‘Unpreteniousil’ – the new drug on the market that promises to cure Hipsters:
By Christie Thompson ProPublica, Feb. 15, 2013, 12:10 p.m.
In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Obama again called for Congress to take quick action on gun control. “These proposals deserve a vote,” he said. “Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.”
In the two months since Sandy Hook, debate has surged over how to address America’s epidemic of gun violence. In late January, the Senate Judiciary Committee began ongoing hearings on proposals to tighten restrictions on gun sales.
We’ve dug into the NRA’s efforts to block gun control policy, compared spending on both sides of the issue, and laid out five gun laws you probably never heard of. But with so much media coverage, it can be hard to keep facts straight. To help, we’ve compiled some of the best graphics on guns, from where they’re purchased to the laws governing how they’re used.
Tracing the national flow of guns, Washington Post, October 2010
A 2010 graphic from The Washington Post shows how “states with strong gun laws import [guns] from states with weaker laws.” The map uses 2009 data of firearms recovered by police.
Where 50,000 Guns Recovered in Chicago Came From, New York Times, January 2013
There have been nearly 50 homicides in Chicago already this year, despite some of the strictest gun ordinances in the country. So where are the guns coming from? This New York Times map traces the origins of 50,000 guns recovered by police from 2001 to March 2012.
Gun laws in the US, state by state, The Guardian US, December 2012
Any conversation on regulation is complicated by the huge variation in gun laws from state to state. This Guardian US interactive lays out regulations by state, from concealed handgun laws to background checks.
Where Congress Stands on Guns, ProPublica, January 2013
Do you know where your representative stands on gun control? This chart details NRA and ratings and contributions, Brady scores and votes on the 1994 assault weapons ban.
Gun Rights Campaign Contributions, Slate, January 2013
Find out how much gun rights advocates donated to members of Congress in the last election cycle.
How the NRA exerts influence over Congress, Washington Post, January 2013
The Washington Post visualizes which members of Congress “get the most–and least–support” from the NRA.
This is Your Representative on Guns, The Daily Beast, February 2013
Input your address and get an overview of your representative’s positions on gun control as well as NRA contributions for each. The Daily Beast is also aggregating gun-related tweets by politicians at @YourRepsOnGuns.
Long Weekend of Gun Deaths, NBC News, January 2013
A tick tock of gun deaths over the MLK holiday weekend details incidents by type, including accidental shootings, murders, police shootings, self defense and suicide.
Gun Homicide Rates, The Washington Post, December 2012
A detailed look at firearm homicides across the United States and around the world.
The U.S. Shooting Epidemic, The Daily Beast, July 2012
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence estimates a multiple-victim shooting happens once every 5.9 days in the U.S. That totals at least 431 such shootings since 2005. The Daily Beast mapped the Brady Campaign’s data to see where such violence occurs.
America Under the Gun, Mother Jones, December 2012
Over 140 people were killed or injured in seven mass shootings in the U.S. last year. As part of a special report, Mother Jones compiled a series of graphics on the victims of mass shootings, and the spread of looser gun laws across the country.
U.S. Gun Crime, The Guardian, December 2012
Gun laws vary across the country, but how much difference is there in gun crime? The Guardian has a state-by-state comparison, charting stats including firearm murders as a percent of all murders, and the number of gun robberies per 100,000 people.
How Many People Have Been Killed by Guns Since Newtown?, Slate, January 2013
So far, Slate has recorded at least 1,795 victims of gun violence since the morning of December 14th, the day of the Sandy Hook shooting. Slate is also crowdsourcing gun death reports on Twitter with @GunDeaths. As they point out, “the data is necessarily incomplete,” but they attempt to give a name to each recorded victim.
(Originally posted at Pro Publica)
Many of us are enjoying our post-election schadenfreude, observing as the Republican Party increasingly marginalizes itself, demographically and politically, and scrambles to cut a narrowing path to the White House while also attempting to shove the tea party demon back into its cage.
Yet at the same time, we’re hearing more and more about all varieties of insanity at the state and local level where the party has been cultivating its power base for decades. Strategically, it’s a fantastic back-door to exploit.
While Washington is the primary focus of our national attention, and the president’s re-election victory offers the facade of Democratic dominance, Republicans in many states have been able to operate mostly unopposed.
I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer here, but let’s do the list. Off the top of my head we’ve observed the passage or near-passage of voter ID laws, attacks on unions, sweeping legislation reversing reproductive rights, anti-abortion ultrasound laws, personhood amendments, gerrymandering and electoral vote tampering. They’ve blocked Medicaid expansion while refusing to implement the Obamacare health insurance exchanges. They’ve passed school voucher programs that privatize the public education system and they’ve slashed and burned social programs while protecting tax cuts for the rich. And the Republicans are doing a fine job of blocking new gun control legislation. Most of these measures have been successfully pushed through various state capitals by dominant Republican legislatures and governors. And on top of everything else, they’re pushing the antiquated process of nullification. As I wrote this week, nullification originated with the pro-slavery movement and, in today’s context, would theoretically block the federal government from overruling any of the above.
Suddenly, the Republican Party doesn’t seem as feckless and geriatric, eh? Before Democrats laugh and point at the GOP clown car, they ought to keep a very serious eye on the states because the Republicans are kicking their collective asses.
In Oklahoma yesterday, Republican legislators advanced a bill, HB 1674, through the state Common Education committee. If passed, the law would make it illegal for a teacher — a public school teacher — from giving a student a poor grade for answering questions about science and evolution with unprovable, untestable biblical mythology. In other words, if a teacher asks a test question about the lives of prehistoric humans, a student could suggest that cave men or maybe even Jesus himself used to ride on the backs on dinosaurs and science teachers would be unable to mark the answer as incorrect. A student could invoke the Great Flood and the talking snake in the Garden of Eden in a discussion about the provable science of evolution and not be corrected for it.
Additionally, the law would make it illegal for a teacher to grade a student poorly for debunking the climate crisis — global warming. The student could write, for example, that it’s snowing in the Northeast in February and therefore the global climate can’t be growing warmer and unstable.
In Kansas last week, Republican lawmakers introduced HB2306, which would force teachers to present evidence that debunks the climate crisis while also presenting alternate views on whether and why the climate is changing. The bill commands that public school educators “provide information to students of scientific evidence which both supports and counters a scientific theory or hypothesis.” Of course the twisted logic of this bill would allow a crackpot teacher to instruct his or her students on the existence of Bigfoot and the notion that dead people can become ghosts and subsequently haunt houses. In science class. As I’m sure you can deduce, without the scientific method and the results it generates as the basis upon which science class is taught, anything goes. And “anything goes” in science class is phenomenally dangerous.
Meanwhile, back in Missouri, another law, HB 291, the “Missouri Standard Science Act,” was introduced by Rep. Rick Brattin. The law would force teachers to give equal science class time to intelligent design, the idea of “destiny” and whatever other ridiculous theories about human origins are floating around out there. According to Mother Jones, the bill redefines important scientific precepts:
For example, a “hypothesis” is redefined as something that reflects a “minority of scientific opinion and is “philosophically unpopular.” A scientific theory is “an inferred explanation…whose components are data, logic and faith-based philosophy.” And “destiny” is not something that $5 fortune tellers believe in; Instead, it’s “the events and processes that define the future of the universe, galaxies, stars, our solar system, earth, plant life, animal life, and the human race.”
To anyone with even a modest respect for science, this law ought to be terrifying. Further terrifying is what Rep. Brattin said about the bill, “I’m a science enthusiast…I’m a huge science buff. This [bill] is about testable data in today’s world.” Um. Yeah. He’s not. He’s a far-right fundamentalist zealot who’s cleverly disguised himself as a science “buff.” And there’s nothing resembling testable data when it comes to intelligent design, just a lot of hocus-pocus conjecture based on wishful thinking. Besides, intelligent design isn’t an end in and of itself, it’s clearly a stepping stone to teaching creationism in science class.
The saying goes, All politics is state and local politics. And the Republican Party is remarkably dominent. Their efforts are going a long way towards the further Balkanization of science and our broader culture, not to mention civil and voting rights. So maybe it’s an appropriate time for Democrats to put down the schadenfreude and get to work.
The Daily Banter Headline Grab (from the TPM):
When the Supreme Court hears oral arguments next week about the constitutionality of a key element of the Voting Rights Act, the Obama administration and other proponents of the law will be facing five very skeptical justices.
Shelby County v. Holder is the latest in a string of landmark cases that will shape the legacy of the Roberts Court. Proponents of the law are extremely nervous, and privately acknowledge that they face a steep uphill climb in winning over a majority of the justices.
TPM SLIDESHOW: Obama’s Family Tree
At issue is the validity of Section 5 of the landmark 1965 law designed to quash voter disenfranchisement efforts such as poll taxes and literacy tests. Section 5 requires states and municipalities with a history of racial discrimination (read: mostly in the south) to seek preclearance from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes to their voting laws. The law was upheld in 1966 by a Supreme Court that deemed it valid to correct the “insidious and pervasive evil” of racism. The law was most recently reauthorized in 2006 by a nearly unanimous Congress, with Section 5 intact.
The votes of down-the-line conservative justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito are not in question. And Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, the likelier swing votes, both laid the groundwork to strike down Section 5 in a 2009 case when the Supreme Court held that a Texas jurisdiction was eligible to apply for a exemption to Section 5 but refrained from ruling on the constitutionality of the law.
This is the best thing I’ve seen in months. In this awesome footage, a homophobic preacher gets slammed by a gay passenger on the subway in NYC for spreading hatred. It ends up with the other passengers applauding the act of defiance and drowning out the nasty preacher who thought he’d find a receptive audience in one of the most cosmopolitan and liberal cities in the world. The lesson? Don’t preach gay hatred in the Big Apple.
The case of Oscar Pistorius and the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp has the entire planet intrigued. Pistorius, an Olympic hero and much loved public personality in South Africa, has been accused of murdering Steenkamp. Pistorius denies the allegation and says he believed Steenkamp was an intruder and shot her accidentally through a bathroom door. The facts of the case are now emerging and both sides are presenting their arguments. I’m not a legal expert, but the case is far from clear cut with evidence that appears to partially corroborate with both accounts of what happened.
I generally don’t weigh in on legal cases, particularly celebrity ones because 1. They’re usually a giant distraction from serious subjects 2. I have a hard time injecting my opinion when I’m not privy to all the evidence available.
True to form however, perennial celebrity agitator and gossip merchant Perez Hilton has weighed in with his brilliant legal mind and concluded the following in a post titled “Oscar Pistorius Is A Violent A$$hole! He Was Arrested For Assaulting A Woman In 2009!”:
Oscar Pistorius is officially a MONSTER!
The Olympian with no legs allegedly murdered his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp earlier today, and just when a source close to the aspiring model revealed that Oscar had NEVER been violent with Reeva… the Boschkop police is stating that the Paralympian did some time in jail back in 2009 for assaulting a woman!!!!!!
Pistorius is currently in custody at a prison in Pretoria, and he’s scheduled for a court hearing tomorrow.
We always had a hunch he was berserk! This man is just straight up evil!! UGH!
Without knowing anything about the background behind the case other than a story he googled on TMZ, Hilton is polluting public opinion on an issue where someone’s freedom is at stake. Hilton has been giving the Pistorius case wall to wall coverage, injecting his analysis in every update. “He better be put away for a very long time!!” writes Perez in one post, and, “It’s time to lock up Oscar Pistorius for good!” in another. While Hilton is of course entitled to his opinion, he is not entitled to his own facts. Asserting that Pistorius is guilty and ‘a monster’ before hearing any of the evidence is a very serious offense. In South Africa, as it is in the United States, anyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent in the eyes of the law.
Let’s look at some of Hilton’s claims. Firstly, the assault Hilton says Pistorius did ‘some time in jail’ for in 2009 is not true. Here are the details of the alleged assault (from CNN):
Pistorius was arrested and accused of common assault in 2009, but the case was thrown out because of a lack of evidence, police told CNN on Thursday.
That incident involved Pistorius allegedly slamming a door during a party, and a piece of the door fell off and hit someone, said Capt. Marissa Van der Merwe of South African police.
Slamming a door does not exactly make someone a violent monster, and regardless, the case was thrown out because there wasn’t enough evidence to substantiate the claim of assault. And while Pistorius was taken in to police custody, he didn’t serve ‘time in jail’ either. Contrary to reports flying around the internet, Pistorius has never been charged with any crime previous to the killing of Steenkamp.
In Perez Hilton’s world of celebrity gossip and snarky rumor peddling, this type of hyperbole isn’t particularly damaging. Reporting on Beyonce’s lost pregnancy weight and Justin Bieber’s clubbing antics, is one thing, while detailing the evidence in a prolific murder trial is something else. If found guilty, Pistorius faces a lifetime in prison, and that is no laughing matter.
I’ve have been keeping up to date with the Pistorius case as events unfold out of personal interest, and I’m not going to provide a lot of commentary on the case itself. Legal matters with real life consequences should be dealt with extremely seriously, and given we’re not in the business of celebrity murder trials here at the Banter, I don’t think it appropriate to weigh in with an opinion. I will however, be calling out idiots like Perez Hilton, who make a lot of money creating controversy out of other people’s misery. As it stands, Oscar Pistorius is innocent until it is proven otherwise, and no matter how much Hilton wants Pistorius to be guilty and use the tragic case to get page views, it doesn’t make it so. Creating nasty bogeymen that the public can hate is Hilton’s speciality, and while it is all fun and games when it comes to celebrity breakups and pregnancies, it isn’t when it comes to murder. Sadly, millions of people read Hilton’s ludicrous website, and what he says matters.
So please Perez, shut up about the Pistorius case and stick to things that you actually understand.
Peter Beinart at The Daily Beast believes an outreach to the gay community to restore the GOP to electability:
While it may sound plausible to use the GOP’s opposition to gay marriage to help build a coalition among whites, Hispanics, and blacks in the same way Ronald Reagan used cultural conservatism to help bring together white Southern Protestants and white Northern Catholics, there’s a problem. The problem is that the GOP’s problems are not just ethnic, they’re generational, too. Since younger Americans of virtually every ethnic and racial group are far more supportive of gay rights than are their elders, stitching together a multi-ethnic coalition against gay rights means building a coalition of the old. Even more important, for many younger Americans, supporting gay equality has become a symbol of modernity, as obvious and uncontroversial as knowing how to use Facebook. As Robert Draper noted in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, when male, 20-something Ohio swing voters were asked to describe the GOP, they volunteered words like “out of touch,” “hateful” and “1950s.” The party’s “brand,” one young Republican pollster told Draper, is “that we’re not in the 21st century.”
Beinart makes an interesting point, but the GOP are several decades behind today’s society in pretty much every way conceivable. The Republicans are stuck in the 1980′s when it comes to their iron clad belief in free markets, 50 years out of date on women’s rights, and hundreds of years out of date on immigration. Sure, they could embrace and promote the gay members of their party and try to reach a broader, more socially liberal audience, but they still have to deal with their base who sadly don’t change with the times. And that’s why the party is in deep, deep trouble going forward.
By Ivan Eland
Although so far, President Barack Obama seems to have less warlike inclinations than George W. Bush (perhaps damning by faint praise) — getting out of Iraq, finally scheduling to mostly pull out of Afghanistan, and going against all national security advisers by refusing to lethally arm Syrian rebels — in one area he seems more bellicose. That area is war from the air.
Obama’s Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, learned from his own fiasco in Somalia in 1993, when U.S. Rangers were killed, to avoid interventions on the ground by instead prosecuting air campaigns (against Bosnia, Kosovo, and Saddam’s Iraq). Similarly, Obama has learned from George W. Bush’s quagmire in Iraq and Bush’s and his tar pit in Afghanistan to avoid ground pounding in favor of strikes from the air. And air campaigns are usually cheaper in blood and treasure than slogs on the ground.
However, just because air war is cheaper and no Americans are normally killed, it doesn’t make such military intervention a good idea or constitutional. In Libya, the use of allied air power to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi has further destabilized the country, led to the deaths of the U.S. diplomatic personnel at the hands of Islamists empowered during the conflict, and distributed Qaddafi’s huge weapons stockpiles to other unstable countries in Africa, including Islamists in Mali who took over half that country.
Similarly, Obama’s expansion of George W. Bush’s drone war (targeted assassinations really) against Islamist extremists has become counterproductive. Originally centered on killing high-level operatives of the main trunk of al Qaeda in Pakistan who were trying to strike the United States, now American drone attacks are mainly striking mid-to low-level Islamist fighters in Pakistan and Yemen who focus their attacks on the Pakistani and Yemeni governments.
As the attempted Times Square and underwear bombings show, the U.S. now has new enemies in the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, respectively. The same blowback may happen in Somalia and other countries where drones are being used to target would-be terrorists. These examples show what mischief presidential administrations and military bureaucracies can get into when they run out of top-tier targets.
Even more problematical than the blowback is the dubious constitutionality of the expanded drone campaign. Although even liberals have been screaming that Obama’s killing of Americans with drones is a violation of civil liberties, that problem is not the most severe. The worst problem is Obama’s killing of Americans anywhere anytime using secret criteria.
If a band of Americans decided to participate against the U.S. government in a conventional war that was properly declared or approved by Congress, the president could constitutionally kill his fellow citizens without trial, using drones or any other weapon system.
One could even make the case from the debates in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that George W. Bush had the constitutional authority to take initial military action against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks (including any Americans) without congressional authorization, as long as he believed he was stymieing another imminent attack.
However, as the severity of the immediate threat waned, Bush then should have sought authorization from Congress for any continuing war. Bush actually exceeded this constitutional standard by getting Congress to pass an Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the perpetrators of 9/11 and any nation harboring them even before he took any military action in Afghanistan.
Obama’s lawyers have argued that it would be lawful to kill a U.S. citizen if “an informed high-level official” of the government decided that the target was a ranking person in al Qaeda who was “an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States” and if his capture was not possible.
The major problems with Obama’s expanded drone war are that he is stretching the terms “imminent threat” beyond recognition to justify dubious unilateral presidential action and that he is now targeting regional al-Qaeda affiliates in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia — all of which had no role in the 9/11 strikes and which focus their attacks mainly against local governments.
This expanded war is congressionally unauthorized, and so it is illegal and unconstitutional to kill anyone in these countries — Americans or foreign peoples.
There is now talk about setting up a secret court to approve adding Americans to the terrorist kill list, much like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court does for spying on Americans. Although this is some check on the Executive Branch (although the FISA court has let presidential administrations run wild by denying very few requests for surveillance), court approved killings will merely validate the president in conducting secret, undeclared, and therefore congressionally unapproved wars — thus, essentially being able to kill anyone anywhere he wants using secret criteria, Americans included.
These secret wars are a much bigger deal than just killing a few American would-be terrorists here and there and have no place in a republic. If a state of war for the United States doesn’t exist in these far-flung places, the president shouldn’t be killing anybody, and Americans accused of terrorism outside congressionally approved battlefields require due legal process in open court.
Ivan Eland is Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland has spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. His books include Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, and Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy.
(Originally posted at Consortium News)
The Daily Banter Headline Grab (from the AP):
As public evidence mounts that the Chinese military is responsible for stealing massive amounts of U.S. government data and corporate trade secrets, the Obama administration is eyeing fines and other trade actions it may take against Beijing or any other country guilty of cyberespionage.
According to officials familiar with the plans, the White House will lay out a new report Wednesday that suggests initial, more-aggressive steps the U.S. would take in response to what top authorities say has been an unrelenting campaign of cyberstealing linked to the Chinese government. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the threatened action.
The White House plans come after a Virginia-based cybersecurity firm released a torrent of details Monday that tied a secret Chinese military unit in Shanghai to years of cyberattacks against U.S. companies. After analyzing breaches that compromised more than 140 companies, Mandiant has concluded that they can be linked to the People’s Liberation Army’s Unit 61398.
Military experts believe the unit is part of the People’s Liberation Army’s cyber-command, which is under the direct authority of the General Staff Department, China’s version of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As such, its activities would be likely to be authorized at the highest levels of China’s military.