Monday, April 22, 2013
I think it was the first time I'd been sent to the Senate since I'd come back from London and gone to work for CBS News. Anyway, whenever, it was a long time ago. The first thing I heard was the voice of then Republican leader Everett Dirksen thundering (he really did thunder; they could probably hear him across the river in Virginia), "Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come!"
He was quoting Goethe, he said, but the idea was the 1964 Civil Rights Act. When it passed, overcoming a Southern filibuster, it, along with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, gave black Americans rights the rest of us already had--you can vote, you can sit where you like on the bus and at the movies, drink from any water fountain, and so on.
That Senate was full of grownups. Even the leader of the Southern filibuster, Richard Russell of Georgia, though wrong on this key issue, was not, overall, a fool. Later, they named an office building for him. Oh yes--one for Dirksen too. After all, his side won.
I remember those days and how much fun Senate-watching could be--and then I remember last week when it wasn't any fun at all. Polls show Americans overwhelmingly support modest gun control measures—background checks on would-be buyers, for instance. The Senate voted no to everything.
The Senate badly needs some new grownups. I'm sure Dirksen's ghost would agree. Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come? Gun control is such an idea, Senate. Grow up, wake up and admit it.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Our obsession with killing each other has surfaced again.
The December murder of twenty children and six adults In Newtown is still raw. This time there were more grownups and fewer kids at the Boston Marathon. Only three dead at the race but it was worse than that. More than 150 were injured – some horribly. The city shut down, struck during one of its festivals.
Oh, and it wasn't done by a gun but by two bombs made by an amateur, I would guess; surely skilled professionals making two bombs could have killed many more. But that's not the point, of course.
The point is what we can do to lessen these glimpses of the violence some of us live with. I don't know much about bombs. I know that guns can be controlled in terms of how many and what kind, even who can buy one. Magazines too--the ones for bullets, not browsers. Let's raise our voices for gun control. Serious controls, strict controls with tough penalties for violations.
The Senate is talking about gun control this week. Please let them hear from you before they vote. I'd write mine but I don't have any--a penalty I pay for living in Washington, D.C.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
I never thought I'd write this, but it looks as if Congress--yes, that Congress--might approve some sort of gun control legislation this year. Wow. I did it. I wrote that.
I don't, of course, mean that the government is going to take away anybody's gun. But some restrictions--background checks before you buy, limits on how many rounds a magazine can hold--those kinds of things might actually pass. Proof? Well, the Senate voted to debate gun control this week. The vote was 68--31--a big enough margin to defeat a filibuster.
And it's not just guns. A bipartisan group has been working on immigation. They've reportedly made some progress. And education, and--well, there are even more.
It may all vanish like winter snow, of course, but wouldn't it be wonderful if Congress, after years of posturing, finally woke up, took itself seriously and started passing laws to deal with problems?
I know, I know, but wouldn't it?
Monday, April 8, 2013
I picked up the Washington Post this morning and learned something astonishing--handwriting--cursive, the experts call it--us on the way out, dying.
Kids, the Post says, are increasingly being taught their ABCs on computers. "Now," the Post says, "with most schools adopting new national standards that don't require such instruction, cursive could soon be eliminated at most public schools...For many students cursive is becoming as irrelevant as Egyptian hieroglyphics."
I'm not sure I'd have liked that as a kid. I was always famous for having the worst handwriting in my class. I made my living as a reporter, but could write my stories first on typewriters, then on computers, such as they were in those early days.
My kids have adapted. My daughter's Christmas gift, which she'd requested, was one of those small computers called a tablet.
But I'd miss pens and pencils if I had to go back. And I suppose books will be replaced by something you read on a Kindle.
No more pencils, no more books,
Only teacher's dirty looks.
I'm glad I'm too old.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
The Washington Post's excellent columnist Dana Millbank had an piece in yesterday's paper which describes why gun control legislation is a long shot to pass Congress this year.
The National Rifle Association was at the National Press Club, pushing its proposal, the "National School Shield," which would put armed guards in our public schools. Millbank says the NRA had about twenty guards on hand, "some in uniforms with gun holsters exposed " others with lumps under their civilian jackets. Millbank says they ordered reporters out of the lobby when the NRA biggies were passing through, and did other coplike things.
This is of course outrageous. DC cops might have such authority, not some amateur cop wannabees.
One NRA spoksman said, "You go into mall, there is security," and also "here at the National Press Club." That, of course, was security the NRA brought with it.
A reporter asked the spokesman, Asa Hutchinson, what he was afraid of. "There's nothing I'm afraid of," Hutchinson aswered. "There's nothing I'm nervous about;"
I am. I'm nervious about guys like him.