Do these people not even try to educate themselves or are they proud to be ignorant? How does anyone have a rational discussion with people as irrational as this? Dan Froomkin at the Huffington Post:How misinformed are Republicans about world affairs? If presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's assertion that Russia is "without question our number one geopolitical foe" is any...
Will this be the ugliest presidential year in living memory? Not a chance.
In 1968, murders (of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy) and Democratic convention riots (over Vietnam) elected Richard Nixon, who brought Watergate criminality to the White House before resigning in disgrace.
Yet, in all that bloody retrospect, something was there that is missing today, a possibility of human connection amid chaos, a sense of being together in a time of division and doubt that now seems gone forever.
A recently rediscovered 44-year-old letter evokes such loss. In it, a woman with an upper East Side Manhattan address writes:
?On the afternoon of June 7, thousands of people were in line (some for as long as 6 hours) waiting to enter St. Patrick?s Cathedral to pay our last respects to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy
?Out of nowhere, a wagon appeared with real ice water and thousands of paper cups, pushed by a man and two young women in white uniforms. The water they passed out to hundreds of us was the sweetest ever tasted, not just because we were thirsty, but it was a gesture so beautifully appropriate on that terrible day.
?There was no sign on the wagon. I only found out later the people were from McCall?s Magazine?-I?ll never forget it.?
I was that man. Watching those people in 95-degree heat from the window of an air-conditioned Park Avenue office had become unbearable. Bringing them water seemed like the only imaginable human response.
Two months later, during the Democratic convention, Jules Feiffer and I got off a delegates bus as young protesters were being herded into a park by helmeted Chicago police with clubs. After we were separated and tear-gassed, a teenager was shoving me to a water fountain to soak my handkerchief and put it over my eyes. I did as I was told.
Decades later, in the movie ?The American President,? a White House adviser tells the Oval Office occupant, ?People want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.?
A discouraged President replies, ?People don't drink the sand because they're thirsty. They drink the sand because they don't know the difference.?
We once did.
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I’ve been reading a lot of Judge Dredd comics thanks to the nice people at 2000 A.D.?the new collection of the Complete Casefiles is gorgeous and well-curated?so I was particularly excited to see the trailer for Dredd, the second attempt to make a movie about the lawgivers who attempt to bring order to the post-apocalyptic dictatorship of Mega-City One:
From what I can tell, the moments we see in the trailer are extremely faithful to the script for the movie that’s been circulating for a couple of years, which to my mind is a good thing. The story looks to be simple: Jude Dredd, the best street patrolman in the Justice Department (which, for the unfamiliar, took over the remnants of the United States in a coup, and gave its Judges the power to act as judge, jury, and executioner to combat crime), is meant to spend a routine day assessing Judge Anderson, whose scores would mean she’d fail out of the program, but given her other abilities, the Chief Judge wants her to have a second chance to pass. But their day on the streets takes an unusual turn when Dredd and Anderson investigate a series of murders in a giant housing block called Peach Trees, the provenance of a ruthless drug lord named Ma-Ma (Lena Heady in a role that should make terrifying use of her experience as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones).
My only real reservation with the story is that I think Judge Dredd is most interesting when he’s questioning the system that’s empowered him, or pushing for a more expansive or humane vision of Mega-City One citizenship. Ma-Ma is an unambiguous villain, not someone to make Dredd question the hyper-violent exercise of his authority, though the script makes pretty clear how dehumanizing life in the blocks is, and how the violent war on crime takes its toll on civilians. The only real discretion he exercises is in his evaluation of Anderson. I’m hoping this will be a success and that we could see a franchise grow out of this, both because I think the character is excellent, and because I think with success would come confidence to tell some of the more ambiguous, and more cosmic, Judge Dredd stories. If The Avengers universe can get Thanos, surely the American public is ready for a Judge Death movie.
Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that the Fair Sentencing Act applies to people convicted before the act was passed but sentenced afterwards. The Fair Sentencing Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2010, was designed to reduce the disparity between the mandatory minimums for crack cocaine offenses as compared to powder cocaine offenses.
The decision failed to follow the pattern of most recent criminal justice cases; it was decided by a vote of 5-4 but in this case Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with “liberals” on the court. Reuters notes:
Writing the court’s majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer said Congress intended the law’s more lenient penalties to apply to offenders who committed their crimes before August 3, 2010, but were sentenced after that date. [...]
In the opinion, Breyer said applying the more lenient penalties to all those sentenced after August 3, 2010, made it possible to foresee a reasonably smooth transition under new federal guidelines calling for lower sentences involving crack cocaine.
The court’s decision could affect thousands of defendants who were sentenced under the old, harsher guidelines. Prior to the Fair Sentencing Act, it took 100 grams of powder cocaine to trigger the same minimum sentence as one gram of crack cocaine. The Fair Sentencing Act reduced the disparity from 100-to-one to 18-to-one.
Even under the new guidelines the mandatory minimum disparity continues to have a racially discrimination impact, because most powder cocaine users are white, while most crack cocaine users are black. When the Fair Sentencing Act was passed, black Americans made up roughly 13 percent of the population and 14 percent of monthly illegal drug users, but made up 80 percent of people convicted of a federal crack cocaine offense.
Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, hailed the ruling, saying: “[t]oday?s decision marks another step toward racial fairness.”
Wes Riddle, a Republican tea party activist locked in a run-off with fellow GOPer Roger Williams in Texas’ 25th congressional district, is campaigning on a conspiracy theory even more bizarre than the fantasy that the United Nations and George Soros are conspiring to eliminate the game of golf.
Riddle has promised to begin the impeachment process against President Obama the day he enters Congress — seemingly implying that he believes Obama will be reelected — because of a boundary treaty that was ratified by the Senate in 1991. Obama was 30 years old at the time and just finishing up law school.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the details:
Riddle, a retired Army officer from Gatesville, wants to impeach Obama for “giving away” seven Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea islands near Siberia to Russia.
(Yes, even though those islands were ceded in 1991 under President George H.W. Bush.)
Riddle also wants to impeach Obama, according to the paper, because of “President Obama’s abuse of power and blatant disregard to the Constitution.”
This paranoid fantasy appears to have been spawned by Tea Party favorite Joe Miller. According to his World Net Daily piece, the Obama administration gave away “seven strategic, resource-laden Alaskan islands.” Miller was apoplectic: “We won the Cold War and should start acting like it.”
Though FactCheck.org has thoroughly debunked this conspiracy theory, reality hasn’t stopped Riddle from using it as a rationale for his goal of impeaching Obama.
The run-off election will take place on July 31.
A Syrian air force pilot this week refused to bomb domestic targets and flew is plane to Jordan where he was granted asylum. And the incident may not be an isolated one. McClatchy reports today that Syrian rebels believe that some units in the country’s military are deliberately missing when they target rebel positions. “Weeks of observation of Syrian military operations while traveling with rebel forces leave the impression that the Syrian army is unfamiliar with modern military tactics,” McClatchy reports, “It rarely engages rebel forces directly and appears instead to rely on poorly aimed and random fire to intimidate its opponents. Helicopters observed in northern and central portions of the country fly at an altitude that prevents their effective tactical employment.” One rebel fighter noted that most helicopter pilots are Sunni and “might be missing intentionally.”
By Matt Kasper
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline running from Alberta?s tar sands south to Nebraska and Texas continues to stay in the public eye. Mitt Romney gave it center stage in a campaign ad released today, and the House Republicans attempted to attach it to a drilling bill that passed yesterday.
But this week it was reported that over the past few months, a million liters (quarter million gallons) of oil from several pipelines have spilled in Alberta. Canada’s The Star reported on Wednesday that cleanup crews are working to prevent contamination from the three major oil spills:
The latest spill occurred earlier this week in northeastern Alberta near the town of Elk Point, where Enbridge confirmed a spill of about 230,000 liters through its pumping station on the Athabasca pipeline. The biggest incident was earlier this month near Red Deer and Sundre in central Alberta, where 475,000 liters of oil from Plains Midstream Canada leaked, some of it spilling into the Red Deer River.
This is not the first time the Canadian tar sands giant, Enbridge, has been involved with an oil spill. In July 2010 one of its pipelines ruptured in Marshall, Michigan and spilled an estimated 819,000 gallons.
Even proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline see these incidences as worrisome, and confidence in the tar sands extraction and transportation throughout Canada has clearly been shaken. For example, Doug Bloom of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association and president of Spectra Energy said:
Any spill right now is going to be bad timing. There?s such a focus now with Gateway and with Keystone XL and other projects going through regulatory review. Any time there?s any kind of an incident no matter how large or how small, it?s going to be prominent.
The 1,700 mile long Keystone XL pipeline proposed by TransCanada would run from Alberta down to Houston, Texas and move 435,000 barrels of heavy crude oil per day. Environmentalists and residents near the proposed pipeline fear that that it could leak in critical areas such as Nebraska?s Ogallala Aquifer.
TransCanada?s own analysis shows that the Keystone XL pipeline would have 11 ?significant spills? over its 50-year lifecycle, while an independent study estimated that there could be as many as 91 spills. The first leg of the Keystone pipeline even suffered 12 spills in 2010 ? a record for a pipeline?s first year in operation.
Although not always reported in the media, oil spills from pipelines, wells, and infrastructure happen so frequently that at this point they are just part of doing business for oil companies. For example, a report from USA Today found an average of 22 large spills offshore every year between 2005 and 2009.
And yet, the spill has not deterred proponents of the pipeline. In fact, Canadian Premier Alison Redford has called for an investigation into the spills, while still trying to get Keystone XL built over the Canadian-American border.
Matt Kasper is a Special Assistant for Energy Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
During a February speech in Toledo, Ohio, Mitt Romney blasted China for taking American jobs. ?They?ve been able to put American businesses out of business and kill American jobs,? Romney said. And that was certainly not the only time that Romney lamented that jobs, specifically in manufacturing, have been moving to China.
“Thirty years ago, America was overwhelmingly the largest manufacturing economy in the world,” he said during a speech in Nevada last year. “This year, China is slated to pass us.” Romney’s jobs plan is also heavy on anti-China rhetoric.
But as the Washington Post reported, Bain Capital, the private equity firm that Romney headed, played its own part in sending jobs to low-wage countries, including China. In fact, Bain “invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India.”
In one example, Bain was the largest shareholder in a company called Modus Media, which “specialized in helping companies outsource their manufacturing“:
Modus Media told the SEC it was performing outsource packaging and hardware assembly for IBM, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Computer Corp. The filing disclosed that Modus had operations on four continents, including Asian facilities in Singapore, Taiwan, China and South Korea, and European facilities in Ireland and France, and a center in Australia. [...]
According to a news release issued by Modus Media in 1997, its expansion of outsourcing services took place in close consultation with Bain. Terry Leahy, Modus?s chairman and chief executive, was quoted in the release as saying he would be ?working closely with Bain on strategic expansion.?.
Other companies that Bain invested in sent jobs all over the world, including to Ireland and Mexico, while Romney has tried to claim that Bain was all about creating jobs and turning around American companies that otherwise would have gone under.
As one of Romney’s former partners put it,”I never thought of what I do for a living as job creation…The primary goal of private equity is to create wealth for your investors.? And that’s what Bain did, even if it meant helping companies move operations to the same country Romney now blasts for stealing American jobs.
The Australian state of Queensland decided last night to take some rights away from same-sex couples. The Legislative Assembly downgraded civil partnerships to the class of “registered relationships,” revoking the option for couples to have an official ceremony. Worse yet, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie announced that single people and gay couples will no longer be allowed to have children through a surrogate, increasing the difficulty for them to start families.
A former campaigner for the conservative Liberal National Party, which is responsible for the downgrade, explained the thinking behind the change. According to Graham Young, surrogacy treats children like property:
YOUNG: I don’t think you treat children as chattels, as possessions you have some sort of a right to have, I think they rise out of your situation and if you’re a heterosexual couple it arises naturally out of it. If you’re not a heterosexual couple then it can’t arise naturally out of it and I think that is just a consequence of not being in a heterosexual couple, or being barren. It troubles me, this idea that people have a right to have a child and that the child then becomes something which is sort of organised between people.
Apparently conservatives like Young believe that children are better off when parents are not prepared to raise them and do not have the proper resources. This obvious deficit of logic can only be explained by a bias against same-sex couples or some bizarre subscription to a “natural law” with no foundation in reality.
In an interesting aside, Queensland’s highest court ruled this week that people who are bisexual can claim compensation if they are vilified with homophobia. Perhaps the state’s LGBT community should file a complaint against the entire Legislative Assembly.
For today's edition of Idealistic Reggae Tunes About Personal Empowerment and the Power of Individual Action to Produce Meaningful Change, we have Ben Harper, doing "With My Own Two Hands." Which I thought would be a nice thing to play, since next week the Supreme Court may well undo the most meaningful piece of social legislation passed in the last half century. Enjoy!