Monday, April 29, 2013

GOP = The party of stupidity and corruption by big oil money - lies and anti-science bias prevail over reason and facts

End Gerrymandering; make elections more honest and representative

Hint - because conservative economics are a failure

Illegal guns and gun control and the Boston bombers

 cross posted from MN Political Roundtable

Illegal guns and the Boston Bombers (alleged)

We’ve heard repeatedly from the gun-huggers that if we pass gun control, only the criminals will have guns.

Never mind that in every comparably developed country in the eastern and western hemisphere, where there is effective gun control, there is less crime committed involving guns, far fewer suicides involving guns, and far fewer accidents involving guns, especially accidents involving children and firearms.

In the case of the Boston bombers, where an MIT campus police officer was gunned down, we were told initially that the domestic terrorists were heavily armed.  We were told that the younger brother who was found hiding out in a boat, wounded, fired on the FBI and ATF officers, who were heard sending a fusillade of fire into the boat where the suspect was hiding before he staggered out and surrendered.  The boat owner in interviews has rejected donations to replace his boat, directing them instead to the survivors of this domestic terrorism, but apparently his boat is irreparably damaged; it is trashed, it is a total loss, by the number of bullets fired into it, as a result of someone firing accidentally among law enforcement personnel, which was mistakenly taken as firing by the suspect.

In the case of the preceding events, the day before, it now appears that the two suspect bombers did not in fact rob a convenience store.  They did car jack a black SUV, apparently at gun point.  In the subsequent shootout  to the fatal shooting of the MIT LEO, it has been reported that over 200 rounds were fired, but it is unclear how many of those rounds were fired by the older of the two suspects.  It does appear that the older brother was trying to use his firearm for some form of suppression fire that would allow him to get closer to law enforcement officers in order to devastate them with an exploding suicide vest that failed.  Apart from the injuries sustained from the malfunctioning suicide vest which left bad burns, and the bullet holes fired by LEOs that found their target – which don’t appear to be that extensive, but hopefully that detail will become clearer at a later time.  What has been reported is that the older brother survived for a number of hours after this exchange, in spite of the report that has not so far been discarded, that the younger brother drove the large black SUV OVER his brother’s body in his attempt to escape from the authorities.  Having a car drive over you, and being burned, and still surviving for a number of hours at least suggests a lack of serious, eventually fatal, bullet wounds to the terrorist from law enforcement.

Clearly, the response of law enforcement, as we all watched with varying degrees of attention, the search for the second terrorist, showed a lot of armed and armored up men.  Clearly they were expecting more suicide bomb vests, more IEDs, more gun fire.  But equally clearly, these two terrorists were NOT as well armed as first believed.

And the fact that the two terrorists had only one gun between them is because gun control in states like Massachusetts, which has fairly strict gun control, works, and it works well.  Where states – and cities, like New York City – are effective in gun control, those fewer guns which are still problematic in crime come almost entirely from lax gun control states.  If those states better regulated the guns that get into the hands of criminals, our law enforcement would be much safer, innocent boats would not be riddled like swiss cheese, and suspects like the second alleged bomber would quite possibly not be so physically impaired as to make questioning as difficult as it has been — and THAT would also make us all much safer.

We may never connect all the dots to explain how the two alleged bomber brothers got their hands on a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, but we may at some future point learn where it was originally sold.  (I’m betting on a Walmart, because they have a history of problems with failures to properly follow laws, both federal and local, for firearms sales while being the largest firearms seller in the country,)  But we already do know that the two brothers did not have a permit, and as noted on the web site for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife:


Massachusetts residents 15 years and older who wish to possess, carry, transport firearms, ammunition and feeding devices are required to have a firearms license.

Additionally, Massachusetts has an assault weapons and assault-STYLE weapons ban, which may explain why the only weapon in the possession of the bombers was a handgun. States that have such bans in place have fewer instances of gun crimes committed with that kind of weapon – another indication that such weapons bans are effective.  As a ‘may issue’ state, law enforcement has the discretion to deny permits to those who should not have firearms.  If the two (alleged) bombers HAD been armed with one or more assault style weapons, and with more hand guns, as we have seen in other incidents involving shoot-outs with law enforcement, it is likely there would have been more injuries and possibly even fatalities among law enforcement.  Boston, for all the damage done by improvised bombs, had far fewer fatalities than the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado, in the suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, or in the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Not one single privately armed person was instrumental in preventing the actions of the bombers; no ‘good guy with a gun’ did a damned thing to reduce the violence or prevent it.  Private citizens armed like the military is not the equal of a real military, of the forces of law enforcement and other agencies that were so effective in dealing with this domestic terrorism.

Gun control makes us free – free from gun violence, and freer from armed terrorists.  Real freedom, real public safety, real public health decision require us to have MORE gun control, not less.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

It matters

Light today

Writing will be distinctly light for the day; it is too glorious out of doors to be in front of a monitor and keyboard.

Spring seems FINALLY to be here, despite the occasional remnants of piles of snow.

Enjoy the weather, family and friends, and if at all possible, the beautiful outdoors.

A true observation

Separate separate separate, Sunday and every day

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Criminal religion, democracy versus theocracy, misogyny versus liberty

PhotoConservatives are not about liberty or freedom; conservatives are all about controlling your life. Their claims about 'smaller government' is code for wanting to be able to control your life - like racist politics, voter suppression politics, controlling your sexuality and sex lives, and imposing their religion on you without your consent -- all bad things that the Constitution and the federal government stop them from doing, so they want to stop the Federal government by calling it 'big government. It's good government, it is the right 'size' government, it is constitutional government, not 'too big' government.

A University of Arizona religious studies student, Dean Saxton, parades around campus with the strident, misogynist message that women deserve rape, if they don't dress modestly enough.  You know - the same reasoning as religious police enforcing the wearing of a burqa, only Christian.  Never mind that babies are raped, young girls are raped, very elderly grandmothers are raped, and what they are wearing or doing has nothing to do with their being the victims of rape.

Boys and men are raped, too. Women soldiers in cammo fatigues are raped.  Modestly dressed Baptist women are the victims of both rape and incest from Baptist men, and their clergy excuse it and obstruct reporting it to law enforcement -- and yes, they try to blame the victims for those crimes too, not the criminals who commit the crimes.

That reasoning is on a par with claiming that uppity negroes deserve being lynched, for not being appropriately subordinate and submissive, and conforming to the appropriate conformity of white male authority.

For all the criticism in the west of Islam, for this kind of foul and faulty thinking, in Saudi Arabia earlier this year, three United Emirates men were kicked out of the country while attending a regional cultural event for being too good looking by the religious police, because of fears that women would find them too good looking.  I doubt they feared the women would become rapists, because that would violate their funny notions of male superiority, but they were apparently worried women might think lascivious thoughts.  But let's face it, it's pretty rare that men punish men for the lust of others. 

It's an old religious tradition, blaming others for things where those who are in the wrong should take responsibility for their own conduct and emotions.  In Genesis 3:12, after eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge, Adam tried blaming both Eve, and by implication and extension, God, with the words (King James version, my preferred translation):
"And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." 
The important part of that lesson is that Adam still got tossed out of paradise on his arse, yet somehow that is not the message that some of the most religious have learned from a careful reading of the Bible. All they learned to do was to be sanctimonious bastards who hate women and who fear and hate human sexuality, who become part of the perversion of healthy sexuality and respect for women, usually to the detriment of women and children, and even occasionally, rarely, of men.

We have Muslim clerics blaming women's clothing for earthquakes, which is on a par with Christian fundies who equally stupidly blamed an earthquake on two centuries old rumors of voodoo rituals by black people.  And of course we have the right wing Christian fundies who blame hurricanes on abortion or homosexuality.  The blame the victims game is inherent in conservative thinking, and it is endemic to religious fundamentalism.

Which is why we need a sufficiently large government to stop the stupidity and the impulse to control people inherent in conservatives and worst in fundamental conservatives of all stripes, and their attempt to infringe on their Constitutional liberty.

Religion can bring out the better parts of human belief, thought and behavior, but so often it does not.  When it is in the hands of the controlling conformist conservatives, too often this is a bad combination that hurts other people, that harms us as a nation, as in this case, contributing to a rape culture by making excuses for rapists.

No one 'deserves' rape, rape is never acceptable, there is no excuse for rapists.  Those who believe otherwise are as guilty of hate speech as those who advocated for lynching uppity black people.  It is wrongly justifying a crime, it is wrongly encouraging a crime by making excuses for it, and by blaming the victims. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Right wing failure - at humanity, at government, at reason and logical thinking

Reality Check!

The Atlantic came up with a piece titled Owning Guns Doesn't Preserve Freedom which basically backs up what I have been saying about personal guns protecting freedom being rubbish. After all, the Iraquis had loads of guns. And heavily-armed Yemen (54.8) and Saudi Arabia (35.0) remain among the most repressive countries in the world (Yes, Orlon, I know this stuff is hard for you to understand, but that never stops you from making idiotic comments).

 The article points out that:
A quick scan through the list continues the point. Chile (10.7) comes in with the same arms rate as Venezuela, but the nations present starkly divergent civil freedoms. Russia (8.9) is slightly more armed than Ireland (8.6). The Netherlands (3.9) is on par, as far as weapons go, with oppressive Turkmenistan (3.8). Israel and Georgia see the same arms rate as Iran and Belarus and yet exist on opposite ends of Freedom House's rank.
The best quote:
"This relationship between gun rates and [democracy] isn't based upon social science - it's based upon philosophy," said Aaron Karp, a political science professor at Old Dominion University and one of the Small Arms Survey's senior consultants. "Part of the reason why people who are advocates of individual gun rights tend to be opposed to social science is that they're not comfortable with it." 
And while you are reading that article, check out the related Great Gun Gobbledygook: The Paradox of Second Amendment Hardliners:

In the current debate over gun control, the pro-gun lobby has an ace card up its sleeve: We need weapons to prevent government tyranny, they say. These self-styled champions of liberty see guns as the ultimate insurance policy to protect the Constitution. The problem is that most of those making this argument also strongly support a massive U.S. military -- exactly the behemoth we must be armed against. It's the great gun gobbledygook.
The irony isn't lost on me that the Second Amendment was supposed to protect against a large, standing military. On the other hand, the historically ignorant can be led.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

That’s mighty white of you, ‘Cock-Asians’ (the right wing’s term)

You can't make up the racist right-wing crazy that wants to repudiate the term Caucasian as a descriptive category for white people, as used by government agencies like the Census bureau.  Apparently, those on the right have a problem with people from the Caucuses Mountains, which include Chechnya, being referred to as white people, in describing their ethnicity or race.  Because they believe it refers to individuals they consider Asian, not good proper western European white people, they go further to make a racist, sexist slur out of the term. Bo Sears, and his resisting defamation project is part of the broader white supremacist movement...but not the Caucasian supremacist movement. The white supremacists are celebrated on the right, notably at and by CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference) where these groups host seminars arguing for the domination of America exclusively by those who are white, and western European in descent and preference.  Other people, including our indigenous peoples, are second class at best, if they're considered legitimate Americans at all.

The right tries to protest that they are not racists, but they do not repudiate people who think like this. Therefore, the term fits, and it fits so tightly that they aren't going to be getting rid of it any time soon, any more than they will be shedding their skins.

Cross posted from where I originally wrote it, on MN Progressive Project:

That’s mighty white of you, ‘Cock-Asians’ (the right wing’s term)

by Dog Gone on April 22, 2013
Torture_InquisitionAs we come down from the suspense of last week’s terrorist events, and our nation’s armed response to it from the democratic mayor, governor, and president, I am struck by several of the partisan divides in how we respond to such events that highlight the problems of polarization, and especially right wing ignorance.

Last week, the day after the marathon bombing, U.S. News and other media reported the two year study by the Constitution Project on the worse than useless efforts of the Bush administration in engaging in torture post-9/11.

Does anyone here think that the right wingers would be calling for torture if the bombers had not been recent immigrants, and were typical right winger White Supremacists? Not bloody likely.

During last week, we had one (alleged) bomber shot while wearing a suicide vest, trying to injure law enforcement with explosives, and engaging in what became a fatal shootout for both the older of the two bombers, and for an MIT campus law enforcement officer. Over the weekend, the other suspect was taken into custody.

Immediately we have a right wing nut, New York state senator Greg Ball, calling for torture — because never mind that it produced nothing of value, nothing of intelligence that could not better have been acquired through other techniques of traditional interrogation that work so much better, that have greater morality and legality.

And once again we have the GOP representing the ‘value’ party of stupid AND vicious, falsely labeling that patriotism. As noted by the Huff Po:
Greg Ball @ball4ny
So, scum bag #2 in custody. Who wouldn’t use torture on this punk to save more lives?
7:52 PM – 19 Apr 2013
134 Retweets 84 favorites
In the same time period, we have the Constitution Project noting about the failure of torture, as reported by the United Press International:
The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.”
It makes the right FEEL good to abuse people towards whom they are hostile or antipathetic, and the right consistently engages in that kind of emotional rather than rational thinking. It reflects both the violent tendencies of the right along with the absence of objective, fact based thinking. It also reflects deeply held beliefs and attitudes that are never going to attract African American, Latino and Hispanic, or Asian American voters, no matter how much they spend or campaign to achieve broader voter outreach.

This is about stupidity and the desire for revenge, the desire to hurt someone we have in custody because we can, not because it is genuinely productive to do so, and certainly not because it is useful to do so, or moral to do so. Don’t confuse a conservative with the facts; they won’t accept them anyway. It will, as we saw with the Bush administration, encourage them to lie however, about their actions and the results of their actions. We’ve seen repeatedly that the right will lie up a storm to justify doing what they want, no matter how wrong, no matter how bad it is. They will find every justification they can think of to do so, and frequently double down on their pretexts after getting caught being wrong, and lying. Notably this has been true of Dubya and his puppet-masterVeep Cheney.

But the other thing the right has to do to justify torture is to look at the person they wish to torture as less of a human being, as less than themselves, as a very specific kind of ‘other’. In the case of immigrants, they are not American, so we can abuse them to our hearts’ content; in the case of naturalized Americans, they are not AS American, their Americanization doesn’t count in the balance. If someone is not white, preferably male, and Christian – preferably of the extreme or fundamental religious right – then they don’t count as human either; in all cases, this is true of people who are Muslim, or who the right perceives as Muslim-like, such as Hindus and Sikhs.

Rather- as we have seen year after year at CPAC – the right likes to distinguish between European and white, and everyone else. In their eyes ONLY white European descended Americans in the United States, who have ancestors who came here a number of generations back, should be the dominant governing and economic demographic.

Just when we think the right couldn’t show themselves to be more racist, and more ignorant, we have opposition to the census designation of people from the Chechnya region of Russia, in the Caucuses Mountains, from which the more technical, more official term for ‘white’ is derived. Yes, the right wing nuts are objecting to the two bomber suspects being identified as white, AND they are objecting to the word Caucasian being used for white people – or Cock-Asian, to turn it into a further racist slur. It is important to demonize the Chechens generally, and the bombing suspects specifically, as ‘other’. If you are on the right, it is essential to dehumanize people when you want to justify torturing them, and to distance yourself from them as much as possible; that is absolutely fundamental.

As noted today in an article by Salon, “Are the Tsaernev brothers white?”, the right has gone even deeper into the bizarre, hateful and stupid:
So why are the Tsarnaev brothers not white, at least to right-wingers? Is it only because they’re Muslim? Muslim immigrants? Or is it because they’re “bad,” and whiteness must be surrendered when white people are bad?

Over its long history America has regularly featured a process of sorting white from non-white, even among European immigrant groups. I’m not a huge admirer of the now-dated whiteness studies academic movement, but those scholars did help illuminate the way various groups of European immigrants, particularly the Irish, but also Jews, Italians and Eastern Europeans, “became” white over time, in a complicated process of determined assimilation, gradually lessening prejudice by existing “white” society, and most important, the arrival of newcomers to take the place of the scapegoated non-white other, alongside the definitive non-white scapegoats, African-Americans. Embracing racism and xenophobia, sadly, could be a shortcut to white status for previously non-white European immigrants.

These days, though, Americans of Russian or Chechen descent are unambiguously categorized as “white” by the U.S. Census Bureau, which says it counts as white all “people having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who reported ‘White’ or wrote in entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab, or Polish.” As I wrote Friday, the anguished outburst of Ruslan Tsarni, the brothers’ uncle in Maryland, was the quintessentially American cry of a newcomer wanting to be identified as a good, patriotic American – not necessarily as white, but certainly not as suspicious “other.”

So conservatives’ insistence the Tsarnaevs are absolutely not white is curious, to say the least.

Coincidentally or not, this weekend I got an email from Bo Sears, the head of Resisting Defamation, a conservative organization lobbying for the rights of white Americans as a “diverse demographic affinity group,” with the subject line “No to Caucasian.” Sears wrote:
Now that the diverse white American peoples are becoming a minority in many states, counties, and cities, we wanted to let you know that we have the right to name and label ourselves. And we don’t like being called a word that sounds like “cock-Asian.”
It would be easier to take Sears’ request seriously if he wasn’t appearing to take offense at the “Asian” part of Caucasian (with the kind of juvenile reference to “cock,” which had frankly never occurred to me), and also if he wasn’t regularly complaining about an “anti-white narrative” in the mainstream media and calling me personally an anti-white racist. But I wrote him back to ask what he thought whites should be called, whether he sent his broadside against the term “Caucasian” because of the Tsarnaevs, and whether considered the Tsarnaevs “white.” He answered:

We are far too small an organization to attempt to speak affirmatively about a precise name & label for the diverse white American demographic affinity, we’ve been working on the anti-Cock-Asian message in that email for a couple of weeks. Purely coincidence…based on an upsurge here and there to smother our diversity and nationality with “Cock-Asian.” …To answer your question: the only people who could say that the brothers Tsarnaev were among the diverse white American people would be the Tsarnaevs. You don’t quite understand that Resisting Defamation is not in the border-drawing, definition-making business…we merely resist the campaign of hate speech that we see coming at us
Interesting enough. But Sears also included a long exegesis of what it meant that that Tamarlan Tsarnaev had the name of the bloody 15th century central Asian-Muslim warlord Tamerlane, which he said was akin “to naming an American child ‘Stalin-Mao-Hitler.” Which seemed to indicate he considered the Tsarnaevs more Asian, or maybe “Cock-Asian,” than good old fashioned American white.

The right wing is eager to call for the torture of anyone they can identify and pillory as ‘other’, as ‘them’ in the us vs. them divide that classifies other or them as less than fully human, less than equal, less than deserving of humane treatment or moral and ethical response. The right erodes their own claims to humanity by supporting inhumane action, even as they are striving loudly and vigorously to deny the humanity of others. The only values on the right are failed ones. The extent to which they will distort and contort rational thinking and objective fact is a testament to how driven by fear, suspicion, and outright racist hatred to do so. It is one ore reason why,so long as the right remains who they are, as they are, that we cannot allow them anywhere near power, authority, or decision making. They do bad things when they have it, and they clearly want to do more bad things that will disgrace us and put us at greater risk, not protect us from harm. Rather, we need to be protected from them, from their violent tendencies, from their willful, hateful, racist ignorance and stupidity.

An afterthought – in case any of our readers are wondering if the right will be abandoning the word caucus – they might, but not because it has anything to do with Russia or the Caucuses region of Asia. It is a word derived from the Native American tongue used by the Algonquin Indian tribe. That might be too brown a term for them, if any of the scholars or pseudo-scholars ever bother to look it up.  No loss of voters for them if they do; they don’t seem to do well among Native American voters either, and are not likely to do so anytime soon.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

GOP = Republican Math is a failure because Ideology matters more than actual numbers

Perrry lied, people died, a fine right wing Texas tradition

The right wing lies about the effects of good regulation and enforcement on business and growth. Business does well; regulation and enforcement prevents fraud, costly accidents to workers and consumers, and dangerous contamination - or explosions.

What Perry and the right advocate is not good for anything except extraction of wealth into the special interest pockets of a few, leaving everyone else holding the bag - or burying their dead.  Failure to regulate of the kind Perry and the right espouses transfers without our consent the cost of doing business to all of us in the private sector as citizens.  It is part of the right wing epic failure in economic policy, public safety policy, environmental policy, labor policy and public health policy.

The important questions that go unanswered by the right wing...

In science news

Each of these things are wonderful in different ways, in amazing potential for future development to benefit all of us.  From facebook, 'I f-ing love science', where they REALLY love it:

Blessed be our differences


Monday, April 22, 2013

Humanity and Liberty

Some men and women in my life leave me awestruck.

Some people find a way to move beyond their own personal grief, their own pain, to forgivenss. Some of those who are parents of a child killed at Sandy Hook did not seek revenge against anyone who might have sold Adam Lanza's mother (Nancy) a gun, they sought a way to make the death of their child mean something. They sought to bring help to the mentally ill, they sought to help others who had been in similar circumstances of grief and loss.  Likewise, when in October of 2006, ten young Amish girls were shot and killed by a deranged man, some of the Amish responded in extraordinary ways. For example, in an NBC News article a few days later Columnist Rod Dreher wrote:

"Yesterday on NBC News, I saw an Amish midwife who had helped birth several of the girls murdered by the killer say that they were planning to take food over to his family's house. She said – and I paraphrase closely – 'This is possible if you have Christ in your heart'."  Another member of the same community wondered how they could do anything else than forgive him and his family.  The community brought food and more needed, kindness and forgiveness to the man's family.

From that same time...

"Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, said local people were trying to follow Jesus' teachings in dealing with the 'terrible hurt'."

"I don't think there's anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts."

They, these exemplary people, are able to find a place in their soul and conciousness to do something I do not think I could do were it me. I do not think most people can separate their crushing agony from the need to lash out. A few, an admirable few, can do so, but most cannot. I don't know that I could.

Yet, I know which is right. Like the paraphrase that goes, "I don't know that I can define obscentiy but I know it when I see it", equally I think we all know what is the "right thing."  We know it when it warms our hearts, we know it when it leaves us feeling awestruck at their kindness, their selflessness.  They chose to do the magnanimous thing, the thing that makes us better people (rather than worse).  They chose to do that that which moves us forward, rather than sullying us by indulging the desire for revenge.

Jhokar Tsarneav is 19, he looks a bit like my son (wild hair, same eye brows). Perhaps that makes me a bit more likely to be filled with compassion, but I don't think so. I found myself, on Friday, hoping and praying they would find this 19 year old young man and would capture him alive. I wanted this not only because I knew it would be much more valuable to be able to question him, but even more because compounding the tragedy of Boston, a tragedy for which he (Djokhar) is fully responsible, I didn't want it to be compounded with another potentially needless death. If he refused to be taken alive, well that's his choice, but if he could be, that's what I hoped for. His life was ruined, irreparably, but dead is worse. For him and more importantly for his parents, those who care about him. THEY did nothing wrong, but they'd lose a son, a friend, a cousin. Their loss would be no less real than that of the parents of those who were killed at the marathon. Furthermore, any death is a tragedy on its own even if the person is an orphan or friendless.

When a priest visits a capital murder suspect, they do not do so with hatred in their hearts, but rather with forgiveness. When Catholic Priests (and many others) protest capital punishment, they do so because the needless taking of life is unjustifiable taking of life.  No one is bettered by taking lives needlessly.  In young Djohkar's case, he was an impressionable youth lead astray by an older brother he doubtless looked up to, probably idolized, given the absence of his parents.  He should and will spend the rest of his life in prison, how will killing him remove the pain of the loss of an 8 year old boy? 

It would not make my heart any less sad were it my son who had been killed, it would only temporarily abate my rage, and even that would be simply an illusion.  Yet, if it had been my son who had died in the bombing, I have little doubt I would not feel this way, my emotion would overcome my better sense. That's why we don't allow the vctim's families to sit on the jury of the accused. It's why we should not form our laws from emotion, the decisions we would make would not be justice, they would be revenge. Like the Versailles accords which ended World War I, which were profoundly unfair and punative and so lead to the greater horror of World War II, such actions would most likely only lead to a grreater level of horror themselves.  History shows over and over again this course of "an eye for eye" has unfailingly left everyone blind. Perhaps that's what makes folks like the Amish able to put aside their desire for revenge, a wisdom about what the outcome would be if they sought it, but whatever motivates them, I know, history teaches beyond all doubt what bloodlust and vengence lead to.

This is why I am appalled at the reacton of so many of us. So many of us seek to invoke the death penalty for Djohkar. So many of us are ready to waive basic due process protections (seeking to instead define him and treat him as "an emeny combatant"). That designation is a legally dubious definition already struck down by the Supreme Court as not superceding a right to trial. It was invented by George Bush's administration and deeply abused. The Bush government held US citizens (and many hundreds of Afghans) in violation of our Constitution until they were ordered to desist and to provide those so held with a course to resolution, to trial, to counsel and to freedom if found to be not guilty, if found to have it shown there was insufficient evidence to hold them. Hundreds of those held in Guantanamo were subsequently freed peremptorily, quite simply because there was zero evidence to justify holding them not just insufficient evidence. Djokhar isn't innocent, there is more than ample evidence pointing to his guilt, but the point is the Bush government was willing to completely deny basic rights to suspects, and many in this country were plenty ready to go right along with it when the suspect was later shown to be fully innocent. In short, we, the United States, were willing to simply do away with basic liberties because of our fear, and also in part, our desire to exact a measure of revenge. The slippery slope of destroying our liberties was quickly and easily started down, moved well along, with INNOCENT suspects. How far are we now willing to go with those we are pretty confident are guilty? Apparently we're ready (or some of us are willing) to toss aside, for a US citizen, all due process protections. Deny him counsel, deny him a trial by his peers, put him up in front of a kangaroo court (as military tribunals often are when the votes of the officers will weigh on their future careers, where making the "wrong" vote means you might as well retire).   Why not simply get a rope and do what you want to do anyway?  At least then you're being honest about your conduct.  But then, take a look in a mirror, is what you did the "right thing?"

I would ask you to contrast these two approaches, one of compassion, of denying our desire for revenge and instead seeking to walk the path of actual justice, including fair trials, access to counsel, and even presumption of innocense, the other path being that of needing/wanting to harshly "interogate", to create a(nother) legal precedence for doing away with basic rights. Which one sounds like "doing the right thing" to you? Which one sounds like a "slippery slope?"

I do not see denying a person the right to own a rifle with a 30 round magazine as infringing on their basic rights. Those who argue allowing a ban on semi-automtic assault rifles is a "slippery slope" I do not agree with. The basic liberty allowed for in Constitution the owning of basic rifles and basic pistols and limited Congress, not the states. Yet I would stand with them to defend their right to own a firearm should any government seek to ban all firearms. Reasonable limits are not prohibited from the states

Clearly, those on the other side do not see Mirandizing a suspect as a basic liberty. They do not see denying them counsel as denying them a basic liberty. That has been their argument for many years. They don't like Miranda, and they don't like counsel for suspects with whom they don't identify. They prefer the days of the 1950's when cops were allowed to beat "confessions" out of people. They prefer a United States which can torture the "bad guys." They think not allowing it is "shackling" our intelligence efforts. More importantly, they don't appear to have any limit on moving the bar ever backward (so long as it's not them or their friends who is being infringed upon). They got pretty upset when Randy Weaver was apprhended and his family killed They, at first, said they didn't want such harsh tactics (as lack of access to counsel or trial or family) used on people inside our boarders, then they said they didn't want them used on US citizens, then they said they didn't want them used on "non-terror" suspects. Yet, each time those lines were crossed, very few of those who support "2nd amendment" rights and "the Constitution" raised a voice in objection. Unlike me and those who defend due process, there was seemingly no line which they were ready to stand up and say "Stop!" as I would say should someone try to ban all firearms.

What those who seek to be harsh fail to understand is that it is standing up for what is right when it is hard is that which separates a decent country from a totalitarian one. It is the lengths to which we WILL NOT GO, not those to which we will go, which have been used to define a government as behaving as a lawful, civilized society, and the lengths to which others will go, which has had them subsequently defined as engaging in crimes against humanity, their leaders held up as war criminals. But more importantly, it is our compassion for the accused, our desire to be fair first, as well as firm and just, which makes the perpetuation of the violence far less likely. It was exactly this fact which, under General David Patreaus, changed the tone in Iraq. We were no longer 'oppressors' once we stopped having little regard for the collateral deaths of innocents and the collateral usurpation of rights of suspects. It makes us the better men and women, it is the "right thing", it helps us heal rather than leaving us with the empty solace of revenge, and it makes our liberties safe. When we fail to consider the fair treatment of the accused, when we become more about vigilantism, we will no longer be free. Our liberties rest upon our restraint and respect, not upon force. Anyone can pull a trigger or beat a suspect, that hardly makes us a great society, and it will most certainly destroy our goal to be a free one.

As my good fiend just said, "We need our humanity most when it is hardest to find."

It's Earth Day 2013

The taxonomy name is Epicrates cenchria cenchria, the taxonomic name for it attributed to Linnaeus in 1758. This is a photo of a Brazilian rainbow boa; exquisitely beautiful. Rainbow boas are found across South America, particularly in humid woodland habitats, including the Amazon basin. They are generally considered the most beautiful snake in the world.

I've never had the fear or aversion to snakes (or spiders) that so many people have. Rather I see these glorious creatures as being every bit as entitled to exist, to co-exist, on this planet as we are. I was particularly struck by the intensity of color, reminding me of some exotic birds, which in evolutionary development came from reptiles.

Happy Earth Day! Think about bio-diversity today, both plant and animal, and how it enriches us all, in so many ways both practical and aesthetic.

Continuing the pretty picture aspect of Earth Day celebration:

Get a grip? Technology, and unintended consequences

I love TED talks; this is an amazing example.  I have long been fascinated by the intersection of mind and body that is our brains, of understanding our minds and our brains and how they change by what we do - or don't do.  The following video explores and expands our understanding of what we are doing medicating ourselves and our children, how and when medication might be mistakenly used without the necessary depth of understanding the problems medication is intended to treat.

It is insightful into the nature of addiction, and how that occurs. It is incredibly insightful into the essence of how we use and are affected by technology in ways we never anticipate, and only belatedly understand.

It is also one more reason to applaud the President's initiative regarding the human brain.

Bigots and Fascists on the right - a good fit for the tea party and the GOP

Shame, shame, shame on the NRA, and on the GOP

Another example of the epic failure of GOP 'pro-business' 'anti-citizen' policies

Good question.....


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Did not produce more jobs

For those who attempt to tar all Muslims as being bad and as being the same...

The Koch Brothers and others don't want green energy, they want pollution and the means to export more dirty oil

for my good friend visiting Prague during the Boston terrorist incident...

If you find the good people of the Czech Republic pitying you because of American stupidity, it ok to pretend you're from Canada.

Around the world, people recognize Canadians are kind, courteous, clean, and smarter than to need this kind of statement.  Clearly, the U.S. needs to be spending more on education (this is directed to you, right wing nut Congressman Kline).

More right wing failed values, failed priorities, failed policies, failed ideology

A Fox News funny - look at the caption in the middle of the screen

A terrorist bombing is not funny; but the way Fox news 'bombs' (fails) in getting their facts correct IS funny. We should laugh at Fox, as often as possible - which is pretty often.  Laughter is good for you, not so good for them, but that makes it doubly worthwhile.


Just sayin' - unlike Hurricanes, THIS could have been avoided with inspection and regulation ASSHOLE

Feeling those good vibrations ---- while waiting for sun and spring (or maybe just skipping spring to summer)

From one of my favorite fb sites, I f'ing love science:

Oobleck is a non-Newtonian liquid, meaning it behaves unlike typical fluids. Flowing freely, it behaves as a regular liquid, but when a force is applied, it is more like a solid. When placed over a subwoofer, the pressure from the sound waves causes the oobleck to thicken as it moves.

More info and video:

GOP failed values, failed message, failed policies

Saturday, April 20, 2013

And yet he is not decisively repudiated by the right

GOP = Hypocrisy

Drink up

Congratulations and condemnations

to the leadership and effective action in the Boston terrorist attack lead by Democratic mayor Thomas Menino, Democratic Governor Deval Patrick, and of course our Democratic President Obama for the direction and assistance through the resources provided by the federal government to Boston.

What a shame that our Republican members of Congress continue to support lax gun laws that allow bad people who proceed to act as domestic terrorists to acquire arsenals of weapons that are used by terrorists against the government and people of the United States. It is a thought to hold onto when watching the news of a killing by the Aryan Brotherhood or other right wing white supremacist groups embraced by the far right, it is a thought to hold onto while watching the unfolding news of the Boston bombing. 

It is a thought to hold onto the next time you hear a conservative whingeing on about who is the better protector of our citizens.

We have had fewer successful foreign and domestic attacks by terrorists under the Obama administration's policies and leadership.  If the GOP and Tea Party stopped obstructing legislation that would strengthen our security, and stopped obstructing - for purely political reasons - appointments of people to head agencies like the ATF, we all would be safer, not less safe, going forward.

Watching the news: Tamurlan, Tamurlane

Tamerlan.jpgWatching the news coverage of the two young terrorist bombers in Boston, I kept wondering if one of them wasn't trying to live up to his namesake.  Our more western-oriented European-oriented education tend to neglect the figure of Tamerlane, who launched military campaigns that killed millions (an estimated 5% of the world population at the time) and who converted people to Islam by the sword. We need to know the cultures and history of the whole world; we are a global society.

 We need to embrace more of our global diversity, not try to hide from it or fight against it (as the right wing nuts argue we should do,  being composed almost entirely of crazy old white guys).

For those of our readers who don't recognize the name of the historic Tamerlane (or Tamerlan, as the older brother of the two brothers was named), here is the thumbnail info courtesy of Wikipedia:

Timur, Tarmashirin Khan, Emir Timur (Persian: تیمورTimūr, Chagatai: Temür "iron"; 9 April 1336 – 18 February 1405), historically known as Tamerlane[1] (from Persian: تيمور لنگ‎, Timūr-e Lang, Aksak Timur "Timur the Lame" in Turkish), was a Turkic ruler.[2][3][4] He conquered West, South and Central Asia and founded the Timurid dynasty. He was the grandfather of Ulugh Beg, who ruled Central Asia from 1411 to 1449,[5][6][7] and the great-great-great-grandfather of Babur Beg, founder of the Mughal Empire, which ruled South Asia for centuries.[8][9][10][11][12]
Timur envisioned the restoration of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan.[13] Unlike his predecessors Timur was also a devout Muslim who referred to himself as the Sword of Islam, converting nearly all the Borjigin leaders to Islam during his lifetime.[14] His armies were inclusively multi-ethnic. During his lifetime Timur would emerge as the most powerful ruler in the Muslim world after defeating the Mamluks of Egypt and Syria, the emerging Ottoman Empire and the declining Sultanate of Delhi. Timur had also decisively defeated the Christian Knights Hospitaller at Smyrna; styling himself a Ghazi.[15] By the end of his reign Timur had also gained complete control over all the remnants of the Chagatai Khanate, Ilkhanate, Golden Horde and even attempted to restore the Yuan dynasty.[citation needed]
Timur's armies were feared throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe,[16] sizable parts of which were laid to ruin by his campaigns.[17] Scholars estimate that his military campaigns caused the deaths of 17 million people, amounting to about 5% of the world population.[18][19]
On the other hand, Timur is also recognized as a great patron of art and architecture, as he interacted with Muslim intellectuals such as Ibn Khaldun and Hafiz-i Abru.[20]
read more here

We are beginning to pay the price for global warming in many ways

Today is the anniversary of the Columbine shooting in 1999

I am cross posting something I originally published on Political Roundtable to honor those who suffered on this date in 1999 in the bloody massacre at Columbine High School.

It was written because I was angry at someone who was caught writing on the face book page of a Columbine victim's parent, apparently lying about their personal carrying of a firearm stopping a mass shooting.

As I watch the news this morning, I see footage of another young man, a little older, but not much, than the two Columbine shooters, who used explosives and a private arsenal of firearms, including the kind of assault style weapons we should ban and apparently the kind of large capacity magazines we should ban, to kill a lot of 'soft targets', and to kill and injure law enforcement officers. 

Personal firearms don't stop mass shootings, and in other use, they kill and injure far more people than they protect or aid.  We need to be regulating who has this kind of lethal force far more effectively than we currently do for public health and for public safety.

Lies about defensive gun use

I’ve blogged for going on five years now, frequently writing on topics relating to guns and gun control.
One of the controversial claims from the ‘gun huggers’ are those of defensive gun use, DGUs for short.
We most recently have seen Wayne La Pierre speaking out on behalf of the NRA defending gun carriers with the claim that what we need to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, in essence, repeating the controversial claim for more DGUs but also in using the term ‘good guy’, characterizing gun users as law abiding – which in my experience, they often are not.
The reality is that there is no substantive support for any claim that ordinary civilians – not military, not law enforcement officers – are useful to curtail bad guys with guns.  There is substantial support that the more people with guns, the more gun violence we have, both fatal and non-fatal. The distinction of a ‘good guy’ and a ‘bad guy’ is simplistic and false thinking, as if we all ran around in white hats and black hats, as if we are all distinctly ‘good guys’ or ‘ bad guys’, that everyone can tell apart by just looking at us.
That is not reality. The gun huggers use the discredited arguments of old studies by Lott and Kleck.  (For an example of those being thoroughly discredited, here is just one example.) There are numerous more substantive studies that find a correlation that show more guns result in more gun violence, not more defensive gun use, not reduction in crime, just more shooting. That the pro-gunners and the NRA, which represents the gun manufacturers far more than their nominal ‘members’, have spent a lot of money to prevent investment in studies relating to gun use and gun deaths and injuries, and the substantial public costs associated with firearms.
In the course of blogging, I’ve come across a lot of what appear to be utterly bogus claims of DGUs by supposedly lawful, law abiding gun owners.  The reality is that most of these appear to be fakes, fantasy, in fishing parlance  exaggerated ‘the one that got away’ stories.
A recent example of an exchange on facebook illustrates my point, a point which voters and our legislators should note in considering the testimony of the pro-gunners. I’m redacting the individual’s identifying information, but these are the actual FB claims made in comments opposing gun control:
“I was a victim of a shooting in a Sacramento McDonald’s. I had my 9mm semi-automatic handgun concealed and I defended my family and all the customers at that McDonald’s and I saved numerous lives. I’m the good guy with a gun, and I prevented a mass murder.”
Here is the initial problem – there doesn’t appear to have been any such shooting at a Sacramento McDonald’s, particularly during the period this gun guy claims to have been in Sacramento.  No search turns up such a shooting being reported by media. A call to the PD in California to report this facebook claim, in case it was helpful in solving a claim – there were two shootings at McDonald’s, one in December 2012, one in January 2013, which appeared to be unsolved so far – produced the statement from the detective in charge of those cases that this did not sound like any shooting at a McDonald’s of which he was aware.
Further, in that ‘good guy with a gun’ / law abiding lawful gun owner category? The guy making the claim is from Alabama, where he mentions WAITING to get his concealed carry permit.  More than that, even if he DID have a cc permit, California does not recognize cc permits from other states. They have NO reciprocity with Alabama or any other state, nor is this man a member of law enforcement or any other entity that might give him some leeway with LEOs to legally carry a concealed 9 mm handgun, nor do they allow for most people to open carry a firearm.  So our ‘good guy with a gun’ — his own words — is far from law abiding himself.
You can begin to see where the clear division of ‘good guy’/'bad guy’, ‘white hat/black hat’ distinctions are far from clear, and how claims about DGUs are highly suspect? He may have carried a gun, but not legally; and he sure as hell did not prevent a mass murder at a McDonald’s, so far as I can discern.
But let us continue with an examination of his own claim, because while I try to be competent and conscientious in research, and expect that law enforcement as professionals will be thorough and reliable, I DID ask, and then actively challenge this guy to produce some record, some independent verification that his claim was legitimate, that this did really happen.
Not only was he unwilling, and apparently unable to produce any verification whatsoever, he was also unable to explain why no one else could find a trace of this happening.  Certainly it is reasonable to believe that the management of any McDonald’s that had a shooting that threatened to be a mass shooting would make a report to authorities, and it is highly unlikely that an event like this would escape the attention of the local, state, regional and even national media.
Our ‘good guy with a gun hero/ mass-shooting-savior’s’ response to the lack of any indication that this occurred was initially a defensive:
followed by a challenge from someone else that he was telling fairy tales.  His response then was (as so often happens) to go for an ad hominem attack on those who asked for verification, for production of FACT:
“the only fairy tales are the ones you liberals believe in that gun laws provide a safe environment for the citizens when in fact it only provides targets for criminals.”
Of course, this is untrue; the single largest category of gun violence are suicides, followed by a substantial number – roughly three or more a week – incidents of domestic violence such as murder/suicides.
Our apparently illegally packing, lying  ‘good guy’ citizen then goes on to comment,
“[sic]your fairytale also includes that criminals will abide by the laws.”
Actually, NO, that is not what gun control advocates believe.  The rationale, which demonstrably has proven valid in other jurisdictions, is that gun control reduces the number of legal guns getting into the hands of criminals because legal gun owners are no longer having their guns get into the wrong hands – including by selling them without background checks. For example, one survey, done back in the late 90′s of felons behind bars for violent crimes, with guns, turned up the figure of 40% of guns used in the crimes that put these felons behind bars came from family and/or friends, not straw purchases (those were another 10%), and not street guns or guns that were stolen.
The not-so-good-guy, apparently with a gun goes no to state
“another fact, when you liberals lose the argument you start to attack. conservatives [sic] will win the argument because we state facts and that’s it.”
At this point, no ‘liberal’ had lost any argument, and the only person failing to provide a single fact was this guy. But that is typical; one of the flaws of the pro-gun studies has been the total absence of any independent reliable or verifiable confirmation regarding claimed DGUs, as well as extrapolating large numbers from painfully small samplings.  Further, it is the pro-gun side that has tried to stifle quality independent research into gun violence; that is the act of people who know the facts are not on their side.
The studies that challenge DGU claims are peer reviewed, come from verifiable records, and show entirely the opposite of the belligerent gun guy claims.
This commenter, the kind of guy Whine La Pierre bloviates about, when prodded to provide information to support his claim of a heroic gun battle, starts to get more defensive, and more irrational – which is a typical pattern in my experience with these claims:
“The last thing I’ll do is defend myself against liberals like yourself.  I did what I did, and I’m proud of it.  I’m not asking you to believe  me, and you don’t have to believe me, so it’s [sic] just leave it at that.” and
“I know the truth and so do the people that matter. You don’t matter.”
Here is the hard factual objective reality; we don’t have a lot of demonstrably good guys, law abiding guys, with guns who are making numerous verifiable DGUs or even making verifiable efforts to protect or save people involving their guns without firing.  We don’t have mass shootings being prevented by good guys with guns, or any other kinds of shootings by those with lawful —— or as often, NOT so lawful - guns with them in public.  We need to be making our public policy and our laws based on facts, not fantasy, not ‘it was that big’ fish stories.
Wayne La Pierre and the NRA are wrong; the good guys with a gun are our law enforcement.  They are trained, they are held accountable, their acts are covered by insurance if they do something wrong or make a mistake. They have the authority to be armed for a reason, and a big part of that reason involves the distinction between  facts and what they do, as distinct and separate from gun obsessed liars who want to be heroes, and are heroes – if only in their imaginations and delusions.  The latter are not the people we want armed in public, and certainly not in place of law enforcement. If they are this fact averse, if they are this lax in obeying existing laws relating to carrying guns, they do not belong in our public spaces, and perhaps should not be armed at home either.

Shame on those who do not support teachers and teachers' unions

Just sayin' - words from a very brave, very strong, very wise woman