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The New York Times is frustrated with the state of the gun control debate.

The debate over what to do to reduce gun violence in America hit an absurd low point on Wednesday when a Senate witness tried to portray a proposed new ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines as some sort of sexist plot that would disproportionately hurt vulnerable women and their children. ...

But there is a more fundamental problem with the idea that guns actually protect the hearth and home. Guns rarely get used that way. In the 1990s, a team headed by Arthur Kellermann of Emory University looked at all injuries involving guns kept in the home in Memphis, Seattle and Galveston, Tex. They found that these weapons were fired far more often in accidents, criminal assaults, homicides or suicide attempts than in self-defense. For every instance in which a gun in the home was shot in self-defense, there were seven criminal assaults or homicides, four accidental shootings, and 11 attempted or successful suicides.

The arguments that guns in the home offer family protection are about on par with the arguments for creationism. And maybe that shouldn't be a surprise.

Come inside for more punditry...

The Miami Herald joins in.

Even after the stunning tragedy in Newtown, Conn., it’s nearly impossible for Congress to hold a constructive conversation over gun control, thanks to efforts by diehard opponents led by the National Rifle Association and its supporters. ...

A Congress that cannot respond to tragedies like Newtown and a long string of horrific shootings before that, stretching back to Columbine, is a Congress that is obviously helpless when it comes to confronting powerful special interests — even in the face of a national emergency.

Sam Wang hunts the monster threatening our democracy — the great gerrymander.
Having the first modern democracy comes with bugs. Normally we would expect more seats in Congress to go to the political party that receives more votes, but the last election confounded expectations. Democrats received 1.4 million more votes for the House of Representatives, yet Republicans won control of the House by a 234 to 201 margin. This is only the second such reversal since World War II. ...

Through artful drawing of district boundaries, it is possible to put large groups of voters on the losing side of every election. The Republican State Leadership Committee, a Washington-based political group dedicated to electing state officeholders, recently issued a progress report on Redmap, its multiyear plan to influence redistricting. The $30 million strategy consists of two steps for tilting the playing field: take over state legislatures before the decennial Census, then redraw state and Congressional districts to lock in partisan advantages. The plan was highly successful.

Never underestimate the power of sound strategy tied to zero morality.

Lincoln Caplan examines another threat to democracy that may hang on the thoughts of one man.

In Shelby County v. Holder, which the Supreme Court will hear this month, [Justice Anthony Kennedy] is likely to cast the deciding vote between the conservatives and moderate liberals in a critical choice about the essence of democracy — the right to vote. The case presents a clash between America’s national commitment to racial equality and Alabama’s contention that states have “the constitutional prerogative to regulate their own elections.” ...

In the Shelby County case, as a federal trial court and a federal appeals court found, there is no room for equivocation. If Justice Kennedy votes to strike down Section 5, he will be calling a halt to an unfinished effort to end what the Supreme Court once called “an insidious and pervasive evil.”

Congress gathered an enormous amount of evidence in 2006 about the persistence of voting discrimination in covered jurisdictions. It found that discrimination was still heavily concentrated in those places and so widespread that case-by-case litigation — what Justice Kennedy has called “very expensive,” “very long” and “very inefficient” — is inadequate.

Elizabeth Cohen says the founding fathers would not have joined in the support for building border fences. The original immigration plan? Come on in! But there was another issue
During the 18th century, there were no illegal immigrants in the United States, but there was a large group of people who posed a far more noxious threat than those who overstayed a visa or crossed a border without an inspection. They were British Loyalists — men who had taken up arms against the American revolutionaries and risked their lives to undermine the very foundation of our union. ...
Eventually, it was decided that even those who originally fought against the creation of our nation, deserved to be citizens.
... court decisions created a sort of temporal formula: time + residence + good moral character = citizenship. We have always imposed a probationary residential waiting period on anyone wishing to become a citizen. For much of our history, that period held stable at five years.
This is your "go read this" pick of the week.

Charles Krauthammer shows what passes for thoughtful immigration policy in the modern GOP. Hint: not much.

Dana Milbank celebrates the joy of knowing Jim Inhofe.

If this is how Jim Inhofe treats his friends, one shudders to think what he does to his enemies.

“I have known Senator Kerry for many years and consider him a friend,” the Republican senator from Oklahoma said this week on the occasion of the Senate’s vote to confirm Inhofe’s dear friend John Kerry as secretary of state. “I again state that I consider him a friend,” Inhofe added.

Inhofe rewarded this friendship by being one of only three senators to vote against Kerry’s confirmation on Tuesday.

Astrophile looks at worlds where the ski report isn't quite so inviting.
...there's no powdery white blanket when it snows on exoplanet HD 209458b. Snow there is black, smoky and hot as hell – resembling a forest fire more than a winter wonderland. Put it this way: you won't be needing mittens.
Wait, isn't there some important competition this weekend? Why yes there is! It's the regional Science Olympiad in which the battling nerds of Sperreng Middle School took second place out of 15 teams in a major upset. On to state! (And congrats to both the kids and my wife, who coached them)

Originally posted to Devil's Tower on Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 05:14 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos and Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA).

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