Sunday, December 21, 2014

Police Union Pres. Blames Protesters, Mayor for Murders of NYC Officers

Last night in Brooklyn, police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were assassinated execution-style as they sat in their patrol car. The shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who wrote about retribution on Instagram, then ran to a nearby subway station and committed suicide. In addition to being a cowardly and despicable act, this double murder enabled right-wingers to blame protesters for "incitement," denying the fact that the goal of the protests is police reform, not murder. That includes tweets by conservatives, including former NY Governor George Pataki, who blamed Attorney General Eric Holder and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio for "anti-cop rhetoric." The always divisive Rudy Giuliani (I'm so glad he's no longer my mayor) blamed Obama for teaching "anti-police hatred." Reacting to de Blasio's support for the rights of protesters and his statement that he warned his biracial son, Dante, to "take special care" around the police (said following the Eric Garner decision; de Blasio has also repeatedly praised police for their work), Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch added to the demagoguery by proclaiming that there is "blood on many hands," including "those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest” and "the office of the mayor.” Watch:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday Night at The Liberal Curmudgeon: Violent Femmes Live

Folk punk band the Violent Femmes performed "Blister in the Sun." While there are multiple perspectives regarding the song's lyrics,  the group itself denies one popular interpretation.

Overheard At Anti-Obama Rally: "Hang Him! We've Got Rope!"

"Operation American Freedom," held recently in coordination with a sheriffs' rally to protest President Obama's immigration plans, turned out to be a handful of right-wing extremists gathered in front of the White House. They made appalling statements, as picked up in the video below supplied by Right Wing Watch, including “Hang the traitor!”; “Hang the lying Kenyan traitor!”; “We’ve got rope!”; “Plenty of trees in the front yard; wouldn’t be the first one hung on one of them trees.”; “Whatever happened to those good ol’ days?”; “Don’t snap his neck, you watch him choke to death.”; “He’s just biding his time until Satan takes him home to where he belongs.” These horrendous, racist sentiments, associated with lynching, point to the fact that there is a segment of this country that nurtures an irredeemable, murderous rage at the reality of a black president. Watch:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Michele Bachmann's Parting Request To Obama: Bomb Iran

What will we do without Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), now that she's retiring from Congress? Known for her zany comments, Bachmann went out with a bang–or advocated one, asking President Obama at the White House Christmas party to bomb Iran. She told Fox News that she tried to have a "substantive conversation": “I asked the president to be very serious and to think about this because if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon on his watch, the course of history will change.” One supposes it will also change if Obama bombs Iran tomorrow morning. Anyway, Bachmann came away annoyed with Obama's refusal to heed her foreign policy counsel: “He smiled and laughed and was fairly patronizing, and said, ‘Well, you know, it just isn’t that easy, Michele, but that’s OK,’ like I’m some little woman who doesn’t know what I’m talking about.” Watch her interview with a sympathetic Fox host:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cheney Unfazed About Death of Innocent Detainee

Speaking about the Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report, Dick Cheney told NBC's Chuck Todd that it was "a crock" and that he would promote the same interrogation methods "in a minute." Todd then asked about the torture of innocents, including Gul Rahman, who was "chained to the wall of his cell, doused with water, froze to death in CIA custody and it turned out it was a case of mistaken identity." Cheney stated, "I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that in fact were innocent." When Todd countered that "Twenty-five percent of the detainees turned out to be innocent," Cheney responded, "I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. And our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States." The former Vice President, then, is unfazed hearing that the program he strongly backed resulted in the detention and torture of innocents, even unto death. Watch:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

GOP Bill Boosts Industry Scientists, Censors Independent Scientists

House Republicans have passed a bill changing rules for eligibility to the Science Advisory Board (SAB), which advises the Environmental Protection Agency. The bill clears the way for corporate-allied scientists to serve on the board and bans independent scientists from discussing their own research with the board. According to GOP bizarro logic, the independent scientists present a conflict of interest when talking about their work while the corporate-allied scientists, financially tied to industries, present no conflict. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) told House Republicans, “I get it, you don’t like science. And you don’t like science that interferes with the interests of your corporate clients. But we need science to protect public health and the environment.” McGovern is correct about the GOP's latest campaign in their ongoing war on science:

The House voted 229-191 to pass H.R. 1422, which would change the rules for appointing members to the Science Advisory Board (SAB), a group that gives scientific advice to the EPA Administrator. Also called the Science Advisory Board Reform Act, the bill would make it easier for scientists with financial ties to corporations to serve on the SAB, prohibit independent scientists from talking about their own research on the board, and make it more difficult for scientists who have applied for grants from the EPA to join the board.

The purpose of the bill, according to Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), is to increase transparency and accountability to the EPA’s scientific advisors. Burgess said on the floor Tuesday that the board “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” With this bill, Burgess said the inclusion of industry interests would erase “any appearance of impropriety on the board.”

But scientists, environmental groups, and health experts have said that the bill compromises the scientific independence of the SAB, and makes it harder for the Board to do its job, thereby increasing the amount of time it takes to implement EPA regulations.

“The supposed intent [of the bill] is to improve the process of selecting advisors, but in reality, the bill would allow the board to be stacked with industry representatives, while making it more difficult for academics to serve,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) on the House floor on Tuesday. “It benefits no one but the industry, and it harms public health.”

...The Union of Concerned Scientists has come out strongly against the bill, particularly the portion that says SAB members can not participate in discussions that cite their own peer-reviewed research. Republicans say this would make scientists biased for their own work — but scientists say this makes no sense.

“This [bill] effectively turns the idea of conflict of interest on its head, with the bizarre presumption that corporate experts with direct financial interests are not conflicted while academics who work on these issues are, “the group’s director, Andrew A. Rosenberg, said in a letter to Congress. “Of course, a scientist with expertise on topics the Science Advisory Board addresses likely will have done peer-reviewed studies on that topic. That makes the scientist’s evaluation more valuable, not less.”

Despite the bill’s passage, however, it is unlikely that it will become law. The Senate does not have a similar bill nor does it plan to take one up, and the President Obama has already pledged to veto the bill if it comes to his desk.

Image: John Boehner (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Texas Textbooks Teach New "Facts" About Moses and Climate Change

The social studies books adopted by the Texas State Board of Education make a national impact on the textbook market, since the state has around 5 million students. In the textbooks approved by the Republican-dominated, 15-member Texas Board of Education, students will soon "learn" that Moses influenced the country's founding documents and that scientists are divided about climate change:

Consider one high school government textbook. It lists four thinkers who influenced the Founding Fathers.

"Three of those on the list make a lot of sense: John Locke, Montesquieu and Blackstone. Those are all either British philosophers or Enlightenment thinkers," says Jennifer Graber, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin.

She says that these three thinkers are all quoted in America's founding documents. But, for Graber, the fourth person on the list raised a red flag: Moses.

"I think for many of us who are academic historians, it's a very ahistorical connection to make. Moses is not someone who is quoted in the founding documents," Graber says.

Moses is, however, mentioned explicitly in Texas learning standards, which is why the publisher included him in its textbook (and this is not the publisher's only textbook to include him).

The standards are called the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and were created in 2010. They state that high school students in U.S. government are expected to "identify the individuals, whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding documents, including those of Moses, William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu."

...Another point of contention: climate change. Josh Rosenau, programs and policy director with the National Center for Science Education, took issue with its characterization in books by megapublishers Pearson and McGraw-Hill.

"They were saying we didn't know what was causing climate change or saying that scientists were divided about whether humans were responsible," Rosenau says. "And that was just not true."

Image: Mikhaela Reid,

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thousands March in NYC Against Police Violence

As part of a national day of demonstrations against police violence following the failure to indict officers who killed Eric Garner and Michael Brown, tens of thousands marched from Washington Square Park up Fifth Avenue and back downtown to NYPD headquarters. Protesters carried eight panels (above) created by French artist JR hauntingly depicting Eric Garner's eyes. Below is a time lapse video showing the massive amount of people who took part in "Millions March NYC" against police brutality and impunity. Watch:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday Night at The Liberal Curmudgeon: David Bowie Live

With his constantly changing persona, appearance and musical direction, David Bowie is rock's ultimate postmodernist. Above he performed the song about one of his alter-egos, the rock star "Ziggy Stardust," in Paris, 2002. In the animated interview below, Bowie discusses Ziggy–whom he refers to as "half out of sci-fi rock and half out of the Japanese theater"–and the other characters he's created. Bowie's imaginative forays must have something to do with the fact that he's one of the most well-read rockers, as is clear from his list of "75 Must-Read Books."

Elizabeth Warren on Omnibus Bill: "Who Does Congress Work For?"

On the Senate floor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) railed against the Omnibus spending bill's repeal of Section 716 of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations of 2010. She asked, "Who does Congress work for? Does it work for the millionaires, the billionaires, the giant companies with their armies of lobbyists and lawyers, or does it work for all the people?" She condemned the repeal that would permit "derivatives traders on Wall Street [to] gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system." Warren pointed out that the same banks that crashed the economy and were bailed out in 2008 favor the repeal. She criticized the Republicans who threatened another government shutdown unless it was passed, as well as the former members of Congress who are now lobbyists for big banks that spend big bucks to scuttle financial regulations. Warren concluded, "This is a democracy, and the American people didn't elect us to stand up for Citigroup. They elected us to stand up for all the people." Watch: