Take Executive Action On Gun Control

 Posted by on January 12, 2013 at 10:44 AM
Jan 122013
 


Tennessee’s James Yeager promises to “start killing people” if President Obama limits his ability to start killing people

“Welcome to Tennessee, patron state of shooting stuff” says Mark Wahlberg‘s character in the movie “Shooter.”

A couple of days after Alex Jones‘ anti-gun control tirade on Piers Morgan’s CNN show, West Tennessean James Yeager, who runs an uncertified firearms training school called Tactical Response, went all in on the crazy.  After hearing that “Reich Marshal Biden,” as Stephen Colbert calls him below, suggested that President Obama consider using his executive authority to rein in the proliferation of military style assault rifles and high capacity ammo magazines to help limit the carnage in our schools, movie theaters, and shopping centers, Yeager promised to “start killing people” should Obama so act.

Well, that didn’t escape the notice of Tennessee law enforcement, which revoked Yeager’s handgun carry permit. Oops.

In the “Be careful what you ask for” category, a number of “gun enthusiasts” including NRA Director Wayne “Call Me Crazy” LaPierre, warned all during President Obama‘s first term that he was coming to take their guns away.  The only action on guns that Obama did sign into law is the new right to carry weapons in national parks and on Amtrak trains.

But after refusing to take action after the mass killings in Aurora, Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood, Tuscon, et al, the wholesale slaughter of twenty 6 and 7 year old children in Newtown, Conn. seems to finally have caught the president’s, and the nation’s, attention.  Much to the dismay of the “I’ll give you my TOW anti-tank missile when you pry it from my cold, dead hands” crowd.

Back to Jones, who makes his money as one of talk radio’s top conspiracy theorists (911, the Oklahoma Murrah Building Bombing, and WACO all being government plots), his rant has him taken him to the threshold of US domestic terrorism laws (h/t Juan Cole):

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or…

Jones followed up his call for revolution (ala Donald Trump‘s Tweeted reaction to Obama’s re-election) by going on an anti-Prozac rant.  Presumably another government plot to keep voters voting Democratic.  All of which suggests that, like the flu, crazy is contagious.  Once it slips its moorings, it seems to feed on itself and multiply.  Not a good development in a highly networked world.

As for the prospect of passing saner gun control laws through Congress, given the lobbying power of the NRA and the munitions industry as a whole, we won’t see any help from that quarter, especially via the  House.  So that leaves limited executive action as the only recourse.  It might not get us an outright ban on assault rifles, but it could produce something like closing the gun show loophole and make background checks mandatory for everybody.  Better than nothing, I suppose.

Stephen, as usual, captures the zeitgeist.

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Latest Romney FAIL: Israel Version (Update)

 Posted by on July 29, 2012 at 8:49 PM
Jul 292012
 

Tisha B’Av — a 25 hour fast period that commemorates historical Jewish tragedies

Willard just can seem to help himself from stepping in it.

Mitt Romney Campaign Scraps $50,000 Per Plate Jerusalem Fundraiser On A Jewish Fasting Day

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has been forced to scrap a $50,000 per plate fundraiser scheduled to take place during his visit to Jerusalem because the date coincided with a solemn Jewish day of mourning.

The fundraiser, which was supposed to be a “a small meeting, but a big fund-raiser,” according to a source quoted in the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, was set to take place on July 29, amid the Romney campaign’s first foreign policy tour.

But July 29 is also Tisha B’Av, a Jewish day of fasting in some traditions of the religion, in which catastrophic events like the destruction of the First and Second Temples and the Holocaust are mourned.

What’s next on the Romney Campaign’s foreign policy credibility tour?

Oh yeah, Poland.

Maybe Mittens will give a fiery speech denouncing labor unions as inimical to capitalist freedoms.

UPDATE:  Romney succeeded in being tabbed “a racist” by Palestinian politician Saeb Erekat for saying it was the superior Jewish culture that accounted for its economic success relative to the Palestinians, without mentioning little things like US subsidies to Israel, Israeli blockades, and such.

Prof Cole notes:

Although the West Bank has seen economic growth since about 2007, for most of the past 20 years Palestinians actually were being driven deeper into poverty, and Gaza is still below early 1990s levels because of the illegal and evil Israeli blockade.

Read the rest of his critique here.

Careful What You Ask For

 Posted by on July 6, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Jul 062012
 

From TPM:

2/22/2012

Just over a week ago, the New York Times ran an eye-opening story about a key paradox in U.S. politics: It turns out the biggest critics of federal spending — Republican base voters — are some of the biggest beneficiaries of the social safety net.

Expand on that irony, and you’ll find that some of the most conservative states in the country are the greatest beneficiaries of transfer payments — where residents pay on average less in taxes than they receive in federal benefits. Not all “taker” states are red, and not all “giver” states are blue.

But the color spread on the map below suggests that many Republican base voters either choose to vote against their economic self-interest, or would be stunned if the members of Congress who represent them ever got their way.

Another point of national cognitive dissonance: for all the hype and anger about soaring deficits, all the green and dark green on the map illustrate how severe the implications of balancing the budget too rapidly would be.

On a related note, from Prof Cole today:

States with fewest Passports most Opposed to Obamacare


Only about one third of Americans have passports, and if it weren’t for the post- September 11 requirement that one travel to Canada and Mexico on a passport, it would no doubt be an even smaller proportion. (Hence the high number of passports in states with large Latino populations). But take Latinos out of the equation, and which states are cosmopolitan is pretty clear. Lack of experience with the world seems to track pretty closely with strong opinions about how to deal with the rest of the world. It also tracks with socially reactionary views.

{———————————————————————————}

From The Urantia Book

The greatest twentieth-century influences contributing to the furtherance of civilization and the advancement of culture are the marked increase in world travel and the unparalleled improvements in methods of communication. But the improvement in education has not kept pace with the expanding social structure; neither has the modern appreciation of ethics developed in correspondence with growth along more purely intellectual and scientific lines. And modern civilization is at a standstill in spiritual development and the safeguarding of the home institution.

Don’t Sprays Me, Bro (Update)

 Posted by on November 22, 2011 at 11:37 AM
Nov 222011
 

Dozens of  kittens who had peacefully gathered on a UC Davis sidewalk were assaulted with Oleoresin Capsaicin (Pepper) Spray by the Campus police, early Wednesday.  Oh wait— those weren’t kittens— they were America’s children. . .

It’s been some 40 years since I last referred to a police officer as a “pig.”  Raised with a healthy respect for law enforcement, all that changed radically in 1969 when I witnessed  an incident of unconscionable police brutality.

What brings this unfortunate porcine imagery to mind are the now viral videos of two UC Davis police officers methodically pepper spraying student demonstrators as they sat peacefully expressing their First Amendment in solidarity with their UC Berkley brethern in particular, and the larger OWS 99% movement in general.

No one is likely to suffer more from today’s huge disparity in wealth between the top 1% and the 99% than today’s college students. They’ve played by the rules, put in the interminable hard hours of class attendance and study. They’ve incurred tens of thousands of dollars of non-dischargable debt,  expecting that when they graduated they would land a job commensurate with their efforts in short order, if  for no other reason than to discharge that debt.

Suckers.

Instead, many of them have been forced to move back in with their parents, with little prospect for immediate or even mid term employment. And as the reality of becoming indentured servants of the EIC (Eductional Industrial Complex) is dawning on them, they are taking to the streets in protest.

Monday on Lawrence O’Donnell’s The Last Word, Michale Moore called this macing of 11 students an iconic moment that is resonating around the world.  Moore asks: When are the police going to start arresting the real criminals?

Indeed. Let’s look at the math. Take the current number of arrested protesters as A;  the number of Wall Street crooks responsible for the greatest economic crash since the Great Depression as B; subtract B from A, and the answer is—wait for it–  A.

The M$M continues its pearl clutching, feigning confusion over what all these protesters could possibly be protesting.  Fux News chooses to cast them as just the latest incarnation of the Dirty Fucking Hippies, a meme that the political psychopath Newt Gingrich echoed while stuffing his ample gullet at a “family values” conference Saturday in Iowa, telling protesters:

While Gingrich and his ilk might succeed in obscuring the issue of wealth inequality that exists today between the top 1% and the bottom 99%  in what used to be known as The Land of Opportunity,  an issue that the masses more readily comprehend is accountability.  The title of Prof Juan Cole‘s blog last Friday pretty well sums it up:  OWS under Pressure: Banks Bailed out, People Sold Out. 

Three years after the banksters received their Get Out of Jail Free cards from the Bush and Obama Administrations, the issue of accountability has shifted to politicians and administrators like Jean Quan, the Mayor of Oakland. Quan found herself scrambling to keep her job last month after her police nearly turned a peacefully protesting Iraq war veteran named Scott Olsen into a vegetable after he was shot in the head with a tear gas canister.

In the wake of the pepper spraying incident noted above, it was the Chancellor of UC Davis, Linda Katehi, who was trying to hang on to her job after the university’s faculty association called for her resignation and over 50,000 people signed a petition demanding that she go.  As TPM reports it:

…Chancellor Linda Katehi told ABC’s Good Morning America on Monday that she’s staying put.  “I really feel confident at this point the university needs me,” she told GMA (video here). “There are so many critical issues to be addressed and we really need to start the healing process and move forward.

Student body and faculty reps have called upon the Chancellor Linda Katelhi to resign, seen here providing UC Police officer Lt. Puke Pike,  some preparatory training

Yeah, the university “needs” her like Lt. Puke needs a recharge of his pepper spray canister, and a new litter of kitties to practice on.

 

UPDATE  [11/19]  Garance Franke-Ruta over at The Atlantic reminds us that the UC Davis macing was not an isolated event.

 

*Original Pike Spraying Students photo by Louise Macabitas

Iraqis Crap On Bush’s SOFA, Update IV

 Posted by on October 18, 2011 at 10:34 AM
Oct 182011
 

Finally, an end to Bush’s bullshit SOFA

A little over three years ago I wrote my first post on the 2008 Status Of  Forces Agreement (SOFA) entered into  between the George W. Bush Administration and the government of Iraq. (For that and the subsequent two entries, see “Related Posts” below). Despite the many efforts of both the Bush and Obama administrations to extend its original three year term, the SOFA turns into a pumpkin at midnight, December 31, by which time all remaining US troops must have vacated the premises.

As Juan Cole explains in his post This is the Way the Iraq War Ends, with Bangs and Whimpers, SOFA agreements are designed to shield American troops from various forms of legal prosecution by a host country, something the US typically insists upon when stationing troops in foreign lands. However, this was not something that the Iraqis were predisposed to approve.  And following the slaughter of 17 innocent civilians by Blackwater mercenaries in Nisoor Square in September 2007, followed in turn by the refusal of US courts to prosecute the company and its employees, the die was cast. Any agreement would be on Iraqi terms.

Even so, the Bush Administration believed it or its successor administration, whether Republican or Democratic, would be able to negotiate an extension.  (The Military Industrial Complex is a truly bi-partisan enterprise.) Well, it’s didn’t quite work out that way.

Cole:

Washington hawks had wanted to keep 25,000 US troops in Iraq indefinitely. The Obama administration had decided by this September that that goal was unrealistic, and decided to seek a small contingent of 3,000 or so. But there would be no point in having them in Iraq if they could not fight when necessary, and for that activity they would have needed a new SOFA or a legislated extraterritoriality. They got neither, and so the US has to go…

The consequences of the ill-conceived and ill-executed US occupation, besides its humongous cost in blood and treasure to Americans and Iraqis alike?

The US will leave behind a failed state. A determined guerrilla insurgency based in the Sunni Arab community (though not necessarily widely supported by the latter) continues to hit Baghdad, as it did on Wednesday in a series of attacks that targeted police and killed 25…

There are severe tensions between the Kurds in the north and the Arab government in Baghdad…

Cole goes on to describe just one of the many failed ventures that was part of the grand neocon enterprise of nation building. After using billions of borrowed dollars to destroy what was then the Middle East’s most modern infrastructure, the plan was to pay American contractors like Halliburton to rebuild it, using more billions of borrowed dollars, all guaranteed by the US taxpayer.  Shoddy work, a long tradition of official corruption, and a determined insurgency that destroyed stuff as soon as it was built were just the most obvious impediments to “success” and “victory.”

Then there are the geo-strategic consequences of Bush’s insane war. Cole again:

The US keeps fretting over Iranian influence in Iraq, but that is silly. If you didn’t want Iranian Shiite influence in Iraq you shouldn’t have overthrown the Sunni Saddam Hussein and seated the Shiite fundamentalists as a controlling interest in Parliament. Now that Washington has put the Iraqi Shiites in power, it should expect at least moments of great cooperation with Tehran.

And let’s not forget the millions of Iraqis that George W. Bush forced to flee from their homes.

From WikiP:

In 2007, the United Nations estimated that nearly 5 million refugees fled the country since 2003,[1] with nearly 100,000 fleeing to Syria and Jordan each month.[2][3] In October 2006, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Iraqi government estimated that more than 365,000 Iraqis had been displaced since the 2006 bombing of the al-Askari Mosque, bringing the total number of Iraqi refugees to more than 1.6 million.[4]

More recent numbers estimate that those numbers have continued to grow. Costs of War, a report from Brown University‘s Watson Institute for International Studies, reported that “three and a half million Iraqis have fled their homes and have not returned” since 2003. That number includes 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 1.8 million Iraqi expatriates.[5] The UNHCR puts the number even higher, estimating 4.7 million displaced Iraqis since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The UNHCR reports the same proportion of IDP refugees in Iraq as Costs of War–i.e., 2.4 million internally displaced Iraqis, of which 58% rent housing, 18% live with host families or relatives, 24% live in public buildings, but only 1% live in tented camps.[6] This has caused a strain on infrastructure and further deterioration in the humanitarian situation where 4 million are food insecure (25% of children are chronically malnourished) and only one in three children has access to safe drinking water.

[...]

According to the U.N., roughly 40% of Iraq’s middle class is believed to have fled. Most are fleeing systematic persecution and have no desire to return.[14] Refugees are mired in poverty as they are generally barred from working in their host countries.[15][16] In Syria alone an estimated 50,000 Iraqi girls and women, many of them widows, are forced into prostitution just to survive.[17][18]

accomplished.jpg

Heckuva job, Georgie! Heckuva job!

Cole concludes:

And so that is the way the war ends. No great demonstrations in the US against it in its twilight. It is ending almost by default, because the Iraqi parliament can seldom get real legislation done, the US is forced to adhere to the 2008 SOFA. In the background, the bombs are still going off and the country is riven by ethnic disputes. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed. The US will receive no benefit from its illegal war of aggression, no permanent bases, no bulwark against Iran, no new Arab friend to Israel, no $14 a barrel petroleum– all thing things Washington had dreamed of. Dreams that turned out to be flimsy and unsubstantial and tragic.

The only remotely good news now is the savings to the American taxpayer of not having to station tens of thousands of American troops in Iraq, an estimated $50 billion a year. Now, if we could only repeat that feat in Afghanistan.

Afutilestan XIII: The Year In Review

 Posted by on December 29, 2010 at 11:31 AM
Dec 292010
 

As Commander in Chief wanna be Sarah Palin might put it: How’s that surge thingy workin out for ya, Mr. President?

Not so good, as The Wall Street Journal reports this week:

Internal United Nations maps show a marked deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan during this year’s fighting season, countering the Obama administration’s optimistic assessments of military progress since the surge of additional American forces began a year ago.

The Wall Street Journal was able to view two confidential “residual risk accessibility” maps, one compiled by the U.N. at the annual fighting season’s start in March 2010 and another at its tail end in October. The maps, used by U.N. personnel to gauge the dangers of travel and running programs, divide the country’s districts into four categories: very high risk, high risk, medium risk and low risk.

In the October map, just as in March’s, virtually all of southern Afghanistan—the focus of the coalition’s military offensives—remained painted the red of “very high risk,” with no noted security improvements. At the same time, the green belt of “low risk” districts in northern, central and western Afghanistan shriveled considerably.

In his blog today, Prof Cole compiles the top ten myths about Afghanistan. Number Nine is particularly instructive, as it shows that another pillar of General St. Petraeus‘  counter-insurgency strategy, the support of the local populace, is crumbling:

9. Afghans want the US and NATO troops to stay in their country because they feel protected by them.

Fact: In a recent poll, only 36% of Afghans said they were confident that US troops could provide security. Only 32% of Afghans now have a favorable view of the United States’ aid efforts in their country.

As the chart below shows, President Obama’s honeymoon with the Afghan people is over. Seems they had decided to give him a year to improve things, as the uptrend during ’09 shows. But 2010 shows another reversal, tracking the same slope of decline as had occurred under Bush since 2005.

Meanwhile, some 500 US troops were killed in Afghanistan this year. The US taxpayer spent over a $100 billion to keep the war machine running. Additional billions more were given to Pakistan’s military, the Taliban’s main protector.  And St. Petraeus effectively moved the troop removal date from 2011 to 2014.

So goes America’s longest war ever.

Afutilestan (IX) XI

 Posted by on September 11, 2010 at 2:42 PM
Sep 112010
 

On the ninth anniversary of 9/11 (the day that America became unhinged and ushered in a lucrative national security state), we remember the innocent victims and the heroes who lost their lives trying to save them and others.

Seven thousand miles away, a hundred thousand American troops and another hundred thousand plus private contractors and NATO troops are supposedly fighting to keep western civilization safe from a few dozen Al Qaeda hiding out in caves in the hinterlands of the Af-Pak border.  But as Bush’s former anti-terrorism czar Richard Clarke remarked on ABC News this morning, thanks to Islamophobes like Pastor Terry Jones, who threatened to burn a pile of Qurans, and Gangrene Gingrich, who is leading the charge against building a Muslim community center near the former WTC site, those numbers have likely increased by thousands in the last few weeks alone.

Gingrich and latest trophy wife promoting his new Islamophobic video “America At Risk”, billed as the ” This final struggle”

Notwithstanding that Jones has called off his asshat stunt, perhaps because he took to heart a suggestion from a US marine that he put a little skin into the game by flying to Afghanistan and burn one there, the damage has already been done.  So maybe we’ll need those extra troops after all—for force protection. (Modern mass media is rapidly erasing the boundary between the actual and the virtual, not surprising since the brain used the same neural circuitry to process both.)

Here’s just some of the latest developments in Afghanistan these last couple of weeks.

Firstly, a member of the Karzai Kleptocracy receives double pay from the US taxpayer:

Karzai Aide in Corruption Inquiry Is Tied to C.I.A.
8/25/10

KABUL, Afghanistan — The aide to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan at the center of a politically sensitive corruption investigation is being paid by the Central Intelligence Agency, according to Afghan and American officials.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts met last Saturday in Kabul with President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Kerry said he believed that he had won a commitment from the Afghan president to allow an American-backed anticorruption unit to work unhindered.

Mohammed Zia Salehi, the chief of administration for the National Security Council, appears to have been on the payroll for many years, according to officials in Kabul and Washington. It is unclear exactly what Mr. Salehi does in exchange for his money, whether providing information to the spy agency, advancing American views inside the presidential palace, or both.

Mr. Salehi’s relationship with the C.I.A. underscores deep contradictions at the heart of the Obama administration’s policy in Afghanistan, with American officials simultaneously demanding that Mr. Karzai root out the corruption that pervades his government while sometimes subsidizing the very people suspected of perpetrating it.

Hamid playing his ‘chump’ card on John Kerry

Apparently Kerry didn’t notice that Karzai had his fingers crossed:

Prosecutor says Afghan leader fired him for fighting corruption

8/29/10

KABUL, Afghanistan — One of the country’s most senior prosecutors said yesterday that President Hamid Karzai fired him last week after he repeatedly refused to block corruption investigations at the highest levels of Karzai’s government.

Fazel Ahmed Faqiryar, the former deputy attorney general, said investigations of more than two dozen senior Afghan officials — including Cabinet ministers, ambassadors, and provincial governors — were being held up or blocked outright by Karzai, Attorney General Mohammed Ishaq Aloko, and others.”

But wait—there’s more! Continue reading »