Friday, April 10, 2015

Hillary Clinton to announce her presidential candidacy this weekend

Last Updated Apr 10, 2015 12:07 PM EDT

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce her candidacy for the presidency online Sunday. Then, within a few days, Clinton will travel to an early voting state. The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, first reported that Clinton would announce this weekend, and the Guardian was first to report that it would take place Sunday.
Clinton's new epilogue to her 2014 book, "Hard Choices," released Friday with the paperback version and published on the Huffington Post, seems to hint at her pending announcement and some of the themes of her candidacy, in the part where she reflects on the birth of her granddaughter, Charlotte.
"Rather than make me want to slow down, it has spurred me to speed up," she wrote. Children "drive us to work for a better future," one which Clinton sees as globally interconnected. She continued, "If the United States continues to lead the world in the years ahead, as I believe it can and must, it will be because we have learned how to define the terms of our interdependence to promote more cooperation and shared prosperity and less conflict and inequality."  READ MORE

Here’s What You Need to Know About Walter L. Scott

Walter Scott was “outgoing—loved everybody, [was] very known in the community and got along with everybody,” his brother Anthony Scott told CNN.

Walter L. Scott, 50, was a father of four who served in the Coast Guard and had trouble making child support payments, but he was not a violent man, according to his brother Anthony Scott, who spoke with CNN's Don Lemon Tuesday.

"He was outgoing—loved everybody, [was] very known in the community and got along with everybody," Anthony Scott told Lemon. "All the family loves him, and his kids loved him."

The world now knows Walter L. Scott's name after graphic footage of what appears to show Scott running away from a North Charleston, S.C., police officer as the officer fatally shoots him. Officer Michael Slager reportedly stopped Scott Saturday morning for a traffic violation.

According to a police report viewed by CNN, Scott allegedly refused to comply with Slager's orders and allegedly tried to take the officer's stun gun. In the video of the incident, it appears that the stun gun may have already been used by the officer and dropped as the two men struggled. Scott then runs away from the officer, who opens fire. The officer returns to where the first interaction took place and picks something up from the ground, walks over to Scott's prone body and drops something next to him. It is still unclear why Scott is running away from the officer in the footage, but family attorney Chris Stewart told Lemon that it was no reason for the officer to fire his gun.

"Running from an officer doesn't result in the death penalty," Stewart said.  READ MORE

Here Is What You Need to Know About SC Officer Michael Slager

Before North Charleston, S.C., Police Officer Michael Slager fatally shot 50-year-old Walter Scott, he had been subject to two complaints, including a separate complaint about inappropriate use of force, for which the 33-year-old cop was exonerated, NBC News reports.

According to documents released by the North Charleston Police Department, the news site notes, the U.S. Coast Guard veteran faced a complaint in September 2013, when he was accused of using his Taser against a man and slamming him to the ground for no reason. The case was investigated and Slager, who has been with the department since 2009, was exonerated.

A more recent complaint, in January, accused the officer of failing to file a police report, NBC News notes. That complaint was sustained, although it was not made clear whether the veteran cop faced discipline, or what kind.

David Aylor, who was Slager’s attorney at the time, pointed out that his client had “no disciplinary issues” while he was at the department and wrote in a statement, “Officer Slager believes he followed all the proper procedures and policies of the North Charleston Police Department,” according to Bustle.

However, later on Tuesday, Aylor said that he was no longer the cop’s legal counsel. READ MORE GoFundMe Tosses Campaign to Raise Money for SC Cop Who Shot Walter Scott (The Root)

Walter Scott Had No Open Warrants For His Arrest

Attorney To CNN's Cop Defender: Broken Tail Light Is 'Code' To Harass Blacks

Defense attorney Mark Geragos on Tuesday argued over the objections of retired NYPD Detective Harry Houck that the shooting of an unarmed South Carolina man was just the latest in an "epidemic" of police officers killing black men.

After video surfaced on Tuesday of North Charleston Officer Michael Slager, who is white, shooting 50-year-old Walter L. Scott in the back as he fled, Van Jones explained to CNN host Anderson Cooper that there would have been no murder charges if the incident had not been recorded by a cell phone.
"We see this over and over again, the police report says, 'This black man is dangerous, 'I was so afraid for my life, oh my God, I had to do something, he was going to kill me,'" Jones noted. "And now we finally have something where nobody can say that the police report was true, and you get this murder charge."

"But what if there had been no video? What if it had just been another situation where another unarmed black man was killed and the police officer said, 'Well, he grabbed me, he had my weapon,' and we would have all gone on as if nothing happened. We have to start dealing with the fact that there are two standards of justice in this country."

Geragos agreed that similar incidents happened "all too frequently."  READ MORE

New Texas Bill Would Prevent Bystanders From Recording Cops

Oh, come on. We all know why they want to pass this bill -- they want cops to get away with abusing and killing people! (As long as they're the right people.)

The right to record, in addition to being upheld by the appellate courts, is one of the best tools we have to deter police violence, and to see that those who break the law are held accountable -- as we just saw last night:

A bill introduced in the Texas House of Representatives would make it illegal for private citizens to record police within 25 feet. House Bill 2918, introduced by state Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) on Tuesday, would make the offense a misdemeanor.

Citizens who are armed would not be permitted to record police activity within 100 feet of an officer, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Only representatives of radio or TV organizations that hold an FCC license, newspapers and magazines would have the right to record police. The legislator disagreed with people on Twitter who said he's seeking to make all filming of cops illegal. READ MORE

Rand Paul Claims He's An Equal Opportunity Hot Head

Rand Paul didn't do himself any favors while trying to defend getting testy with yet another female reporter. Saying that you're just a hot head who can't control his temper doesn't appear any more presidential than being a condescending sexist.

That's his new line though and he's sticking to it: Rand Paul: I'm 'Testy With Both Male And Female Reporters':

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) denied on Wednesday afternoon that he has a problem with female journalists, just hours after he got into a testy exchange with NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie.

Paul was asked during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer about the accusations from his critics that his interactions with journalists have a sexist bent.  READ MORE

Rand Paul's war on women journalists

Oy. So Rand Paul had a bad morning on the TV, when he got testily obnoxious and all mansplaining about how to do journalism with Savannah Guthrie. "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no," he screeched at her. "Listen, you've editorialized. Let me answer a question. You ask a question, and you say, 'Have your views changed?' instead of editorializing and saying my views have changed."
In a later interview, Paul further explains how journalists are allowed to cover him.
In an interview in New Hampshire with The New York Times, after the appearance on "Today," Mr. Paul said he gets tired of questions with the built-in premise that he has contradicted himself. Questions, he said, like "'O.K., well we understand that you've been beating your wife for years and you've flip-flopped on 25 different issues and you used to believe this and you used to believe that,'" he said. "That isn't journalism."
Funny thing is, when it was Sean Hannity asking about the same flip-flops, Paul didn't blow up. He answered. Lamely, but he answered. So Hannity asking about the same things as Guthrie must have been journalism, while Guthrie asking about it was "editorializing." You could chalk it up to the fact that it was Hannity and Fox News, or you could look at Paul's previous testy interactions with female journalists. Like when CNBC's Kelly Evans asked him about a tax incentive proposal he came up with for U.S. companies to bring their overseas profits back to the United States and about his position on vaccination.  READ MORE

NRA snubs Rand Paul, Chris Christie

The National Rifle Association's annual convention will be missing a pair of prominent tools when it convenes this Friday.

Neither Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky nor New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was invited to address the NRA’s Leadership Forum, NRA officials confirmed to The Tennessean. “We have a really lengthy program and we have the longest list of potential presidential candidates to speak at the Leadership Forum this go-around, and we just could not accommodate everyone,” Jennifer Baker, director of public affairs for the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, told the Nashville paper.  READ MORE

Gun Control at NRA Convention?

While guns may be be great in churches, schools, universities, bars and sitting in handbags next to toddlers in Walmart shopping carts — the National Rifle Association (NRA) isn’t so keen on guns at their Annual Convention.

The convention (April 10-12 in Nashville) is expected to draw a crowd of 70,000 people.  Naturally all of them are do-gooders — there to ogle, stroke and cling to the “16 acres of guns” (according to an ad for the event).  Among the 555 Exhibitors (according to the NRA’s event website) are Smith & Wesson, SigSauer, Beretta USA and Remington Arms.  So will there be guns? — you betcha.  Will they work? — uh, no.  Sorry, but these guns won’t fire.

According to the security plan that was adopted by the NRA soon after Nashville was chosen to host their annual convention — all guns on the convention floor will be nonoperational with the firing pins removed.  In addition, any guns purchased during the NRA convention will have to be picked up at a Federal Firearms License dealer (near the purchaser’s home) and will require a legal identification (I expect they mean at the time of pickup of said merchandise.)

(See last item on this page.)

Speakers include Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush (the white one, not the one of hispanic origin), Scott Walker, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Lindsey Graham — and of course the perpetually-validation-seeking Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.  And for those with a nostalgia for treason, Oliver North will be making a booth appearance.  Ted Nugent is also scheduled because Freedom is not Free and We the People Must Keep It Alive! Well, true nothing stinks more than dead freedom -- except maybe rank hypocrisy.  READ MORE

Tom Cotton: Put Iraq out of your mind. Bombing Iran would take just 'several days'

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR): Smarmy smile, thirst for war.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton: losing his grip on reality, or lying shamelessly? It's not clear which conclusion would be more unflattering to Cotton in light of his claim that bombing Iran's nuclear facilities would be just like when then-President Bill Clinton bombed Iraq for four days in the late 1990s. It's just silly to think about the Iraq War of the 2000s, according to Cotton—silly, or a lie pushed by President Obama—"the president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq and that’s simply not the case." Simply not the case!
“It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox. Several days air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior. For interfering with weapons inspectors and for disobeying Security Council resolutions. All we’re asking is that the president simply be as tough as in the protection of America’s national security interest as Bill Clinton was.”
In short, Tom Cotton, 2015: "Several days air and naval bombing ... " Donald Rumsfeld, 2003, on the prospect of war with Iraq: "It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
Uh-huh. About that ...READ MORE

Rand Paul says the stuff he said before is now off-limits

In two interviews, Rand Paul has declared that what Rand Paul used to say is now off-limits. It's not fair, Paul testily claims, to ask him about stuff that he said before he decided to be a presidential candidate. Because that was before, or "a long time ago." As long ago as 2009, when he was a Senate candidate.
Sean Hannity, not surprisingly, let him get away with it. On the previous Paul statement that the idea of Iran being a threat to the United States is "ridiculous":
"You know, things do change over time," Paul said. "I also wasn't campaigning for myself, I was campaigning to help my father at the time."

Hannity let that slide. He allowed Paul to frame his opposition to new sanctions that would scuttle the Iran negotiations as his way of telling Obama he'd "have to bring a deal back to" Congress.
After Hannity shot him a total softball wrapped up in a lie: "What is your take on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—and the Indiana bill, the 1993 bill signed by Hillary Clinton's husband?" Of course, the Indiana RFRA and the federal RFRA are not exactly the same. That's not going to bother Hannity, but it did give Paul a chance to erase some of his previous disasters on civil rights. Of course, what he gave was totally gobbledygook, but Hannity just skipped over it and went to commercial. When he came back, he casually mentioned that Paul "took a shot at Dick Cheney back in 2007," but before he could go further, Paul jumped in with that was "before I was involved in politics for myself. […] That was a long time ago." Actually, the comments came in 2009, just before Paul began running himself. But Hannity, once again, let it slide. READ MORE

Ferguson court clerk who sent racist emails says they were funny and she feels like she's been raped

Mary Ann Twitty
Yeah, this is real life.
After sending emails out comparing President Obama to a chimp and more, Mary Ann Twitty still refuses to accept that she has a racist bone in her body. When challenged on whether or not she thought the emails were funny, here was her reply:
“Funny as in humor wise? Yes. Not because it was racist or biased, just funny because it was just funny jokewise,” Twitty said. “I feel bad because that's not, I don't want people to look at me and say ‘she sent those racist jokes out because she's racist or biased.' I am not.”

Twitty said she was simply doing what others in Ferguson's government were doing.
“It took me a while to get over the feeling of being raped and being thrown under the bus,” Twitty said. “I'm human, I meant nothing bad by it.”
See part of her video interview below the fold.  READ MORE

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Christopher Hitchens - Mother Teresa: Hell's Angel

Guess what Blackwater has been up to recently?

 Blackwater's name is mud these days. That's why they've been known as Academi since 2011.
   The name may have changed, but the practice of getting rich on Pentagon contracts hasn't.
 Statistics released on Tuesday reveal that the rebranded private security firm, known since 2011 as Academi, reaped over half a billion dollars from the futile Defense Department push to eradicate Afghan narcotics, some 32% of the $1.8bn in contracting money the Pentagon has devoted to the job since 2002.
Academi has collected $569 million taxpayer dollars for “training, equipment, and logistical support” to Afghan forces conducting counternarcotics. That's twice as much as the second-largest contractor, Northrop Grumman.
 So how has that counter narcotics effort been going in Afghanistan? If your metric is reducing the supply of opium, the results are not very good.
 Afghanistan is the source of 80% of the world's illicit opium products, according to The United Nations' 2014 World Drug Report.
   Afghan opium cultivation has increased by 7% from 2013 to 2014 and production increased as much as 17% over the same period, the UN reported in November. "Authorities "are worried that a record opium harvest in Afghanistan will flood global heroin markets this year," Reuters also notes.
 Opium is one of the primary sources of revenue for the Taliban and is partly responsible for the resurgence of the group, which has caused President Obama to delay the withdrawal of our troops.
  Of course the Afghani government takes an even bigger share of the narco-money than the Taliban does. Afghanistan is considered by many to be a narco state.
attribution: None Specified
 Well, at least Blackwater made a profit out of the whole mess. READ MORE

Another red state caught lying to the Supreme Court about health insurance exchanges

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley
Evidence continues to mount that the Republican states which filed amicus briefs for the plaintiffs in the King v. Burwell Supreme Court Obamacare challenge lied to the court. Over the past few months, Huffington Post has been examining various states' documentation of policy meetings, legislative hearings, local news reports, speeches, etc. to find any evidence at all that state lawmakers talked about pre-King what they now say they all knew—that the law was written to exclude subsidies to people buying health insurance on the federal exchange.

A very strong case in point: Alabama. Republican Gov. Robert Bentley had actually campaigned on setting up a state-based exchange, and initially pushed hard to make it happen. That included setting up the Alabama Health Insurance Exchange Study Commission, which was tasked with determining costs, processes, working with stakeholders, etc. Did the possibility that the state's residents couldn't receive the subsidies if the state didn't create an exchange ever come up?

"No. No. No. That was never, never brought up," [state Sen. Jim McClendon (R)] McClendon said in an interview with The Huffington Post last month. "I was unaware of that stipulation in the Affordable Care Act, and I would almost have to guess that anybody involved in this process was not aware of it. I was a little surprised when it came up eventually. Nope. I was the chairman of the commission and I was totally unaware of that." READ MORE

Three black men, convicted as teens, exonerated in Ohio after serving 20 years in prison

Derrick Wheatt, Laurese Glover, and Eugene Johnson
moments before being freed by the judge
In 1995, three young men, just high school students at the time—Laurese Glover, then 17, Eugene Johnson, then 18, and Derrick Wheatt, then 17—were railroaded by the Cleveland police and prosecutors office for a murder they didn't commit. Maintaining their innocence, they served the next 20 long years in prison, but were just released after years of legal support from the Ohio Innocence Project.

On multiple occasions both Glover and Wheatt were offered a deal to serve no jail time whatsoever if they testified against Eugene Johnson, but for 20 years they refused to do so, maintaining that all three of them were completely innocent.
On Feb. 10, 1995, in East Cleveland, Ohio, 19-year-old Clifton Hudson Jr. was found murdered, shot multiple times. At the time, witnesses reported seeing a person wearing dark clothing and a dark hat at the scene. Three juveniles — Wheatt, Glover and Johnson — happened to be near the scene. But, they emphasized, when the shooting started, they sped off. All three later provided the police with descriptions of the shooter that matched the basic descriptions given by other witnesses. But in a twist of events, they were charged with the crime.
The other witnesses who reported seeing a shooter come from a different parking lot and dressed differently than any of the men convicted, were never called to testify. READ MORE 

Go here to find your state organization 

The Innocence Project

And here for state-specific info.

Ted Cruz: Congress Should Strip Federal Courts Of Jurisdiction To Rule On Marriage Equality

While Ted Cruz isn't the first to come up with a jurisdiction-stripping scheme for the nation's judiciary, it is still a radical idea. It's the type of idea that would get him the attention of religious right conservatives ... likely lots of positive attention from them. Many of these folks have been apoplectic over the idea that the SCOTUS will likely rule in favor of marriage equality this year.
From Think Progress:

In the likely event that the Supreme Court brings marriage equality to all 50 states this summer, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wants to strip the entire federal judiciary of its power to hear cases brought by same-sex couples seeking the right to marry, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Cruz’s remarks came during a speech in Sioux City, Iowa, where the tea party senator also praised the original, more discrimination-friendly version of Indiana’s new “religious liberty” law, and claimed that a cabal of liberals and big business endorsed a “radical gay marriage agenda” which says that “any person of faith is subject to persecution if they dare” disagree with marriage equality.READ MORE

Famous GOP A-hole charged with criminal domestic violence

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy
Former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party and all-around awful human being, Todd Kincannon, was arrested a couple of weeks ago for criminal domestic violence.

An arrest warrant alleges Kincannon was driving on St. Andrews Road and Harbison Boulevard near Irmo when the pair began to argue. At that point, Griffith said she rolled her window down to yell at passing motorists for help while she pleaded for Kincannon to stop the car.

Kincannon, according to the incident report, began speeding through traffic, but eventually stopped the car at the Chick-Fil-A on Harbison Boulevard. Griffith told deputies that she tried to exit the vehicle in the parking lot, but Kincannon grabbed Griffith's arm in order to prevent her from leaving.

At that point, according to the incident report, Griffith began to hit Kincannon until he sped up the car in an effort to prevent her from leaving the vehicle. The report continues, and says Griffith then dialed 911 so the dispatcher could hear Kincannon. A short time later, the report says, Kincannon saw a patrol car and "freaked out." Kincannon then told Griffith that he would drive their car into a concrete barrier if the police got involved, the report says. READ MORE

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tom Cotton Suggests War With Iran Would Be A Breeze

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a strong opponent of President Barack Obama’s diplomatic efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear program, suggested on Tuesday that armed conflict with Tehran could be easily contained to “several days of air and naval bombing” and would not require the deployment of American ground troops. The comments eerily echoed the false predictions of Bush administration officials on the eve of the Iraq invasion.

Appearing on the Family Research Council’s Washington Watch radio show, Cotton slammed Obama for suggesting that military confrontation was the only alternative to diplomacy in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“This president has a bad habit of accusing other people of making false choices, but he presented the ultimate false choice last week when he said it’s either this deal or war,” Cotton said, before adding, that “Even if military action were required…the president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq and that’s simply not the case.”

“It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox,” he continued. “Several days air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior. For interfering with weapons inspectors and for disobeying Security Council resolutions. All we’re asking is that the president simply be as tough as in the protection of America’s national security interest as Bill Clinton was.”
But American military leaders — who worked for lawmakers of both parties — strongly disagree with Cotton’s assessment, arguing that an attack could actually prove a regional war and further push Iran towards the bomb. READ MORE

This Baker Refused To Bake An Anti-Gay Cake. Here’s Why That’s Not Discrimination.

The Colorado Civil Rights Division recently ruled that Azucar Bakery in Denver did not engage in illegal discrimination when it refused to make cakes with anti-gay messages on them.
In March of 2014, Marjorie Silva, owner of Azucar, refused to make cakes that included two Bible verses: “God hates sin. Psalm 45:7″ and “Homosexuality is a detestable sin. Leviticus 18:2[2].” The cake design was also to include a portrayal of two grooms holding hands in front of a cross with a red “X” over them. The man who made the request, one William Jack, proceeded to file a complaint against her for discriminating against him based on his “creed” as defined by Colorado law.
A decision letter from the Division ruled in Silva’s favor. She did not discriminate against Jack because of his religious identity, but because his request included “derogatory language and imagery.” Her standard against such language is consistent across protected classes. “In the same manner [she] would not accept [an order from] anyone wanting to make a discriminatory cake against Christians, [she] will not make one that discriminates against gays,” the decision reads. “The evidence demonstrates that [Silva] would deny such requests to any customer, regardless of creed.”

As UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh predicted, Colorado law protects discrimination against people based on their belonging to certain classes, not based on their ideas and messages.
Consistency is a factor to assessing this, which is why Silva won, but another Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, lost his case when he refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Phillips never even gave the couple a chance to discuss the artistry of the cake; despite selling wedding cakes to different-sex couples, he refused to sell the same product to same-sex couples. Though he argued that his religious beliefs simply forbade him from “participating” in a same-sex wedding, Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer found that this was just a pretext for anti-gay discrimination. “Only same-sex couples engage in same-sex weddings,” he wrote. “Therefore, it makes little sense to argue that refusal to provide a cake to a same-sex couple for use at their wedding is not ‘because of’ their sexual orientation.” READ MORE

Why The Christian Right May Never Recover From Indiana

Maurice Bessinger built his fortune serving barbecue. At the half-dozen locations of his Piggie Park restaurants, customers could enjoy meats slathered in the yellow, mustard-based sauce unique to South Carolina. That is, of course, unless they were black, for Bessinger was also a proud racist. As late as the twenty-first century, Piggie Park distributed tracts to its customers claiming that the Bible is a pro-slavery document — one of them claimed that African slaves “blessed the Lord for allowing them to be enslaved and sent to America.” After Congress banned whites-only restaurants in 1964, Bessinger reportedly put up an uncensored version of a sign warning that “[t]he law makes us serve n***ers, but any money we get from them goes to the Ku Klux Klan.”

And Bessinger wasn’t just an unapologetic racist, he also believed that his right to discriminate flowed from the Lord Almighty himself. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned whites-only lunch counters, “contravenes the will of God,” according to a lawsuit Bessinger brought claiming he should be exempt from the law. The Supreme Court disagreed, ruling 8-0 in Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises that Bessinger’s claim that a religious objection could authorize discrimination was “patently frivolous.”

Piggie Park was resolved in 1968, but Bessinger’s legal claim that religion should provide a license to discriminate rears its head over and over again in modern American history. It reared its head just over a week ago in Indiana, when religious conservatives briefly pushed through legislation that could have enabled them to ignore local ordinances protecting against anti-LGBT discrimination.
Yet, while the argument that religious objections can authorize discrimination is not new and has not typically fared well in court, the tactic anti-gay groups deployed in Indiana — enacting a law expanding the scope of “religious freedom” for the very purpose of protecting discrimination — is of much more recent vintage. As marriage equality appears more and more inevitable, and as the nation as a whole grows increasingly sympathetic toward LGBT rights, opponents of these rights hope to build a firewall against America’s broader culture. And this firewall rests on a foundation very similar to the arguments Maurice Bessinger once presented to the Supreme Court. READ MORE

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Does evidence undermine religion?

The REAL Truth About Religion And Its Origins

The Belief in God Is Irrational: How Religion Fuels War, Foments Bigotry, and Abuses Children (2006)

President Obama Takes Scott Walker To The Woodshed On Foreign Policy, Iran Deal

Amen: Man 'Accidentally' Second Amendments His Church During Easter Mass

Jesus understands because He carried a Glock

On the eve of the holiest of days, a Pennsylvania gun owner accidentally went all Second Amendment on his church.

The totally responsible dude's gun discharged in his pocket at Easter vigil Mass at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on Saturday evening.

The Altoona Mirror reports:

A critical piece of the handgun apparently caught on the man's pants as he stood up, according to Altoona police officer Christy Heck. The safety apparently was not engaged, she said.
The man, whose identity police did not divulge, was very slightly injured, police said. The bullet grazed the man, who was "beyond lucky," Heck said.

According to Altoona Police Department Sgt. Marshall Worling, Altoona Police Department administration and Blair County District Attorney officials will do more consulting before deciding whether charges will be filed.

Bishop Mark L. Bartchak and the man declined to comment afterward.

Just before the hymn at mass the shot was fired.
The shot had to echo for ages.


Scott Walker And The Right-To-Bigotry Law

Over the Easter weekend, just about every right wing pundit was expressing faux outrage over their trumped up war on Christianity/Judaism. This was to be expected, since they do it every religious holiday. This year, it was a little worse than normal due primarily to the blow back Indiana Governor Mike Pence received for passing the Right To Bigotry Law and because Madison, Wisconsin passed a law protecting those that aren't Christian or Jewish.

Leading into the weekend, Scott Walker finally had memorized his answer to the expected question about Indiana's debacle. And as expected, Walker put his foot into it, calling those opposed to Indiana's law as chronic complainers:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told a conservative crowd this week that people around the country protesting Indiana's religious freedom law are "looking for ways to be upset about things."

Indiana has come under fire — and the state has faced the threat of business boycotts — because of a law approved last week that critics say would allow businesses to discriminate against gays for religious reasons. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, has defended the law, but on Thursday signed a follow-up measure aimed at ensuring businesses could not engage in discrimination.

George Will Attacks Obama For Failing To Clean Up Bush's Mess In Iraq

Fox's George Will with the latest bit of Obama derangement syndrome on foreign policy. Coming from the man who supported the invasion of Iraq until he decided he was against it, who apparently believes President Obama is a "failure" because he hasn't snapped his fingers and forced the rest of the world to bend to our will.

From this weekend's Fox News Sunday, here's Will blaming Obama for honoring Bush's status of forces agreement in Iraq, along with Putin and Netanyahu's bad behavior.

WALLACE: George, there are obviously concessions in any negotiation. Did President Obama and the West give up too much or is this a reasonable deal?

WILL: Well, what was given up that really matters was given up a while ago, that is they conceded the right to enrich, the capacity to enrich and the possession of some low enriched uranium.

This deal comes in the fourth quarter of an Obama presidency that has been characterized in foreign policy by four failures: the failure to leave a stable Iraq, the failure of the Russian reset, the failure to advance the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, and the failure to suppress the proliferation of al Qaeda emulators and franchises, if you will.  READ MORE

No Cruise Ships For YOU, Kansas Poors!

The Kansas wholly-owned Senate is slated to approve draconian restrictions on welfare recipients, some of which are the most petty, mean-spirited ones in the nation.
Huffington Post:
Kansas welfare recipients will be unable to get more than $25 per day in benefits under a new law sent this week to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's desk by the state legislature.
The bill also prohibits welfare recipients from spending their benefits at certain types of businesses, including liquor stores, fortune tellers, swimming pools and cruise ships.
"We're trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended," state Rep. Michael O'Donnell (R) said, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. "This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life."
That $25 per day limit means those recipients will not be able to pay their rent without withdrawing said $25 with a corresponding 85-cent processing fee on a series of days ahead of the due date. I guess they get to choose between eating and paying rent?

There were a few Senators who spoke against the bill. They deserve applause. READ MORE

Jon Stewart Takes Eric Bolling To School Over Fox's Shaming Of Food Stamp Recipients

Monday, April 6, 2015

Exposing the Republican Party's Sleazy Playbook to Destroy Social Security

The new Congress is busy manufacturing a Social Security crisis.

In one of its first actions, the Republican House of Representatives of the 114th Congress, changed its rules to manufacture a Social Security crisis.

GOP Representatives Tom Reed and Sam Johnson introduced a procedural rule change, which was buried on page 30 of 32 in House Resolution 5.   It forbids the House from transferring money between the Social Security Retirement Fund and the Social Security Disability Fund, a move that Congress has made 11 times in the past, irrespective of which party was in control. The result is that the Disability Fund, which is expected to run out of reserves next year, cannot be helped using money from the Retirement Fund.  Without this “easy fix”—as the New York Times called it—recipients of Social Security Disability will see a 19% cut in benefits.

At a glance, this move by the GOP-led House seems irrational, cynical and counterproductive.  But if you consider Jude Wanniski’s playbook, it makes complete sense.

Odds are you've never heard of Jude, but without him Reagan never would have become a "successful" president, Republicans never would have taken control of the House or Senate, Bill Clinton never would have been impeached, and neither George Bush would have been president.

When Barry Goldwater went down to ignominious defeat in 1964, most Republicans felt doomed (among them the then-28-year-old Wanniski). Goldwater himself, although uncomfortable with the rising religious right within his own party and the calls for more intrusion in people's bedrooms, was a diehard fan of Herbert Hoover's economic worldview. In Hoover's world (and virtually all the Republicans since reconstruction with the exception of Teddy Roosevelt), market fundamentalism was a virtual religion. Economists from Ludwig von Mises to Friedrich Hayek to Milton Friedman had preached that government could only make a mess of things economic, and the world of finance should be left to the Big Boys – the Masters of the Universe, as they sometimes called themselves – who ruled Wall Street and international finance. READ MORE

Army of God? 6 Modern-Day Christian Terrorist Groups You Never Hear About

Just because they don't get as much coverage as ISIS or Boko Haram doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recently released an in-depth report on terrorism in the United States. Covering April 2009 to February 2015, the report (titled “The Age of the Wolf”) found that during that period, “more people have been killed in America by non-Islamic domestic terrorists than jihadists.” The SPLC asserted that “the jihadist threat is a tremendous one,” pointing out that al-Qaeda’s attacks of September 11, 2001 remain the deadliest in U.S. history. But the study also noted that the second deadliest was carried out not by Islamists, but by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995—and law enforcement, the SPLC stressed, are doing the public a huge disservice if they view terrorism as an exclusively Islamist phenomenon.

The report, in a sense, echoed the assertions that President Barack Obama made when he spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in February and stressed that Muslims don’t have the market cornered on religious extremism. In the minds of far-right Republicans, Obama committed the ultimate sin by daring to mention that Christianity has a dark side and citing the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition as two examples from the distant past. Obama wasn’t attacking Christianity on the whole but rather, was making the point that just as not all Christians can be held responsible for the horrors of the Inquisition, not all Muslims can be blamed for the violent extremism of ISIS (the Islamic State, Iraq and Syria), the Taliban, al-Qaeda or Boko Haram. But Obama certainly didn’t need to look 800 or 900 years in the past to find examples of extreme Christianists committing atrocities. Violent Christianists are a reality in different parts of the world—including the United States—and the fact that the mainstream media don’t give them as much coverage as ISIS or Boko Haram doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

Below are six extreme Christianist groups that have shown their capacity for violence and fanaticism.

Four of the Major Fear Campaigns That Helped Create America's Insane War on Drugs

The techniques of fear and manipulation are nothing new. Here's how they've been applied with great success in crafting our harsh drug policies.

Guantánamo Bay: wheels of justice turn slowly – at $7,600 a minute

Cost estimate comes as military commissions’ chief prosecutor proposes relaxing restrictions on lawyers raising their clients’ torture by CIA in court
guantanamo protesters senate armed services committee
Protesters listen during a hearing of the Senate armed services committee on Capitol Hill last week. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The Guantánamo Bay war court is now costing US taxpayers over $7,600 per minute, according to new Pentagon figures.

Carting the necessary personnel and support to the remote Cuban base has escalated costs for the military commissions, a memo from the top Pentagon commissions official indicated. The controversial tribunals at Guantánamo have attracted criticisms over their inefficiency from their inception, in addition to international concerns about their capacity to distribute justice.

The Pentagon estimates come as the chief prosecutor in the commissions proposed relaxing major secrecy restrictions preventing defense lawyers from addressing torture inflicted on defendants by the CIA and its international allies – the first suggested classification changes for the war court after the Senate released portions of its landmark inquiry into CIA torture.

Vaughn Ary, the retired marine two-star general who oversees the commissions as the chief convening authority, declared his dissatisfaction with the tempo and cost of the tribunals in a December memo.

Guatemalans deliberately infected with STDs sue Johns Hopkins University for $1bn

Lawsuit with 800 plaintiffs seeks damages for individuals, spouses and children of people deliberately infected with STDs through US government programme

Nearly 800 plaintiffs have launched a billion-dollar lawsuit against Johns Hopkins University over its alleged role in the deliberate infection of hundreds of vulnerable Guatemalans with sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis and gonorrhoea, during a medical experiment programme in the 1940s and 1950s.

The lawsuit, which also names the philanthropic Rockefeller Foundation, alleges that both institutions helped “design, support, encourage and finance” the experiments by employing scientists and physicians involved in the tests, which were designed to ascertain if penicillin could prevent the diseases.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine held “substantial influence” over the commissioning of the research programme by dominating panels that approved federal funding for the research, the suit claims.

The lawsuit asserts that a researcher paid by the Rockefeller Foundation was assigned to the experiments, which he travelled to inspect on at least six occasions.

The suit also claims that predecessor companies of the pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb supplied penicillin for use in the experiments, which they knew to be both secretive and non-consensual.

The experiments, which occurred between 1945 and 1956, were kept secret until they were discovered in 2010 by a college professor, Susan Reverby. The programme published no findings and did not inform Guatemalans who were infected of the consequences of their participation, nor did it provide them with follow up medical care or inform them of ways to prevent the infections spreading, the lawsuit states.

Orphans, prisoners and mental health patients were deliberately infected in the experiments.

Some World War II documentaries

Although many people have heard of WWII,  few have any deep understanding of what actually went on.  For this reason I occasionally post some of the videos I have reviewed.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Fox & Friends Says Protecting Atheists From Discrimination Is Anti-Christian!

While Fox News cheered on the Indiana "religious freedom" bill as a way to protect Christians, they sure don't feel the same way about a Wisconsin ordinance, pushed by the evil Freedom From Religion Foundation, which protects atheists. On this morning's Fox & Friends, we learned that this action is anti-Christian because Christians have a right to discriminate against atheists!

Paragon of tolerant Christianity, Tucker Carlson reported that Madison, Wisconsin is now including atheists as a protected class. Jesus BFF, Anna Kooiman set the propaganda message in asking Fox's favorite race baiting, GOP activist, and former DOJ attorney J Christian Adams "where does this hostility come from." Adams informed us that the measure was driven by the Freedom From

Religion Foundation which is one of Fox's favorite targets for its patented war on atheists and atheism. In Fox's Christian crusade, Adams described the group as "a bunch of angry atheists." (As opposed to the perennially pissed off Christians who host Fox News shows?) READ MORE

The Millennials turn 30: Reflections on a generation's values

Happy 30th to the millennial generation
From a demographer's perspective, "generations" are groups of people born within a specific time period who share something in common. Generations are shaped by extraordinary circumstances: perhaps by long wars and economic difficulties, but equally by peace and prosperity. While generations are usually felt to have specific beginnings and ends, such as the baby boomer generation that resulted from the return of our servicemen from the Second World War, people are being born all the time, which means that oftentimes, the specific beginnings and ends of generations are somewhat malleable.

With that caveat, however, the year 1982 is widely accepted as the beginning of the millennial generation. The oldest of us are just hitting our 30th birthday, like I did last month. And as we enter our fourth decade of existence, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on who we are and what we have been through. We're not monolithic; no generation is. But we do have common experiences, and those experiences have shaped our values as a generation. Eventually, we will be America's political and economic leaders; some of us already are. But when we are governors, senators and presidents, what might an America run by millennials look like?

Let's start with who we are.  We will be the first generation in some time not to idolize Ronald Reagan; not because we don't respect his political ideology (though that may be the case), but simply because only the oldest of us have any recollection whatsoever of his presidency, and a six-year-old's hazy memories aren't worth much. For us, the Cold War is a part of history that was before our time, not part of the world we grew up in as a day-to-day reality. That's not to say that our geopolitical reality has been any more pleasant; for most of us, the attacks of September 11, 2001 were childhood experiences. Our constant reality since then has been wars and occupations, terror alert codes, recessions, eight years of George W. Bush, and a faith-destroying economic catastrophe. But we'll get to that in a minute.  READ MORE

When Will Conservative Christians Relent On The Gays?

Found on  God Hates Protesters.

Tom Krattenmaker has a piece up on USA Today where he asks what conservative Christians should do: "On gay rights, keep fighting or adapt?"
You get the sense, observing the shifting cultural landscape, that we've reached a point on gay rights that is similar to that moment in a football game, or an election, or a relationship, when you know it's over even though it's not over.

It appears increasingly obvious that social acceptance of gay men and lesbians and insistence on their equal rights are inexorable.

It certainly looked over for Maggie Gallagher, National Organization for Marriage and her financial benefactors from the Mormon and Catholic Churches in New Hampshire and Maryland this week. But would the conservative Christian industry ever willingly euthanize the goose laying the golden eggs?  READ MORE

Fiscal inequality: Godzilla vs. Ants

No doubt you've seen many charts over the last few months breaking down income inequality in the United States. However, looking at the way money moves through the system, doesn't really capture how badly askew our nation really is; how fragile it is, and how few people really hold the controls.
Instead of looking at income, let's take a look at a broader measure of fiscal inequality. Let's look at wealth.

Wealth rolls together a number of items. It's the cash you have in the bank, the savings bonds gathering dust in a drawer, the stocks and bonds that make up your 401k. For the better off, it's corporate bonds, municipal bonds, foreign bonds and other instruments. It's your pension, if you have one. It's the stock your corporation gives you to stick around because you're such a valuable fellow. It's that vacation home in Florida, that other vacation home outside London, that other vacation home... or maybe the other six. It's the personal ownership you have in a business. It's your family trust.

In short, it's the total of all your net assets, minus the value of your primary residence (be it ever so humble or oh so grand) and your debts. So what does America look like in those terms?

It's a staggeringly uneven distribution, with 42% of the wealth in the hands of 1% of the people. Even so, a chart like this doesn't begin to really capture how lopsided the nation really is.
Let's take a look at one of those 80-percenters. READ MORE

Indiana Governor Rewards Private Prison Lobby with Draconian Marijuana Punishments

I have a new and self-imposed policy that I follow when I see a news report of some bull-headed politician proposing some law to put low-level drug possessors in prison. That rule? Follow the money, of course.

Because something hideous is festering under the surface of these laws. It's the private prison lobby, which makes campaign contributions to secure harsher penalties. You see, these prison companies are in need of warm bodies, since they can put those people to work inside the walls of those prisons. The companies double-dip, too, pulling in a guaranteed sum from the state in addition to whatever they can make with their legalized slave labor. Weed offenders are just the sorts of people these prison profiteers are looking for. They're mostly non-violent people who will comply. They can be put to work without much worry.

This week, Indiana got into the mix, as its governor Mike Pence pushed for changes to legislation on drug crime. Among his suggested changes:

Tougher marijuana possession and dealing penalties could be added to a proposed overhaul of Indiana's criminal sentencing laws by legislators after Gov. Mike Pence questioned whether the plan was strict enough on low-level drug offenders. READ MORE

Republicans are not conservative: They are Radical Fundamentalists

I am tired of letting Republicans and Tea Party supporters co-opt the term "conservative". Republicans are not conservatives... they are radical fundamentalists and we should be referring to them as such.
From the Dictionary: conservative
con·serv·a·tive [kuhn-sur-vuh-tiv]
1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.
2. cautiously moderate or purposefully low: a conservative estimate.
3. traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness: conservative suit.
4. ( often initial capital letter ) of or pertaining to the Conservative party.
5. ( initial capital letter ) of, pertaining to, or characteristic of Conservative Jews or Conservative Judaism.
By their own definition... they are fundamentalists.
From Conservapedia
A conservative is someone who adheres to principles of personal responsibility, moral values, and limited government, agreeing with George Washington's Farewell Address that "religion and morality are indispensable supports" to political prosperity.
From the Dictionary: fundamentalism    READ MORE

If Our Founding Fathers Were All Christians, Why Did They Say This?

Nobody can deny the fact that Christianity has played a huge role in our history. From the first Thanksgiving to the ideas of Jesus Christ that are embroidered in our culture today, Christianity and the Bible is responsible a big part of our heritage.

However, many conservatives will take this fact way out of context. They'll think that you have to be a Christian to be patriotic, which is simply not true. Following the more secular teachings of Jesus Christ (being charitable, loving one another, treating strangers with kindness) is what the men who founded this country were for.

I don't want to waste my time listing all these obscurant far-right arguments, so instead I'll list the facts straight from our forefathers.  READ MORE

Fake news story apparently prompts real legislation in Colorado

A story from a fake news website has apparently led the Colorado Republican state senator who thinks fried chicken causes black and Latino poverty to file a bill prohibiting the use of food stamps or other government aid at marijuana dispensaries, even to purchase things that could be legally obtained elsewhere with the public assistance. (Food stamps can only be used to buy food, remember.)

Last week, the satirical National Report posted a fake story entitled “Colorado Pot Shop Accepting Food Stamps – Taxpayer Funded Marijuana for Welfare Recipients.” Other stories on the site include equally false items such as “Colorado Pot Shop Attempts To Disarm Citizens With ‘Weed for Guns’ Buyback Program,” “How Obama’s EPA Is Taking Away Your 2nd Amendment,” and “U.S. Caves to Iran In Nuclear Deal. Sharia Law Now to be Taught in U.S. Universities. Qurans to be Placed in Motel Rooms.” A conservative news site picked up the story, apparently duped. The Douglas County Republican Committee, also apparently believing the story real, linked to the report on its Twitter feed last Tuesday. READ MORE