“Today the US government has admitted that it was their airstrike that hit our hospital in Kunduz and killed 22 patients and MSF staff. Their description of the attack keeps changing—from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government. The reality is the US dropped those bombs. The US hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The US military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition. There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the US and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical.”
I don't know if the right wingers have been able to process this latest mass shooting in a way that makes sense to them yet (they've been all over the place calling the shooter a black nationalist or a Muslim or a violent anti-Christian atheist) but this should provide some food for thought:
According to multiplereports, the shooter’s mother boasted online about her arsenal and feared that gun ownership would soon be restricted.
“When the mood strikes,” Harper reportedly wrote on Facebook, “I sling an AR, Tek-9 or AK over my shoulder, or holster a Glock 21 (not 22), or one of my other handguns, like the Sig Sauer P226, and walk out the door.” Shotguns, she said, “are a little too cumbersome to open carry.”
According to officials, the Harper family moved from Torrance, California to Winchester, Oregon, in 2013. “I moved from So. Calif. to Oregon, from Southern Crime-a-mania to open carry,” Harper noted in that same Facebook post advocating for open carry laws.
Harper, a registered nurse who shared an apartment with her son, spoke “openly about her love of guns,” according to one of her patients.
“She said she had multiple guns and believed wholeheartedly in the Second Amendment and wanted to get all the guns she could before someone outlawed them,” Shelly Steele told the New York Daily News. Steele hired Harper to provide care for her sickly teenage son and said that Harper enjoyed talking to her husband, an avid hunter and former member of the military, about taking her son to shooting ranges.
Steele said that Harper complained to her husband that the shooting range nearest their home “wasn’t very private.”
“You needed to have a range master with you, and she didn’t like anyone watching,” Stelle explained, “she wanted more privacy.”
“She told my husband she just purchased some new guns a few weeks ago and took him shooting. I thought the whole situation was very strange. If you know your son has mental health issues, do you encourage a fascination with guns?”
Obviously, I don't know about this particular case, but the Newtown killer's mother also provided her son with guns apparently in some vain hope that it would help him with his mental/emotional issues. Also, she was a big gun proliferation zealot who bought into NRA propaganda.
While Ronald Reagan also used the slogan “Make America Great Again” when he ran for president, his vision was much more upbeat and optimistic than Trump’s, which harkens back to paleoconservative candidates like Pat Buchanan and his “Pitchfork Brigade”. Indeed, it centers around “getting rid of bad people” which is not what most people think of as morning in America. Last week he even explicitly went back to the 1950s and evoked the Eisenhower era program “Operation Wetback,” which he characterized on “60 Minutes” as “very nice and very humane.” (It wasn’t.) He said “Did you like Eisenhower? Did you like Dwight Eisenhower as a president at all? He did this. He did this in the 1950s with over a million people, and a lot of people don’t know that…and it worked.”
“You know, Dwight Eisenhower was a wonderful general, and a respected President – and he moved a million people out of the country, nobody said anything about it. When Trump does it, it’s like ‘whoa.’ When Eisenhower does it, ‘well that was Eisenhower, he’s allowed to do it, we can’t do it.’
That was also in the ’50s, remember that. Different time, remember that.
That’s when we had a country. That’s when we had borders; you know, without borders you don’t have a country, essentially. We don’t have a country. Without borders, you just don’t have it.
But Dwight Eisenhower, this big report, they used to take them out and put them on the other side of the border and say, ‘you have to stay here.’ And they’d come right back, and they’d do it again and again, so they said ‘Wait a minute, this doesn’t work.’ And they took them out and moved them all the way South; all the way. And they never came back again; it’s too far. Amazing.
And I’m not saying this in a joking way — I’m saying this happened. It wasn’t working, they were coming back, and then they literally – literally – moved them all the way. A lot of the politicians – they never came back, it was too far. They’d put them on boats and move them all the way down South, and that was it.”
This brought huge cheers as does Trump’s frequent references to former POW Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl and how in the good old days he would have been summarily executed:
“We get a traitor like Bergdahl, a dirty rotten traitor, who by the way when he deserted, six young beautiful people were killed trying to find him. And you don’t even hear about him anymore. Somebody said the other day, well, he had some psychological problems. You know, in the old days ……bing – bong[pantomiming shooting]
When we were strong, when we were strong.”
Back when we had a country. When we were strong.
This past week-end at a Second Amendment rally in Tennessee, Trump went back to the 1970s, evoking the old Charles Bronson vigilante movies, saying that he carries a concealed weapon and repeatedly pantomiming drawing a gun and eliciting huge applause from the audience. At one point, Trump had them screaming out the words “Death Wish” in unison. This is not something you see every day at a presidential campaign rally.
Evidently, Trump fondly remembers the gun violence in New York during that era as a time when real men avenged their families by gunning down strangers in the streets. In Trump and his followers’ minds, making America great again isn’t about being the first to go to the moon or re-building the middle class. It’s all about getting rid of “bad people” — by any means necessary.
Historian Rick Perlstein delved into Trump’s journey into America’s heart of darkness in this fantastic piece contemplating the symbiosis between a man and his mob — a mob which applauds summary execution and screams wildly for deportation of people as if they were animals being led to the slaughter. Perlstein notes that up until now, right-wing politicians have always tried to tame this impulse when it got too out out of hand — Goldwater with the racists in the 1960s, Reagan with anti-gay violence in the ’70s and Bush in the ’00s with his repeated admonishment not to tar all Muslims with the terrorist brush. Trump feels no such responsibility.
Traveling back in time to the earlier era Trump thinks he’s evoking, Perlstein wonders what the thinkers of that era, for whom the “F” word still loudly resonated, would have thought of Trump. Noting that some liberals have rather optimistically interpreted some of Trump’s populist-ish rhetoric as an opening for a bipartisan consensus on some economic issues he writes:
Our notional midcentury social scientist, or better historically informed pundits, wouldn’t be so sanguine. They would recognize the phenomenon that sociologist Pierre van den Berghe in 1967 labeled herrenvolk democracy: a political ideology in which members of the dominant ethnic group enjoy privileged provision from the state, as a function of the economic and civic disenfranchisement of the scapegoated group, to better cement dictatorship. This was why elites feared Huey Long’s promise of a guaranteed income –“Every Man A King.” This was how George Wallace governed Alabama. This was apartheid South Africa.
Perlstein acknowledges that some of Trumpism stems from the rageaholic tendencies of the right wing but as he explains, it’s more than that:
[T]he economic neoliberalism with which the Republicans serve their donor base, and which most motivates conservative leaders, has always been an electoral albatross. What became known in the 1970s as the “social issues” helped distract Republican voters from their party’s economic agenda. Back then, according to Gallup, the public favored wage and price controls as the answer to inflation by a margin of 46 to 39 percent. Eighty-five percent liked the idea of a public jobs program on the model of the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps, with only 10 percent opposed. Even Ronald Reagan got elected and reelected not because of his embrace of neoliberalism but despite it.
Those chickens may finally be coming home to roost right in the GOP establishment’s lap. Listen to Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or John Kasich drone on about tax cuts and “the ownership society” and all the other tired right-wing tropes that were supposed to deliver the brass ring to every hard working (white) person, and you can easily see why these people are excited by Trump. Sure, his tax plan is full of the same nonsense, but he doesn’t go into the weeds; he just says he’s going to give all the good people a break and all the bad people hell — and that sounds pretty good to a lot of GOP voters who are bored to death by the moldy Republican rap.
There's more at the link. The vision these folks have of an America of the past is not one I remember or think ever existed. It's something out of cartoons or video games or science fiction. Or, at least, as Perlstein points out in his piece, professional wrestling. (Or maybe Reality TV...) It's a fascinating phenomenon which is very hard to wrap your mind around. But you can't look away.
Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz says the Obama administration's plan to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees is "nothing short of crazy."
The Texas senator told a Michigan crowd on Monday he thinks a "significant number" of refugees entering Europe are terrorists from the Islamic State group. He says it would be the "height of foolishness" to allow "Syrian Muslims" into the country.
Germany's top security official said last week that intelligence services are watching for signs that terrorists are mixing into the flow of incoming migrants but had confirmed no such cases.
Republicans determined to stop further Syrian refugees from resettling in the United States are looking for solutions at the legislative level to halt the administration’s plan.
Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, Chairman of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, released a statement on Monday that proposes to resettle the refugees in Middle Eastern countries. According to Sessions, the administration plans to resettle 200,000 new refugees in the next two years.
“The U.S. has already taken in four times more immigrants than any other nation on Earth. Our foreign-born population share is set to break every known historical record. Since 9/11, we have permanently resettled approximately 1.5 million migrants from Muslim nations inside the U.S.,” Sessions said.
He explained, “Ninety percent of recent refugees from the Middle East living in our country are receiving food stamps and approximately 70 percent are receiving free healthcare and cash welfare.”
The proposal is actually for only 10,000 Syrian refugees, but who's counting?
I might be a raging homo, but I still innately understand the male need to conquer, crush and win. Men need to express that dark, powerful part of themselves, or it can abruptly overflow. If it is suppressed, derided and ridiculed, it can show up without warning and with horrible consequences.
That’s why I’m so distressed that heterosexual men are being told, constantly, by the media and even in schools, that what they are is bad. This, I submit, is at least in part what’s driving the recent spate of shootings.
The media trash-talks everything men love: guns, booze, boisterousness, drugs, sex and video games. Economic pressures are relentlessly stripping away male spaces like the traditional pub, where blokes can drink and bond. Social pressures are opening up male-only golf and social clubs to women, destroying what made them precious and essential.
The breakdown of the nuclear family is a euphemistic phrase used to describe a more troubling picture: there are more absent fathers now and vanishingly few positive male role models for young men to admire and emulate. This is often fuelled, or at least endorsed, by wrongheaded progressives who want to tear down supposedly patriarchal institutions.
But it is those patriarchal institutions, if you like, that for centuries provided the sort of structure, order and role models that young men need.
Masculinity isn’t fragile, as a spiteful, sociopathic feminist Twitter hashtag recently claimed. But — and here’s where some man-hating feminists almost get it right — it is powerful, and exciting, and it does have a flip-side if not properly respected. At its best, male competitiveness is the driving force behind most of society’s progress. We would be nowhere without the patriarchy, from the internet and space travel to the road under your feet and the roof on your house. The same thing that drives mass shooters inspires courage, too.
That doesn’t mean masculinity is “toxic.” What’s toxic is society’s attitudes towards men. Masculinity only becomes “toxic” when it is beaten down and suppressed and when men are told that what and who they are is defective. It becomes toxic when young boys are drugged in school because they don’t conform to feminine standards of behaviour.
What’s worse is that the media ridicules, criticises, punishes and demonises masculinity, then uses the product of its own hatred to justify more man-hating, in a Kafkaesque cycle of progressive insanity that has only one, inevitable consequence: more innocent dead people.
Progressives don’t see the irony in going after “straight white men.” But they are hypocritical bigots, hounding people for gender, skin colour and sexuality and saying that essential male characteristics are wrong. Men must be allowed to compete. To fight. To shoot things. Today’s man-punishing, feminised culture is creating killers by suppressing these urges. We have to stop it.
It goes on in that vein.
Civilization has been tamping down the human urge to fight, shoot, kill since time began. One might even say that it's the fundamental reason for civilization in the first place. It doesn't always work, obviously. But the effort is largely why the species has progressed.
The idea that America, the country with the largest military the world has ever seen, with more bloodshed than any other developed nation, which boasts only 17% of female political representation and 5% of female business leadership is smothering its males and denying them their "masculine urges" is vacuous in the extreme.
The most chilling thing about this is that we don't have anything like equality and people are making this argument. Lord only knows what they'll say and do if the half of the population that is female ever achieves parity of power. I know that so far distant that I'll long be dead in that event but I do feel sorry for the people who will be alive then and have to deal with the fallout of this insistence on violence as a "masculine" need that cannot be denied.
I have no idea why he would be rising, but it does appear to be at Carson and Fiorina's expense so maybe it's just that they are not wearing well.
Speaking of Fiorina, this story in today's Washington Post is really something:
Famed California pollster Joe Shumate was found dead in his home one month before Election Day 2010, surrounded by sheets of polling data he labored over for the flailing Senate bid of Carly Fiorina.
Upon his death, Fiorina praised Shumate as “the heart and soul” of her team. She issued a news release praising him as a person who believed in “investing in those he worked with” and offering her “sincerest condolences” to his widow.
But records show there was something that Fiorina did not offer his widow: Shumate’s last paycheck, for at least $30,000. It was one of more than 30 invoices, totaling about $500,000, that the multimillionaire didn’t settle — even as Fiorina reimbursed herself nearly $1.3 million she lent the campaign. She finally cleared most of the balance in January, a few months before announcing her run for president.
“Occasionally, I’d call and tell her she should pay them,” said Martin Wilson, Fiorina’s former campaign manager, who found Shumate after the pollster collapsed from a heart attack. “She just wouldn’t.”
I've written about her failure to pay her campaign staff before but I'd never heard that detail. One of her staff famously told a reporter that he'd rather go to Iraq than ever work for her again ...
But what can you make of this? Granted it's not her speaking but it's an absurd comment anyway. The article goes on to note that she refused to pay vendors who printed flyers and did surveys and this is a response from some California Republican:
Fiorina, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment. Her supporters say the criticism was misplaced.
“People are just upset and angry and throwing her under the bus,” said Jon Cross, Fiorina’s operations director for her Senate campaign. “If we didn’t win, why do you deserve to get paid? If you don’t succeed in business, you shouldn’t be the first one to step up and complain about getting paid.”
Now I understand why vendors insist on getting their money upfront. For some reason people like this guy think that if their candidate loses it's the printing company's fault and they don't deserve to get paid at all.
Keep in mind that Fiorina is worth 60 million dollars --- all of it from a golden parachute from her failed leadership at HP.
I have to note one other thing, so typical of the Washington Post:
Many campaigns end up in debt, including that of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who did not close out the $20 million she owed from her 2008 presidential campaign until January 2013. Struggling campaigns often set up payment plans or hold fundraisers to pay their bills. Fiorina’s staff members said they asked her to do the same. She declined.
At the end of her 2008 presidential bid, Clinton owed $12 million to nearly 500 staffers, consultants and vendors, according to campaign finance website Opensecrets.org. FEC documents show Clinton paid off the bulk of her leftover debts by the third quarter of 2009.
Clinton did continue to owe money, about $845,000, to one firm, that of her pollster Mark Penn, which her campaign steadily chipped away at over the course of the next three years, the records show. As secretary of state, Clinton was banned from fundraising to clear the debt, but both President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton helped fundraise the money.
It's hard to know where the discrepancy between 12 million and 20 million comes from. But the only one they left hanging for very long was that overpaid jackass Mark Penn. If there's anyone who deserved to wait for his money it was him.
But throwing that in there about Clinton made it appear that she didn't bother to pay up 20 million until 2013, which is nice. It doesn't matter if it's true or not --- it's "out there".
UPDATE:With the news that TPP may now be ready for Congress, we're entering the first test phase for presidential candidates (on both sides, given Trump's disdain for American trade deals.) What will our candidates do to put their words into action? Note the TPP/trade bullet in my imagined progressive-candidate speech below.
This is the first of several pieces on what Bernie Sanders can accomplish if elected president. At the end I offer an example of a Sanders-like "What I will never do" speech. Scroll down or click the link to go directly to the speech.
I recently wrote about British politician Tony Benn's speech, a "ten-minute history of neoliberalism." Near the beginning Benn says, "This country and the world have been run by rich and powerful men from the beginning of time." If the "beginning of time" means the start of humanity's post-Stone Age history, that's a period more than 5,000 years long. A brief window opened in the mid-1800s, with the beginning of trade unionism and, in the U.S., the New Deal, when "rich and powerful men" were no longer as in charge as they have always been. That brief window, the blink of an eye compared to the rest of human history, is now closing.
Then we looked at a recent Noam Chomsky interview and noted as he does that the "economic system" being evolved in that closing window, what I've called "modern capitalism" — "capitalism" as practiced today — isn't capitalism at all, but merely theft, the adult equivalent of bullies taking lunch money, or the Roman ruling class enslaving most of Europe to work the land, which only the ruling class owns.
Nor is "modern capitalism" a market in any sense that matters. Is a monopoly on all essential products a market? Only in the most reduced sense; only in the sense that "0" is a number. Only in the sense that one person, living alone, is a family. Only in the sense that a man in a meadow talking to silent birds is a conversation.
In other words, that closing window brings us back to Tony Benn's original description, a world "run by rich and powerful men." Period. Those pieces are here and here, and they set up the following.
It's very important to keep optimism. ... Progress has always been made by two flames burning in the human heart. The flame of anger at injustice. And the flame of hope you can build a better world.
In his own piece, though, Noam Chomsky is less optimistic, at least when it comes to the "Bernie Sanders" electoral solution (my emphasis in italics):
[Q] Let’s imagine for example that Bernie Sanders won the 2016 presidential elections. What do you think would happen? Could he bring radical change in the structures of power of the capitalist system?
[Chomsky] Suppose that Sanders won, which is pretty unlikely in a system of bought elections. He would be alone: he doesn’t have congressional representatives, he doesn’t have governors, he doesn’t have support in the bureaucracy, he doesn’t have state legislators; and standing alone in this system, he couldn’t do very much. A real political alternative would be across the board, not just a figure in the White House.
It would have to be a broad political movement. In fact, the Sanders campaign I think is valuable — it’s opening up issues, it’s maybe pressing the mainstream Democrats a little bit in a progressive direction, and it is mobilizing a lot of popular forces, and the most positive outcome would be if they remain after the election.
It’s a serious mistake to just to be geared to the quadrennial electoral extravaganza and then go home. That’s not the way changes take place. The mobilization could lead to a continuing popular organization which could maybe have an effect in the long run.
While I agree that a broad movement is needed and helpful, I disagree with Chomsky on these three points:
The electoral majority that puts Sanders in the White House, if it does, would represent a mobilizing of popular forces.
If Sanders carries through (unlike Barack Obama in 2009) on the opportunity he would have, his election would represent much more than a "quadrennial electoral extravaganza." He could, in fact, lead the ongoing political revolution he says he wants.
Bernie Sanders could accomplish an enormous amount without Congress. He wouldn't be acting alone; he'd have control of the whole of the Executive Branch — or most of it (more on that last later).
Let's look at what Sanders could accomplish without Congress. I want to divide these accomplishments into two groups — "What I will never do" and "What I will absolutely do, starting day one." This piece is about the first list, some of the "actions" you will never see from a successful Bernie Sanders. I'll offer the second list, "I'll do this on day one" actions, another time.
A "What I Will Never Do" Presidential Speech
Consider how much time and energy was drained from the progressive community in fighting against Barack Obama's wrong-headed neo-liberal initiatives. Think of the enormous effort to stop Fast Track (which failed). The long effort to stop the Keystone Pipeline (which may succeed, but with a huge expenditure of energy). The effort to constantly, year after year after year, block cuts to Social Security and Medicare (which have so far succeeded, but the fight is far from over).
And on and on, going all the way back to the beginning, 2009, when the progressive community (and progressives in Congress) got stiffed by the Affordable Care Act, first because it turned its back on a single-payer solution, and then by its lack of a public option, which our community fought and fought to retain (a fight that failed).
In fact, the progressive community has been in constant battle with "our" Executive Branch on what I've called Obama's four big "legacy" items, his want-list:
Health care “reform” — a privatized alternative to Medicare expansion
A “grand bargain” in which social insurance benefits are rolled back
Plentiful oil & gas (burnable carbon), and passage of the Keystone Pipeline
Passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement
Obama has been very good on many things, including peace with Iran, but not on these. Thousands of capable progressives have used hundreds of thousands of uphill hours resisting Obama's constant attempts to roll neo-liberal boulders down the hill at them.
What could be done if we could have those hours back, hours we could use in a different way, use on proactive goals, instead of constantly playing defense against "our" president? This is not a trivial problem. Under a real progressive president — a President Sanders who kept his word, for example — you would never have to fight those things. Would that please you? Would it feel like a gift to be handed that freed-up time? Would if feel like a Sanders accomplishment if he gave it to you?
Here's the first part of my imagined, Sanders-like "what I will accomplish" speech. It's entitled "What I Will Never Do." Keep in mind, this is me and my imagined progressive talking. But also keep in mind how relieved you would feel to hear these words from someone who meant them.
If you elect me president, here's what I will never do:
▪ You can count on me never to push a plan to cut Social Security and Medicare. Not one person outside of government will have to spend one minute trying to prevent me from privatizing — or cutting in any way — these vital programs. Not one minute. And if Congress proposes these cuts and it reaches my desk, you won't have to spend one minute asking me to veto that proposal. It's vetoed the minute it arrives.
▪ I will never negotiate a so-called "trade" deal that sends American jobs across our borders. No one will have to spend one minute asking me to stop a deal that hurts American workers. I will support only trade deals that increase American jobs, that create new workers in this country, that increase our balance of payments, and nothing less.
▪ No one will have to spend one minute stopping me from granting coal, oil and gas leases on lands or in waters controlled by the Department of the Interior. Not one minute. Drilling in the Arctic? You won't even have to ask. The answer is already No. New coal leases? Not one. Dangerous and deadly-to-the-climate offshore drilling leases? Those days are over.
Soon I will tell you what I will do to aggressively bring down carbon emissions. But if I don't start here, with what I won't do, how will you know I'm serious?
▪ You will never see me even contemplate extending tax breaks for the very rich, as we saw all too often in our recent past — for example, during the negotiations to extend the Bush tax cuts, or negotiations at the end of the last fiscal year. Any such deal that reaches my desk will go straight back to Congress for renegotiation.
If Congress wants a bill, they can give me one I can sign. If they want to shut down the government over tax breaks for the very very wealthy, they will shut it down, and I will explain it that way to the American people. If they want me to sign a bill, any bill, they need to understand — tax breaks for the rich can never be a part of it.
In other words, you'll never have to lobby me to not do what I said I would never do. You can spend your precious time, your precious energy, in other ways. There are many things I will do as well. Some I will do alone, using the power of the Executive Branch. And some I will ask your help to do because we need help from others. But the things I listed above, and many more besides, will never be contemplated.
I hope you agree that sparing you the constant effort to stop these wrong acts is indeed an accomplishment, and one you'll be glad, even eager, to have. It's one I'll certainly be glad and eager to give you.
Yes, there's much a president like Sanders, if he really carries through, can refuse to do, acting completely alone. This list shows just a few of the "wrong acts" you would be spared from resisting. I'm sure you can add others of your own. Soon I'll list some of what a president like Sanders can proactively do, deeds that can be done, even acting totally alone.
Stay tuned. Supporting a president like Sanders is by no means a waste of your time. (If you like, you can help Sanders here; adjust the split any way you wish at the link.)
Peter Daou, like the rest of us, is processing the latest mass shooting in this country. Growing up amidst a war in Lebanon, he brings to the subject a perspective few raised here can: a childhood collecting shrapnel and stray bullets in the street, and a sharp appreciation that none of them had claimed or maimed a family member. Yet also a hunter and a marksman:
My military service quickly taught me that there was an inextricable link between the weapon I carried on my shoulder and the suffering to which I bore daily witness. I was trained to use guns against others before I was old enough to be considered a man.
In Lebanese culture, “manhood” was an issue teenage boys were taught to think about. What did it mean to be a man, to be respected as a man? A gun was an instant pathway to respect – or as I more accurately understand now, fear masquerading as respect.
America’s obsessive relationship with firearms is familiar to me; I know the intoxicating sense of power that a gun bestows, particularly to a young man. But in the aftermath of the terrible violence I witnessed and with the passage of time, I know that guns are dangerous and illusory shortcuts to strength and maturity and no guarantee of personal safety.
Daou considers guns "the ultimate drug" for treating feelings of powerlessness. "Those of us who advocate for stronger gun control measures," he writes, "must understand that we are dealing not just with an obsession, but an addiction. And addictions are notoriously hard to break."
Addiction perhaps, but for some are guns not more like a security blanket? Maybe both. Any social upheaval that threatens the status quo sends a certain kind of gun owner running down to the gun store to buy another for the arsenal. Economic uncertainty or a Democrat being elected president — especially one with a foreign-sounding name — and they're stockpiling more guns and ammo, certain for the eleventieth time that the government's jack-booted thugs soon will come break down their doors to confiscate their illusion of strength. I mean, really this time. Daou is right. It is an obsession bordering on addiction.
Certain kinds of gun owners dress up their fear with patriotic-sounding bluster about the tree of liberty and the blood of tyrants. And freedom, of course. I'm not sure how foreigners would describe the American obsession with hoarding weapons to defend against our neighbors and our government, but freedom is probably not the word that springs to mind.
We have a cat we rescued in Port Fourchon, Louisiana about five weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit. A kitten no bigger than your hand, she was lost or abandoned, starving, half dead, and about that far from being a seagull snack. Maybe a little dain bramaged for the neonatal wear and tear. She ain't right. She's really skittish, and whenever startled (and she startles easily) she runs to the corner of a particular storage crate and rubs her cheek obsessively against it until she finally settles down.
Maybe she'd feel more secure if we got her a Hello Kitty .380. Or two. Or three.
GOP’s fear of doctors: Why it’s hell bent on defaming — and censoring — them
From imagining death panels to restricting their speech about guns, here's how the right sees medical professionals
The right is upset (as usual) over the fact that on Monday,the Supreme Court declined to hear a case that would have potentially dismantled Obamacare’s “death panel.” There is no such thing as a “death panel” but that hasn’t stopped numerous pro-life groups and conservative grifter organizations from insisting that the Independent Payment Advisory Board is designed to force the elderly on to the ice floe in order to save money. (Why they should care about this when they seem to be determined to force the elderly into private health care that would certainly shove the sickest and oldest over a cliff at the earliest opportunity, remains a mystery) In any case, they were thwarted in this particular case but it’s likely only the first of many attempts. This is one of the fundamental fears of Obamacare: government price controls leading inevitably to euthanasia.
The euthanasia bit came from that avatar of the right-wing id, Sarah Palin who claimed that what was merely encouraging doctors to discuss end-of-life planning with their patients was actually a slippery slope to soylent green. They not only wanted doctors to be denied payment for having this discussion (the issue at hand) they believe doctors should not discuss these issues with their patients at all lest the patients be talked into writing living wills or making it known that they do not want their lives to be extended if they are permanently incapacitated.
Almost exactly 10 years ago today, Terry Schiavo became a household name when the entire right wing of the Republican Party decided to virtually elbow their way into her hospital room and demand that her advance directive, as relayed by her husband, to not use extraordinary measures to keep her alive was inoperative and irrelevant. God might perform a miracle, after all, so it’s nobody’s place to interfere, not even the individual herself. Ultimately, Schiavo’s rights were upheld but the nation got a good hard look at the right wing stepping into the personal relationship between doctor, patient and family when the entire congress was called back to Washington to vote on this one issue and the president, on one of his lengthy Crawford vacations, made the unprecedented decision to fly back to the capitol in the middle of the night to sign it. The sight of these powerful people dictating the details of the doctor-patient relationship from a distance was off-putting to many Americans. These were, after all, the very politicians who made a fetish out of “keeping the government out of our lives.”
This was no revelation to people who work in the area of reproductive rights, of course. The whole issue of abortion is about the state interfering in the most personal, intimate interaction between doctor and patient and family. But, there was no sex involved in the Schiavo incident, no “irresponsibility”, no smiling babies or patriarchal assumptions to distract from the reality of this ugly scene as there always in when it comes to abortion rights. Both men and women could put themselves into this situation equally, they could see themselves having to deal with aging parents and their own kids having to deal with them. It hit home.
But it quickly retreated from sight and the right continued on with its crusade to micro-manage the relationship between doctor and patient in keeping with their particular religious values. All over the country, Republican legislatures are putting laws into place to force doctors to read a set script to patients seeking abortions and require them to perform unnecessary ultrasound tests to try and make women feel guilty for their decision.
Just this week, the state of Arizona passed a new law requiring doctor’s to not only lie to their patients but potentially put them in medical danger:
Late Monday, it became the first state to pass a law requiring doctors who perform drug-induced abortions to tell women that the procedure may be reversible, an assertion that most doctors say is wrong.
The provision is part of a broader law signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, meant to prevent plans offered in Arizona through the federal health care exchange from providing coverage for most abortions.
This new law is based upon the word of a doctor doctor who runs a clinic called the Culture of Life Family Services in San Diego who says that he can “reverse” abortions by prescribing a different drug than the one recommended as the second dose in early-stage pill induced abortions. This has not been adequately tested. There is no research. It is based upon one paper written by one doctor who is obviously a fanatic. Needless to say the medical professionals in Arizona are appalled. Ill-informed politicians are reaching once again into their offices and examining rooms and requiring them to pass on dangerous and erroneous information to their patients.
And at the same time the right is telling doctors what they are required to tell their patients about abortion, they are passing laws requiring them not to talk about other things. Think Progress had this from Texas last month:
Under a proposed bill currently being considered in Texas, doctors wouldn’t be allowed to ask their patients whether there are any firearms in their homes — and could be subject to punishment from the Texas Medical Board if they do initiate any conversations about gun safety in the office.
The lawmaker who’s sponsoring the measure, Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R), is backed by the National Rifle Association and the Texas State Rifle Association. He believes that the federal government is inappropriately reaching into doctors’ offices to figure out who owns gun
That’s correct. They are proposing to censor doctors from speaking to their patients about gun violence. And their ostensible reason for doing this is because the federal government in reaching into doctors’ offices. It’s hard to believe their brains didn’t explode from the dissonance.
“Pediatricians are asking children away from their parents, ‘Do you have guns in your house?’ and then reporting this on the electronic health records, and then the federal government, frankly, has access to who has guns and who doesn’t.”
Clearly, the federal government’s real agenda is to engage in a clandestine sweep of pediatricians’ young patients’ electronic medical records to determine whose parents have guns. And then obviously they are planning to send in the jack-booted thugs to confiscate them. So in order to stop such a terrible overreach of state power, the “let’s get government out of our lives” people are no longer just interfering with doctors who treat the elderly and women but now they must interfere with how they treat children as well. Evidently, their vaunted fealty toward individual rights does not extend to the examining table.(And if there’s one place I think most Americans would really like to have some individual rights and privacy it’s there…)
The reason the American Medical Association recommends that doctors talk to their patients about gun safety is because NRA, which used to consider that its primary goal, is so devoted to collecting money from its members, lobbying on behalf of gun manufacturers and flooding the streets of America with as many deadly weapons as possible it no longer wants to do this job. This isn’t a back-door attempt to make firearms illegal. That would quixotic in the extreme. It’s an attempt to cut back on the huge numbers of tragic gun accidents in this country — something which nobody is out there defending, not even the NRA. (If someone’s saying that we all have a constitutional right to accidentally shoot people, I haven’t heard it.)
Researchers are trying to gather statistics on gun violence and that is seen as an assault on gun rights, something which has long been blocked by the NRA and their minions in the congress. Only a very insecure movement would be afraid of such data. It carries no meaning in itself, it’s just numbers and observation. After centuries of debate the Supreme Court finally declared the 2nd Amendment to mean that an individual has a right to bear arms and that is highly unlikely to be reversed. They can relax about that. Information won’t kill them. A gun accident might, however, and it’s downright nihilistic to believe that trying to prevent them through education and research must be stopped, especially by preventing doctors from discussing it with their patients.
Liberals are often accused by the freedom-loving right of having a Stalinist worldview in which they seek to impose their view on others by force. But if that’s true, the right has now become what they most despise. These days they are using government to intrude on the most personal and private of medical matters, dictating not only what what medical professionals are allowed to do but what they are allowed to say to their patients. Reconciling this with their alleged blind fealty to the Constitution is quite a stretch. But then they have always had a rather selective view of the Bill of Rights. The first Amendment protects their freedom of religion and their freedom of speech. Others not so much. The Fourth Amendment only applies to citizens who’ve earned it. Indeed, only the Second is sacrosanct. In fact, they’ve taken to making it into a sort of “Super-Amendment” with their fatuous slogan “The Second Amendment is what guarantees the First.”
And it’s true. For the gun owner. An armed person is definitely more free to speak in America than one who isn’t. Sure the right exists in the abstract for all of us. But in a country where people gun down drivers for honking their horn or parking in the wrong spot, let’s just say that in practice it’s becoming risky to say or do anything that might set someone off. It’s not a more polite society, it’s a more paranoid one. And in order to protect that Super-Amendment for gun owners, they are now enlisting government to infringe the rights of doctors and their patients and people who disagree with them. Who could have ever guessed it would go that way?
Blue state Republicans can't even take credit for their states' low murder rates now
I don't know why I'm even bothering talking about anything he says, but he's still a Governor and he seems to be creeping up in the polls a bit in New Hampshire so you never know. I've always wondered if he wasn't the natural heir to the Trump constituency --- loudmouthed, jerks sitting at the end of the bar with a knee-jerk opinion about everything and an insult for everyone.
But anyway, here's the latest. He can't even take credit for being Governor of a state with a relatively low crime rate because it has some tough gun regulations which are apparently just this side of Satan worship to today's GOP. From TBOGG at Raw Story:
Attempting to keep his 2016 presidential hopes alive, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) refused to wade into the problem of easy access to guns, saying tough gun laws in his state haven’t had a major impact on its low murder rate.
Asked by This Week host George Stephanopolous to talk about the gun debate in the wake of the Oregon shooting that claimed nine lives, Christie instead wanted to talk about mental health issues.
“You just heard Donald Trump say, you know, sometimes people fall through the cracks. And he also questioned whether tough gun laws make a difference,” Stephanopolous said. “But look at your state. It has some of the toughest gun laws and one of the lowest murder rates. Isn’t there a correlation?”
Christie immediately dodged the question, saying mental health issues are a greater concern.
“I don’t — George, I don’t think there is. But I’ll tell you this, I’m very concerned about the mental health side of this and I put forward a proposal to the legislature last year and then again just about seven or eight weeks ago in response to a bill they sent saying, let’s do some tough things on mental health,” Christie replied. “Let’s make involuntary commitment of people who speak violently easier for doctors.”
Christie continued on, dismissing tough gun laws by invoking the murder rates in Chicago which also has restrictive gun laws.
How embarrassing. As Tbogg points out, all those guns in Chicago are coming from outside the city, many of them from one particular gun shop in the Chicago suburbs.
In places where there are much stricter gun laws nationally you see a different picture:
If what all these Republicans are saying is true, that the problem isn't guns it's mental illness, perhaps we need to start asking ourselves why we have such a humongous mental illness problem in this country.
Or maybe these fools could just sober up and admit that it's the guns. There are people with mental and emotional problems everywhere. And lord knows we could do a better job of getting those people the medical care they need. But these other countries have not cured mental illness. There are plenty of people with those problems who are untreated. They just regulate the guns. It's really that simple.
I take a backseat to no one when it comes to my loathing of Jeb Bush. He is the human manifestation of aristocratic rot as far as I'm concerned. But I have to admit that I think he got a bum rap on the "stuff happens" thing. Not that I don't believe he wants to just throw up his hands and say "whatever" to the problem of gun violence. That's the official Republican position. But his actual statement the other day was a little bit more complex than that. Here 's what he said:
"We're in a difficult time in our country and I don't think more government is necessarily the answer to this. I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else. It's very sad to see. But I resist the notion, and I had this challenge as governor—look, stuff happens. There's always a crisis. The impulse is always to do something and it's not necessarily the right thing to do."
He sounds like Poppy, the guy who told the press that his campaign strategy was "message: I care." In other words kind of a dope when it comes to retail politics. And I certainly disagree that when it comes to gun violence there is any hysterical rush to "do something." The opposite is true. Over and over again we do absolutely nothing. But what he said so clumsily is something I've said myself when it comes to passing terrorism laws --- the impulse in the aftermath of a crisis is to immediately "do something" and it's not necessarily the right thing to do. Like pulling the Patriot Act off the shelf and passing it without giving any thought to what it really meant. That's what he was saying, not that mass shootings are no biggie. And again, he's completely wrong that anyone's rushing to "do something" about gun violence in the wake of our weekly mass shooting. It's ridiculous. But he wasn't just shrugging his shoulders and saying "shit happens" when asked about the Oregon bloodbath.
Ugh, I hate defending the likes of Bush but honestly it's a very bad idea to encourage the press to engage in pile-ons that are based on erroneous assumptions about what someone said. Let's just say it tends to blow back on liberals more than anyone.
Meanwhile, here's Trump being a lot more, shall we say, open about what wingnuts really think.
“I have to say, no matter what you do, you’re gonna have problems.
“Because you have sick people. They happen to be intelligent. And, you know, they can be sick as hell and they’re geniuses in a certain way. They are going to be able to break the system.”
The New York real-estate billionaire, who boasts of possessing a concealed carry permit, said he did not see the need for increased firearms regulations after the mass shooting in Oregon.
He amplified the argument in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, saying: “The gun laws have nothing to do with this. This is mental illness.”
At a rally in suburban Nashville on Saturday, Trump mentioned his New York state handgun carry permit and added that anyone who attacked him would be “shocked”, because he would emulate Charles Bronson in the vigilante film Death Wish.
“I’m a very, very big second amendment person,” Trump said in Tennessee. “This is about self-defense, plain and simple.”
Trump reminisced about the Bronson-starring 1974 film and got people in the crowd to shout out the title in unison. In the movie, an affluent, liberal architect embarks on a vigilante mission after his wife is killed and his daughter raped.
“Today you can’t make that movie because it’s not politically correct,” Trump said.
Speaking to NBC, Trump said those US jurisdictions with “the strongest, the most stringent laws [on gun control] are in almost every case the worst places. It doesn’t seem to work.”
Instead, at both rally and in the interview, as on the day of the shooting, the Republican frontrunner blamed mental illness for such shootings as that at Umpqua Community College.
That's the kind of thing Republicans believe about guns --- that they will be Charles Bronson if someone threatens them with a gun. Or Wyatt Earp -- who, by the way, confiscated guns in Dodge City. It's just braindead nonsense.
Discontent is simmering out there. Donald Trump is one proof. Bernie Sanders is another. The New York Times' Patrick Healy looks at how discontent manifests itself among liberal-leaning voters:
Interviews with three dozen Democrats in key early states — a mix of undecided voters and Sanders and Clinton supporters — laid bare a sense of hopelessness that their leaders had answers to problems like income inequality and gun violence. It is frustration that Mr. Sanders, a senator from Vermont, and other progressive candidates are channeling and that Mrs. Clinton has addressed with increasing passion, as when she responded to Thursday’s massacre at an Oregon college by saying she was “just sick of this.”
Healy reports that similar insurgencies against party-blessed candidates have also popped up in Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Why? Because gun violence is not the only thing Democratic voters are sick of.
The disaffection among Democrats flows mainly from three sources, according to interviews with voters and strategists. Disappointment lingers with President Obama over the failure to break up big banks after the Great Recession and fight for single-payer health insurance, among other liberal causes. Fatigue with Mrs. Clinton’s controversies endures, as does distaste with her connections to the rich. And anger abounds at party leaders for not pursuing an ideologically pure, economically populist agenda.
Karen Bryant from New Boston, N.H. gets down to the kitchen-table aspect of the problem: “There’s just so much hopelessness about people having any real opportunity to just make a living, take care of their families, support themselves.”
David Atkins looks at the issue from a different angle for Political Animal. Voters once called "Middle American Radicals" are sick of the middle class "being disadvantaged by a focus on both the rich and the poor." Atkins writes:
I particularly remember a series of focus groups I conducted among undecided, infrequent minority voters who were almost universally angry with food stamp and welfare programs because they worked full-time jobs and made just a little too much to qualify for them. They were angry that friends and neighbors of theirs were able to get assistance from the government, and they themselves were being “punished” for working. These were still liberal-leaning voters who were not going to vote for Republicans anytime soon because of their racism and because they wanted those welfare programs to continue to exist in case they themselves lost their job—but it didn’t change their angry perception that American government, in their eyes, seemed to advantage both the rich and the poor at the expense of the middle class.
And, predictably, the effect tends to be even greater among more comfortable white voters, who often have an unrealistically romantic idea of what being unemployed and on welfare is really like.
If white voters need any primer on that, Rolling Stone provided an invaluable look at that in 2012. But they also have an unrealistically romantic idea of how politics works.
It’s an artifact of America’s peculiar winner-take-all political system that we only have two functional parties. Economically, this means that the conservative party works to align the middle class with the wealthy against the poor, while the liberal party works to align the poor and the middle class against the rich. But the middle class ideally wants to promote its own interests above all, and all too often it seems to them like no one is doing that.
Dissatisfaction with the political parties and the economic system form common ground. Sanders' disaffected masses and Trump's share many of the same complaints, just different subsets of scapegoats. The problem is, both groups of voters are still shopping for a new boss that won't be the same as the old boss. Obama was supposed to fill that role for Democrats when he took office in 2009. But when Obama effectively told supporters, "I got this," they let him. They left the political battlefield and went back to trying to get by. The lesson still hasn't sunk in. Unless it does, they'll do the same again with whomever the Democrats elect.
Sanders says we need a political revolution. He's right. It's not just an electoral revolution. It has to be a revolution in thinking about politics.
Sultans of shock, moguls of schlock, & masters of rock: A trio of docs
By Dennis Hartley
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon ***
Not that anyone asked (or gives a rat’s ass), but if pressed to name the Holy Trinity of influences on my work over the years as a radio personality, stand-up comic and writer, I would cite The Firesign Theatre, Monty Python and The National Lampoon (gee…can you tell that my formative years were the late 60s thru the mid-70s?). If there is one thing the Trinity has in common, it’s a strict adherence to the #1 rule of comedy: Nothing is Sacred. It’s no coincidence that the aforementioned flourished concurrently, in the early to mid-70s; if they were coming on the scene only now with original comic sensibilities intact, the P.C. police would have them all sitting on Death Row within a matter of hours.
Long before YouTube, we pawed through things called “humor magazines” for a laugh fix. They were made from trees, printed with ink, and purchased from comically tiny brick and mortar stores called “newsstands”. If I saw something really funny in the magazine that I had to share with my friends, I would have to literally share the magazine with my friends. Which is why I wasn’t surprised to learn that the publishers of The National Lampoon developed the following formula to determine readership: the number of subscribers, x 12 (the number of people an average subscriber shared their copy with).
This is one of the fun facts in Douglas Tirola’s breezy documentary, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon. After a perfunctory preface about roots in the venerable Harvard Lampoon, Tirola devotes most of his film profiling the magazine’s original gang of editors and writers, which included Doug Kenney, Henry Beard, P.J. O’Rourke, Michael O’Donoghue, Chris Miller, Tony Hendra, and (future screenwriter/film director) John Hughes. He does a nice job of tracing how the magazine’s subversive mashup of highbrow Ivy League irony and lowbrow frat boy vulgarity begat Saturday Night Live (many of that show’s first batch of writers and performers were recruited from Lampoon’s magazine, LPs and stage productions), which in turn begat Animal House; precipitating a paradigm shift in a generation’s comic id that resonates to this day. Whether that’s for better or worse depends on your sense of humor.
(Currently in limited release and available on VOD).
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films **1/2
In dissecting the “art” of cinema, one can very easily bang on all day about narrative construct, auteur theory, lighting, camera angles, tracking shots, meow meow, woof woof…but you know what “they” say: all that artifice and a dime will buy you a cup of coffee. Let’s get real for a moment. At the end of the day, it’s still show business. And business is all about making money…amirite, boychick? And movies are basically about make-believe, right? So bottom line, what we really need here is ideas, bubbeleh, ideas! Ideas that sell tickets, and put asses in seats! With that in mind, here’s a crystalline distillation of all film theory, from one of the interviewees in Mark Hartley’s uneven but generally engaging Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films: “[Producer Menahem Golan] would make shit up…and then we’d film it.” See? Simple!
Mr. Golan and his cousin, Yoram Globus were two movie nuts who grew up in their native Israel dreaming about one day moving to America and becoming Hollywood moguls (which they in fact ended up doing…sort of). Golan directed several films in the late 70s, including one genuine cult item that (depending on who you ask) occasionally threatens to unseat Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space as “Worst Movie of All Time”…the 1979 sci-fi disco musical, The Apple (oy!). Hartley’s film primarily focuses on Golan and Globus’ joint tenure as the honchos of Cannon Films from 1979 until 1989.
During that period, the pair gained a rep for crankin’ ‘em out fast and cheap; as someone in the film observes, “[the money] was all up there on the screen.” That doesn’t necessarily guarantee that what ended up on that screen was eminently watchable, but it was product. And apparently somebody was buying tickets, because they had a “golden period” once they perfected their formula (mostly involving profitable overseas sales).
One thing I had forgotten is that Cannon accidentally made some good films during that period: Love Streams, The Company of Wolves, Runaway Train, Otello, 52 Pick-Up, Street Smart, Tough Guys Don’t Dance, Barfly, Powaqqatsi, and A Cry in the Dark. But again, that’s a relative handful among hundreds like The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood, Hospital Massacre, Revenge of the Ninja, Bolero, Hercules, Sahara, Death Wish 3 and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Not to mention Cannon’s culpability in jumpstarting the careers of Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, and Jean-Claude Van Damme (j’accuse!).
While Cannon’s Golan-Globus era indeed makes for quite a “wild story”, it unfortunately morphs from “untold” into “retold one too many times” early on. About halfway through I began to tire of yet one more anecdote from a former associate that illustrates how flinty and eccentric the cousins were (we get it, already!). On the plus side, you can always elect to turn off your brain and revel in the guilty pleasure of all those campy film clips.
When former British PM Margaret Thatcher died in 2013, Digby did a great post about how the populist backlash against Thatcherism provided fertile ground for the Agit Punk movement in the UK (I wrote a companion piece on Thatcherism’s likewise effect on film makers). One of the best bands of that era was The Jam. Formed in 1976, the three lads from Woking (guitarist/lead vocalist Paul Weller, bassist/vocalist Bruce Foxton, and drummer Rick Buckler) exploded onto the scene with their seminal album, In the City. The eponymous single became their signature tune and remains a punk pop anthem. While initially lumped in with contemporaries like The Sex Pistols and The Clash, the band was operating in a different sphere; specifically regarding their musical influences.
What set Weller and his bandmates apart was their open adulation of The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces and the Motown sound. At the time, this was heresy; as astutely pointed out in The Jam: About the Young Idea (a rockumentary that premiered on Showtime this week), you had to dismiss any music released prior to 1976, if you wished to retain your punk cred. In the film, Weller recalls having a conversation with Joe Strummer of The Clash, who told him (in effect) that all of Chuck Berry’s music was crap. “Oh Joe…you don’t really mean that,” Weller replies rhetorically into the camera.
Also on hand are Foxton and Buckler, who still register palpable sadness while recalling their reaction to Weller’s unexpected announcement to them in 1982 (at the height of their greatest chart success) that he was quitting the band to pursue new musical avenues. Weller is philosophical; he argues it’s always best to go out on top (as Neil Young said, it’s better to burn out than fade away). Director Bob Smeaton (The Beatles Anthology) does a marvelous job telling the band’s story, sustaining a positive energy throughout by mixing in a generous helping of vintage performance clips. This is a must-see for fans.
(Playing this month on Showtime; check your local listings)