Monday, September 30, 2013

Bust Brodkorb and the elephant he rode in on

cross-posted from MNPP

image from thinkprogress
On Friday night’s edition of Almanac, there was a segment composed of former legislators who commented on current events and politics; the MN GOP was represented by Amy Koch and Steve Swiggum.  One of the topics, appropriately, given the guests, was the Michael Brodkorb settlement.
Brodkorb lost; badly.  He came away with nothing more than the same $30,000 too-generous severance package he was originally offered.  The notion he was wrongfully terminated, given he himself, through his own actions, made it impossible to do his job, was ludicrous.
As Swiggum noted, the lege acted appropriately because paying off Brodkorb when the lege was in the right would have been the wrong thing to do, and long-term, I don’t think it would have represented an actual savings to the state’s taxpayers.  There was a time when insurance companies paid off cases that were not cost-effective to litigate, even when they were being ripped off, on the premise that they were still being ripped off for less in the payout than legal costs would involve—- except that it didn’t work out that way.  There was an increase in pay-off cases, and in the long run they discovered it would have been cheaper just to fight the bogus cases, the frauds, the rip-offs, …and the bluffs.

This was a bogus claim by Brodkorb, a bluff, a suit which appears to have been brought for other than the stated reasons of gender discrimination.  Brodkorb ADMITS he could not prove his case, and knew he could not.  Therefore, this was arguably a frivolous suit without merit, designed wrongly to bleed the state of legal costs in order to play some kind of political black-mail like maneuver.  Presumably this was to frighten the party into thinking the possible embarrassments would adversely influence the outcome of elections.

Except it did not work.  The legislators did not blink — and good for them. Because it would have only been the beginning of more frivolous suits (possibly by Brodkorb, if not others).  It does NOT pay to reward this kind of bad behavior.
Rather, I think the state, under the leadership of the Dems, should spend a bit of the remaining budgeted $500k, and go after Brodkorb for those legal expenses, try to recover some of that money.  It is, per my early morning consult with one of my favorite attorneys, a valid move – and arguably far more legitimate litigartion than the suit Brodkorb brought.
More to the point, we would have, as taxpayers, the benefit of who funded that suit, if it was not Brodkorb (as seems likely).  I don’t know if Brodkorb has any assets worth pursuing; but any recovery would be better than no recovery.  And it would send an important message to anyone contemplating it, not to attempt to blackmail or extort the leadership of the lege, on either side of the aisle, with efforts to get a big, fat, juicy, UNDESERVED payout by attempts to embarrass past or present members of government.
If you want to let loos the shit-storm of a scandal, just do it.  If you are in no position to go all holier-than-thou, like Brodkorb and the bogus family-values-spouting right, or their equally fiscal-responsibility-position folks, then shut up and go hide under a rock until enough time has passed you can show your face again with only minimal shame.  That would appear to go for bully-boy big fat Tony as well as Brodkorb.  I’m wondering who had money that was out of power with these two out of the party and the lege leadership.
The ultimate irony of course is that the right falls on its face so regularly, tripping over their values and positions.  They point fingers at others for amorous behavior while engaging in the same thing themselves,  the prudes.  They go bankrupt and bankrupt their party to the tune of $2 million, after telling the rest of us how to spend money responsibly.  And now, just one more example, the notoriously litigious right wingnuts who wail and gnash their teeth over tort reform and frivolous law suits engage in them. 

It is time to recover those taxpayer dollars, it is time to push-back on right-wing do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do hypocrisy, in the only way I think they care about ——–money.  Let’s get the money back, and let’s see who was really behind the suit in the first place.
Because I find it highly unlikely that Brodkorb could afford similar legal costs to what the legislature paid out, and with a case that weak……it is highly unlikely that any prestigious law firm took that case on a contingency basis.  If they wanted to shine some bright spot light on the conduct of others, maybe those shadowy figures playing dirty should have that same light shone on them, so we know who was behind this law suit, instead of guessing.
And if poor I’m-a-victim-because-I’m-an-extremist-Republican-Brodkorb doesn’t like it, then he should get out of politics, and maybe spend a long think on his own conduct.  The ultimate irony, of course, would be if he was denied food stamps/nutrition assistance now.  Because I think Brodkorb has killed any hope he has of being a player anymore in politics, and given his track record of employer-suing, it can’t argue well for anyone else taking him on as an employee in another field.

Ah, the greedy short-sighted oh-so-Republican failed thinking; we’ve just seen it again.  Let’s not let it pass without a response, one that gets back some or all of that tax payer money.  Squeeze Brodkorb until he pops like….let’s use the nicer analogy, a balloon full of hot air. This suit represents a lot of what is wrong with the ugliest aspects of hyper-partisan politics generally, and the MN GOP and Tea Party specifically.

We'd all be better off, even the MN GOP, if we penalize this conduct.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

My Debt Ceiling Demands - A Deficit of Fairness

The federal debt is something which both parties contributed in creating in nearly equal measure.  Think not, go look at the debt levels under Ronald Reagan.  Go find out that Reagan quadrupled the debt, George W. Bush doubled it.  Both parties own it.  One party seeks to spend on social programs and is more prone to raising taxes to pay for further spending (and then spend) than the other, while the other seeks to spend profligately on defense but won't raise taxes to pay for that.  Both own it, period.

So, it's no more realistic for Republicans to claim fiscal responsibility than it is for Democrats, arguably less so.  The debt levels during the Clinton years were certainly lower and not solely because of Republican demands.  No, each has a claim, each equally valid. 

Consequently, if we are going to start making demands before we agree to vote to pay bills already incurred, to pay our debts, in short, to be the "responsible" people who pay the bills they've charged up, well, then each party gets to make those demands.

So, my demands are below.  Just like the demands of the Republicans, there is NO chance any of these could otherwise be passed into law/make it through the Senate (or House) on their own.  If, though, we're going to start waging economic terrorism, if we're going to declare bankruptcy as a nation and fail to be financially responsible for and pay our debts, then I have no problem making up a list of demands the Senate Democrats should insist upon before voting to raise the debt limit.  Here they are:

1. We should demand lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 50.  People over 50 are far more likely to have serious health expenses and using the leverage of Medicare's ability to reduce payments to force cost savings into the health care system is not only fiscally prudent, it's a very good first step toward a health care system which can operate at a much lower per capita cost with generally better health outcomes (like say, what the REST of the industrialized/western world has been able to do).   Taking this ONE step alone would both eliminate our national debt AND resolve our long term fiscal challenge in Medicare.

2.  I demand that we slash $100 Billion per year from defense.  We certainly don't need the bloated, wasteful, pork-barrel filled defense system we have today.  It's time to start gutting that pig.  It's time the privatization meme' be held accountable for the vast cost increases we've seen since 1992 (rather than savings).  It's time we stop paying $1500/day for contractors in Iraq to hire a local worker for $15/day and pocket the rest.

3.  I demand that we pass a law that CEO's cannot make more than 40 times what their average worker makes.  This will have NO impact on small business who do not have any issue paying their employees at least 1/40th of their salary.  It WILL, however, cause big corporate CEO's to start looking to compensate the staff that actually makes the company work at least slightly as well as they compensate themselves.

4. I further demand a 90% tax on any income over $20 Million/year.  It won't raise much revenue, but that's not the point.  No one is worth so much they deserve to be obscenely rich while others work hard to make them so (my personal opinion on that one), but even more importantly, it will provide a disincentive to offshoring and incentivize companies to pay their employees and maybe even invest in infrastructure on-shore.

5.  I think we should demand that companies which chose to offshore jobs must pay income tax (straight) on the average difference between labor expense in the country where the job was moved as compared to the average salary for the job they moved overseas.  It's pure profit to them, it's time they were taxed on it.

6.  We should demand the re-adoption of Glass-Stegal and the fairness doctrines.  As well, any news outlet which reported a story without concrete double-sourcing and which later turned out to be untrue, even if it were simply allowing a "commentator" to offer such "facts", would be fined $1m per incident.

7.  Lastly, and seriously, we should demand that mortgage lenders have to establish a review panel to draft rules for loans, overseen by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.  Such rules must requiring mortgages can only be given to people with net income OR investible assets which can be promised against the debt (e.g. what used to be and should still be an income to debt ratio means test which banks USED to use in all cases before writing out a mortgage).  Such rules will also require that loans cannot exceed the estimated value of the property (no more 125% loan to value loans), and lastly, that mortgage backed securities must assume a default rate of 1.5 times the historic average since 1930, rather than simply using the default average of the last 5 years (or some similar measure).  This would prohibit the creation of highly optimistic derivatives and the inherent risk which exists in the essentially unregulated bond market would, at least as regards MBS', would be eliminated.

And even more seriously, since WHEN do Republicans get to threaten the economy, make their demands SOLELY, as if they were the only people "watching the shop?"  Nothing could be further from the truth.  They spend profligately on their own projects, and unlike Democrats, fail to tax sufficiently to pay for those projects, exploding the debt.  No, these obviously can't pass, but they should be demanded, and when the Republicans balk, the Democrats should simply say, "I'll drop my demands ONLY when you drop yours.  I don't mean to hold the country hostage, but neither will I let things be passed into law which cannot otherwise pass muster unless I get some of my own.  It's time you children (Republicans) stop stamping your feet and acting like only your ideas haven't been given full treatment, we have ours too but unlike you, we won't demand they be met or wreck the economy.  If you insist on it, we'll demand things too, and you won't get anything at all without giving up something you very much don't want to do. Because THAT's actual negotiation.  Passing the debt ceiling is not doing something we want and you don't, it's paying bills we are responsible to pay, bills we promised we'd pay, and not doing so is breaking our word and the height of personal and professional irresponsibility."

These are my demands.  Meet them or the economy gets it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

“Telephone” game style Reporting on Kenya Terrorists

from the AP Local imams and Muslims, including the A.I.C.’s Abdul Aziz, left, and Imam Abdirizak Hashi, stand in solidarity to speak out against extremism in the Nairobi shopping mall attack, Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, at the Abubakar Islamic Center in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis-St. Paul area has the largest Somali community in the United States, and it’s been a recruiting ground for al-Shabab, the armed Islamic group linked with al-Qaida that has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. MANDATORY CREDIT; ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS OUT; MAGS OUT; TWIN CITIES TV OUT MBO TV is soft out Photo: The Star Tribune, Richard Tsong-Taatarii
I cringe every time I hear or read or see the reporting on the Kenya shopping mall terrorism.  It’s a matter of time before all but the most abbreviated coverage mentions Minneapolis and Somalis from our state as part of terrorism.

There are some legitimate sources that should be more reliable, but so far aren’t, notably an official spokesperson for the Kenya government:

“…said the Americans were “young men, about between maybe 18 and 19″ years old and lived in “in Minnesota and one other place.”

However, a senior U.S. law enforcement official told NBC News that authorities had been unable to verify that Americans were involved, despite aggressive checks of travel records.
That media coverage is horrible, with the accuracy deteriorating as the facts get mangled like the message in a child’s game of telephone.  Jon Stewart last week did a brilliant, scathing group of ‘bits’ excoriating the inaccuracies that flowed through the news media about the tragedy of the Navy Yard mass shooting; this is similar, in spite of the differences.  There is more inaccuracy than fact, but the pseudo-facts are given a lot of energy and attention and distribution

I'm particularly looking forward to the real explanation for the periodic references to terrorists dressing in women's clothing; so far, cross dressing has not been something one associates with terrorists, and any advantage to doing so seems nebulous at best..

We hear numbers that appear to be grossly inflated of how many Somalis have gone back to Somalia to participate in bloodshed; more factual reporting places the number at around 20.  National news has claimed 40 (or more) actual Somali extremists / terrorists.  What you do not get, besides the inaccurate number of people recruited is that Minnesota has the largest community of people from Somalia, numbering 32,000 as of 2011.

Some 22 people, out of 32,000………that is a pretty small percentage.  But bad reporting can make it seem very large, wrongly and hugely frightening. It would be as wrong to blame the Somali community for this terrorism as it would be to blame all Norwegians for Anders Breivik – here or in the home country.

That sells news.  That makes money.  There’s nothing wrong, per se, with news, or with money; but there is a lot wrong with merchandising misery and with exploiting tragedy for money, through such blatant sensationalism.

Reporting that  context in which to process those numbers would be context, it would provide a larger, better sense of our community than simply bantering about a large-sounding number to scare, to sensationalize, this tragedy.

Because they are OUR community, part of our larger city and state, as much so as any other immigrant community at any time, but reminding me especially of our most recent Hmong immigrants, where we had one of the largest group of that new influx of people to Minnesota. ”They” are “US’ now, part of our unique plural, they are “We”, not “Other”, not “Them”.

The reality is that people who live here, in Minnesota, lost family members in the attack.  We know that as fact, but at best it gets mentioned quickly, in passing.  We KNOW that.

The reality is that we DON’T KNOW that ANYONE from Minnesota was involved in committing or planning the terrorist attack, contrary to media reporting.  It is possible that someone might be involved, but now the newest reporting is describing this as an al Quaida attack, and that it might NOT be an attack by al Shabab; we are hearing that the terrorists might be a multi-national collection of bad guys, and not a group of terrorists indigenous to Somalia, much less from Minnesota.

It may turn out that there is a Minneapolis, Minnesota connection to this tragedy, but we need to consider that shame and blame in the context of 32,000 people who are NOT terrorists.  We need to be mindful that the shame and blame of the actions of individuals belong to those individuals, not to all 32,000 people of that ethnicity.  And we need to give thought, to give consideration, to how to come together as a larger community, as a city, as a state…….and as a nation, so that we do not give recruiting terrorists a fertile ground in the future.

That starts with being just “US”, not being “Us-versus-Them”; and it continues with seeing that fact gets as much attention and distribution as the false information that misleads people.  Corrections seldom get the promotion that the original error received; but we don’t have to accept that quietly or passively.

Terrorism is bad; that is simple.  But our world is deeper, more complex and rich than that simplicity.  We need to remember that as the national media grabs for the tar and feathers and a too-broad factually-inaccurate brush, and then we need to push back, appropriately. Because the alternative, the “Us versus Them” thinking is just another version of crazy Craig Cobb and his neo-nazi “Little Europe” hate-hut-on-the-prairie-wannabes out in Leith, North Dakota — and that, definitely, is NOT US. And it’s not No-Dak either.

cross-posted from MNPP

Best thing on facebook this morning - so far

Monday, September 23, 2013

Crunchy or Squishy - what kind of RW Nut do you prefer?

Cruz-ing for a bruising? Yours, ours, theirs…   Blame "Ted Cruz-the-fuse" on the right wing ticking time bomb of destruction...

cross-posted from MNPP:

Crunchy munchy, squishy squishy, take your pick of nuttiness: creamy or chunky

I was surprised, at first, to see the following ad on cable television last week. The right is gnoshing down on their own, again. Any time one suspects the sane right might be taking back the Republican Party from the lunatic fringe, they prove the inmates are driving the asylum bus, or clown car, even if they’re heading for a suicidal cliff. BuzzFeed has the story of a recent test ad that I saw run. In case you missed it, it’s no longer on cable, but you can see it here:

Turns out that ad is being cooked up, creamed and steam-rolled out by none other than right wing operative and 'fixer' Nancy Watkins, who popsie Michele Bachmann hired to clean up her potentially criminal mess.  This prompts me to wonder if Watkins finished 'fixing' Michele......or just given it up as a bad job and moved on to fresh money. From the BuzzFeed article:
The super PAC is treasured by Nancy Watkins, a well-known Tampa-based campaign finance guru who previously served as the treasurer for Michele Bachmann’s failed 2012 presidential campaign and more recently helped Bachmann deal with campaign ethics issues. Watkin’s office did not return a request for comment on where else the ad was airing.
The nuttier the better, the more "pure" the extremism, the better; let the purity tests and protests begin – and flourish.  If the GOP wants to go over the cliff, let’s be helpful and give them a good helping push.  Help the clowns on the far right fringe with their efforts to get rid of Boehner.  He seems to have surrendered his party, given up and given in already anyway.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How apt

Failed Right-wing Math, and Wrong-headed Rationalizations on Nutritional Assistance

Cross posted from MNPR:

The Republicans are claiming that they are going to cut nutritional assistance, but make up for it, and find even MORE money, by cutting waste and fraud.

This refers to the report that came out in August, relating to the issue of ‘food stamp trafficking’ problems. It showed that while food stamp trafficking – selling food stamps to a grocery store, which gets paid for them as if they were used, but instead of food providing cash – has been increasing with the steep increase in nutritional assistance.

The premise is that this is a form of fraud, yet we know that fraud in the program is incredibly low, around 1%. We also don’t know that the trafficking is not resulting in the purchases of other necessities (hygiene products, cough medicine, etc.) and therefore still benefiting in an essential way those in need. What the report has NOT indicated, and what Republicans have not addressed, is the use to which the money from this exchange is being put. We know that we have large gaps and cracks in our social safety net. What we do not know is if this is in fact a serious problem of fraud or not, in terms of how the money is used.

What the righties who want to cut food assistance, like every Republican in Congress from Minnesota, have not shown is how they plan to reduce fraud to below 1%. It is reasonable to assume that someone will find a way to succeed at least in fractional fraud.

Rather than deny nutritional assistance, as the report from the Ag Dept. noted, the vast majority – 85% – of the business which are engaging in food stamp trafficking are convenience stores:

Between 2009 and 2011, most of the food stamp trafficking (85%) occurred at smaller grocery and convenient stores, which accounted for only 15% of overall food stamp redemptions. More than 10% of all stores authorized to redeem food stamps participated in trafficking.
The department said it focused its “covert investigation” on stores that exhibited “suspicious activities.” Overall, food stamp trafficking is down from the 1990s, when about 4% of food stamp recipients sold the benefits back to stores.

I question if it is possible to significantly reduce this kind of misuse to even lower numbers, apart from questioning the desirability of doing so without establishing that this is in fact a genuine mis-use of the benefits. As usual, the Republicans are long on promises, but short on delivery.

The other claim you hear the right making is that there is abuse by lottery winners, and dead people.  Well, no, not really.  There have been a couple of people who won a modest amount of money, compared to the big wins, and who stayed on assistance while waiting to actually receive the money, and then through confusion, their benefits were extended, and subsequently repaid.  Winning the lottery is, in any case, a less frequent occurrence than being struck by lightning TWICE.   As for 'dead people' abusing the system - No, they can't. They are dead.  What does happen though is that some EBT cards have been stolen from the effects of people who died, and because the states have cut their staffing and funding for the administration of SNAP, the cards were not changed to make them inactive, because the state admins were short handed.

Blame right wing cuts to public employees for this -- a problem which will not be fixed by cutting 40 billion in nutritional supplementation.

IF they really cared about government waste, there are much better targets the right could go after, notably in defense contractors, that involve much higher percentages of fraud and waste, that could pay for providing the necessary benefits to nutritional and related assistance many times over.

And/or they could just cut the waste in Big Ag subsidies to themselves, for starters, where there is little or no means testing required.

In point of fact, the representatives in Congress have no practical solutions to accomplish what they are promising, and show absolutely zero signs of any practical ways to accomplish reducing any abuse. They just love to take food out of the mouths of hungry people, so they can give more money back to the rich people who pay for their campaigns. There is nothing that cutting the federal funding will accomplish; the federal government pays 100% of the food funding, and they pay 50% of the administration funding, with the states paying the other 50% of admin costs, and providing the actual administration over the program in each state.

It is the state level administration where the fraud problem is occurring, and that is a function of the cuts in state spending to staffing and support for the administration. What is needed to end even the miniscule amount of fraud is better state level administration, not less funding of the program. This is once again, bad right wing governance.

The reality is that poverty is highly detrimental to this country, resulting in everything from poor educational outcomes to sick people. It will only take one good epidemic rippling through this nation to show how much worse it is when people are poor and hungry, lacking both food and adequate medical care, to demonstrate how penny wise / pound foolish this kind of thinking is. As we have seen from other epidemics, disease does not respect socio-economic boundaries. Disease spreads faster when people work while sick – as we see with the working poor; and when they have poor resources with which to fight off infection – like being malnourished.

And of course this is also yet another cut that hurts rather than helps the economy, because this is a use of tax dollars in supplemental nutrition that acts as a multiplier, leading to more economic growth than the cost.

Cutting food assistance = more right wing math failure, and more wrong-headed rationalization.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happy International Talk Like A Pirate Day! Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

The Navy Yard: Gun Control WORKS

The shooter at the Navy Yards in D.C. was a concealed carry permittee, from a wildly gun-hugging lax gun control state, Texas.

He should not have had guns, but the NRA and extremist pro-gun nuts have made it very easy for people who should not have guns to get guns.  This includes people with mental illness, even AFTER they have been found to be dangerously mentally ill by courts of law.  Thanks to the NRA, without any findings by mental health professionals as to sanity or safety, the lowest possible courts, with no guidance or expertise, can give back gun rights to the dangerously mentally ill.  Many instances of felons and the mentally ill regaining their gun rights have resulted in people dying or being injured, and in people being threatened and intimidated.

Blind Iowa carry permittee
handling a gun in a sporting
goods store
The NRA is the propaganda arm of gun manufacturers; they oppose anything that might interfere with  selling more guns, and they don't care how much innocent blood is spilled, how many lives are lost, so long as they make money.

They don't care if blind people who cannot safely operate a gun according to the rules of gun safety which requires someone to see what they are shooting and around where they are shooting.  They don't care if people on the terrorist watch list get easy access to guns.  They don't care if convicted violent criminals get guns legally through their legislation.  They are funding laws that make these things possible, everywhere, at the state level and the federal level. Blood is on their hands, literally and metaphorically.

Gun control in the form of a law which prevented the shooter form buying an assault style weapon worked to prevent this from being an even larger tragedy.

We do not need more people with guns, or more guns in the hands of people who have them now.  We are better off as a society without people carrying guns everywhere.  Starbucks has finally come to their senses, and requested their customers no longer carry guns in their stores.

No surprise, since they've had accidents in their stores with customers carrying guns; earlier this year, for example:
Another woman given a gun by her father dropped her purse and discharged her weapon at a Starbucks, this time in St. Petersburg, Florida. The woman said she'd forgotten the gun was in her purse and had never taken it out to clean or service it, reported the Tampa Bay Times.
No one who does not have a professional reason to carry or a legally recognized threat to their lives that justifies carrying, should have a firearm in public, and then, ONLY after adequate training.

We need to do more to restrict firearms to appropriate people, and then only in appropriate circumstances, like hunting.  More guns, more guns in public, more laxity in our gun laws have given us one and one thing only - more gun violence.

The Arizona mass shooting that severely injured Gabby Giffords should have been enough; the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, or the one shortly after it, should have been enough. Sandy Hook should have been enough.

The NRA premise of good guys with guns stopping bad guys with guns is wrong. It is a failure.  What stops bad guys with guns, whether they are crazy, criminals, or just disgruntled ordinary people, is not letting them get their hands on guns so easily in the first place.  Let us require strict licensing; let us make it possible for our law enforcement - with checks and balances to prevent arbitrary decisions - prevent people they know to be a problem, a danger, a risk from getting guns.

Screw the paranoia of the right wing nuts; we need better background checks, and whatever registry or records are necessary for that to work. There is NO right to shoot up the government to oppose tyranny; that is why no effort to do so, beginning with Shay's rebellion and the Whiskey rebellion, or the Civil War attack on Fort Sumter for that matter, has been recognized as legitimate. It is past time that we stopped pandering and catering to the crazies among us, both those with legitimate mental health issues, and those who are just eccentric extremists with tin foil hat ideas.

We have a duty to our public safety; that duty means not whining after a horrific massacre about security clearance requirements.  It means we do something about the guns used in gun violence.  And that includes plenty of people who currently are authorized to carry concealed weapons legally - like the shooter in the Navy Yard massacre.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Happy Constitution Day!

the Constitution, on display in the National Archive

The Constitution was adopted and signed on this date in 1787, replacing the Articles of Confederation signed in 1776, and ratified in 1781.

The original articles proved insufficient to defend AGAINST men with guns who INCORRECTLY believed in Shay's rebellion that they had some innate and inalienable right to take up arms against the government of the United States.

NO SUCH RIGHT exists, and very specifically, as outlined in extensive legislation and judicial findings, that has been established, extensively and repeatedly.  The notion that there is such a right is false, a silly and ignorant myth.  The militias, as formed under the constitution, specifically exist to take up arms AGAINST people who engage in insurrection.

More to the point, at the time the Constitution was founded, the term armies had a very different meaning, referring to mercenaries, rather than the kind of volunteer, mostly citizen army we have today.  Again referencing Doughtery's article:
In the eighteenth century, before the rise of national military conscription, the term "army" meant mercenaries.

Militias, aka the National Guard since the 1903 Militia Act, report to the government, ultimately to the commander and chief/the President.  Any non-military entity is denied similar military equipment to those of the official armed forces of the United States, as noted, for example, in the scholarly article written by Chuck Dougherty in the John Marshall Law Review:

...that the private "citizen" militias, being outside of the control of state or federal government, have no basis for Second Amendment protection.


U.S. Const. art. I, S 8. Congress has the power to "provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions." Id. cl. 15. Congress also may "provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States." Id. cl. 16. The Constitution leaves the states with the power of "the Appointment of Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress."


...See United States v. Oakes, 564 F.2d 384 (10th Cir. 1977) (holding membership in the Kansas militia irrelevant to possession of an unregistered machine gun), cert. denied, 435 U.S. 926 (1978); United States v. Warin, 530 F.2d 103 (6th Cir. 1975) (holding that membership in the Ohio militia did not confer a right to design and construct a prototype for a new submachine gun), cert. denied, 426 U.S. 948 (1976).
What began at the time of the framing of the Constitution, before we had any experience as a nation of how the separation of powers into the three branches of government would work, and of how in practice the balance between local, state, and federal tiers of government would work once we actually began operating under it has evolved with experience - as it was anticipated we should. That is why we retain the right to modify the Constitution, as we have done 27 times so far.

That evolution of militia law included this change, as the Supremacy clause has been widely accepted to function as the federal government having dominance to require the conformity of the states constitutions and laws to the U.S. Constitution and usually to federal law as well:
Federalization, or nationalization as some authors have referred to it, describes the process whereby the federal government gained greater control over the state organized militias in exchange for increased federal funding.
So, if you wish to celebrate the existence of Citizens Day, which evolved from "I am an American Day" back in the middle of the 20th century, into a formally recognized federal holiday in 2004-5 as "Constitution and Citizenship Day". 

Be a good citizen; know your constitution and know the rights and duties as citizens, and especially, know the laws and history that made it what it is today.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

So you've found an obscure law and you think it proves your point???

In this case, The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the complete text of this document can be found here.

The proper name of this is An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio, and also known as the Freedom Ordinance or "The Ordinance of 1787", was an act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States, passed July 13, 1787. The primary effect of the ordinance was the creation of the Northwest Territory, the first organized territory of the United States, from lands south of the Great Lakes, north and west of the Ohio River, and east of the Mississippi River.

OK, do you see a few problems here with trying to claim it is law under the US Constitution?

Next we come to the part that the gunloons like to claim supports "their" position, Article 3, which they quote only part of the article, which is:
Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

The hope is that people who say that the syntax of the Second Amendment means that the proeme (prefatory clause) controls the "operative" clause will be confounded.

Nothing of the like here since the above is only one sentence of Article 3, which says in its entirety:
Art. 3. Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress; but laws founded in justice and humanity, shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them.
Now, do you see some additional problems with trying to analogise the Second Amendment to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787?

If anything it helps make my point that laws can become obsolete due to changes in the Institution.

You can learn more than you ever wanted to know about this document here.

As for the grammar of the Second Amendment--I've posted this several times before, but it needs to be repeated since some people can't get their minds around the concept.
In the case of the Second Amendment, the first clause announces the purpose (from Adam Freeman's Clause and Effect) :
The best way to make sense of the Second Amendment is to take away all the commas (which, I know, means that only outlaws will have commas). Without the distracting commas, one can focus on the grammar of the sentence. Professor Lund is correct that the clause about a well-regulated militia is “absolute,” but only in the sense that it is grammatically independent of the main clause, not that it is logically unrelated. To the contrary, absolute clauses typically provide a causal or temporal context for the main clause.
The founders — most of whom were classically educated — would have recognized this rhetorical device as the “ablative absolute” of Latin prose. To take an example from Horace likely to have been familiar to them: “Caesar, being in command of the earth, I fear neither civil war nor death by violence” (ego nec tumultum nec mori per vim metuam, tenente Caesare terras). The main clause flows logically from the absolute clause: “Because Caesar commands the earth, I fear neither civil war nor death by violence.”
Diagramming the Second Amendment, one should end up with something that expresses a causal link, like: “Because a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” In other words, the amendment is really about protecting militias, notwithstanding the arguments to the contrary.

In his Rudiments of English Grammar (1790), Noah Webster writes that “a nominative case or word, joined with a participle, often stands independently of the sentence. This is called the case absolute.” Webster gives several examples, including, “They all consenting, the vote was passed.” He explains, “The words in italics are not connected with the other part of the sentence, either by agreement or government; they are therefore in the case absolute, which, in English, is always the nominative.” Grammatical independence, to Webster, is not about political self-determination, it's all about the nominative case. But he would acknowledge without hesitation that the vote would not have passed without the consent of the voters.

Webster’s readers would have had no difficulty recognizing that the Second Amendment also begins with an absolute. They would have studied the absolute in school, and they had probably been tested on it in a federalist-era version of No Child Left Behind.

Any educated federalist also would have learned in school that government, in grammar, merely refers to the case of a noun – its inflection as a nominative, dative, genitive, accusative (or, in the case of Latin, an ablative). As Robert Lowth, the author of the most widely-studied school grammar of the time, put it, “Regimen, or government, is when a word causeth a following word to be in some case, or mode.” For example, prepositions cause the following noun or pronoun to take the dative case. Or as the schoolbooks liked to say, prepositions govern the dative. That’s why we say, “Give the gun to me,” not, “Give it to I.”

Anyway, since the clause "a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state" announces the purpose for the right, We need to go back to the citation from Blackstone regarding the “proeme, or preamble” since it is part of a larger section that consists of “observations concerning the interpretation of laws.” 1 Blackstone at 58. One of those “observations” was: “BUT, lastly, the most universal and effectual way of discovering the true meaning of a law, when the words are dubious, is by considering the reason and spirit of it; or the cause which moved the legislator to enact it. For when this reason ceases, the laws itself ought likewise to cease with it.” 1 Blackstone at 61.
If anything, this argument works best on people's historic ignorance, as does most of the gun loon argument.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A little Friday the 13th Fun

Alex Jones, working his radio magic
cross posted from MNPP


The two 'Southron' Jones boys have, separately, made the news, again, for ugly stupidity. By ugly stupidity, I mean conservative paranoia peddling and hate mongering mixed with hearty elements of fake ‘facts’ that pander to conservative prejudices, particularly religious prejudice.

Let’s start with Alex Jones and Syria. As Raw Story notes:

Fringe conservative radio host Alex Jones said this week that an effort to avert a U.S. attack on Syria with diplomacy was actually a United Nations plot for the extinction of the human race, which would be replaced by “globalists” like President Barack Obama who would become cyborgs by using “life-extension technologies.”

“But it’s the globalists here running my life, that’s why they’re my front-and-center problem,” he said. “Because they are the biggest, most organized, eugenics-based, scientific dictatorship, trans-humanists at the top that plan the extinction of almost everybody and a new species to rise up or humans merged with machines.”

“That’s their religion, and no one’s discussing that,” Jones added. “Everyone is going to be deindustrialized, everyone is going to be put back into the Stone Age and controlled. And Obama and the globalists and the robber barons, they’re going to fly around in their jetcopters and their Air Forces Ones and their red carpets, like gods above us. And they’re going to get the life-extension technologies.”

Yup, all that healthy diet and exercise messaging from Michele Obama was a hoax; you don’t need a healthy body, because those lefy eletists are going to turn the privileged into machine people. (That black ‘cyberman’ in the middle is Obama.)

You know the stuff Alex Jones is spouting MUST be true, because even kids are being indoctrinated into the idea, with their toys, like cyber-Lego-people. Yup, that’s how you can tell….in far-right-wing-thinking-land. Darn that lefty diversity propaganda!

Moving on from the Texas twit to the to the other Jones boy, Terry Jones from Florida.

As the ‘Beeb’ aka the BBC noted:

A controversial US pastor has been arrested in Florida after announcing plans to burn nearly 3,000 copies of the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11.

Terry Jones, 61, was stopped by police while driving a truck that was towing a large barbecue grill filled with the kerosene-soaked Muslim holy books.

He had said he planned to burn the 2,998 copies at a Tampa Bay park in recognition of the victims of 9/11.

Terry Jones was detained – along with his associate pastor Marvin Sapp Jr – as they drove through the town of Mulberry on Wednesday.

As well as towing a trailer carrying the grill and the Korans, the pastor was also reportedly carrying extra bottles of kerosene inside his truck.

Both men were charged with transporting fuel illegally and Mr Jones was also charged with openly carrying a firearm, police said.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said his detectives had previously warned Mr Jones that his plans were against the law.

“We not only told him that he had a first amendment right to free speech,” Sheriff Judd said.

“We encouraged him to come to that park if he wanted to make any statements that he wanted. But he was not going to come to Polk County and violate the law.”

Of course, there were several dozen Muslims who died, but Jones doesn't care about desecrating their memories, and citizens of 115 countries, but Terry Jones has always treated them, apparently, as honorary Americans, in lumping everyone together in one big ugly hateful bonfire? Pastor Jones is as crazy and hateful a right wing fear monger and paranoiac gun toter as is Alex Jones. This year is a bit of a come down from last year, when he was part of the fake movie/video controversy, that led to fake protests in Egypt and which caused brief confusion in Libya at Benghazi.

Personally, I don’t see a lot of difference in the terrorism of burning a cross on someone’s yard, KKK style, or burning sacred books to harass and terrorize a group of people. The message is the same, the threat is the same, the intolerance and hate is the same.

Although, it is worth pointing out that good ol' gun huggin boys.....yeah, they just are not all that law abiding the way they would have us believe.  Even in Florida, combining guns and book burning raises a few eyebrows along with singeing a few.

Just think what the good ol’ southern Jones boys could do, if they put their heads together! We could have cybermen barbecue bigots that might look a bit like this, that could cook a book or a burger to extinction. But does it come in black? Probably not; it looks like more of a right-wing white guy thing. But heck, nothin’ says lovin’ like slapping a book and a burger on the Barb-ie.

Cyberman Barbecue?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thank you IFLS

Chilling; from the wonderful folks at IFLS

Over the last few days several news articles have emerged announcing that Arctic sea ice is growing, not shrinking, and therefore the climate is not warming but cooling.

This is not the result of scientific data disagreeing, this is simply poor journalism. Phil Plait has covered these articles in depth and gone through exactly what is wrong with them. Check it out here:

Rightwing Welfare Myth versus Fact

cross posted from MNPP

The Institute for Southern Studies  Tazra Mitchell wrote a great piece about what conservatives mistakenly believe about welfare assistance and the social safety net, and in the same piece debunked how conservative think tanks lie and deceive their base to believe these myths:
A wildly misleading report released recently by the conservative Cato Institute says that it pays to be jobless and poor. In an attempt to bolster a laughably farfetched theory sometimes referred to as “the hidden prosperity of the poor,” the authors conclude that the “welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work.”
Not surprisingly, however, neither the theory nor the findings in the report stand up to serious scrutiny. Indeed, as a result of several obvious and truck-sized flaws in the analysis, there is every reason for the report to be quickly ignored and/or discarded by both policymakers and anyone else who cares about basing public policy on facts and rigorous study.
The first and most blatant error in the report is the authors’ enormous exaggeration of the public benefits that most people living in poverty actually receive.
To bolster their case, the authors assume that the “typical welfare family” — which they define as a single mother with two children — receives each of the following services: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps), WIC (a nutrition program for pregnant and postpartum women and young children), Medicaid, housing assistance, utilities assistance, and emergency food assistance. But this is simply not the case in North Carolina or anywhere else in the United States. The vast majority of poor people do not receive all the services they are eligible for, in part because there are not enough funds to allow that.
A second egregious error is the authors’ gross underestimate of the assistance that families who work but earn low incomes receive.
The authors incorrectly assume that safety net benefits are available only to nonworking families. But again, this is completely untrue. All of the benefits included in the analysis are, in fact available to working families. So it is no surprise that nearly four in 10 SNAP recipients in North Carolina are in working families. In fact, TANF requires work-eligible individuals to participate in work requirements in order to receive benefits at all.
The authors’ analysis also ignores significant changes to the nation’s safety net over the last 30 years. As noted in a recent response to the Cato claims authored by experts at the widely-respected Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, assistance programs are actually designed to offer a lot more support to families who work but earn low wages and far less support to the poorest jobless families with children.Of course, the dark irony in all of this is that by propagating myths about “welfare,” flawed studies like the Cato report serve to undermine public support for important programs that are primarily designed to encourage work by enabling hard working, low-income families to survive.
Unfortunately, what conservatives want to believe is the lie, the myth, the calculated right wing FRAUD about our overstretched and inadequate social safety network. Appropriately, September is Hunger Awareness month, aka Hunger ACTION Month, which should shame and embarrass the conservative members of Congress who have voted to cut food stamp funding, while at the same time giving themselves huge amounts of farm subsidies, as well as plenty of juicy, excessive big Ag subsidies in the farm bill.

As noted in this excerpt of a New York Times article last weeek:
Yet as lawmakers cast the fight in terms of spending, nonpartisan budget analysts and hunger relief advocates warn of a spike in “food insecurity” among Americans who, as Mr. Rigsby said recently, “look like we are fine,” but live on the edge of poverty, skipping meals and rationing food.
Surrounded by corn and soybean farms — including one owned by the local Republican congressman, Representative Stephen Fincher — Dyersburg, about 75 miles north of Memphis, provides an eye-opening view into Washington’s food stamp debate. Mr. Fincher, who was elected in 2010 on a Tea Party wave and collected nearly $3.5 million in farm subsidies from the government from 1999 to 2012, recently voted for a farm bill that omitted food stamps.
“The role of citizens, of Christianity, of humanity, is to take care of each other, not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country,” Mr. Fincher, whose office did not respond to interview requests, said after his vote in May. In response to a Democrat who invoked the Bible during the food stamp debate in Congress, Mr. Fincher cited his own biblical phrase. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Department of Agriculture released a 2012 survey showing that nearly 49 million Americans were living in “food insecure” households — meaning, in the bureaucratic language of the agency, that some family members lacked “consistent access throughout the year to adequate food.” In short, many Americans went hungry. The agency found the figures essentially unchanged since the economic downturn began in 2008, but substantially higher than during the previous decade.
Experts say the problem is particularly acute in rural regions like Dyersburg, a city of 17,000 on the banks of the Forked Deer River in West Tennessee. More than half the counties with the highest concentration of food insecurity are rural, according to an analysis by Feeding America, the nation’s largest network of food banks. In Dyer County, it found, 19.4 percent of residents were “food insecure” in 2011, compared with 16.4 percent nationwide.
Over all, nearly 48 million Americans now receive food stamps, an $80 billion-a-year program that is increasingly the target of conservatives. Robert Rector, a scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation, argues that the food stamp program should be overhauled so that benefits are tied to work, much as welfare was revamped under President Bill Clinton. He advocates mandatory drug testing for food stamp recipients — a position that draws support from Mr. Rigsby, who dreams of becoming a game warden and said it irritated him to see people “mooch off the system.”
But when benefits drop in November, the Rigsbys, who say they receive about $350 a month, can expect $29 less.
“People have a lot of misimpressions about hunger in America,” said Maura Daly, a Feeding America spokeswoman. “People think it’s associated with homelessness when, in fact, it is working poor families, it’s kids, it’s the disabled.” Hunger is often invisible, she said, and in rural areas it is even more so.
We have a lot of people who work hard and still starve, including among our military families. We have disabled people, elderly people, and children going hungry, and we have WORKING PEOPLE going hungry, and going without medical care as well.
As noted at the Department of Defense web site in July of this year, when the greedy members of Congress were helping themselves at the public trough, without a legitimate need:
The House action that stripped food stamp funding from a massive farm bill would threaten vital assistance for about 5,000 military families, mostly from the junior enlisted ranks, Pentagon officials said Friday.
A Department of Agriculture report last year showed that more than 5,000 of the 48 million Americans receiving Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps) listed their employment status as “active duty military,” the Pentagon officials said.
In addition, the Defense Commissary Agency reported that food stamps were being redeemed at base commissaries at a record pace.
Last year, $99 million in food stamps were cashed in at bases by military families, disabled vets and others with military identification, and more than $53 million in food stamps were cashed in this year through June, according to Defense Commissary Agency data provided to the Huffington Post.
The concerns over the threat of a food stamp funding cutoff were raised by the 218-208 vote in the House Thursday that passed a $500 billion farm bill that stripped out $80 billion in SNAP funding. It was the first time since 1973 that a farm bill failed to join farm subsidies and food stamp funding.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., the House Agriculture Committe chairman, said he would introduce a separate food stamp bill “as soon as I can achieve a consensus,” but consensus could be difficult to reach in the gridlocked Congress.
Facts are not hard to find; but between the deliberate deceptions of right wing sources like the Cato Institute, and the propaganda of right wing politicians, and the willful ignorance of conservatives who go out of their way to give weight to what is not fact, while ignoring what is factual about the social safety network, because for some reason it makes them feel better to think badly of poor people, conservatives hold very, very tightly to false beliefs about the poor, and about assistance.

Shame on them, and an even greater shame on right wing politicians and lying think tank staffers. Greed is ugly, and so is ignorance about our fellow Americans. Next time you see one of our right-wing pocket-lining politicians smile and proclaim how principled they are, how they value life, and especially how they support our troops, look them in the eye and call them liars to their faces. Next time you encounter a conservative whinging on about how the poor don’t work and are moochers, call them out on that lie too.

They could know better, they should know better; their hateful ignorance is a choice, not an accident.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

More Michael Brodkorb bills to lege

cross posted from MNPP

follow the money, or the lack of it

The lege is dealing with more financial matters than that of state disaster relief – unless you use a very loose definition of the term disaster.

More bills were presented to the state senate this week for the defense of the Michael Brodkorb apparent attempt at shake-down suit.

The only coverage of the event appears to come from Tim Pugmire over at MPR on Monday:
State Senate gets another big legal bill in Brodkorb case
The cost for the Minnesota Senate to defend itself against a lawsuit brought by former Republican staffer Michael Brodkorb has now topped $319,000.
Lawmakers are expected to approve the latest invoice of $91,630 today during a Senate Rules Committee meeting. The 12-page invoice from the Larkin Hoffman Daly & Lindgren firm covers legal work done in May, June and July.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said said he expect more bills to come as the defense continues.
“We don’t feel as an employer that we’ve done anything wrong,” Bakk said. When employees come to work at the Senate they sign a form that says they’re an at-will employee. This employee was no different than any other.”
The case is set to go to trial next July. Attorneys are preparing to interview key witnesses and gathering information for the case.  When the total bill reached nearly $230,000 earlier this year, senators budgeted an additional $500,000 for the case.
Every time we see one of these bills, I have to ask, again – how much is Brodkorb’s legal expense totalling, and who is paying for it? For that matter, he doesn’t appear to have much in the way of a source of income; so who is paying for his living expenses, and presumably those of his family – not that he seems to have ever given them much thought in all this. So who pays for those expenses?

As we have seen in the rampant hypocrisy on the right, from Tony ‘fiscal responsibility’ Sutton, and now from Michael ‘character assassination of others’ hypocrite Brodkorb, we should not neglect where their money comes from and where it goes (or doesn’t go).

It seems a reasonable assumption that a law firm wouldn’t take a case this week on spec or contingency fee.  It is also a reasonable assumption that the costs on Brodkorb’s side is as high or higher than the bills floating into the lege for this silly suit.

So, who is footing the bills, hmmmmm?  Its not like Brodkorb is a powerhouse of any kind at the moment, financial or influential……ahh, if ONLY we could follow the money……there must be a very good story there.  Brodkorb doesn’t appear to have either money or power of his own, so what IS the ‘currency’ that is paying for this suit?

We can't afford unlimited military spending, and too-limited domestic investment spending

On the anniversary of 9/11.....

I am so very glad that we have Obama in the Oval Office, instead of the right wing neo-cons personified by 'Dubya the Dumb'.

I am so very glad that we have Obama in the Oval Office, instead of the right wing neo-cons personified by ‘Dubya the Dumb’.

A new Salon article underlines the real differences in intellect between Dubya and Obama:
The 1 percent’s Ivy League loophole
Not only do children of rich alumni get admission preferences, now they can get taxpayers to help them, too!
Legacy preference in college admission, or the practice of selecting the offspring of alumni over other qualified candidates, was originally a strategy developed to grandfather Jewish applicants out of admission. Though the policy’s intention has changed, it remains the reality that as American students head back to campus this fall, 10 to 25 percent of them do not deserve their spots. They’re “legacy admits,” the kids who got a boost via birth.
Quite a boost, in fact. In their 2005 paper “The Opportunity Cost of Admission Preferences at Elite Universities,” Princeton scholars Thomas Espenshade and Chang Chung found that legacy status gives fortunate applicants the equivalent of an additional 160 points on the former 1,600 point SAT scale. One hundred sixty points is no small adjustment; on the contrary, it’s the sort of improvement hopeful high schoolers bury their noses in books for. Yet it comes gratis to a set of students already privileged enough to be born to graduates of prestigious institutions.
Legacy preference seems to intensify in effect toward the upper end of university rankings, rendering entry into prestigious institutions with valuable resources and facilities especially daunting for poor students without alumni parents (or for first-generation applicants with no graduates in the family). Journalist Daniel Golden reports that nearly 90 percent of elite institutions calibrate their scales in favor of legacy status when weighing applicants against one another; as a result, numerous top-tier universities feature legacy acceptance rates far higher than overall acceptance rates. Legacy, in other words, is a sort of affirmative action for the wealthy, with fewer outraged news specials featuring tearful interviews of rejected candidates.
We saw President George Bush, father go to Yale; then we see his less than genius son get into that Ivy League institution as well - arguably as a so-called legacy admission. No one has ever accused Dubya of being a good student - or a good president. Dubya is not widely regarded as a deep thinker, or much of a thinker at all.

In contrast, we saw Bill Clinton qualifying as a Rhodes Scholar, and we saw Obama as a student who also earned his class positions and graduated with honors, from Harvard.

This is not coincidental, the correlation between the Ivy League Schools, and rising to power, and the factor of merit versus lack of merit:
...through some combination of all those factors arises a path to power: Research by Thomas Dye of the Lincoln Center for Public Service shows that 54 percent of America’s corporate leaders as well as 42 percent of our government officials are all graduates of just 12 institutions – Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Stanford among them. In 2003, Harvard accepted 40 percent of legacy applicants compared to an overall 11 percent acceptance rate; Princeton’s numbers are quite similar.
As we look at the situation in Syria, we see actual weapons of mass destruction, we see Obama take the time and applying the critical thinking capability to make an intellectually honest determination and presentation. As Human Rights Watch notes, supporting the determination made by the U.S. government intelligence agencies:
The evidence concerning the type of rockets and launchers used in these attacks strongly suggests that these are weapon systems known and documented to be only in the possession of, and used by, Syrian government armed forces, Human Rights Watch said.
We've gone from waiting for the U.N. investigators to confirm that the attacks were made with illegal chemical weapons; that seems to be widely accepted. While Syria continues to deny they waged the attack, no one seems any longer to really believe that was the case. In any event, Syria prevented the U.N. investigators from addressing the issue of who launched the attack, preventing them from any access until that condition was agreed. That leaves the a gap which appears to be well-filled by the corroboration of the Human Rights Watch report, IN ADDITION to the confirmation by the intel agencies of our allies.

Where we had Bush ignore attack warnings, including from his own experts, we had 9/11. We have had no comparable event under Obama. Before our rightwing readers start mindlessly screeching about Benghazi, that appeared to have been an attack which was contemplated but not actually scheduled, until a last minute decision. In contrast, there have been far fewer attacks on the U.S. diplomatic missions under Obama, than under Dubya, and the casualties have been a fraction of those under Dubya. And, of course, not last or least, it was under Obama's direction that Osama bin Laden was taken, and it has been under Obama that we are out of the disaster that was Iraq, and are on our way out of Afghanistan, both involvements bungled by Dubya.

Syria, in contrast, is being handled so as to prevent not only the kind of conflicts that precipitated 9/11 being repeated in further foreign attacks, but also in a way far more likely to unify rather than divide Americans. And this time, we have the U.N. on our side, supporting the alternative proposed by Sec State Kerry:
UN Chief Urges Syria to Transfer Chemical Weapons
UNITED NATIONS September 9, 2013 (AP)
Associated Press
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging Syria to immediately agree to transfer chemical weapons and chemical precursors to a safe place within the country for international destruction.
Ban said Monday he will also propose to the Security Council that it unite and demand an immediate chemical weapons transfer should U.N. inspectors conclude that such weapons were used in an attack Aug. 21 in a suburb of Damascus.
He said he is also considering asking the council to demand accountability for an alleged chemical weapons attack.
It should be obvious, even this early in his term in office as Sec State, that Kerry would have been a better choice than Dubya in 2004. There are clear and obviously important differences between those who get into prominent positions of power and authority on merit, versus those who buy their way to the top without it.  The right believes that ideology will work for them, no matter what the reality is, as a kind of blind and stupid faith.  The left and center operate on merit and intellect and a much greater objectivity in dealing with the real world of facts.

We are clearly better off with the latter than the dumber.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Tobacco Party = Tea Party

The libertarian appeal that if people want to smoke themselves into a cancerous death, let 'em, and public health costs and concerned be damned is both short sighted and foolish.  Follow the money, and it demonstrates a very special kind of smoke and fire.

But libertarian appeals, no matter how superficial or flawed, do appeal to the right wingers, and a close analysis reveals a lot about who is manipulating the short sighted so-called liberty-loving stupid demographic.  By 'stupid', I means specifically those who ignore the costs and damage that smoking does to the nation, both to the national economy and to the national health.

In this regard, the Minnesota hike in cigarette tax was one of the most progressive and insightful, long-term looking decisions made in our legislative history.  The CDC has done some more general assessments of the costs of smoking to the country, positing an estimated cost of $193 BILLION (yes, billion with a 'b') nationwide, but also calculating that the costs to employers is $3,077.00 in smoke break lost productivity, per employee, plus additional costs, per NPR:
Other costs include more sick days due to health problems, at $517 per smoker, and $462 a year for lower productivity while working because of withdrawal symptoms, which kick in within 30 minutes of that last drag.
In spite of all the pressures - like our Minnesota tax hike on cigarettes - there remains a strong conservative pro-tobacco movement, in the guise of the Tea Party.  A study published last June outlines the money links to the astro-turfed movement.  The Tea Party exists because manipulating the gullible is profitable for those who shelled out the big bucks over the years. The Tea Party has been defined as a movement of angry old white people who are politically naive, which makes them ripe for such exploitation.  Remember how the Tobacco Industry lied, for years, about the addictive properties of nicotine and about their efforts to increase it in tobacco products? Yeah, the Tea Party is their creation, and it should come as no surprise, in that context, that they oppose health care reform or the provision of health care to Americans generally. They have a vested interest in making people sick, not well.  It should come as no surprise either that the Tea Party has seen some of their most aggressive activity in tobacco growing states like North Carolina, or in states with high tobacco product use.

From UC San Francisco:

Study: Tea Party Organizations Have Ties To Tobacco Industry Dating Back To 1980s

Nonprofit Tea Party Groups Promote Pro-Tobacco Agenda, Say Researchers

“Nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party movement have longstanding ties to tobacco companies, and continue to advocate on behalf of the tobacco industry’s anti-tax, anti-regulation agenda,” said senior author Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education (CTCRE) and a UCSF professor of medicine and American Legacy Foundation Distinguished Professor in Tobacco Control.
Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control ResearchStanton A. Glantz, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education
The study, which appears on Feb. 8 in the journal Tobacco Control, shows that rhetoric and imagery evoking the 1773 Boston Tea Party were used by tobacco industry representatives as early as the 1980s as part of an industry-created “smokers’ rights’’ public relations campaign opposing increased cigarette taxes and other anti-smoking initiatives.
From previously secret tobacco industry documents available at the UCSF Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, IRS filings and other publicly available documents, the study authors traced a decades-long chain of personal, corporate and financial relationships between tobacco companies, tobacco industry lobbying and public relations firms and nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party.
The research uncovered the tobacco industry’s ongoing opposition to health care reform, dating back to a major campaign waged against President Bill Clinton’s proposed 75-cent cigarette tax to help finance it.
“Tea party symbolism is nothing new for cigarette companies and their allies, which for many years have been cynically using a hallowed symbol of American freedom in order to advance their own interests,” said co-author Rachel Grana, PhD, a CTCRE fellow.
The UCSF researchers sounded a call for greater transparency of organization funding “so that policymakers and the general public – including people who identify with the Tea Party – can evaluate claims of political support for, and opposition to, health and other public policies.’’
The Role of Citizens for a Sound Economy
In 2002, before the mainstream media widely discussed Tea party politics, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), a nonprofit funded in part by cigarette companies since 1987 to support a pro-tobacco political agenda, started its US Tea Party project. Its website stated “Our US Tea Party is a national event, hosted continuously online and open to all Americans who feel our taxes are too high and the tax code is too complicated.’’
In 2004, CSE split into the Tea Party organizations Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and Freedom Works. Those two groups, say the authors, have since waged campaigns to turn public opinion against tobacco taxes, smoke-free laws and health care reform in general.
Tea Party Logo
“If you look at CSE, AFP and Freedom Works, you will see a number of the same key players, strategies and messages going back to the 1980s,” said lead author Amanda Fallin, PhD, RN, also a CTCRE fellow. “The records indicate that the Tea Party has been shaped by the tobacco industry, and is not a spontaneous grassroots movement at all.”
While it is well known that corporations can influence policy, the study “demonstrates the extent to which a particular industry has leveraged its resources to indirectly affect public policy,’’ the authors write. “The tobacco companies funded one of the main Tea Party predecessor organizations, CSE, as well as other conservative organizations…to support the companies’ broader economic and political agendas.’’
The researchers also warn of the Tea Party’s efforts to push its political agenda in other countries, pointing out that the Tea Party movement has begun to spread internationally, with Freedom Works training activists in 30 countries including Israel, Georgia, Japan, Nigeria and Serbia. The international expansion “makes it likely’’ that Tea Party organizations will mount opposition to tobacco control and other health policies “as they have done in the United States,’’ the authors wrote.
“Tobacco control advocates in the United States and around the world need to be very aware of the connections between Big Tobacco and the Tea Party movement and its associated organizations,” Glantz said.

The Tobacco Industry Tea Partiers want to spread the sickness, the addiction, and to intervene in any political way that makes that easier. Because they have no moral compunction at making money by making people sick; that their rational uses the word freedom to peddle addiction is a measure of how lacking in morals and values they really are.  The Tea Party is neither grass-roots in origin, or self-directive in politics; and it sure as hell is not about liberty, the founding fathers, or the U.S. Constitution.  Rather, it is about profits, for the few, at the expense of the many, no matter what the damage or the costs, in lives or dollars, or the morality of manipulating the elderly demographic with scare tactics and lies. GOP & the Tea Party = Tobacco & Exploitation

Newslo Takes on the NRA and Gun Rights crowd

Want to see how absurd the pro-gun position is: meet Newslo.  Newslo is a hybrid news site: unlike  sites such as Newsthump, Daily Mash, Onion, etc. which try to satire the news.  Newslo takes a story and mixes fact with fiction.

Let's take this story:

NRA: Lack of Injuries in Dekalb County School Shooting Proves Guns Aren’t Dangerous

“If firearms are so dangerous, how could one man bring an automatic weapon into a school full of children and not injure or kill a single one of them? Even after shots were fired, nobody was hurt, so how dangerous could an AK-47 be?”

Better yet:

North Carolina Celebrates Gun Pride with Open Bar, Concealed Carry

After all, a statement like this has got to be a joke, or is  it?
 State Attorney General Roy Cooper continues to defend North Carolina’s bans on gay marriage and second-parent adoptions from an ongoing challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union,

Cooper dismissed suggestions that the state’s laws were inconsistent, saying that “the Bible don’t say nothin’ about banning guns, mostly cus they hadn’t been invented yet. But still.”
It gets even better with:

Americans Comforted by Return to Traditional Shootings

“It’s sort of like a necessary numbness coming back, after the terrible exposure that was last week,” remarked Ed Norcross, a Baltimore Police officer. “Every shooting brings us a little closer to normalcy, to healing. I think that’s what the nation needs right now.”
Yep, all the people who die from guns are just the cost of freedom.  And we all know that freedom isn't free--even if the cost is a bunch of six year olds puréed by an AR-15!

Anyway, at the bottom of the story there is the option to show or hide what is true!

I now understand the gun loon arguments which are based upon the science of pataphysics--they are satire and you've been had!

After all, it's only a matter of time for this one:

NRA Demands Second Amendment Protections for Nuclear Weapons