The politicial miscalculation of Newtown (5×8 – 3/20/13)

The failed gun-control efforts, Saint Paul’s shadow falls on Washington, the good life of the news consumer, all about the Constitution, and appreciating the value of an education.


The irony of the Newtown school shootings is they ended up selling more guns and giving the NRA more political muscle — and members — than, perhaps, it’s ever had. How many people saw that coming? That much has to be obvious over the last 24 hours when both federal and state gun-control efforts collapsed. Politicians are in “pass-something. anything” mode now. The gun control issue has turned out to be a political miscalculation.

Last night, DFLers abandoned their efforts for universal background checks, and left a bill in place to provide background checks for sales at gun shows. There’s no real indication that effort will succeed in the face of opposition .

“They have never proven in any of their testimony that there is any amount of crime guns that come from gun shows. All their statistics have been turned upside down,” Rep. Tony Cornish said.

It would’ve been an interesting process to watch play out in public, but you couldn’t. Lawmakers did it behind closed doors, sparing them from an on-the-record vote on a contentious component, and allowing what’s left to live to die another day.

In Washington, meanwhile, Senate leaders ditched the so-called “assault weapons” ban.

“I think the worst of all worlds would be to bring something to the floor and it dies there,” Senate leader Harry Reid said. He’s no longer considering a gun control bill passage as a victory. He’s considering it a “win” if he’s just able to get a vote on one.

Politicians thought they had the political cover to pass significant gun legislation in the wake of the Connecticut killings. They were wrong.

Related: How to be the good guy with the gun at school. (NPR)


A U.S. Supreme Court case involving Saint Paul housing officials has been dismissed after both sides agreed to drop it. The issue was whether federal law allowed the city to pursue housing code violations against property owners, if the people upon whom the enforcement might displace are the African American tenants, who make up the majority of the low-income tenants.

Now, the case is at the heart of President Obama’s nominee to be secretary of labor.

Had the case been decided by the court, experts suggest, it would’ve struck down the interpretation of federal law that racial bias allegations can be based on statistics, not on proof of an intent to discriminate.

Before that could happen, labor nominee Tom Perez, who’s at the Justice Department, got the case dismissed.

Citing his intervention in the case, Republicans are positioning to hold up the nomination, considering Perez a radical, the Washington Post says.

In cutting the deal with the two sides, St. Paul agreed to drop the case . In exchange, the Justice Department promised to stay out of two lawsuits alleging the city made falsely obtained more than $100 million in federal housing funds.


The Pew research annual state of the media report was widely believed to have stuck a fork in mainstream media. There wasn’t a lot of joy in it, as there hasn’t been for several years.

Nonsense, suggests Slate’s Matthew Yglesias who says you’ve never had it so good.

It’s a blinkered outlook that confuses the interests of producers with those of consumers, confuses inputs with outputs, and neglects the single most important driver of human welfare–productivity. Just as a tiny number of farmers now produce an agricultural bounty that would have amazed our ancestors, today’s readers have access to far more high-quality coverage than they have time to read.

Just ask yourself: Is there more or less good material for you to read today than there was 13 years ago? The answer is, clearly, more. Indeed, one thing the Pew report correctly emphasizes is that (as we at Slate are well aware) it’s hard to make lots of money selling ads online. But it’s hard primarily for the same reason that the Internet is such a bonanza for readers: There’s lots of competition and lots of stuff to read. A traditional newspaper used to compete with a single cross-town rival. Time would compete with Newsweek. Time doesn’t compete with Newsweek anymore: Instead it competes with every single English-language website on the planet. It’s tough, but it merely underscores the extent of the enormous advances in productivity that are transforming the industry.

It’s a good read.

Related media: TV Sexism and the Steubenville Rape Case (Time)


How great must it be to be Peter Sagal, whom you probably best know as the host of Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell me! They give you a Harley, some cash, and an open road and tell you to go tell us more about the Constitution, that amazing little document that people tend to embrace — or at least the parts of it that behoove us to embrace — when convenient to do so.

It’s for a PBS series that debuts in May. They’ve just posted a video preview.

Watch Behind the Scenes with CONSTITUTION USA on PBS. See more from Constitution USA with Peter Sagal.


Some kids care about getting a good education more than other kids — like the kid that travels five hours a day to attend school.

That story was broadcast two weeks ago. The update: He’s being allowed to move closer to school. (h/t: Matt Black)

Related: Culturally responsive teaching in Minnesota. (MPR)

Bonus I: Why the vacation got cut short. From my aviation blog. Pilot reactions — if you’re into that sort of thing — here.

Bonus II: A person who claims to have stolen $800 from a Michigan store about 30 years ago has repaid the money in cash. With interest. (h/t: Matt Black)

Bonus III: The IQ pill. Because the world is a much happier place when you’re dumb.


Today marks the first day of spring. This winter was average by Minnesota standards. It was cold and snowy — a contrast from some of the winters in recent memory. Today’s Question: Did this feel like an average winter to you?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Women and guns.

Second hour: Local government aid in Minnesota.

Third hour: Fiction’s future in the age of technology.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Andrew McAfee of MIT, speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival about whether technology is creating — or destroying — jobs. Machines vs. humans: What does it mean for the middle class in America?

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie. The president takes a break from the deficit battles and heads to the Middle East. The GOP works to rebrand itself after C-PAC. Hillary Clinton and Rob Portman both back same sex marriage. And Stephen Colbert’s sister faces a primary vote in South Carolina.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – TBA

  • Robert Moffitt

    Bonus III: Sad, but largely true.

  • Elaine Love

    I think I know some folks who’ve gotten their hands on the MinusIQ pill.

  • chris

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that failure to pass some form of gun control legislation is a political miscalculation or that politicians were wrong about the chances of passing something. I think people always knew that in Washington, the House, controlled by republicans elected by a minority of voters, would ultimately prevent anything from getting done. In Minnesota there is the urban/rural divide. We saw the same divide in the marriage amendment vote, but this time rural dfl-ers would prefer to get relected instead of losing like the republican majority did when they overreached.

    The reasons for failure were always there, but trying was necessary.

  • BJ

    Bonus I

    My wife and I have been talking about this. Very sad for you but still think you did the right thing.

  • Greg W

    Bob, from what I saw in the forum replies you made the right call on the no-go.

    It’s sad you didn’t get to take that fantastic journey with your son. Is it possible to take a jaunt up to Canada with him for some French Fries and gravy or Tim Horton’s instead?

  • BJ

    // I think people always knew that in Washington, the House, controlled by republicans elected by a minority of voters, would ultimately prevent anything from getting done.

    How where republicans elected by a minority of voters? Everyone had to win to get their seat.

    Do you mean that in the elections that they won less people voted? Do you think that if you total up all the people that voted democrat in US house elections and republican in US house elections that democrats should have won more seats? Even if that is true, and I don’t think it is, that is not how it works.

  • chris

    BJ, because of the gerrymandering of house districts, mostly controlled by repbulican state legislatures elected in 2010, more democrats were packed into non-competitive blue districts. The result is that house democrats won a million and a half more votes than house repbulicans, but won fewer seats.

  • Bob Collins

    // take a jaunt up to Canada with him for some French Fries and gravy or Tim Horton’s instead?

    That’s funny b/c my brother gave me two nice seats for the second Indians game of the season in Toronto. But neither me nor the youngest have a passport.

  • Greg W

    // neither me nor the youngest have a passport.


    I guess I remember you had mentioned something about not leaving the country on one of the 4:20 news updates.

    Well, you could always watch the John Candy movie “Canadian Bacon” for tips on how to sneak into Canada.

  • Tom Anderson

    No passport?

    You shouldn’t have a problem getting to the Blue Jays game, you just won’t be able to return home. (Think Kingston Trio & the MTA.)

  • Jack

    No passport? Check out the expedited service in Minneapolis. Spouse was able to get a passport within days when needed for work travel.

    Once you get it, then you can fly to Alaska with stops along the way 🙂

  • Kyle

    Gun control legislation such as a so-called “assault weapons ban” would be wrong to pass even if a majority (mistakenly) wanted it, because it is a completely fictional term. It goes solely by the cosmetics of the gun, and has absolutly nothing to do with the function. People should remember that we live in a republic, not a democracy.