5 Quick Political Facts for Today (3/2/15)

Can’t avoid the impending Iran deal and the circus now around it but more good news on gay marriage.

  • Climate change was a contributing factor to the war inside SyriaThis has been suggested before but now a team of scientists put together a report explaining this fact for the world to understand.  They also mention refugees arriving from Iraq as a contributing factor (who caused that again?).  But it’s cool everybody because all we have to do is send senile Senator Inhofe over to Syria with a few snowballs and this whole mess will be cleared up quickly.  Peace is on the way!
  • Netanyahu’s lies are starting to sink him.  A great video on AJA appeared today giving you 5 things he will refuse to admit when he testifies to Congress and is worth watching to give you a quick version of why we should barely pay attention to him.  The Intercept also put together a good piece pointing out the many times he has “cried wolf” over the years.  Both pieces mention his testimony to Congress about Iraq’s advanced nuclear technology in 2002.  Listening to Netanyahu about other country’s nuclear ambitions is like listening to idiot preachers continually predicting the end of the world.  No matter how many times these tools are wrong, the foolish still think they speak the truth.

    See this 90%? That’s the percentage of things I say about Iran that are utter lies. The 10% that is truthful is when I say the name of the country correctly.
  • John Boehner is one of the foolish and can’t hide it.  Boehner defended his invite to Netanyahu by stating “Congress wants to support Israel and wants to hear what a trusted ally has to say”.   Yes, because Bibi has no way of transmitting his message to Congress in any other way than to give a speech there during an Israeli election year.  No one will put a camera on him or a microphone in front of his mouth.  Poor fella.  It was like he was a ghost prior to giving his speech.  By the way, Mr. Speaker.  What is the cost of this versus, say, a conference call with Bibi?  I mean, you guys are fiscal conservatives so this is the cheaper route, correct?
  • Iran is and has been a rational actor throughout all of this and there is no evidence they are pursuing a nuclear weapon.  An excellent read from The Atlantic focusing on this reality but one section is worth quoting here and should be constantly noted about the situation:

That’s why the Bush administration’s 2007 National Intelligence Estimate said Iran is “guided by a cost-benefit approach.” It’s why Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in 2012 that “we are of the opinion that Iran is a rational actor.” It’s why Benny Gantz, then head of the Israel Defense Forces, declared the same year that “the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people.” It’s why Meir Dagan, the longtime head of Israel’s intelligence agency, called the Iranian regime “rational” in an interview with 60 Minutes. And it’s why Ron Burgess, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress that “the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or provoke a conflict.” Could all these men, who analyze intelligence about Iran for a living, be wrong?

  • Nebraska’s ban on gay marriage has been struck down by the courts.  Another state is added to the ranks of those on the right side of history.  I guess they wanted to be able to say they legalized gay marriage prior to the Supreme Court legalizing it across the nation this coming June.  No reason, at this point, to be a state that has to be drug kicking and screaming across the finish line by the federal government.

5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/17/15)

  • The American public clearly has no idea what it wants from Obama on the issue of ISIS.  A new poll showed a majority of the public disapproves of the president’s handling of ISIS but a majority also do not want boots on the ground to fight them.  Considering the U.S. has been conducting airstrikes against ISIS for a while (a fact I assume is probably lost on a portion of the respondents of this poll), one has to wonder what the public even wants?  What should he be doing?  The question is not asked in the poll and, since it isn’t asked, it should be noted that some of the disapproval might be coming from people who think the airstrikes themselves are too much and those resources shouldn’t be used by the U.S. government.  We can’t know from this poll.
  • Welfare reform is now causing people to die earlier.  A new study has found the welfare reforms of the 1990s are shaving time off of the lives of the poor.  In a better world, politicians would recognize their duty to protect the citizens they represent and take things like these effects into account.  In reality, it’s just another situation of the elected government not caring about those that do not vote in high numbers or contribute to their campaigns.  I wonder how much longer the wealthy that are running government-subsidized corporations get to live because of their welfare?
  • Attorney General Eric Holder calls for a national moratorium on capital punishmentNot really a strong endorsement of ending the ridiculously expensive practice but at least a step in the right direction from a high-ranking official.  Unfortunately, the U.S. will continue to stay behind most of the rest of the modernized world on this issue for the foreseeable future.
  • Get ready for the GOP swing to the left on gay marriage“Half of Republican primary and caucus voters in the key early states of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina said that opposition to same-sex marriage is unacceptable” (Emphasis added).  I believe gay marriage will not be much of an issue by the time the primaries roll around since the SCOTUS will likely legalize it nationwide this summer.  This will be a secretly welcomed change by the GOP candidates since they will then be able to dodge the question on the campaign trail next year.
  • Senator Bernie Sanders continues to be awesome.  In a great op-ed on the new regime in Greece, Sanders tells it like it is again with this great line:

The real concern, apparently, is that democracy may go too far for austerity advocates to continue imposing their economic ideology from a distance: in Spain, Portugal, Finland and elsewhere, the patience of citizens is wearing thin as a growing number of them awaken to the stark reality that, while the very rich get much richer, the austerity programs their governments dutifully implemented are the cause rather than the cure for what ails their economies. (Emphasis added)

Sanders also took the time today to call for the first two years of all college to be free for Americans.  This would be a further expansion on the Obama plan of two years of community college being free.  It’s nice to see that some elected officials in government actually want to see the United States be taken into the 21st Century and not taken back to the 19th.  If only we could elect a guy like that to be president…

5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/12/15)

  • United States’ defense spending is still pretty ridiculous.  The United States spends over four times as much in its defense budget as its nearest rival, China.  In fact, its budget comes close to matching that of its 14th closest rivals put together.”  Just imagine where the U.S. could be in terms of truly important areas like education if we just cut that budget in half and spent the money on improving schools or infrastructure or shoring up Social Security for good.  But I guess it’s good that we can use our absurd military spending to stabilize places around the world like in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen and help keep the antiquated idea of monarchy alive and strong in places like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.  Yay, America!
  • France sold the Egyptian government military equipment.  24 Rafale fighter jets along with other supplies amounting to over $5 billion will be headed to the government that came to power in a not-a-coup military coup.  While the Egyptian government is seemingly making some strides toward logic, it’s probably far too early to start selling them equipment that they may decide to use on say, I don’t know, their own people.  But, like the U.S. military industrial complex, when you have a bunch of war equipment burning a hole in your pocket, gotta find somewhere to sell it no matter how immoral.
  • U.S. crime rate continues to fall and it’s not because we are throwing more people in jail and prison than every other country on the planet.  A new report offers no definitive explanation as to the reason for the continued decline of crime but does state that mass incarceration is not the culprit.  And the incredible decrease should continually be noted since many people believe the opposite due to the way the media sensationalizes crime:

Between 1991 and 2013, the violent crime rate declined by more than 50 percent, according to FBI figures. During the same time frame, property crime fell by 46 percent.

  • Droughts in the U.S. are going to get a lot worse despite how bad they have already been in recent years.  Quite a bit to digest in the article but the key reality is this: droughts will start lasting for decades, not years, because of man-made climate change.  In other words, things are super great now in places like California and Texas compared to what they will be in the future if nothing drastic is done to avert the crisis.  At least there aren’t any climate change-deniers in power in Texas because that would just be crazy…  Speaking of Texas-style crazy…
  • On gay marriage, insane right-winger Ted Cruz morphs into…a moderate democrat?!  It’s true as the last-ditch effort before the nationwide legalizing of gay marriage coming in June is to apparently try to pass a bill calling for states’ rights on the issue.  Saying it should be left up to the states to decide is basically the exact argument many Democratic politicians were making 10 years ago when they were too cowardly to just stand up for what was right (I’m looking at you, former presidential candidate Kerry).  On a side note, the language Cruz and his ilk use on the issue is both ridiculous and vicious.  He states his bill will “safeguard the ability of states to preserve traditional marriage for their citizens” (emphasis added).  This suggests “traditional marriage” will simply cease to exist if gay marriage is ever allowed, which has already proven to be clearly untrue and is just a ranting from a madman.

The Anti-Gay Marriage Stupid is Happily in Its Last Throes

Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi are making their cases in a federal appellate court to maintain their gay marriage bans.  Their reasons for continuing these civil rights violations are so awful it’s just laughable at this point.  Let the stupid begin:

Louisiana went first, telling a federal appellate panel that giving gays and lesbians marriage rights is so risky and unproven that states must be allowed to protect their citizens against it.

Same-sex marriage is “a novel perception” in terms of recorded history, argued Louisiana’s special counsel, Kyle Duncan.

Only ten years of data has been gathered since Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriages, he said – not enough to know the consequences if courts keep overturning state-imposed bans.

Wow.  I understand that these three states are scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of state education rankings, but that argument is just atrocious.  How could you even keep a straight face listening to that?

Ten years of data?  What!?  As if to say there were zero gays and lesbians existing and living together prior to the Massachusetts ruling and zero studies of the effects on surrounding societies, which is just insane.

Happily, the Supreme Court appears to be on its way to finally taking up this issue and handing down a ruling that very likely legalizes gay marriage across the country.  This, of course, does not lift the black-eye off of them for all of their previous actions that did not reach this inevitability, a point mentioned in the article:

Only 14 states still prohibit same-sex unions, which may give the justices reassurance that the country is ready for a nationwide change.

Three earlier seminal high court rulings that outlawed state-backed discrimination – involving education, interracial marriage and criminal prohibitions against gay sex – were issued when similar fractions of the country still kept discriminatory laws on their books.

Justice may be blind but it apparently still reads the opinion polls enough to stick itself in the eye over and over.  Now, if only we could address that whole “corporations are people, too” thing…

Gay Rights Progress and More Stunning NSA Tidbits for the Day

Gay Marriage in Texas

A judge in Texas has ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional while leaving the law in place upon further appeals.  Part of his ruling should be hammered home across the nation in the fight for gay rights:

“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” (Judge Orlando) Garcia wrote. “These Texas laws deny plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex.” (Emphasis added)

Gay Adoption in Michigan

Another court case concerning gay rights is currently underway in Michigan and is focusing on the effects of same-sex couples on parenting.  People are allowed their opinions as to what they may think about gay parents but let’s get one thing clear: there is no legitimate scientific research supporting the idea gay parenting is in any way a detriment to children.  As stated in the article:

“The scholarly consensus is that children raised by same-sex couples are in no disadvantage,” said Michael J. Rosenfeld, a Stanford University sociologist…“The consensus (among sociologists) is a consensus opinion that this debate is settled.

The NSA Will Attack You Personally and Attempt Brainwashing

There appears to be no end as to how shocking and despicable the NSA actions and programs can be.  Glen Greenwald, through Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing, is now showing us the proof the NSA was/is using covert operations on the Internet to go after political activists and discredit them in any way possible.

Are they texting my Momma?!

As bad as all of these actions are, take a close look at the last bullet point on the slide.  One has to wonder what guidelines were followed and what alleged crime had to be committed for the texts and emails to be sent out to friends and family.  And remember, these actions would have been taken against people who allegedly had done something bad, not criminals convicted in a court of law.

Another slide included in Greenwald’s article is just as astonishing and suggests making attempts at brainwashing people.  In a slide titled “Gambits for Deception”, we see Orwellian phrases such as “Present story fragments”, “Swap the real for the false”, “Repetition reduces vigilance”, “Repetition creates expectancies”, and “Channel behavior”.  How exactly is “swapping the real for the false” construed as being an important part of a democracy?

And let’s not forget there has been no proof any of the NSA’s unwarranted domestic spying activities have produced anything resembling useful actions that have stopped a terrorist, which is the justification for these programs.

NSA Actions Illegal, Gay Marriage in Virginia, and Other Tidbits of Info for Today

  • An independent review has found the NSA’s phone data collection to be illegal.  Whether the actions are legal or illegal, we must simply ask whether they are useful.  Still little to no evidence supporting that, as mentioned in the article:
    “Moreover, even in the dozen cases examined by the board where the metadata linked contacts to a terrorism suspect, most benefits were modest and “limited to corroborating information that was obtained independently by the FBI,” the board report found.”
  • Virginia’s new attorney general has decided not to defend the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.  Just like what has or will happen to every other ban such as this one, it will go down likely in the courts for the exact reason given by the AG:
    “Having exercised his independent constitutional judgment, consistent with his oath of office, the Attorney General has concluded that Virginia’s laws denying the right to marry to same-sex couples violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
  • An excellent op-ed by economics professor Daniel Altman appeared in Foreign Policy regarding the reasons why high levels of income inequality are actually very bad for the economy.  One of the biggest reasons:
    “…the allocation of opportunity is not determined solely by effort or ability. To a great degree, access to opportunity in the United States depends on wealth. Discrimination based on race, religion, gender, and sexual discrimination may be on the wane in many countries, but discrimination based on wealth is still a powerful force. It opens doors, especially for people who may not boast the strongest talents or work ethic.”(Emphasis added)
    In short, defenders of the economic status quo haven’t figured out being the child of a wealthy or powerful person does not equal being as smart or talented as the parent.  I’m looking at you, former president youknowwhoyouare.
  • AG Eric Holder is calling for Congress to pass legislation reducing prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders.  One of the clear realities of the failed drug war at this point is the huge economic cost on tax payers (along with the societal ones on the many victims):
    “The federal prison population has mushroomed by 500 percent, to 219,000, over the last 30 years, mainly because of the number and length of mandatory sentences, especially drug sentences…the Urban Institute said in a study that that reducing the number of people incarcerated for drug offenses by even 20 percent would save nearly $1.3 billion over 10 years and cutting the number of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses by half would save about $2.5 billion over the time span.”

    Just try controlling those libidos seeing, potentially, our next president, ladies! Try and fail, that is!
  • And finally, potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, took a break from apparently performing brain surgery on himself to try to court the votes of women…by insulting them.  Well done, sir.  I can almost hear the heavy flow of campaign money dumping into the Republican coffers of anyone-but-this-guy.  His quote:
    “If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are hopeless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them with their prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.”

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/01/23/215518/holder-urges-congress-to-ease.html#storylink=cpy

 

The 5 Ways Gay Marriage Can Win at the Supreme Court – Molly Ball – The Atlantic

The 5 Ways Gay Marriage Can Win at the Supreme Court – Molly Ball – The Atlantic.

A great summarized prep in anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling coming today.  Let’s hope we get ruling #1 and the inevitable legalizing of gay marriage for all will finally come to the United States.

Grab-Bag for Today: Gay Marriage, Guantanamo, Mexico Violence, and Drones

Uruguay Legalizes Gay Marriage

The South American country of Uruguay has legalized gay marriage through its Chamber of Deputies.  Good to see a country mature enough to do it through legislation and not have to wait until the court system informs the public what the phrase “equal rights” actually means (looking at you America).  And the good news for Americans is the legislation states “gay and lesbian foreigners will now be allowed to come to Uruguay to marry, just as heterosexual couples can.”  So, if the Supreme Court doesn’t have the guts to legalize gay marriage in the United States when they release their decision, there is always Uruguay!  (Or Canada, Argentina, Denmark, etc.)

Guantanamo Hunger Strikes Worsen, Free People Being Mistreated

How many of these people are already “free”?

We have to continue asking: why is Guantanamo still open?  In a story getting little to no press in the U.S., hunger strikes of prisoners at the base have worsened as the inmates continue to protest their treatment and possible desecration of the Koran by guards.  The truly awful part of this: most of the prisoners have been granted their release but are still there.  As reported in the Guardian, 86 prisoners have been granted their release out of a total population of 166.  Guantanamo has now long been a disgrace to human rights and Obama’s broken promise of closing the base will continue to worsen America’s standing with the rest of the world everyday it stays open and abuse continues of those inside for reasons now beyond comprehension.

Mexico Drug Killings Down 14%! (Note: No Reason For Celebration)

The first four months of President Nieto’s administration have been apparently better then the same four month period last year during Calderon’s term.  The killings due to drug violence have dropped to 4,249 from 4,934.  Impressive!  Just one problem: the “official” count seems to be a little lower than what the actual numbers probably are.  From the article:

Bloody clashes are still common in Mexico and it can be impossible to know how many people died because drug traffickers take their dead away before authorities reach the scene.

In the border city of Reynosa there were at least four major shootouts between rival drug gangs in March. One of the clashes lasted several hours. People reported dozens of dead on social networks and at least 12 were corroborated by witnesses. The official account only listed two dead.

It might be a reason to celebrate a decrease in violence.  Then again, there’s a good chance the “official” decrease is a sham and things could be even worse.  Who really knows?

The U.S. Government Lied About Drone Attacks (with proof!)

Watch out below for the bombs and the lies!

The U.S. government, whether under Bush or Obama, has stated drone attacks were specifically and, more importantly, legally directed at members of Al Qaeda and its allies who were imminent threats to America and were plotting action against us.  In other words, it’s self defense only.  Not true according to this article from McClatchy that examined classified documents from both administrations.  One small piece of info from the long report:

While U.S. officials say the Taliban Movement of Pakistan works closely with al Qaida, its goal is to topple the Pakistani government through suicide bombings, assaults and assassinations, not attacking the United States. The group wasn’t founded until 2007, and some of the strikes in the U.S. intelligence reports occurred before the administration designated it a terrorist organization in September 2010.

This is getting into a very murky legal area if the U.S. is killing members of groups that are not in any way a threat to the U.S.  It is an obvious violation of international law (along with pretty much the entire drone policy) but it brings up the question of what happens when other countries develop the technology and begin using it according to the same legal (a.k.a. not-really-legal) definitions?  Could we justifiably take action against Iran if they used drone attacks against Israeli assets because they viewed them as an imminent threat?  What about North Korea using it against what they view as a threat?

When little evidence is needed to justify what is a threat (as is the case with the drone attacks), how will we be able to say that is not right when the policy spreads?

Feb. 5 Grab Bag of Articles from the BBC

Three good articles of interest from the BBC today, all with some points to dwell on:

The paper adopts a broad definition of “imminent threat”, saying it is not necessary to produce evidence that a specific attack is being planned if the target is generally engaged in plotting against the US.

This sounds as if the choosing of the target and the decision to commence a deadly drone attack is actually quite vague.  Since we allegedly believe in the rule of law and giving people a fair shake when it comes to justice, we must question the wording of this part of the memo.  In fact, considering we are carrying out capital punishment without a trial, we should conduct the operation with only the most concrete of evidence, if at all.  This wording suggests there needs to be almost no evidence given or certainly none that would lead to a conviction in a court of law.

Current legal definitions of adultery and consummation are based on sexual contact between a man and a woman. Without these legal definitions, critics argue that same-sex marriage will be open to those who do not have a sexual relationship.

What makes this so strange to an American like me is that it is a viable legal reason to criticize the bill.  I’m just so used to only seeing symbolic arguments, such as “I believe in the sanctity of marriage”, it’s stunning to see a somewhat reasonable legal one.  I’m sure this will not be much of an issue for Britain and they will be one step ahead of the United States on marriage equality, just as they are in other areas like health care.

Will the Supreme Court Continue to Show Cowardice on Gay Marriage?

Gay marriage before Supreme Court? Cases weighed – Yahoo! News.

The Supreme Court will decide whether it will finally take up the issue of gay marriage for the entire country or not and a few lines from this article say it all:

Gay marriage before Supreme Court? Cases weighed - Yahoo! News

Throughout U.S. history, the court has tried to avoid getting too far ahead of public opinion and mores. The high court waited until 1967 to strike down laws against interracial marriage in the 16 states that still had them…”What do they have to gain by hearing this case? Either they impose same sex marriage on the whole country, which would create a political firestorm, or they say there’s no right to same-sex marriage, in which case they are going to be reversed in 20 years and be badly remembered. They’ll be the villains in the historical narrative,” said Andrew Koppelman, a professor of law and political science at Northwestern University.

The truly wrongheaded thinking here is that the political firestorm would be such a bad thing.  The professor is definitely right about the outcomes he is suggesting but the question that should be asked here is, what do we truly have to fear from this so-called firestorm?  Will there be rioting?  Looting?  A zombie apocalypse?  Will team Edward or Jacob rise to victory?

The fact is we are admitting a decision against gay marriage will be overturned at some point in the near future and will be forever frowned upon by the generations to come.  So why not just get to the equal-for-all part of this issue by legalizing it nationwide now?  Even if there is a firestorm, why should anyone fear it?

The only element stopping this decision from already being made is the inability of people to change their minds and come to grips with the reality gay marriage is just fine and is fair for those currently being oppressed.  Why should the country be held back in progressing toward equality because a shrinking minority of people think the wrong way on a certain issue?

It’s sad the Supreme Court has chosen cowardice over justice for so long on gay rights and may continue to do so.  It’s even more heartbreaking our generation will be burdened with this ideology being associated with us in the forthcoming history books just as the Supreme Court decisions of the 1800s regarding slavery and Jim Crow laws will forever be intertwined with American beliefs of that century.  It’s a disgrace that only a tiny group of people have the power and ability to change and they still seem to be too afraid to do what is right.