Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Exxon Impeded Pipeline Spill Coverage In Arkansas

Counterspin reports that, following the Exxon tar sands oil pipeline rupture in Arkansas, federal and local law enforcement blocked media access to the site because the company didn't want journalists there. Noting that this is not the first time such censorship on the part of Exxon and BP has prevailed, Counterspin concludes, "One has to wonder...why this particular category of perpetrator is allowed to control access to its own crime scene." Listen:

See also the Mother Jones article, "Reporters Say Exxon Is Impeding Spill Coverage in Arkansas."

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Iraqi Prime Minister Acts More And More Like A Dictator

Not only does sectarian strife continue in Iraq, but Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki is looking more and more like a dictator as he consolidates power. So much for the "nation building" and "spreading democracy" rationales for invading Iraq:

Al Jazeera and 9 other stations have lost their licenses to broadcast in Iraq. The Maliki government indicates the recent spate in sectarian violence, and the media's perceived stoking of such violence, as their reason for revoking the licenses.

...Maliki's aggressive political steps date back to his initial move toward power in 2006. He's staffed the higher positions of government with Shia loyalists, and distanced his government from Sunni and Kurdish leaders.

He's also created "extra-constitutional security bodies" — so-called by Marissa Meyer at the Institute for the Study of War — bodies designed to give him a direct chain of command over security forces, a command that conveniently side-steps the Ministries of Defence and Interior.

Such consolidations allowed him to take an unprecedented move: what Maliki claims was an arrest, but what many call an assassination attempt on Iraq's former finance minister. Luckily, and predictably, Rafi Issawi was under the protection of the powerful Abu Risha clan and avoided his fate, whatever it might have been.

...Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, general manager of Al Arabiya, wrote on April 14 that Maliki was another Saddam, except for one key detail: Iran's support.

"Maliki is practically another Saddam. But Maliki surpasses Saddam because he is protected by Iran and he has double the funds of Saddam, who was besieged during most of his years in power," Al-Rashed wrote.

Ellison Challenges King On Profiling Muslims

Last week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein countered Rep. Peter King’s call to profile the Muslim community following the Boston bombings. Today on Meet the Press, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), referred to such blanket tactics as ineffective and wasteful law enforcement. Instead, Ellison said that terrorism investigations should focus on individual behavior and actionable intelligence. He also warned against policies that resemble those used against Japanese Americans during World War II. Watch:

Obama Pledges Support For Planned Parenthood

Here's an important reason to be glad–and relieved–that President Obama won the election. We recall Mitt Romney's vow to "get rid of" Planned Parenthood. Speaking at a gala in Washington on Friday, Obama spoke about the benefits of his health care law (which Romney also wanted to eliminate) and pledged his support for Planned Parenthood: "Planned Parenthood is not going anywhere. It's not going anywhere today; it's not going anywhere tomorrow. As long as we've got a fight to make sure women have access to quality, affordable health care, and as long as we've got to fight to protect a woman's right to make her own choices about her own health, I want you to know that you've also got a president who's going to be right there with you, fighting every step of the way." Watch:

Gohmert: Administration’s Muslim Brotherhood Members Guide Bombing Probe

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who has spoken about a terror baby plot and Obama’s support for an Al-Qaeda/Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Libya, claimed on the conservative World Net Daily radio show that the administration “bungled” the Boston bombing investigation because it “has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America.” According to Gohmert, Attorney General Eric Holder, who has "spent more time...trying to help terrorists than to corral them," read Dzhokar Tsarnaev his Miranda rights to “get him to stop talking" about "the threat against America." Listen:

Q: Some people are wondering whether or not the fact that it looks like radical Islam is once again a factor here is potentially a narrative that some folks don’t want publicly out there. Do you think that’s playing into this at all?

GOHMERT: I think it is… It’s very clear to everybody but this administration that radical Islam is at war against us… Thank God for the moderates that don’t approve of what’s being done. But this administration has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America.

Jon Stewart: Fox Ready To Shred Constitution, Except For Guns

In considering Fox News commentators' response to the Boston bombings, Jon Stewart points out a huge contradiction between their pose as defenders of the Constitution and their willingness to shred its amendments. There's only one exception: the Second Amendment. In that case, as Sean Hannity puts it, "There’s no ambiguity." Watch:

STEWART: Yes, it turns out there’s only one amendment in our Constitution’s pantheon that is exempt from statistical analysis or emotional freak-out-itude, and it is the Second. So God help us if the Muslims ever decide to form a well-regulated militia. We’ll have no way to stop them.

Barbara Bush On Jeb Run: "We've Had Enough Bushes"

I previously noted that on the very day of the dedication of the George W. Bush Library, new fighting in Iraq claimed the lives of at least 41–a grim reminder of the Bush legacy. Eugene Robinson cited torture, Iraq and the financial crisis in a commentary, "Bush's Legacy Keeps Getting Worse." Robinson might have also mentioned Katrina, but perhaps there's not enough space in one column for every Bush disaster. In any event, Barbara Bush provided a succinct assessment when considering a possible presidential run by her son Jeb:

Appearing in an interview from Dallas on NBC's "Today" show, Mrs. Bush was asked if she thought that Jeb, the former governor of Florida, should seek the presidency.

"He's by far the best qualified man," Mrs. Bush said, "but no."

"We've had enough Bushes," she said, saying "it's not just four families, or whatever."

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Remembering Richie Havens

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Richie Havens, one of my generation’s iconic folk singers and guitarists. The photo shows me meeting him after a performance a few years ago at the Towne Crier Café in Pawling, NY, 67 miles north of NYC. Richie was an outstanding performer, perceptive and witty commentator and warm individual, as well as an environmental and peace activist. Listen to his famous improvised medley of "Motherless Child" and "Freedom" at Woodstock, where I first heard him perform and, like thousands of others, was amazed:

Listen to a tribute to Richie Havens on the St. James Infirmary music show, hosted by my good friend Michael Mand.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

On Bush Library Dedication Day, At Least 41 Die In Iraq

On the day of the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, new fighting in Iraq provided a grim reminder of the Bush legacy. A decade after "Shock and Awe" and Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech, the divisions opened up by the invasion of Iraq persist with at least 41 dead today in renewed ethnic strife:

At least 41 people died Thursday on the third straight day of pitched fighting between Iraqi security forces and Sunni Arabs, as Prime Minister Nouri Maliki warned the country was in crisis.

The national police battled back Sunni fighters in the northern city of Mosul, long a bastion of the insurgency, where individuals took up arms after security forces opened fire early Tuesday on an encampment of Sunni protesters in the city of Hawija in Kirkuk province.

The violence this week ended four months of largely peaceful Sunni protests centered on the group’s alleged mistreatment by Iraq’s Shiite Muslim-led government. Confrontations occurred across Sunni regions of Iraq.

At least 31 Sunni gunmen were killed in Mosul on Thursday, said Mehdi Sabah Gharrawi, a national police commander. Ten police officers also were killed, military sources said. The sides had been fighting for control of four neighborhoods in east Mosul for three days, and gunmen held a police station before being repelled.

The death toll around the country reached as high as 179 by some accounts, with authorities saying 50 people died in Hawija and other parts of Kirkuk province Tuesday.

Image: Residents carry a coffin during the funeral of an Iraqi soldier in Hawija.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cartoonists Demand Action To End Gun Violence

Some of America's most prominent cartoonists have joined together in support of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns campaign, "Demand Action To End Gun Violence." Watch this moving video:

One of the participating cartoonists, Ruben Bolling, wrote an eloquent essay, "The Jester's Hat Is Off," on the project.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

David Cay Johnston: NRA Impeded Boston Bombing Investigation

David Cay Johnston writes that the NRA impeded the Boston bombing investigation due to its opposition to the tracing of gunpowder. It does not, however, oppose the tracing of plastic explosives like Semtex since the companies that manufacture the latter do not fund the NRA, whose ultimate aim is profits. In Johnston's view, the NRA should be known as "the mass murder lobby":

The inability to quickly track the gunpowders in the Boston bombs is due to government policy designed and promoted by the NRA, which has found a way to transform every massacre associated with weapons into an opportunity for the munitions companies that sustain it to sell more guns, gunpowder and bullets.

...But for the NRA-backed policy of not putting identifiers known as taggants in gunpowder, law enforcement could have quickly identified the explosives used to make the bombs, tracking them from manufacture to retail sale. That could well have saved the life of Sean Collier, the 26-year-old MIT police officer who was gunned down Thursday night by the fleeing bomb suspects.

...Had the Boston bombers used a plastic explosive, it would have included identifiers that would have allowed a quick trace. Those taggants exist because the NRA does not oppose them.

Why is that? Why this breach in the NRA’s Maginot Line of defense against reasonable regulation of guns and ammunition?

The answer appears to lie in who makes plastic explosives like Semtex, which was used to bring down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. The world’s main supplier was not a company that finances the NRA, but Libya under Moammar Khadafy.

That this one breach in NRA policy traces directly to the economic interests of the American munitions industry provides powerful evidence of what motivates the NRA – profits.

That the gun makers have managed to turn each massacre into a spike in sales of both expensive rapid-fire weapons and ammunition adds to the evidence that the NRA should be viewed as the mass-murder lobby.

Dianne Feinstein Counters Peter King's Islamophobia

Speaking today to Fox's Chris Wallace, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) criticized Rep. Peter King (R-NY) for trying to associate, without evidence, alleged Boston bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to "the Muslim community" in the U.S. Feinstein commented, "I don’t think all of this is very helpful. I think the important thing is to get the facts. ...I don’t think we need to go and develop some real disdain and hatred on television about it." Watch:

KING: Listen, the threat is coming from within the Muslim community in these cases. In New York. that’s why Commissioner Kelly has 1,000 police officers out in the community. Unfortunately, he gets smeared by the New York Times and the Associated Press, but the fact is we’ve stopped 16 plots in New York because we know that al-Qaeda is shifting its tactics…If you know a certain threat is coming from a certain community, that’s where you have to look.
WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, your reaction to this?
FEINSTEIN: That’s exactly where they will look. I don’t think all of this is very helpful. I think the important thing is to get the facts. Let the investigation proceed. The FBI has very good interrogators. They know what they are doing. I believe that they will put a case together that will be very strong. With respect to whether we are doing enough in the Muslim community, I think we should take a look at that, but I don’t think we need to go and develop some real disdain and hatred on television about it.
WALLACE: I must say, I don’t think that’s what Congressman King was saying. He was saying, that’s where the threat is coming from, we have to address the threat.
FEINSTEIN: Well, this came at this point from two individuals. That’s what we really do know. We do not know what their connections are. So, I think we ought to find out before we begin to charge them with all kinds of associations.

In 2011, King conducted show trials against American Muslims.

Review: U.S. Practiced Torture After 9/11

A nonpartisan, independent review by the Constitution Project found that the U.S. engaged in torture after 9/11. The task force on detainee treatment, led by former Republican Representative Asa Hutchinson and former Democratic Representative James R. Jones, concluded that that the policy involved top members of the Bush administration, damaged the country's standing, increased the danger to our troops and produced unreliable information:

A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.

The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.

...The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.” The task force found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.

...The panel studied the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the C.I.A’s secret prisons. Staff members, including the executive director, Neil A. Lewis, a former reporter for The New York Times, traveled to multiple detention sites and interviewed dozens of former American and foreign officials, as well as former detainees.

Koch Brothers Consider Buying Major Newspapers

Billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, who have used their fortune to buy politicians, harm working people and further their right-wing agenda, are considering purchasing the Tribune Company's eight regional newspapers, including several in battleground states. According to one individual who has attended Koch Industry political strategy seminars, “they see the conservative voice as not being well represented”:

...Koch Industries, the sprawling private company of which Charles G. Koch serves as chairman and chief executive, is exploring a bid to buy the Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant.

...Politically...the papers could serve as a broader platform for the Kochs’ laissez-faire ideas. The Los Angeles Times is the fourth-largest paper in the country, and The Tribune is No. 9, and others are in several battleground states, including two of the largest newspapers in Florida, The Orlando Sentinel and The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. A deal could include Hoy, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, which speaks to the pivotal Hispanic demographic.

...Conservatives...welcomed the idea of a handful of prominent papers spreading the ideas of economic “freedom” from taxes and regulation that the Kochs have championed.

For more on the Koch brothers, read "Covert Operations" by Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, August 30, 2010, and watch "Koch Brothers Exposed" by Robert Greenwald.

Robert Redford's "The Company You Keep"

Robert Redford is director, producer and protagonist in "The Company You Keep," a thought-provoking, suspenseful film about 1970s Weather Underground members trying to assume new identities following a bank robbery decades ago that resulted in the death of a guard. Redford plays Jim Grant, a lawyer in a suburb of Albany and a widower with a young daughter. After former Weather Underground member Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) turns herself in to the FBI, dogged young journalist Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) uncovers the fact that Grant is actually Nick Sloan, who was also in the group. Knowing that the FBI is now pursuing him, Sloan leaves his daughter with his brother Daniel (Chris Cooper) in NYC and crosses the country, meeting former radicals and trying to find his old lover Mimi Lurie (Julie Christie), who participated in the robbery–and is the one person who can testify that Sloan did not. "The Company You Keep" ruefully reflects the issues, especially Vietnam, that tore the country apart in the 60s and 70s, the ways in which a minority went violently astray and the lifelong repercussions of their decisions.

John Oliver Investigates Gun Control Success In Australia

On Jon Stewart's show, John Oliver reports on the success of Australia’s gun control laws in terms of reduced homicides and youth suicides involving guns, as well as no gun massacres in 17 years. These results are enumerated in an interview with former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a conservative. When Oliver cites them to gun lobbyist Philip Van Cleave, the latter becomes increasingly befuddled. Finally, Van Cleave unwittingly states, “The U.S. has a very high number of guns. Therefore, there’s going to be more chances for someone to be killed with a gun.” Oliver responds, "Right. That's my point." Watch:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

UNICEF: US 34th Out Of 35 Countries In Child Poverty

A new UNICEF study ranks the United States 34th out of 35 developed countries in terms of child poverty, perhaps reflective of the nation's growing income inequality. Romania, 35th in the list, has more impoverished children than the U.S.:

A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, on the well-being of children in 35 developed nations, turned up some alarming statistics about child poverty. More than one in five American children fall below a relative poverty line, which UNICEF defines as living in a household that earns less than half of the national median. The United States ranks 34th of the 35 countries surveyed, above only Romania and below virtually all of Europe plus Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

The above map gives a comparative sense of the data. The blue countries have less than 10 percent of its children below UNICEF’s relative poverty line, with the red countries approaching 25 percent. Southern European countries, among the most effected by the euro crisis, have some of the worst rates, although none as low as the United States. Former Soviet countries also score poorly. Northern European countries score the highest. English-speaking countries tend to fall somewhere in the middle.

The poor U.S. showing in this data may reflect growing income inequality. According to one metric of inequality, a statistical measurement called the gini coefficient, the U.S. economy is one of the most unequal in the developed world. This would explain why the United States, on child poverty, is ranked between Bulgaria and Romania, though Americans are on average six times richer than Bulgarians and Romanians.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: The Standells

"Down by the banks of the River Charles..." The Standells performed “Dirty Water” on the Mike Douglas Show, May 27, 1966. Dedicated to the city and people of Boston.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Political Corruption At The Heart Of Gun Control Defeat

Yesterday we learned that the mass slaughter of young schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., is not enough to motivate lawmakers to pass meaningful gun control. Ultimately, we learned that no gun atrocity, no matter how horrendous and how young and innocent the victims, will inspire Congress to act. If anything confirms the complete corruption of our political system, this does.

Consider universal background checks for gun sales. Regardless of the fact that 90 percent of the country favors this measure, it did not pass. The Senate’s disgraceful defeat of this legislation demonstrates that it is beholden not to the people but to special interests flush with cash, in this case the NRA.

Our elections are not publicly financed, resulting in politicians who sell their services to the highest bidder. This institutionalized bribery was confirmed by the Citizens United decision, in which a conservative activist Supreme Court lifted corporate limitations on contributions. Another pillar of corruption is the abuse of the filibuster by the Republican Party, resulting in a 60-vote threshold for the passage of bills (background checks failed 54-46).

Of course we must keep agitating for sane gun control. Yesterday’s events, however, point to the need for reform that goes beyond gun regulations to uprooting the corruption that prevents the people’s will from being enacted.

Image: Stuart Carlson

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Barney Frank: Bombings Point Out Need For "A Well-Funded, Functioning Gov't."

Speaking to CNN's John Berman about yesterday's horrendous bombings in Boston, former Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank (D) said, "In this terrible situation, let's be very grateful that we had a well-funded, functioning government." Frank also pointed out that the need for rapid emergency response should caution lawmakers against slashing taxes, stating, “No tax cut would have helped us deal with this — or will help us recover.” Watch:

FRANK: In this terrible situation, let’s be very grateful that we had a well-funded, functioning government. It is very fashionable in America and has been for some time to criticize government, belittle public employees, talk about their pensions, talk about what people think is their excessive health care. Here we saw government in two ways perform very well. ...You know, I never was as a member of Congress, one of the cheerleaders for less government, lower taxes. No tax cut would have helped us deal with this — or will help us recover. This is very expensive. ...And this is an example of why we need — if we want to be a civilized people — to put some of our resources into a common pool so we are able to deal with this. And to deal with it, you can’t simply be responsive once it happens. ...This is a terrible day for our society, but a day when I hope people will understand the centrality of having a government in place with the resources. ...This is an example of why we need to provide the resources for our common good.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Poll: 66 Percent Of Republicans Against Marriage Equality

A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that while the majority of Americans now support gay marriage, a substantial majority of Republicans are not embracing change and equality:

Two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two highly publicized gay-marriage cases, a majority of Americans continue to say they support same-sex marriage, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Fifty-three percent of respondents favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, which is up 2 points since the NBC/WSJ survey last asked this question in December, though that increase is within the poll’s margin of error.

Forty-two percent oppose gay marriage – also up 2 points since late last year.

By party, 73 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents back gay marriage, while 66 percent of Republicans oppose it.

Harris-Perry: African Americans Don't Need A History Lesson From Rand Paul

In an open letter, Melissa Harris-Perry reminded Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) that African-Americans don't need a history lesson from him. Paul's awkward lecture at Howard University implied that African Americans left the GOP because they wanted "free stuff" and glossed over the facts that Democrats opposed to civil rights became Republicans and that Paul himself was opposed to a central tenet of the Civil Rights Act. She also referred to Paul's condescending question to the audience regarding the NAACP founders ("Would everybody in here know they were all Republicans?"). Watch:

See also Jon Stewart's mockery of Paul's speech.

Exxon Hates Your Children

The ExxonHatesYourChildren progressive coalition produced the following satirical ad, focusing on the company's destructive effects on climate at the expense of future generations. The ad was pulled from ABC, NBC and Fox affiliates in Little Rock, Arkansas, after Exxon's threats of legal action. Watch:

See also Andy Cobb's anti-Exxon ad.

Glenda Jackson Attacks "Heinous" Thatcher Legacy

Actress turned Labour MP Glenda Jackson fervently dissented during a House of Commons session featuring tributes to Margaret Thatcher. Jackson denounced Thatcherism's "heinous social, economic and spiritual damage" and the "greed and selfishness" that characterized the former prime minister's era. Her comments could also apply to the legacy of Thatcher's friend, Ronald Reagan. Most Labour MPs stayed away from the session; Jackson mostly spoke to hostile Conservatives, one of whom said, "I can't take it" and another who unsuccessfully tried to have her comments ruled out of order. She was unrepentant after her eloquent and powerful speech. Watch:

JACKSON: But the basis to Thatcherism - and this is where I come to the spiritual part of what I regard as the desperate, desperately wrong track that Thatcherism took this country into - is that we were told that everything I had been taught to regard as a vice - and I still regard them as vices - under Thatcherism was in fact a virtue: greed, selfishness, no care for the weaker, sharp elbows, sharp knees. They were the way forward. ...What concerns me is that I’m beginning to see possibly the re-emergence of that total traducing of what I regard as being the basis of the spiritual nature of this country, where we do care about society, where we do believe in communities, where we do not leave people to walk by on the other side. That is not happening now. And if we go back to the heyday of that era I think we will see replicated yet again the extraordinary human damage that we as a nation have suffered from.

Elizabeth Warren Blasts Regulators For Protecting Banks

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who has previously shown an unwillingness to accept the evasions of bank regulators, grilled federal officials about illegal bank foreclosures at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Thursday. She wanted to know if they would give information to victims of illegal foreclosures–or if they just want to protect the banks. Warren asked, "You now know individual cases where the banks violated the law, and you're not going to tell the homeowners, or at least it's not clear yet whether you're going to do that?" Watch:

ELIZABETH WARREN: Would it be helpful, if you’re going against one of these big banks, would it be helpful to these families to have the information about their case that’s in your files?
RICHARD ASHTON, DEPUTY GEN COUNSEL, FEDERAL RESERVE: It would be helpful, obviously, to have information related to the injury – yes it would.
WARREN: So do you plan to give the families this information? That is, those families that have been victims of illegal foreclosures, will you be giving them the information that’s in your possession about how the banks illegally foreclosed against them?
ASHTON: I think that’s a decision that we’re still considering making. We haven’t made a final decision yet.
WARREN: So you have made a decision to protect the banks, but not a decision to tell the families who were illegally foreclosed against?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

GOP Rep.: "If Babies Had Guns, They Wouldn't Be Aborted"

Seeking to combine two hot-button right-wing stances, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX)–whose Twitter account calls him "the most conservative Congressman in Texas!"–tweeted the message of his new campaign bumper sticker. Exactly how would he implement his firearms for fetuses proposal?

Gun Lobby Lines Up Killer Amendments

The New York Times, in "The Rugged Road for Gun Control," makes it clear that the NRA and its congressional minions want to attach amendments to gun control bills that would render them meaningless and pose new threats to public safety, including making weapons available to more of the mentally unstable. So much for the gun lobby's rhetoric about mental health; its only aim is to increase gun industry profits:

That lobby has lined up several senators to do its bidding by offering amendments that will pose a real threat to the background-check bill. The worst — a huge priority of the N.R.A. — would require every state to honor the concealed-handgun permits of other states, overriding their own restrictions. That would allow a resident of Florida, where deliberately lax laws have given out such permits to hundreds of felons, to carry a concealed gun in New York or Connecticut, where the laws are much more strict and sane.

If this amendment were to be attached to the background-check bill — and there may be enough votes to make that happen — the underlying bill would no longer be worth passing.

Another potential killer amendment, sponsored by Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, would reverse current law and allow people who have been involuntarily committed to mental institutions to own guns, a ludicrous undermining of the background-check system. Only those who are found to be an “imminent danger” would be prevented from owning guns, even though that standard isn’t required in many states to commit people to institutions.

Other proposed amendments would lift the ban on gun ownership by mentally ill veterans; supersede some existing state bans on assault weapons; and declare that all weapons restrictions violate the Second Amendment.

Image: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Chris Smither

Folk and blues singer-songwriter Chris Smither performed his spirited love lament, "Hundred Dollar Valentine," at Threadgill's, Austin, Texas, March 2012. The song is the title track of his twelfth album.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Andy Cobb: "Exxon has revolutionized the way fuel gets to you."

Political satirist Andy Cobb gives us a different perspective on Exxon following the pipeline spill of thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian crude tar sands oil in Arkansas. He explains, “Exxon has revolutionized the way fuel gets to you. We’ll pump that s--t right down your driveway.” Watch:

The video is accompanied by Cobb's message:

America's oil industry is terribly misunderstood. When a lot of people hear "364 pipeline spills in 2012" they think it's a big mess, like a nearly realized advent calendar of crap. What they fail to see is a revolutionary energy distribution system about to achieve NATIONWIDE COVERAGE.

And remember, that's not just gas or oil flowing through the streets of Arkansas--it's dilbit, the thick toxic hydrocarbon stew produced by tarsands. So roam wherever, and take your energy source with you! That s--t is sticky as hell, it's not like you're going to be able to get it off.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

GOP Congressman: Biblical Great Flood Shows Climate Change Not Man-Made

Speaking at a hearing on a the Keystone XL pipeline, which he supports, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) acknowledged that climate change is underway. Barton argued, however, that the change is not necessarily man-made. He cited the biblical Great Flood as an example of climate change unrelated to human activities:

"I would point out that people like me who support hydrocarbon development don't deny that climate is changing," he added. "I think you can have an honest difference of opinion of what's causing that change without automatically being either all in that's all because of mankind or it's all just natural. I think there's a divergence of evidence."

Barton then cited the biblical Great Flood as an example of climate change not caused by man.

"I would point out that if you're a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn't because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

GOP Senator: Gun Control Debate Has Nothing To Do WIth Newtown Families

According to Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), families of victims from Newtown, Connecticut, are unable to reach their own conclusions regarding gun control; instead, they're being manipulated by President Obama. In fact, Inhofe told reporters, the gun control debate has nothing to do with them. Inhofe lamented the fact that the families met with senators in Washington to urge them to support gun control legislation, which he has vowed to filibuster:

"See, I think it's so unfair of the administration to hurt these families, to make them think this has something to do with them when, in fact, it doesn't," Inhofe said.

When it was suggested that the families of Newtown victims actually believe the gun debate pertains to them, Inhofe said, "Well, that's because they've been told that by the president."

Monday, April 8, 2013

ALEC Helps Thwart Taping Of Cruelty To Animals

The corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) writes bills with lawmakers that promote a right-wing agenda. It isn't only human beings, however, whom ALEC harms; the group is also helping the agricultural and meat industries thwart animal rights activists in their efforts to make undercover videos exposing cruelty to animals:

On one covert video, farm workers illegally burn the ankles of Tennessee walking horses with chemicals. Another captures workers in Wyoming punching and kicking pigs and flinging piglets into the air. And at one of the country’s largest egg suppliers, a video shows hens caged alongside rotting bird corpses, while workers burn and snap off the beaks of young chicks.

Each video — all shot in the last two years by undercover animal rights activists — drew a swift response: Federal prosecutors in Tennessee charged the horse trainer and other workers, who have pleaded guilty, with violating the Horse Protection Act. Local authorities in Wyoming charged nine farm employees with cruelty to animals. And the egg supplier, which operates in Iowa and other states, lost one of its biggest customers, McDonald’s, which said the video played a part in its decision.

But a dozen or so state legislatures have had a different reaction: They proposed or enacted bills that would make it illegal to covertly videotape livestock farms, or apply for a job at one without disclosing ties to animal rights groups. They have also drafted measures to require such videos to be given to the authorities almost immediately, which activists say would thwart any meaningful undercover investigation of large factory farms.

Critics call them “Ag-Gag” bills.

Some of the legislation appears inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a business advocacy group with hundreds of state representatives from farm states as members. The group creates model bills, drafted by lobbyists and lawmakers, that in the past have included such things as “stand your ground” gun laws and tighter voter identification rules.

One of the group’s model bills, “The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act,” prohibits filming or taking pictures on livestock farms to “defame the facility or its owner.” Violators would be placed on a “terrorist registry.”

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chris Matthews Asks If Women Worry About Violence Against Women

In the context of a discussion about the presidential prospects of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, MSNBC's Chris Matthews actually asked whether women really worry about violence against women, including "the idea of wife beating." With remarkable patience, Andrea Mitchell assured him that yes, they do. Watch Matthews struggle to get a clue:

MATTHEWS: Is that close to the bone, the idea of wife beating, some old beaters?
MITCHELL: That was part of it.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, but is that something that women really worry about, men being brutal?
MITCHELL: Yes. The Violence Against Women Act...
MATTHEWS: At home? In the home?
MITCHELL: Yes, domestic violence...

CT Gov. Compares NRA's LaPierre To "The Clowns At The Circus"

Following a clip of NRA chief Wayne LaPierre criticizing Connecticut's new gun control law, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy hit back at his opposition to an effective assault weapons ban and universal background checks. Malloy stated on CNN, “Wayne reminds me of the clowns at the circus. They get the most attention.” Watch:

MALLOY: Wayne reminds me of the clowns at the circus. They get the most attention, and that’s what he’s paid to do. But the reality is is that the gun that was used to kill 26 people on December 14th was legally purchased in the state of Connecticut even though we had an assault weapons ban. But there were loopholes in it that you could drive a truck through. This guy is so out of whack, it’s unbelievable. 92% of the American people want universal background checks. I can’t get on a plane as the governor of the state of Connecticut without somebody running a background check on me. Why should you be able to buy a gun? Or buy armor-piercing munitions? It doesn’t make any sense. He doesn’t make any sense. Thus my reference to the circus.

Robert Reich: No Chained CPI Social Security Cuts

While Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is heartened by President Obama’s call for the chained CPI formula, or inflation-adjusted reductions in Social Security, liberals are much less sanguine about the idea. Robert Reich explains why it makes no sense in terms of seniors’ health care costs. Watch:

Pew Research Center: Majority Favors Pot Legalization

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center finds that for the first time in four decades, a majority of Americans favors the legalization of marijuana, with 52% supportive and 45% opposed. In addition, the survey found a decrease in those who view marijuana as a "gateway drug" and smoking it as morally wrong, and an increase in the those who feel marijuana has medical uses and that government efforts to enforce marijuana laws are not worth it:

Support for legalizing marijuana has risen 11 points since 2010. The change is even more dramatic since the late 1960s. A 1969 Gallup survey found that just 12% favored legalizing marijuana use, while 84% were opposed.

The survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted March 13-17 among 1,501 adults, finds that young people are the most supportive of marijuana legalization. Fully 65% of Millennials –born since 1980 and now between 18 and 32 – favor legalizing the use of marijuana, up from just 36% in 2008. Yet there also has been a striking change in long-term attitudes among older generations, particularly Baby Boomers.

Half (50%) of Boomers now favor legalizing marijuana, among the highest percentages ever. In 1978, 47% of Boomers favored legalizing marijuana, but support plummeted during the 1980s, reaching a low of 17% in 1990. Since 1994, however, the percentage of Boomers favoring marijuana legalization has doubled, from 24% to 50%.

Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, came of age in the 1990s when there was widespread opposition to legalizing marijuana. Support for marijuana legalization among Gen X also has risen dramatically – from just 28% in 1994 to 42% a decade later and 54% currently.

The Silent Generation continues to be less supportive of marijuana legalization than younger age cohorts. But the percentage of Silents who favor legalization has nearly doubled –from 17% to 32% – since 2002.

Study: Suicide Highest In States With More Guns And Conservatives

A study by sociology professor Augustine J. Kposowa of the University of California, Riverside, found that states with the highest rates of gun ownership and political conservatism have a greater suicide risk than those with fewer gun owners and less conservatism:

The study, "Association of suicide rates, gun ownership, conservatism and individual suicide risk," was published online in the journal Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology in February.

...With few exceptions, states with the highest rates of gun ownership -- for example, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Alabama, and West Virginia -- also tended to have the highest suicide rates. These states were also carried overwhelmingly by George Bush in the 2000 presidential election.

..."Even modest efforts to reform gun laws are typically met with vehement opposition. There are also millions of Americans who continue to believe that keeping a gun at home protects them against intruders, even though research shows that when a gun is used in the home, it is often against household members in the commission of homicides or suicides," Kposowa said.

...Although total suicide rates in the U.S. are not much higher than in other Western countries, without changes in gun-ownership policies "the United States is poised to remain a very armed and potentially dangerous nation for its inhabitants for years to come."

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Graham Parker & The Rumour

Graham Parker & The Rumour performed "Long Emotional Ride" at WFUV Public Radio. You can also listen to all three songs from the set. The song is on the outstanding "Three Chords Good" album, which represented a reunion by the band after 31 years. The Village Voice noted Parker's continued acerbic wit in an article, "Graham Parker Is Still Pissed." "Three Chords Good" was the 2012 album of the year on the "St. James Infirmary" music show, hosted by my good friend Michael Mand.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Eugene Robinson: Is Maximum Mayhem The Price Of The Second Amendment?

Prior to the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, CT, Adam Lanza "left a .22 caliber rifle at home and 12-gauge shotgun in the car," notes columnist Eugene Robinson. Instead, Lanza armed himself with weaponry that would allow him to kill 20 children and six adults within minutes. Robinson states that if one life could have been saved through a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, it would have been worth it. Instead, our lack of reasonable gun control, due in large part to Congressional fealty to the NRA, made it that much easier for Lanza to pursue maximum mayhem:

The gunman in the Newtown, Conn., massacre fired 154 bullets from his Bushmaster military-style rifle in fewer than five minutes, killing 20 first-graders and six adults. He brought with him 10 large-capacity magazines, each holding up to 30 rounds, which allowed him to reload quickly. He also carried two semiautomatic handguns, one of which he used to take his own life.

Is this supposed to be the price of the Second Amendment? Is this the kind of America we want?

...it’s hard for me to accept that the right to “keep and bear arms” extends to the kind of arsenal that Adam Lanza — and his mother, Nancy, whom he also killed — assembled and kept in their home.

Lanza was outfitted like a commando, with guns and ammo clips engineered to kill the maximum number of people in the minimum amount of time. There were other weapons in the family’s possession that would have seemed better suited for recreation or self-defense — the reasons why, according to the National Rifle Association, we need to arm ourselves to the teeth. But Lanza left a .22-caliber rifle at home and a 12-gauge shotgun in the car he drove to the school. He had maximum mayhem on his mind.

...if the federal ban on military-style assault weapons had not been allowed to expire, we might have seen less carnage in Newtown. Lanza probably wouldn’t have been able to get off so many shots in so little time. He wouldn’t have been able to fire so many rounds without pausing to reload.

Maybe just one life would have been saved. To me, that life is worth more than being in the good graces of the NRA; to members of Congress, perhaps not.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Gohmert Against Gun Control Because Gay Marriage Leads To Bestiality

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) recently participated in a conference call with tea party activist and homophobe Rick Scarborough. With his usual loopy logic, Gohmert put forward a bizarre argument explaining his opposition to gun control. Once you limit how many rounds in a magazine, you're on the same type of slippery slope in which you've gone from straight to gay marriage and then to bestiality. Got that? Listen to Gohmert connect it all for you:

GOHMERT: In fact, I had this discussion with some wonderful, caring Democrats earlier this week on the issue of, well, they said “Surely you could agree to limit the number of rounds in a magazine, couldn’t you? How would that be problematic?” And I pointed out, well, once you make it ten, then why would you draw the line at ten? What’s wrong with nine? Or eleven? And the problem is once you draw that limit; it’s kind of like marriage when you say it’s not a man and a woman any more, then why not have three men and one woman, or four women and one man, or why not somebody has a love for an animal? There is no clear place to draw the line once you eliminate the traditional marriage and it’s the same once you start putting limits on what guns can be used, then it’s just really easy to have laws that make them all illegal.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Arkansas Pipeline Spill Raises Doubts About Keystone XL

The pipeline spill of thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian crude oil in Arkansas is raising new doubts about the viability of the Keystone XL pipeline running from Canada to the U.S., as President Obama decides whether to approve the project:

Environmental groups said the rupture of the Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) pipe on March 29 in Mayflower, Arkansas, shows why Obama should reject Keystone, which would be a major new conduit between the U.S. and Canada for a type of fuel critics say is more corrosive than more conventional forms of oil.

“Without question, this underscores the risks of transporting this stuff,” Jim Murphy, senior counsel at the National Wildlife Federation, said yesterday in a phone interview.

...Exxon’s pipeline, known as Pegasus, can carry 96,000 barrels a day. The 20-inch (51-centimeter) line runs to Nederland, Texas, from Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline carried a type of dilbit similar to what would be transported on Keystone.

...“Whether it’s the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, or this mess in Arkansas, Americans are realizing that transporting large amounts of this corrosive and polluting fuel is a bad deal for American taxpayers and for our environment,” Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a statement.

CT Legislators Reach Bipartisan Agreement On Gun Laws

Connecticut legislators announced that they've agreed on broad new gun-control laws, more than three months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown. All who understand our dire need for sane gun regulations must be heartened by this bipartisan legislation:

It would require new state-issued eligibility certificates for the purchase of any rifle, shotgun or ammunition; mandate that offenders convicted of any of more than 40 weapons offenses register with the state; require universal background checks for the sale of all firearms; and substantially expand the state’s existing ban on assault weapons.

But the package did not include everything that anti-gun forces had asked for. It includes a ban on the future sale of high-capacity magazines with more than 10 bullets. But despite a dramatic plea on Monday from relatives of 11 of the victims killed at Sandy Hook on Dec. 14, legislative leaders did not include a complete ban on their ownership, although they agreed on new requirements requiring their registration. Legislation passed by New York in January included a ban on the ownership of high-capacity magazines.

The legislation in Connecticut, however, agreed to after several weeks of negotiations between Democratic and Republican leaders in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, was hailed by gun-control proponents as a landmark package and an appropriate response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

Monday, April 1, 2013

GA GOP Chair: Straights Will Enter Gay Marriages For Health Benefits

Georgia Republican chairwoman Sue Everhart warned that marriage equality will result in straights pretending to be gay in order to receive health benefits. According to Everhart, it's not about equality; "...it's all about a free ride." Now we know why so many crafty straight people suddenly support gay marriage:

You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow,” Everhart said. “Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.

Robertson: Americans Who Learn Science Experience Fewer Miracles

Pat Robertson blamed science education for the fact that miracles don't frequently happen in America. A "700 Club" viewer asked why "amazing miracles" such as "people raised from the dead, blind eyes open, lame people walking" occur frequently in "places like Africa" but not in the U.S.A. Robinson explained, “People overseas didn’t go to Ivy League schools," where the "sophisticated" know about evolution and "all these things that says God isn’t real." In contrast, "...overseas, they’re simple, humble. You tell ‘em God loves ‘em and they say, ‘Okay, he loves me.’ You say God will do miracles and they say, ‘Okay, we believe him.’ And that’s what God’s looking for. That’s why they have miracles.” Watch: