
"About 100% of the people there will be my constituents," Dilan said. "I will go see them.”
Lopez’s critics, meanwhile, responded to the party with a big “humbug!”
“It begs the question of whether he is taking the charges against him seriously,” said Sonia Ossorio, executive director of the National Organization for Women’s New York City chapter. “It is not business as usual for Mr. Lopez in Albany anymore.”
One person who did not attend was Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). “I wasn’t invited and don’t intend to go,” Silver said.
Silver stripped Lopez of his seniority and his position as chairman of the Assembly Housing Committee in August after an ethics committee found he’d sexually harassed two staff members. It was later revealed Silver had used $103,000 in taxpayer funds to quietly settle an earlier complaint.

Crime Is Up and Bloomberg Blames iPhone Thieves

If it were not for a jump in the number of Apple products stolen, New York City crime would be down this year, officials said.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


A Republican Mayoral Possibility Unsettles Democrats

Showing respect for Joseph J. Lhota, recently of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, hopefuls like Christine C. Quinn are taking potshots at him.

Monday, December 24, 2012

FOCUS: Karma Is a Bitch

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
24 December 12
arma is a bitch. Just ask Glenn Hubbard.
A few months ago, the Dean of Columbia's business school was a leading economic advisor to Mitt Romney and a rumored (perhaps even consensus) candidate for the Treasury Secretary job.
Now Romney's out of the presidential picture and Hubbard – well, he's just yet another grasping jobholder who's been exposed as a paid mouthpiece in a court proceeding.
Anyone who's seen the movie Inside Job will recall the stupendously angering scene in which Hubbard pissily snaps at his interviewer for asking about his outside relationships with the financial services industry.
In the movie, renowned filmmaker Charles Ferguson pointed out that, among other things, Hubbard had co-authored a paper with former Goldman chief economist William Dudley in which he praised credit derivatives as having improved the "allocation of risk" and helped produce "enhanced stability." It was fair to ask how much Goldman's "Global Markets Institute" had to pay one of the Ivy League's leading minds to endorse the giant daisy chains of credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations that led to the crisis – it was quite a coup, after all, like getting the Dean of Harvard Medical School to pose in public smoking a pack of Kools.
Anyway, when asked if he did consulting work for big banks, Hubbard refused to answer. And when asked if he just didn't remember who was writing checks to him when he wasn't overseeing the education of American youth, he fumed.
"This isn't a deposition, sir," he hissed. "I was polite enough to give you time, foolishly I now see. Give it your best shot."
Again, there's just nothing like karma. If your answer to a perfectly sensible question is going to be, "Screw you, this isn't a deposition," exactly how long do you think it'll be before you end up actually getting deposed? And forced to answer, under oath, just how much your opinions cost?
A couple of years, as it turns out.
Hidden among the reams of material recently filed in connection with the lawsuit of monoline insurer MBIA against Bank of America and Countrywide is a deposition of none other than Columbia University's Glenn Hubbard. And boy, is it a wild deposition. It's like Inside Job, only Hubbard has to answer the questions he doesn't want to answer. Reading it is like watching a man try to avoid breathing in a gas chamber.
At issue here is the fact that Hubbard testified on behalf of Countrywide in the MBIA suit. He conducted an "analysis" that essentially concluded that Countrywide's loans weren't any worse than the loans produced by other mortgage originators, and that therefore the monstrous losses that investors in those loans suffered were due to other factors related to the economic crisis – and not caused by the serial misrepresentations and fraud in Countrywide's underwriting.
In other words, the Dean of the Columbia University business school testified that the fact that Countrywide claimed to have conducted thorough due diligence when in fact it was pressuring underwriters to approve 60 to 70 mortgage applications a day and failing to verify any income levels or other key information (to say nothing of the outright falsification of such data, which also went on on a mass scale) – he testified that these issues were irrelevant.
Investors in Countrywide loans, he reported, in specifically rebutting MBIA's claims of fraud, were probably victims of macroeconomic factors, among other things the expansion of lending guidelines by "the government-sponsored entities," i.e. Fannie and Freddie. You know, that old saw.
So how much does it cost to get the Dean of Columbia Business School to say that Countrywide customers weren't injured by fraud? Well, MBIA's lawyer, Phillipe Selendy of Quinn Emmanuel, asked Hubbard that very question:
Q. How are you being compensated?
A. I'm being compensated at an hourly rate for my work.
Q. Do you know your hourly rate?
A. Yes, it's $1200 an hour.
For comparison's sake, $1200 an hour is about what Natalia, the woman New York Magazine called "America's #1 escort" in a famous profile many years ago, made early on in her career working for Jason Itzler, the self-described "King of All Pimps." It's not the top-end rate for the kind of Mercedes-class prostitute you'd romp with from an outfit like the Emperors Club, but according to the L.A. Times, it's still more than you'd have to pay for the usual "vanilla sex" or "Republican sex." Twelve hundred dollars an hour in America buys high-end companionship that can run a little bit kinky, if that's where your needs lay. And that's exactly what MBIA got with Hubbard's research.
So how did Hubbard manage to analyze Countrywide and conclude that mass fraud in its underwriting procedures wasn't problematic? Easy: He didn't look at the underwriting! All Hubbard did was take a group of Countrywide loans and compare them to a group of other loans from the same time period.
When that comparison revealed that Countrywide's loans failed at about the same rate as the non-Countrywide loans, he smartly concluded that fraud wasn't the problem and that macroeconomic factors must have been the cause.
Except for one thing: He left out the fact that about half of the loans in the "non-Countrywide" pool he selected for his analysis were originated by companies that were also being sued for underwriting fraud and other irregularities. What Hubbard did is compare a bunch of bad loans to a bunch of bad loans.
What's fascinating in the deposition is the way Hubbard repeatedly tries to avoid answering the question about what kind of research he did, or didn't do, in his Countrywide analysis. His sneering annoyance shines through as brightly as it did in Inside Job, but this time he couldn't just say, "You've got three more minutes." Here, for instance, he actually tries to play dumb when asked if he looked into Countrywide's origination practices:
Q. Did you make any inquiry into how Countrywide actually originated its loans?
A. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by that.
Hubbard here is just being intentionally obtuse: he's trying to see how much of an appetite MBIA's lawyers have for fighting through his dickishness. They press on:
Q. You understand there was a process by which Countrywide originated the loans that it included in the securitizations?
A. Yes.
Q. And there was also a process by which Countrywide examined the loans that it purchased from other originators inclusion in securitizations?
A. Correct
Q. Did you make any factual inquiry into the nature of either the process of origination or the process of due diligence by Countrywide?
A. I'm not an underwriter in this proceeding, so neither of the assignments that I told you would require such.
He knows it's a yes or no question, but he's letting them know they're going to have to beat it out of him:
Q. And it's fair to say that you gave your opinions without any inquiry into how Countrywide actually originated its loans or how Countrywide examined the characteristics of the loans that it purchased from other originators, correct?
A. I'm not an underwriter. As an economist, what I can do is look at the implications of the claims made by MBIA and its experts.
Q. So is that a yes in response to my question?
A. You have to tell me the question again.
Yikes! If I was Selendy I would have pulled out the sponge and the car battery at this point. Fortunately, the MBIA lawyer is more mature, and went on calmly:
Q. It's a fairly simple question. You gave your opinions without any inquiry into how Countrywide actually originated its loans, correct?
A: I did not underwrite.
That's as close as they got to getting Hubbard to admit that for $1200 an hour, he swore that Countrywide's underwriting practices were irrelevant – without investigating Countrywide's underwriting practices.
As for the question of how Hubbard managed to omit the fact that the loans he compared Countrywide loans to also had underwriting problems, there was this exchange:
Q. So in the aggregate, more than half of your entire population in the control group was affected by litigation?
A. I think, well, yes, by number of pools, yes.
Q. And in neither your initial report nor your rebuttal report did you disclose that fact for the benefit of the court?
A. Well I've already told you I didn't think it was relevant from my –
Q. I'm aware that's what you said today. But the fact is in neither your initial report nor your rebuttal report did you disclose that more than half of all the securitizations in your so-called control group were affected by litigation?
A. If I don't think something is a relevant fact, why would I have disclosed that?
Q. You're agreeing with me, you didn't disclose it, right?
A. That's a factual question. You had innuendo attached to it.
Q. Well, sir, I do think it's significant that you didn't disclose that fact, that's why it's in my question. I just wanted to confirm you did not disclose that fact, right?
A. I didn't disclose the fact.
Hubbard must be a very inquisitive thinker. He took $1200 an hour specifically to not learn how subprime loans were created. Moreover, he did this non-learning for Countrywide years after the financial collapse, long after the truth about that company had already become common knowledge pretty much everywhere in the world outside Hubbard's office, long after Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo had been charged by the SEC with deliberately misleading investors (and insider trading, to boot), and long after the Attorney General of California had concluded that Countrywide was essentially a giant scheme to use mass fraud to dump pools of bad loans on unsuspecting marks on the secondary market.
Given the great masses of information that was out there about Countrywide, Hubbard in other words had to perform a labor of Hercules to avoid letting the truth about the company slip through a crack in his skull. Naturally, this awesome ability to non-absorb information makes him qualified to be one of America's leading academics. Way to go, American learning!
On a personal note, I'm bummed by this Hubbard news, because it ruins one of my favorite quotes of all time – Henry Kissinger saying that "University politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small."
That was always a fantastic joke, but now that Wall Street is subsidizing the imperious academic administrators whose only reward used to be blocking the careers of the more brilliant teachers and professors they secretly envied, it doesn't work anymore.
Editor's note: The name of the lawyer taking the deposition was Phillipe Selendy of Quinn Emmanuel, not David Freeburg. Rolling Stone apologizes for the error.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

City Room - Blogging From the Five Boroughs

Most of Gifts Made by Lhota and Wife Were to Republicans

Joseph J. LhotaChip Somodevilla/Getty Images Joseph J. Lhota
If Joseph J. Lhota had his druthers, A. Gifford Miller would be serving out his second term as mayor, and David S. Yassky would be entering his fifth term as a Brooklyn congressman.
Or so one could reasonably surmise, based on a review of campaign contributions made by Mr. Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and his wife, Tamra, a Republican fund-raiser.
Mr. Lhota is stepping down from his job at the end of December in order to explore a bid for mayor as a Republican. And, befitting someone who was a zealously loyal budget director and deputy mayor under Rudolph W. Giuliani, he has been an active political donor.
A vast majority of the Lhotas’ donations have been to Republicans, which is why their modest contributions to Mr. Miller, a former City Council speaker ($500 in 2003 toward his 2005 mayoral campaign), and Mr. Yassky, a former councilman who is now the city’s taxi commissioner ($250 for House campaign in 2005), stand out as exceptions.
(Mr. Miller lost the Democratic nomination in 2005 to Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx borough president. The Republican candidate, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, did not accept campaign donations.)
Over all, of the Lhotas’ almost $80,000 in city, state and federal political contributions since the 1980s, about 95 percent went to Republicans. Much of that went to Mr. Giuliani’s mayoral and presidential bids, and to federal candidates.
Recipients of their $56,000 in donations to federal races included the George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney presidential campaigns, and to Senators Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sam Brownback of Kansas.
Mr. Lhota has given only once to a national Democrat: $1,000 to Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey in 2007.
On the state level, Mr. Lhota has been relatively silent. But in 2010, when he was a top executive for Cablevision, he wrote checks of $5,000 to Rick A. Lazio‘s gubernatorial bid, and $1,000 apiece for Harry Wilson for comptroller, and two West Side Democrats, State Senator Thomas K. Duane and Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried.
The Lhotas, who are Brooklyn Heights residents, have been even less active when it comes to city candidates. The last time they gave to anyone was in 2004, when Mr. Lhota donated $500 to Mr. Yassky for City Council. They did not donate to any of Mr. Yassky’s opponents in that race.
  1. METRO NEWS BRIEFS: NEW YORK; Deputy Mayor Admits Shoving ..

    METRO NEWS BRIEFS: NEW YORK; Deputy Mayor Admits Shoving a Reporter

    Published: March 02, 2000
    A reporter, Rafael Martinez Alequin, 66, whose self-published newspaper The Free Press is often critical of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, said that Deputy Mayor Joseph J. Lhota hit him in the chest outside City Hall yesterday and referred to him with an ethnic slur. Mr. Lhota acknowledged shoving him but denied using a remark derogatory to Latinos. He said the incident had begun as he talked to a colleague yesterday outside City Hall and Mr. Alequin insisted on speaking to him. The unidentified colleague walked away just before the altercation began.''He interrupted me and shoved me and I shoved him back,'' Mr. Lhota said.

    Exiting MTA boss Joseph Lhota racing against clock in possible mayoral bid, friends and foes say

    Other aspirant mayors have spent months -- and even years -- hiring staff, conducting polls and raising cash. Nevertheless, the candidacy he says he's exploring is seen as highly likely.

    Updated: Friday, December 21, 2012, 3:15 AM
    MTA Chairman Joe Lhota announces his resignation on Wednesday. He will have even less time to devote to a mayoral bid if the mayoral primaries are moved from June to September, a move being considered in Albany.

    Michael Schwartz for New York Daily News

    MTA Chairman Joe Lhota announces his resignation on Wednesday. He will have even less time to devote to a mayoral bid if the mayoral primaries are moved from June to September, a move being considered in Albany.
    “It’s a steep, uphill battle, but people do the impossible pretty often in politics,” said Stu Loeser, Mayor Bloomberg's former press secretary, of a Lhota run.

    Bradley Tusk, who organized Bloomberg's 2009 campaign, said it's important that Lhota win the Independence Party nomination because many Democrats cannot bring themselves to vote for someone on the Republican line.

    Craig Warga/New York Daily News

    Bradley Tusk, who organized Bloomberg's 2009 campaign, said it's important that Lhota win the Independence Party nomination because many Democrats cannot bring themselves to vote for someone on the Republican line.

    A day after MTA boss Joseph Lhota announced his resignation to explore running for mayor, supporters and opponents Thursday agreed on one point: Time is not on his side.
    The other mayoral wanna-bes have spent months, and in some cases years, pulling together their campaigns by hiring staff, conducting polling and raising money.
    If Lhota becomes a candidate — and most expect he will — he will have to plunge into the race at full speed from what essentially is a standing start.
    He will have even less time to get his political act together if the mayoral primaries are moved to June from September, a shift now being contemplated in Albany.
    “It’s extraordinarily difficult — but not impossible,” said Mayor Bloomberg’s former press secretary, Stu Loeser.
    “It’s a steep, uphill battle, but people do the impossible pretty often in politics.”
    Lhota’s task is made all the more difficult by the fact that he’s never run for public office before. And he’s a Republican in a town where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by a 6-to-1 margin.
    Bradley Tusk, who managed Bloomberg’s 2009 campaign, said Lhota must hit at least five major milestones to win a possible GOP primary and move on to the big dance in November.
    First, Tusk said, Lhota should poll to find the most convincing rationale for a candidacy, “because there’s not an obvious natural path forward for a Republican nominee, absent an issue that makes Democratic voters feel like they want to cross party lines, like crime in ’93 or 9/11 in ’01,” Tusk said.
    “ ‘I can do a better job running the city’ is not enough,” he said. “What will resonate with Democrats on the upper West Side?”
    Lhota has to raise money fast — and even if he can enlist the help of high-powered fund-raisers, the city’s campaign finance rules don’t make that easy.
    Also imperative for Lhota, a man who recently called Bloomberg an “idiot” and once got into a shoving match with a reporter outside City Hall: Preparing himself with his own self-opposition research as his rivals and the press scrutinize his record.
    Also on the “to do” list: Winning the endorsement of the Independence Party, because many of the city’s Democratic voters cannot bring themselves to vote for anyone on the Republican line, Tusk said.
    Finally, Lhota’s got to convince the city’s five county GOP chairmen to back him and forget about granting independent Adolfo Carrion Jr. the pass he needs to run on the Republican line.
    “You don’t want to waste a lot of money in a primary,” Tusk said, adding that a narrow win in an intra-party fight would hardly set Lhota up for victory in November.
    The “draft Lhota” movement is being pushed by members of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s inner circle. But many of them “haven’t done a mayoral (campaign) in 16 years,” one strategist said.
    In fact, the political pro said, Lhota might actually have a better shot at winning in four years if a Democrat gets elected and does a terrible job.
    “I am amazed that someone didn’t sit down and go over this stuff (with Lhota) and if they did, (that) he’s still considering running,” the source said.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bronx businessman scams IRS for $5 million using Puerto Rico Social Security numbers

Bronx businessman Jose Quilestorres, according to federal prosecutors, used over 1,000 Social Security numbers stolen from people in Puerto Rico to file phony tax forms and defraud the government of more than $5 million.

Updated: Tuesday, December 18, 2012, 3:00 AM

Quilestorrres operates a tax refund fraud mill out of an apartment at 2380 Grand Avenue in the Bronx, NY on Saturday, December 15, 2012

Enid Alvarez/New York Daily News

Quilestorrres operates a tax refund fraud mill out of an apartment at 2380 Grand Avenue in the Bronx, NY on Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Internal Revenue Service processed more than a thousand federal income tax forms last year from a collection of purported Puerto Ricans who appeared to have just two things in common:
All their tax forms were filed by computer from a Bronx apartment. And all their refunds wound up in the pockets of Bronx businessman Jose Quilestorres and his alleged accomplices.
Quilestorres, according to federal prosecutors, used 1,032 Social Security numbers stolen from people in Puerto Rico to file phony tax forms and defraud the government of more than $5 million. Prosecutors say the crooks are part of a plague of sophisticated identity thieves — operating from New York to Alaska — who prey on Puerto Ricans and use their information to steal billions from the IRS.
“Basically, what you have are fairly smart people ingeniously and cynically exploiting what our tax system was designed to do — get refunds out as quickly as possible,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told the Daily News.
Alleged scammers like Quilestorres take advantage of the fact that Puerto Ricans have Social Security numbers — but generally don’t file federal income tax returns if they still live on the island. That greatly reduces the risk that a fake return will be flagged by the IRS.
One of Quilestorres’ alleged cohorts, Jairo Polanco, “possessed a ledger with Puerto Rican Social Security numbers,” court records show. That ledger landed in prosecutors’ hands when cops rounded up the ring on Sept. 19 — just as Quilestorres was preparing to hightail it to the Dominican Republic, where he owns expensive real estate, sources close to the case said.
Quilestorres, 47, and the other accused crooks have pleaded not guilty to federal fraud charges. Their bank accounts were frozen. He is being held without bail.
The alleged tax fraud mastermind is also accused in New Jersey of filing 8,000 fraudulent tax returns since 2008 — and raking in an additional $11 million — using stolen Puerto Rican Social Security numbers.
Prosecutors suspect Quilestorres has stashed away millions in ill-gotten gains. He bragged to a confidential informant that he made $7.5 million in February 2011 by filing phony tax forms, according to court records.
Quilestorres’ ring operated in an apartment on Grand Ave., prosecutors say. Between January 2011 and October 2011, he and his fellow fraudsters filed more than a thousand phony IRS tax returns. The ringleader hired two people and paid them $1.50 for each return they prepared. They filled in the returns with predetermined income figures, phony occupations, bogus W-2 forms — and the real Social Security numbers.
Then they sent the returns to the IRS electronically, using Internet-based services that allow individuals with income below a certain amount to file for free. They gave a Shirley, L.I., return addresses and bribed a mailman to intercept the refund checks by giving him a kickback for each one he turned over to Quilestorres, sources said.
Then Quilestorres used a network of associates to cash the checks through personal or business checking accounts — in exchange for 10% to 20% of the check’s value.
Investigators got wind of the scam in June 2011 from a snitch and rounded up 13 members of the ring 15 months later, sources said. A Shirley postal clerk whose name was not divulged was also arrested and is believed to be cooperating with investigators.
-With Amanda Mikelberg

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

M.T.A. Chief Will Resign as He Looks at Mayoral Bid

Joseph J. Lhota, the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s chairman, is expected to step down this week so he can pursue elective office.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mayors Against Illegal Guns along with survivors and family members of victims of gun violence launched the Demand A Plan Campaign last summer in response to the mass shooting in Aurora, and now in Newtown, Connetticut. 

video by Rafael Martínez Alequín

How Wal-Mart Used Payoffs to Get Its Way in Mexico

An examination by The New York Times found Wal-Mart de Mexico to be an aggressive and creative corrupter, offering large payoffs to get what the law otherwise prohibited.

Hero’s sis haunted by this photo

  • Last Updated: 9:57 AM, December 18, 2012
  • Posted: 12:37 AM, December 18, 2012
Her sister died a hero, but before Carlee Soto ever found that out, she herself was photographed in a now-iconic image that will haunt her forever.
As teacher Victoria Soto lay dead inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning, a desperate Carlee stood outside, tearfully pleading on her cellphone for information about her.
Of the gut-wrenching photo, Carlee told CBS yesterday, “It’s like a reminder of that moment all over again. It kills.”
It came as no surprise to Carlee and Victoria’s mom that her daughter died trying to save kids.
“She was truly selfless,” Donna Soto said of her 27-year-old “Vicki,” who was shot trying to shield her first-graders from madman Adam Lanza’s assault.


BEYOND TRAGIC: Carlee Soto, who was photographed shortly after the slaughter, speaks on CBS yesterday about her sister Victoria (inset), a teacher who died shielding kids from the gunman.
Vicki ushered her tiny charges away from the door of Classroom 10 as Lanza, 20, descended. She ordered them into a closet, but six of the panicked kids got out — and Vicki dived to save them as Lanza trained his rifle on them. They all died.
“She would not hesitate to think to save anyone else before herself and especially children,” Soto’s mom told CNN. “She loved them more than life, and she would definitely put herself in front of them any day, any day, and for any reason.”
“So it doesn’t surprise anyone that knows Vicki that she did this.”
Victoria Soto’s heroics were matched by her teacher’s aide, Anne Marie Murphy, 52.
In a statement put out yesterday, the parents of 6-year-old Dylan Hockley told how his body was found in Murphy’s arms.
“We take great comfort in knowing that Dylan was not alone when he died, but was wrapped in the arms of his amazing aide, Anne Marie Murphy,” said Ian and Nicole Hockley.
Vicki, they said, “was warm and funny, and Dylan loved her dearly.”
Dylan had autism, as did Lanza.
Donna said Vicki would be overwhelmed by all the attention.
“She was not somebody that ever wanted to be famous or wanted her picture in the paper,” she told CBS’s “This Morning.” “To have it blasted all over the papers throughout the country and the world, it’s just, it’s surreal,”
Vicki, she said, always wanted to be a teacher, having first talked about it at age 3.
“She just loved her kids and talked about them all the time with such fondness and caring. She just adored them,” said Donna Soto, a retired nurse.
She described how the family learned of her death.
After hearing of a shooting, “we were just praying and praying and praying. Then we got closer, and we parked at a church and walked up the hill and never, never could have imagined the scene that we saw,” Donna said.
The families of unaccounted-for students and educators were gathered, and “the exact words that the governor used were, ‘Two children were brought to Danbury Hospital and expired,’ and at that point, the parents just were hysterical. They were on the floor.
“Then another parent said, ‘Well, where did the other people go? . . . We want to be with our kids,’ and he said, ‘Nobody else was taken to a hospital.’ A very angry parent said, ‘So what are you telling us, they’re all dead?’ And he said ‘yes.’ ”
Gov. Dannel Malloy yesterday tearfully explained himself.
“It was evident to me that there was a reluctance to tell parents and loved ones that the person that they were waiting for was not going to return and that had gone on for a period of time,” he said. “I made the decision that to have that go on any longer was wrong.”
The family said they were grateful for President Obama’s visit with them Sunday before his speech at a prayer vigil.
Vicki Soto’s parents, little brother and two younger sisters will bury her tomorrow.

Victoria Soto, Newtown Teacher, Emerges As Hero After Shooting

The Huffington Post  |  Posted:   |  Updated: 12/18/2012 7:44 am EST
A 27-year-old teacher of Puerto Rican descent has emerged as a hero in the tragic shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
Details remain fuzzy, but it appears that Victoria Soto hid students in a bathroom or closet and died trying to protect them from alleged shooter Adam Lanza, according to several news reports.
victoria soto "You have a teacher who cared more about her students than herself," Mayor John Harkins of Soto’s hometown of Stratford, Conn. said, according to the Associated Press. "That speaks volumes to her character, and her commitment and dedication."
About 300 people gathered for a memorial service Saturday night, according to the Associated Press.
A report from Fox News Latino describes Soto as a “model teacher, daughter and citizen.”
The young educator lived with her parents, her sisters, and a brother in Stratford, Conn. in a modest Cape Cod-style house. She was single, spent time worshipping at the Lordship Community Church in Stratford and had a soft spot for her pet black Labrador, Roxy. Her mother, Donna, was a nurse at Bridgeport Hospital for 30 years and her father, Carlos, worked for the Connecticut Department of Transportation as a crane operator. Vicki was special to her father, friends said, and it was his job to identify his child’s body following the shooting.
"She put those children first. That's all she ever talked about," her friend Andrea Crowell told the Associated Press. "She wanted to do her best for them, to teach them something new every day."
Soto’s father is Puerto Rican and her mother is a non-Hispanic American, according to Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Día, who spoke to Eliezer Soto, Victoria Soto's uncle.
On Friday, alleged shooter Adam Lanza reportedly killed his mother Nancy, before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary and shooting 20 children and six adults. Lanza is also believed to have killed himself.
This post has been updated to clarify that Soto's mother is a non-Hispanic American.
December 18, 2012 9:16 AM ET

A Growing List of Gun Victims, and the Mayor's Demand for a Plan

The Day: With the military-style weaponry that is readily available in this country, the slaughter is limitless. That elementary fact lies at the heart of the message being carried with deepened fervor by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

December 17th, 2012Top Story

Down With Big Gun

By Drew Magary
Down With Big GunRon Cohen is the CEO of Sig Sauer, the company that produced one of the guns that was used in Friday's Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre. You have probably never heard of Ron Cohen before. I know I never have. I tried to find a decent picture of him this weekend, but I came up empty. He may as well not exist.
In the wake of the shootings, Cohen's name has appeared in a grand total of one Google alert. This is by design. You aren't supposed to know anything about Ron Cohen or about Sig Sauer. Every time a tragedy happens and you, Mr. Gun Control Advocate, decide to lash out at the NRA, or at "our national obsession with guns," or at the classic straw man hunter who needs a 50-bullet clip just to chase down a squirrel, you're doing Ron Cohen, Sig Sauer, and everyone else at Big Gun a huge favor.
One of the amazing things about the gun control debate in America is the remarkable success with which gun manufacturers—Sig Sauer, Glock, Smith & Wesson, Ruger, The Freedom Group (yes, it's called the fucking Freedom Group)—have been able to avoid the conversation altogether. When you think of Glock, you think of a gun, and not of the company behind it. That needs to change. We've shit on cigarette companies for lying about cigarettes. We've shit on Roger Goodell and the NFL for underplaying head injuries. We're even making inroads against the sneaky bastards at BIG SUGAR for making us all hopeless fatasses. But here is an industry—firearms manufacturing—that makes products whose deadliness is disputed by NO ONE, not even the people who treasure those products. And yet the executives and shadowy international holding company execs—whose job is to flood the world with as many of these weapons as possible—skate by cloaked in blessed anonymity. Wanna know why nothing ever gets done about gun laws here in the US? This is why.
Gun manufacturers have successfully managed to shift virtually all blame for lax gun laws in America onto their lobbyists and their customers. It's no coincidence that companies like Sig Sauer, Freedom Group and Glock (which also made one of the weapons used in the killings) are privately held. They strive for minimum transparency, and they have achieved it. The NRA, bless its heart, is a front—a perfect little whipping boy designed to weather all of your abuse so that Ron Cohen can drive to and from his office without a reporter shoving a microphone in front of his stupid fucking face. They have taken phrases like "Gun control" and "the Second Amendment" and crafted them into permanent, bulletproof diversions. They've done such a good job of shielding themselves that Sig Sauer doesn't even feel compelled to issue a public statement when one of its weapons is used in a mass tragedy. They don't have to express their regrets or spew some bullshit about being dedicated to making sure guns are used safely. Higher profile companies have to send out public apologies when they send out a bad tweet. Big Gun does nothing and doesn't have to. Isn't that remarkable?
Gun manufacturers profit off of mass violence in America. See for yourself. Every time a massacre happens, gun sales go through the roof because liberals cry out for gun control, and then conservatives flee to buy as many guns as possible just in case those shady folks in the GUBMINT come calling for their precious arms. They've succeeded in getting gun owners to disguise their love of shooting shit under a bullshit pretense of one day having to form a militia just in case Hitler II gets elected President. And they've succeeded in letting those people fight their flame wars for them. You have to hand it the gun industry, really. It's an ingenious little sales cycle they've created. Every massacre draws attention to the product, yet somehow NEVER to the people ultimately responsible for their production. It's always the hunter that takes the brunt of liberal ire. Or the redneck, or the guy at the gun show selling them secondhand, or Mike Huckabee saying something fucking stupid. Meanwhile, Ron Cohen eats his dinner uninterrupted.
In order to succeed in preventing future massacres, it would be wise to publicly hold these people accountable. Here's how:
  • 1. Do not feed the trolls. Never say the phrase "gun control" or get into a message board argument with Jimbo3421 on Politico ever again. You've done nothing. In fact, you've done exactly what you've been trained to do. You are playing your role to perfection.
  • 2. Re-brand the gun debate. The greatest PSA campaign in the history of advertising is the Truth campaign, which did away with the traditional "smoking is bad for you" ads that proved ineffective. Instead, what the "Truth" campaign did was demonize tobacco companies—NOT demonize tobacco or tobacco users—and say THESE PEOPLE ARE FUCKING YOU OVER. They are lying to you and trying to kill you and they are getting rich while doing it. When you change the language, you change people's perception of what's really at stake. Make this a crime issue, not an endless discussion about what guns MEAN to everyone.
  • 3. Exposure. I suggest you do everything you can to draw attention to Ron Cohen, or Freedom Group CEO George Kollitides (here's a photo to get you started). You're gonna have to work hard, because these people go out of their way to remain hidden from view. Do not send an angry letter to Wayne LaPierre. He eats those for breakfast. Send your letters to THESE men. Why are these men not under any scrutiny? Have you ever seen ANY of these fuckers brought up in front of a Congressional subcommittee? Someone needs to put a microphone in front of Ron Cohen and ask him, "What are you doing to make sure your guns aren't used to kill children?" Then we can all watch him fumble for a decent answer and then we can call him a prick. These men need to be made famous, far more famous than Adam Lanza. People need to camp out by their lawns smoking weed and holding up signs that say OCCUPY GUN STREET.
  • 4. Lawsuits. There's no point in going to a politician to help make your community safer. They're pussies, and many of them helped engineer lucrative government contracts for these companies to equip our armed forces and local police departments. Ultimately, money is the only language the gun industry really understands. Everything else is white noise. Cigarette companies were sued into oblivion. The NFL is currently doing everything short of renaming the sport "tag" to avoid punishing class action decisions. When Sig Sauer sends its products out into the world, their responsibility for them apparently ends. Why? You could argue that it's grossly negligent to create a fucking machine gun—to craft a weapon made for war and then sell it to civilians because it helps expand your market share—and then let it go whenever the wind may take it. At least, some hippie dippy "activist judge" might see it that way, and then people might be forced to actually do something. (Update: A reader has pointed out that gun manufacturers cannot be sued when their products are used in crimes.)
  • That's what needs to happen. We don't need everyone to argue about the same shit they've always argued about. I wanna throw up, it all seems so pointless. I have a three kids and I would like to live in a country where I don't have to worry about them getting fucking shot in the head any time they head off to homeroom. I would like to live in a country where I don't hop on the web and see photos of grieving parents screaming in agony because they are enduring the kind of anguish that will black out everything else they ever say or do. Currently, this country doesn't fit the bill. This is not a safe place. And Ron Cohen—FUCKHEADED ASSHOLE RON COHEN WHOSE NAME SHOULD BE IN BRIGHT SHINY LIGHTS ABOVE TIMES SQUARE SO THAT EVERYONE KNOWS PRECISELY WHO MAKES THE GUNS THAT ARE USED TO KILL PEOPLE—he is a big reason why.
    Image by Jim Cooke.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

       Obama Offers Words of Solace

Speaking before an auditorium of grieving parents, community members and others there to mourn the killing of 20 first graders and six educators from Newtown, Conn., President Barack Obama pledged Sunday to use the power of the office he occupies to end the epidemic of gun violence shaking the nation.
"We're not doing enough," the president said. "And we will have to change."
"We can't tolerate this anymore," he added. "These tragedies must end, and to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and it is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can't be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this."
The speech was the fourth and most direct that the president has given in the wake of a major instance of gun-related violence. His day had started with a trip to see his daughter, Sasha, at her dance rehearsal at the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Md. And as he took the stage at Newtown High School, in a quiet New England town tucked in the southwestern corner of Connecticut, it was evident that he still occupied the mindset of a father frightened at vulnerability of young children.
"If there's even one step we can take to save one child, or one parent, or one town from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try," the president told the auditorium.
"In the coming weeks, I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators in an effort to prevent more tragedies like this," he said. "Because what choice do we have?"
These moments have become disturbingly regular for this president. His speech in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings touched on the concept of justice for such heinous acts. His address to the victims of the Tucson, Ariz., shooting that nearly took former Rep. Gabrielle Gifford's (D-Ariz.) life focused on the need to renew the human spirit in the wake of seeming madness. His talk before the National Urban League convention following the shooting in Aurora, Colo., rested on the notion of community and how society can protect and better itself even amid epidemics of gun violence.
The address in Newtown offered a more stern call for cultural, or even legislative, change.
"We can't accept events like this as routine," he said. "Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that the violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?"
But like the three speeches before, the president stayed vague on the methods of seeing that change through. This could very well be out of a sense of proper setting. A vigil isn't always the best time to make policy points. But that may not be much comfort to those who are tired of the debate being ducked.
Obama's advocacy for gun control has, to this point, had an inverse relationship with his rise in elected politics. The state politician who once touted a comprehensive plan to get guns off the streets of Chicago was absent from the debates once he came to Washington. The Senate candidate who said it was a "scandal" that the assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse in 2004 became a president who pledged to pursue gun-control reform only within existing law.
Over time, caution was how the president became defined on the issue, his eloquent words of sympathy no longer sufficing.
"The president's tears were nice," said Toby Hoover, director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, shortly after Obama addressed the Newtown shootings in a statement on Friday. Hoover lost her husband to gun violence when she was 30 years old, and was attending a candlelight vigil outside the White House gates. "But he was supposed to lead us. He told us that if we elected him, he'd give us hope. I need hope."
Whether the president's remarks on Sunday will change the viewpoints of Hoover or others -- or whether it will alter the contours of the gun control debate -- will be clearer in the weeks ahead. But certainly there is more room to operate.
Americans' support for stricter gun control laws appeared to grow in the days following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. According to a poll conducted by YouGov and The Huffington Post, 50 percent of respondents support stricter gun control laws, up from 43 percent in August.
This January, congressional Democrats plan to introduce identical bills in the House and Senate to renew the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was allowed to lapse in 2004 after 10 years. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) said on Sunday that the bills would be introduced on the first day that Congress reconvenes next year.
Whether the ban would have changed the course of the Sandy Hook shootings is a complicated question. Authorities said Sunday that a Bushmaker .223 assault rifle was one of the weapons that 20 year-old Adam Lanza used to commit Friday's murders, and that it was purchased legally.
Connecticut has a statewide ban on certain types of assault weapons, but in the decade since the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban, gun manufacturers have devised numerous ways to get around state bans like the one in Connecticut by making small alterations.
Feinstein initially called for renewing the assault weapons ban in July, following the massacre of 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. In the wake of this and other instances of gun violence, the White House has usually reaffirmed the president's support for the legislation, which President George W. Bush declined to renew when it expired. But that support is always accompanied by lines -- usually from the serving press secretary -- that the administration would work within existing law, rather than revisit old ones. Obama has actually loosened gun restrictions while in office and declined to pursue others that were recommended by his own Justice Department.
Feinstein and her caucus face a powerful and well-funded opposition to any legislation designed to curtail access to firearms.
Led by the National Rifle Association, pro-gun lobbying groups in Washington have donated more than $5 million to House and Senate candidates since the assault weapons ban expired in 2004. In 2012, the NRA's political action committee made more than $600,000 in federal campaign donations, overwhelmingly directed towards Republicans. The NRA has been largely silent in the wake of Friday's mass shooting, and an NRA spokeswoman said that the group would not release any comments "until the facts are thoroughly known."
In the meantime, the pro-gun lobby faced an ongoing barrage of criticism on Sunday from a wide range of public figures. As Feinstein was calling on Congress to act on gun control, across town, the dean of the Washington National Cathedral, the Very Rev. Gary Hall called on people of faith to "serve as a counterweight to the gun lobby," and "stand together with our leaders and support them as they act to take assault weapons off the streets."
View the full speech below:

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, December 14, 2012. (photo: Larry Downing, Reuters)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, December 14, 2012. (photo: Larry Downing, Reuters)

Mr. President, Time to Lead

By Michael Tomasky, Daily Beast
15 December 12

Gun control needs to become a voting issue for millions. Only one person can make that happen.

hen can stricter gun-control laws ever pass? We know exactly when: When 60 senators and 218 members of the House of Representatives are willing to vote for them, and not a moment before. The bleak truth is that we are a long, long, long way from that moment, or at least we were until Friday morning. If anything can change the politics of guns, surely this unspeakable event can. But Barack Obama is going to have to resolve to answer the demand that history has placed on him and spend some (maybe a lot) of his political capital on the issue.
We're about to endure a wrenching week - the week before Christmas no less - reading about these children. Seeing pictures of their beautiful faces, watching their parents submit to those morbid interviews that television makes its business on these grim occasions; hearing what the children were waiting for Santa to bring them. Surely, this has to change things.
I would love to think so. But let's not kid ourselves. In political terms, the odds against change are high, and the reason comes down to this. Right now, there are a few million people for whom gun rights are what is called a voting issue, which is just what it sounds like - an issue that people actively vote on, that is in their heads at the moment they pull the lever. These are the members of the National Rifle Association. The National Rampage Association, as Bob Shrum puts it elsewhere on this site. The National More Dead Children Association would be another way to put it today, because that is in effect what the organization supports.
For how many people is gun control a voting issue? For all intents and purposes, none. Oh, a few thousand; the people who work directly on the issue, and some parents who've lost their children. But that is about it. The scales are badly imbalanced, and until they're closer to in balance, we won't be able to get a law that, for example, permits police to come knock on the door of someone who buys 600 rounds of ammo online, as the Aurora, Colorado shooter did, and ask him about his plans and purposes.
So, how can that imbalance be changed? Only through the two traditional ways. The first is grassroots activism that has a lot of money behind it. Any rich people who care about gun violence out there? Now is the moment to write those checks to the Brady Campaign and other groups that work on this issue, to organize large-scale public-relations campaigns to frame the issue and get people angry and motivated. No change has ever happened in this country without a broad base of support out there, and no twitchy senator or member of Congress is going to vote against the NRA unless he thinks he can do so and survive the next election.
The second is that politicians have to lead, and that starts with Obama of course. He was right yesterday not to push a political agenda; yesterday was just a day to express the nation's grief. But now is the time, starting next week.
He's busy with a lot of other things. He needs to get his tax increase. He needs to win the debt-limit fight. He wants immigration reform, and the Latino groups that represent the voters who backed him so heavily won't let him forget that or drop it.
But history has grabbed him by the lapels here. We've had 14 mass shootings in this country just since he became president. They've all been bad, but this is the one that demands that he stand up--the one that insists that if he does nothing, or does something cautious and half-hearted, he will be judged harshly by future historians for his failure to care about this.
He and he alone can help make this a voting issue for millions. He can do it in an almost nonpartisan way, which is in his comfort zone, talking about these children and the dozens of others whom our society right now regards an acceptable spoilage factor for "freedom"; asking why it should be the case that any regular citizen needs automatic weapons with extended magazines and the aforementioned right to buy limitless ammo with no questions asked.
Did I say he and he alone? Not quite right. I amend that to: He, along with Mike Bloomberg. Bloomberg has the standing, the podium, and most crucially, the money to help make this a voting issue. The furious statement Bloomberg released yesterday is exactly right. The time for this fight is now. And only one person can lead it.


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-19 # Michael_K 2012-12-15 13:05
Hmmm. I have very mixed feelings on this. I really hate to see an unarmed and generally law-abiding population disarmed and helplessly stuck between well-armed thugs with badges on the one side, and without badges on the other.

I don't know that there is any satisfactory solution to this.
-11 # randyjet 2012-12-15 21:43
There is a solution and it is to make such venues more risky for killers. That means we need more people who are armed and trained to use guns in defense of others. In schools people such as principals, administrators, maintenance workers and teachers who wish to be armed and trained in the legitimate use of firearms. These firearms should be concealed for a number of reasons. At the beginning of the school day, all those who are armed should report to the office, and get an armband with the color of the day that they can use to show law enforcement people that they are the good guys and should not be shot. We cannot and should not have armed guards in the hallways, so having concealed weapons will not create such an environment and any potential shooter will not know who is armed and who is not.

We trust teachers with the education and lives of our children, so we should also give them the means to protect them. A teacher should not be reduced to only a smile or their body to use to protect their kids. In a confrontation between an armed teacher and a mass murderer, my money is on the teacher as they proved so tragically. They were ferocious using their bodies in a futile attempt to save their kids. I just wish that they had the means to fight back and end this quicker than it was.
-3 # Hey There 2012-12-15 22:17
I agree
+9 # rosross 2012-12-15 22:24
Well there is a satisfactory solution and it is one in place in every other developed nation and it works absolutely fine. Those countries without guns have less crime, don't have 30,000 gunshot deaths every year and don't have half a dozen massacres a year.
It's called being civilized, enlightened and free - something one is led to believe Americans value.
+12 # robniel 2012-12-15 22:36
If you encounter a well-armed thug and you're feeling cocky, statistics say you'll very quickly be lying on the ground sporting a bullet hole if you try to go for your gun. If you draw on a gunman in a crowded venue you're just as likely as the gunman to be fatally shot by someone who couldn't decide who the real shooter was; this almost happened in Arizona when Gabby Gifford was shot. The smart people avoid confrontation, not provoke it.
+1 # 4yourinformation 2012-12-15 22:47
I agree.

Look at Vermont with its super lenient concealed carry laws (or is it unlaws?). The "bluest" state in the union and the least amount of gun control. It's not Dodge City. It's a very stable and community based state that observes libertarian/lef ty values and they don't have crime like the other more heavily regulated states (gun control). It's not about the instruments of killing per se, it's about the most important instrument of control, the human mind and its environment.
+5 # kyzipster 2012-12-16 05:40
Why do you believe that 'gun control' means disarming the public?
+1 # 2012-12-15 20:50
Gun control won't work. There are more than 3 million weapons out there already. What? Are you going to ask people to please, please, please unilaterally disarm themselves? Good luck with that one buddy. The control is in who gets a lawful gun license/FOID card. Require purchase and use of trigger locks, check psych reports(backgro und check). That's about all you can do now.
We need to focus on economical access of the mentally ill to treatment. Right now, there are less facilities for the severely mentally ill than when Reagan was governor of Calif. and dumped them all onto the streets. Look at who the spree shooters were since the 1960s; "troubled youth" comes up a lot in the description of the shooter. Maybe it is PTSD. If a cop kills someone in the line of duty, he/she gets counseling. When a war veteran returns, most having been trained to and actually killed, what do we do? Nothing. This CAN be fixed through legislation.
+3 # Rain17 2012-12-15 21:08
You make great points. Even if you have health insurance receiving decent mental health services is a challenge. Many psychologists and psychiatrists don't take insurance and charge prohibitive rates. Access to high-quality mental health services even with insurance is quite limited.
+5 # smile90803 2012-12-15 22:25
you really think finding the money for that is the place to start? i agree that the mental health issue is important and yes there are millions of unregistered guns out there but if you look the last last bunch of school killings..these aren't career criminals who can find a gun to purchase on the street. these are k-mart shoppers. and why not put limits on purchases of mega ammo. like chris rock said. make the bullets cost 5 grand. i'd kill ya if i could afford it! but seriously. the way to get started is to put restrictions on guns. like we have restrictions on driving a car for chrissake. or liquor. the majority of the people support this and it makes sense. any other starting point is BULLSHIT. you know -i know it. the rest of the issues like mental health will follow. regulate the ammo you lesson the shots. lesson the shots you lessen the killing. tell me i'm wrong.
0 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 08:03
Seriously, the way to get started is to provide jobs, decent salaries and mental health care.
-3 # 4yourinformation 2012-12-15 22:42
Very sensible assessment. I totally agree.
+2 # c.e. taylor 2012-12-16 00:51
grand one (?!),
you're pretty clearly not a right-winger, but you seem to have bought into the gun lobby hysteria that equates "gun control" with the elimination of all guns. Everything you proceed to cite, after declaring gun control unworkable, are in fact examples of gun control that you dismiss as "all you can do now." Although your list is not exhaustive enough, even the measures you cite (mandatory background checks, trigger locks, etc.) are examples of gun controls that need tightening because they are currently riddled with loopholes and/or unenforced for lack of public funding and priority.

What you don't include and should is to make the continued manufacture of assault weapons for civilian sale or civilian ownership of assault weapons illegal. The ban on assault weapons that was already in effect from 1994-2004 should never have been sunseted - and without the stranglehold of the NRA on Congress and the acquiescence of George Bush, it wouldn't have. (As with everything else, if we the people finally revolt for full public financing of campaigns, then of course we could end such strangleholds.)

Meanwhile, I do share your call for far greater attention and resources allocated to mental health. I have worked pro bono providing therapy to school students, and I have seen the vital role it can play. Yet another crucial domain where we all pay the price for the concerted rightwing move to suffocate all government funding.
0 # Rain17 2012-12-15 21:06
I used to support gun control until I realized that people have a fundamental right to protect themselves. The second point is that, in many areas, especially in high-crime neighborhoods, the police are unable and/or unwilling to do their job and protect law-abiding citizens from criminals and gangs. In some areas the police are corrupt and even in on it. Fundamentally gun rights are civil rights. People, especially those in high-crime areas, have the fundamental right to protect themselves and their property and belongings, no matter how meager. Gun rights are civil rights.
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 08:01
The police are unwilling to do their job. My home has been repeatedly under attack and they police come to my house and intimidate ME; it's the easy way out; no complaint, no crime. They have the whole state trained to NOT call the police. The police in Floriduh are not tasked to protect the people or fight/solve crime. They have been conscripted for population containment as we slip into ever greater political control and removing guns is just one more step in that process. Don't forget, the Demorats are the Left wing of the Corporate Party and have corporate domination as their New World Order/PNAC plan. You don't hear the Green Party screaming for the removal of guns, do you?
-2 # DaveM 2012-12-15 21:27
If we really want to do something about violent crime, the first thing we need to do is make it illegal.

Seriously, I have no objection to some sort of paperwork being required if one wants to buy some enormous amount of ammunition. A skeet club or the like would have no trouble demonstrating its bona fides. I presume the same would be true of a military collector who purchased a sealed tin of vintage ammunication (yes, there are people who collect vintage ammo). A lifetime of hunting and target practice for the average hunter probably would not require 600 rounds of ammunition.

Of course, if we register ammunition, what next? Any number of household cleaners/chemic als can be used to produce deadly poisons--should one have to "sign the book" when buying toilet bowl cleaner and allow the police to look under your kitchen sink as a condition of owning same? A car can be driven into a crowd or an aircraft flown into a building. What are we to do about that?

Unfortunately, the world is a dangerous place and we cannot make it safer by implementing the roots of dictatorship. Or at least, the only people who could be made to feel safe by such measures are those they would supposedly prevent from existing. After all....they would never have to fear encountering an armed law-abiding victim.
-1 # Lee 2012-12-15 21:29
Sad that ecery time some maladjusted moron commits an antisocial act the well meaning liberals will use that as an excuse to restrict the freedoms of everyone else. Put the blame where it belongs. Restricting help for the mentally unbalanced is the cause of such acts. The firearms did not choose to act alone.

It's the lunitic neocon fringe that would deny mentl health care to the mentally ill thaqt cause these disasters,
+2 # goodsensecynic 2012-12-15 22:27
Gun control legislation is an issue, but the American culture of violence is a larger one.

Its past? A history of domestic slavery and genocide, of imperialism soaked in hypocrisy.

Its present? The highest murder rate among "advanced" countries, the highest rate of incarceration among "advanced" countries, the only Western nation with the death penalty, and armed forces deployed in well over 100 countries.

Its consequences? The first person I heard speak the Friday's slaughter said: "If only the principal [who I understand was the first victim inside the school] had a gun, this would never have happened." She spoke the words calmly and thoughtfully, without a hint of dripping sarcasm. There is the problem in a literal nutshell.

Strict gun control laws - like in every other liberal democracy wouldn't hurt - but the USA must also undergo an almost metaphysical shake-up before it can aspire to moral stability, never mind "leadership."

The USA is a violent country at home and abroad. It relies on perpetual war and the mythology that it is "the greatest country in the history of the world." It needs to shut up, stand down and look critically in a mirror for about a decade, then think how it can redeem itself for its own sake and the sake of other inhabitants on the planet.
0 # Billy Bob 2012-12-16 06:41
People in countries with stricter gun control are every bit as violent. Sorry, but it's true. Ask any skinhead.
+2 # smile90803 2012-12-15 22:33
i don't think ANYBODY is talking about disarming the population. CONTROL is what's needed. if you are a law abiding citizen why would you have a problem with regulation, registration etc? why would you be concerned if a flag went up if you bought 600 rounds? if it's all good then it shouldn't worry you..right? wrong? i have certainly heard enough about freedom when it comes to gun ownership. anybody can cross from mexico and buy ak-47's --does that hinder your freedoms gun owners? i would think not. look around the world. we have 20,000 gun deaths a year in this country..englan d? what 30? canada the same japan? australia? germany? insanely low. mexico has only something like 1300 private gun licenses in the whole country. they buy their guns here! we got problems and we gotta start somewhere.
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 07:55
I am a gun owner. I have had to go through several gun classes, register, have my finger prints taken and pay all sorts of fees. And yet, they are calling for even MORE gun control. This IS about disarming a population because if it wasn't, they would be furiously also looking for the reason(s) for these spree shootings, but they aren't are they? We have had gun ownership for generations, but now, when the country is most vulnerable with a crooked political system we suddenly need more "gun control"?
0 # redjelly39 2012-12-15 22:39
I am not a gun advocate but I think a bigger problem looms and has ties to all these shootings. Pharmaceutical drugs. The pill pushers made billions after diagnosing millions of kids with ADD/ADHD and drugging them all. I think we need to make more people aware that the guns may play a part but we n
eed to reevaluate how we are medicating our kids as a society. If we dont get this fixed, they will just use knives or homemade bombs to carry out their insane behavior. I feel like many of these kids that are doing these shootings are victims too and their behavior is a cry for help or at least it should send us a warning that something has broken down in their lives and patching it with medication only throws gas on the fire. Lets fix the problem - not take away even more of our rights.
0 # Billy Bob 2012-12-16 06:40
Those same drugs are available in Europe and are prescribed just as much.
+2 # Sully747 2012-12-15 22:46
Let’s get the military guns and the drone guns under control… They are killing innocent humans by the thousands…
+4 # hoodwinkednomore 2012-12-15 22:47
Mental illness or not guns are made to kill. What does any one expect? President Obama needs to take charge of this AND, in addition, stop the continued invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, elsewhere b/c innocent children are being blown to bits in those countries every single day!!
+4 # Rick Levy 2012-12-15 22:51
The NRA is a terrorist organization that physically intimidates its opponents an critics. Where are the Patriot Act and Homeland Security when you need them?
+2 # fdawei 2012-12-16 00:07
President Obama, the Nobel PEACE Prize winner and consitutional lawyer, shed a tear for those lovely children who were massacred.
We should all shed tears if the president doesn't do the right thing and take decisive action to end gun violence by confronting the NRA, its millionaire and billionaire supporters, the armament and ammunition manufacturers immediately and forcefully.
He should muster enough support among his elected cohorts and convince those across the aisle to come to the aid of all good people in his country !!!!
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 07:49
Oh, correct, let's make ourselves even MORE vulnerable to the Conservative crazies and have a totalitarian dictatorship while we are at it. Wake up and stop being such a dupe!
+2 # lamancha 2012-12-16 00:20
To attempt to fix a problem- any problem - you try and get to the core. And just where is this core? None other than the NRA. They are the ones who have escalated the unfettered sale of guns throughout this nation. Believe it or not, they still advocate "cop-killer bullets" as being necessary to prevent any limitation to the bearing of arms. This is sick and depraved logic. They cite the 2nd Amendment as a basis for unlimited use of guns in our society, an amendment that clearly states at its very core, "a well regulated militia." How can ordinary citizens comprise a militia that is the domain of our vast armed forces? The whole thing is preposterous-I blame the NRA for the carnage that envelops this country.
-1 # James Marcus 2012-12-16 00:56
I don't have mixed feelings. The Guns Obama must control, ...are his own. The Right to Bear Arms, provided for in the Second Amendment, remains all the more necessary and reasonable.
Bring the guns home. Stop the Drones, raids, and assassinations everywhere
0 # Virginia 2012-12-16 01:22
Is this just about guns or are there other factors like video games and violence on TV? You can limit the guns and there is a necessity but that does not control the mindset learned and programmed by technology.

And don't you find it odd that 22 children were just knifed in China? Is there some kind of subliminal programming or is the world just getting all the more violent?
0 # Billy Bob 2012-12-16 06:38
The 22 who were knifed were only injured. Not killed.

They have video games all over the world - the same ones we have. They're even more popular in Japan than they are here.
0 # smile90803 2012-12-16 08:45
it's about all of the above. OBVIOUSLY. but let's not obscure the fact that we need to start somewhere. does regulating law abiding citizens a bit more not sound like a good start? what is the problem if it can prevent some crazies from acquiring guns and ammo without any paperwork. or very little paperwork.
-2 # davideovinchi 2012-12-16 02:31
It has nothing to do with guns. If it wasn't guns it would be something else. Who can argue that?
What do you expect would be the case?
Our potential mass murderering manchurian candidate moping at home because "I can't get a gun to annihilate a bunch of people?
0 # kyzipster 2012-12-16 06:32
Short of a bomb, what sort of 'something else' could equal the murdering capacity of the weapon used in the Colorado theater shooting? 50 to 60 rounds per minute with a 100 round magazine.

Gun control is not about banning guns, our Constitution wouldn't even allow it, it's about common sense regulations that could make a difference.
0 # Billy Bob 2012-12-16 06:37
The mass murderer in China with a knife injured 22 people. He didn't kill them. He INJURED them. How difficult would it be to even do that? I could stop a knife-wielder with my bare hands. A crowd certainly could.
+1 # joedeane 2012-12-16 04:43
Obama is a cororate creature. Appealing to him for gun control is laughable nonsense. Might as well look to Wayne Lapierre. The corporate state has to go.
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 07:46
You are wrong, Obama wants the gun control; easier to create a totalitarian dictatorship. Read history; Russia, France, China...
0 # RLF 2012-12-16 05:36
How bout health care that covers mental illness for everyone in the country. This would probably have a grater effect on these shootings than gun control.
0 # Billy Bob 2012-12-16 06:35
Yet every country has mental illness and only a few European countries do more about it than we do. Our murder rate is higher than most of the 3rd world.
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 07:44
+4 # kyzipster 2012-12-16 05:38
This issue only matters to a few thousand? What planet are you on? Millions of voters have bought into the myth that any mention of gun control is a direct threat to their right to own a gun.

I don't believe this should be used as an excuse for Democrats to continue to act spineless as they do on so many issues but it's a fact. In most districts, a Democrat cannot win an election unless they ignore the gun control debate, some even side with the NRA to stay in office.

Some of the most reasonable conservatives I've talked to believe that liberals would ban all weapons if given the chance so they refuse to support the most basic gun control laws that have been proposed. Closing the gun show loophole. Allowing federal investigators to actually use a computer to track gun sales. As it is, they have to sort through the paper records of licensed gun dealers. Two out of five guns change owners with no background check and not even a paper record. Most gun owners aren't even aware of how the NRA has forced so many limits on law enforcement to help keep us safe.

If we push for too much without first countering the massive propaganda that uninformed voters have bought into, gun control will continue to be used successfully by the GOP to gain votes. They're a mess right now but after 8 years with Obama in the White House, they will be back in full force in 2016.
0 # smile90803 2012-12-16 08:12
conjecture at it's highest degree. the ONLY thing that will allow the republicans to gain any kind of control anywhere is gerrymandering and voter obstruction. the country is NOT center right. it's progressive.
0 # joedeane 2012-12-16 05:43
Appealing to Obama is futile, ridiculous and laughable.The man has a spine only where corporations brace him to keep erect. The gun lobby is part of corporate USA. Obama is their well paid servant. You would have better luck asking him to legalize machine guns without a permit. Wake up people, Obama is not on our side.
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 07:43
Neither is "gun control". People have owned guns for generations but just now we suddenly have a gun problem?? WHO OWNS THE MEDIA, PEOPLE???? WAKE UP!!!!
+1 # Billy Bob 2012-12-16 06:05
So, I'll be the first to go against the grain on this thread. Let's perform a thought experiment. It's just a thought experiment, nothing else.


Would the views of anti-gun control people change?

If not, I'd ask what would you do about it. I'd also ask what it would take for you to take gun control seriously.

If it would change your views, I'd ask how we suddenly passed a threshold at that point. Isn't it enough that some sort of mass murder is already happening every few weeks in this country?

I find it kind of remarkable that the overwhelming majority of Americans favor stricter gun control, yet on this supposedly "liberal/progre ssive" site (gun control is a liberal/progres sive issue) the threads are dominated by "liberal/progres sives" who hate the idea.
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 07:41
You don't know your history. This isn't "gun control" it's a political take over. You are ignoring what is going on here, politically.
-1 # WestWinds 2012-12-16 07:39
I don't agree with this push to remove all guns. This is what they do to countries just before a totalitarian dictatorship emerges. Why all of a sudden, when this country is at its most vulnerable politically, does the media suddenly start pumping these kinds of stories? We have had gun ownership for generations but NOW all of a sudden we have a gun plague??? We are being played and people are walking right into it. I think this country is looking for a magic fix that doesn't exist; better to be looking for the reason(s) for these sporadic attacks; but that would take work, money and brains; people are just too lazy to make that effort. This country is being abundantly stupid, once again, and will live to regret this decision any many more will die trying to undo it.
0 # smile90803 2012-12-16 08:23
how do you come up with the assesment you do? suddenly a gun plague? who is making this claim? people understand that we have way to many guns out there already. they aren't going away immediately. but why continue the sale of assault rifles? why not regulate purchases of mass ammunition? as ii stated before: if you are a law abiding person why would you a: need that much ammo? b: if you did why would you mind the flag going up and you qualifying your purchase? nobody want's uncle ernie's old target rifle. nobody's after your gene autry american cowboy pistol. wwe understand there is no "magic fix" you seem to be parroting some lame talking points from fox news or something. most people favor sensible regulation. the nra is making it sound like we want magic fix's. not the people. and your statement that it would work money and brains to do this is just a form of intended apathy. not good.
0 # smile90803 2012-12-16 08:38
people we are talking about the fact that a bunch of innocent kids were shot. is it not a reasonable assesment that the ease of availability of ammunition and guns could be a contributing factor to this? save your rhetorical bs for another time.the rest of the civilized world has much stricter control of guns and much less gun violence. that is a fact. like healthcare the lobbies have distorted the conversation to the point of absurdity.
0 # 2012-12-16 08:01



Where are all the millions of people who cheered for Pres. O. after the election, and why are they not demanding action from the chief?
0 # smile90803 2012-12-16 08:41
we ARE demanding action from the president! of course we are. start with firing holder? c'mon! think! is that REALLY where we should start on this issue? it seems your agenda might be a little different from the topic.
0 # tmagstadt 2012-12-16 08:44
A national referendum is one way to circumvent a dysfunctional government with a popular vote. One problem is that it would take a constitutional amendment to do it. Many other countries have tried it, including the UK where the decision to join the EU was put to a popular vote in the mid-1970s. The other problem is that you never know what mischief some rich nutcase with an axe to grind will get up to. Look at Coalition for National Referendum website, for example, and I think you'll see what I mean. Still, a referendum is less disruptive and likely to produce less collateral damage for a society than a revolution. The way things are going it'll take one or the other to fix anything, even something as obviously in need of fixing as our murderously stupid gun laws in this country.