Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Wednesday, April 30, 2014

It ends; it never ends.

It’s Tuesday, a day ending in “y,” so there must be another isolated incident of Republican racism to report. In this case, it’s a newsletter from the Winnebago County Republican Central Committee in President Obama’s home state of Illinois, which concludes by comparing the President with “the offspring of a donkey and a zebra, black and white legs, rest all donkey.” Why do these isolated incidents of racism tragically keep happening to Republicans?
The newsletter, by WCRCC Chairman Jim Thompson, lauds the recent Supreme Court decision gutting affirmative action, then concludes with this “amusing” observation:
Media update for the week: saw on the news this week the offspring of a donkey and a zebra, black and white legs, rest all donkey. Not sure why this is news: now if we can teach him to read a teleprompter, we could have two living creatures the media will fawn over that is part white part black and all a**!
Every time some Republican says something racist, the conservative response is to either deny that it is racist, admit it’s racist but maybe the guy has a point, or to call it an isolated incident while reminding the world that Harry Reid said “negro.” Or they somehow do all of those at once. In Mr. Thompson’s case, there’s also the fact that he’s just a local official, and not, say, a Republican presidential frontrunner, or a Republican vice-presidential nominee (take your pick). Whatever the rationale, it is crucially important that it not involve Republicans doing anything.

Go to The Swash Zone and read (O)CT(O)PUS, who did a much better job on reporting this latest racist derp. 

I have outrage fatigue, and I'm also tired of explaining what free speech means to abysmally clueless wingnuts.

And really, "It's Just All A Big Coincidence."

Guns and Culture, Madness and Mass Murder by (O)CT(O)PUS of The Swash Zone


(Please note: This post is a revised and updated version of an earlier article.)

Columbine, VTech, Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, hate crimes against Sikhs and Jews.  Since 2006, there have been 232 rampage killings, an average of one incident and five fatalities every two weeks. All too commonplace, mass murder can strike any community at anytime without warning and claim any victim at random (source).

Every massacre elicits sensationalized news accounts as reporters, pundits, and competing stakeholders assault our senses with hype, false hypotheses, and self-serving narratives. Every massacre prompts a search for clues to explain the unexplainable and incomprehensible. Perpetrators rarely live to disclose their delusions or their motives in detail; more often they take their secrets to the grave.

Years ago, I was researching delusional thoughts for a paper on mental illness. Where do delusional thoughts come from? Are there patterns or archetypes? Should rampage killings be considered impulsive acts, copycat crimes, or manifestations of hitherto more complex phenomena as yet unidentified?

We find examples of delusional thinking across a range of mental illnesses - dissociation, bipolar disorder, pervasive developmental disability disorders, the personality disorders, and schizophrenia, as examples. Delusions are expressions of inner conflicts, drives, and memories that can take many forms: Actual persons or historical events, personifications of painful emotions or traumatic memories, revenge personae, violence in mass media, or voices in the head – all born of our culture and made manifest in shocking crimes.

My research reveals this: Delusional thoughts are as much a reflection of culture as a descent into madness.  For lack of a better expression, I call these “cultural artifacts” because they rise to the surface - not merely as dark impulses from the subconscious mind - but from the Spirtius Mundi of culture surrounding us.  Simply stated, culture shapes the way disturbed persons perceive and respond to their delusions.

If you accept this finding - this influence of culture on delusional thinking - then perhaps you might approach these murderous rampages from another perspective.

How does social stress correlate with violent crime? How do we quantify and measure privation, depersonalization, and desperation - the kinds of torments that find a path of least resistance in disturbed persons?  Recently, one of our readers commented:
Poverty does not cause crime; it breeds despair. Mental illness does not cause crime; it removes inhibitions and the ability to control dark impulses. Guns do not cause crime; they enable people who despair to attain, if only for a moment, a feeling of control, of superiority over others. That the feelings of control and superiority often result in the taking of other's property, dignity, safety and, far too often, their lives is not the result that they dreamed of. It is the stuff of nightmares.
The incidence of mental illness is constant across all population groups – as constant as background radiation in the Universe. The rate of violent crime in the mentally ill population is no different than the rate of violent crime in the general population. Yet, America has a far higher prevalence rate of violent crime, death by accidental shooting, and suicide by self-inflicted gunshot than any nation in the world (source). Why? The ubiquity of guns in America is a cultural artifact.

Doubtless, easy access to arms correlates with higher incidence rates of violent crime.  Our nation has 50% of all guns in circulation worldwide and 30 times the murder rate compared with other industrialized nations. Undeniably, gun culture is the vestigial relic of a frontier mentality deeply imbedded in the American mythos – yet another cultural artifact.

Are rampage killings the only form violence perpetrated on the American public?  Hardly! Which is worse:

·      A crazed gunman who kills 20 children at a clip?  Or merchants who sell junk food to children and consign them to lives of obesity and diabetes;

·      Or the subliminal influence of violence in games marketed to children and represented as entertainment;

·      Or manufacturers of automatic weapons that appeal, not to legitimate sports enthusiasts, but to adult children reared on action toys who project their self-image of manhood through the barrel of a gun;

·      Or reckless speculators who crash investment markets - leaving millions of people in financial ruin;

·      Or a corporate CEO who orders massive layoffs - casting entire families into panic and debt – who then rewards himself with a multi-million dollar bonus.

Crimes of violence against people committed in the name of easy money, fast money, and free enterprise: These too have become cultural artifacts.

How often have we heard people in the news dismiss an alleged transgression with this claim: “No laws were broken.” How often have we thought to ourselves: The word ‘legal’ is not necessarily synonymous with the word 'ethical.'  Legal acts - all too often considered immoral and reprehensible - have become cultural artifacts.

During my parenthood years, I tried to teach my children the relationship between responsibility and freedom. Parents reward good behavior with confidence and trust - and punish misconduct with more supervision and less independence. A reasonable proposition for raising children, I thought. Yet, ours has become a society that fails to practice this relationship. Every public controversy, and every perceived loss of freedom (whether imagined or real), represents a failure of responsibility.

What preoccupies our thoughts after the nightly news? We hear about chicanery and corruption, inequality and injustice, abuse of our public institutions, the lies and deceptions of persons who aspire to positions of power and authority over us; of legislative deadlock and gridlock, and a public abused by political hacks and henchmen. How often has the public interest been held hostage by special interest groups and their lobbyists who hold our elected officials in thrall?  The legalization of what we used to call ‘bribery’ and ‘graft’ have now become cultural artifacts.

Reductio ad absurdum. After a weeklong silence following the Sandy Hook massacre, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA responded with this prescription: Fight fire with more firepower; place armed guards in every school; arm the good guys to neutralize the bad guys.  More guns!  Turn America into an armed fortress with self-appointed militias and vigilantes in every city and town.

LaPierre offers not an imaginary dystopia but a real one – like a bad Mad Max movie – creeping into our lives. Is the ubiquity of guns an acceptable vision for our children and future generations? If you understand the pervasive impact of ‘cultural artifacts’ on people, then LaPierre’s prescription for fighting fire with more firepower is akin to pouring more gasoline on a raging inferno.

We may talk about the dangers of easy access to automatic weapons; about loopholes in our system of background checks and bullet holes in our mental health establishment; about competing ideas of gun ownership versus public safety. Perhaps these controversies, grave as they are, overlook more fundamental questions.

In exploring these relationships between madness and culture, and gun violence versus the prerequisite need of society to secure public safety, I am reminded of the moral dilemmas posed by Stanley Kubrick in his dark and disturbing film, A Clockwork Orange.

It is the story of Alex, a punk, serial rapist, and murderer sentenced to prison.  Given a choice between serving time versus gaining his freedom by taking the 'cure,' Alex opts for the operant conditioning cure that turns him into a ‘clockwork’ man – neutered of all violent impulses, a dehumanized shadow of his former self. Powerless against former victims and fellow punks who savagely beat and torment him, Alex notes with sarcasm: “I was cured alright!” In this ironic turn of the story, we are left asking ourselves: “But can society be cured of its violent undercurrents?

We practice brinksmanship but not citizenship. We equate freedom with excess and excess with freedom. We facilitate overindulgence without moderation or self-restraint.   We covet freedom but spurn responsibility. With each passing year, we drive all standards of civility, community and accountability further into the wilderness. National conversations turn fractious and fragmented.  The high ideals of secular democracy no longer bind us together. Perhaps the madness in our midst reflects the accelerated grimace of a culture gone mad.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.  How will more guns or less guns keep us safe when we have fostered a culture of ruthless greed, rampant corruption, and remorseless sociopathy? Perhaps these incidents of gun violence are signs and symptoms of a society in crisis.

The time has come to talk about our broken statues and battered books – these cultural artifacts that crash in the mind. Perhaps we should start a national conversation at the very beginning by reaffirming those values of a democratic republic whose mission and purpose is to secure “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The price of civilization is never cheap. We demand the rights and privileges of full membership, but refuse to pay our dues.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Donald Sterling's Bigotry

Imagine if Donald Sterling's famous candid talk to his girlfriend sounded like this:

"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with Christians," Sterling is heard saying. "Do you have to?" 

 I think the fact that you admire a Christian -- I've known them well, and they should be admired," Sterling replies. "And I'm just saying that it's too bad you can't admire Christians privately. And during your ENTIRE F**KING LIFE, your whole life, admire them -- bring them here, feed them, f**k them, I don't care. You can do anything. 

But don't put Christians on an Instagram for the world to see so they have to call me. And don't bring them to my games. OK?"

How would our friends on the right react to that if say, Donald Sterling was a left-winger saying the above?

Or this:

"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with Jews," Sterling is heard saying. "Do you have to?" 

I think the fact that you admire Jews-- I've known them well, and they should be admired," Sterling replies. "And I'm just saying that it's too bad you can't admire Jews privately. And during your ENTIRE F**KING LIFE, your whole life, admire them -- bring them here, feed them, f**k them, I don't care. You can do anything. 

But don't put Jews on an Instagram for the world to see so they have to call me. And don't bring them to my games. OK?"

Or this:

"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with Italians," Sterling is heard saying. "Do you have to?" 

I think the fact that you admire Italians -- I've known them well, and they should be admired," Sterling replies. "And I'm just saying that it's too bad you can't admire Italians privately. And during your ENTIRE F**KING LIFE, your whole life, admire them -- bring them here, feed them, f**k them, I don't care. You can do anything. 

But don't put Italians on an Instagram for the world to see so they have to call me. And don't bring them to my games. OK?"

I'm wondering why the rightwingers who are howling about how unfair it is that a man who said those things in private and that now those things are now publicly known should suffer the consequences, would those same people feel this is an injustice if Sterling said the same thing about Christians, Jews, or Italians?

So why are people so angry that Sterling was disciplined by the NBA for saying these things, that became public, about African-Americans?


Does Silver Think Sterling Tarnished the NBA?

So now we'll have to listen to another bigot's explanation on how horribly he was misquoted or misunderstood when he opened his maw and shared his deeply genuine feelings about "the Negro," "black people in photos," and remember this one:  "... hiring black waiters dressed to look like slaves at a wedding."

Do we see a trend here?  Oh, and let's not ignore the loud-mouthed agitators who rushed to the intertubes to breathlessly announce that Clippers' owner, Donald Sterling, contributed to Democratic politicians, so therefore, BENGHAZI!  Turns out Sterling's been a registered Republican since 1998. But who cares about facts when you can have your little "AHA!  SEE?!" moment.

Scratch the surface of our sunny idea of ourselves living in a country of amber waves of grain and purple mountain's majesty crowned with "good and brotherhood," and we are forced to acknowledge the dirty little secret that lies within too many of our countrymen's hypocritical and bigoted hearts.

"[NBA commissioner, Adam Silver] promised a quick investigation into Sterling's role in the audio and will address the situation Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET in New York. 

 Expect Silver to penalize Sterling as harshly as possible. Silver said the commissioner's office has a broad range of powers under the NBA's constitution and bylaws, which are not public. 

 'The commissioner is given broad powers to protect the best interests of the NBA, and those powers extend to both the players and the owners,' Tulane law professor and sports law expert Gabe Feldman said. 'The devil is in the details, and the details are in the confidential NBA constitution and bylaws. My understanding is that the owners have given the commissioner power to discipline.' 

 Silver will probably use the ubiquitous "conduct detrimental the league" clause, and a suspension and fine is a potential, if not likely, outcome. 

 'Any more severe discipline, including a forced sale or termination of the franchise, is limited to more extreme circumstances that don't apply here,' Feldman said."



Monday, April 28, 2014

The Gun Supremacists

N.R.A.'s Wayne LaPierre:

"Freedom has never needed our defense more than now. Almost everywhere you look, something has gone wrong."

Yeah.  I think you're right there.  Something has gone wrong when Americans don't feel safe in malls, movie theaters, schools, community centers, churches, military bases, and their own homes.

 LaPierre:  "You feel it in your heart, you know it in your gut. Something has gone wrong. "

Yeah.  Horribly wrong.

LaPierre:  "The core values we believe in, the things we care about most, are changing. Eroding. Our right to speak."

Hey Wayne!  You're speaking and no one is stopping you or holding a, erm, GUN to your head for doing so.

LaPierre:  "Our right to gather."

Said LaPierre to a gathering of fellow paranoids.

 LaPierre:  "The freedom to work, and practice our religion, and raise and protect our families the way we see fit."

As they say on the intertubes, "WTF?"  Who's stopping you from doing your dirty work of promoting fear and paranoia?  Has any government agent stopped you from worshipping your god?  Which government agency has stepped into your home and told you how to raise your family?  And has Obama come into your home to take away your guns?  Tell us, Wayne.  Give us the evidence.

 LaPierre:  "Those aren't old values. They aren't new values. They are core freedoms, the core values that have always defined us as a nation. And we feel them -- we feel them -- slipping away."

The only thing you may feel "slipping away" is your mental acuity.   You, Wayne LaPierre, are full of bullpucky.  Your values haven't been taken from you or your paranoid friends.  That fear mongering you feed to your audience is all about getting gullible people to buy more guns.

An armed America is a safe America.  Right, Wayne?

Georgia parents shut down a children’s baseball game on Tuesday when an armed man began pacing the park saying, “Look, I got a gun and there's nothing you can do about it." 

Even though 22 people called 911, authorities could not arrest the man or ask him to leave the park because he had a permit. One 6-year-old asked his mother, "Mommy, did that man want to kill me?" 

E.J. Dionne, The Washington Post

 The creativity of the National Rifle Association and other organizations devoted to establishing conditions in which every man, woman and child in our nation will have to be armed is awe-inspiring. Where imagination is concerned, the best absurdist artists and writers have nothing on the NRA. 

Georgia thinks you should be able to take guns into government buildings that don’t have screening devices or security guards. Second Amendment enthusiasts tend not to like tax increases, but as the Associated Press reported, the city of Vienna, Ga., (pop. 3,841) would have to shell out about $60,000 a year to increase security at city buildings. “Do we raise taxes to provide the police protection or do we take the risk of potential injury to our public?” asked Mayor Pro Tem Beth English, who also is president of the Georgia Municipal Association. 

Too bad if this gun lobby subsidy comes out of the school budget. Oh yes, and while conservatives claim to hate the centralization of power, this law wipes out a series of local gun regulations. The gun supremacists just don’t trust those pesky local elected officials.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Internet Goodies

Blogger Infidel753 does a terrific job of rounding up what's hot and what's weird in a mixture of politics, science, religion, and everything else on the internet every Sunday.  It's always a treat, and I look forward each week to see what new stuff Infidel753 is serving up.

This site, among others, that Infidel753 linked to is great. Go there and enjoy everything the blog host offers, but only after seeing all the other goodies Infidel753 dug up for your enjoyment and astonishment. 

Oh, and here's one I found via Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish.  Enjoy:


Saturday, April 26, 2014

"Romantic revisionism of this most ghastly enterprise cannot stand."

Charles Blow of the New York Times:

Sojourner Truth, in her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech, delivered in 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, lamented: “I have borne 13 children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me!” 

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History estimates that nearly two-thirds of slaves lived in nuclear households. However, those families could be broken up on a whim, and many slaves were bred like animals, were raped at will and could marry only if allowed. 

How could they have been “happier” to meet the lash, to feel the flaying of flesh, to have it heal in dreadful scars only to be ripped open again until one had, as Sethe, the main character in Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” put it, a tree on one’s back? 

It was not only the lash but also the noose and being chased down and ripped apart by dogs, and all manner of terrors. When the human imagination sets itself on cruelty there are no limits to its designs. 

Americans have been trying to justify slavery since its inception, to make the most wrong of wrongs right, to no avail. Robert E. Lee wrote in 1856: “The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, physically and socially. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their further instruction as a race, and will prepare them, I hope, for better things.” 

Others used religion as a justification, quoting verses and patting themselves on the back for saving the souls of the so-called savage. But as Frederick Douglass pointed out, “The slave auctioneer’s bell and the churchgoing bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heartbroken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master.” Religion didn’t elevate enslavers; trying to justify slavery reduced religion. 

“Happier”? How, Mr. Bundy, could you even utter such absurdity? The very soil of this country cries out for us to never forget what happened here, for the irreducible record of the horrors of slavery to never be reduced. 

Romantic revisionism of this most ghastly enterprise cannot stand. It must be met, vigilantly and unequivocally, with the strongest rebuttal. Slaves dishonored in life must not have their memories disfigured by revisionist history. 

America committed this great sin, its original sin, and there will be no absolution by alteration. America must live with the memory of what its forefathers — even its founding fathers — did. It must sit with this history, the unvarnished truth of it, until it has reconciled with it.

Krauthammer Blasts Conservatives for Their Support of Bundy

I think it's "truly appalling" that I agree with Krauthammer, but there it is:

Krauthammer Blasts Conservatives For Their Support Of Cliven Bundy

Krauthammer: It's "Truly Appalling" That Anti-Government Stances Can Make You "A Conservative Hero"

"This is a despicable statement. It's not the statement, you have to disassociate yourself entirely from the man. It's not like the words exist here and the man exists here. And why conservatives, or some conservatives end up in bed with people who, you know, he makes an anti-government statement, he takes an anti-government stand, he wears a nice big hat and he rides a horse, and all of a sudden he is a champion of democracy. This is a man who said that he doesn't recognize the authority of the United States of America. That makes him a patriot? I love this country, I love the Constitution, and it is the Constitution that established a government that all of us have to recognize. And for him to reject it was the beginning of all of this. And now what he said today is just the end of this. ...

And look, do I have the right to go in to graze sheep in Central Park? I think not. You have to have some respect for the federal government, some respect for our system. And to say you don't and you don't recognize it and that makes you a conservative hero, to me, is completely contradictory, and rather appalling. And he has now proved it."

NOTE:   Very few conservative blogs wrote anything about Bundy's rancid racism.  Now THAT's truly appalling, especially since so many of them were crowing about how Bundy was their very own anti-gummint hero.

History of US government and rebellions:

See:   Shay's Rebellion and Whiskey Rebellion

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cliven Bundy talks about "the Negro."

Here's the extreme right's hero talking about his opinion of "the Negro."   You go Cliven.  Let the world see what a fascinating mind you have:

Bundy: "I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro…

They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton,” Bundy was quoted as saying to a group of supporters last Saturday. “And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.” 

There's so much stupidity and ignorance in that Cliven Bundy statement that it is difficult to believe anyone could utter such imbecilic claptrap. But there it is. He's the extreme Right's hero, in all his miserable bigotry and idiocy.

Bundy’s statements about “the Negro,” published on Wednesday, were made during his daily speech to supporters outside Bunkerville, Nevada, where a crowd gathered to support him in defiance of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) during an attempted round up of his cattle. 

The confrontation was the result of Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees on federally-owned land for more than 20 years, in spite of multiple court rulings against him. 

Bundy has stated on several occasions that he does not recognize the existence of the federal government.

 Roger Ailes owns Cliven Bundy now: How dumb opportunism became a right-wing nightmare

A Zany Night in Georgia

Georgia Governor Signs 'Unprecedented' Gun Rights Bill

Bang!  Bang! Bang!  Bang!  Bang! Bang!   Pew! Pew! Pew! Rat-a-tat-tat-tat! Pew! Pew! Pew!  Rat-a-tat-tat-tat! Bang! Bang! Bang!  Bang! Pew! Pew! Pew!Pew! Pew! Bang!  Bang!  Wimper

 "House Bill 60, which passed in the final hours of this year’s legislative session, allows Georgians to legally carry firearms in a wide range of new places, including schools, bars, churches and government buildings [and certain areas of airports]. 

A recent analysis also said it could let felons use the state’s “stand your ground” rules to claim self-defense if they feel threatened. Critics have dubbed it the “guns everywhere” bill for its broad scope, and opponents including former Rep. Gabby Giffords have tried to block its passage. 

Supporters have flooded Deal’s office with pleas to sign the measure, which the National Rifle Association called “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform bill in state history.” There was never serious doubt that he would sign it, though. The powerful gun rights lobby has made it their top priority, and Deal doesn’t want to give his two GOP primary challengers any opening. 

Even Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter, his party’s nominee for governor, voted for the bill. Echoing Deal, Carter told MSNBC this week that he believed he helped “make the bill better than it was when it first started.” 

Deal, for his part, tried to downplay the warnings from critics that the law could endanger police officers and lead to more violence."

States With the Most Gun Violence By Samuel Weigley April 15, 2013


Firearm homicide deaths per 100,000: 4.57 (9th highest) 

Firearm  and aggravated assaults per 100,000: 58.64 (13th highest)

Violent crime rate per 100,000: 373.2 (21st highest) 

Need permit to purchase handgun: No 

Why'd they leave out maternity delivery rooms and nurseries for newborns?  Why not bring little Josh and Emily into the world and place a Glock 41 in their precious newborn hands?  Hell, why not guns for our dogs and cats? Our parakeets?  Free guns for every American man, woman, and child and goat!  An armed population is a safe population, and the 33,000 deaths a year (the highest in any developed nation on the planet) proves how safe firearms keep us!  

The Rime of the Ancient Grim Reaper

Day after day, day after day, 
We shoot, our flesh, our bones
As wild as the wild west 
In new wild west zones. 

Guns, guns, every where, 
And all the innocents died; 
Guns, guns, every where, 
The bloody N.R.A.'s pride.

(apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

Bang!  Bang! Bang!  Bang!  Bang! Bang!   Pew! Pew! Pew! Rat-a-tat-tat-tat!   Pew! Pew! Pew!     Rat-a-tat-tat-tat! Bang! Bang! Bang!  Bang! Pew! Pew! Pew! Bang! Bang! Wimper

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day 2014

Love Your Mother --  Earth Day 2014

Earth Day began in 1970, when 20 million people across the United States—that's one in ten—rallied for increased protection of the environment. "It was really an eye-opening experience for me," Gina McCarthy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator, who was a self-described self-centered teenager during the first Earth Day rallies, told National Geographic.   

"Not only were people trying to influence decisions on the Vietnam War," she recalled, "but they were beginning to really focus attention on issues like air pollution, the contamination they were seeing in the land, and the need for federal action."

Owen Ullman, USAToday: 

 "To grasp how much attitudes about the environmental movement have changed over the past 44 years, consider a resolution the Daughters of the American Revolution passed to rebut Earth Day in 1970: "The real problem of pollution of our environment is being distorted and exaggerated by emotional declarations and by intensive propaganda." 

 Tuesday, as we observe another Earth Day, there is broad public support for cleaner air and water, and as a nation we have taken dramatic steps to improve the environment. The coming challenge is what to do about climate change, which a nearly unanimous collection of scientists says is real and potentially calamitous if we don't act now to reduce greenhouse gases."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"And they lost."

Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo: 

"On Obamacare, the Republican party has bet big on failure for four years. Now the results are in. And they lost. Big time. Of course, substance policy success and political outcomes aren't the same thing. And just as importantly they do not always run on the same time scale. So it is entirely possible. I would say it is likely that the GOP will still derive benefits this November from the core of voters who are extremely upset about Obamacare, extremely motivated to vote and also happen to be the same people who routinely turn out in disproportionate numbers in mid-term elections. But on the core of the policy, which I think there is good reason to believe will align with political outcomes in the future, the results are in. 

And they lost."

Friday, April 18, 2014

"A republic...if you can keep it."

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Franklin was queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation. In the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention, a lady asked Dr. Franklin “Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy.” Franklin replied, “A republic . . . if you can keep it.”

According to a new Princeton study, 227 years later, we didn't keep our republic:

Asking "[w]ho really rules?" researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America's political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power. 

Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters. 

 "The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy," they write, "while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence." 

As one illustration, Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the government—whether Republican or Democratic—more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first. 

 The researches note that this is not a new development caused by, say, recent Supreme Court decisions allowing more money in politics, such as Citizens United or this month's ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC. 

As the data stretching back to the 1980s suggests, this has been a long term trend, and is therefore harder for most people to perceive, let alone reverse. "Ordinary citizens," they write, "might often be observed to 'win' (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail."

Thomas Jefferson:

“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"There are over 18,000 ranchers who lease western BLM lands. 

The permits and rates were set by presidential executive order (R. Reagan)- 

'The Federal grazing fee, which applies to Federal lands in 16 Western states on public lands managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, is adjusted annually and is calculated by using a formula originally set by Congress in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978. 

Under this formula, as modified and extended by a presidential Executive Order issued in 1986, the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM); also, any fee increase or decrease cannot exceed 25 percent of the previous year’s level. (An AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.) The grazing fee for 2014 is $1.35 per AUM, the same level as it was in 2013'  

For the most part, the arrangement has been mutually successful, most ranchers love the land as much as anyone, the rates are low, the land is shared with fishermen, hunters and campers and the 'rent' goes to its upkeep."    --BB-Idaho, P.E. commenter

Idaho Rancher, Bud Purdy, Emblematic Man of the West

While the extremists on the right hold Cliven Bundy up as their "hero," Joan McCarter tells us about her grandfather, Bud Purdy, an Idaho Rancher who is truly the embodiment of decency and patriotism.

Bud Purdy deserves our admiration, not Cliven Bundy.

By Joan McCarter:

"Being a Westerner and the daughter and granddaughter of cattle ranchers, I think it's about time that the non-crazy Western ranchers get some equal national media time. Because they're not all federal government-hating, "wise use," sagebrush rebelling, gun-toting crazies—even in a state like Idaho. One of Idaho's most influential cattle ranchers, and conservationists is proof of that. His name was Bud Purdy, and in his 96 years, he became sort of a legend in the state. Unfortunately, he passed away this week, but this remembrance from the Idaho Stateman's Rocky Barker tells the story.

Purdy, 96, led the ranching industry into rest and rotation grazing on public lands that both protected the range and improved cattle production.
 He duck-hunted and skied with Ernest Hemingway and hosted Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper at his Picabo Ranch.
He helped start the Idaho Cattle Association, led the University of Idaho Foundation as president and was chairman of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. In addition to the ranch, he and his late wife Ruth owned the Picabo Store, the Picabo Elevator and Silver Creek Supply, a seed business. […]
  Purdy donated a 3,500-acre conservation easement on all of the ranch along Silver Creek in the 1990s to the Nature Conservancy, adjacent to its own Silver Creek Preserve. Purdy didn’t even take the tax break on the easement valued at $7 million. […]
  He loved the cattle business, he explained to writer, producer and author Steve Stuebner in an article in 2012 for the Idaho Rangeland Commission (which he co-founded). "Every morning, you get up and do something different," he said. "You turn out on the range and ride a horse every day.
 Even now, I go out and make sure the water is OK, check the fences and make sure the gates are closed. "It's just a constant going out there and doing it," Purdy said. "I was never a cowboy, but I've ridden a million miles."

As one of my good friends here in Idaho wrote on Facebook, "He loved his land so much he owned it and when owning it wasn't enough to preserve it for future generations, he figured out a way to do that.

" Cliven Bundy doesn't represent the West. He doesn't represent cattle ranchers. He represents a minority of right-wing cranks who are good at making a lot of noise through threats of violence. He's also nothing more than a common crook. If you're looking for an emblematic man of the West, it's not Bundy. It's Bud Purdy."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Using Women As Human Shields

The Stupids are at it again:

So how were these brave 2nd Amendment yahoos going to protect Bundy from the federales?

Here's how:   They planned to bring the feds to their knees by using women to shield themselves.

"Oath Keeper Richard Mack told Fox News in an interview that if the Bundy Ranch standoff had continued, or if federal agents started shooting, they planned to put women in front of the men in order to generate sympathy and publicity. 

 TPM: “We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front,” Mack said in a Fox News clip pulled by The Blaze. “If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.” 

"...if things came to a shootin’ war with the Feds — to put all the women out front, so they could bravely get shot first, to prove what monsters the jackbooted federal thugs are. 

This sounds like the sort of perfectly sane thing a great strategic thinker might come up with, and turns out to be the brainchild of former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack, who has a thriving business speaking to assorted wingnut groups and telling them that the true Constitutional power in this country is vested in county sheriffs, not the Federal Government." 


Bad News For The GOP

A 1993 memo from conservative William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, explains why the GOP waged war on health care reform and all efforts by the Democrats to reform the system.  Here are Kristol's own words about the dangers of a Democratic Party success, and it has nothing to do with helping Americans obtain affordable health care.  It's about political power:

For twenty years, Republicans have feared not that health care reform would fail the American people, but that it would succeed. To put it another way, the GOP was never really concerned about a "government takeover of health care", "rationing", "the doctor-patient relationship" or mythical "death panels," but that an American public grateful for access to health care could provide Democrats with an enduring majority for years to come. 

 But what Utah Senator Orrin Hatch called a "holy war" to block health care reform didn't start when Barack Obama took the oath of office in January 2009, but instead when Bill Clinton was inaugurated in 1993. It was then that former Quayle chief of staff and Republican strategist William Kristol warned his GOP allies that a Clinton victory on health care could guarantee Democratic majorities for the foreseeable future. 

"The Clinton proposal is also a serious political threat to the Republican Party," Kristol wrote in his infamous December 3, 1993 memo titled "Defeating President Clinton's Health Care Proposal," adding: "Its passage in the short run will do nothing to hurt (and everything to help) Democratic electoral prospects in 1996. But the long-term political effects of a successful Clinton health care bill will be even worse--much worse. It will relegitimize middle-class dependence for 'security' on government spending and regulation. It will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests. And it will at the same time strike a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by restraining government." 

And that, for Kristol, meant it had to be stopped at all costs: 

 "The first step in that process must be the unqualified political defeat of the Clinton health care proposal. Its rejection by Congress and the public would be a monumental setback for the president; and an incontestable piece of evidence that Democratic welfare-state liberalism remains firmly in retreat."  --SOURCE

Happily, the only defeat was Kristol's:

Via Daily Kos:

Eugene Robinson:

It’s all over but the shouting: Obamacare is working. All the naysaying in the world can’t drown out mounting evidence that the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature domestic achievement, is a real success. Republican candidates running this fall on an anti-Obamacare platform will have to divert voters’ attention from the facts, which tell an increasingly positive story. [...] Why was the Affordable Care Act so desperately needed? Because without it, 54 million Americans would currently have no health insurance. Within three years, according to the CBO, Obamacare will have slashed the problem nearly in half.

 Jason Millman at The Washington Post:

The health-care law's expansion of insurance coverage will cost $104 billion less than projected over the next decade, according to revised estimates from nonpartisan budget analysts Monday. Obamacare's lower-than-expected costs will come largely because premiums will be cheaper than previously thought. [...] The CBO report points out that it previously thought Obamacare's exchange plans would look more like employer-based coverage, but that hasn't turned out to be the case so far — hence, the cheaper premiums. "The plans being offered through the exchanges this year appear to have, in general, lower payment rates for providers, narrower networks of providers, and tighter management of their subscribers’ use of health care than employment-based plans," CBO wrote.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gods, Guns and Hitler by Capt. Fogg of The Swash Zone

"I have certain misgivings about hate crime laws, but we're reminded this morning -- the eve of Pesach or The Passover, and a week before Hitler's birthday, that people who belong to hate-based organizations and creeds, who post virulent hate messages and calls for extermination on-line, need their constitutional right to keep and bear arms infringed.

I feel quite protective of our guaranteed right to free speech and our right to think what we think, but speech that incites to violence, that creates a mortal danger to the public, is something else and that's been established for a long time. Frazier Glenn Miller is a founding member of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party.  That's not a crime, more's the pity, nor is shouting "Heil Hitler" from the back of a police car, but perhaps we ought to consider making it a felony to belong to groups who advocate murder because as far as I know, it's illegal for felons to own firearms.

I know -- penalties and restrictions don't prevent criminals and especially psychopathic criminals from committing crimes, but there's something wrong with Mr. Miller or Mr. Cross as he often calls himself, to own weapons.  There's something wrong if  the targets of hate groups need to arm themselves or to hire armed guards or to go about in fear because we elevate and protect a right to be armed above the right to remain alive.  We shouldn't have to wait for people like that to run amok before we do anything. Threatening violence against groups or individuals should be sufficient to disarm someone.

Lest one think that being a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant is protection and a reason not to worry, Methodists were shot in this tragedy as well."  --Capt. Fogg