After an amazingly encouraging week or two, we head into the July 4th weekend with a whole bunch of stuff we've been trying to clear off our desk. Plus: Lots of breaking news and an encouraging ending for the weekend...
Palm Beach Post'sGeorge Bennet wrote last week about how so-called "Tea Party" groups seem to be running away from the "Tea Party" name in places like Florida.
The South Florida Tea Party, for example --- the one that helped launch the national career of Sen. Marco Rubio and hosted Donald Trump while he was initially pretending to think about running for President --- is changing their name to the National Liberty Federation.
"As Tea Party groups go," observes Steven Benen at MaddowBlog, "the South Florida Tea Party was one of the bigger and better organized outfits."
But it's little wonder these folks are running from the name. Their popularity, and their name brand, is now plummeting along with the fortunes of the Congressional Republican Party. As Bennet notes, even Rightwing pollsters like Rasmussen are finding that support for the "Tea Party" movement is absolutely cratering...
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that Republicans should not have tried to reduce voter turnout during their failed effort to win the White House, doubling down on his recent criticism of the GOP.
“Should we really have gone after reducing the turnout of voters in those places where we thought it would make a difference? The Republican Party should be a party that says, ‘We want everybody to vote,’ and make it easier to vote and give them a reason to vote for the party, [whereas] not to find ways to keep them from voting at all,” Powell said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Powell went on to note that "What’s happened in the last few years, is the party has shifted dramatically to the right — that’s perfectly acceptable, but if you stay that far to the right, you’re losing where the country is."
Please note, though Powell endorsed Obama twice, he was George W. Bush's Secretary of State and still considers himself a Republican. He says he voted for seven straight Republicans for President before voting for Obama.
Everyone will, no doubt, have their favorite and/or least favorite moments from President Barack Obama's second Inaugural address this afternoon. [Full video here, full text transcript here.]
We couldn't help but notice this passage, concerning climate change, which received not only as much or more attention than any other single issue referenced in the entire speech, but as much or more attention than the issue received during the entirety of the seemingly endless 2012 Presidential campaign...
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.
Receiving less time during the address today, but also noteworthy for this news site...
Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.
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Finally, for now, one personal moment worth highlighting --- perhaps the most personal of the day --- was this unscripted few seconds, after the President had finished his speech, and just before he disappeared out of view at the exit of his Inaugural podium for the final time. He stopped and turned around to view the enormous crowd on the National Mall.
The audio is difficult to hear, but he appears to say "I want to take one more look. I'm not going to see this again"...
The headline at Think Progress, "5 People Shot At 3 Different Gun Shows On Gun Appreciation Day" was too perfect not to re-use in this case.
CNN describes yesterday's "Gun Appreciation Day" festivities this way today...
At least five people --- three in North Carolina, one in Indiana and one in Ohio --- were injured after weapons went off at gun shows Saturday, officials said, at a time when there's been renewed discussion about private gun sales at such shows.
The most casualties came at the Dixie Gun and Knife Show in Raleigh, North Carolina, where attendees bolted --- with at least one woman wiping out in the frenetic scene --- when gunfire rang out around 1 p.m., as seen on video captured by CNN affiliate WRAL.
Here's video from the NC gun show revealing the freedom fighters there scrambling after a 12-guage shotgun "accidentally discharged", injuring three people...
In Ohio, one man is hospitalized in stable condition today "after being shot by his business partner at a gun show" in the northern part of the state yesterday. It seems the owner of the Taurus semi-automatic 9mm handgun "brought the firearm into the show fully loaded," despite a policy barring loaded weapons.
Why, since NRA stooges tell us that "guns make us safer", are they not allowed to carry loaded weapons at gun shows, of all places? Seems, I dunno, hypocritical.
"In Indianapolis," the CNN report continues describing the third incident yesterday, "a man walking out of the Indy 1500 Gun and Knife Show shot himself in the hand as he was loading his .45-caliber semi-automatic firearm, Indiana State Police said in a statement."
In a less amusing incident Saturday, also on "Gun Appreciation Day", tragedy struck in Georgia, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, when a 14-year old boy playing with his 15-year old brother and a friend spending the night, got access to his mother's unloaded gun, loaded the weapon, pointed it at the older brother and "accidentally" killed him.
As journalist Brooke Jarvis tweeted yesterday, appropriately enough, a 1998 study on guns in homes found that "For every use in self defense, there were 4 accidental shootings, 7 assaults/homicides, & 11 suicide attempts."
But, ya know, guns don't kill people. Gunshot wounds from guns in people's houses kill people.
* * *
UPDATE 1/21/12: "Gun Appreciation Day" had an even darker ending in New Mexico, with yet another 15-year old involved, as Albuquerque Journal reports...
It was a “horrific” crime scene that confronted deputies Saturday night: Former Calvary church Pastor Greg Griego; his wife, Sarah; and their three youngest children dead — fatally shot multiple times with a “military-style” assault rifle and other weapons — at their South Valley home.
The suspect in custody is the couple’s 15-year-old son, Nehemiah Griego, who neighbors said often wore “nothing but camouflage” and wanted to be in the army.
“I’ve never seen a scene quite like this,” Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston said at a news conference Sunday morning.
The teen is accused of using several weapons, including a “military style” assault rifle, according to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, to kill his parents and three youngest siblings.
Nehemiah told neighbors he wanted to be a soldier. He always wore army clothing and camouflage, but he wasn’t allowed to play violent video games, according to one neighbor, since the boy’s parents didn’t allow anything “dirty or violent” and limited TV watching.
On Sunday mornings, when I was a kid, we'd wake up and have bagels and lox that my grandfather would bring over to our house early in the morning. This family does other stuff on Sunday mornings...
You'll note that Chief Justice Roberts was working from a piece of paper this time, so as to avoid the mistake he made administering the oath incorrectly, from memory, during the official swearing in in 2009. That gaffe led to a "mulligan" swearing in the following day, privately, in the White House.
For the record, today's swearing in is the official start of President Barack Obama's second term under the U.S. Constitution, which specifies, in the 20th Amendment, that "The terms of the President and Vice President shall...then begin" at noon on the 20th day of January. (Prior to the 20th Amendment, Presidents had been sworn in on March 4th.) But, since, this year, January 20th falls on a Sunday, the public swearing in will take place on Monday, January 21st instead, in a massive ceremony outside the U.S. Capitol, as per tradition.
According to an announcement from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), chair of the 2013 Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, as cited by USA Today "this is the seventh time in U.S. history that the constitutionally mandated inauguration date has fallen on a Sunday."
"The last time was for President Ronald Reagan's second inauguration in 1985," said Schumer's office. "When this occurs, the public ceremonies traditionally are held on Monday."
Past inaugurations to fall on Sundays, with public ceremonies moved to the following Monday, include James Monroe's 2nd (1821), Zachary Tayor's (1849), Rutherford B. Hayes' (1877), Woodrow Wilson's 2nd (1917), Dwight D. Eisenhower's 2nd (1957) and Ronald Reagan's 2nd (1985).
Schumer's office notes that January 21 "is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It will be the second time that this federal holiday has coincided with a presidential inauguration. The first was President Bill Clinton's second inauguration on Monday, Jan. 20, 1997."
The timing of this year's ceremonial swearing in makes makes this Photoshopped graphic, widely circulated during Obama's first inaugural, perhaps even more appropriate, even if somewhat less moving four years later...
USA Today also notes that "The law designating the third Monday in January as a federal holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was signed into law by President Reagan in 1983. President Reagan's 1985 inauguration fell on the third Monday of January, but the new federal holiday did not become official until 1986."
This still photo depicts actor Mark Wahlberg using the powerful .50 BMG Barrett M82A1M to shoot down an approaching helicopter at the outset of the 2007 motion picture, Shooter. Later, in the same film, what appears to be a Barrett M82A1 mounted atop a computer-operated weapon platform, is remotely accessed to carry out the long-distance assassination of an Archbishop who is standing next to the President.
On a segment of Thursday night's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, the host addressed the fact that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is funded and controlled by those who are making obscene profits off the very weaponry used to carry out mass murders of civilians in the U.S. O'Donnell pointed out that, since 2005, when former Senator Larry "Wide Stance" Craig (R-ID), now an NRA Board member, pushed a bill through Congress which immunized weapons manufacturers from civil liability for the carnage wrought by the weapons they unload on the public, the NRA has received over $38 million in contributions from weapons manufacturers.
O'Donnell's list of NRA Board members included George Kollitides of the Freedom Group, owner of multiple weapons manufacturers, including Remington and Bushmaster. Kollitides' company manufactured the AR-15 that was used to murder 20 children and 6 educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT last month. Another one of his companies, Advanced Armaments, manufactures silencers, that, according to its web site, are legal in 39 states. Who inside this country, aside from mob hit men, need silencers?
The truly disturbing revelation, however, was that the military grade weapon, the Barrett M82 (see narrated video below), akin to the one seen in the still photo above, is being sold to the general public by Ronnie Barrett, yet another wealthy member of the NRA's Board of Directors.
The Barrett M82 semi-automatic sniper rifle chambers a powerful 12.7×99 mm NATO (.50BMG) armor piercing round. Known as the "Barrett Light Fifty," it was used by the IRA to conduct a sniper campaign against British armed forces in Northern Ireland. It has been sold to the armed forces of some 40 nations. During the First Gulf War, the U.S. military used the Barrett M82 to disable Iraqi armored personnel carriers.
It is difficult to imagine what possible legitimate function the M82 would have in any civilian setting --- that is unless one considers assassinations and shooting down helicopters to be a constitutionally protected sporting event. Yet, lighter variations of the M82, like the more advanced M107, are readily available to civilians in every state except California. When California banned civilian purchases of these insanely deadly weapons, Barrett retaliated by suspending sales to all of the Golden State's law enforcement agencies. Frankly, the following narrated video suggests that this powerful weapon should not be in the hands of law enforcement agencies either, let alone civilians.
One can't help but think of the words Martin Luther King presented during his moving "Beyond Vietnam" speech: "Somehow this madness must cease"...
In other words Stewart focused on those who are willing to beclown themselves by insisting that the President's rather tepid --- rather non-controversial if you bother to read them --- 23 executive actions and 9 recommendations to Congress to improve gun safety in this nation were nothing short of TYRANNY!!!!
As Stewart observes in the very funny segment posted below, it seems these folks are "confusing tyranny with the unpleasant burning sensation of losing democratic elections."
He ultimately concludes: "I guess it can be summed up by the old homily: 'First they came for the guns, and I said nothing, because...they really didn't."
The segment is split into two parts, both below, but it's really just one segment...
The statement calls for extending Early Voting (back to what it had been before he restricted) and included the straight-faced announcement that "Our ultimate goal must be to restore Floridians’ confidence in our election system."
Yes, the man who destroyed the tenuous confidence that had been restored in Florida's election system by former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, is now calling for reforms to hasten the restoration of "Floridian's confidence in our election system."
All of this, as luck would have it, comes just in time for both the mid-term elections in 2014 and the incredibly unpopular Governor's own re-election contest that same year.
Scott's full, embarrassing statement on his recommendations for improving the electoral system that he almost single-handedly screwed up, on purpose, follows below...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar steps down; Crop Killer: freeze hits CA citrus; 2012 tenth hottest year globally; EPA squashes fracking drinking water study; TX sues for OK's water; PLUS: No, it's not your imagination --- Spring is springing earlier than ever ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Coal exports to Asia: new battle against global warming; Court finds Bush EPA weakened soot regulations; Exploring environmental links to autism; Coal-ash dump leaking into WV neighborhood; Killer bat disease spreads to KY ... PLUS: Why the 'Idle No More' Movement Is Our Best Chance for Clean Land and Water ... and much, MUCH more! ...
While the short answer is that it is no doubt protected against criminal prosecution by the Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution, one can't help but think of how the successive efforts by radical 'Tea Party' Republicans, first during the manufactured "fiscal cliff" crisis, and now by way of holding a figurative gun to the head of the nation's and world's economy, in order to extract concessions that would destroy the New Deal safety net (see two Jan. 14 segments of the Ed Schultz show below), resembles the crime of extortion, perhaps even treason.
For those of us who live in California, this latest round of GOP hostage-taking comes as no surprise. Year-after-year, the CA GOP utilized the Golden State's requirement of a 2/3 vote for passage of either spending or revenue enhancing measures as a means to force austerity, such as former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's draconian $15 billion cuts to education and health care. By refusing to pass a budget, the CA GOP at one point forced the state controller to issue $2.6 billion in IOUs. And, all during the CA GOP reign of economic terror, the Golden State's budget deficit expanded --- reaching an indebtedness in excess of $20 billion despite those massive cuts.
Democracy struck back. The percentage of CA voters who are registered Republicans dropped to less than 30%. During the 2012 election, CA voters passed a relatively progressive, revenue-enhancing tax measure supported by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) by a wide margin and the GOP's ability to hold the state hostage was eliminated when Democrats achieved a super-majority in the state legislature.
As a result, fiscal sanity was restored. CA is now on track to achieving a budget surplus even as $5.2 billion has been added to the state's school, university and health care budgets.
It is appropriate that President Barack Obama, who unfortunately lacks a record of holding fast to principle, has, so far, stated that he will not give in to the latest extortion demands concerning the upcoming need to raise the debt ceiling once again. But, given the nature of the far greater damage to both the U.S. and even global economy that could be wrought by the Congressional GOP's latest round of hostage-taking, can the nation or the world await a subsequent election to deal with extortion by an organization, the so-called 'Tea Party,' that is funded and controlled by the rapacious billionaires Charles and David Koch, whose Koch Industries was described by William Koch, David's twin, as a form of "organized crime?"
Two 1/14/2013 segments of MSNBC's The Ed Show addressing GOP hostage-taking on the debt ceiling follow below...
Tyranny! No, wait! Freedom and liberty! No, wait! Obama puts the 'O' in Ompeachment!
Oh, this dictatorship stuff is all so confusing. But not nearly as confused as today's KPFK/Pacifica Radio listeners may have been. Don't believe me? Give a listen to today's BradCast posted below. Tons and tons of callers, and we didn't even get to half of the callers who were waiting on hold to be heard over their public airwaves...
So, for the record, courtesy of comrade Rick Ungar at leftist rag Forbes magazine, here are the 23 scandalous, shocking, outrageous, gun-grabbing, tyrannical, impeachment-worthy executive actions --- and freedoms lost --- that Dictator Obama signed today...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT:While We Were Out: Shell Oil crashed in Alaska; Catastrophic heatwave, wildfires in Australia; Deep smog in China; EPA Administrator resigns; NYTimes shuts enviro desk; PLUS: It's official: 2012 hottest year on record for continental U.S. ... All that and much more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Deadly fungus poisons corn, causes cancer; UN: rising mercury emissions increase risk to humans; Warmest year on record gets cool climate coverage; Fox News blunders on climate stats; Black carbon 2nd biggest human cause of global warming; NY gov announces $1B Green Bank; Big Oil lobbyist denies oil's tax breaks ... PLUS: Could Geo-Engineering Spawn Rogue Planet Hackers? ... and much, MUCH more! ...
That appears to be Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’ philosophy when it comes to rigging elections in the GOP’s favor. In 2012, the strategy was suppressing votes through polling place Photo ID restriction laws, ending same-day voter registration, and clamping down on early voting, among other restrictive legislation. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 25 laws and two executive actions were passed in 19 states over the past two years with the aim of making it harder to vote.
In 2013, the plan appears to be changing the way that votes are counted. Priebus has stepped forward as the latest Republican to support a proposal that would split Wisconsin’s electoral votes by congressional district.
"I think it’s something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at," Priebus said of the plan, which would deliver two electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote in the state, and divide the rest based on who wins each Congressional district.
As Dave Weigel points out at Slate, in 2011 Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled statehouse gerrymandered the state’s districts to create five Republican seats and three Democratic seats. Under the Priebus-backed proposal, Mitt Romney would have won as many electors in Wisconsin as President Obama, despite winning 213,019 fewer votes.
Unsurprisingly, the victims of this plan would be the same urban voters whom an apparently shocked Paul Ryan blamed for the Republican defeat in 2012, and whom most voter suppression efforts in the last election targeted.
According to National Journal’s Reid Wilson, Republicans are already preparing electoral vote-splitting laws in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and hope to eventually expand the push to Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. If the GOP had successfully enacted the laws in all six states before the 2012 election, President Obama’s electoral vote margin of victory would have shrunk [PDF] from 322-206 to 270-268. Under two other proposed reforms --- in which the overall statewide winner would not automatically receive two electoral votes --- Romney would have been elected president, despite losing the popular vote by 4 percent (nearly 5 million votes).
"If you did the calculation, you’d see a massive shift of electoral votes in states that are blue and fully [in] red control," a senior Republican who is actively involved in pushing the electoral split scheme told Wilson. "There’s no kind of autopsy and outreach that can grab us those electoral votes that quickly."
So there you have it: instead of examining why voters overwhelmingly rejected their party in 2012 and adjusting their policies accordingly, some Republicans hope to simply steal the next one, and do it quickly. For voting rights advocates who warned that democracy was being threatened in 2012, there will be no rest for the weary.
A federal judge approved a settlement resolving the class action lawsuit filed on behalf of demonstrators who were pepper-sprayed at UC Davis in 2011.
U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez on Wednesday gave the final approval for the $1 million settlement, initially filed in September.
As part of the settlement, the university has agreed to pay $30,000 to each of the 21 plaintiffs, a total of $250,000 to their attorneys and a total of $100,000 to 15 other claimants.
The settlement also stipulates that UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi issue a formal written apology to the students and alumni who were pepper-sprayed. It also calls for the university to develop new policies regarding student demonstrations and use of force.
In the very same week...
• A military judge agreed that U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning's pre-trial confinement, for having allegedly leaked classified diplomatic cables, was excessively harsh, but refused to dismiss the charges against him. Instead, the judge reduced 4 months from Manning's potential life sentence that he hasn't even received yet while being jailed for 2 years and 8 months, so far, waiting for his day in military court. The judge also delayed the start of his trial for another 3 months in the bargain.
• Britain's largest bank, HSBC, was slapped on the wrist with a $1.9 billion settlement (a few weeks of profit) for having knowingly laundered billions of dollars for drug cartels and terrorist organizations and rogue states after federal prosecutors in the U.S. decided that any harsher punishment --- such as larger fines or taking them to court or, God forbid, sending any single one of their employees or board members to prison for even a day --- would potentially result in bankruptcy for the "too big to jail" international bank.
And, a few weeks before that...
• Oil giant BPpleaded guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter and other criminal charges related to the massive oil spill and deaths of 11 men on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. They agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines (they made more than that in profit alone in the third quarter of 2012) over a five year period. Nobody would face any jail time in the settlement.
Yet, all the while...
• NRA stooges continued to pretend that their big bad assault weapons are responsible for keeping this country safe from big government tyranny.
What the fuck is wrong with this picture, those people, this Administration, our Dept. of Justice, and this country?