Tagged: Republicans

Mass shootings are the fastest growing sport of cowards in America

The cowards I refer to are not the shooters. The cowards are the politicians living in such fear of the NRA they are unwilling to respond to the majority cry for background checks, sensible regulation of access to guns in the United States.

Never forget!

Barack Obama put words to the desperation of millions of Americans – and the despair of the rest of the world – after another mass shooting at a school in Oregon on Thursday, the latest of nearly 1,000 since his reelection in 2012.

“Somehow,” the president said, “this has become routine.

“The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it,” Obama trailed off, at once frustrated and spirited at the White House. “We’ve become numb to this … We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg; after Tucson, after Newtown; after Aurora, after Charleston.”

The words mark a long list of tragedy. Since Obama’s reelection to a second term in November 2012 – which itself was followed by the shooting of 26 people including 20 children at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, just a few weeks later – there had been 993 mass shooting events in the United States . Thursday’s attack, at Umpqua community college in the town of Roseburg, was No 994. Almost 300 of them have occurred in 2015.

That’s almost one every day

The numbers go deeper than the statements, as the president said…

…The number of firearm homicides in 2013, the last year for which the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has statistics, was 11,208. The year before Sandy Hook, it was 107 fewer than that.

That’s just intentional homicides. Firearms are the cause of death for more than 33,000 people in America every year, according to the CDC; a number that includes both accidental discharge, murder and suicides, which are on the increase, especially in states with lax gun-control laws, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

That means guns kill more people in America every six hours than terrorist attacks did in the entire year of 2014.

On top of that, in 2010 more than 73,000 Americans were treated in hospitals for firearm-related injuries, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Eloquence means nothing. Republicans revel in the wash of bloodshed. Every murder, every child killed by accident, every drive-by shooting means the stupid vote stays solid for Republicans. They know Congress hasn’t the courage to act, to lead.

Eloquence means nothing to Blue Dog Democrats invested more in cowardice than courage. They fear the stupid vote will be rounded up against their potential corral of sensible voters. They fear that even more than losing their share of blood money doled out to every politician who says “how high?” whenever the NRA says, “JUMP”.

The new Atlantis

Click to enlargeRe-locate Kivalina

Thirty Alaskan native villages on the coast are about to disappear into frigid waters; 12 are considering moving altogether. As sea ice melts earlier and forms later, more open water is left in the Chukchi and Bering Seas and the Arctic Ocean (which surround Alaska). Storms are larger and wreak more damage as a result (because ice protects the shoreline). And thawing permafrost, on which many villages are built, worsens matters by causing homes to sink towards calamity and releasing methane into the atmosphere. “Climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it,” Barack Obama said at a conference on climate change in the Arctic on August 31st. Lee Stephan, president of the Tribal Council of Eklutna, a native village, agreed: “If all the ice on Mother Earth melts we will all live in water,” he said.

Greenhouse gases bear the blame; America alone produces 15% of global carbon-dioxide emissions. Nevertheless, Alaska’s first residents profit from much of the oil and gas drilling in their state, as do others. The oil and gas industry provides a third of Alaskans with jobs and, through taxes, once covered 90% of state expenses. Plunging prices mean Alaska now faces a $3.5 billion deficit.

When America’s biggest oilfield was discovered at Prudhoe Bay in 1968, the federal government had to settle land claims with native communities in order to pipe oil south. They received 44m acres of land, $1 billion and shares in 12 regional corporations and more than 200 village ones under a law signed in 1971. Thirteen regional corporations currently exist, tasked with turning a profit for their shareholders while also safeguarding native Alaskan societies and cultures…

The profits made by native corporations help pay for local health and social services. But corporations cannot afford to support communities affected by flooding, and cannot give their shareholders in places under threat handouts that they do not offer all others. “They aren’t charities,” explains Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives…

Relocation is expensive, and painful for people who depend on hunting reindeer and catching salmon to survive. As most of America’s largest state cannot be reached by road, getting materials to remote villages requires fine flying weather, too. Newtok’s 400-odd residents will cost about $380,000 each to move. Kivalina needs $123m to up sticks. It has been trying to do so since 1994—but no mechanism for deciding how and when a community should move exist…Where it should go is complicated, too…

When he visited Kotzebue on September 2nd, Mr Obama became the first sitting president to visit Alaska’s Arctic. His travels will encourage efforts to save threatened native villages. But money must be found for federal agencies in Alaska. The president’s budget for 2016 will not cover the re-siting of a single village threatened by storms and floods. As the state’s budget weakens, thanks to cheap oil, federal involvement will become increasingly vital. Offering federal land in trust to those determined to move could speed up the process.

There is no aid from politicians who think they can see Russia from their front porch in Wasilla. Neither will her peers in any organized faction of the Republican Party. Nor will Blue Dog Democrats beholden to fossil fuel profiteers.

The fight for a safe and healthy life for Americans should be the responsibility of all Americans. I think we all know how laughable that is. Between racism and ignorance, between obedience to 19th Century slogans and self-centric morality, we are not a nation given to collective political struggle in the decades since, say, the fight to end our nation’s war upon the people of VietNam.

Just as the dead-end choice of the draft and death on foreign soil forced a national response – the cataclysm of climate change will eventually force unity in struggle against the common enemy. That enemy is a class enemy, ruthless and powerful. They own our elected officials, appointed sheriffs in the broadest use of the word. But, that unity must come. The only question is will it be in time to save anyone in the broadest class of all.

Thanks, Ian Bremmer

Christian imitation Boy Scouts ban gays – they ban Mormons and Jews, too

Ban Gays, Ban Mormons, Ban Jews – leaders in Christian ideology, they say!

The DC summit, organized by the conservative Family Research Council Action, is headlined by no fewer than seven GOP presidential candidates. For many years, the Boy Scouts have had a place of honor at the event, presenting the American flag as the color guard. This year, though, the Scouts are nowhere to be found. In their place are boys from Trail Life USA, the outdoor adventure and character development group created last year as a Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts. Joining them were American Heritage Girls, the religious alternative to the Girl Scouts.

Trail Life was founded by a religious-right activist from Florida, associated with James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, who was active fighting the Boy Scout policy change. The group’s official policy on gays says:

We believe that homosexuality is sinful and immoral, as is any sexual activity outside of the sanctity of marriage between a Man and a Woman. Consistent with this belief, we have specific policies that address membership and sin in both youth and adult members.

Trail Life also excludes Mormons and Jews

The booting of the Boy Scouts from the event isn’t all that surprising. The Family Research Council, which sponsors the Values Voter Summit, has been an ardent opponent of the Boy Scouts’ acceptance of gays. Earlier this year, FRC head Tony Perkins lamented that the Boy Scouts were moving “away from their moral standard of being morally straight and clean and moving into open homosexuality.” He claimed that both the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts “are done” as organizations because of their acceptance of gays.

A regular speaker at the event, Mat Staver, with the legal group Liberty Counsel, said last month that the change in policy at the Boy Scouts meant that “you are going to have all kinds of sexual molestation. This is a playground for pedophiles to go and have all these boys as objects of their lust. This is insane, and we need to literally abandon the Scouts because the Scouts, unfortunately, have abandoned us.”

The proto-fascists who have assigned themselves the mantle of American Conservativism can rest assured they haven’t been abandoned by the political hacks who really count on their votes, their money, their support: Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Lindsay Graham, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump all showed up. They don’t have a problem with groups banning religions in the name of religious liberty.

US-born, having to sue Texas for denying birth certificates

Juana, a 33-year-old mother of three, works as a kale picker on the U.S.-Mexico border near McAllen, Texas, where she shares a one-bedroom trailer with her children. She was born in Mexico, and her uncle helped her to cross into Texas when she was 14 years old.

“I’ve been here practically half my life,” said Juana, who did not want to reveal her last name because she is undocumented. “I pay taxes. I’ve never depended on the government.”

Her children, born the Texas side of the border, are U.S. citizens. But when she went to the local vital statistics office earlier this year to get a copy of her youngest daughter’s birth certificate, she was turned away for lack of proper identification. Her child, who was born in November 2013, still does not have a birth certificate…

Juana is among 28 undocumented immigrants who are suing the Texas Department of State Health Services on behalf of their U.S.-born children for denying them their birth certificates. The suit was filed in May and was amended on Tuesday to include more plaintiffs.

The lawsuit comes as 2016 presidential candidates engaged in bitter debates about the fate of an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Some 26 U.S. states filed a lawsuit attempting to block the White House’s plan to protect about 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The 14th Amendment states that all people born in the U.S. are citizens. But in the immigrants’ lawsuit, the two civil rights groups suing the state on the immigrants’ behalf say the department is violating the law by refusing to recognize the matrícula consular — an ID card issued by Mexican consulates — as a valid form of identification.

Parents must present a birth certificate to enroll a child in school or day care, apply for benefits or even to have a child baptized.

Because undocumented immigrants, many of them from Mexico and Central America, do not have a required form of ID like a green card or work authorization papers, they are required to show two secondary forms of identification to get a child’s birth certificate. Often that includes the matrícula consular. But Texas in 2008 announced a new policy of rejecting matrículas, citing security concerns. The measure went largely unenforced until 2013…

Juana, for her part, did not encounter problems presenting her matrícula along with hospital records to obtain birth certificates for her two older children, who are 13 and 8 years old. But obtaining a birth certificate for her youngest child has proved challenging…

She should have the same rights as a child born to American parents,” she said.

Republican-controlled states are in a race to the bottom of the scumbag barrel. True, violating constitutional rights is nothing new for the cretins who pass for today’s version of a conservative; but, rarely has there been such an array of lies and bureaucratic hypocrisy passed off as legitimate.

On one hand, it is hilarious to see rightwing populists spend half their time whining about government interference in daily life – and the other half inventing new ways for governments to interfere with the daily lives of Americans who ain’t the right color, right religion, or just plain rightwing enough to satisfy turdbrains.

On the other, there’s nothing new or even faintly grinworthy about stupid people wasting local taxpayer dollar$ to enforce their bigotry upon legitimate citizens of this nation.

Just a touch of political economy…

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, though he has been short on specifics, has promised to produce an economy that grows 4 percent or more a year. His top economic advisers were leading decision-makers in the administration of his brother, President George W. Bush, when the rate of expansion never reached 4 percent. The only time over the past half-century that such growth was achieved for four consecutive years — the length of a presidential term — was under Bill Clinton.

No, this is not a ringing endorsement of the average Democrat understanding of economics – and, especially, political economy. Given the paucity of thought and understanding we’re allowed with the two old parties, this is what we have.

At least Al Hunt has managed to keep his sense of humor, the theater of the absurd, while covering the truckloads of horse manure that passes for social and economic analysis in the popular press, our political punditry and, most of all, Congressional ideologues and demagogues.

Thanks, Al Hunt

Republican “ag-gag” law simply ignored the First Amendment

The so-called ag-gag law, which passed in Idaho in 2014, is a sorry example of a special interest overreach that embraced the cries of lobbyists over First Amendment concerns and the state’s reputation as a transparent food producer.

That U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill would rule it unconstitutional this week should come as no surprise to anyone outside of the Idaho Legislature and the governor’s office. There is a long list of lawmakers who thought it a grand idea to protect agricultural producers at the expense of those who have a legitimate role in scrutinizing their practices. Not only did these lawmakers want to discourage any and all attempts at whistleblowing, they also wanted such “terrorists” to be threatened with punishment.

We hope the Legislature and Gov. Butch Otter will take Winmill’s ruling to heart and resist any urge or expense to appeal it, and also hope they will learn from it — though we have doubts.

What is especially troubling is the tone-deafness of the 20-some senators and 50-some representatives who voted to pass the law and saw only one side of the issue: the dairy lobby view that, by golly, barns should be like Vegas — what happens there, stays there.

The highly regulated agriculture industry is not a private matter, as Winmill pointed out in a ruling that references Upton Sinclair’s novel “The Jungle,” for which the author misrepresented himself to Chicago slaughterhouses in order to research his exposé on the meatpacking industry. Winmill counters a perception that Idaho agricultural machinations deserve some special level of privacy when “food production and safety are matters of the utmost public concern.”…

There were warnings issued against this bill on its way to becoming law. Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, whom Otter negotiated with to lure the company to Idaho, urged the governor to veto the bill. Stalwart Republicans such as former Sen. Russ Fulcher, who knows his way around a dairy farm, and Rep. Lynn Luker had the sense to vote against it.

It’s time that some members of our Legislature put as much effort into all of our laws as they do focusing on a few favorites. They might wake up on the right side of a lawsuit someday.

Add to the list Republican governors, Republican-controlled legislatures that stand in line to ban women’s reproductive rights, labor’s right to organize, the right of all citizens to vote.

Some of their sleaziness is native bigotry. The rest can be chalked up to special interests buying their votes. Either road leads to lawsuits and taxpayer dollar$ wasted in the defense of fools who think they miss the 19th Century.

The US Is an “oligarchy with unlimited political bribery” says former president

Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on the nationally syndicated radio show the Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.”

Carter was responding to a question from Hartmann about recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign financing like Citizens United.

HARTMANN: Our Supreme Court has now said, “unlimited money in politics.” It seems like a violation of principles of democracy. … Your thoughts on that?

CARTER: It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over. … The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody’s who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger.

Just in case you feel good about the snow job we get on a daily basis from the leaders of the two old parties in the White House and Congress. They fill the air with blather and bluster about our constitutional tradition, free speech in action, the benefits we enjoy as a free people.

It has as much legitimate content as the average infomercial on network TV sold as filler in between fictional cop shows, comedies about fools and so-called reality TV. If you believe any of it – you are the fool.

Jimmy Carter continues to get my vote as the leading ex-president over the last century. He has the courage to tell the truth about everything from our phony foreign policy to criminal behavior in Congress.