Sunday, July 16, 2017

28.4 - For the Record: Yemen, GOPpers and education, Nevada marijuana, Belgium's niqab ban, and voter ID

For the Record: Yemen, GOPpers and education, Nevada marijuana, Belgium's niqab ban, and voter ID

Finally for this week, we have an occasional feature called For the Record, where we cover several items briefly just to make sure they do not pass unnoted.

So first up, For the Record: A quick follow-up on last week's Outrage of the Week about Yemenis that according to the Red Cross, the number of cholera cases there has surpassed 300,000.

For the Record: According to a new poll by Pew Research, a majority of GOPpers now maintain that colleges and universities are bad for America, that they, in the words of the poll question, are "having a positive or negative effect on the way things are going in the country these days." 58% of those polled felt that way, an increase of 21 percentage points since 2015 as they adjust their brains to get in tune with the age of TheRump.

For the Record: On July 7, Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada issued a "statement of emergency." You see, recreational marijuana became legal in Nevada on July 1 and retailers already were running out of stock to sell.

Turns out the problem was a legal snafu because the places that are licensed to sell recreational marijuana don't have the authority to restock their inventory on their own but must obtain it through alcohol wholesalers licensed to be distributors - and no such licenses had been issued.

The statement of emergency allows for a wider range of applicants for the distribution licenses than just those alcohol retailers.

A quick sidebar: One of the objections to legalized marijuana is that the areas around retailers would be magnets for crime.

But according to a new study out of the University of California at Irvine, when Los Angeles used new regulations to close down 439 medical marijuana dispensaries in 2010, crime in the those immediate areas rose 12% while crime in the areas around the dispensaries allowed to remain open was unchanged. That echoed a finding from Denver, where the Police Department saw that through the first nine months of 2010, crime was down 8.2% from the previous year after a dispensary was opened in the neighborhood.

For the Record: In what I find a rather disturbing development, on July 11 the European Court of Human Rights upheld a ban imposed in Belgium on wearing the full-face niqab veil in public. The court ruled that the restriction was for "social cohesion," the "protection of the rights and freedoms of others," and was "necessary in a democratic society."

A woman wearing the niqab
While I realize the niqab has for many become a symbol of the oppression of women under Islam, I still admit to being very uncomfortable with the idea that we can define for others what they will find oppressive and that "social cohesion" is "necessary," particularly when you consider what sorts of oppression such terms have justified in the past.

Finally for this week, For the Record: ProPublica has an interview with a former member of the Wisconsin legislature who now regrets his support for the voter suppression goals of Gov. Scott Walkalloveryou. Better late than never, I suppose, although regrets don't change the laws imposed and a better way to express regret would be to actively campaign to get those laws overturned.

I bring this up because voter ID and voter suppression have again become headlines in the wake of the demands of TheRump's so-called Presidential Advisory Commission On Election Integrity for all sorts of information about every registered voter in the US. I didn't address that this week because there are some other things as well going on about voter suppression and I want to address them together, which I will next week.

28.3 - Net neutrality under serious threat

Net neutrality under serious threat

Some warnings
This is something I have talked about in the past but not very recently, but it is of particular importance now: Net neutrality.

If you were online any time on Wednesday, July 12, you may have come across warning screens like those shown here. That's because July 12 was a day of action to defend Net neutrality.

At least 234 websites representing corporations, activist groups, and plain folks spent the day trying to alert anyone who came by to the serious risk that Net neutrality may be killed off. Some of the nation's largest tech companies - such as Microsoft and Google - and some of the biggest online sites - such as Twitter, Snapchat, Netflix, Facebook, and Amazon - took part.

Net neutrality, simply, is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) treat everyone's data equally; a bit is a bit is a bit and every bit is the same as every other bit - whether that's a bit from an email from your mother, an episode of House of Cards on Netflix, a bank transfer, the day's news on your favorite newspaper's website, or whatever. It means that outfits such as Comcast, AT&T, or Verizon don’t get to say that this data is sent more quickly than that data because those sending this data paid us extra money so all those who waiting for that data will just have to wait and watch the spiral or whatever go around and around. Assuming, of course, that data isn't for a site that has been blocked entirely for failing to come up with enough cash.

Put another way, it's the principle that a handful of giant corporations, riding on the back of technology actually developed by the federal government and some universities, can't manipulate the market - the market in this case being those companies and individuals who use the Internet - can't manipulate the market to line their pockets.

And if the business about "treating all data equally" still isn't clear, think of it this way: It's how your telephone works. All telephone calls are treated the same.

And for obvious reasons, outfits like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon hate the idea of Net neutrality and have been campaigning, lobbying, and suing against it for years.

Despite some short-term legal victories, they failed. Due to a massive public outpouring of support for Net neutrality, in February 2015, the FCC voted to reclassify broadband service providers as "common carriers" under title II, meaning in effect they are regarded as public utilities, giving the FCC the ability to set rates, open up access to competitors, and more closely regulate the industry - and, most importantly here, to enshrine Net neutrality as law as part of those regulations.

So what's the problem? The problem, in two words, is Ajit Pai. He is the new chair of the FCC whose only work experience outside of government was as general counsel for Verizon and he is full-out for repealing the 2015 regulations, leaving us at the mercy of the corporate overlords for who he used to work. He introduced a rule to do exactly that which is now in the period for public comments.

It is that proposed rollback of the 2015 rules that was the target of the day of action on July 12.

Net neutrality is, to be quite blunt, the spiritual heart, the philosophical core, of the Internet. It is the operating principle on which the Net was founded when it was just a federal agency and a handful of universities and on which it has grown. In fact, it is what enabled it to grow, the fact that it was equally open, and open on an equal basis, to all participants, not just an elite handful of technocrats and technophiles. Yes, of course, it started that way, it started all technocrats and technophiles, but that principle of neutrality insured it was not going to stay that way.

And people know it. In fact, Net neutrality is overwhelmingly popular among Americans.

According to a recent survey from Politico and Morning Consult, 60% of Americans support the current rules and only 17% want to change them.

According to a poll done for Freedman Consulting, the figure is even higher: 77% support keeping the existing Net neutrality rules in place. In both polls, the support was bipartisan, with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents registering similar levels of support.

You want more evidence of how popular Net neutrality is? That July 12 day of action generated an astounding two million comments to the FCC backing it.

It's so popular, in fact, that Pai finds it necessary to claim that he supports "the principle" of net neutrality. He does that without being really clear about what that means and without laying out any means to enforce it except by proposing to turn enforcement over to the Federal Trade Commission - which lacks the authority to make rules and unless Congress proposes an entirely new law - something Pai knows as well as you ain't gonna happen anytime soon - could only enforce vague "principles" and then only on a case-by-case basis in response to a complaint, that is, after something has already gone wrong.

Pai has also, notably, frequently referred to the "open" Internet as if that was supposed to be synonymous with Net neutrality, but it isn't.

Ajit Pai
Back in 2015, at the time the FCC was acting, a former chair of the commission, Michael Powell, who was even more overtly pro-corporate than Pai is, also referred to "open Internet principles," which he defined as "freedom to access content, to run applications, to attach devices, and to obtain service plan information" - "freedoms," which I noted at the time, did not include the freedom to access content on an equal basis without being throttled or otherwise hindered because the site I was trying to access couldn't afford the big bucks that some other site could. In other words, did not include the freedom that was at the very heart of the issue.

Now we have another pro-corporate chair mouthing the same platitudes about an "open" Internet. Extreme caution is called for.

Especially because Pai has defended his desire to service the corporations with some pretty bizarre arguments which would cause most folks' jaws to drop were we not in the age of TheRump.

For example, he has said "we cannot stick with regulations from the Great Depression that were meant to micromanage Ma Bell." I'll just say that the notion that Bell Telephone was "micromanaged" will come as a shock to anyone old enough to remember that the Bell System was broken up in 1984 because it was an illegal monopoly actively stifling competition - or, for that matter, anyone old enough to remember Lily Tomlin.

He also claimed that strong Net neutrality rules in the US would give dictators an excuse to tighten their grip over the Internet in their countries - which I frankly think shouldn't even require a response beyond "Whut?"

And he said that the 2015 rules were established based on "hypothetical harms and hysterical prophecies of doom."

That does require a response, and it's that the fact is, we had already seen those harms. There was nothing hypothetical about them. In 2014, during negotiations over access, Comcast throttled Netflix, slowing transmission speeds by nearly 30% until Netflix agreed to come up with the cash for a so-called "paid peering" deal. That deal and others like it were scuttled by the 2015 regulations, but it doesn't change the fact that the supposedly "hypothetical" harms, paying for access and being throttled when you don't, have already happened.

We have, that is, already seen what will happen if net neutrality goes by the boards. It won't happen all at once, of course, they know better than to spark a backlash even bigger than the actual current proposal to undo Net neutrality, which has gotten over 5 million comments, the vast majority of them negative. But it is what they are after and it is what they will do if not stopped.

The period for public comment on the proposed rule - which again, is to undo the 2015 rules securing Net neutrality - runs through July 18. If there is still time, you might want to drop the FCC a line.

Oh, and if you're wondering why you haven't heard more about this? Part of the reason could be that NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC are all owned by Comcast.

28.2 - Outrage of the Week: Enforcement of immigration laws cruel, based on bigotry

Outrage of the Week: Enforcement of immigration laws cruel, based on bigotry

Now for one of our regular features. This is the Outrage of the Week.

I had this as the Outrage of the Week just about maybe five or six weeks ago. It is making a return appearance because it is an ongoing outrage. It is immigration.

We start by noting that for several years the administration of the Amazing Mr. O enforced immigration laws so aggressively that they deported undocumented immigrants in greater numbers than any previous administration. By 2014, though, they apparently had a change of heart or they were just embarrassed by the increasing attention being paid to this stain on the Obama liberal escutcheon into taking a different road. Whatever the reason, the Obama administration instructed immigration officials to exercise more discretion in who they targeted for deportation.

At that time, in 2014, in deciding about moving for deportation, the agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or I.C.E. or ICE, were told to consider factors such as the length of time an immigrant had lived in the country, their family or community ties, and whether they had a young child or a seriously ill relative. TheRump's gang explicitly rescinded those guidelines almost immediately after the inauguration and told Immigration to enforce the law “to the greatest extent practicable.”

Despite that, agency officials insisted and still insist that "ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of national security and public safety threats." Or, as TheRump put it, they're going after the "bad hombres."

A well-named agency
They are lying.

A recent article on ProPublica details how ICE agents, under a directive from the head of its enforcement unit, are told to take action against any undocumented immigrant they encounter while on duty. Not that they "may" take action, which still allows for at least some degree of discretion, but that they "will" do so.

David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, said "The memo explains what we have actually been seeing on the ground," that immigrants without criminal backgrounds are routinely being arrested and ordered deported.

People have been arrested for deportation on their way to their senior prom, on the way to the hospital to pick up their newborn child after emergency surgery, even at an ICE office when they voluntarily came in for what was supposed to be a routine check-in, even when they voluntarily came in to discuss how they could obtain legal status. Sometimes the arrests seemed designed to be mocking: A group of ICE officers had breakfast at a restaurant in Michigan - and after the mean arrested three of the restaurant's workers.

Andres Magana Ortiz was an undocumented immigrant who had lived in the US for nearly thirty years. He has an American wife and three US-born children. During his time here he worked his way from migrant coffee farmer to owning his own land and being prominent in Hawaii's coffee industry, even to helping the US Department of Agriculture conduct a five-year study into a destructive insect species harming coffee crops and helping run 15 other small farms.

He lost his fight to not be deported US despite letters of support from Hawaii's entire congressional delegation and the judge in his case, who, while legally unable to stop Ortiz's deportation, wrote a scathing opinion saying that that “the government decision shows that even the 'good hombres' are not safe.” On July 7, Ortiz "voluntarily" left for Mexico, just days before he was to be deported.

Jesus Lara Lopez is an undocumented worker in a Pepperidge Farm food packaging plant. Like many undocumented workers, he lived for years under the radar, working in the fields picking fruits and vegetables. He has no criminal record. He has supported his family. He has paid taxes. He has never used any form of public assistance, not even unemployment. He is being deported on July 18.

Francisco Javier Gonzalez came to the US, alone, when he was 15. He graduated high school and went to college but couldn't graduate because he couldn't prove he was here legally. He now manages a successful restaurant in Palm Beach, Florida. He has an American wife and three US-born children. He has no criminal record and yes, he pays all his taxes. He was to be deported to Mexico on July 14 but got an almost literal last minute 3-month delay.

What is the point of deporting people like these? What is the gain in throwing them out? What is the loss in allowing them to stay?

What is accomplished by this beyond satisfying the white-supremicist desires of the bigoted xenophobes occupying the upper reaches of the TheRump administration?

And the case of Ortiz raises something else: Ignore for the moment that he is by the usual way such stories were told to us as we grew up, a classical, almost cliche, American success story, rising from migrant laborer to land owner, businessperson, upstanding figure in the community. Ignore all that and for the moment just focus on the fact that he has been here for nearly thirty years. And it didn't matter.

Because there is no sort of statute of limitations on being an "illegal" immigrant. No matter how long you have been here, no matter how many and how thick are the roots you have set down, no matter how stable is the life you have established, no matter how much you have contributed to your community, it doesn't matter.

Think about that. There is no statute of limitations. Except for murder, terrorism, and sexual crimes against children, federal law has statutes of limitations for all sorts of crimes and all kinds of civil offenses - which by the way, is what being an undocumented immigrant is; it's a civil offense, not a criminal one. We have federal statutes of limitations for kidnapping, for fraud, for racketeering, for embezzlement, for all sorts of the most serious crimes. But not for being an undocumented immigrant. Two years, ten years, thirty years, fifty years, it makes no difference.

This to me is insane.

Even the notoriously anti-immigration - and note well that I didn't say anti-undocumented immigration, I said anti-immigration - the notoriously anti-immigration Mark Krikorian, even he a few years ago allowed as how even as he disagreed with it as a matter of policy, the idea that an undocumented immigrant who has been in the US for three years (his time frame) and has put down roots here should not be deported, that idea "at least makes a certain kind of sense."

So yes, there should be a time limit. There should be some sort of statute of limitations. There should be a point beyond which being able to show roots in the community and an established life will free you from the daily fear of discovery and deportation, the daily fear of the ripping up of your life and the ripping apart of your family. We can talk about what that limit should be, realizing that any limit would be somewhat arbitrary, and I do have my own idea for if you will an opening bid on that discussion, which I will hold aside for now to focus on the central point that there should be such a limit.

But instead, what we have is a thoroughly-broken system enforced by the well-named ICE because it is cold-hearted to its core, now directed by an administration chock full of bigoted xenophobes who don't care who they deport as long as they can eject "foreigners," eject "them," eject "the other," which they then have the unintentionally-revealing gall to call "enhancing public safety."

They are without mercy. They are without compassion. They are without understanding. They are without humanity.

They and the system they oversee are an outrage.

28.1 - Good News: Florida court declares state "Stand Your Ground" Law unconstitutional

Good News: Florida court declares state "Stand Your Ground" Law unconstitutional

Starting out the week, as we always like to, with some Good News, we see that on July 3, a state circuit judge in Florida ruled that the state's updated "stand your ground" law is unconstitutional. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch found that the amended law exceeded legislative authority and effectively ignored guidelines already set down by the state Supreme Court.

Since it's sometimes unclear what these laws are, a brief and oversimplified explanation: Traditionally, people who felt their lives were in danger from some threat had a "duty to retreat" - that is, a duty to leave the situation, to back down from a confrontation - before they could legally use lethal force and claim self-defense. In other words, in order to claim self-defense as a defense against a charge of killing someone, you had to show that you could not have defended yourself by simply leaving the situation. Exceptions were made for places such as your own home; that is, you did not have a duty to retreat from your own home.

"Stand your ground" laws, at bottom, remove the "duty to retreat" and you can use lethal force if you feel you are at risk of imminent death or great bodily harm. The Florida "stand your ground" law, passed in 2005, specifically gave people the right to "shoot first" in such cases and allowed judges to dismiss charges on the grounds of a "reasonable" claim of self-defense.

The predictable result was that the average annual number of "justifiable homicides" in Florida tripled over the ensuing five years. And in fact a study published last fall in the journal "JAMA Internal Medicine" (JAMA of course being the "Journal of the American Medical Association," likely the nation's leading medical journal) found a connection with an overall increase in homicides in the state in the years following the law's passage: a 24% increase in the monthly homicide rate and a 32% increase in the monthly rate for homicides involving guns.

In 2015, the Florida Supreme Court stiffened the requirements of the law, saying that defendants had to prove in pretrial hearings that they were defending themselves in order to avoid prosecution.

So what did Florida do? The legislature, with the support of Gov. Voldemort and at the urging of the Nutzoid Rabbit-brains of America, otherwise known as the NRA, simply re-wrote the law to put the burden on prosecutors to prove with "clear and convincing" evidence that the defendant was not acting in self-defense.

It was that requirement that Judge Hirsch found an unconstitutional breach of the authority of the state supreme court.

This doesn't undo the law, obviously, and it is still possible his decision will be overturned - but anything that puts limits or the brakes on the sort of pumped-up wild West fantasizing driving these sorts of bills and the deaths that result from them is Good News.

Quick Footnote: Prosecutors in Florida were vehemently against the updated law because they believed it made it easier for defendants to get away from murder, as in fact the record clearly shows it does. Isn't it interesting how the right-wingers are all about supporting the police and supporting law enforcement and being against crime - until it involves something desired by the gun nuts, as this was, at which point the opinions of cops and prosecutors and so on no longer count?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

What's Left #28

What's Left
for the week of July 14-20, 2017

This week:

Good News: Florida court declares state "Stand Your Ground" Law unconstitutional

Outrage of the Week: Enforcement of immigration laws cruel, based on bigotry

Net neutrality under serious threat

For the Record: Items on Yemen, GOPper and education, Nevada marijuana, Belgium's niqab ban, and voter ID

Sunday, July 09, 2017

27.7 - Thoughts prompted by the Fourth

Thoughts prompted by the Fourth

The is the week after July 4th and as usual I didn’t think about a holiday until after it had happened so I didn't talk about it last when when I should have. Nonetheless, let me say now that I hope you enjoyed your Fourth and I hope you got to see some fireworks and  to spend time with friends or family or better yet both and what with the Fourth being on Tuesday and all that, I hope you got the extra day off for beach or barbecue or baseball or whatever.

So still being in the afterglow of the Fourth, I wanted to end this week's show on this. Quote:
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light or transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
These words should form the backdrop against which the Fourth is seen. Our national birthday should not be a time for celebrating the status quo or for patting ourselves on the back in an orgy of national self-congratulation, but rather a time to reexamine and rediscover the truly revolutionary heritage which America has.

Even more than that, it should be a time to rededicate ourselves to the ideas and ideals of the Declaration, to recognize that it is, as the Declaration says, our right and our duty to resist invasion of our unalienable rights.

It is our duty to resist the CIA and FBI and NSA when they try to poke, prod, pry, and probe into every secret of our private lives;

it is our duty to resist attempts to muzzle, restrict, intimidate, and otherwise restrain freedom of speech, of assembly, and of the press;

it is our duty to resist a militarist US foreign policy that is at war in multiple nations and a militarist US federal budget that proposes to spend an overall total of $825 billion on the military and our various wars this next year while human needs go unmet and racial and other injustices go unaddressed;

it is our duty to resist governmental policies that favor big business at the expense of the general public, that favor the rich over the poor, the haves over the have-nots.

We here at What’s Left do not believe in violence, but we do believe in revolution - nonviolent revolution. And we believe that we are fully within the revolutionary heritage of America when we say we believe it is our duty to demand our rights and our duty to make the changes necessary to secure those rights, for ourselves and for all others.

Our heritage as Americans includes a great many idealistic values - but the conservative appeal to the worst in our heritage: to selfishness, to suspicion, to fear, and to “what's-in-it-for-me.”

Which raises something I have been meaning to talk about, something that I think clearly divides the left from the right, indeed impacts whether you are a person of the left or the right. It’s called reification and it is the ability to perceive an abstraction as a reality.

It’s often described in negative terms, using as typical examples people who convince themselves that Sherlock Holmes was a real person or that Hogwarts is a real place.

But it also means having the ability to see the reality that lies behind the abstractions of statistics.

Consider health insurance and the fact that 22 million people will lose their coverage under the latest proposed version of TheRump care. To the right, that’s a number, a statistic, a politically unfortunate statistic to be explained away, yes, but still a statistic. To the left, it’s 22 million actual people, 22 million living, breathing, struggling, human beings who will have less access to health care - and therefore be at real risk of dying years before they should. That ability, that ability to perceive the very real people who make up that number, is reification and that is an ability at which the left far exceeds the right, even that, again, helps determine which side of that divide you are on.

Put bluntly, the right’s vision of reality is constrained by the selfish devotion to “me and mine” above all else, as that inability to reify limits a sense of connection to a wider world, it limits the range of what seems real to them.

That’s why they speak of the personal but never of the public; of self but never others; of us and them but never we; of family but never of community.

In fact, they are largely incapable of talking of community, because that means to talk of social obligations, of moral commitments to others, including to people you will never know, never meet, commitments which their circumscribed view can’t comprehend, indeed rejects.

But we not only affirm community, we celebrate it. So instead of rejecting community, what we ultimately reject is the right of so few to have so much when so many have so little. What we ultimately resist is the power of so few to control so much when so many control so little. What we ultimately affirm is the right of every human being to a decent life free of hunger, fear, and oppression. What we ultimately demand from our society is the effort to guarantee that right.

We’ve no desire to place a ceiling over anyone's aspirations, but we do want to put a floor under everyone's needs.

Because compassion is not a cliche; it’s a requirement of our humanity. Decency isn’t for case-by-case convenience but must be a basic social tenet. And justice is not a prerogative of the powerful but a basic human right and it must be protected as such.

We don’t dream of perfection, of idealized utopias, but of simple human justice. Justice in its truest sense: economic, social, and political. A justice that rejects the ascendancy of bombs over bread, of private greed over public good, of profits over people, a justice that rejects the ascendancy of the powerful few over the disadvantaged many and of the powerful many over the disadvantaged few. A justice that centers on the preciousness of life and will fight to maintain and even expand that preciousness.

That sort of justice won’t come easily. It won’t come cheaply. And it won’t come conveniently. But it is possible - and, after all is said and done, it simply is the only right thing to do.

That is our banner, the banner the radical nonviolent American left carries for the Fourth: Justice. Compassion. Community.

A banner for the next American revolution.

27.6 - Outrage of the Week: war crimes in Yemen

Outrage of the Week: war crimes in Yemen

Now for our other regular feature; this is the Outrage of the Week.

The poorest country in the Middle East is Yemen. And it has been in a bloody civil war since late 2014.

I'm not going to even try to disentangle the history of the war; I will just note that the actual current round of fighting, which is not the first Yemen has seen, broke out when Houthi rebels seized control of Sana'a, the Yemeni capital, in September 2014. A few months later, they seized the presidential compound, forcing President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to flee the country in late February 2015.

Since then, the fighting between supporters of the Hadi government on the one side - with outside aid coming from the US via drone strikes and from Saudi Arabia via blockades and an air campaign - and the Houthi on the other - with outside aid from Iran - has continued and gotten more vicious over time.

Despite the on-going brutality and suffering, neither side has gained a decisive advantage.

What has happened is that upwards of 10,000 have died in what the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs calls "the forgotten war." The health service there has "completely collapsed" and health workers have been working without pay for more than six months. UNICEF reports that of the total population of 27 million people, an estimated 21.2 million, nearly 80% of the total, need humanitarian assistance of some kind. Half of that number is children.

Of that 27 million, 3.3 million, more than 10 percent of the entire population, have been forced from their homes. Around 17 million people in the country are "food insecure," meaning they don't know from one day to the next if there will be enough food to eat, and 6.8 million of them "one step away from famine." There are 1.5 million malnourished children the country, 370,000 of them severely malnourished.

And over two-thirds of the people of Yemen lack access to safe drinking water, which has in turn lead to the worst outbreak of cholera in the world, an outbreak that is getting worse by almost any measure.

By the end of June, there were nearly 250,000 reported cases of cholera in Yemen, with thousands more every week. Already 1,500 have died. More die every day.

And at this point let's be absolutely clear about two things:

One, as noted in April by Idriss Jazairy, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and international sanctions, it is the air and sea blockade imposed on Yemen by Saudi Arabia that is the biggest single cause of this humanitarian catastrophe. That blockade has restricted and disrupted the import of food, fuel, and medical supplies as well as humanitarian aid. At the same time, Saudi Arabia has been carrying on a campaign of air strikes - over one-third of which have been against civilian targets such as schools, hospitals, markets, and mosques - that has been responsible for the destruction of infrastructure that has lead to the hunger and the cholera epidemic.

That is, Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a pattern of war crimes in Yemen.

And two, this would not be possible without the collusion of the US. We are actively aiding, abetting, and enabling war crimes in Yemen.

We are the ones who sell the Saudis the jets and the bombs.

We are the ones who helped with intelligence.

Sen. Chris Murphy
We are the ones who provided them with precision-guided weapons on the idea that they would help the Saudis to better avoid civilian targets only to, after discovering they were instead being used to better target civilian targets, nonetheless have now approved sending another $500 million worth of those weapons after an attempt in the Senate a couple of weeks ago to block the deal failed by a vote of 53-47.

The aid we give is even more direct: As Sen. Chris Murphy pointedly noted during the debate over that arms deal, "The Saudis simply could not operate this bombing campaign without us." Not only do we sell them the weapons, not only do we stand side by side with them when they are reviewing intelligence about targets, but "their planes can't fly without US refueling capacity."

The Saudi air war, the Saudi war crimes, could not happen without us. We are involved. We are guilty. We are guilty of war crimes in Yemen.

There is a move now in the House to bar the US from refueling Saudi jets. Frankly, while a worthy effort, the chances of that passing Congress and overcoming an inevitable veto are negligible.

So day after day, we are guilty of war crimes in Yemen. And the White House is prepared to encourage that while the Congress, it appears, is prepared to stand by and let it happen.

And that is truly an outrage.

27.5 - Clown Award: TheRump supporters

Clown Award: TheRump supporters

Next up, it's the Clown Award, given as always for meritorious stupidity. And oh, did we have some fun this week. So many that we can't even cover them all but I can only give you a couple of highlights.

There was, of course, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is determined to prove that his historically-low approval rating of 15% is higher than he deserves. Involved in a budget impasse with the legislature, he ordered state-owned beaches closed for the entire July 4th weekend - and then went to the beach at a house set aside for the use of the governor.

Then when asked at a news conference if he’d gotten any sun, he said “I didn’t. I didn’t get any sun today.”

Then when pictures of him on the beach went viral, his spokesman said he meant that “he had a baseball hat on,” that why he "didn't get any sun."

Then, when cornered, Christie said people upset about his bone-headed selfishness should "Run for governor." Because, you know, if people object, it's just because they're jealous. Certainly a worthy contender.

Then there is Faux News commentator Lisa Kennedy Montgomery, who responded to reports about how people would die if TheRump care is passed, dumping millions off of health insurance and so restricting their access to care, by saying who cares because "we're all gonna die."

But the winner was a last minute entry. So the Big Red Nose this week goes to: Donald TheRump supporters.

For the past 29 years, National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” has observed the Fourth of July by having the show's hosts, reporters, newscasters, and commentators do a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

This year, NPR also tweeted out the Declaration, 140-character line by 140-character line.

So what happened? Backers of TheRump, who I suppose could be called Rumpers, who usually can be found ritually chanting "Make America Great Again" interspersed with accusation of how everyone to their left is un-American, didn't recognize the Declaration of Independence and accused NPR of "calling for revolution," "condon[ing] the violence" (of the Left, of course) and pushing "biased propaganda" and "trash," while references to George III as an "unworthy" leader were taken to be code for TheRump.

Even when people pointed out the source document for NPRs tweets, TheRump's Rumpers still claimed it all was bias on the part of NPR. Put another way, they are saying that the Declaration of Independence is anti-TheRump propaganda.

Which may be that far off, when I think about it.

TheRump's Rumpers, maybe not all of them but certainly more than enough of them: total clowns.

27.4 - Not Good News: Texas Supreme Court says states can deny benefits to same-sex couples

Not Good News: Texas Supreme Court says states can deny benefits to same-sex couples

Unfortunately, we have some Not Good News on the same topic of LGBTQ rights.

Same-sex marriage was not legal in Texas in 2013. Nonetheless, the city of Houston began extending the same spousal benefits it provided to married employees to employees who were partners in same-sex marriages who were married in one of the states where that was legal at the time.

Two Houstonites, backed by a group that opposes same-sex marriage, sued the city, claiming that those benefits amounted to using taxpayer money to subsidize "illegal activities."

The trial court agreed and issued an injunction against the city. But after Obergefell v. Hodges, the US Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the whole country, a Texas appeals court overturned that trial court decision and canceled the injuction, finding that under OvH, ss couples were entitled to equal treatment.

But now, on June 30, the Texas Supreme Court has reversed the appeals court and thrown the whole thing back to the trial court to start all over again. In a unanimous decision, the court declared that because Obergefell did not explicitly and in so many words say that “states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons,” that therefore the “reach and ramifications” of the decision is still being debated.

In short, the court ruled that "Just because we have to let you get married like any straight couple doesn't mean we have to treat you like any straight married couple and we can still discriminated against you - because we don't like you."

It's worth noting at this point the that all-GOPper Texas Supreme Court initially refused to take up the case, leaving the appeals court decision intact, until it got grief from the upper echelons of the Texas GOPper political hierarchy, which in essence effectively ordered the court to take it up, upon which the court did its best to do as it was told while keeping some vague shred of legal integrity intact by throwing the case back to the trial court rather than just ruling in favor of the haters of same-sex marriage.

But to show just how bizarre this ruling was, and how the justice must know how thuddingly wrong they are, they tried to prove that the “reach and ramifications” of Obergefell are still being worked out by pointing to two recent actions of the US Supreme Court. The first was taking the case of the baker who wouldn't bake a cake for a same-sex couple - which has nothing to do with spousal benefits or even same-sex marriage but is about if being a religious bigot frees you from the requirements of civil rights laws.

The second was reversing a ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court that kept married same-sex couples from being treated the same as opposite-sex couples on their children’s birth certificates. The court said it reversed the ruling because the "differential treatment infringes Obergefell’s commitment to provide same-sex couples 'the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage.'" Which would appear to directly contradict the Texas court's claim that Obergefell can be read as allowing for differential treatment.

The only good thing here is that I am confident that once this gets into federal court, it will be dealt with in short order. It's only too bad that the bozos, bigots, and buffoons who pursued it can't be made to offer some sort of compensation for the pain they have caused.

27.3 - Good News: German parliament votes for same-sex marriage

Good News: German parliament votes for same-sex marriage

In another bit of Good News, this one on a topic we have covered a fair amount, which is LGBTQ rights, the German parliament has voted to approve same-sex marriage.

Chancellor Angela Merkel
The vote was 393-226.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, recent liberal hero because of her obvious dislike of Donald TheRump, voted against the measure on the hoary grounds that "marriage is one man and one woman." But to her credit - and doubtless aware of the fact that polls show 83 percent of Germans are in favor of same-sex marriage rights - she released the members of her party to vote their consciences. Despite the fact that less than a quarter of her party members voted yes, it still helped lead to the measure passing by nearly 2-1.

Germany thus joins more than a dozen other European countries in recognizing this right and it is hoped that passage will build momentum for the same result in other German-speaking nations such as Switzerland and Austria.

27.2 - Good News: EPA can't delay methane leak rule

Good News: EPA can't delay methane leak rule

Another bit of Good News, this one on the environment.

On July 3, a three judge panel of the Court of Appeals for Washington, DC, ruled that EPA administrator Scott Pruitt had overstepped his authority in trying to delay implementation of an Obama-era rule requiring oil and gas companies to monitor and reduce methane leaks.

Pruitt had announced in April that he would delay by 90 days the deadline for oil and gas companies to follow the rule, so that the agency could reconsider the measure. He then said in June that he was going to extend that delay for an additional two years.

Scott P-U-itt
In a split decision, the court disagreed with Pruitt’s contention that industry groups had not had sufficient opportunity to comment before the 2016 rule was enacted and also said that he had no authority to make the “unreasonable,” “arbitrary,” and “capricious” decision to delay the rule from taking effect.

The reason the decision is important is that methane is by volume about 20 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide is and environmental groups contend that actual methane emissions from leaks and intentional venting at fossil-fuel operations are far greater than what is now reported.

Environment-hater and fossil-fuel-industry-lapdog Scott P-U-itt has been trying as hard as he can to undo the gains of the past several decades. This time, at least, he got smacked down hard. And that is Good News.

27.1 - Good News: House Appropriations Committee votes to repeal AUMF

Good News: House Appropriations Committee votes to repeal AUMF

Here's some Good News to start the week. In a surprise move, the House Appropriations Committee has inserted into the 2018 military spending bill a provision that would repeal the AUMF, the Authorization to Use Military Force, the provision passed during the political panic in the immediate wake of 9/11 and that has been used to justify every US military adventure since.

The AUMF authorized the president to take whatever action he - and it did say "he" - deems necessary against any nation, organization, or even individual he finds responsible in any way, direct or indirect, for 9/11. It specified no target and set no time limit.

Rep. Barbara Lee, who introduced the amendment to repeal the AUMF, was the only person in Congress to vote against it in 2001. She said as she did so that it was an unacceptable blank check for all future presidents.

Rep. Barbara Lee
Considering that the Congressional Research Service has found that the AUMF has been used more than 37 times in 14 countries to justify US military action there, including even having been used by the Amazing Mr. O to justify his war against ISIS and related incursions into Syria even though ISIS didn't even exist on 9/11, it's clear that Lee's concern has been more than justified.

The amendment would end the AUMF 240 days after enactment of the 2018 military budget of which it's part, allowing plenty of time for Congress to come up with a new one, if it wants to - which Lee says is part of the idea: making Congress actually debate, actually take some responsibility for, our wide-ranging wars.

The amendment's chances of surviving in the Senate are slim; even getting through the House is questionable what with the Foreign Affairs Committee already whining about committee jurisdiction. But it truly doesn't matter: What matters for now is that not only did this pass on a bipartisan voice vote with just one objection, but some lawmakers on both sides actually applauded when it was passed, clearly indicating growing frustration with our unending wars. And while that level of frustration is still well short of where we should be, it is still Good News.

What's Left #27

What's Left
for the week of July 7-13, 2017

Sorry for being late with this. I had some "I really, really, really hate computers" days this week, something with which we call can identify.

This week:

Good News: House Appropriations Committee votes to repeal AUMF

Good News: EPA can't delay methane leak rule

Good News: German parliament votes for same-sex marriage

Not Good News: Texas Supreme Court says states can deny benefits to same-sex couples

Clown Award: TheRump supporters

Outrage of the Week: war crimes in Yemen

Thoughts prompted by the Fourth

Saturday, June 24, 2017

26.3 - Summer is here

Summer is here

Okay, after all that I want to end on something lighter.

At 12:54am Eastern Time on Wednesday, June 21 - and the appropriately earlier hours on the night June 20 as you went west, it became summer 2017. So happy summer.

This summer is a special one for nostalgia buffs or more accurately for people who make their living off nostalgia: It is the 50th anniversary of "the Summer of Love" and there already are a boatload of reminiscences that see that summer through rose-colored - maybe literally rose-colored - granny glasses as one of sharing, freedom, music, and peace and an equal boatload of sneering dismissals rife with tales of drug addiction and overdoses, squalor, and street fights.

There are enough individual examples in each boatload to force the boring conclusion that there is some truth in both tales.

So for those of us old enough to remember it, it shouldn't be a question of embracing one of those tales but of embracing our own Summer of Love, our own experience. Mine, I have to say, was much more of the sharing, freedom, music, and peace type - which in a way is why I prefer the alternate name "the Sgt. Pepper Summer." Sgt. Pepper was released June 1, 1967 and was the soundtrack of that summer.

Y'see, the name Summer of Love puts too much emphasis on San Francisco, as if what happened there was what defined the whole concept. And it didn't. In fact the hippie scene in San Francisco - focused in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, or Hashbury as it came to be known - was dying out by the time the summer of 1967 came around and by the end of that summer the area was increasingly defined by hard drugs and awash in lost people who were there mostly because they had nowhere else to be, which is when and where most of the bad news tales of that summer come from.

The Sgt. Pepper Summer, however, was not just San Francisco. It was everywhere that long hair, jeans, maybe some love beads, and a smile meant you were among friends, friends who would share with you, with who you could share, and who - hard to believe is this more cynical time - you could trust even as strangers, trust enough that even when, and it did happen, you got ripped off, it didn't really matter because what you had gained in the times of sharing clearly outweighed what you lost in that isolated case.

So what happened to that summer, what made all that vaguely-defined, borderless community sort of dissolve? Personally I think, contrary to so many who just flippantly dismiss the whole thing as a youthful lark and say people just grew up, I think the reason we lost it is because that sense of sharing, of community, came to us so easily and naturally we thought it could be, would be, maintained just as easily and naturally.

But it can't; it takes work. And we were - I can't say incapable of the work, it was more that we were unaware of the need. So as we got on with our lives, some things, even valued ones, slipped away unnoticed.

Of course that idea hasn't completely dissolved, there are still successful, on-going communes and intentional communities and the fact is the spirit still survives even if it has taken on other tones. Some years ago, someone in the course of trying to convince me to adopt a more conservative appearance, said I looked like "a warmed-over '60s radical." To which my wife at the time responded "Good - because we could use some warmed-over '60s radicalism." Which is still true in both the political and the social sense.

Have a great summer. And resist!

26.2 - Another black man dead, another cop free

Another black man dead, another cop free

What does it take?

I have to ask, to wonder, what does it take?

On July 6, cop Jeronimo Yanez pulled over Philando Castile in a suburb of Minneapolis because Castile was black and had a wide nose - which was enough in Yanez's mind to make him look similar to a robbery suspect.

Thirty-eight seconds after Yanez stepped the window of his car, Philando Castile was bleeding to death, having been shot through the heart by Jeronimo Yanez who claimed Castile was pulling out a gun.

Yanez was indicted for second degree manslaughter.

Just so you understand, second degree manslaughter is generally somewhat technically defined as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice and without intent to kill or cause death, committed accidentally in the course of an otherwise lawful act.

Specifically under Minnesota law, you are guilty of second degree manslaughter if you cause the death of another by your culpable negligence that creates an unreasonable risk and you consciously take chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.

Figure it this way: Second degree manslaughter is about the lowest possible criminal charge in a case that involves a death.

On June 16, Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of all charges.

I say again: What does it take?

Philando Castile did all the things you're supposed to do. He was polite. He cooperated. He told the cop he had a gun. He made no sudden moves. It was all on the video, which the jury saw.

It made no difference.

After backup arrived, Yanez told another cop that he didn't actually see Castile grab for a gun. It was just that after he asked to see Castile's license, he - Yanez - got "fucking nervous" and Castile had "a wide grip."

That was it. That was what justified shooting him seven times. That's what made Yanez fear for his life. That was his justification. He was nervous and Castile had "a wide grip."

It made no difference.

At the trial, the cop who came to assist, Joseph Kauser, testified that Castile looked "relaxed and calm" and from what he could hear of his conversation with Yanez, was not threatening.

Kauser said he didn't feel threatened and in fact the newly-released dashcam video shows him with his thumbs hooked in a casual position on his bullet resistant vest.

He said he never saw Castile's gun. He testified to all that at the trial.

Philando Castile
It made no difference.

Nothing made a difference. As soon as a cop said "there was this black guy and he said he had a gun and I was scared," that was enough.

What does it take? What does it take for cops to held responsible for their actions? What does it take for juries to stop treating cops like they all had double-0 numbers on their badges?

How long can we go on trying to tell ourselves, to kid ourselves, to lie to ourselves, to tell ourselves this is all proper, that this is all right, that the system is working, as another cop kills another black man and walks free? How long? How many more?

That the system is not working is transparently clear; that racism is a cause is just as clear. Indeed, it should be a given: There are repeated research studies that show that black people, particularly black males - even black male children - are seen by whites as threatening and black men are perceived to be taller, heavier, and more muscular than white men of the same height and weight.

So did racism play a part in the killing of Philando Castile? Of course it did. Did it play a part in the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez? Of course it did.

So what does it take? What will it take for justice to be more than a rarity?

And yet, even given the harsh reality of racism, even given its role here, there is something else I wanted to mention, something to fill out the picture: From the moment Castile says he has a gun, Yanez goes into a state of what can only be called rising panic. In the well-known video shot by the remarkably-composed girlfriend, whose name is Diamond Reynolds, Yanez can be heard screaming - and I do mean screaming - things like "I told him not to reach for it" punctuated by f-bombs. At that moment he strikes me as someone struggling desperately to control themselves, to get a grip on themselves. When backup comes he is so intent on keeping his gun on the dying Castile - so focused on controlling himself - that the other police have to persuade him to step away.

That he was very frightened can't be denied. That he had cause to be, sufficient cause to kill someone, certainly can be.

But here's the question that Yanez unintentionally raises, one I broached over two years ago:
Are cops nowadays taught to be scared? Are they trained to spend every moment of their working days in mortal fear for their lives?

No joke. No sarcasm. I'm serious. I genuinely wonder.
Part of the reason I asked the question was that so many of the cops in videos of other incidents I had seen to that point struck me much as Yanez did in this one: As frightened, on the verge of panic, desperately trying to retain some semblance of emotional control. Even allowing for the stress, for the adrenalin rush, they still seemed in a word scared. And I wondered: Are they being trained to be so ready to go to kill or be killed at any instant that they wind up in a constant state of stressed anxiety - that is, in effect, being trained to be scared?

It is still a valid question and bluntly the answer appear to be yes: We are teaching cops to be scared.

Yes, police work can be dangerous - although, depending on how you measure it, police work may or may not make it (barely) into the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the US - but when we have thousands of armed people going through their work day genuinely fearful that every encounter could instantly become a life or death struggle, that is a certain recipe for more, lots more, Philando Castiles.

So I don't know what police training Jeronimo Yanez got - but I can't help but wonder if that very training is part of the reason Philado Castile is dead.

26.1 - The rightwing blames the progressive left for the shooting in Alexandria (as predicted)

The rightwing blames the progressive left for the shooting in Alexandria (as predicted)

I told you, I told you, I told you!

I told you this is what was going to happen.

Last week, I only mentioned the mass shooting in Alexandria briefly because news of it had come only shortly before I did the show and there was no time to gather information. But I did say something and I am going to quote what I said in full and word for word. This was it:
You undoubtedly know about the gunman who shot up a group of Republican lawmakers who were practicing for an annual charity baseball game, wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise - who at last report is in critical condition - and at least four others before being killed.
You also have undoubtedly heard about how the shooter, one James Hodgkinson, was some real liberal and a Bernie Sanders supporter.

So I want this noted, For the Record: I predict that you will not find one single GOPper, one single wingnut, one single person on the entire right half of the US political spectrum who will describe this guy as what they always describe right-wing shooters as, "a lone wacko," and that instead they will claim he is "emblematic of the violence of the left."
That's what I told you would happen and that is exactly what has happened. The right wing, demonstrating its typical total lack of self-awareness and conscience, rose as one to blame it all on "the liberals."

I'm going to go through a list because you need to understand how wide and how unified this vilification is. And remember, this is not an historical compilation. These all came in the last week in response to the Alexandria shooting.

Rush Limbaugh said "the average, base Democrat voter" is "getting more and more fringe and imbalanced; they openly promote violence," before labeling Hodgkinson "a mainstream Democrat voter."

Lifezette, the website of Laura Ingraham, declared that the "American Left demonizes and dehumanizes conservatives."

The Daily Caller called the shooting part of "an escalating pattern of violence and intimidation against Republicans," who are constantly on "the receiving end of violence and intimidation" - because they, of course, are always the victims. Always.

William Jacobson of the rightwing blog Legal Insurrection wrote that "the entire concept of 'The Resistance' invokes violence" and "the window for violence has been moved from the radical fringes to the mere left."

Rightwing radio host Bill Mitchell tweeted that "The Left in this country is ushering in a new #CultureOfViolence where violent hate is the new normal."

Newt Gingrich called the shooting "part of a pattern" of left behavior.

Alt-right troll Nick Short claimed that"Alexandria comes from the incitement by the Left and the media" and thatsaying "people will die" as a result of losing health coverage - which is literally true and there are studies finding that anywhere from 18,000 to 45,000 Americans die every year from inadequate access to health care - but speaking that literal truth is to Nick Short "an incitement to violence."

And indeed, political cartoonist Mike Lester directly connected Hodgkinson to that, directly connected his murderous rampage to those people saying folks will die if they lose their health coverage.

Alex Jones of InfoWars claimed that Democrats have been "calling for Trump's death" and for his supporters to be attacked."

Sean Hannity blamed the shooting on "left-wing hate that is being spewed" by "liberals all across the country" who are "glorifying violence."

Far-right operative and bizzaro-conspiracy-monger Roger Stone said the shooting was the result of hate generated by the media and egged on by "LibDems."

National Review claimed "the American Left has embraced political violence and 'anarcho-tyranny,'" whatever that's supposed to mean.

Harlan Hill, a rightwing political consultant, said tough criticism of TheRump, even if accurate, such as calling him "dangerous," is "a passive justification for the kind of violence we saw."

When they get to more specific targets, the wingnuts got positively loopy, dumping the blame in the lap of whoever the particular wingnut is obsessed with: Among those blamed were Snoop Dogg, Barack Obama, Madonna, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Kathy Griffin, Sen. Tim Kaine, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the media, and the investigation into TheRump's ties to Russia.

That's by no means all, but it should be enough.

Note well: Not one of these people said anything about "lone wacko," about there being no meaning beyond the individual tragedy and how dare you even suggest it had something to do with political rhetoric. Not one of them said any of the things they always say when it's a rightwing shooter.

In fact, Limbaugh went out of his to way specifically say that Hodgkinson is not "a Looney Tune kook burger."

Well, right now federal officials are now characterizing Hodgkinson as a desperate man who was unemployed, running out of money, taking prescription drugs, having anger issues, and in a troubled marriage and that he was "struggling in all kinds of different ways." They also described the shooting as more of a spontaneous event.

And other reports note that Hodgkinson has one other issue that research suggests connects almost all mass shooters: a history of - in his case alleged - domestic violence.

James Hodgkinson
But none of that will matter. I guarantee you none of that will matter. The right wing will still insist on the collective guilt of the entire left, still insist there is blood on the hands of every American in or out of government, in or out of the Democratic party, who dares to question the bigotry, the selfishness, the greed, the destructiveness, of the right. Because those of the right wing have no conscience and they do not care about truth. They only care about power.

And again, note well: Unlike the lies promulgated by the right in their attempts to "prove" the inherent violence of the left, the examples I have cited were not plucked out of the depths of some comment stream, were not authored by someone you never heard of before and very likely will never hear of again. These are leading voices of the American right wing, some of them with mass audiences.

And what makes it all worse is that all too often what is screeched in the dank halls of the right-wing echo chamber soon enough becomes spoken aloud in the mainstream media.

For example, the Kansas City Star said the shooting "highlights [a] disturbing increase in left-wing violence" but couldn't find space to mention any examples.

CNN's national security analyst, Peter Bergen, described what he called "the return of leftist terrorism," claiming some sort of link with some poorly-described examples involving the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers from 50 years ago.

But for some, even that was too vague and for them the question quickly became resolved to "How much blame does Bernie Sanders bear?"

In an interview with Jane Sanders, Bernie Sanders' wife, to discuss the shooting, Wolf Blitzer demanded to know if Sanders "went too far" when he called TheRump "the worst and most dangerous president" the US has ever had, as if that was a cause of the attack.

And the New York Times, well, the New York Times had a big long article in which it did its best to blame Bernie Sanders without admitting that it was doing it.

It referred to Hodgkinson as a "test for the movement" and an "opportunity for the senator's fans to consider their message," which of course assumes that said "message" is an incitement to murder.

The paper admits that "Sanders has advocated a peaceful political revolution," but then immediately goes on to say that "long before the shooting, some of his supporters had earned a belligerent reputation" and that the shooting "put a new spotlight on the rage buried in some corners of the progressive left."

This is, the article intoned, "a moment for liberals to figure out how to balance anger at Mr. Trump with inciting violence" - which, again, assumes that "inciting violence" is what progressives have been doing.

The whole thing was thick with innuendo. Here's an example, quoted directly from the article:
On Tuesday, Mr. Hodgkinson posted a cartoon on Facebook explaining "How does a bill work?" "That's an easy one, Billy," the cartoon reads. "Corporations write the bill and then bribe Congress until it becomes law."

"That's Exactly How It Works. ...." Mr. Hodgkinson wrote.

That is not far from Mr. Sanders's own message.
This is insane.
Shaun King, a syndicated columnist with the NY Daily News, said it well:
To this very day I work directly with several dozen progressive grassroots organizations fighting for real change in this country. I've attended and hosted and contributed to hundreds of meetings with these organizations. Not once, publicly or privately, did a single person in a single meeting I was a part of ever suggest, explicitly or implicitly, that someone should go do what James Hodgkinson did today. Period.
The blaming, the finger-pointing, the accusations, he didn't use the word, but I will: It's all lies. Lies intended to secure and advance a reactionary right-wing agenda.

Understand: I do believe words can have an impact. I do believe we need to accept responsibility for the meaning of what we say, of the terms we use, of the ideas we express. I do believe we have to be aware of how our words can sound and of the fact that, as I have often said in the past, in communication what you say is not as important as what the other person hears.

What I deny is that the words, the terms, the ideas, of the progressive left have been or are provoking or inciting violence, especially murderous violence. Oh yes, I'm sure if you dig into the bowels of Twitter you can find individual examples of expressions of heinous thoughts or heinous images, and the right wing will search out those isolated examples buried in the mass like some political version of Where's Waldo and then take those isolated examples and claim that the ill behavior or immoral assertion of that one or those few describes the entire progressive movement. And that is, again, a lie. A deliberate lie.

In fact, if you want to see incitement to violence, if you want to see the impacts of incitement, the effects of incitement, the left is not the place to look.

Remember when Ted Nugent called Barack Obama "a subhuman mongrel" who should "suck on my machine gun," called Hillary Clinton a "worthless bitch," and said both deserve to be hanged?

Was any of that incitement?

How about when Bill O'Reilley spent week after week attacking abortion provider Dr. George Tiller as "Tiller the baby killer" until Tiller actually was murdered? Was that incitement?

What about Byron Williams and his failed plot to shoot people at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, where Williams explicitly identified Glenn Beck and Alex Jones as what prompted him to act?

What about Robert Dear, who killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado based on what he heard from Limbaugh and Jones and O'Reilly and the like?

Oh, and what about the guy who shot up a family pizzeria in Washington DC after Alex Jones wanted his audience to investigate the child sex-trafficking ring that Hillary Clinton was supposedly operating out of the building's basement?

Was any of that incitement?

And what of His Orangeness himself? At a campaign rally last August, Donald TheRump suggested that "the Second Amendment people" could maybe deal with Hillary Clinton if she were elected. Was that incitement? Did that go "too far?" Did that have to be "considered?"

At another rally, after being told by security that someone might be planning to throw tomatoes at him, TheRump, who openly yearned for the days when protesters would be carried out on stretchers, told the crowd to "knock the crap out of them. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees." Was that incitement?

And of course there were the celebrations of sexual assault and the denunciations of refugees, of Muslims, of Mexicans, and others. Was any of that incitement?

To the right wing, the answer in each case is "no." None of that was an incitement to violence. None of that "went too far." None of that "message" needed to be "considered."

Despite the fact that the Southern Poverty Law Center documented almost 900 reports of harassment and intimidation in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, with many of those involving people invoking TheRump's name during the assaults, none of it, they insist, was an incitement

Despite the fact that the Anti-Defamation League reported that anti-Semitic incidents in the US jumped 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017 and there has been a surge in violent attacks on Indian Americans and Sikhs, frequently by people thinking they were Muslims or Arabs, none of it, they insist, was an incitement. None of it.

Even as the hate crimes continue, even to torching the memorial to a victim of a previous hate crime. Nope, none of it has a single blessed little thing to do with anything the right said, even when repeated over and over by its loudest voices.

Even when Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, said in response to the Alexandria shooting that we are seeing "The first skirmishes of a second American civil war" - saying that's not metaphorical but "an objective statement of the reality in America" - even that is not an incitement to violence in the eyes of the right.

The hard truth here is that for the right wing, this actually has nothing to do with incitement, it has nothing to do with safety, nothing to do with cooling the rhetoric, and sure as hell has nothing to do with "civility."

It has to do with trying to emotional manipulate and intimidate the left, trying to exploit our natural tendency to pay attention to the impacts of what we do, to worry about unintended effects of what we say, our natural tendency to care about others and our effects on them, to exploit that to make us so hesitant to criticize, so reluctant to run even the hypothetical risk of "going too far," so timorous in our words and deeds, that we offer no effective resistance to their reactionary agenda that would undo moe than a century of progress to serve the desires of a selfish elite.

But the right should know now: We will not be silenced. We will be nonviolent, but we will be aggressive. We will be honest, but we - sometimes - will be rude and crude. We will be understanding - but we will not back down. You wingnuts seem to actually want a second civil war, with all the blood and death that implies. We want the next - and notice I say next because there have been several - the next American revolution, with all the growth and progress that implies. And we will not be turned around by your lies about us.
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