The Moderate Voice An Internet hub with domestic and international news, analysis, original reporting, and popular features from the left, center, indies, centrists, moderates, and right Wed, 01 Oct 2014 22:13:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Tale of Two Pelosis Wed, 01 Oct 2014 22:13:54 +0000  

33 daze

There are 33 days  and change until the November  4 election as I write this.

I will try to keep this brief and to the point — which, Progressives, IS the point.

The Republicans are running on their traditional slander:

College GOP: Democrats Are Like a Bad Wedding Dress
Rebecca Ballhaus / Wall Street Journal

The College Republican National Committee launched on Wednesday a nearly $1 million digital ad campaign across 16 states, aiming to draw young voters to the GOP with what the group’s chief calls “culturally relevant” ad campaigns…

The Republicans are running against President Obama for the same reasons.

the young gops003

And running so hard that, were he to propose that the sun rose in the East, they would oppose the notion on general principle, create a think tank devoted to Western Sunrise science, argue that the Democrats had secretly switched poles, thus making West East and East West, and Charles Krauthammer would proceed to sneer at the sheer idiocy of the “Eastern Sunrise” proponents. Rush Limbaugh would chime in, and then Glenn Beck would then suggest they were secretly in league with al Qaeda – as were ALL climatologists — and thence down to the bottom of the food chain, wherein Dennis Miller would make polysyllabic japes to mesmerize his duped audience with arabesques of vocabulary prestidigitation leavened with an ever-salty soupçon of contemptuousness with a thick base of conceit.


Remember THIS conditioning meme?  Endless repetition means you do.

So, where were we?

Which is, again, the point.



Friday night, Nancy Pelosi’s daughter was a featured “semi” journalist on Bill Maher’s Real Time, and the chilling report was immediately ignored by all and sundry:

Voters are angry with Republican actions. Voters hate Republican policies. Voters prefer Democratic policies.

Those selfsame voters are going to vote Republican.


Reading Newspaper 2

This is NOT Pavlovian Conditioning. It is, at worst, propaganda.

Reclining 3

Ditto this.

This, however, IS Pavlovian Conditioning straight up:

man watch tv

You are now in an alpha state. This is where conditioning works well.

From The American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists (who ought to know):

Right now, as you read this, you may be in a beta brain state, unless you have been on the computer for a long time and are starting to feel a little slowed down. That slowed down feeling is the alpha brain wave state, the lightest trance state. Most people get there by watching television. If you find yourself unable to switch off the television because you just don’t want to move, you have definitely moved from the wide awake beta state to the alpha state. Much useful hypnotherapy can be accomplished in the alpha state.

You might remember this from September 19th’s ““:

conditioned response 1

Which, when repeated literally 1,100  times (by actual count) on Faux Nooz™, creates this:

conditioned response02

And here is the result:

near Dayville, Oregon August 2014

From August, US Highway 26, Dayville, Oregon

Conditioning WORKS, and that is WHY the GOPs will vote Republican Confederate even though they’re against the policies of and angry AT the actions of the Republicans Confederates.


People who still believe Saddam had WMD. People who believe that Obama is secretly a Muslim. People who believe — nonsensically, since it would make no legal difference in his citizenship, since his mother was a US Citizen, clearly — that Obama was born in Kenya and that the birth record in two Honolulu papers was faked. You see what I mean? Even when stuff is disproven, the amygdala associates the EMOTIONAL CONDITIONING with the event, regardless of the “truth” of the fake history.

THAT is why they agree with the Democrats and then vote Republican Confederate.


Alexandra Pelosi’s report merely confirms my thesis: GOP voters are not reasoned with, or argued into positions: they are conditioned into them, using astonishing repetition and alpha-state trances.


Benghazi? Yup.

IRS? Ditto.

Obamacare? Uh huh.

No taxes? Affirmative.

No government intervention in the recession (except to save banksters?) Yes yes and YES!


I could go on. The point is clear, however, ARGUING works, inasmuch as America agrees with the Democratic Party.

But arguing DOESN’T work in terms of MAKING ANY DIFFERENCE to the conditioned mind.

pavlov's experiment

 Classic Pavlovian Conditioning experiment. Woof.

See if you can spot the Pavlovian conditioning in the College GOPs’ plan:

The trick, says CRNC national chairman Alex Smith, is to start a conversation.

“How do you reach the generation that has their earbuds in and their minds turned off to traditional advertising?” she said. “It’s our goal to start the conversation by presenting ourselves in a culturally relevant way.” [...]

It might appear to be silly on the surface, but there’s absolutely a deeper meaning that will resonate with young voters,” Ms. Smith said. “It’s representative of how Democrats treat young voters – they take them for granted.”

College Republicans have raised more money this year than ever, which Ms. Smith attributes to the group’s ability to show donors that they will get a return on their investment. After the 2012 election, in which young voters backed President Barack Obama by a nearly two-to-one margin, College Republicans crafted a report offering case studies for connecting with college-age voters.  That report showed that people who watched one of the group’s videos targeting 18- to 29-year-olds were far more likely to vote for a generic Republican…


Notice: there is NO argument here. Only conditioning. Here’s a précis of the ad in question:

The first ad, launched Wednesday morning in Florida, is modeled after TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress,” where brides-to-be look for wedding dresses. In the College Republicans’ version—“Say Yes to the Candidate”—a young girl tries on the “Rick Scott” dress—and loves it. “The Rick Scott is perfect,” she gushes as she admires herself in a mirror.

“Rick Scott is becoming a trusted brand,” she says. “He has new ideas that don’t break your budget.”

But her mother is not so sure. “I like the Charlie Crist,” says her frazzled, somewhat hysterical mother. “It’s expensive and a little outdated, but I know best.” The attendant in the bridal shop then cites a slew of statistics that come with the “Charlie Crist,” including rising tuition, higher taxes and increased debt. Finally, the bride stands up to her mother, saying, “I see a better future with Rick Scott.”

Mr. Crist, a Democrat, is challenging Mr. Scott, the incumbent governor of Florida, in this fall’s election. Polls show a tight race.

Location of the Amygdala in the Human Brain

the preferred seat of contemporary political debate:
location of amygdala in the human brain,

or a bad new  anime cartoon character

There is superficial argument: but really there is only conditioning – albeit conditioning that screws with the amygdala’s simplistic fight or flight reptile messaging system: Rick Scott = good wedding dress from trusted “brand” while Charlie Crist = expensive outdated fashion?



Zebra Bustiere Barbie®

But the intention is clear: your BRAINS don’t matter.

brain on drugs

Only your consumer conditioning does. And they recycle: Obama conditioning turns into their salivation bell in all local advertising, as GOP candidate after GOP candidate ties their opponent to Obama through straight conditioning, often as ham-handed as the “wedding dress” commercial notion.

And what of Alexandra Pelosi’s mother the House Minority leader?


Somebody’s sick idea of a “Nancy 
Pelosi” action figure. Note the nonsensical
inclusion of a “water board” in furtherance
of the outdated meme that GOP approval
of medieval torture methods wasn’t
torture at all …

This is what she’s (OK, DCCC and her “team Pelosi” amanuenses — I can tell y0u from Democratic Party insider experience that she more than likely has never seen any of these direct mail pleadings)  sending out to the Faithful in a little over a month:


Yeah. The GOP male sex.


Oct 1
we. fell. short.
No turning back
we. will. fail.
I’m begging
just talked to the team (bad news
i’m sorry 
Another annoying fundraising email
I’m pleading (again)

dig those gamma rays!

Smirking in the corner
D e v a s t a t i n g
we keep emailing
Sep 27
Starred with “red-star”
D A N G E R – , Team Pelosi
I’m sooo sorry –
bad news for Democrats
This is a fundraising email
Sep 22


oh noeeeees!

We’ve got nothing left
Them vs. Us – day.
we’re going home
[BREAKING] NPR: Devastating Report
D e v a s t a t i n g
Thank you, thank you!
we’re IMPLORING you
I’m pleading

psycho scream

Sep 18
Republicans support Citizens United
– warning –
Petition: No More Shutdowns
please don’t say no
44,000 Koch ads
BREAKING: Republicans protect Citizens United
DISGUSTED – I’m disgusted.
We need you
Government shutdown is coming
Shutdowns and wasting money
PETITION: I’m sick of Boehner’s political games
Will you share this for President Obama?
Sep 4
Why we need your support
Petition: End Citizens United
we’ve NEVER failed like this


Aug 31
everything just failed
help: we’re short.*
[* This has proven no handicap to Paul Simon or Tom Cruise.]
Tea Party “success” = middle class failure – !
I’m begging
We’ve got nothing left 
Tea Party RIDICULOUS attack
Aug 29
We can’t let McConnell win
no time. just read:
Aug 27

antietam (2)


To quote from the musical Tony-Award® musical “1776″:

Col. Thomas McKean: Surely, we have managed to promote the gloomiest man on this continent to the head of our troops! Those dispatches are the most deprrrr-essing accumulation of disaster, doom and despair in the entire annals of military history! And furthermore…

John Hancock: Colonel McKean, *please!*

Col. Thomas McKean: What?

John Hancock: It’s too hot.

Seriously?  Our motivation is anger over Citizens United? (For politicians, perhaps, but what about cutting food stamps and denying kids Medicaid? What about cutting the deficit in half, about the long, uninterrupted streak of job creation? About the shutdown? About the record number of filibusters? What about the Man That Filibustered Himself? Good lord!)

AND we’re losing, failing, doomed, sorry, begging, disgusted, d i s g u s t e d, etc.?

Dead Americans at Antietam


Think of what message THAT is sending.

How about sending ANY message? Focus. K.I.S.S. The mere magickal invocation of “Koch” is not a magical talisman, nor is it a policy panacea. WHAT does that mean?

But worse, that’s just about the ONLY message Democratic politicians seem to be sending:

Koch Brothers + Republican Confederate Candidate = Victory.

Which is JUST as asinine as the GOP’s

Obama + Democratic Candidate = Victory.

With one very significant difference.


The Democrats do not have the advantage of six SEVEN (count ‘em) years of Pavlovian Conditioning to despise Obama, many of them spent in Alpha State trance.

And neither approach speaks to what the COUNTRY is upset about at all. Every incumbent runs a ‘safe’ campaign never explaining WHY Obama or the Koch Brothers are wrong. Or what the issues are.

This OUGHT to be the OJ Simpson trial as competent prosecution would have managed it: laying out the endless exhibits that pointed to O.J.s guilt, INCLUDING THE DAMNED BRONCO CHASE.

Boehner's Giant Gavel

Good grief.


NOTE: The irony that this report of political reptilian-brain conditioning was produced by the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal is not lost on this correspondent. There was no hilarious place in the body of the post that could be found, however, to stick it.


 Mr. Williams has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.


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Happy 90th birthday, President Carter Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:20:49 +0000 On this day in 1924, James Earl Carter was born in Plains, Georgia, making today the 90th birthday of our nation’s 39th president (1977-81) and Georgia’s 76th governor (1971-75).

Foreign policy accomplishments included returning the Panama Canal to Panama, the Camp David Peace Accords between Egypt and Israel, and the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union. In addition, under his leadership the US normalized diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.

He also held a series of televised fireside chats in an early effort to bypass media gatekeepers and take his message straight to the people. Media at the time reported on what he wore: a cardigan sweater:

Unlike today’s era of hyper-stylized image consultancy, in which everything a politician wears is scrutinized, Carter simply wore for the taping what he had worn to dinner.

In 1982, he and his wife, Rosalynn, founded the Carter Center, a humanitarian organization devoted to conflict resolution and human rights. Today the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Pollinator Garden was dedicated there; it was created by Trees Atlanta and the De Roode Lab at Emory University.

Carter was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize; he is the second-oldest of the living US presidents (George H.W. Bush, June 12, 1924; George W. Bush, July 6, 1946; Bill Clinton, August 19, 1946; Barack Obama, August 4, 1961).

Plains Depot, Carter for President headquarters

Plains Depot, Carter for President headquarters. Source, Wikipedia

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Another Activist Conservative Judge Attempts To Destroy Obamacare Wed, 01 Oct 2014 18:07:38 +0000 A federal judge in Oklahoma, appointed by George W. Bush, has repeated the same ridiculous argument given by previous activist conservative judges to attempt to stop Obamacare. The claim is that the Affordable Care Act only provides for subsidies for policies purchased on state-run exchanges and not the federal exchange. This is based upon taking one portion of the law, which is poorly written and might suggest this, while ignoring all the other portions of the law which do not make such limitations on who can qualify to receive subsidies.

Previously the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia ruled that subsidies should be available for policy holders regardless of whether they were purchased on a state or the federally run exchange.  The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled in the opposite direction, with two Republicans voting that subsidies should be limited to policies purchased on state exchanges and one Democrat backing the Affordable Care Act. Subsequently the court vacated that decision in order to have the full court rule on this.

Think Progress has more on the case, and the arguments against the view which has only been supported by Republican judges.

The partisan divide on this issue raises some concern about how the Supreme Court might rule. I suspect that Chief Justice John Roberts would again break with the other Republicans and oppose such an effort which would destroy Obamacare as he has done in the past. If for no other reason, he might not want his court to go down in history for keeping the United States as the only major industrial nation without anything approaching universal health care based upon such a frivolous argument. However it is not entirely reassuring to have to hope that Roberts will vote in a reasonable manner.

While Republicans in public would probably support destroying Obamacare in this manner, those who are not totally out of touch with reality might actually prefer that this case does not succeed. While they wouldn’t mind seeing their party take credit for destroying Obamacare in general, despite how successful the law has been, would they really want to be responsible for increasing taxes on millions of Americans by taking away their tax subsidies which help pay for health care coverage?

Republican backers in the insurance industry are also likely to want to see this case fail. The worst case scenario for the insurance industry would be if they are required to provide health insurance to everyone who applies without regard to pre-existing conditions but if they don’t see increased business, and expansion of the risk pool, from sales to those receiving subsidies.

Originally posted at Liberal Values

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(Updates) The Ebola Crisis: U.S. Military Gears Up Wed, 01 Oct 2014 15:30:58 +0000 ebola colorized scanning

Update II:

As part of the 3,000 U.S. military to be deployed to West Africa to help combat the Ebola outbreak, 700 soldiers from the 101st t Airborne Division headquarters will deploy in late October to Liberia.

The Army will deploy another 700 soldiers from engineering units throughout the United States to supervise the construction of Ebola treatment units, conduct site surveys and provide engineering expertise, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said, in an area with a range of infrastructure repair needs.

Also, according to DOD, about 195 Defense Department personnel are now on the ground in West Africa and over the weekend the equipment for a 25-bed hospital for health care workers and two mobile labs arrived in Monrovia.

Last week, 15 construction-specialty sailors, or Seabees, from the Naval Mobile Construction Batallion-133, Task Group 68.7 arrived in Monrovia to provide engineering support to Operation United Assistance.

Both Secretary Hagel and JCS Chairman Dempsey have said that the protection of our men and women is priority and that all deploying personnel receive training on the use of protective equipment and training on Ebola and malaria prevention and other critical procedures.

Source: “Hagel Authorizes 700 Soldiers for Liberia Deployment

Ebola protective equipment

Health care workers put on personal protective equipment before going into the hot zone at Island Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia, on Sept. 22, 2014. U.S. Agency for International Development photo by Morgana Wingard


The Washington Post reports that a patient who was being evaluated for Ebola has tested positive for the virus — the first time Ebola has been diagnosed in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will host a press conference at its Atlanta headquarters this evening.

Read more here.


As reported here, the United States is committing 3,000 U.S. troops to construct 17 Ebola treatment centers across Liberia each with 100 beds, to train thousands of health-care workers and to provide other logistics and materiel support.

The Department of Defense has, so far, requested to reprogram two rounds of $500 million each in fiscal year 2014 overseas contingency funds to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to fight Ebola, and is prepared to devote up to $1 billion to its Ebola response efforts.

Although the Wall Street Journal writes, “U.S. Troops Battling Ebola Get Off to Slow Start in Africa” the Department of Defense reports this morning that its “contribution to the fight against Ebola in Liberia is taking shape as more service members and building supplies arrive in Monrovia.”

Here are some details and images:

Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said that about 150 U.S. service members are now in the Liberian capital Monrovia, conducting a range of activities in support of USAID, as U.S. Africa Command sets up a joint force command headquarters there to support U.S. military activities.

Warren said a 25-bed hospital arrived over the weekend, its parts distributed among three C-17 aircraft. The hospital, which he said came from Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, will be dedicated to treating health care workers who become infected with Ebola.

“There’s a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for today,” Warren added, “and we expect the 25-bed hospital will be up and running sometime in the middle of October.”

Forty more personnel also arrived over the weekend, he said. Thirty-four will be dedicated to setting up the hospital, and six will set up a mobile laboratory.

Warren said the Operation United Assistance personnel also will set up a training facility for health care workers near Monrovia, as well as an intermediate staging base in Senegal.

Airmen from the 633rd Medical Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., have partnered with representatives from the U.S. Public Health Service to deliver a modular medical treatment center to Africa. While they will not be involved in treatment of patients exposed to the virus, they will be supporting the overall effort by setting up the facility and training international health care workers.

Below, Airmen assigned to the 633rd Medical Group board a C-17 Globemaster at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Sept. 26, 2014, on deployment to West Africa in support of Operation United Assistance. The 633rd Medical Group packaged and delivered a modular medical treatment center, as part of a governmentwide effort to support humanitarian relief operations in Ebola-stricken African nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kayla Newman.)


Below, a C-17 Globemaster is loaded with cargo prior to departure at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Sept. 26, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kayla Newman)



“The most important thing is the airmen setting up and training the [international health workers] on the equipment and how it works,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Sean L. Murphy, ACC’s command surgeon. He noted that while the airmen will not be doing patient care, they will use force health protection measures as a precaution and will play an important role in the humanitarian mission.
“We are potentially setting a precedent, because the EMEDS unit is typically set up for things like trauma care,” said Public Health Service Rear Adm. Scott Giberson, acting deputy surgeon general. “[Instead], we will be using it for an infectious pathogen and treatment of international health care workers.”
The Air Force’s EMEDS is one of the greatest assets to have in this situation, Giberson said, noting that the Defense Department, U.S. Army Africa and U.S. Africa Command are supporting the effort with logistics and other contributions. “But the Air Force has the piece of delivering the facility for us and [providing] the expertise of setting up the facility and training us on the facility,” he added. “We need that piece of the puzzle to complete the successful mission.”

AFMOA supports U.S. efforts against Ebola virus

Medical supplies from the Air Force Medical Operations Agency are loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III Sept. 26, 2014, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Kelly Field Annex in support of United States Africa Command and United Nations operations to help treat patients and halt the spread of the Ebola virus. The supplies will support field hospitals and aid workers battling the virus in Monrovia, Liberia, and efforts to fortify global health security infrastructure in the region and beyond. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Justine K. Rho)

All photos and captions: DOD

Lead photo: A colorized scanning electron micrograph of filament-like Ebola virus particles, in blue, budding from a chronically infected kidney Vero E6 cell, in yellow-green. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease photo

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CDC Confirms First Case Of Ebola In The US Wed, 01 Oct 2014 11:29:02 +0000 assetContent (1)
(Reuters) – U.S. health officials said on Tuesday the first patient infected with the deadly Ebola virus had been diagnosed in the country. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the diagnosis. No additional details were immediately available. Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas officials said in a statement on Monday that an unnamed…

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Another stunning Secret Service fail: man with armed gun allowed into elevator with President Obama Wed, 01 Oct 2014 11:11:47 +0000 k;kljjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjo

The revelations that people got beyond the White House fence, and one got further into the White House than officially revealed, has now been coupled with yet another revelation that calls into serious question the efficacy of today’s Secret Service and the competence of its current leadership. The latest twist: a contractor armed with a gun was allowed to get into an elevator with President Barack Obama.

You almost have to say that twice to absorb it: a contractor armed with a gun was allowed to get into an elevator with President Barack Obama.

This latest revelation is so stunning in light of the history of assassinations in this country and the fact that typical nutcases are now joined by terrorists who want to take out the President that it’s almost difficult to grasp. What is easy to grasp is that for whatever combination of reasons and bad luck, the Secret Service seems to have lost its grasp and if its protocols — and perhaps leadership — don’t change, it is poised to lose a President in coming decades. The latest details:

A security contractor with a gun and three convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta, violating Secret Service protocols, according to three people familiar with the incident.

Obama was not told about the lapse in his security, these people said. The Secret Service director, Julia Pierson, asked a top agency manager to look into the matter but did not refer it to an investigative unit that was created to review violations of protocol and standards, according to two people familiar with the handling of the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The incident, which took place when Obama visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis, rattled Secret Service agents assigned to the president’s protective detail.

The private contractor first aroused the agents’ concerns when he acted oddly and did not comply with their orders to stop using a cellphone camera to record the president in the elevator, according to the people familiar with the incident.

When the elevator opened, Obama left with most of his Secret Service detail. Some agents stayed behind to question the man and then used a national database check that turned up his criminal history.

And the incident of the man who got into the building gets scarier when it’s clear he was stopped not by the agents on duty, but one who had just gone off duty:

The man who jumped over the White House fence and sprinted through the main floor of the mansion could have gotten even farther had it not been for an off-duty Secret Service agent who was coincidentally in the house and leaving for the night.

The agent who finally tackled Omar Gonzalez had been serving on the security detail for President Obama’s daughters and had just seen the family depart via helicopter minutes earlier. He happened to be walking through the house when chaos broke out and the intruder dashed through the main foyer, according to two people familiar with the incident.

Gonzalez, 42, was the first person in modern memory to jump over the White House fence and get into the mansion, largely the result of a failure of numerous layers of Secret Service security on the northern fence line.

Though the Secret Service initially said that Gonzalez was quickly detained inside the front door, The Washington Post reported Monday that the man actually made it well into the house before he was tackled on the far southern side of the 80-foot-long East Room. Once he burst inside the unlocked front door, Gonzalez, an Army veteran, overpowered one Secret Service officer and, on his journey, sprinted past a stairway that leads up half a flight to the first family’s living quarters.

The additional information about the incident came as Secret Service Director Julia Pierson was being grilled on Capitol Hill about the Gonzalez incident and other security lapses revealed in Washington Post stories in recent days. The Post on Sunday detailed the agency’s fumbling response to a November 2011 shooting, in which a man fired a semiautomatic rifle into the White House residence while Sasha Obama was home, but the Secret Service discounted the gunshots on Constitution Avenue as a shoot-out between rival gangsters.

How serious is this? Very. Ronald Kessler, writing in Politico magazine, offers some reporting that chronicles how security professionals find the current situation almost humorous — if it wasn’t so deadly serious and threatening:

Behind the rotten culture is arrogance. After uniformed officers failed to take out 42-year-old Omar J. Gonzalez when he hopped over the fence and ran into the White House, the Secret Service issued a statement saying the officers “showed restraint.” The statement provoked laughter among senior FBI officials. But in its arrogance, the Secret Service thought it could get away with issuing such an outrageous claim and the public would accept it.

With similar hubris, the agency leaves the doors to the White Horse unlocked. The idea is that the vaunted Secret Service can handle any problem and can waive the most basic security precautions to make things easier for White House staff to move in and out of the building.

On a regular basis, to appease White House or campaign staffs, Secret Service officials order agents to ignore basic security rules and let people into events without being put through a magnetometer or metal detector. That’s like letting passengers into a commercial airliner without metal detection screening. Terrorist groups like ISIL would like nothing better than to assassinate Obama. Five terrorists could come into the White House with grenades and wipe him out.

Director Pierson’s performance at a House hearing Tuesday only confirmed that she is not the right person for the job. Asked about the uniformed officer who was told to stand down when she reported gunshots at the White House, Pierson said she would look into it. Like the rest of the agency’s career employees, Pierson, who was previously chief of staff to Director Mark Sullivan, knows that the real problem is a management culture that requires covering up possible threats and deficiencies. And yet, according to current agents I have interviewed, she has not only perpetuated that culture but has made it worse.

Kessler, who wrote a book on the Secret Service, says agents tell him “it’s a miracle an assassination has not already occurred. Sadly, given Obama’s colossal lack of management judgment, that calamity may be the only catalyst that will reform the Secret Service.”

Some of his piece may be dismissed as anti-Obama by some, but the blunt reality is that if terrorists got through the White House they most assuredly are unlikely to limit their target to the President. If Obama’s wife and daughters are in the vicinity, there could be a national tragedy with a Presidential family unmatched in American history.

Doug Mataconis writes:

It’s hard to know for sure exactly what’s going on with the Secret Service, but it’s obvious that there’s something going wrong. In just the last several years, we’ve seen two gate crashers make it into a State Dinner without an invitation or having been cleared by the agency in advance, a number of agents involved in encounters with prostitutes in Colombia, and apparently, at least one incident in which an agent who was supposed to be on duty outside of the President’s hotel room on a trip falling asleep on the job, Add into that the numerous fence jumpers that we have had just in the past year, all of which have been apprehended before getting anywhere close to the building until Mr. Gonzalez, and it’s beginning to look like a serious lapse in security by an agency that is supposed to be the best trained security team in the world. There have been some suggestions that the agency has experienced budgetary issues in recent years, but the only apparent impact that has had has been to delay the start of a couple groups of academy candidates; there’s been no real suggestion that it has any impact on training or readiness of agents that are on duty. Another suggestion is that the culture of the agency has changed since it was moved from the Treasury Department, where it had been since its founding, to the Department of Homeland Security. One problem with that hypothesis, though, is that the transfer of authority happened in 2003 and its only been in the last four years or so that these security lapses have become apparent. It’s possible, of course, that there were incidents before 2010 that we’re not aware of, but right now it doesn’t seem like there’s any evidence that DHS supervision is impacting the agency. All of that suggests, then, that this may well be a failure of leadership and that people like Pierson may need to go and be replaced with people better able to lead the agency. Whatever the reason, though, this is obviously something we ought to get to the bottom of to sooner rather than later.

Whatever it is, the Secret Service is starting to look like these guys:

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Cartoons: Secret Service Wed, 01 Oct 2014 10:28:46 +0000
David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star

David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star

See great cartoons by all the top political cartoonists at To license this cartoon for your own site, visit

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D.C. Statehood: Praise for a Lost Cause Wed, 01 Oct 2014 10:23:45 +0000
2007 cartoon: RJ Matson, Roll Call

2007 cartoon: RJ Matson, Roll Call

D.C. Statehood: Praise for a Lost Cause
By Dick Polman

Now that Scotland has voted to stay in the United Kingdom let’s talk about the issue of statehood for Washington, D.C.

You probably don’t get my segue. D.C. statehood came to mind while I was reading actor Alan Cumming’s plea for a Yes vote on Scottish independence. He wrote: “Scots feel they’ve been patronized and disrespected far too long… Scotland is weary of being ruled by governments it did not vote for. The Conservative Party has virtually no democratic mandate in Scotland, yet too often, Scotland has been ruled by a draconian Tory government from London.”

Well, that sounded familiar. Washington, D.C. is a deep-blue city whose denizens are essentially ruled by a Congress (most notably, a right-wing House of Representatives) they didn’t vote for. District residents pay federal taxes, but they have no voting members in the federal legislature. Their city government can’t set its own budget and enact its own laws without Republican congressmen sticking their noses in.

That does seem unfair. The District has more people than Wyoming and Vermont, but both get two senators and a congressman. What the District gets, mostly, is grief – especially on hot-button issues. Whenever it has tried to enact local progressive laws – to legalize medical marijuana, to establish a registry of gay domestic partners – conservatives on Capitol Hill have gummed up the machinery, delaying implementation for years.

That explains why advocates of statehood packed a Senate hearing room a few weeks back to support a bill, sponsored by Delaware Senator Tom Carper, that would make the District our 51st state – with a snazzy name, New Columbia. This kind of hearing doesn’t happen very often; the last time Congress heard a statehood bill, there was no Internet. And who knows if there will ever be a next time, because, in truth, D.C. statehood wins the Jude the Apostle Award.

Jude the Apostle is the patron saint of lost causes.

Carper was the only senator to sit through the entire hearing; virtually nobody else showed up. Probably because everybody knows that if statehood ever reached the Republican House, it would be dead on day one. Vincent Gray, the D.C. mayor, pleaded, “We’re not asking for special treatment. We’re asking for the same treatment other Americans get” – but I’ll go way out on a limb here and predict that no House Republican would vote to create a new state that would send two additional Democrats to the U.S. Senate.

Plus, there’s another hurdle, the U.S. Constitution. According to the Founders (Article 1, Section 8), Congress has the power to create “the Seat of Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places” therein. Granted, we have tweaked the Constitution many many times over the years (to enfranchise women, etcetera), but I’ll go out on a limb again and suggest that a Congress barely capable of keeping the government lights on is unlikely to sing Kumbaya for statehood.

Meanwhile, the District recently passed a law decriminalizing pot possession; for less than an ounce, it’s a $25 civil fine. The law went on the books in July, with strong support from District blacks, because the vast majority of those arrested for possession are black. But a Republican congressman, Andy Harris, decided that he disliked the law. So he has inserted a line in the next federal budget, barring the District from spending any money on administering said law.

So, alas, the District’s 646,000 residents will continue to live under the federal heel, to be taxed without representation. Whoever said that life was fair? Certainly not Jude the Apostle.


Copyright 2014 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia ( and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Philadelphia. Email him at

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Republicans Losing The Culture War, Helping Democratic Candidates Tue, 30 Sep 2014 22:41:39 +0000 In past elections, Republicans have turned to social issues to get their supporters out to vote. This year some Democratic candidates are doing the reverse–using social issues in the hopes of getting more women to turn out to vote. The New York Times discussed this in an editorial:

The decision to go on the offensive is in part designed to incite the anger of women and draw support in the November elections, particularly that of single women, who tend to vote in small numbers in midterms. But it is also a reflection of the growing obsolescence of traditional Republican wedge issues in state after state. For a younger generation of voters, the old right-wing nostrums about the “sanctity of life” and the “sanctity of marriage” have lost their power, revealed as intrusions on human freedom. Democrats “did win the culture war,” Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist, admitted to The New York Times recently.

That’s not necessarily true in the most conservative states. In Louisiana and Arkansas this year, two endangered Democratic senators, Mary Landrieu and Mark Pryor, have not been as outspoken in attacking their opponents’ anti-abortion positions. But even there, Republicans have not campaigned against same-sex marriage.

One of the most telling signs of the cultural change is the number of Republicans who are bucking conservative activists and trying to soft-pedal or even retreat from their ideology. Mr. Gardner now says he opposes a similar bill on the ballot this year in Colorado. It apparently came as a surprise to him that the bill would effectively ban certain kinds of birth control, which he says is the reason for his switch. Several other Republican candidates are trumpeting their support for over-the-counter birth control pills, though they remain opposed to the insurance coverage of contraception required by the Affordable Care Act.

Of course it must be kept in mind that the Republicans who support making birth control pills available over-the-counter might not be doing this out of an increased sense of tolerance. As I recently discussed, making them over-the-counter could mean that they wouldn’t be covered by insurance, and wind up reducing access.

The editorial concludes, “The shift in public opinion might not be enough for Democrats to keep the Senate this year. But over time, it may help spell an end to the politics of cultural division.”

Yes, due to fundamentals involving this year’s election, the Republicans should do better than the Democrats. Polling does show that the Republicans have an excellent chance for taking control of the Senate this year unless Democrats manage to win in some of the races which are currently leaning Republican, but it could be a dead cat bounce for the Republicans. Voters are now far more likely to oppose Republican attempts to increase government intrusion in the private lives of individuals, and less likely to fall for phoney Republican claims of supporting smaller government and greater freedom. This should result in either the Republicans making major changes in their agenda or, more likely, significant Republican loses in 2016 when the fundamentals will again favor the Democrats.

In addition, as more voters support liberal attitudes on social issues, they are more likely to have a favorable view of other liberal ideas. If they already realize that the Republicans are selling a false line about limited government when it comes to social issues, they are more likely to be open to facts about how Republicans, rather than supporting economic freedom as they claim, are actually pursuing an agenda of using government to transfer wealth from the middle class to the wealthy. Once voters figure this out, there might be little support left for the authoritarian right.

Originally posted at Liberal Values

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The Poconos Take Another Hit As The Pennsylvania State Police Botch Cop-Killer Manhunt Tue, 30 Sep 2014 20:04:58 +0000

If there was any question that the Pennsylvania State Police-led manhunt for cop killer Eric Frein was in big trouble — indeed, that the trail for the marksman-survivalist in the northeastern Pennsylvania woodlands may have gone cold — a photograph on the front page of the Pocono Record on Monday, the 17th day of the search, betrayed a harsh truth.

It showed troopers clad in camouflage and SWAT team mufti preparing to search a vacant cabin for Frein. The cabin was not one of many that dot the woodlands, which already had been searched, but was on a well-traveled state road, not exactly the kind of place that a crafty, if troubled, 31-year-old charged with criminal homicide who likes to dress up like a Serbian soldier and play war games would choose. State police clearly were at the end of their rope — or nearly so.

Frein shot and killed state police Corporal Bryon Dickson and wounded Trooper Alex Douglass on September 12 in a sniper-style attack in the late evening darkness as they changed shifts at a barracks in Blooming Grove, a small Pike County community about 20 miles north northeast of Frein’s parents’ house in the village of Canadensis in Monroe County. The self-trained backwoods survivalist crashed his Jeep near Blooming Grove and is believed to have hiked south southwestward through nearly unspoiled forest to an area not far from where his parents live.

State police had set themselves up for failure — or at least a frustratingly long search — by taunting Frein in public pronouncements and repeatedly boasting that they were closing in on him. Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens, the lead state police spokesman, declared at one point that trackers, which include local police and dogs in addition to troopers and number about a thousand officers in all, had confined Frein to a one-square mile area and had him surrounded.

As the dragnet dragged on, the area increased to five-square miles and then Bivens’ “We know where you are and we’re coming get to you” boasts stopped altogether. Frein has appeared to be taunting back, hanging an AK-47-style assault rifle from a tree trunk in plain view that is believed to be his, while leaving a trail of butts from Serbian cigarettes and soiled diapers. A well-trained sniper, you see, wears diapers because of the many hours he sometimes has to wait for his prey without moving.

The state police also have struggled to stay on message.

Asked about rumors that Frein’s sister had a relationship with Trooper Douglass, Bivens initially denied they had “an inappropriate relationship,” which ginned up the rumor mill even more. Bivens later sought to clarify matters by stating they had not had any kind of a relationship and did not even know one another, but the impression lingers that despite Frein’s well-documented hatred of police in general, he did not pick out Douglass at random with plenty of other law-enforcement targets closer to home.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has appeared at Dickson’s funeral, a state police press conference and other Frein-related news events, but that has failed to resuscitate an re-election campaign that is running on empty because of his slash-and-burn cuts to the state education budget and lingering questions about whether he foot-dragged on the Jerry Sandusky-Penn State sex scandal while attorney general.

Bivens has said Frein was spotted by trackers at a distance around dusk on the evening of September 22 while being tracked by dogs, and trackers detonated a flash-bang device. He said a helicopter was overhead but could not follow Frein because of the thick forest canopy, and he was able to slip away. There were unconfirmed reports of another spotting on Monday.

The spokesman has explained the failure of apprehend Frein by noting there are numerous caves in the woodlands, trackers are taking their time clearing them because Frein is considered armed and dangerous, while there is concern that because two pipe bombs have been found in the search area and because Frein has experimented with explosives in the past, he could have booby-trapped the area or is capable of another sniper attack.

“I’m calling on you, Eric, to surrender,” Biven said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “We continue to take your supplies and weapons stockpiles . . . We are not going anywhere.”

Perhaps Frein will have been been apprehended by the time you read this. Or gunned down while refusing to surrender. Or has taken the coward’s way out by killing himself. Let’s hope so.

But the Pennsylvania State Police historically has been a troubled and scandal-plagued agency long on boastfulness and short on accomplishments, the most recent scandal enveloping none other than State Police Superintendent Frank Noonan, who sent and received hundreds of sexually explicit photos, videos and messages from his state e-mail account. In other words, pornography. Talk about police role models.

Given the state police’s history, the failure to find Frein comes as no surprise. Nor does the abysmal coverage of the Pocono Record, which has been gifted an international story right in its front yard but has rolled over and allowed out-of-town media to break the big stories, such as they are, while dutifully kowtowing to the state police and officialdom, taking everything they have said at face value with nary a skeptical question asked, let alone published, as it has become increasing obvious that the massively expensive operation to bring Frein to ground has been unraveling.

The manhunt could not have come at a worse time for the Poconos.

The Monroe County economy crapped out long before the rest of the nation, and for a while it led all counties nationwide in home foreclosures per capita. This is because local bigs, not content to try to build the tourist industry and brand the Poconos as a special place with beautiful woodlands chockablock with trails, waterfalls, creek and rivers, as well as golf courses, ski slopes and family friendly resorts, climbed into bed with rapacious developers and usurious financial institutions after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sell the Poconos as a safe haven from a world gone crazy.

(Not surprisingly, although Frein fits the definition to a T, the news media is up to it’s usual name-game bull in calling him everything other than what he is — a terror-freaking-ist, because he is an American and doesn’t wear funny clothes and worship a false God.)

Anyhow, people flocked to the area from the Bronx, Queens and northern New Jersey by the thousands after 9/11, but the gauzy illusion that the Poconos was some sort of paradise soon gave way to a harsh reality of which wise locals were all too aware: There was an apathetic political establishment resistant to reform, roads and bridges in atrocious condition, overtaxed social services, schools that ranged from mediocre to poor, rates well above state county-by-county averages for adult major crime, drunk driving and vehicular fatality rates, an increasingly degraded environment, and stratospherically high local taxes that have been crushing to all but the relatively few affluent residents.

Many of the homes built for new arrivals were substandard, many of the people who bought them were marginally solvent and easy prey for unscrupulous mortgage companies — and there were no decent jobs.

Politicians’ post-9/11 promises that a major complex of financial institutions that they dubbed Wall Street West would be built in the Poconos and long-moribund passenger rail service would be restored between the region and New York City were so much hot air.

Virtually the only jobs were and remain minimum wage — dishwashers, groundskeepers, chambermaids and burger flippers — while the commute to and from North Jersey and New York City and decent paying jobs is a killer; in fact, it is regularly described as the worst commute in the nation by rating services. Fickle educators went on a school building binge as a result of the population explosion, but today some schools have been shuttered and teachers furloughed. A reverse migration has kicked in as many of the same people who were lured by false promises have retreated back to where they had come from — foreclosed on, broke and broken.

Meanwhile, the manhunt comes when fall foliage, an attraction for day trippers and other tourists, is kicking in early because of a dry summer. It promises to be spectacular.

Inn keepers and restaurateurs report lousy to nonexistent business. And don’t mind that huge image of Frein, with a smirking mug and Serbian army hat, his inclusion on the FBI’s Most Wanted List duly noted, on a huge electronic billboard at the Delaware River Toll Bridge on Interstate 80, the eastern and most heavily used portal to the Poconos.

Then there is the fall hunting season, an annual orgy of wildlife carnage in a gun-crazy region where public schools still close on the first day of gun deer season and tables, lunch counters and bars at pubs, roadhouses and diners usually glow hunter orange from the beginning of deer bow season, which opens on Saturday, followed by seasons for deer and elk, squirrel, rabbit and hare, and various wildfowl that run through to the end of December.

State police have green-lighted hunting in even the deepest woods once the seasons open. To ban hunters would have risked an insurrection, but it is hard to imagine a more incompatible mix: Hunters armed to the teeth filling woodlands teeming with state troopers armed to the teeth.

* * * * *

I reveal how the Pennsylvania State Police, aided and abetted by an indifferent criminal-justice establishment, blew a high-profile Poconos murder and botched several other murders in my 2010 book, The Bottom of the Fox: A True Story of Love, Devotion & Cold-Blooded Murder. The book is available online in trade paperback and Kindle versions at Amazon and at Barnes & Nobles and other online booksellers.

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UN rapporteur on Gaza destruction Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:29:37 +0000 shutterstock_134494739

After a first visit to the region, a United Nations human rights rapporteur on Gaza has provided more fodder for Palestinian calls to place Israel before various forums for justice, including the International Criminal Court.

“Voices from across the Occupied Palestinian Territory are calling in unison for three demands: the need for accountability, an end to the blockade, and an end to the occupation,” noted Makarim Wibisono, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

“Those responsible for violations of international law must be brought to justice in order to avoid yet another round of deadly violence in the near future,” he said.

He reported that 1,479 civilians including 506 children were killed and 11,231 civilians including 3,436 children were injured during the 50-day Israeli military intervention in Gaza from 7 July to 26 August this year.

Some 7,000 unexploded ordinances are still littered across the Gaza Strip, continuing to pose a serious threat to people, including children,

About 228 schools in Gaza were damaged, including 26 destroyed or damaged beyond repair. About 87 schools are now operating double shifts. Temporary psychosocial support has been made available for children returning to school but those who have lost parents will require long-term professional support and counseling.

An estimated 60,000 civilians remain in 19 shelters across the Gaza Strip. With winter coming soon, there is need for rapid reconstruction and an urgent need for temporary housing.

“This raises serious questions about possible violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law,” Mr. Wibisono said. “Israel’s claim of self-defense against an occupied population living under a blockade considered to be illegal under international law is untenable.”

“In a population where over half of the 1.8 million people are under 18, this is truly a tragedy, which will be felt for generations to come,” he said. “Israel must immediately lift the seven year land, sea and air blockade of Gaza, and urgently allow needed materials for reconstruction and recovery.”

During his visit to the region, the Special Rapporteur met with Palestinian officials, civil society representatives, human rights defenders and victims among others in Amman and Cairo.

Israel did not grant access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory so he spoke via video and teleconference with persons in Gaza. He will present his full report on findings and recommendations to the twenty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015.

He said health professionals in Gaza complained of a critical shortage of medicines and equipment, and doctors expressed frustration at the shortage of electricity, as mobile generators were overburdened beyond their capacity.

In Amman, he visited patients from Gaza receiving treatment at King Hussein hospital. Among them was Manar, a 14 year-old girl from Beit Hanoun, who lost both her legs, and suffered shrapnel wounds and internal injuries when an Israeli strike hit an UNRWA school. Manar also lost her mother and three brothers in the same attack.

There is not a single child in Gaza who has not been adversely affected by the conflict. Children now suffer from bedwetting, difficulties in sleeping, nightmares and loss of appetite. Schools are also seeing more aggressive behavior in pupils, he added.

Regarding the West Bank and East Jerusalem, he voiced serious concerns on the deteriorating situation of human rights, including the excessive use of force by Israeli Security Forces during demonstrations and clashes from 12 June to 31 August 2014.

He said 27 Palestinians were killed, including five children with the youngest being only 11 years-old. He insisted that Israel must comply with the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms. “The use of live ammunition against Palestinians even if they were throwing stones, is unjustifiable.”

About Israeli plans to evict Bedouins from their traditional homes, he said that would violate international humanitarian and human rights law and must cease immediately because “the affected communities have opposed these plans, and wish to remain in their current location”.

No one should be moved against their will and Israel should provide adequate planning and access to public infrastructures for these Bedouin communities.

He was referring to six Israeli plans in the approval pipeline that would lead to the forcible transfer and forced eviction of thousands of Bedouins and herders from the East Jerusalem periphery and the Jordan Valley. Bedouin homes and schools would also be demolished.

If implemented, the plans would further disconnect East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, disrupt the territorial contiguity of occupied Palestine, and pave the way for further expansion of Israeli settlements, and of the Wall, he noted.

In 2014, the UN Human Rights Council named Wibisono of Indonesia as the sixth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.

graphic via

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Taxes and Revenues in Democratic Nations Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:57:40 +0000 300px-US-InternalRevenueService-Seal_svg_All nations require revenue in order to buy armaments and pay for defense, maintain and expand their infrastructure, keep the health care system and social security intact, support the justice system, pay employees, and so forth. A dilemma in democratic states is how to raise these revenues in a fair and equitable fashion, though no matter what is ultimately decided by the governments, there are always individuals and groups who are dissatisfied, believing they have been unreasonably targeted. There are also organizations, such as the Tea Party and the Club for Growth in the U.S, who are basically opposed to taxation and fight for smaller government and less spending, focusing on the waste that occurs with the massive bureaucracies in the modern state. In addition to revenues required to support the central or federal governments, money is also needed to run the state or provincial governments, county and municipal governments, and school districts. Revenues may be shared among these entities in some nations, or may have to be raised separately.

Multiple sources exist in all nations that can be utilized to extract revenue for the governments. These include taxes on personal income, taxes on corporate income or profits, estate taxes when a person dies, wealth taxes on an individual’s or family’s total assets, consumption taxes, sales taxes, value added taxes (VAT), property taxes on major items like homes and automobiles, gasoline taxes, so-called sin taxes on tobacco products and alcohol, royalties from mining and drilling on public land, and so forth. Tariffs can also be levied on goods imported into the country, which was a major fount of income for the early United States along with the sale of public lands. In addition, tolls can be charged for automobiles and trucks that travel on public highways, and use bridges and tunnels.

A major question of contention that arises in democracies is whether revenue should be utilized in a redistributive fashion, providing income to those who are less wealthy, derived from those who are affluent. Virtually every democracy does this to varying degrees, providing subsidies of some sort to those citizens who are unemployed or less well off. Political parties on the left in most democracies tend to be more generous than right-leaning parties in redistributing incomes through higher taxes on the affluent and grants to the poor. In addition to furnishing income to help poor people survive, the aim of the levies is to reduce inequality to some degree among their citizens. However, the conservative parties on the right claim that this action stifles initiative and entrepreneurship, and that people feel less of a need to work and make money if the government supplies them with an income. Often, when a right-wing government comes to power, it will lower taxes on the wealthy and subsidies for the poor, a ping-pong game with the left that goes on continuously to different extents in different democracies.

Part of the problem in determining just tax and revenue policies in a democracy is that the voters have little or no knowledge of economic theories or finance. They may vote for candidates who advocate certain strategies because they believe it is in their interest and will help the country, when actually it does not benefit them or the nation and even undermines them. But candidates may couch their policies in terms that appear hopeful to the average voter and fools the majority of the electorate into supporting them. And it must be remembered that in America in particular, the affluent and special interests spend huge sums of money to promote policies that will favor them, though perhaps injurious to the poor and middle class citizens. Many voters who are uninformed believe the advertisements and absorb the sound bites sponsored by the moneyed interests, convinced that they are voting for candidates and policies that will be advantageous for them and the nation as a whole.

Raising adequate government revenues and establishing equitable tax strategies will continue to be an unending struggle for democratic states, as fairness in taxation is in the eye of the beholder (taxpayer). There is no solution that will satisfy everyone and the battle between the left and the right over taxation will never end.

Resurrecting Democracy

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GOP GIFT: SCOTUS Delays Start of Ohio’s Early Voting Tue, 30 Sep 2014 12:49:13 +0000 6a00d83451bd4469e20120a601b8a1970c-400wi

The US Supreme Court granted the Ohio Republican Party its wish by restricting early voting. The 2014 and 2016 elections will be very interesting as the GOP continues its efforts to stymie pro-Democratic Party votes by engaging in shameful voter suppression tactics. So, while Jon Husted managed to get early voting rolled back by one week, it should raise some concerns because it seems we’re picking up where we left off during the 2012 elections.
Here’s more from SCOTUSBlog:

With just sixteen hours before polling stations were to open in Ohio, the Supreme Court on Monday afternoon blocked voters from beginning tomorrow to cast their ballots in this year’s general election.  By a vote of five to four, the Justices put on hold a federal judge’s order providing new opportunities for voting before election day, beyond what state leaders wanted.

The order will remain in effect until the Court acts on an appeal by state officials.  If that is denied, then the order lapses.  It is unclear when that scenario will unfold.  The state’s petition has not yet been filed formally.

The practical effect of the order will mean that, at the least, early voting will not be allowed this week — a period that supporters of early balloting have called “Golden Week.” That permits voters to register and cast their ballots on the same day.

Depending upon the timing of the state’s filing of a petition for review and the Court’s action on it, Monday’s order may also mean that early voting will not be permitted on most Sundays between now and election day, November 4, and will not be permitted during evening hours — that is, after 5 p.m.


Monday’s order had the support of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Samuel A. Alito,, Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas, although their votes were not noted in the order.  It would have taken five votes to support such an order.

Dissenting were Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor.  They would have denied the request of the Ohio attorney general and secretary of state to postpone the decision in favor of more early voting, a ruling early this month by U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus of Columbus.

This comes as the wrangling over North Carolina’s voter suppression law will be revisited by a panel of judges with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, who are now considering whether to affirm or reverse that decision, Think Progress reports.

This was cross-posted from The Hinterland Gazette.

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Fraternities Under Attack: I’m Not Pulling Your Keg Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:04:14 +0000 greek-letters

Fraternities Under Attack: I’m Not Pulling Your Keg
Tyrades! By Danny Tyree

I guess the college “Greek system” was always Greek to me.

As a small town nerd, when I attended college I was all “Wow! Microfiche newspapers! College bookstore! Meal plan!” in between weekly trips home. No great desire to seek forbidden pleasures, test the rules, join a brotherhood, etc.

So I’m definitely an outside observer as I comment on a recent “Huffington Post” story about fraternities. Wesleyan University declared that its three all-male residential fraternities must go coed over the next three years or lose official recognition. And Dartmouth College is eliminating the traditional fraternity pledge period, which nationwide has been associated with the hazing of new members.

Frats did not need the bad publicity. According to “Newsweek,” the federal Department of Education is currently investigating 76 colleges for their handling of sexual assault cases.

Perhaps a lot of outsiders have an antiquated view of fraternities and binge drinking, based on the 1978 film “Animal House.” But I assure you that no-respecting frat member nowadays would use a shopping cart to deposit an inebriated underage girl outsider her parents’ home. No, they would probably use an Amazon DRONE PLANE to deposit an inebriated underage girl outsider her parents’ home.

A lot of people are just jealous of fraternities. “Newsweek” quoted one study that said frat alumni tend to be happier, healthier, less stressed about money and more engaged in their jobs than their unaffiliated peers. Granted, I could have sworn I saw some sort of SECRET HANDSHAKE when the report was handed over.

Those of us who attended college without joining frats do tend to have looser social ties. (“I’d like you to meet the best man for my upcoming wedding. Uncle George, this is…uh…Curly Haired Guy Who Always Stayed In The Dorm Lobby Playing With Lincoln Logs.”)

Yes, alumni are proud of the lifelong bonds that are forged among fraternity brothers. Of course the WORLD suffers the consequences of being led by people who say things like, “It is my fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders to pass over the other bidders and award the contract to the brother who was a real sport about being paddled while blindfolded and wearing a chiffon gown.”

Some of you may be questioning the logic of going coed, but theoretically the close living quarters will make the frat members view the ladies less as objects and more as sisters. (“Hey, sis, I’ll let you have the best seat on family vacations if you fix me up with your hottest, loosest friends who AREN’T living in the frat house.”)

Don’t expect the progressive attacks on frats to end with the actions by Wesleyan and Dartmouth. I understand there are plans to change the traditional naming paradigm (using letters of the Greek alphabet) to using American Sign Language, African clicks and grunts, Native American smoke signals, etc.

The sanctity of TRADITION makes it difficult to change frat culture. One commentator observed, “Why change something so beloved?” (Do NOT let that guy watch your baby. You will probably return home to a 40-pound diaper.)

I hope the good aspects of frats don’t get thrown out with the bath water. Ideally, frats provide mentoring and social stability and produce some of our finest citizens. Let’s just work on the excesses.

I hope you take my words to heart. And preserve them in microfiche! Wow!


©2014 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”. Danny’s’ weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.

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Cartoon: Telegrapher Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:56:22 +0000  Cam Cardow, Cagle Cartoons

Cam Cardow, Cagle Cartoons

See great cartoons by all the top political cartoonists at To license this cartoon for your own site, visit

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Get the authorization Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:44:50 +0000 shutterstock_174209186

WASHINGTON — President Obama should call Congress back to Washington for a special session to vote on authorizing war against the Islamic State. If he does not, Congress should return on its own to conduct this vital debate.

Do your jobs, everybody.

As legal justification for the war, Obama relies on two measures, passed more than a decade ago, that authorized U.S. military action against al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. To state the blindingly obvious, things have changed.

The Islamic State is not al-Qaeda. While the 2001 authorization for war against Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group encompasses “associated forces,” al-Qaeda refuses to have anything to do with the Islamic State. And the 2002 authorization for war in Iraq — targeting a government that no longer exists — says not a solitary word about airstrikes in Syria.

Whether Obama has the right to bomb targets in Syria is also questionable under international law, but leave this aside for the moment. The president has made a long-term, open-ended pledge to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State. He promises there will be no U.S. combat troops on the ground but uses the narrowest possible definitions of “combat,” “troops” and “ground.”

This is a commitment made on behalf of the nation, with no sense of when it might end and no guarantee of success. In an interview broadcast Sunday on “60 Minutes,” Obama said he believes “we’ve got a campaign plan that has a strong chance for success in Iraq” — provided the Iraqi army puts sectarian differences aside and fights effectively, which hasn’t happened thus far. And as iffy as those prospects in Iraq may sound, the president acknowledged that “Syria is a more challenging situation.”

Asked whether airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria would inevitably bolster Bashar al-Assad and his bloody regime, Obama replied, “I recognize the contradiction in a contradictory land and a contradictory circumstance.”

In other words, two tenets of U.S. policy — Assad must go, the Islamic State must be destroyed — are directly at odds. Obama said the terrorist group is “a more immediate concern that has to be dealt with.” But he also said that “we are not going to stabilize Syria under the rule of Assad.”

“We” are talking about stabilizing Syria? “We” as in the international coalition Obama has marshaled, none of whose members want to send ground troops? “We” as in the “moderate” Syrian rebels who have been overwhelmed on the battlefield by the Islamic State? “We” as in the United States?

These are the kinds of questions that Congress should be asking in open debate. Article I of the Constitution clearly gives Congress the authority to declare war. I am not being starry-eyed or naive; I realize there has been no formal U.S. declaration of war since 1942. Presidents from Harry Truman through Obama have sent U.S. troops into harm’s way by relying on congressional authorizations or U.N. Security Council resolutions. In this case, as I see it, Obama has neither.

Congress is in recess until Nov. 12, after the midterm election. House Speaker John Boehner has said he believes Obama has the right to wage this war under the 2001 and 2002 authorization measures, although he has also said that Congress should take up the issue at some point. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he plans to get to work on a new authorization, one of these days.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and a few other lawmakers have argued forcefully that congressional action is required, but theirs are lonely voices.

Why such passivity and lassitude? Because neither Republicans nor Democrats want to join Obama out on this limb, even if they agree broadly with what he is doing. Some hawks believe ground troops may eventually be needed, but know this is something voters do not want to hear. Some doves want ground troops to be expressly prohibited. It would be difficult for leaders in both chambers to forge consensus.

Obama, like his predecessors, is loath to cede any of the war-making power the presidency has accumulated over the years. And he doubtless recalls that the last time he asked Congress to authorize airstrikes in Syria — as punishment for Assad’s use of chemical weapons — lawmakers balked.

Ultimately, though, it is the nation that endures the sacrifices of war, not just the president. No decision is more consequential. Inconvenient though it may be, Obama and Congress should do their duty.

Eugene Robinson’s email address is 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

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White House fence-jumper reached East Room: report Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:30:27 +0000 [oj[oj[poj[poj[poj[]poj[poij[

The man who jumped over the White House fence and sprinted across the front lawn made it all the way to the East Room before he was apprehended, according to a Washington Post report. Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, rushed past a Secret Service agent at the front door on Sept. 19, and made it all the…

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Cartoon: Bill walks through Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:27:16 +0000 Cam Cardow, Cagle Cartoons

Cam Cardow, Cagle Cartoons

See great cartoons by all the top political cartoonists at To license this cartoon for your own site, visit

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Mike Peters Guest Cartoon: The Police and Toy Guns Tue, 30 Sep 2014 01:35:23 +0000 The Police and Toy Guns
by Mike Peters

What killed John Crawford: How terrible police training is destroying America
Video: John Crawford didn’t seem to aim toy gun at anyone before police shot at him
Police: Boy’s toy gun triggers lock down

Mike Peters is recognized as one of our nation’s most prominent cartoon artists for his outstanding work as both a political and comic strip cartoonist. His favorite expression “WHAT A HOOT” certainly sums up his outlook on his life and work which are inexorably entwined. Mike’s warm, easygoing and zany demeanor is evidence that his personality matches his creative talents. As so eloquently phrased by a colleague — “Mike is the Peter Pan of the cartooning world; he’s boyishly charming, good with a rapier and doesn’t spend a lot of time on the ground. And he doesn’t seem to want to grow up”.
The Comic Strip Mother Goose & Grimm appears in over 800 newspapers worldwide and consistently places in the top 10 most popular ratings. Licensees distribute Grimmy products all over the world, and the Grimmy TV show continues to air in several countries. Mother Goose & Grimm is included in the Toon Lagoon theme park at Universal Studios that opened in July 1999.

This copyrighted cartoon is licensed to be run on TMV and is from his website. Reproduction elsewhere is strictly prohibited.

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Setting a deadline on death (Guest Voice) Mon, 29 Sep 2014 23:39:51 +0000 shutterstock_192906149

Setting a deadline on death
by Ruth Marcus
Washington Post Writers Group

WASHINGTON — My friend Ezekiel Emanuel, in his typically smart, provocative and bullheaded way, has decreed that he hopes to die at age 75, which would give him just 18 more years during which to exasperate friends and family.

Zeke’s wrong, of course. Yet he’s wrong, as always, in an interesting way, one that usefully prompts the rest of us to consider not only our mortality but how we would like to live out the measure of our years.

“Doubtless, death is a loss,” Emanuel, a bioethicist, physician and health policy expert, writes in The Atlantic. So, he argues, is living too long:

“It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.”

As a result, Emanuel’s plan, on reaching 75, is to issue new instructions to his doctors. No life-prolonging measures. No screenings such as colonoscopies or cardiac stress tests; no treatments such as chemotherapy or cardiac bypass. Not even flu shots or antibiotics — nothing but palliative care, to alleviate pain.

Emanuel’s essay arrives in a fitting season, as Jews begin a period of repentance during which, we are told, God decides who shall live and who shall die. One of the Torah portions read during this time reminds us that Sarah gave birth at age 90, an event so unlikely she named her son Isaac, derived from the Hebrew “to laugh.”

It is fitting, as well, that the traditional Jewish birthday greeting is to wish that the celebrant live 120 years — the lifespan of Moses. Relevant to Emanuel’s concern about descending into a doddering old age, the Torah relates that while Moses’ years were advanced, his eyes remained undimmed and his vigor unabated.

These two stories help explain why Emanuel is wrong.

Emanuel says that by age 75 he will have had the satisfaction of seeing “my grandchildren born and beginning their lives.” Why stop there, when you could dance at their bar mitzvahs or even, God willing, their weddings? Moses didn’t just leave the Israelites at Sinai and wish them luck; he lived long enough to watch them mature and enter the Promised Land.

Likewise, advances in reproductive technology notwithstanding, nonagenarian births are not likely to happen to modern-day Sarahs. But her story offers the reminder that we cannot know what surprises, and joys, our later years may hold.

Where Emanuel veers off course, I think, is in his conviction that the capacity to be productive is what makes life worth living. He bemoans the sad decline, from authoring papers to taking up hobbies until, eventually, “life comes to center around sitting in the den reading or listening to books on tape and doing crossword puzzles.”

This goes, I know, against the Emanuel family DNA, but there is no sin in slowing down. There is satisfaction in completing the crossword. You don’t always have to bike past the roses on your way up the mountain. In high gear.

Where Emanuel makes a powerful point is in condemning the “manic desperation to endlessly extend life.” Medical choices should not be dictated by a patient’s age, but they should be informed by it. Extreme treatments to save or even minimally extend the life of a young mother are not necessarily appropriate for an 80-year-old grandmother. Physicians fail their patients by automatically defaulting to treatment.

Here I break from Emanuel. He opposes euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, but this position does not give adequate weight to the dignity with which we would like to live and die.

Why must a terminally ill cancer patient suffer an agonizing decline when there is a more merciful alternative? Why, and this is a harder question, must an Alzheimer’s patient be condemned to slowly lose mental and physical capacities? Facing that terrible situation, I would prefer the choice not to be remembered, in Emanuel’s words, as “feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.”

Emanuel concludes with an escape clause: At 75, he writes, “I retain the right to change my mind and offer a vigorous and reasoned defense of living as long as possible.”

I look forward to that uncharacteristic about-face, and to sitting down to more of Zeke’s excellent cooking — at 76, 80 and beyond.

Ruth Marcus’ email address is (c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

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“Obama is the rare politician who finds telling whoppers difficult… Mon, 29 Sep 2014 23:28:40 +0000 5374-china-tag-reuters

“Obama is the rare politician who finds telling whoppers difficult…

“… and he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, hide some of his concerns about where this all is leading,” writes John Cassidy in a clear analysis of Obama/ISIS/60 Minutes.”

Probably Obama shouldn’t have blamed the intelligence agencies. Or rather, he was right to blame the intelligence agencies but should have kept himself in the mix. Still…

If Obama didn’t resolve the contradictions and ambiguities that bedevil the U.S. relationship with Syria, he can hardly be faulted. For now, at least, those contradictions can’t be resolved. In deciding to expand the U.S.-led assault on ISIS to targets inside Syria, the President is hitting and hoping. The hitting involves trying to destroy some of ISIS‘s command-and-control infrastructure, disrupting its lucrative oil business, and cutting its supply lines. The hope is that, eventually, these military attacks will destroy the group’s internal cohesion, and that, meanwhile, something will turn up to resolve the broader Syrian nightmare.

“What we also have to do is, we have to come up with political solutions in Iraq and Syria in particular, but in the Middle East generally, that arise in an accommodation between Sunni and Shia populations that right now are the biggest cause of conflict, not just in the Middle East, but in the world,” Obama told Kroft.

And no, just for the record, he didn’t say that would be easy, either. …Cassidy,NewYorker

What we need is a grown-up, serious intelligence capability — something we haven’t had for years and years. We’ve been coasting along on the sense that we’re so strong we can afford a few gaffes and mistakes and misinterpretations. And Iraqs and Afghanistans.

But we can’t. We’re being adolescents in a grown-up world. We won’t play unless we’re in charge. You may have noticed that we’ve long since lost the admiration of the rest of the world, settling for our allies’ weary tolerance and the rest of the world’s skepticism, making up for the deficit with an ever more shrill homegrown nationalism — adjusting our flag pins and repeating the notion that we’re the best country in the world.

Cross-posted from Prairie Weather

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UK Voices Concerns Over Protests As Crowds Swell In Hong Kong Mon, 29 Sep 2014 19:55:02 +0000 The British Foreign Office said on Monday that it is “concerned about the situation in Hong Kong,” even as the number of demonstrators swelled across three neighborhoods in the city. Three important districts — Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay — attracted a growing number of protesters, according to media reports. “Britain’s longstanding position, as a…

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Mt St Helens Mon, 29 Sep 2014 18:25:41 +0000 Eruption02When I was going to college in the late  60′s the head of the geology department predicted that Mt St Helens would erupt in his life time – he was right.  In may of 1980 a massive eruption occurred which took the life of a dear friend of mine.  The mountain has been quiet for several years but that may be changing.
Mount St. Helens shows signs of reawakening

And 5 miles below the volcano, there are signs that the magma chamber that fueled both eruptions is recharging. Dzurisin said the USGS is focusing on the rate of recharging and whether the magma can compress in the chamber, rather than flowing toward an outlet to the earth’s surface.

Here in the Pacific Northwest live on the ring of fire.  Mt Hood erupted the last time shortly before Lewis and Clark visited the area.  The earth has been rising around the South Sister in central Oregon.  We are overdue for a large subjection zone earth quake.

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Bomb Mexico? (Guest Voice) Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:55:20 +0000 Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Bomb Mexico?
By Jason Stanford

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a politician is crazy or just joking. The problem is usually that no one is laughing. Such was the case recently when two candidates offered a radical solution to the humanitarian crisis on the Texas border: Bomb Mexico. Serious or not, it shows how far the anti-immigrant tide has carried some politicians from realistically addressing border security and immigration reform.

The first example of this idea to turn South Texas into a war zone happened in June at a Republican candidate forum in North Carolina. Typically, these affairs encourage candidates to try to get to the right of each other in front of audiences of Republican activists, but even in this environment what Mark Walker said was so out there that Dick Cheney would have gasped in admiration.

In response to a question about drug cartels sneaking over our southern border, Walker, a Baptist preacher, preached war: “If we gotta go laser or blitz somebody with a couple of fighter jets for a little while to make our point, I don’t have a problem with that, either.”

The moderator, making a mockery of his title, then asked, “I hope you wouldn’t have any qualms about starting up a little war with Mexico.”

“Well, we did it before,” Walker said. “If we need to do it again, I don’t have a qualm about it.”

And why should he? Last time we went to war with Mexico, we ended up with California and New Mexico. Maybe this time we could annex Playa del Carmen. Ask not what you Mexican do for your country, ask what you Mexican’t. See what I did there? Those are called jokes. What Walker said about not having a single qualm about initiating armed conflict with our neighbor, ally, and trading partner is only funny if you treat it like the ridiculous utterances of a simple man with outsized ambitions. But the Republicans nominated him anyway. See, that’s another joke.

Still, Walker’s campaign spokesman claimed that his boss was joking. “In the context of the question, it does not mean the country” of Mexico should be attacked, said the spokesman, which is funnier than anything Walker said. That’s like saying we’re not lobbing missiles at Iraq and Syria, just at ISIL troops who only happen to be standing in Iraq and Syria. If explaining away random declarations of war doesn’t work out for Walker’s spokesman, maybe he should hit the comedy club circuit.

Absolutely not funny in any way is Tony Tinderholt, a former Air Force Spanish Cryptologic Linguist who is running for the Texas House from North Texas. And he acknowledges that the border kids who overran our border last summer were looking for a better life, but that’s where his goodwill ends.

“That better life to them is free stuff. We have to stop them,” he told Republican activists at a candidate forum. “They’re stealin’ from us. We’re bein’ thieved. They’re taking from you and I and the American people, and they’re taking from the life blood of our country, and we have to stop ‘em.”

How should we stop these pre-teen narco-trafficking welfare cheats? Should we help use our military and the tools of soft power to bring stability to Central America, thus letting these kids stay at home without fear of gang violence? Should we examine whether our prohibition against drugs is a foolish, costly, and hopeless effort? Perhaps work with Mexico to create refugee camps for these children there? Nah, Tinderholt has a better idea.

“You know, war is not pretty,” he said, “but we have to stop this influx at the border. I think we should go across the border and stop it. But I’ll tell ‘ya in the short term, we gotta put our military at the border and stop this crap from happening now.”

Clearly, the problem we have is that politicians are encouraged to formulate foreign policy at Republican candidate forums. The border is more than a line between Texas and Mexico. It also marks a division between what wins Republican primaries and what solves real-world problems, and that’s no joke. In fact, it’s kind of sad.


© Copyright 2014 Jason Stanford, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Jason Stanford is a regular contributor to the Austin American-Statesman, a Democratic consultant and a Truman National Security Project partner. You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @JasStanford.

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Catalonia has got a case of the Scotland Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:50:48 +0000 shutterstock_92685553
Catalonia’s president on Saturday formally called a referendum to decide whether Spain’s richest region should be independent, defying Madrid which vowed to block the move. Shortly after Artur Mas set the vote for Nov. 9, the Spanish government said the referendum would not take place because it was “unconstitutional.” Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria…

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Holder and RFK’s legacy Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:42:43 +0000 Eric_Holder_official_portrait

WASHINGTON — When he announced his leave-taking last week, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke of Robert F. Kennedy as his inspiration for believing that the Justice Department “can and must always be a force for that which is right.”

There are many reasons why our nation’s first African-American attorney general might see Kennedy as his guide, but this one may be the most important: If ever a public figure was exempt from Holder’s much contested depiction of our country as a “nation of cowards” on race, it was RFK, a man who was in constant struggle with his demons and his conscience.

Few white men were as searing as Kennedy in describing how the world looked to a young black man in the late 1960s. “He is told that the Negro is making progress,” Kennedy wrote, following the racial etiquette of his time. “But what does that mean to him? He cannot experience the progress of others, nor should we seriously expect him to feel grateful because he is no longer a slave, or because he can vote or eat at some lunch counters.”

“How overwhelming must be the frustration of this young man — this young American,” Kennedy continued, “who, desperately wanting to believe and half believing, finds himself locked in the slums, his education second-rate, unable to get a job, confronted by the open prejudice and subtle hostilities of a white world, and seemingly powerless to change his condition or shape his future.”

Yet Kennedy was never one to let individuals escape responsibility for their own fates. So he also spoke of others who would tell this young black man “to work his way up, as other minorities have done; and so he must. For he knows, and we know, that only by his efforts and his own labor will the Negro come to full equality.”

Holder and his friend President Obama have lived both halves of Kennedy’s parable. Like social reformers in every time, they strived to balance their own determination to succeed with their obligations to justice. Doing this is never easy. It can’t be.

Kennedy was not alone among Americans in being tormented by how much racism has scarred our national story. That’s why I was one of many who bristled back in 2009 when Holder called us all cowards. For all our flaws, few nations have faced up to a history of racial subjugation as regularly and comprehensively as we have. And Holder and Obama have both testified to our progress.

Yet rereading Kennedy is to understand why Holder spoke as he did. That the young man Kennedy described is still so present and recognizable tells us that complacency remains a subtle but corrosive sin. One of Holder’s finest hours as attorney general was his visit to Ferguson, Mo., after the killing of Michael Brown. Many young black men still fear they will be shot, a sign that the “open prejudice and subtle hostilities of a white world” have not gone away. We have moved forward, yet we still must overcome.

Holder leaves two big legacies in this area from which his successors must not turn away. In the face of a regressive Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, he has found other ways to press against renewed efforts to disenfranchise minority voters. And it is a beacon of hope that sentencing reform and over-incarceration, central Holder concerns, are matters now engaging conservatives, libertarians and liberals alike.

The New York Times’ Matt Apuzzo captured the irony of Holder’s tenure with the observation that his time as attorney general “is unique in that his biggest supporters are also among his loudest critics.” Many progressives have been troubled by his record on civil liberties in the battle against terrorism, his aggressive pursuit of journalists’ emails and phone records in leak investigations, and his reluctance to prosecute individual Wall Street malefactors.

That these issues will long be debated is a reminder that Holder was first a lawyer and public servant, most of whose work had nothing to do with race. That he singled out Kennedy as his hero shows that none of us need be imprisoned by race. That Holder cajoled and provoked us on the need “to confront our racial past, and our racial present” is itself an achievement that transcends the color line.

Kennedy, who spoke of those who braved “the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society,” would understand the risks that Holder ran.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is Twitter: @EJDionne. (c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

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SciFi Weekend: Tuesday Shows Go Dark (SHIELD and Person of Interest); Sleepy Hollow; Under The Dome (“Nothing But A Giant Suck Hole”); Doctor Who; Outlander; Arrow; Gotham; Shatner Star Trek Rumors; If Ayn Rand Wrote Buffy Sun, 28 Sep 2014 23:51:36 +0000 Shield Go Dark

Tuesday night featured the return of two television shows which have both changed for the post-Snowden era, Agents of SHIELD and Person of Interest. On each show the heroes are now working in secret, or even greater secrecy than they had operated in the past.

The premiere of Agents of SHIELD was not as good as the final episodes of the first season following Captain America: The Winter Soldier but did show promise of setting up a far better second season than the first was. A couple problems from the first season are now solved. No longer can the team theoretically call upon the vast resources of SHIELD. This group is also easier to root for in the post-Snowden era. There is no doubt that the old SHIELD would have been listening in on our phone calls, reading our email, and have no problem with extraordinary rendition or even torture. That SHIELD no longer exists. We can dislike General Talbot as the nominally good protagonist (wondering if Bruce Banner is also in the neighborhood) and root for SHIELD in opposing him.

The episode started with a flashback of Agent Carter, including a glimpse of a green being in a box, suggesting the alien which was used to save Coulson, and later Skye (who works far better as an agent rather than the outsider) along with connecting to Guardians of the Galaxy.The show now makes mention of multiple Marvel characters, and included a super-villain, which gives the show much more the feel of being in the Marvel universe than seen in the first season. Lucy Lawless made her appearance as Isabelle Hartley and lost her arm if not her life. There is certainly the possibility of her return on a show where two characters have returned from death or near-death, and now we have Dr. Whitehall, who hasn’t aged since seen in 1945.

While we don’t know whether Lucy Lawless will return, there is news that Adrianne Palecki of Friday Night Lights (and who almost became Wonder Woman) will be guest starring as Mockingbird later this season.

There were additional consequences to the events of last season beyond the breakup of SHIELD. Fitz is more interesting than last season now that we found that he did not recover from the lack of oxygen to his brain, and is imagining that Simmons is with him after she left. I would anticipate some recovery on his part and probably a Fitzsimmons reunion down the road. Agent Ward is also a bit nuts compared to last season, and may or may not really know anything about Skye’s father. I suspect he really does, and we might be in store for some Hannibal/Clarice type scenes between Ward and Skye this season.

Person of Interest s04e01

Go Dark was the strategic order from Director Coulson on Agents of SHIELD, and also describes the strategy Root devised with the Machine to keep everyone alive and hidden from Samaritan on Person of Interest. The increased concern over the dangers of the surveillance state has been fortuitous for the show. Initially the Machine’s surveillance was primarily a gimmick to get the heroes into the story of the week, but last season the show transitioned far more into a series about the dangers of government surveillance and artificial intelligence in the wrong hands. The show has largely been rebooted this season, and shows promise of being even better than previous seasons.

Series co-creator Greg Plageman compared artificial intelligence to the creation of the atomic bomb at San Diego Comic-Con:

I think when we started out this show we were answering a lot of questions about the Orwellian surveillance state and people asking us if that was science fiction and now, in a post-Snowden era, no one’s asking those questions anymore. So what does the show become now?

I think the most interesting question in terms of our show and technology that is emerging is artificial intelligence. We’re living in a world now where not just nation states—Israel, United States, the Russians, whoever—are trying to build an artificial intelligent. The thing closest to this was the Manhattan Project, the greatest existential risk the world has ever faced: the development of the atomic bomb, and the race to get it, and who was going to get it first and what that meant in terms of ending World War II.

We are now at a similar crossroads with artificial intelligence. The only difference is it’s not just DARPA. It’s not just nation states. It’s a bunch of billionaires in their 30s up in Silicon Valley who are buying up all the artificial intelligence companies. It’s fascinating. Look up ‘Deep Mind,’ see what’s going on. No one really knows.

Harold Finch built a machine, an artificial intelligence, that he supposed was sympathetic to humankind. But what if someone built one that didn’t take that into consideration at all? And I think we’re dealing with the next great existential risk to the world and I think that’s something our show can deal with in a really cool way.

The Blacklist was among other shows which returned, once again turning what would otherwise be a mediocre show into a hit due to the presence of James Spader. Mary Louise Parker makes an excellent addition as his ex-wife.

Sleepy Hollow also returned with a strong season premiere. This is a series which I am reluctant to write much about as any description of the show sounds absurd. They manage to pull off its absurdities very well (far better than Under the Dome does). It is always fun to see what they come up with to tie early American history into their mythology, such as revealing that they key used on Benjamin Franklin’s kite is used to unlock Purgatory. As I said, it sounds like it makes no sense, but the show is so much fun.

Under the Dome Season 2 Finale

Under the Dome ended and the series could be summed up by what Noreen said: “It’s nothing but a giant killer suck hole!” The giant suck hole appeared the previous week after Melanie, a character who came back from the dead, was apparently killed a second time. In other recent episodes there was a tunnel under the school in which people could jump off a cliff and appear in another city, until Big Jim messed that up. Recently it became cold and nobody in town had any warm clothes to put on. The Dome started contracting, and when they began to time the contractions I wondered if next they were going to say the Dome was pregnant.

In the second season, and hopefully series, finale, everyone in town who could make it went through a tunnel where the giant suck hole had appeared. The final moment showed Melanie once again back from the dead, saying “Follow me, we’re going home.”But isn’t Chester’s Mill their home? If the show returns next summer, we will presumably see where Melanie leads them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they follow her, perhaps to an intermediate destination, and they ultimately wind up back in Chester’s Mill, like Patrick McGoohan trying to leave The Village. I imagine that if it doesn’t return, we can just assume that they escape, possibly coming back to rescue those who didn’t make it.

Doctor Who The Caretaker

On Doctor Who, The Caretaker returned to its 1963 roots at Coal Hill School, and Gareth Roberts, writer of episodes such as The Lodger, once again showed the Doctor attempting to blend in with humans. The killer alien story was weak, and primarily existed as a vehicle to have the Doctor finally meet Danny Pink. Along the way the Doctor got mislead when seeing Clara speaking with a fellow school teacher wearing a bow tie, thinking that she had fallen for someone who looks like his previous regeneration. While we had long been led to believe we will have another couple in the TARDIS, with Clara and Danny replacing Amy and Rory, it now looks like there once again might be two schoolteachers and a student, with Courtney joining along, at least temporarily, despite being a disturbance:

Clara: “I would say, yes, I’m afraid Courtney is a disruptive influence.”

Response: “Yeah, but last year you said she was a very disruptive influence. So I suppose that counts as an improvement.”

Courtney discovered the TARDIS after ignoring the Doctor’s sign to keep out, or more precisely, “Go Away Humans.”

The meeting between the Doctor and Danny Pink didn’t go very well. The Doctor continues to object to soldiers, apparently forgetting all the time he spent with UNIT, along with many other individual soldiers over the centuries. Danny sees the Doctor as an arrogant aristocrat, concentrating on the Lord part of Time Lord. He also wondered about about Clara (“Are you a space woman?”).

The episode also introduced another gadget for the Doctor, an invisibility watch. This raises the question of why this was never used on many occasions when it could have come in handy in the past, and whether it will be used again. Another plot hole which we will just have to ignore.

Among other top lines of the episode: “You’re running out of time.” “For what?” “Everything! Human beings have incredibly short lifespans. Frankly, you should all be in a constant state of panic. Tick tock, tick tock.”

After not seeing this in recent episodes, The Caretaker also showed a character who died in the episode wind up in the Nethersphere, or perhaps Heaven.


Saturday night’s other time travel series, Outlander, got deeper into time travel in the mid-season finale. Frank heard of the possibility of time travel at Craig na Dun, and by the end of the episode was willing to accept it as a possibility. In addition to seeing a poster with a reward for information related to Claire, there was another poster in Frank’s era seeking information about someone who sure looks like Jaime, suggesting that he might also wind up traveling in time.

It was surprising that a spy like Frank would fall into such an obvious trap when seeking information about Claire, but he was quite well prepared to take care of himself. He seemed to enjoy beating up his attackers too much, perhaps intending to show a comparison between the violence of his evil ancestor and Frank. Are we to question which husband Claire is really best off with?

The episode had a tease that Claire might return home. At very least she did hear Frank calling out to her through time, but it was intentionally left ambiguous as to whether Frank could hear Claire calling back. Just before getting a chance to return, she fell into the hands of Black Jack once again, with her attempts to deceive him failing. We don’t know how Jaime managed to get into his window, but he came to attempt to save Claire just before she might have received an involuntary mastectomy. We will see what happens next when Outlander returns in April.

Arrow Oliver and Felicity

Arrow returns October 8 and Marc Guggenheim has discussed the upcoming season:

“He is going to get some new toys to play with,” Guggenheim said. “One of them is a new bow that looks identical to the old bow, but it does something that you’ve never seen before.” Guggenheim disclosed that the explanation behind Oliver’s new equipment will be detailed in DC Comics‘ currently unfolding digital-first series “Arrow: Season 2.5,” taking place between the second and third seasons.

While “Arrow” has traditionally been more grounded, the show’s second season embraced superpowers a bit more, both in laying the groundwork for spinoff “The Flash” and in Slade Wilson and his Mirakuru-fueld army that served as primary antagonists. With “The Flash” now its own series on The CW, Guggenheim stated that “Arrow” will return to a more realistic direction.

“We’re not really planning on revisiting superpowers or enhanced abilities during season three,” Guggenheim told Weiland. “We are really returning to the show’s roots of a very grounded world where it’s very realistic. We may take occasional artistic license with things, but for the most part, everything is pretty well and truly grounded in real-life things and real-life science.”

Another DC comic-based series began with the premiere of Gotham. I think we will need to see more to determine if is worth watching a show with Bruce Wayne before he became Batman. While it includes the origins of several villains, I think we will have to view this as another version of the legend, not connected chronologically with other Batman stories. While we think of the murder of Bruce’s parents as occurring years ago, Gotham appears to take place in the present (or a parallel universe were cell phones have been around a lot longer).

Syfy has renewed both Defiance and Dominion.


There have been a number of rumors, denials, and perhaps an admission that J.J. Abrams has spoken to William Shatner about doing a cameo for his third Star Trek movie. I have my doubts as to whether it is a good idea, but it is more plausible now than in the first Abrams movie in which Spock from the original time line went back in time. Kirk could not do that because in that time line he was dead. However this doesn’t prevent a future Kirk from being seen from the Abrams time line.

There is yet another rumor that the next Avengers movie will be split into two parts.

If Ayn Rand wrote Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Related Posts: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Originally posted at Liberal Values

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Add One More Name to That Open Letter to Fox News Sun, 28 Sep 2014 23:35:31 +0000 UAE3

Talking Points Memo ( yesterday published an open letter to the idiots at Fox News who made some very offensive and inappropriate remarks about a female United Arab Emirates (UAE) pilot who courageously took part in allied air strikes against ISIL terrorists last week.

The pilot and squadron commander in question was 35-year-old Maj. Mariam al-Mansouri, the first female fighter pilot in the history of the UAE.

Major al-Mansouri was flying an F-16 “Desert Falcon” fighter jet and was part of U.S. and Arab allies’ — Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar — sorties that dropped ordnance on ISIL positions in Syria’s Idlib, Aleppo and Raqqa provinces. Some reports suggest that she even “spearheaded” her country’s mission.

The Stars and Stripes:

According to a profile in the U.A.E. National, the Abu Dhabi-born al-Mansouri harbored an ambition to join the air force since her teenage years, but had to bide her time until women were permitted to enlist. She graduated Khalifa bin Zayed Air College in 2007 and is now a veteran F-16 pilot.
In earlier interviews, al-Mansouri has insisted that she received no special treatment because of her gender. “Everyone is required to have the same high level of combat competence,” she told Deraa Al Watan, a U.A.E. magazine.

It is about this UAE officer that Fox commentators, especially Eric Bolling, after berating the President for allegedly showing a lack of respect for those “who put their lives on the line,” made crude and sexist comment that are unworthy of repeating again.

Bolling has already been skewered by a clearly angered Jon Stewart for his “false patriotism.”

Commenting on Stewart’s show, I asked readers to watch the video and said, “You may be tempted to say, ‘Stronger message to follow.’”

Well, that stronger message came, in my opinion, not with epithets or expletives, but in the eloquent words over 50 veterans from all branches of the military who signed the letter addressed to “Dear Mr. Bolling and Mr. Gutfeld.

The entire letter can be read here, and has been discussed here.

The following are what I believe are the most poignant excerpts of a letter that I wish I could have had the opportunity to add my name to — and am doing, after the fact:

We are veterans of the United States armed forces, and we are writing to inform you that your remarks about United Arab Emirates Air Force Major Mariam Al Mansouri were unwarranted, offensive, and fundamentally opposed to what the military taught us to stand for.

First, foremost, and most obvious to everyone other than yourselves, your remarks were immensely inappropriate. Your co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle was so right to call attention to an inspiring story of a woman shattering glass ceilings in a society where doing so is immeasurably difficult. We never heard an answer to her question: why did you feel so compelled to “ruin her thing?”

[The letter then addresses the history of brave and skilled women who have been flying in combat ever since our WASP, reaches into the present and strongly condemns and belittles the commentators’ misogyny]

It closes:

The less obvious implication of your remarks, however, is that by offending an ally and cheapening her contribution, you are actively hurting the mission. We need to send a clear message that anyone, male or female, who will stand up to ISIS and get the job done is worthy of our respect and gratitude.

We issue an apology on your behalf to Major Al Mansouri knowing that anything your producers force you to say will be contrived and insincere. Major, we’re sincerely sorry for the rudeness; clearly, these boys don’t take your service seriously, but we and the rest of the American public do.

Very Respectfully,

It lists the names of the 50 veterans of the United States Armed forces who signed the letter.

“Gentlemen” at Fox, please consider my name added:

Dorian de Wind, U.S. Air Force , Retired.

TPM attributes the letter to “Men and Women of the Truman Project.”

“The Truman National Security Project unites next-generation veteran, political, and policy leaders to develop and advance strong, smart, and principled solutions to the global challenges Americans now face.”

Lead photo: Mariam al-Mansouri, the first Emirati female fighter jet pilot, gives the thumbs up as she sits in the cockpit of an aircraft, in United Arab Emirates on June 13, 2013. Courtesy, Emirates News Agency, WAM

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Racism is a long way from over Sun, 28 Sep 2014 20:09:08 +0000 shutterstock_152887076

The Justice Department on Friday pressured the Ferguson Police Department to stop its officers from wearing bracelets stamped with the message “I am Darren Wilson,” in solidarity with the police officer who is being investigated for shooting an unarmed black 18-year-old, and from covering up their name plates with tape. …NYT

Above that report opener in the Times is a photo of the police chief of Ferguson talking with a group of Ferguson citizens, mostly if not all black. His face? The face of an angry white man. The other faces? Anxious and questioning.

Contrition for the killing of Michael Brown doesn’t seem to be in the rule book guiding the Ferguson police force. The Department of Justice has stepped in.

In a stern letter to Chief Thomas Jackson, Christy E. Lopez, deputy chief of the special litigation section of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said that the bracelets “upset and agitated people.” …NYT

I’d bet some salty talk about Obummer and Holder — and Lopez — is part of the locker room conversations in Ferguson’s police department these days.

She also said that police officers were reported to have placed black tape over their name plates, a violation of the police department’s own policies.

“Officers’ wearing name plates while in uniform is a basic component of transparency and accountability,” Ms. Lopez wrote. “It is a near-universal requirement of sound policing practices and required under some state laws.” Chief Jackson had met with Justice Department officials on Thursday afternoon. …NYT

Another “Street Fest” was scheduled for this weekend and cancelled because of “concerns” about “safety.” But it seems to me that, to the extent that “safety” is under threat in Ferguson, it’s the police who continue to make the city — and democracy and freedom — “unsafe.”

If there are any threats America needs to worry about, they come not from ISIS but from ourselves. The long-dominant whites in America need to remember that they are close to being outnumbered if they’re not already outnumbered. These are people who got the notion in their heads that they somehow “own” America. We embrace the principle of competition until we find ourselves having to compete. Hauling out the military hardware is hardly a cure for our inadequacies and childish expectations.

Cross-posted from Prairie Weather

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US Vets DESTROY Fox News Tools for ‘Boobs on the Ground’ Remark in Open Letter (Guest Voice) Sun, 28 Sep 2014 16:20:27 +0000 First, the folks over on FOX made a misogynistic joke regarding a female pilot. Then, the half-hearted not-apology, and now, the full smack-down, courtesy of the United States Military Veterans. On Thursday, The Five decided to live up to the sort of blind jingoism and Military Worship that right-wingers are constantly demanding of others when Fox…

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EXCLUSIVE: The Politics of Animal Cruelty Sun, 28 Sep 2014 15:36:35 +0000 3049066_370

Pennsylvanians can still butcher, braise, and broil their pet cats and dogs because a murky mixture of politics has left a critical bill on the table in the state senate.

Residents may also continue to use cats, dogs, and other animals as targets for what some erroneously call “sporting events.”

Although there are no documented cases of cats and dogs being thrown into the air at these shoots, there is a long history in Pennsylvania of pigeon shoots. Pennsylvania is the only state where such shoots occur legally. The remaining shoots are in the southeastern part of the state, in Berks and Bucks counties near Philadelphia. However, this past week, an undercover investigator for SHARK, an animal rights group, documented a pigeon shoot in Oklahoma to provide campaign funds for Sen. James Inhofe (R). About 1,000 pigeons, according to SHARK, were thrown into the air a few yards from the shooters.

In Pennsylvania, scared and undernourished birds are placed into cages, and then launched about 30 yards in front of people with 12-gauge shotguns. Most birds, as many as 5,000 at an all-day shoot, are hit standing on their cages, on the ground, or flying erratically just a few feet from the people who pretend to be sportsmen. About 70 percent of all birds are wounded, according to Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), who for 25 years has been documenting and leading the effort to pass legislation to end pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania. If the birds are wounded on the killing fields, trapper boys and girls, most in their early teens, some of them younger, grab the birds, wring their necks, stomp on their bodies, or throw them live into barrels to suffocate. Birds that fall outside the shooting club’s property are left to die long and horrible deaths. There is no food or commercial value of a pigeon killed at one of the shoots.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Game Commission says pigeon shoots are not “fair chase hunting.” The International Olympic Committee declared pigeon shoots aren’t a sport, and banned it after the 1900 Olympics because of its cruelty to animals.

But, the Pennsylvania Senate still hasn’t taken HB1750 off the table for discussion. Any senator may request the Senate to suspend the rules to allow a bill come off the table; none have.

The House passed the original bill, sponsored by Rep. John Maher (R), 201–0, in November 2013.

It was amended in the Senate, with Maher’s approval, to ban pigeon shoots under Title 18, which includes animal cruelty statutes. Although butchering and selling cats and dogs would be a first degree misdemeanor, carrying a fine of $1,000–$10,000 and a maximum prison term of five years, pigeon shoot violations would be only a summary offense, carrying a maximum $300 fine and/or three months jail sentence, and only for those operating the shoot. That bill was approved in the Republican-led Judiciary Committee, 10–4, on June 26. In the next two days, it passed two of the required three readings in the full Senate, but was tabled, July 8, when the Senate recessed for more than two months. The bill was not placed on the voting calendar when the Senate reconvened for five days between Sept. 15 and Sept. 24. The Senate is again in recess and will reconvene for two to four days, beginning Oct. 6 before going on recess until after the Nov. 4 election.

One of the four who voted against the bill in the judiciary committee was Joseph B. Scarnati III (R), the Senate president pro tempore. In his past two elections, Scranati received $5,275 from the NRA PAC, and $1,000 from the Flyers Victory Fund; the Victory Fund was established to support pigeon shoots. However, Scarnati didn’t influence if the bill was to be voted upon by the full Senate, says Kate Eckhart, Scarnati’s communications and legislative affairs assistant. The senator who does influence what bills go on the calendar is Dominic Pileggi (R), the majority leader. Pileggi had voted for the bill when it was in Judiciary Committee. However, Pileggi doesn’t put a bill on the calendar until the Republican caucus discusses it.

Republican caucus leader is Sen. John Gordner (R), who also voted against the bill in committee. However, Gorder says he voted against the bill on procedural grounds. The amendment, says Todd Roup, Gordner’s chief of staff, “was slipped onto the committee’s calendar at the last minute without required notice.”

Gregg Warner, the Judiciary Committee’s legal counsel, disagrees. “We notify members of the committee what bills will be on the agenda on Thursdays or Fridays the week before [a Tuesday meeting],” says Warner, “and then distribute summaries of the bills a day before.” Amendments are often distributed on Mondays before scheduled Tuesday meetings.

“Once there is enough support in the caucus,” says Roup, the bill will go back to Pileggi. The person responsible for counting votes is Sen. Patrick Browne, Republican minority whip. Because caucus discussions are secret, neither Browne nor Gordner will reveal if the bill was discussed. Gordner, however, will vote for the bill if it gets to the floor for a third reading, says Roup.

Josh Funk, deputy general counsel of the Senate Republican caucus, says there are two tests as to whether a bill is placed onto the calendar to be voted upon by the full Senate. The first test is if a majority in the caucus wants it. The second test, says Funk, is that, “It is not Sen. Pileggi’s policy to put bills up for a vote if the end result will be that they fail to receive 26 votes,” a Senate majority.” However, in the final two days before the Senate recessed this past week, Pileggi did place two bills onto the calendar that failed, by wide margins, to get 26 votes. Nevertheless, a policy that severely restricts open debate, with most discussions and decisions made in secret, significantly reduces the rights of the public to learn how their elected representatives think about a particular issue; the policy could violate Section 702 of the state’s Sunshine Act that declares, “The General Assembly finds that the right of the public to be present at all meetings of agencies and to witness the deliberation, policy formulation and decision making of agencies is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process and that secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public’s effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society.”

Although there may not be enough votes in the Republican caucus, there are more than enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate. In addition to 24 co-sponsors, an informal tally shows at least a half-dozen other senators will support the bill.

This is also bill the public supports. A statewide survey by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research a year ago revealed not only do more than three-fourths of all Pennsylvanians want to see legislation to ban live pigeon shoots, only 16 percent of Pennsylvanians oppose such a ban. More than four-fifths of all Pennsylvanians say live pigeon shoots are animal cruelty. The bill is supported by the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, the ASPCA, and the Pennsylvania Federation of Humane Societies. Most Pennsylvania newspapers have editorialized against pigeon shoots.

So, why wasn’t the bill brought up for a third reading before the Senate adjourned in July? And why is it still on the table?

The answer is enmeshed in a web of politics. Fearing an NRA backlash, and perhaps not wishing to alienate any voters less than six weeks before an election, the Senate may have stalled the vote because of an intense lobbying effort by the NRA. On the day before the Judiciary Committee was scheduled to hear the bill for the first time, the Institute for Legislative Action, NRA’s lobbying arm, sent urgent alerts to Pennsylvania members and the legislature. The NRA leadership opposes bans on pigeon shoots, believing that to ban animal cruelty is the “slippery slope” to banning guns.

“That’s completely nonsense,” says Roy Afflerbach, a lifelong hunter, and former state senator and Allentown mayor.

Many in the Legislature cower in fear at receiving less than an “A+” rating from the NRA. In the Senate Judiciary committee, Sen. Richard Alloway (R), a long-time hunter and a vigorous gun-rights advocate, called pigeon shooting a “blood sport.” After an attack by the NRA, he said, “I find it laughable that my friends [at the NRA] would somehow label me anti-Second Amendment.” Sen. Daylin Leach (D), vice-chair of the judiciary committee, doesn’t worry about the NRA rating. “Pigeon shoots, says Leach, “are a barbaric relic of a long-ago past. Hunters are ashamed of it, and it’s time to stop the gratuitous cruelty that pigeon shoots represent.”

The NRA alert called pigeon shooters “law-abiding, ethical shooting enthusiasts.” However, undercover investigators have observed a large part of the lure of pigeon shoots is illegal gambling on how many birds each shooter will wound or kill. The alert also told legislators that opposition “does not come from within the Commonwealth, but from the outside,” targeting the Humane Society of the United States as the leader of the “animal ‘rights’ extremist groups.” However, the NRA is as much an “outside organization as HSUS; its headquarters is in Fairfax, Va.. Both NRA and HSUS have Pennsylvania field offices. All Pennsylvania humane organizations support HB1750. Humane PA PAC, which opposes the pigeon shoot, has 32,000 members, most of them Pennsylvanians.

There is another political land mine for the bill. Even if the Senate passes the bill, the House of Representatives, which had passed the bill without the pigeon shoot amendment, is a far more conservative body, and could likely hold up passage of the bill.

The last free-standing vote in the House occurred in 1994. Although the vote was 99–93 to ban the shoots, a majority of 102 votes was required. Later bills were scuttled, usually by leadership of both political parties.

Four years after the House failed to pass legislation to ban pigeon shoots, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Hegins Pigeon Shoot, held on public property, was not only cruel “but moronic.” The organizers grudgingly disbanded the annual Labor Day event, held from 1934 to 1998. The Court’s opinion did not extend to shoots at private clubs, all of which draw many of the participants and spectators from New Jersey, and are held in secret.

“The tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians who have contacted their legislators, year after year, for decades, deserve a vote,” says Heidi Prescott. If the bill is brought to a vote, “it will pass,” she says.

[Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist, has been covering Pennsylvania pigeon shoots for more than 20 years. He is a former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor, and the author of 20 books. His current book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an overall look at the politics and economics behind fracking, and its impact on health, agriculture, and the environment. The book also investigates fracking’s effects upon animals.]

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Oklahoma beheading: workplace violence or ISIS tie in or ISIS imprinting? Sun, 28 Sep 2014 14:32:07 +0000 140927-alton-nolen-jms-1519_a4dbc4684d293bb69953b8f43ca0a9ae

The news from Oklahoma that a man went haywire in his place of work and beheaded a co-worker, and seemed ready to take out as many people as he could in a style now made popular in the snuff videos posted online by ISIS has — what else? — led to a new controversy and speculation being presented as near fact. Was this an example of a mentally loose cannon who absorbed too much of what was on the news and Internet, or the opening salvo in a war by people of a certain religion (guess which) to start murdering Americans? Here are the actual facts:

A man suspected of beheading a woman he worked with and stabbing another was a convicted felon who had been released from probation this year, Oklahoma corrections officials confirmed Thursday.

Alton Nolen, 30, was released from probation in April, earlier than the original 2017 date, said Jerry Massie, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Nolen has a string of convictions from 2011, including marijuana possession, escape from detention, assault and battery on a police officer and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, according to records from state corrections officials.
So we know a) he has a record b)he’s not you normal person off the street who people would say absolutely shocked them because he loved flowers, took in stray dogs, and helped old ladies across the street.

FBI and police in Moore, Okla., are investigating the incident, which occurred at about 4 p.m. Thursday at the Vaughan Foods plant, Sgt. Jeremy Lewis of the Moore Police Department told The Times on Friday. Nolen was shot during the attack and is hospitalized, according to authorities.

He said police responded to a call reporting that a man, later identified by police as Nolen, was attacking employees inside the business and that shots had been fired.

When they arrived, he said, officers found that one woman, identified as Colleen Hufford, 54, had been beheaded. Another woman, 43-year-old Traci Johnson, suffered knife wounds and was transported to a local hospital, where she was listed in stable condition Friday.

Police said Nolen had been fired from Vaughan Foods shortly before the attack. Witnesses told officers that Nolen had recently been trying to convert several employees to Islam, but it was not clear whether that was why he was fired, authorities said.

And it turns out he is a Muslim:

According to the department’s database, Nolen had “Jesus Christ” tattooed across his chest, an image of praying hands on his right arm and “As-salaamu Ataikum,” tattooed on his stomach, which could be a misspelling of “As-salaamu Alaikum,” a standard Muslim greeting that means “Peace be upon you.”

So far details indicate this sounds like the case of an enraged fired worker, no matter how genuine fears are that some “freelancers” sympathetic to ISIS will start following the terrorist, death-cult groups call to kill American civilians:

After he was dismissed in a different part of the property, police said, Nolen drove his car to the front, ramming it into another car. Authorities said he then entered the front office and killed Hufford, before turning to attack Johnson.

According to Moore City Manager Steve Eddy, the knife recovered at the scene is the same type used on the production floor of the plant, where Nolen worked.

A 911 call released by Moore police Friday afternoon shows some of the chaos that unfolded in the plant. “We can hear a lot of screaming,” said one man who told a dispatcher he was in a nearby office. “We know that he’s loose, he has stabbed someone.”

“Lock everybody in there if you can,” the dispatcher told the caller, right before gunshots rang out in the background.[Los Angeles Times]

It sounds like these employees were lucky:

Mark Vaughan, the company’s founder, chief operating officer and a reserve sheriff’s deputy, was on site at the time and shot Nolen, stopping the attack before police arrived, Lewis said.

Vaughan has been a reserve officer with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office since 2010, officials there said, and is a “highly trained member of the tactical team.”

It’s no surprise that a spokesman for an Islamic group in Oklahoma quickly distanced the group from Nolan, pointing out that Nolan’s homicidal actions do not reflect the beliefs of Islam. And, indeed, his actions no more reflect the way most Muslims behave and believe than the actions of the arrested Isrealis who grabbed a Palestinian teen off the streets in Israel and murdered him in cold blood to retaliate for the death of three Jewish teens kidnapped and murdered by Hamas reflect the views, actions and beliefs of most Jews. Two days ago Israeli forces killed two Hamas members suspected of murdering the Jewish teens.

A spokesman for an Oklahoma City Islamic group says a man accused of beheading one woman and attacking another at a food processing plant from which he was fired was seen as “a little odd” and “a little weird” by those who attended the same mosque he did.

Saad Mohammed, director of information for the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said Saturday that Alton Nolen began worshipping at one of the group’s mosques in May and that he has seen him there several times since.

He says Nolen wasn’t outgoing and that his behavior didn’t raise any red flags. Mohammed says Nolen attended services where sermons were delivered against beheadings like those committed by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, militants. He says Nolen’s actions do not reflect the beliefs of Islam.[CBS News]

But what we know and what has not been firmly established is largely irrelevant into today’s politics. Charles Johnson summarizes it quite well:

Why are the right wing blogs fear-mongering like rabid weasels over this? Because Nolen reportedly is a recent convert to Islam. That’s all it takes for them to label him a “Muslim terrorist” and start screeching about Muslims in general supporting terrorism.

But the story is sadly straightforward — Nolen was fired from his job, and angry about it. He had a long history of criminal behavior, including assault, and he took out his anger on his co-workers like many disgruntled former employees before him. Pointing at Islam as his motivation is nothing but sheer bigotry, especially coming from the crowd that invariably excuses gun violence as “mental illness” when it’s committed by a white person.

Some Tweets also show how this is playing among some conservatives:

The reality:
1. Nolan had a criminal history.
2. He was enraged about being fired.
3. He had been a religious Christian and converted to Islam.
4. There is no proof this is the opening salvo in freelancers trying to kill Americans civilians throughout the land.
5. American history gives many examples of how copycat crimes become the norm. How many school shoots took place periodically 50 years ago? Once they started, they continued.
6. Kids, adults, intelligent people and the mentally unhinged are all imprinted in some ways. It’s most likely that he was enraged, had seen ISIS’ snuff videos and struck based on his anger, his built up past failures, and the fact he had watched beheading videos on the Internet.
7. His action is not typical of “Islam.”
8. Our politics operates now on fanning up resentments and hate against groups. ISIS deserves all the hatred and retaliation “civilized” people and religions of all types heap on it. The vast majority of Muslims and Muslim groups are as appalled by ISIS as non Muslim and non Muslim groups are.
9. You can build ratings (Fox knows) on jumping on a story like this and you can built website and blog hits.
10. Nuance doesn’t sell. But it sometimes is reality, particularly in the an instance where it involves a crime still under investigation.

This story right now — until more is established — is in the area of nuance, not black and white or Muslim and non-Muslim.

And at this, stage, at least, it seems like the case of a person with a criminal past, enraged over being fired going on a rampage using a technique of murder that has been pitchforked into the headlines and all over the Internet.

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