Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

This week’s New Yorker has a fascinating article by Jill Lepore about guns in America that I think everyone should read: Battleground America: One nation, under the gun. It’s long, but well worth reading. Here’s just a tiny excerpt:

The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.

Men are far more likely to own guns than women are, but the rate of gun ownership among men fell from one in two in 1980 to one in three in 2010, while, in that same stretch of time, the rate among women remained one in ten. What may have held that rate steady in an age of decline was the aggressive marketing of handguns to women for self-defense, which is how a great many guns are marketed. Gun ownership is higher among whites than among blacks, higher in the country than in the city, and higher among older people than among younger people. One reason that gun ownership is declining, nationwide, might be that high-school shooting clubs and rifle ranges at summer camps are no longer common.

Although rates of gun ownership, like rates of violent crime, are falling, the power of the gun lobby is not. Since 1980, forty-four states have passed some form of law that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons outside their homes for personal protection. (Five additional states had these laws before 1980. Illinois is the sole holdout.) A federal ban on the possession, transfer, or manufacture of semiautomatic assault weapons, passed in 1994, was allowed to expire in 2004. In 2005, Florida passed the Stand Your Ground law, an extension of the so-called castle doctrine, exonerating from prosecution citizens who use deadly force when confronted by an assailant, even if they could have retreated safely; Stand Your Ground laws expand that protection outside the home to any place that an individual “has a right to be.” Twenty-four states have passed similar laws.

I hadn’t realized that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin just one day before the school shootings at Chardon High School near Cleveland, Ohio. Isn’t it amazing that we heard all about that shooting right away and it was old news by the time the corporate media began reporting on Trayvon’s death?

Tuesday was the fifth anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre, and it seems America has changed very little, probably largely because of NRA lobbying as well as ALEC’s “model legislation” writing services.

Of course no one could help hearing about the crude and tasteless behavior on display at the NRA convention last weekend. Executive VP Wayne LaPierre even had the gall to complain about media coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting. At HuffPo, Dean Obeidallah asks why.

Did Mr. LaPierre offer any sympathy to Trayvon Martin’s family? No.

Instead, he chose to denounce the media for their coverage of the case, alleging that the media’s: “… dishonesty, duplicity, and moral irresponsibility is directly contributing to the collapse of American freedom in our country.”

What makes Mr. La Pierre’s comments especially callous is that they were made at the annual NRA convention which was being held this weekend in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis has the unenviable distinction of being the city with the second highest rate in the country for youth being killed by guns. Indeed, the gunshot murder rate for 10 to 19 years old in St. Louis is more than three times the average for larger cities according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yesterday the LA Times published photos of American troops in Afghanistan posing with body parts of dead suicide bombers.

Two photos of incidents from a 2010 deployment were published Wednesday by the Los Angeles Times. In one, the hand of a corpse is propped on the shoulder of a paratrooper. In another, the disembodied legs of a suicide bomber are displayed by grinning soldiers and Afghan police.

These are the “hero” troops that we are constantly told we have to support and be grateful to. Have these young people been warped by America’s immoral wars? Or are they products of America’s vicious gun culture? I don’t know the answer, just asking.

American officials weren’t happy with the LA Times for publishing the photos and tried to stop them from doing it. Although the Obama administration and military leaders fell over themselves condemning the actions of these troops,

At the same time, Pentagon and White House officials expressed disappointment that the photos had been made public. The Pentagon had asked The Times not to publish the photos, citing fears that they would trigger a backlash against U.S. forces.

Speaking to reporters during a meeting of NATO allies in Brussels, Panetta said:

“This is war. And I know that war is ugly and violent. And I know that young people sometimes caught up in the moment make some very foolish decisions. I am not excusing that behavior. But neither do I want these images to bring further injury to our people or to our relationship with the Afghan people.”

Tough shit. Haven’t we seen enough war crimes by now? This war and the war in Iraq are just plain evil. Get these kids out of Afghanistan, and let’s hope we can prevent a majority of them from acting out violently or joining the growing number of military suicides when they get back home.

Mother Jones reports that ALEC is begging right wing bloggers to rescue them from mean old Common Cause, Color of Change, and other liberal groups who have been convincing ALEC’s donors to withdraw their support.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, the once-obscure organization that pairs corporations with state lawmakers to draft pro-business and often anti-union legislation for the state level, is in damage control mode. Corporate members such as McDonald’s, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Mars, Inc. have cut ties with ALEC after taking heat from a coalition of progressive groups angry over ALEC’s “discriminatory” voter ID bills and controversial “Stand Your Ground” self-defense legislation that figures into the Trayvon Martin shooting in central Florida.

To push back, ALEC has turned to the conservative blogosphere for help. As PR Watch reported, Caitlyn Korb, ALEC’s director of external relations, told attendees at a Heritage Foundation “Bloggers Briefing” on Tuesday that the campaign against ALEC was “part of a wider effort to shut all of us down.” She asked the bloggers for “any and all institutional support” in ALEC’s fight against progressive groups, especially when it came to social media. “We’re getting absolutely killed in social media venues—Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest,” she said. “Any and all new media support you guys can provide would be so helpful, not just to us but to average people who don’t know much about this fight but are seeing us really get heavily attacked with very little opposition.”

Korb educated the bloggers with a handout listing ALEC’s positions on a range of issues. PR Watch, one of ALEC’s loudest critics, described the handout as “riddled with errors.”

Check out the list at the above link.

Joshua Holland has an excellent piece at Alternet: Freedom from a Dead-End Life: True Liberty Means Defeating the Right-Wing’s Nightmare Vision for America.

Last week, Mitt Romney summed up the Right’s rhetorical fluff as well as anyone when he told the National Rifle Association that “freedom is the victim of unbounded government appetite.” It was an unremarkable comment, so accustomed are we to hearing the Right – a movement that historically opposed women’s sufferage and black civil rights and still seeks to quash workers’ right to organize and gay and lesbian Americans’ right to marry– claim to be defenders of our liberties….

Dig a little deeper, and it becomes clear that “freedom” for the Right offers most of us anything but. It’s the freedom for companies to screw their workers, pollute, and otherwise operate free of any meaningful regulations to protect the public interest. It’s about the wealthiest among us being free from the burden of paying a fair share of the taxes that help finance a smoothly functioning society.

The flip side is that programs that assure working Americans a decent existence are painted as a form of tyranny approaching fascism. The reality is that they impinge only on our God-given right to live without a secure social safety net. It’s the freedom to go bankrupt if you can’t afford to treat an illness; the liberty to spend your golden years eating cat food if you couldn’t sock away enough for a decent retirement.

It’s another long read, but well worth the time.

At FDL, Kevin Gosztola writes about yesterday’s unanimous SCOTUS that multinational corporations can’t be sued for torturing and/or killing people.

The US Supreme Court unanimously decided that foreign political organizations and multinational corporations cannot be sued for the torture or extrajudicial killing of persons abroad under an anti-torture law passed in 1992. The law only gives people the right to sue “an individual,” “who acted under the authority of a foreign nation,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed by the family of a US citizen, Azzam Rahim, who was tortured and killed in the Palestinian Territory by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) intelligence officers. It was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who President Barack Obama appointed to the Supreme Court, that spoke for the decision. She explained the text of the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1991 “convinces us that Congress did not extend liability to organizations, sovereign or not. There are no doubt valid arguments for such an extension. But Congress has seen fit to proceed in more modest steps in the Act, and it is not the province of this branch to do otherwise.”

Apparently, corporations are only “people” for purposes of corrupting electoral politics, but when they commit crimes they are no longer considered “individuals.” Gosztola also calls attention to the fact that Chief Justice Roberts actually laughed at the arguments of the Rahim family’s attorney Jeffrey Fisher.

Mr. Fisher did what he could with what the justices seemed to think was an exceptionally weak hand.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. summarized Mr. Fisher’s position: “You are saying, ‘Well, we want a term that is going to include individual persons and organizations but not state organizations.’ And the only term that fits perfectly is ‘individual.’ ”

“Exactly,” Mr. Fisher said. “That’s our argument.”

Chief Justice Roberts was incredulous. “Really?” he asked, to laughter in the courtroom, which the chief justice joined.

Finally, Dakinikat sent me this from The New York Times: Vatican orders crackdown on American nuns

The Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of America’s 55,000 Catholic nuns, saying that the group was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.

Rome also chided the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) for sponsoring conferences that featured “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Those are my recommendations for today. What are you reading and blogging about?

36 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. ecocatwoman says:

    Who needs coffee/caffeine in the morning after reading a post like this? Maybe a double dose of blood pressure medicine instead. Want to ratchet it up a bit more?

    Carnival Cruise ship captain ignores stranded fishing vessel & 2 of 3 onboard die before being rescued:–finally-picked-24-days-adrift-crew-dead.html The NPR story this morning ( interviewed the woman who reported seeing the stranded vessel to a crew member of the cruise ship. Bothered by the incident, she called the cruise line after returning home. She was told that the captain reported they’d encountered a fishing fleet & were asked to move away so as not to disturb their nets. The shirt waving the passenger had witnessed was thanking the ship for moving away.

    The Vatican’s move to crackdown on the wayward nuns – well, that nearly made my head explode. NPR’s Morning Edition had the story as well. Although that story isn’t up yet, here’s one from last evening: If only those women would just WALK en masse. i have a feeling that many parishioners would follow them.

    Before reading your post, I was already enraged. More lies from the Dark Side. NPR covered the good news story that the EPA issued new fracking regs. Not as good as I would have liked, but a small victory. Fortunately NPR covered why these regs were good for everyone, people, the planet & the gas industry. Then came the industry PR a$$hole. ARGHHH! The story is here: THANK YOU WildEarth Guardians:

    Sorry for turning my comments into a mini-blog post. As always, another great post, BB.

    • janicen says:

      Horrible story about the stranded fishing boat being ignored by the cruise ship. It would seem criminal charges would be appropriate, but since they were out on the open sea it’s unlikely.

      • ecocatwoman says:

        Maybe the families & the surviving 18 year old will sue and Carnival will get some bad publicity. Those are probably the only things that might come out of this.

    • bostonboomer says:

      No problem, Connie. That cruise ship story is awful.

    • purplefinn says:

      If only those women would just WALK en masse. i have a feeling that many parishioners would follow them.

      I think this is a “walk” moment for some. I’m delighted that the Pope chastised them, thereby showing his and the church’s priorities. From Wonkette:

  2. janicen says:

    Very interesting read, bb. Thank you for putting it together. I’ve been wondering lately when this country will reach the saturation point with guns. How many more guns will be produced and sold before somebody decides there are enough? It seems a major concern should be what happens to all of those guns when the original owners pass on? Are there enough regulations in the secondary market?

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    I live in a city of approximately 160,000 people. Not a large city by a long shot.

    Not a day goes by that I don’t wake up to a news report of another drive by shooting that has either resulted in a death or a major injury done at the hands of teens playing “shoot em up” in the streets. Most of these injuries are a result of automatic or semi automatic weapons.

    The idea of owning a gun for “self defense” is laughable. How often have we heard of someone actually using their weapon to fight off a home invader or a robbery? Very few if any.

    Most of these events involve people in domestic abuse situations reaching for a gun to settle an argument. Kids deciding to get even with classmates. Disgruntled workers taking revenge on employers. A rejected suitor stalking an ex.

    How these kids manage to get hold of these weapons is amazing. The proliferation of these weapons has given rise in the purchase since it is based solely on fear. The fear that the NRA promotes for gun sales has also produced an underground enterprise that places these weapons into the hands of immature and foolish teens “making their bones” by shooting at random. The streets – especially at night – are no longer safe.

    These shootings are also tied to the rise in healthcare costs as well. Most of these teens are unemployed and uninsured when treated for injuries. The ER has no other choice but to treat the injuries. Somebody has to pay for the long term treatment many of these injuries produce. It is us who must pick up the slack with higher premiums.

    Most of these kids do not have a high school diploma but they sure as hell have weapons. These are weapons of mass destruction with one intent in mind. Underground gun sales do not require a background check as these weapons find their way into the hands of those who wish to create mayhem.

    The police are outnumbered and the streets are unsafe. The NRA just doesn’t give a damn and the congress is much too beholden to them to crack down.

    We are all at the mercy of wishing we are not at the wrong place at the wrong time when some fool, armed to the teeth, decides to play “cowboy” in the mall.

    • ecocatwoman says:

      We live in a society that glorifies violence and denigrates compassion. Violence is everywhere on TV, movies, music & video games. Movies with violence get a PG-13 rating, while those containing the work f**k more than once or any sex scenes get an R. The person no one wants to be in America? A crazy cat lady. I’m a cat lady, but I ain’t crazy, yet.

  4. Pat Johnson says:

    You just can’t get over the sheer hypocrisy of the Right.

    While some had to be led to the “fainting couch” over an innocuous remark uttered by Hilary Rosen last week, today it is nothing but silence in the wake of that Ultimate in Crazy, Ted Nugent.

    So he essentially hints at causing harm to the president should he be re-elected, and his obscene comments relating to women, especially Hillary Clinton, are incindiary to say the least, the Right has chosen to ignore his demential altogether much like Mike Huckabee who sees nothing wrong in his remarks.

    Hilary Rosen was hung out to dry by both parties yet Ted Nugent, a certifiable loser with a potent potty mouth much like Rush, gets a pass.

    Apparently “hasn’t worked a day in her life” as opposed to the insane rantings of Ted Nugent who finds himself under the hot lights of the Secret Service, is much more of a reason for causing offense.

    Just knowing that Rush Limbaugh, Alan West, and Ted Nugent are part and parcel of the GOP is reason enough to vote against this party as they are representative of where this ideology is focused.

    • ecocatwoman says:

      Sounds like the beginning of a great post. Who Are Your Spokespeople? or BEWARE the Company That You Keep or my personal favorite, Are All Republicans Animal Abusers?

  5. ecocatwoman says:

    You have to love this story – NOT. One of her purchases with the stolen loot? A motorhome that cost over $2 million: The major news outlets have nothing in Google search.

  6. ANonOMouse says:

    Good post this morning BB. Thanks.

    The piece about the catholic church crackdown on the nuns made me laugh-out-loud. Just a bunch of pathetic old men trying to reign in the only group of women they THINK they still have a tiny bit of control over. Those damned harlot nuns better shape up, or the Vatican is going to take away their, they’re going to take away their, what? Rosary beads? Ugly shoes? Kick ass NUNS!!!!!

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks, Mouse.

    • Woman Voter says:

      The sick part of the take over is they did all the work, continue to do all the work and are now going to get some Bishop to tell them what to do? Most people don’t know, but in my area the first hospitals that served EVERYONE regardless of religion were set up but UPPITY NUNS (yea…uppity hard working, devoted to caring for the sick until their last breath).

      So, sad, to see these elderly nuns abused because they believe in fairness and know that equality is a BASIC HUMAN RIGHT, a right so often denied women throughout the world.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        WV. I don’t really understand why the Vatican has chosen this point-in-time to shame, dictate and attempt to publicly humiliate the nuns, especially since the women lining up to join the convent wouldn’t reach around a thimble.

        I was taught by both the Mercy & the Dominican and have known many Daughters of Charity. I knew some really great nuns and some rather mediocre nuns, but their devotion and their personal sacrifice not only to their vows but also for their order is indisputable.

        • dakinikat says:

          I have friends that are aging Mercies in Omaha. They’re really old and not being taken care of well at all. They had to sell the hospital to help pay for the remaining nuns in the order to live. There are very few of them left and no young nuns. It’s sad. They used to run a lot of schools, a university and a hospital. They’re own their own for their retirement. They get no help from any one except people that send them money. The Diocese and the Vatican could care less about them. I live near the Ursuline convent down here. They’ve long ago sold off all the land surrounding it. ( My house is on one of the first parcels they sold after the Civil War.) They’re in a similar condition. The schools, etc are all boarded up. They run a farmer’s market in their parking lot and are active in the neighborhood association. There’s very few of them left to do any real work and they need money just to eat and keep the lights on. Meanwhile, the priests have these really fancy retirement homes and get stipends.

          • ecocatwoman says:

            My 90 year old next door neighbor was a nun. She left the order when her parents got sick. She went in when she was 16. She was lucky because her father worked for Kodak when it was going strong & he bought stock. He left her a summer house in upstate NY and one here in Florida, in additon to the stocks. Stocks are gone, summer house is sold. She gets about $300/month SS because she worked after leaving the order. A friend, also a former nun, who did well with her husband set up an annuity for my neighbor, giving her another $500/month. The Church – after years of slave labor & teaching – NOTHING. No SS, no pension, no insurance. Yeah, gotta love the Catholic Church – it really cares for its own – NOT! But she still goes to church each week.

        • ecocatwoman says:

          The NPR story this morning said it was because they had signed off on/supporter the ACA.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “They had to sell the hospital to help pay for the remaining nuns in the order to live. There are very few of them left and no young nuns. It’s sad. They used to run a lot of schools, a university and a hospital. They’re own their own for their retirement. They get no help from any one except people that send them money. The Diocese and the Vatican could care less about them.”

        Wow….It’s the very same scenario with the Mercy sisters in my hometown. They sold off their Convent. their real estate surrounding their Convent. They are all too old to teach in the catholic schools (I don’t even think they’re wanted there) and they are all living in a small compound supported for the most part by donations. It’s heartbreaking to see those old women basically abandoned by the church they served and taught in, for basically chump change, for 100 years.

        The Dominicans here are doing better because they own an upscale private School in a very posh neighborhood. But there aren’t that many Dominican nuns left. They are a dying breed too.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “The NPR story this morning said it was because they had signed off on/supporter the ACA.”

        That is so sad.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Thanks for that link Eco, If Sister Simone Campbell was the Pope, Catholics wouldn’t be leaving the church in droves. She is certainly a courageous woman.

  7. Fannie says:

    We know Mitt is for keeping the Good Old Boys Club in power, just read this crap, and help stop him.

  8. foxyladi14 says:

    Wonderful post this morning BB. 🙂

  9. ecocatwoman says:

    BB sent me a link to WaPo’s story about how the average person isn’t all that into SCOTUS. Well, that sent me back to The Pew Research Center since I hadn’t visited in a couple of days. One of their latest polls ( shows that everyone, regardless of political affiliation, has made big changes in opinions on withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Even Repugs, for & against, are about 50/50. Pew’s Andy Kohut had an interesting piece in the NYT yesterday too:

    • bostonboomer says:

      Except that Kohut seems to be making the assumption that Romney would be better able to help the economy than Obama. I don’t think even the most ignorant American voters are that stupid. I think a big part of why Romney is so disliked it that people know he’ll only help the rich.

      • ecocatwoman says:

        Really, I didn’t get that from the article. I didn’t think he drew any conclusions, low favorability vs high unemployment – which will be the deciding factor for the undecided? Personally, I wish the Obama campaign would ask people: what is the purpose of your government? Is it to protect the people or to protect corporations? Of course, we know that both sides protect corporations, but at least Dems occasionally choose the people in some situations. The Repugs never do.

      • bostonboomer says:

        He said that Obama was highly vulnerable on the economy. If people are worried about unemployment, then that is bad for Romney IMO. Pew is a Republican outfit, don’t forget.

  10. dakinikat says:

    If you haven’t checked out this cross post at Naked Capitalism on the Collapse of the Gulf Ecosystem, you should:

    • ecocatwoman says:

      I’ve only gotten half way through it & I’m sick to my stomach. The last polls that I saw from the Gulf area is that a large majority want the offshore drilling to start again. What the hell is wrong with people? Are they so duped to believe that there will always be a “happy ending?” I can’t say that I’m surprised by these findings. I knew from day one – deep down in my gut – that this was going to be cataclysmic for all life in and around the Gulf. Okay, I’m going to go cuss up a storm now.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Most likely what’s wrong with those people is that they’re getting desperate and need jobs, so they’re not thinking long-term. They just want to survive and feed their families. That’s how we’ll all be eventually, especially if Romney gets elected.