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In Which I Rant About America’s Totally Dysfunctional Gun Culture

Opinion • Views: 20,874

Video

Via TPM: CNN Host Grills Cruz About Ebola and GOP Opposition to Surgeon General (VIDEO)

Ted Cruz calling blocked Surgeon General nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy an “anti-gun activist” is incredibly dishonest. Murthy advocates very minimal restrictions on guns because guns are used in more than 300,000 violent crimes against American citizens every single year. Murthy sees that as a public health problem, and he’s NOT WRONG. It is.

The fact is, looking at this as a public health issue is absolutely appropriate, and not “extreme” at all. The Republican Party and their NRA cohorts have pushed the debate about guns so far to the right, it’s utter insanity at this point. A nominee for Surgeon General proposes simple common sense measures to address the gun violence problem, and the right freaks out and blocks his nomination at a time when we need a strong voice for public health more than ever. It’s sick. Deeply sick.

This shit makes me crazy. America is incredibly dysfunctional on the gun issue and people are dying every day because we won’t face the monster we’ve created.

Barbra Streisand Points Out GOP NIH Budget Cuts, Dumbest Man on Internet Rants

They really hate women who speak out
Opinion • Views: 26,235

So today the right wing blogs are all spewing insults at Barbra Streisand (again), because she dared to criticize the anti-women agenda of the Republican Party — but especially because she pointed out that the across-the-board budget cuts mandated by the GOP’s sequestration have wreaked havoc on the National Institutes of Health’s effort to develop a vaccine for Ebola.

The dumbest one of these wingnut blog posts comes from (who else?) the Dumbest Man on the Internet, who calls Streisand “unhinged” and “misinformed,” a case of projection if I’ve ever seen one: Babs Alert: Barbra Streisand Is Latest Unhinged Lib to Blame Ebola on Republicans | the Gateway Pundit.

Complete with Dim Jim’s usual sloppy formatting and one of his trademark idiotic typos.

Babs Alert—-
Barbra Streisand blamed the the [sic] Ebola outbreak on Republicans this week.

In her latest unhinged and misinformed political rant, Barbra Streisand blamed the GOP for Ebola.
The Huffington Post reported, via Shark Tank…

And of course, if you actually read Streisand’s opinion piece (the Huffington Post didn’t “report” this — it’s a piece by Streisand), you’ll find out she isn’t blaming Republicans for the Ebola outbreak at all. She simply pointed out:

By the way, if not for Republicans austere budget cuts, the NIH could have possibly had an Ebola vaccine by now.

And this is the simple truth. Here’s a graph showing the effects of Republican-mandated budget cuts on the NIH over the past decade, to drive this point home:

(Via AATTP.)

I recommend reading Streisand’s full article — because far from being “unhinged,” she makes some excellent points about the need for all of us who care about women’s rights to get out and vote this November: What Is at Stake This November … and Why the Country Needs American Women to Vote | Barbra Streisand.

In an “Open Carry” State Like Ohio, Why Was John Crawford Shot by Police in Wal-Mart?

The answer is pretty clear
Opinion • Views: 26,127
Image via Shutterstock

Here’s a great article at Salon by Heather Digby Parton on America’s messed up and often racist gun culture, and why “Open Carry” groups don’t understand the factors that create police brutality like the shooting of John Crawford in an Ohio Wal-Mart.

After finally being allowed to view the video of the police shooting of a man in an Ohio Wal-Mart, it’s very hard for any reasonable person to conclude that the authorities acted responsibly. They appear not to have given him any chance to drop the toy gun in his hand before shooting him. It’s possible that they were persuaded by the frightened 911 caller that they were entering a deadly situation, but there’s no evidence they heard anything but a description and location of a black man with an afro, wearing jeans and a T-shirt carrying a rifle and threatening people in Wal-Mart. An Ohio grand jury seems to have thought that it was reasonable for police in that situation to shoot first and ask questions later.

If you didn’t know it was a toy gun, it’s easy to see why someone might be afraid. Any time you see people casually carrying guns around you know there’s the potential for a deadly accident or some kind of altercation resulting in death. But obviously, the answer to that problem is not for the police to simply shoot them down. In fact, Ohio is an open carry state, which means that it is perfectly legal to walk around Wal-Mart with a real AR-15 much less a toy they sell right there in the store.

[…]

…Open carry advocates stage demonstrations to “exercise” their right to wear firearms in public all the time. For example, in May a couple of men in Medina, Ohio, walked the streets with such guns slung casually over their backs. Police were called numerous times by people alarmed at the sight of two men carrying AR-15 rifles in the town square. (You can listen to the 911 calls here.) But interestingly, in this case the police didn’t deploy a SWAT team or rush in with guns drawn and start shooting:

Their encounter with police was captured on video cameras, carried by both the men and the officers, which showed the men at first refusing to show their identification when approached by officers. The men complied only after an officer told them they would be disarmed if they didn’t. The officers said they were justified in demanding the IDs because of the 911 calls and because one of the men fumbled when asked his age.

The demand for the ID was the key issue cited by several demonstrators. “We have a constitutional right to carry a firearm to protect ourselves,” said Harry Wynn, of Stow, who wore an AR-15 across his chest and also carried a Glock 30. “Nobody should get forced ID’d because they have a firearm — I don’t care how many 911 calls came in.”

They were asked politely for their IDs. And when they provided them they were allowed to keep walking around in public with real AR-15s. A couple of weeks later a local open carry group staged a demonstration and the police didn’t ID any of them, much less shoot any of them, as they walked up and down the streets of Medina.

Read the whole thing.

Bill Moyers With Andrew Bacevich on the Travesty of “Preventive” War

War is an evil that should command our respect
Opinion • Views: 22,667

Vimeo

As we’re being drawn yet again into the mess created by the Bush administration’s disastrous war of choice in Iraq, here are some interesting and very pertinent comments from Bill Moyers and Andrew Bacevich on the immoral nature of “preventive” war.

BILL MOYERS: What is it about how we go to war? We poured blood and treasure into Vietnam and Iraq and wound up with exactly the opposite consequences than we wanted. And we keep repeating, hearing the same arguments and claims that we should do it again.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, war itself is evil. But war is an evil that should command our respect. War is something that we should not take lightly, that we should not discuss frivolously. And I think that that’s one of the great failings of our foreign policy establishment, that our foreign policy establishment does not take war seriously.

It assumes that the creation of precision guided weapons makes war manageable, removes from war the element of risk and chance that are always inherent in warfare. So these are people who, quite frankly, most of them don’t know much about war. And therefore who discuss war in frivolous ways.

BILL MOYERS: And yet, there’s this still almost religious belief in force as the savior.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think your use of religious terms is very appropriate here. Because there is a theological — quasi theological dimension to their thinking related, again, to this notion that we are called. We are chosen. We are the instrument of providence. Summoned to transform the world, and therefore empowered to use force in ways not permitted to any others. I mean, the ultimate travesty of the immediate period after 9/11 was the Bush administration’s embrace of preventive war that became then the rationale for invading Iraq in 2003. But it was a general claim — a general claim that the United States was empowered to use force preventively.

This is the kind of person who should be on the Sunday talk shows instead of McCain and Cheney and those windbags.

UPDATE at 6/19/14 6:19:22 pm by Charles Johnson

Another clip from this interview:

Vimeo

BACEVICH: We have been engaged in the Islamic world at least since 1980, in a military project based on the assumption that the adroit use of American hard power can somehow pacify or fix this part of the world. We can now examine more than three decades of this effort.

Let’s look at what U.S. military intervention in Iraq has achieved, in Afghanistan has achieved, in Somalia has achieved, in Lebanon has achieved, in Libya has achieved. I mean, ask ourselves the very simple question. Is the region becoming more stable? Is it becoming more democratic?

Are we alleviating, reducing the prevalence of anti-Americanism? I mean, if the answer is yes, then let’s keep trying. But if the answer to those questions is no, then maybe it’s time for us to recognize that this larger military project is failing and is not going to succeed simply by trying harder.

The events that are unfolding in Iraq at this very moment promote a debate within Washington revolving around the question, “What should we do about Iraq?” But there is a larger and more important question. And the larger and more important question has to do with the region as a whole. And the actual consequences of U.S. military action over the past 30 years.

Video: A Glorious Rant by Rachel Maddow on Media Coverage of Benghazi and Iraq

“It’s all too neat”
Opinion • Views: 23,422

MSNBC

Here’s an excellent report by Rachel Maddow on right wing media’s coverage of the capture of the main suspect in the Benghazi attacks, focusing on the king of all wingnut sites, Drudge Report — and segueing into a look at how the media is pushing so many pundits who were disastrously wrong about Iraq as “experts” once again.

GOP Can’t Help Being Hypocritical on, Well, Everything

Priorities askew
Opinion • Views: 22,708

The GOP is bashing the President after his appearance yesterday at the TZ Bridge calling for $300+ billion in new infrastructure investments.

“We’re cutting bureaucratic red tape that stalls good projects from breaking ground,” Obama said, to cheers from the crowd.

The changes will help speed up mega-projects at Boston’s South Station, the Pensacola Bay Bridge, and light-rail construction north and south of Seattle, Obama said.

“All these steps we can do without Congress,” said Obama, who recently pledged to work with Congress when possible, but act on his own when necessary to sidestep the gridlock that’s hampered much of his agenda.

The changes also mean “good jobs” in the construction industry, which was hard hit when the housing market plummeted at the height of the economic crash.

He insisted that infrastructure expansion should be bipartisan, but took a few shots at Republicans - who have shown little enthusiasm for the plan - for pushing tax cuts on the wealthy instead of “rebuilding America.”

“They show up at ribbon-cuttings for projects that they refused to fund,” he said.
Republicans contended Obama was hypocritical for claiming credit for the expedited process while he has yet to decide the fate of a proposed Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline.
The GOP is using that up-in-the-air project to bash Democrats ahead of the November elections.

“It’s a real challenge to listen to the president talk about reforming the permitting system when he’s been sitting on the permit for the country’s largest shovel-ready infrastructure program, the Keystone XL pipeline, for five years,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The GOP regularly complain that Obama is sitting on Keystone pipeline approvals. What the GOP seems to completely ignore is that the Keystone project is a privately owned piece of infrastructure, the value of which is uncertain, is not likely to create the jobs claimed, and whose integrity is questionable given the company’s history.

Continue reading…

Washington Post Editors Call Out Marco Rubio’s Crazy Right Wing Rhetoric on Climate Change

By Washington Post Editorial Board, Published: May 12
Opinion • Views: 18,447

I agree with the Washington Post editorial board on this - no serious national stage campaign can hope to take this stance and succeed. Marco Rubio’s managers have to know this so my assumption is that Rubio’s campaign is all puffery to raise money through “Palinesque” posturing. He’s going to tease all the way through the first part of the primaries so he can rake in the dough from the rubes to become not the king, but a kingmaker.

SEN. MARCO Rubio (Fla.), whom many presume to be a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, said two things Sunday about climate change. Only one could fit into a presidential campaign worth taking seriously.

“Our climate is always changing,” he said on ABC News’s “This Week.” “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it,” he went on to say, “and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy.” In previous interviews, at least Mr. Rubio acknowledged that “a significant scientific consensus” attributes measured global warming to human activity before he lodged various criticisms.

It is one thing to invite a debate about the best policy to address rising global temperatures, a problem no country can tackle on its own. It is another to dismiss the evidence that “these scientists” have compiled — “a handful of decades of research,” Mr. Rubio derisively called it — to show that humans are driving much of that warming.

More: Marco Rubio’s Rhetoric on Climate Change Casts Questions About His Judgment

Observations on Evasiveness, Featuring Glenn Greenwald

Revealing
Opinion • Views: 18,041

As Vladimir Putin shuts down dissenting media outlets, cracks down on dissidents and brings Europe to the brink of war, some observations on Glenn Greenwald’s very noticeable evasiveness when the subject turns to Russia’s propaganda machine:

Make of it what you will.

If You Read Down to Paragraph 18, You Discover That Glenn Greenwald’s Latest Article Has No Evidence

Extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence, or any evidence at all, really
Opinion • Views: 18,185

Glenn Greenwald’s latest headline screams: How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations.

But again we find the article itself does not support the almost comically paranoid headline, and again the source for the claim is a series of PowerPoint slides with very little detail and no context.

The documents appear to be British studies and training documents about online manipulation and social engineering techniques (also known as “trolling”), to be used internally by GCHQ. There is not a single shred of evidence in these documents to show that any GCHQ agent is “infiltrating” anything; no programs, no cases, no reports, nothing.

And Greenwald acknowledges this — but as usual, you have to read down to paragraph 18 after tons of overheated commentary to find it:

We submitted numerous questions to GCHQ, including: (1) Does GCHQ in fact engage in “false flag operations” where material is posted to the Internet and falsely attributed to someone else?; (2) Does GCHQ engage in efforts to influence or manipulate political discourse online?; and (3) Does GCHQ’s mandate include targeting common criminals (such as boiler room operators), or only foreign threats?

As usual, they ignored those questions and opted instead to send their vague and nonresponsive boilerplate: “It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All our operational processes rigorously support this position.”

Yes, that’s correct — Greenwald does not know whether any of the techniques explained in these documents were ever used by GCHQ in the real world. There’s certainly no evidence of it in the PowerPoint slides he published here; so how can he justify the statement made by his headline?

But he actually goes even further in the conclusion to the article:

Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.

In reality, the documents show no proof — or even any evidence — that “government agencies” are infiltrating anything, but Greenwald has done his best to obscure this crucial point with his usual reams of exaggerated verbiage.

But I do have to admit it’s more than a little ironic that someone who was himself caught red-handed using sock puppets (false identities) to manipulate online communities is pointing fingers at “government agencies.”

Misleading, hyperbolic headlines totally unsupported by evidence — is this the future of journalism?

UPDATE at 2/25/14 1:54:06 pm

Bob Cesca points out another problem with generalizing and leaping to conclusions from PowerPoint slides:

Fred Kaplan at Slate: Edward Snowden Doesn’t Deserve Clemency

What to do with Edward Snowden should the Russians spit him out
Opinion • Views: 16,391

Slate’s Fred Kaplan is leaving the media reservation and telling it like it is about Edward Snowden and the push to grant him immunity from prosecution: Edward Snowden Doesn’t Deserve Clemency: The NSA Leaker Hasn’t Proved He Is a Whistleblower.

Is a clear picture emerging of why Snowden’s prospects for clemency resemble the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell? He gets himself placed at the NSA’s signals intelligence center in Hawaii for the sole purpose of pilfering extremely classified documents. (How many is unclear: I’ve heard estimates ranging from “tens of thousands” to 1.1 million.) He gains access to many of them by lying to his fellow workers (and turning them into unwitting accomplices). Then he flees to Hong Kong (a protectorate of China, especially when it comes to foreign policy) and, from there, to Russia.

This isn’t quite what it would have seemed in Cold War times. Russia and China are no longer our sworn ideological enemies. But in the realm of cyberconflict and cybersecurity, they are our chief adversaries; they hack, or try to hack, into American computer networks more than any other countries (and we hack, or try to hack, into theirs as well).

Did the Times editorialists review the statement that Snowden made to a human rights group in Moscow this past July, soon after Vladimir Putin granted him asylum? He thanked the nations that had offered him support. “These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, have my gratitude and respect,” he proclaimed, “for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful.” Earlier, Snowden had said that he sought refuge in Hong Kong because of its “spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.” He also said, in his interview with the South China Morning Post, that he hoped to spread his cache of documents to journalists in every country where the NSA had operated. “The reality is,” he said on another occasion, “that I have acted at great personal risk to help the public of the world, regardless of whether that public is American, European, or Asian.”

Whistleblowers have large egos by nature, and there is no crime or shame in that. But one gasps at the megalomania and delusion in Snowden’s statements, and one can’t help but wonder if he is a dupe, a tool, or simply astonishingly naïve.

Or simply a libertarian.

Read the whole thing.

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 Frank says:

Seeing a psychotherapist is not a crazy idea, it's just wanting a second opinion of one's life.