Posted: May 31, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, just because, U.S. Politics | Tags: gun laws, Jill Biden, Joe Biden, media, new civil war, SCOTUS, Senate, Uvalde school shooting, Watergate
Woman with dog and flowers by Quincy Verdun
The news continues to be bleak this morning. The Uvalde mass shooting is still at in the headlines, and so are multiple mass shootings that have followed it. Senators are arguing about gun control; and there is no possible solution, because the Senate is broken. Even if the Senate by some miracle passed a new laws on guns, the right-wing Supreme Court would likely overturn them. Meanwhile, President Biden is struggling to deal with so many serious problems while his approval ratings sink. I can’t address all those topics, but here are some stories to check out today.
Last week I wrote a post about the possibility that the U.S. is building up to a new civil war. Today Edward Luce addressed that question at Financial Times: Is America heading for civil war?
In the summer of 2015, America caught a glimpse of how its future could unfold. The US military conducted a routine exercise in the south that triggered a cascade of conspiracy theories, particularly in Texas. Some believed the manoeuvre was the precursor to a Chinese invasion; others thought it would coincide with a massive asteroid strike. The exercise, called Jade Helm 15, stood for “homeland eradication of local militants”, according to one of the right’s dark fantasy sites. Greg Abbot, Texas’s Republican governor, took these ravings seriously. He ensured that the 1,200 federal troops were closely monitored by the armed Texas National Guard. In that bizarre episode, which took place a year before Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president, we see the germs of an American break-up.
As with any warning of impending civil war, the very mention of another American one sounds impossibly alarmist — like persistent warnings from chief Vitalstatistix in the Asterix comic series that the sky was about to fall on Gaulish heads. America’s dissolution has often been mispredicted.
Yet a clutch of recent books make an alarmingly persuasive case that the warning lights are flashing redder than at any point since 1861. The French philosopher Voltaire once said: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” As the University of California’s Barbara Walter shows in her bracing manual, How Civil Wars Start, US democracy today is checking all the wrong boxes.
Dachshund Puppies by Otto Bache
Even before Trump triumphed in the 2016 presidential election, political analysts were warning about the erosion of democracy and drift towards autocracy. The paralysing divisions caused by Trump’s failed putsch of January 6, 2021, has sent it into dangerous new territory. Polls show that most Republicans believe, without evidence, that the election was stolen by Democrats backed by the so-called “deep state”, the Chinese government, rigged Venezuelan voting machines, or a feverish combination thereof.
In This Will Not Pass, a book by New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Joe Biden is quoted telling a senior Democrat: “I certainly hope [my presidency] works out. If it doesn’t I’m not sure we’re going to have a country.” That a US president could utter something so apocalyptic without raising too many eyebrows shows how routine such dread has become.
Read the rest at Financial Times.
The press is letting us down, writes Margaret Sullivan at The Washington Post: Why the press will never have another Watergate moment.
You’ll be hearing a lot about Watergate in the next several weeks, as the 50th anniversary of the infamous June 17, 1972, burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters approaches. There will be documentaries, cable-news debates, the finale of that Julia Roberts miniseries (“Gaslit”) based on the popular Watergate podcast (“Slow Burn”). I’ll be moderating a panel discussion at the Library of Congress on the anniversary itself — and you can certainly count on a few retrospectives in this very newspaper.
The scandal has great resonance at The Washington Post, which won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1973 for its intrepid reporting and the courage it took to publish it. And it has particular meaning for me, because, like many others of my generation, I was first drawn into journalism by the televised Senate hearings in 1973, and I was enthralled by the 1976 movie “All the President’s Men,” based on the book by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
Young Girl Reading by Joseph W. Gies
Yet thinking about Watergate saddens me these days. The nation that came together to force a corrupt president from office and send many of hisco-conspiratoraides to prison is a nation that no longer exists.
“The national newspapers mattered in a way that is unimaginable to us today, and even the regional newspapers were incredibly strong,” Garrett Graff, author of “Watergate: A New History,” told me last week. I have been immersed in his nearly 800-page history — a “remarkably rich narrative,” former Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. called it in a review — which sets out to retell the story.
Americans read about Watergate in their daily papers and watched the dramatic hearings on television. Gradually, public opinion changed and Nixon was forced to resign. Sullivan writes and Graff argues conditions are very different today.
Our media environment is far more fractured, and news organizations are far less trusted.
And, in part, we can blame the rise of a right-wing media system. At its heart is Fox News, which was founded in 1996, nearly a quarter-century after the break-in, with a purported mission to provide a “fair and balanced” counterpoint to the mainstream media. Of course, that message often manifested in relentless and damaging criticism of its news rivals. Meanwhile, Fox News and company have served as a highly effective laundry service for Trump’s lies. With that network’s help, his tens of thousands of false or misleading claims have found fertile ground among his fervent supporters — oblivious to the skillful reporting elsewhere that has called out and debunked those lies.
As Graff sees it, the growth of right-wing media has enabled many Republican members of Congress to turn a blind eye to the malfeasance of Team Trump. Not so during the Watergate investigation; after all, it was Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) who posed the immortal question: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” Even the stalwart conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater (Ariz.) was among those who, at the end, managed to convince Nixon that he must resign.
Head over to the WaPo to read the whole column.
ABC News reports that 911 operators did inform police at the site of the Uvalde shooting that children were alive and calling for help: ‘Full of victims’: Video appears to show Texas 911 dispatchers relaying information from children in classroom.
Video obtained by ABC News, taken outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, as last week’s massacre was unfolding inside, appears to capture a 911 dispatcher alerting officers on scene that they were receiving calls from children who were alive inside the classroom that the gunman had entered — as law enforcement continued to wait nearly an hour and a half to enter the room.
Puppies, by Federico Olaria
“Child is advising he is in the room, full of victims,” the dispatcher can be heard saying in the video. “Full of victims at this moment.”
“Is anybody inside of the building at this…?” the dispatcher asked.
Minutes later, the dispatcher says again: “Eight to nine children.”
The video, obtained by ABC News, also shows police rescuing children from inside the school by breaking through a window and pulling them out, and also leading them out the back door to safety….
The video, which appears to show some of what took place outside the school, raises new questions about law enforcement’s response to one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings, which left 19 children and two teachers dead.
The gunman was left inside the classroom for 77 minutes as 19 officers waited in the hallway — and many more waited outside the building — after the incident commander wrongly believed the situation had transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject, law enforcement has said.
The Supreme Court is still trying to find out who leaked Alito’s draft opinion on abortion. CNN reports: Exclusive: Supreme Court leak investigation heats up as clerks are asked for phone records in unprecedented move.
Supreme Court officials are escalating their search for the source of the leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, taking steps to require law clerks to provide cell phone records and sign affidavits, three sources with knowledge of the efforts have told CNN.
I’ll end with a story that isn’t completely negative. It’s an interview with First Lady Jill Biden at Bazaar: A First Lady Undeterred.
In November 2020, when Joe Biden was elected president, the win seemed to validate not just his decision to enter this race but his entire career in politics. He has been grieving in public since he was sworn in to the United States Senate in 1973 from the hospital where his two young sons were recovering from the car crash that killed his first wife, Neilia, and their one-year-old daughter, Naomi. He married Jill five years later. Toward the end of his second term as vice president, in 2015, one of those sons, Beau, died of brain cancer. He resolved to launch this bid—his third in three decades—after watching white nationalists march on Charlottesville in 2017. The nation was sick and divided. He wanted to heal it.
Pierre Bonnard, Andree Bonnard with her dogs
When the ballots were tallied, Biden was declared the winner. But in the meantime, America had further deteriorated. It was battling one novel virus and several older ones. The pandemic had exposed long-festering discrimination and hate. Hundreds of thousands of people had died. Biden had the kind of credentials no one envies; few in politics could claim more experience with sorrow.
Pundits wrote that Joe Biden had met his moment. But Jill Biden—a patient educator in an era of rampant misinformation, a woman so determined to be present for her people that she spent one weekend in March straining the limits of the space-time continuum—was there to greet it too.
Now the moment has changed. The pandemic stretches on, with new variants making quick work of the Greek alphabet. Health-care workers are burnt out. Teachers are exhausted. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is devastating—and driving up the cost of fuel amid rampant inflation. Biden’s approval numbers have sunk into the low 40s. Several polls ahead of the midterm elections predict dire losses for Democrats, with both the House and the Senate threatening to slip into Republican control.
It’s not the kind of environment that sets an obvious course for the nation’s most scrutinized political spouse—let alone for one who describes herself as an introvert and was so lukewarm on the rites and rituals of the Washington horse race that she spent her husband’s entire Senate career at their home in Delaware. But perhaps that’s for the best. In the absence of a guidebook, Jill Biden is writing her own.
Read the interview at the link.
More stories to check out, links only:
HuffPost: Right-Wing Organization Launches Chilling Map Marking Schools As ‘Woke Hot Spots.’
Clive Irving at The Daily Beast: Life Is Cheap in America. That’s What Makes Us Exceptional.
KHOU11: 11-year-old who survived Uvalde massacre struggles to deal in aftermath.
The New York Times: In the Senate, Chasing an Ever-Elusive Gun Law Deal.
Kate Shaw and John Bash at The New York Times: We Clerked for Justices Scalia and Stevens. America Is Getting Heller Wrong.
Politico: Former Trump aide Navarro says he has received a grand jury subpoena related to Jan. 6.
Take care Sky Dancers. I hope you have a Tuesday filled with positive vibes.
Posted: March 19, 2016 Filed under: Barack Obama, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: 2016 presidential primaries, AR-15, Bernie Sanders, Bobby Jindal, Daniel Barden, Donald Trump, gun laws, Hillary Clinton, Jackie Barden, Kansas, Louisiana, Mark Barden, Newtown massacre, paintings by Arizona artists, Sam Brownback, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Tea Party policies
Arizona Landscape, Jose Aceves
On Tuesday, Democratic voters in the West will be voting in the Arizona primary and the Idaho and Utah caucuses. In each of these states, only registered Democrats can vote. The biggest delegate prize is in Arizona, where 85 delegates will be up for grabs. Republicans will also vote in the Arizona and Utah caucuses. For Republicans, Arizona is winner take all and Utah is proportional. All Democratic primaries are proportional.
I was hoping we were finally done with TV debates and town halls, but CNN has announced it will hold a town hall on Monday night that includes the five remaining candidate from both parties. CNN press release:
CNN announced today that Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer will host a three-hour primetime event with both Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls on Monday March 21 from 8 to 11 pmET. The event will take place just before the ‘Western Tuesday’ primary contests in Arizona, Utah and Idaho (D).
Donald Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will each be individually interviewed in the CNN Election Center in Washington, D.C. while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will be interviewed from the campaign trail.
The event will air from 8-11 pm ET on CNN, CNN International and CNN en Espanol, and will be live-streamed online and across mobile devices via CNNgo.
Scattered Rain, Grand Canyon, Ed Mell
The Sanders campaign believes that Western states will provide good opportunities for him to pick up delegates, but there won’t be masses of Independents voting for him this time. He’ll have to appeal to Democrats. As of today, FiveThirtyEight estimates that Clinton has a 51.1 percent chance of winning Arizona and Sanders has a 22.7 percent chance. RealClearPolitics has Clinton leading 48.5 to 21.5. There hasn’t been much polling of the state though. Donald Trump is strongly favored on the GOP side.
As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, the Sanders campaign is still claiming the Hillary can only win in red states in the Deep South. Never mind that she won Iowa, Nevada, Massachusetts, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, and Ohio. He is also still peddling the fantasy that he is the candidate who is better equipped to defeat Trump in the general election, even though he has so far won far fewer popular votes than either Clinton or Trump. He bases this claim on his big rallies, his supposed ability (not demonstrated so far) to increase voter turnout and the media-generated meme of an “enthusiasm gap.”
Grand Canyon, Maxfield Parrish
At FiveThirtyEight, Harry Enten explains why primary results can’t be used to project general election turnout: Primary Turnout Means Nothing For The General Election.
Republican turnout is up and Democratic turnout is down in the 2016 primary contests so far. That has some Republicans giddy for the fall…And some commentators are saying that Democrats should be nervous.
But Democrats shouldn’t worry. Republicans shouldn’t celebrate….voter turnout is an indication of the competitiveness of a primary contest, not of what will happen in the general election. The GOP presidential primary is more competitive than the Democratic race.
Indeed, history suggests that there is no relationship between primary turnout and the general election outcome. You can see this on the most basic level by looking at raw turnout in years in which both parties had competitive primaries. There have been six of those years in the modern era: 1976, 1980, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008.
Check out Enten’s charts and detailed analysis of the question at the link.
Moon Rising, Barbara Gurwitz
This one is for Dakinikat. Eric Levitz at New York Magazine: The Republican Party Must Answer for What It Did to Kansas and Louisiana.
In 2010, the tea-party wave put Sam Brownback into the Sunflower State’s governor’s mansion and Republican majorities in both houses of its legislature. Together, they implemented the conservative movement’s blueprint for Utopia: They passed massive tax breaks for the wealthy and repealed all income taxes on more than 100,000 businesses. They tightened welfare requirements, privatized the delivery of Medicaid, cut $200 million from the education budget, eliminated four state agencies and 2,000 government employees. In 2012, Brownback helped replace the few remaining moderate Republicans in the legislature with conservative true believers. The following January, after signing the largest tax cut in Kansas history, Brownback told the Wall Street Journal, “My focus is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, ‘See, we’ve got a different way, and it works.’ ”
Louisiana has replicated these results. When Bobby Jindal moved into the governor’s mansion in 2008, he inherited a $1 billion surplus. When he moved out last year, Louisiana faced a $1.6 billion projected deficit. Part of that budgetary collapse can be put on the past year’s plummeting oil prices. The rest should be placed on Jindal passing the largest tax cut in the state’s history and then refusing to reverse course when the state’s biggest industry started tanking. Jindal’s giveaway to the wealthiest citizens in the country’s second-poorest state cost Louisiana roughly $800 million every year. To make up that gap, Jindal slashed social services, raided the state’s rainy-day funds, and papered over the rest with reckless borrowing. Today, the state is scrambling to resolve a $940 million budget gap for this fiscal year, with a $2 billion shortfall projected for 2017. Like Bizarro Vermont, Louisiana can no longer afford to provide public defenders for all its criminal defendants. Its Department of Children and Family Services may soon be unable to investigate every reported instance of child abuse. Education funding is down 44 percent since Jindal took office. The state’s hospitals are likely to see at least $64 million in funding cuts this year.
Superstition Mountains, Carol Sabo
As we all know, Brownback’s and Jindal’s policies brought both states to their knees economically. For more detailed analysis, go to the link and read the entire piece. So why haven’t Republican presidential candidates been asked to explain why they are pushing the same tired policies that destroyed two states?
What has happened to these states should be a national story; because we are one election away from it being our national story. Ted Cruz claims his tax plan will cost less than $1 trillion in lost revenue over the next ten years. Leaving aside the low bar the Texas senator sets for himself — my giveaway to the one percent will cost a bit less than the Iraq War! — Cruz only stays beneath $1 trillion when you employ the kind of “dynamic scoring” that has consistently underestimated the costs of tax cuts in Kansas. Under a conventional analysis, the bill runs well over $3 trillion, with 44 percent of that lost money accruing to the one percent. John Kasich’s tax plan includes cutting the top marginal rate by more than ten percent along with a similar cut to the rates on capital gains and business taxes. Even considering Kasich’s appetite for Social Security cuts, his plan must rely on the same supply-side voodoo that Kansas has so thoroughly discredited. As for the most likely GOP nominee, even with dynamic scoring, his tax cuts would cost $10 trillion over the next ten years, with 40 percent of that gargantuan sum filling the pockets of Trump’s economic peers.
If any of these men are [sic] elected president, they will almost certainly take office with a House and Senate eager to scale up the “red-state model.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said of Brownback’s Kansas, “This is exactly the sort of thing we (Republicans) want to do here, in Washington, but can’t, at least for now.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s celebrated budgets all depend on the same magical growth that has somehow escaped the Sunflower State.
Maxfield Parish, Cowboys’ Hot Springs AZ
In an important op-ed at The Washington Post, Mark Barden and Jackie Barden respond to comments Bernie Sanders made during the Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan. The Bardens’ son Daniel was murdered in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Sanders is wrong about the lawsuit we filed after our son’s murder in Newtown.
Our son, our sweet little Daniel, was just 7 when he was murdered in his first-grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. We are among the 10 families suing the manufacturer, distributor and retail seller of the assault rifle that took 26 lives in less than five minutes on that terrible day.
We write in response to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s comments about our lawsuit at the recent Democratic presidential debate in Michigan. Sanders suggested that the “point” of our case is to hold Remington Arms Co. liable simply because one of its guns was used to commit mass murder. With all due respect, this is simplistic and wrong.
This case is about a particular weapon, Remington’s Bushmaster AR-15, and its sale to a particular market: civilians. It is not about handguns or hunting rifles, and the success of our lawsuit would not mean the end of firearm manufacturing in this country, as Sanders warned. This case is about the AR-15 because the AR-15 is not an ordinary weapon; it was designed and manufactured for the military to increase casualties in combat. The AR-15 is to guns what a tank is to cars: uniquely deadly and suitable for specialized use only.
We have never suggested that Remington should be held liable simply for manufacturing the AR-15. In fact, we believe that Remington and other manufacturers’ production of the AR-15 is essential for our armed forces and law enforcement. But Remington is responsible for its calculated choice to sell that same weapon to the public, and for emphasizing the military and assaultive capacities of the weapon in its marketing to civilians.
Indeed, Remington promotes the AR-15’s capacity to inflict mass casualities. It markets its AR-15s with images of soldiers and SWAT teams; it dubs various models the “patrolman” and the “adaptive combat rifle” and declares that they are “as mission-adaptable as you are”; it encourages the notion that the AR-15 is a weapon that bestows power and glory upon those who wield it. Advertising copy for Remington’s AR-15s has included the following: “Consider your man card reissued,” and “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.”
Please go read the rest at the WaPo. I really hope Bernie Sanders reads it carefully.
Arizona, Jose Aceves
Finally, here’s just one reason I believe Hillary Clinton will crush Donald Trump or any other GOP candidate in November.
CNN: Obama plans to campaign hard, with legacy on his mind.
As he approaches the end of his term in the midst of an election year that has been defined by heated, often controversial rhetoric coming from the leading Republican candidates, like GOP front-runner Donald Trump, the President is vowing to do all he can to make sure a Democrat replaces him at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He also wants to retake the Senate and win more seats in the House of Representatives.
So far, he has headlined 35 fundraisers since the 2014 midterm elections and he has already endorsed 10 candidates at the state level, according to the Democratic National Committee.
“The President has been clear that as we get closer to the general election, it will become even more important that the American people understand what is at stake,” said White House Deputy Press Secretary Jennifer Friedman. “Do we continue to build on the policies that reward hard-working American families, advance our economic and national security, and address challenges for future generations, or do we stop in our tracks, reverse our progress and move in the wrong direction? This is a choice that the President does not take lightly, and is something he will lay out for the American people with increased frequency in the weeks and months ahead.”
Obama has implicitly endorsed Hillary four times now, and he has said he would not campaign for any candidate who doesn’t support “commonsense gun laws.” If she is the nominee, there will be an awesome team behind her–President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, as well as other prominent Democrats. Can you just imagine what a team Barack and Hillary will make on the campaign trail? I can’t wait.
What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great weekend!
Posted: March 8, 2013 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Christine Legarde, Forest Whitaker, gun laws, gun violence, international women's day, John Yoo, Racism, Richard Engle, Syria, targeted drone killing, unemployed law grads
Many of you might be stuck in your homes today with all that weather so here are some things to keep you busy. First, Richard Engle’s Diary of his kidnapping in Syria has been published in Vanity Fair.
A group of about 15 armed men were fanning out around us. Three or four of them stood in the middle of the road blocking our vehicles. The others went for the doors. They wore black jackets, black boots, and black ski masks. They were professionals and used hand signals to communicate. A balled fist meant stop. A pointed finger meant advance. Each man carried an AK-47. Several of the gunmen began hitting the windows of our car and minivan with the stocks of their weapons. When they got the doors open, they leveled their guns at our chests.
Time was slowing down as if I’d been hit in the head. Time was slowing down as if I were drowning.
This can’t be happening. I know what this is. This can’t be happening. These are the shabiha. They’re fucking kidnapping us.
“Get out!” a gunman was yelling as he dragged Aziz from the car.
Then I saw the container truck. It wasn’t far away, parked off the road and hidden among olive trees. The metal doors at its rear stood open, flanked by gunmen.
That’s where they are going to put us. That’s here for us. We’re going into that truck.
I got out of the car. Two of the gunmen were already marching Aziz to the truck. He had his hands up, his shoulders back, his head tilted forward to protect against blows from behind.
Maybe I should run. Maybe I should run right now. But the road is flat and open. The only cover is by the trees near the truck. Maybe I should run. But where?
I saw John standing by the minivan. Gunmen were taking Ian toward the truck. It was his turn. Like me, John hadn’t been touched yet.
Maybe they’ve forgotten us? Maybe they don’t want us?
Our eyes made contact. John shrugged and opened his hands in disbelief. Time was going very slowly now, but my mind was racing like a panicked heart in a body that can’t move.
“Get going!” a gunman yelled at me in Arabic, pointing his weapon at my chest.
I looked at him blankly, pretending not to understand. Foreigners who speak Arabic in the Middle East are often assumed to be working for the C.I.A. or Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad. The gunman took me by the finger, holding on to it by the very tip. I could have pulled it away with the smallest tug.
But then what? Then go where?
John was the next to join us in the back of the truck. He walked slowly, as if being escorted to a waiting limo. John is a New Yorker and was dressed entirely in black. He has long white hair and a devilish smile, and his nickname is the Silver Fox. He and I had been in a lot of rough places—Libya, Iraq, Gaza. John, Ghazi, and Aziz were among my closest friends in the world.
At least I’ll die with my friends.
This will let you know how tough it is out here: “To Place Graduates, Law Schools Are Opening Firms”.
The plan is one of a dozen efforts across the country to address two acute — and seemingly contradictory — problems: heavily indebted law graduates with no clients and a vast number of Americans unable to afford a lawyer.
This paradox, fed by the growth of Internet-based legal research and services, is at the heart of a crisis looming over the legal profession after decades of relentless growth and accumulated wealth. It is evident in the sharp drop in law school applications and the increasing numbers of Americans showing up in court without a lawyer.
“It’s a perfect storm,” said Stacy Caplow, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who focuses on clinical education. “The longstanding concerns over access to justice for most Americans and a lack of skills among law graduates are now combined with the problems faced by all law schools. It’s creating conditions for change.”
Remember John Yoo. He was the lawyer/author of those Bush legal memos justifying torture. He thinks that Obama is “getting too much grief over targeted killing”.
And he wants Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—who filibustered Obama’s nominee to head the CIA for 13 hours on Wednesday—to lay off.
“I admire libertarians but I think Rand Paul’s filibuster in many ways is very much what libertarians do, they make these very symbolic gestures, standing for some extreme position,” said Yoo, now a UC Berkeley law professor, who once suggested it was okay for the president to order a child’s testicles be crushed. Referring to Paul’s marathon filibuster, an attempt to force the Obama administration to clarify its views on the use of military force against terror suspects in the United States, Yoo said “It sort of reminds me of young kids when they first read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged and they suddenly think that federal taxation equals slavery and they’re not going to pay any federal taxes anymore.” Yoo’s statements were made on a conference call Thursday held by the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal organization.
Paul’s conservative colleagues also pushed back on him on Thursday: On the Senate floor, John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) mocked Paul’s objections as “ridiculous.”
Yoo said that he thought the administration’s problems stemmed from its belief that it needed to provide “due process” to terror suspects abroad—or even in the United States, referring to a recently leaked white paper outlining the Obama administration’s legal views on targeted killings of US citizen terror suspects.
So, here’s an interesting study. It seems that the “States With Most Gun Laws Have Fewest Gun Deaths”.
“It seems pretty clear: If you want to know which of the states have the lowest gun-mortality rates just look for those with the greatest number of gun laws,” said Dr. Eric W. Fleegler of Boston Children’s Hospital who, with colleagues, analyzed firearm-related deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2007 through 2010.
By scoring individual states simply by the sheer volume of gun laws they have on the books, the researchers noted that in states with the highest number of firearms measures, their rate of gun deaths is collectively 42 percent lower when compared to states that have passed the fewest number of gun rules. The study was published online in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
As proof, Fleegler pointed to the firearm-fatality rates in law-laden states such as Massachusetts (where there were 3.4 gun deaths per 100,000 individuals), New Jersey (4.9 per 100,000) and Connecticut (5.1 per 100,000). In states with sparser firearms laws, researchers reported that gun-mortality rates were higher: Louisiana (18.0 per 100,000), Alaska (17.5 per 100,000) and Arizona (13.6 per 100,000).
Speaking of working to end violence, today is Intentional Women’s Day. This year’s theme is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women” Here’s some headlines for that celebration. First off, here’s French economist and head of the IMF Christine Leguarde. You can watch her speak at this IMF Link.
Here’s some suggested readings for you.
From the UK Guardian: “International Women’s Day: school is ‘the new front line of feminism’”
Surveys and anecdotal evidence may suggest that few young women identify with the word feminism, fearing it sits at odds with a desire to wear makeup or heels. Yet there are increasing signs of an interest in gender equality issues among these same young women, who are now turning to social media such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook to reach out to fellow activists or just to share experiences and seek advice about what can be done.
Laura Bates, the founder of the #everydaysexism campaign, says that 10% of its more than 20,000 entries detailing harassment come from under-16s, with many more from colleges.
Campaign group UK Feminista has been so inundated with requests to speak to schools around the country that it has now launched a two-year programme of workshops and campaigns aimed at secondary pupils. Called Generation F: Young Feminists in Action, it comes as the government considers a cross-party bid to make sex and relationship education compulsory in schools.
From World News Australia, we read that “International Women’s Day 2013: Gender inequality ‘still rife'”.
Australian women make up just over half of the total Australian population.
In some areas, equality has been achieved, but in others there is clearly a long way to go.
The boards of both private and public organisations are still dominated by men.
For instance, only about 10 per cent of the executives of companies listed in the Australian Stock Exchange Market are female.
And according to federal government figures, average weekly earnings for women are $250 less than men.
United Nations Women director for Australia, Julie McKay, thinks a combination of socio-economic factors contribute to this situation.
“I think there’s a huge issue about unconscious bias, that we sometimes don’t even realise that we have, about the roles that women should play and the sort of characteristics that make different people leaders. But I think we also got other issues around accessibility and affordability of child care, which prevent many women being able to access work and particularly full time work.”
Many migrant and refugee women in Australia can be prevented from working in the field in which they’re experienced, due to lack of English skills or problems with qualification recognition.
But Chin Wong, from the Australian Migrant and Refugee Women’s Alliance, says that doesn’t mean they don’t get into the workforce.
She argues that female newcomers can be preferred by employers because they are more likely to ignore their rights, and tend to argue less than men about working conditions.
“Sometimes the women can find jobs easier than men and therefore a lot of times the man become the homemaker, and the woman has to go to work. But that doesn’t mean that when they come home they don’t still have to make sure that the houses are maintained, because that’s culture. Some of the cultures mean that the women have to do most of the work.”
Here’s two suggested reads on racism in America by Ed Kilgore with a link to Ta-Nehisi’s Coates’ guest column in the New York Time.
If you are a white person who has on occasion felt aggrieved at the persistence of allegations of white racism in America, do yourself and your conscience a favor and read Ta-Nehisi’s Coates’ guest column today in the New York Times.
His point of departure is the humiliating frisking of the very famous and distinguished actor Forest Whitaker by an employee of a deli in Coates’ own Manhattan neighborhood. But he uses this incident to make the very important point that if we disclaim the possibility of racist behavior on the part of “good” or “moral” people, we may well wind up excusing racism almost altogether.
The idea that racism lives in the heart of particularly evil individuals, as opposed to the heart of a democratic society, is reinforcing to anyone who might, from time to time, find their tongue sprinting ahead of their discretion. We can forgive Whitaker’s assailant. Much harder to forgive is all that makes Whitaker stand out in the first place. New York is a city, like most in America, that bears the scars of redlining, blockbusting and urban renewal. The ghost of those policies haunts us in a wealth gap between blacks and whites that has actually gotten worse over the past 20 years.
But much worse, it haunts black people with a kind of invisible violence that is given tell only when the victim happens to be an Oscar winner. The promise of America is that those who play by the rules, who observe the norms of the “middle class,” will be treated as such. But this injunction is only half-enforced when it comes to black people, in large part because we were never meant to be part of the American story. Forest Whitaker fits that bill, and he was addressed as such.
I am trying to imagine a white president forced to show his papers at a national news conference, and coming up blank. I am trying to a imagine a prominent white Harvard professor arrested for breaking into his own home, and coming up with nothing. I am trying to see Sean Penn or Nicolas Cage being frisked at an upscale deli, and I find myself laughing in the dark. It is worth considering the messaging here. It says to black kids: “Don’t leave home. They don’t want you around.” It is messaging propagated by moral people.
The thing is, this has always been more or less true. My extended family (thought not, mercifully, my nuclear family) when I was growing up in the Jim Crow South was loaded with racists. None of them were members of the Ku Klux Klan, perpetrators of violence, or “bad people” by any general measure. Most of them were very regular church-goers. One of the sweetest people I ever knew was a great aunt who after MLK’s assassination allowed as how she wished she could take in the assassin and feed him and protect him for his great act in defending Christian civilization. That wouldn’t have been surprising to Dr. King himself, whose classic Letter From a Birmingham Jail was addressed to the good Christian clergy of that city who by their silence and calls for an unjust “peace” were defending segregation more effectively than the hooded riffraff of the Klan.
So, there are my suggestions today. Please be careful if the weather around you is “lionly”. What’s on your reading and blogging list?
Posted: April 19, 2012 Filed under: 2012 presidential campaign, American Gun Fetish, Mitt Romney, morning reads, Republican politics, SCOTUS, Second Amendment, U.S. Economy, U.S. Military, U.S. Politics | Tags: Afghanistan, ALEC, American nuns, Azzam Rahim, Chardon school shooting, gun laws, John Roberts, Leon Panetta, National Rifle Association, NRA, Torture, Trayvon Martin, vatican, Virginia Tech massacre, war crimes, Wayne LaPierre
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?