America’s gun religion

This starts partway through the article. The author takes us from childhood target shooting to military life…to this!

How did we get from a little NRA indoor firing range with .22 target rifles to an entire convention hall filled with weapons of war and nostalgia for America’s enemies from the Civil War and World War II? How did we get from guns as tools to guns as lifestyle? How did we get from guns manufactured specifically for target shooting and hunting to guns manufactured for killing people and styled as “military” and “tactical” and “assault”? How did we get from magazines like Field and Stream, featuring stories about hunting, to Guns and Ammo, featuring stories about the Hecker and Koch HK416A5 with its “slimline telescopic butt stock” and “Non-stop NATO Stanag 4694 top rail” and magazine capability holding up to 100 rounds of military-grade 5.56 X 45mm NATO ammunition?

Three letters: NRA. Beginning in the 1970s, the National Rifle Association transformed itself from a shooting sports organization into a political lobbying arm of the Republican Party. It formed a PAC, the Political Victory Fund, in time for the 1976 elections and started endorsing and funding conservative, mostly Republican, candidates. The NRA invited Ronald Reagan to address its 1983 convention, in advance of his campaign for reelection in 1984, when they endorsed him for a second time…

…Guns went from tools to politics to identity. A gun went from something you use for a sporting purpose, like target shooting or hunting rabbits, to a thing that makes a statement about you. Hollywood went right along with them, from a .44 magnum revolver in “Dirty Harry” that said I’m a tough guy, to fully automatic AR-15 assault rifles with grenade launchers in “Scarface” that said I’m a killing machine and I’ll kill everyone I can see.

Truly worthwhile read. I can sympathize. I grew up in Connecticut when the state was still proud to call itself the arsenal of America. My family lived through the transition Lucian Truscott describes. One time or another, everyone in my father’s generation – in his extended family – worked for a gun manufacturer. One of my uncles spent his life’s work as a lead prototype gunsmith for a gun company. Another was a factory manager.

I was fortunate enough to pre-date the NRA conversion. I was rebel enough to have a gut reaction of disgust and revulsion to the “new” NRA and Reagan politics. I watched Truscott’s worst nightmare as it formed.

RTFA. I hope our benighted land is someday capable of turning this particular aspect of fascist ideology around. And goes on to work on the rest, as well.

Kansas official: Pandemic isn’t a problem here because there are few Chinese people

Marvin Rodriguez (R) Nope. The title of this post does not have a typo or any error at all. It is 100% correct. According to the Kansas City Star: The chairman of the Riley County Commissioners suggested this week that the global coronavirus pandemic is not a problem locally because unlike in Italy, there are not a lot of Chinese […]

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Sock it to ’em, Michelle!

When ignorant peasants vote to kill their children…

Over and over again, fools who think flags and fake presidents will bring them the riches and power reserved only for those who actually own America…get what history reserves for those who believe in patriotism over peace, slogans instead of the steady march of science and technology, peasant ideology over knowledge, collaborating with political thugs who twist and bend life into death.

Firings, discord, ego trips, leave Trump Transition Team in turmoil


Trump Transition Team Model

❝ President-elect Trump’s transition was in disarray on Tuesday, marked by firings, infighting and revelations that American allies were blindly dialing in to Trump Tower to try to reach the soon-to-be-leader of the free world.

One week after Mr. Trump scored an upset victory that took him by surprise, his team was improvising the most basic traditions of assuming power. That included working without official State Department briefing materials in his first conversations with foreign leaders.

❝ Two officials who had been handling national security for the transition, former Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan and Matthew Freedman, a lobbyist who consults with corporations and foreign governments, were fired. Both were part of what officials described as a purge orchestrated by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser.

The dismissals followed the abrupt firing on Friday of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who was replaced as chief of the transition by Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Mr. Kushner, a transition official said, was systematically dismissing people like Mr. Rogers who had ties with Mr. Christie. As a federal prosecutor, Mr. Christie had sent Mr. Kushner’s father to jail.

❝ Prominent American allies were in the meantime scrambling to figure out how and when to contact Mr. Trump. At times, they have been patched through to him in his luxury office tower with little warning, according to a Western diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity…

He doesn’t want to end up before a metaphorical firing squad. RTFA for the latest update to this reality soap opera.

Obama said he’d let science – not ideology – dictate policy — [except for the so-called War on Drugs]

On Thursday, the Drug Enforcement Agency formally refused to reconsider its classification of marijuana, which is officially regulated as a dangerous substance with no medical value, alongside drugs like heroin and LSD. Despite a growing body of scientific evidence and changes in public opinion, the federal government has refused to budge on a 46-year-old stance borne out of the War on Drugs.

According to the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 61 percent of Americans support legalization. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws reports that eight out of ten Americans support medical marijuana legalization…

As public opinion moves in favor of legalizing pot, the DEA is clinging to the past — with little scientific evidence to back up their position.

Research has shown that pot has a multitude of medical benefits. And by reaffirming its position, the government has set back patients who relied on it for treatment for years.

Thursday’s announcement means pot will remain a Schedule I drug, defined as having “no medical value and a high potential for abuse.” That means the federal government believes marijuana is just as harmful as heroin and less harmful than cocaine. It also bars scientists from receiving federal funding and forces them to jump through hoops to conduct their research. Insurance companies are banned from covering marijuana treatment, so patients have to rely on the black market for treatment.

As of 2013, 78 percent of physicians in the world support the use of medical marijuana. In May, Ohio became the 25th U.S. state to legalize it. Even Congressional Republicans who have long opposed pot legalization recently vocalized support for more medical marijuana research.

And Republicans are more afraid of science than they are of democracy, non-white voters and women. More or less.

If Obama persists in saying he prefers science over ideology, how about opting for backbone over election year-opportunism.

The Republican Party platform now rejects our Constitution as the law of the land

The Constitution, by its own terms, is the “supreme law of the land.” All judges are bound by the words of the Constitution, and all laws made by legislatures within the United States must yield to the Constitution’s provisions. This is the central insight of the American republic — the idea that the structure and limits of government are laid out in a written document, and that document is binding on all government actors subject to its terms.

The Republican Party’s 2016 Platform rejects this concept outright…

The GOP Platform’s section on constitutional law begins with a declaration of principles: “That God bestows certain inalienable rights on every individual, thus producing human equality; that government exists first and foremost to protect those inalienable rights; that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights; and that if God-given, natural, inalienable rights come in conflict with government, court, or human-granted rights God-given, natural, inalienable rights always prevail.”…

The GOP Platform claims that “the right of individuals to keep and bear arms” is “a natural inalienable right that predates the Constitution” — a statement that many modern democracies would find absolutely flabbergasting. Many libertarian natural rights theorists believe that there is a natural “right to contract” which trumps minimum wage laws and laws protecting the right to unionize, on the theory that a worker should be free to bind themselves to a contract which pays them very little money to work in deplorable conditions. Most human rights advocates believe that we all have a right to be free from torture. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump disagrees.

The GOP Platform makes several highly controversial claims about the nature of natural rights…Beyond the right to bear arms, the platform names the “right to devote resources to whatever cause or candidate one supports” (i.e. the right to spend money to influence elections), the right of private organizations to “set their own membership standards” free from anti-discrimination laws, and the “freedom of Americans to act in accordance with their religious beliefs” often when those beliefs call for defiance of the law, as examples of rights that are “not given to us by the government but are rights we inherently possess.”

Then comes the Platform’s single most radical line. In addition to claiming that the First Amendment protects natural rights to spend unlimited sums of money on elections and to engage in religiously motivated discrimination, the Platform includes this remarkable statement: “The government cannot use subsequent amendments to limit First Amendment rights.”…Nothing less than a repudiation of the idea that judges and lawmakers are bound by the Constitution’s written text.

…If Congress were to propose, and the states were to ratify, a constitutional amendment overruling the Supreme Court’s campaign finance decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the Republican Party’s position is that this amendment would be null and void. The text of the Constitution itself must yield to the natural rights theory laid out in the Republican Party’s 2016 Platform…

America has a written constitution in no small part because such a document is the only way to adjudicate disputes about the nature of our rights without simply leaving the decision up to whoever happens to hold power at any given moment.

And the Republican Party Platform would scrap this means of resolving such disputes, on the theory that it knows better than the Constitution.

Craptastic ideology written to satisfy the longings of know-nothings who still think 14th Century religious beliefs outweigh a secular constitution which keeps itself free from the religion du jour. In other words, the Republican Party has no problem with sharia – as long as it is written by segregationist Christians.

You’re a Nazi and other truths according to Trump’s fact-checking

trump-urinal

Donald Trump has long been at odds with our beleaguered leagues of fact-checkers, who regularly award him “Pants on Fire,” “Four Pinocchios” and other colorful rulings on his truthiness.

Yet somehow such definitive, unanimous debunking never seems to faze the Republican presidential front-runner. And I think I’ve discovered why.

It’s because Trump — like Socrates, among other trailblazing truth-seekers throughout history — has developed his own innovative method for fact-checking. Rather than relying on stale, lamestream-media techniques such as gathering evidence, crunching numbers or consulting experts, he takes a different route: He goes online and sees whether random people agree with him…

Reality may have a well-known liberal bias, but Trump’s Twitter followers do not. Nor do the conspiracy theory Web sites from which Trump also seems to glean much of his information and policy ideas…

I began to wonder: What’s it like to navigate life as Trump does? What’s it like to learn about human existence via Twitter, Reddit message boards and the Drudge Report?

To find out, I compiled a list of things you’d learn were true if you fact-checked them solely by seeing whether strangers on the Internet agreed with you.

Some of the Top 10:

1. You are a Nazi. I am a Nazi. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both Nazis. Everyone on the Internet is, eventually, a Nazi, according to other people on the Internet who disagree with them and who themselves become Nazis if any conversation goes on long enough…

3. You have cancer. Several really, really rare forms of cancer. Also lupus, mad cow disease, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis and a urinary tract infection. Or maybe it’s just a common cold? Either way the ailment(s) can be cured by purchasing dietary supplements from a sketchy Web site featuring testimonials from a person currently running for president. Modern medicine is for losers…

5. If only Ron Paul had been president, we would not have had the secret hyperinflation pandemic currently ravaging the nation. Also, gold and bitcoins have been and will continue to be the safest places in which to store your life savings, excluding perhaps your mattress, a Nigerian prince’s bank account or your hollowed-out spare copy of “Atlas Shrugged.”

9. Obama is a secret Muslim. Also maybe Thomas Jefferson was a secret Muslim. As with Nazism, pretty much everyone you dislike is a secret Muslim. Unless they already admit to being a Muslim, in which case they’re probably also a secret Mexican who wants to steal your job.

And if you don’t forward a link to this blog post to at least 10 people you’ll have nightmares the rest of your life about some bearded old Red glaring at you.

There is no Republican ideology – only dogma

Americans work longer hours than their counterparts in just about every other wealthy country; we are known, among those who study such things, as the “no-vacation nation.” According to a 2009 study, full-time U.S. workers put in almost 30 percent more hours over the course of a year than their German counterparts, largely because they had only half as many weeks of paid leave. Not surprisingly, work-life balance is a big problem for many people.

But Jeb Bush — who is still attempting to justify his ludicrous claim that he can double our rate of economic growth — says that Americans “need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families.”

…The real source of his remark was the “nation of takers” dogma that has taken over conservative circles in recent years — the insistence that a large number of Americans, white as well as black, are choosing not to work, because they can live lives of leisure thanks to government programs.

You see this laziness dogma everywhere on the right. It was the hidden background to Mitt Romney’s infamous 47 percent remark. It underlay the furious attacks on unemployment benefits at a time of mass unemployment and on food stamps when they provided a vital lifeline for tens of millions of Americans. It drives claims that many, if not most, workers receiving disability payments are malingerers — “Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts,” says Senator Rand Paul.

It all adds up to a vision of the world in which the biggest problem facing America is that we’re too nice to fellow citizens facing hardship. And the appeal of this vision to conservatives is obvious: it gives them another reason to do what they want to do anyway, namely slash aid to the less fortunate while cutting taxes on the rich.

Given how attractive the right finds the image of laziness run wild, you wouldn’t expect contrary evidence to make much, if any, dent in the dogma. Federal spending on “income security” — food stamps, unemployment benefits, and pretty much everything else you might call “welfare” except Medicaid — has shown no upward trend as a share of GDP; it surged during the Great Recession and aftermath but quickly dropped back to historical levels…

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Michele Bachmann inspired Factcheck.org to discredit lies about science

Four years ago, Michele Bachmann slammed Rick Perry—then the governor of Texas—for his executive order mandating HPV vaccinations. “I’m a mom of three children,” Bachmann said during a GOP presidential debate. “And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong.”

Bachmann, who at the time was a Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, expanded on her allegations the next day. “I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Fla., after the debate,” she said on the Today show. “She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. It can have very dangerous side effects.”

Bachmann’s suggestion that the HPV vaccine is dangerous was completely false. “There is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement,” explained the American Academy of Pediatrics…

Enter Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, which operates the nonpartisan Factcheck.org. Founded in 2003, Factcheck was one of the first websites devoted to refuting misleading assertions about US politics. Last month, Factcheck launched Scicheck, a new project that evaluates the scientific claims made by politicians. In just a few weeks, Scicheck has countered inaccurate statements about issues ranging from climate change to the economic impact of the Human Genome Project.

On this weeks’ episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast, I asked Jamieson what inspired her organization to focus on scientific issues. She credits Bachmann.

“When Michele Bachmann in the last election made an allegation about the effects of…a vaccine, in public space on national television…the journalists in the real context didn’t know how to respond to the statement as clearly as they ought to,” explains Jamieson. “The time to contextualize is immediately. That should have been shot down immediately…”

That just may be counting on the ignorant to counter the stupid.

But Jamieson is keenly aware that it isn’t enough to simply rebut inaccurate claims in real time. One of the key challenges facing science communication is that voters frequently get their news from highly ideological media outlets that sometimes misrepresent the scientific consensus on controversial issues. This has contributed to substantial gaps between what the general public thinks and what scientists think on a wide range of issues, from evolution to the safety of genetically modified foods.

I love showing crap statements from idjits like Bachmann to friends and family who are Recovering Republicans. Just to remind them why they left the Party.

Yes, I can remember when educated conservatives had a role and a voice in both of the two parties we’re allowed. That’s because I’m very old cranky geek.