Thursday, January 31, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #93 - Part 6

Guns: Claiming gun control advocates need to "listen more"

We're going to spend the rest of our time this week talking about guns. As I've told you, I expect that some part of the show will be about guns for another couple of weeks.

I started this two weeks ago, right before Obama announced his proposals on gun control. In fact, it was the very day but before the actual announcement, so I didn't know just what they'd be. But what I did was express my frustration and anger over the fact that advocates for controls, the opponents of unregulated access to murderous weapons, were already throwing in the towel, were already saying "well, maybe we'll get a little something but this and that and the other, they won't pass." They were engaging in what I call pre-emptive capitulation, giving up before the battle even began.

So, last week, I was pleasantly surprised when Obama came out with his proposals. They're hardly radical, but they were pretty broad-reaching; they did address several parts of the issue instead of just one or two.

But now it's this week. And what do we have? We have The Great Mr. O telling advocates for intelligent policy that it's up to us to "bridge the cultural gaps" between urban and rural people and how "advocates of gun control have to do a little more listening than they do sometimes."

In other words, it's time for another "national conversation." We, we who believe that the answer to gun violence is not more gun violence, who believe that the answer to too many guns is not more guns, we have to listen more.

For years - for decades now - almost the entire public conversation, if I can call it that, on guns has consisted of the right wing screeching about how guns equal freedom and how gun control - any gun control - equals confiscation and tyranny along with their constant mewling how gun-loving "patriots," there being apparently no other kind, are under constant attack, with the whoop-whoop of the black helicopters heard vaguely in the background.

But we have to listen more.

Just in the past couple of weeks we have had a viral video of an ex-Marine - excuse me, "veteran"; you're "never an ex-Marine" - a former Marine who referred to Sen. Diane Feinstein's proposal to reinstate the ban on assault rifles by saying he would not allow "some woman" tell him he can't have his toys.

We had Tim Donnelly, a member of the California Assembly, declare his belief that guns are "essential to living the way God intended."

We had Jesse Benton, campaign manager for Sen. Mitch Fishface McConnell, sending out a fund appeal on McConnell's behalf with the salutation "Dear Patriot" and declaring "You and I are literally surrounded" by "the gun-grabbers" who "are about to launch an all-out-assault on the Second Amendment. On your rights. On your freedom."

But we have to listen more.

We have had Marion Hammer, a former president of the Nutzoid Rabbit-brains of America, otherwise known as the NRA, say gun control is the same - and he meant the same - as racism, restricting guns by their appearance and he actually said by their color.

Speaking of the NRA, we had it declaring in a fundraising email that Obama had "pledged to raise $20 million to ram his gun ban agenda through Congress" as part of "an all-out crusade" to "ban your guns and abolish every last sacred right you have under the Second Amendment ... until they reduce your freedom to ashes."

BTW, there is no evidence of such a pledge and when the NRA was questioned about it, it could provide no evidence.

But we have to listen more.

We have had - shades of the 1850s - legislative efforts in Mississippi to declare the state can simply ignore any federal gun laws - or, in fact, any other federal laws - the state doesn't want to follow. We have seen legislative efforts in Texas and Wyoming to make it a felony to enforce any federal ban on assault weapons or high-capacity gun magazines in the state. The Wyoming bill could actually pass the state legislature.

But we have to listen more.

We had Neil Heslin, just this week, we had Neil Heslin, the father of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook massacre, heckled by dozens of gun nuts as he testified about his child before a state panel in Connecticut.

We had this guy James Yeager, the CEO of a Tennessee company called Tactical Response that claims to specialize in weapons and tactical training, posting a video in which he quite literally and in so many words threatens to "start killing people" if "it" - that is, gun control - "goes one inch further." What further? What is he talking about? "Further" means its already happening, like there have been increasing controls. What, is he all ticked off that he can't have his own personal bazooka and rocket launcher? But oh no, he said one inch further, if there are any moves to gun control it would "spark a civil war" and he would "be glad to fire the first shot."

And we had this: This is the front page of the Drudge Report on January 9. If you haven't heard of it, the Drudge report is this collection of right wing scandal-mongering. It made a name for itself when it got some scoop or another during the Monica Lewinsky business, as the result of which the right wing media - Fox, Hannity, Limbaugh, that crew - started using and promoting it and disgustingly, the mainstream media, scared of losing another scoop, started to let the Drudge Report drive their decisions about what to cover and how. That last part, happily, has faded, but it's still around, still a source for the right wing, still presenting us with things like this. In case you can't make it out, the headline is "White House Threatens 'Executive Orders' On Guns" and it's illustrated with pictures of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

That's what we hear, that's what's being said, that's what we're being told.

But now we're told that the real problem is that we are the ones who haven't reached out, we are the ones who haven't sought to understand, we haven't listened enough.

Bull. We have done nothing but listen for years now.

But I want to tell you, Mr. President, I know about that rural-urban divide. I do. I still remember reading an insightful comment some years ago - I'm not sure of the source; it might have been William Raspberry, but don't hold me to that - but the comment was that one of the reasons gun control was such a divisive issue is that for urban dwellers, the concept "guns" means violent crime, but for more rural folk, the concept "guns" often means hunting, target shooting, and pest control.

Here's something else, though, just to show how far things have moved and how much "listening" advocates of sanity have been forced to do: That quote came from the early 1980s - a time when there actually was serious talk about banning handguns and the term "Saturday Night Special" was a well-known pejorative phrase. The National Coalition to Ban Handguns - I was a member - wanted handgun possession to be limited to people like police and specially-trained security guards and some others who had an actual need for them. How much has the "conversation" shifted since then? Not only is the idea of banning handguns so far off the table as to seem weird, the Coalition has not only given up on the idea, it's even given up on the name: It's now the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

But getting back to that cultural divide, quite bluntly it will not be solved by our "listening more." We already know about it. We've already heard about it. We've already heard all about the family traditions and the male-bonding hunting outings and the rest. We already know how hunting, target shooting, skeet shooting - or, by it's more proper, generalized name, clay pigeon shooting - is part of life for a significant part of rural America; indeed, we know how for some folks the success of their fall hunting determines how well they will survive the winter. We know about that.

So frankly, if that divide is to overcome, it will require the other side to do more of the listening. It will require those rural folk to hear about, to know about, to feel some connection to, some feeling for, the carnage, the daily carnage, that guns bring to cities large and small across the country. It will require them to listen long enough to understand - and then answer - our questions about why their "family traditions" around hunting require a semi-automatic assault rifle with a 100-round magazine. Why "pest control" requires massive firepower instead of an old-fashioned single-action .22 rifle. Why "target shooting" has to be done with a Glock instead of, say, a pellet gun.

More importantly, it will require those rural folks to stop letting the paranoids like the NRA, like James Yeager, like Tim Donnelly, and the bozos like Fishface McConnell, speak for them.

Most importantly, it will require them to admit, contrary to what the liars and misinformers tell them, that they are the minority here. That they are on the short side of public opinion. Multiple polls tell the same story, and all of this is current, these are all from this month:

A Washington Post/ABC News poll showed 58% of respondents supporting a ban on assault rifles. Fully 88% favored requiring background checks for purchases at gun shows and 76% favored background checks for buying ammunition.

A CBS News poll showed that 57% support stronger gun laws. That's an 18-point increase since last April. A USA Today/Gallup poll showed 58% supporting stronger laws, 15 percentage points above October 2011.

A CNN/ORC poll recorded 62% of Americans supporting a ban on assault weapons and a whopping 95% of all Americans thinking that everyone who buys a gun should have to undergo a background check.

A survey by the Pew Center on People and the Press from mid-January found 85% of Americans favoring making all guns sales subject to background checks. Two-thirds of Americans favor a federal database to track gun sales. Clear majorities favor banning assault-style weapons, high-capacity ammunition clips, and the sale of ammunition online. And by nearly 3-2, Americans oppose the idea of arming teachers and school officials. On what may be the ultimate question, when asked directly which is more important, controlling gun ownership or protecting gun rights, a majority - a small majority, but still a majority - went for the first.

The fact is, we are the majority. And it's time we started acting like it.

So frankly, I'm tired of listening. I'm tired of the silence from this side of the argument. More than that, I'm tired of contributing my share to that silence. I'm tired of liberal guilt, that notion that any time there is a social conflict it's because the left has not tried hard enough for accommodation, because the left has not offered enough compromise, because we haven't been understanding enough, because we haven't "listened enough." I have no interest in that and I have no time for that and I won't be distracted by that.

Especially not when there are still glimmers of sanity to be found:

James Yeager, the bozo who threatened to "start killing people" if gun control goes "one inch further," and who, by the way, falsely claimed to be a state-"Certified Firearms Instructor," has had his gun permit suspended by the state of Tennessee because of a, quoting, "material likelihood of risk of harm to the public."

Sometimes poetic justice is the only kind you get - but it is still some sort of justice.


Left Side of the Aisle #93 - Part 5

Outrage of the Week: Harry Reid wimps out on filibuster reform

The Outrage of the Week this week will be short and to the point but certainly not sweet.

Last year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thought he had a deal with Senate Republican Leader Fishface McConnell to limit the use of filibusters. McConnell, to no one's surprise except, apparently, Reid's, burned him on the deal. Reid apologized to members of his caucus who had been urging him to rewrite Senate rules in order to restrict filibusters, especially to put an end to the so-called "silent filibuster" where a single Senator can block progress on any legislation unless there are 60 votes to overcome their objection - and can do it without even having to publicly acknowledge that they are the source of the delay. Reid said then and again after the election that he was going to force a change in the rules at the start of the new Congress.

Well, the moment came and to what should have been no one's surprise, Reid wimped out. He had by all but universal agreement the 51 votes - the majority - he needed to push through a real rule change. Instead, he opted for another gentlemen's agreement with McConnell, apparently having never heard the admonition "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." The deal made some minor changes but left the the rules largely unchanged with the silent filibuster virtually intact and the 60-vote threshold for final passage of legislation untouched.

In other words, it does pretty much nothing. But don't tell that to the Dummycrats, every single one of who voted for the thing on the floor.

Claire McCaskill said "It's a compromise, and I'm big on that." She also called it "progress," adding "we're starting on the right foot."

Carl Levin rather bizarrely remarked that "It'll give great momentum to working on a bipartisan basis in the Senate." Look how well that's worked before.

And Dick Durbin said the deal established "a very positive environment to start this session" while at the same time saying he didn't know if it would make it any easier to pass bills. "It can," he said. "It requires good will [and] good faith."

Did it ever occur to him that if there was already any supply of "good will and good faith," this whole discussion would have been unnecessary?

We are governed by fanatics on the one side and wimps and idiots on the other. It's an outrage.


Left Side of the Aisle #93 - Part 4

Catholic hospital argues fetuses are not "unborn children" to dodge liability

There is a sort-of-related footnote to the previous item, since we are in fact talking about abortion and the right to an abortion.

On New Year’s Day 2006, Lori Stodghill, seven-months pregnant with twins, arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Cañon City, Colorado. It turned out she was having a massive heart attack. Her obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who was also the obstetrician on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. Lori Stodghill died less than an hour after she arrived at the hospital; her twin fetuses died with her.

Her husband Jeremy filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Staples, arguing he should have made it to the hospital or at the very least should have instructed the ER staff to perform a C-section. It wouldn't have saved her, but it would have given birth to the twins, perhaps saving them.

The lead defendant in the case is Catholic Health Initiatives, a hospital conglomerate that runs St. Thomas More Hospital and roughly 170 other health facilities in 17 states. Its mission, according to its own literature, is to “nurture the healing ministry of the Church” and to be guided by “fidelity to the Gospel” based on the moral and ethical directives of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

But when it came to mounting a defense in the Stodghill case, the corporation's lawyers are arguing that the court, quoting the brief,
should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.
Now the truth is, that may be legally correct. Catholic Health Initiatives has won in lower court. But the idea of this Catholic institution, claiming fealty to the directives of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the idea of this Catholic institution in essence going "fetuses are children! Unborn children! Save the unborn children! ... Um, unless it's going to cost us money," the gross, rancid, hypocrisy of that just stinks to, well, to high heaven.


Left Side of the Aisle #93 - Part 3

Clown Award: Arizona bill would make abortion "tampering with evidence"

The Clown Award, given for acts of meritorious stupidity.

This week, I have to tell you, I was tempted to make this the Outrage of the Week but ultimately decided it was so astonishingly dumb that it fit better here. Think of it as an Evil Clown Award.

In any event, the big red nose this week goes to New Mexico state representative Cathrynn Brown, a Republican (duh).

This twit, who apparently looks for a train of logic ten minutes after it left the station, has introduced a bill that would in effect legally require women who became pregnant as the result of rape or incest to carry their pregnancies to term in order to use the fetus as evidence for a charge of sexual assault. A rape victim who ended her pregnancy could be charged with a felony for "tampering with evidence" and face up to three years in prison. In the bill's actual words:
Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.
Brown, believe it or not, said she introduced the bill "to protect women." But as Pat Davis of ProgressNow New Mexico said, it really means that "victims who are ‘legitimately raped’ will now have to carry the fetus to term in order to prove their case.“

The upside of this is that the bill is unlikely to pass, which is largely why it is here rather than as the Outrage of the Week - but that doesn't change the fact that Cathrynn Brown, you are a clown.


Left Side of the Aisle #93 - Part 2

Good news 2: Boy Scouts to drop bar to gay scouts

According to news reports, the Boy Scouts of America might be changing its policy of rejecting members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, community.

Just last year, the Scouts "emphatically reaffirmed" its policy of excluding gays as both leaders and as Scouts. But in the face of increasing public outrage and the accelerating loss of corporate, United Way, and local government support, the outfit decided that discretion is indeed the better part of valor and apparently is about to announce a revised policy that will not only lift the ban on gay participants but allow local organizations to decide for themselves whether or not to accept gay scouts.

That second provision sort of takes back part of the first because it still allows local Scout troops to discriminate, but it is at least a real step in the right direction - that is, into the 21st century.

The fact that this word comes just days after a Cub Scout pack in Maryland was forced by the national BSA office to remove a non-discrimination statement including sexual orientation that had been overwhelmingly approved by the parents involved gives added piquancy to the news.

I keep saying - this is one area where clearly, unquestionably, the long moral arc of the universe is bending toward justice.


Left Side of the Aisle #93 - Part 1

Good news 1: Civil unions advance in Colorado
Going to start, as I always love to do, with some good news.

A civil unions bill that would allow same-sex couples in Colorado similar rights to those of married couples has passed a Senate committee. It is the first of several steps the bill must go through to be passed by the legislature.

The true good news is that according to a Public Policy Polling survey last summer, 57% of Coloradans endorse civil unions; even a third of GOPpers in the state do. What's more, the bill in question has overwhelming support from the majority Democrats and even some support among GOPpers, one of who is a co-sponsor in the House. So the bill is expected to get over all those hurdles and be passed - and when it is, Gov. John Hickenlooper has already said more than once that he will sign it.

The possibility of a legal battle looms, however, because the state Constitution bans same-sex marriage and it would seem logical to think there is the real risk of right-wingers claiming this is an unconstitutional attempt to evade the "clear meaning" of the ban. That's not likely to succeed since courts generally have recognized a legal difference between civil unions and marriages, but that doesn't mean the dead-enders won't try.

There is also, on the upside, a chance that as a result of this voters may reconsider that Constitutional ban, especially if the US Supreme Court overturns California's infamous Proposition 8, which became known as PropHate. Now, there is an important difference in that one of the arguments against PropHate is that it stripped away an existing right to same-sex marriage rather than blocking its establishment. Still, and it's very likely true, that, as state Sen. Pat Steadman says, Colorado's constitutional amendment "will not stand the test of time."

When passed, Colorado would become the sixth state to recognize some form of civil union for same-sex couples. Currently, nine states and the District of Columbia recognize the marriage rights of same-sex couples and three states have pending same-sex marriage legislation. So if those all pass (and in at least one, Illinois, it's expected to), that would make 18 states and DC recognizing some form of rights for same-sex couples.


Left Side of the Aisle #93

Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of January 31 - February 6, 2013

This week:

Good news 1: Civil unions advance in Colorado

Good news 2: Boy Scouts to drop bar to gay scouts

Clown Award: Arizona bill would make abortion "tampering with evidence"

Footnote to Clown Award: Catholic hospital argues fetuses are not "unborn children" to dodge liability

Outrage of the Week: Harry Reid wimps out on filibuster reform,0,699038.story

Guns: Claiming gun control advocates need to "listen more"

Friday, January 25, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #92 - Part 6

Guns: How Obama's proposals fall short

For the rest of the show, we're going to talk about guns.

Because it happened again, it happened even as I was preparing my notes for this week's show. There was an altercation between two people at Lone Star College, which is just outside, Houston Texas. It got heated, guns were drawn, and three people shot. Happily, none of them died.

Now, this was not be considered a mass shooting because there were only three people involved and none of them died. However, there was a mass shooting just last weekend. According to the arrest report, on Saturday, January 19, a 15-year-old boy shot and killed both his parents and his three younger siblings, ages nine, five, and two. This happened at the family home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The accused, whose name is Nehemiah Griego, had never been in trouble with the law, he had no contact with the juvenile justice system before this, and there was no history of any emergency calls to the home in the recent past.

Each victim, each of these five people killed, was shot multiple times. Apparently different guns were used in the attack. Several guns were found at the home, at least one of which was an assault rifle.

So we're going to talk about guns.

I'd like to be talking about other things. I'd like to be talking about the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, for example. I'd like to be talking about the legacy of Martin Luther King. I'd like to be talking about how this month in the 10th anniversary of the landings of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity - and how after 10 years, Opportunity is still going. I'd love to be talking about how astronomers have found the largest known structure in the universe, a collection of quasars so takes up so much space that it challenges our current understanding of cosmology.

On a serious note, I'd like to be talking about the economy, about why we're still talking about the deficit instead of stimulus when unemployment is still at 7.8% and inequality is still rising, as if we're supposed to regard the first as so good and the second as so ordinary that we don't have to bother with them any more. I'd like to be talking about how Obama administration still persecutes whistleblowers like John Kiriakou and Bradley Manning and even more how it is fighting to keep secret its supposed legal justification for killing Americans abroad without trial.

But we're going to talk about guns.

In fact, I'll be talking something about guns every week for the next few weeks, anyway.

A good starting point for us here is Obama's proposals on gun control. Among the major ones were requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, reinstating the assault weapons ban, restoring the 10-round limit on the size of ammunition magazines, eliminating armor-piercing bullets, providing mental health services in schools, allocating funds for more police officers, and creating a federal gun trafficking statute, among others.

Plus, he was issuing or was going to issue 23 executive orders, most of which are about collecting and organizing existing information and improving interagency cooperation within the Executive branch, so, no, despite the fevered fantasies of the fanatics, this is not a power grab, this is not an end run around Congress or the Constitution but about administrative matters within the Executive branch.

On the whole Obama's proposals are good ones. In fact, Rachel Maddow expressed it well: She said Obama has not gone further than previous presidents, but he has gone wider: He's been more inclusive. So on the whole, they are good. The problem is, they are inadequate to the task set for them. I'm going to talk today about two ways in which they are inadequate.

One is that the administration and loads of other people are acting as if the single most important thing we can do is "get guns out of the hands of crazy people." That is a misguided, useless, "feel good" deal that does more to make us feel like we did something than actually doing anything.

Because mentally ill people are no more likely to commit acts of violence than "normal" people. There is no evidence that the mentally ill possess guns or commit gun violence any more than "normal" people. In fact, the best available data indicates that only about 4 percent of the violence in the United States can be ascribed to mental illness. In other words, even if we could stop every act of violence by every mentally ill person, we would still be left with 96% of the level of violence we have now.

Laws requiring mental health professionals to report to police any client or patient that they suspect is likely to do violence are far more likely to result in false positives and unnecessary and involuntary commitment to mental institutions than they are to prevent violence. Even experienced people with specialized training have difficulty accurately predicting who is going to act in a violent fashion. What these laws, frankly, are more likely to do is to discourage people from seeking treatment.

Now, admittedly, it's reasonable to think if you're going to go shoot up a school or a movie theater or a campus, you probably have emotional problems. We know that Adam Lanza had problems; we know that Seung-Hui Cho, the shooter in the Virginia Tech massacre, did. But do we really want to adopt a policy that will make it less likely that such people will seek help?

But here's the real thing: What if all these proposals pass? What if all of them pass and all of them work? What would be the result? Well, it would be good: fewer people will die, fewer people who shouldn't have guns will have them, fewer guns that people shouldn't have will be there to be had.

But: How many lives will be saved? Suppose there was never again a mass shooting in the United States. Never again, any. We would save dozens, maybe hundreds, of lives per year. And that is good.

But nearly 11,000 people were murdered by guns in 2010 in the United States. That's 30 people a day. That's more than a Newtown a day. Every day. Remember, this is just murders. This is not suicides and it is not accidents. Add those and it's over 31,000.

This is a graph of rates of gun ownership and of handgun deaths for eight members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The rate of gun ownership in blue, the rate of handgun death is in light purple. Notice us at the end. We are an outlier, far removed from the rest both in rates of gun ownership and handgun deaths.

On December 21, liberal pundit Mark Shields said that since Robert Kennedy was assassinated on June 4, 1968, more Americans have died from gunfire than died in all the wars of this country's entire history. And you know what: That's right. All of the deaths - not just combat but all war-related deaths - in our entire history from the Revolution right up through and including Iraq and Afghanistan come to a little less than 1.2 million. The number of people in the United States who have died as the result of guns since June 1968 is just under 1.4 million.

The homicide rate in the United States is seven times higher than average of all the other high-income countries because the US firearm homicide rate is 22 times that average.

We are a uniquely violent nation. And until that question is addressed, until we stop talking about the drama of death instead of the steady daily drumbeat of death, we will not have solved that problem and you members of Congress and all you members of state legislatures, I say to you again, until you deal with that, there is blood on your hands.


Left Side of the Aisle #92 - Part 5

Clown Award: Don't talk about white privilege!

I had a decision to make this week as to who was going to get the Red Nose. I was going to cite Pat Robertson for the Clown Award after he blamed what he called "awful-looking" women for the lack of romance in a marriage. But I decided he was just too easy a target.

Then I thought about the founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey, who was on NPR recently and said he wanted to take back what he said in 2009, that Obamacare was like "socialism." Oh no, it's not like socialism.

"It's more like fascism," he said.

It took him just one day to run away from that one, limiting himself to describing a program that will force tens of millions of people to buy health insurance on the private market as "government-controlled health care."

But our Clown Award this week goes to a team consisting of Faux New, one unnamed parent, and the administration of Delavan-Darien High School of Delavan, Wisconsin.

It seems the school had a course called "American Diversity," which, according to the school's website, studies American society through the connections among culture, ethnicity, race, religion and gender issues in order to "create a more accurate picture of modern America." Which actually sounds like a cool course and a good thing.

As part of this, the course considered what's called "critical race theory." In critical race theory, there's something called white privilege. This is a set of advantages that white people enjoy beyond what's normally available to non-white people in the same social, political, and economic situations. What's important about the notion is that it's not the same as racism or prejudice because you could be as non-racist as its possible for someone to be and still benefit from white privilege - without even necessarily being aware that you have such privileges because you have never experienced it from the other side.

Author Peggy McIntosh expressed it with some examples, such as "I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color" and "I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race."

One time, Bill O'Reilly was talking about going to a restaurant in Harlem and being surprised - he said he was surprised - that it was just a family place, people having dinner with their dates or their spouses and their children and, as he put it, there was no one shouting "hey, m-f'er, where's my iced tea." The important thing here is that he was, by his own account, surprised. The thing is, if someone in that restaurant had been shouting "hey, m-f'er, where's my iced tea," he would have put it down to "that's the way they behave." If on the other hand he had been in some restaurant in a largely white neighborhood and at the moment every customer in that place was white and some guy there had started shouting ""hey, m-f'er, where's my iced tea," it would never have occurred to him to think "that's because he's white."

If you're white, you're judged as an individual. If you're not, you're judged as a black or a Hispanic or whatever. That is white privilege.

It's important to talk about because it's subtle, it can be hard to see. It's a bar to advancement - but it doesn't necessarily involve racism. So it's important to discuss - but not at Delavan-Darien High School of Delavan, Wisconsin.

That's because an - I emphasize the word because it appeared in all the coverage I saw - because an unnamed parent claimed that this is "indoctrination. They’re teaching white guilt. They’re dividing the students. They’re saying to non-whites, ‘You have been oppressed and you’re still being oppressed.’”

Which of course is true, including in the schools: According to a 2012 survey of 72,000 US schools by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, minority students across America face harsher discipline, have less access to rigorous high school curricula, and are more often taught by lower-paid and less experienced teachers.

But that of course is irrelevant; it can't be relevant, not when one disgruntled clown of a parent who doesn't have the guts to be named but does have the wits to run to Faux News with their whines about "liberal indoctrination" so that cacophony of clownishness can cluck and caterwaul and have that clown of a school superintendent Robert Crist bloviate about how there is merit to parental concern and how "a lot of red flags" went up in his - he insisted it was a - mind when he looked at the materials.

The course will not be offered at the school again until the district "evaluates the curriculum."

All because of one - count it, one - person who didn't want to have their precious child facing the real world. Clowns, all of them.


Left Side of the Aisle #92 - Part 4

Reality check for libertarians

Okay, this is a little wake-up call, a reality check, for any libertarians out there.

The house in the picture is in the Pelham Bay neighborhood of the Bronx in New York City. It's the home of Fernando and Patty Justiniano.

Just 12 inches from their house a four-story apartment complex is going up. The structure is being built so close that the Justinianos are able to reach out of their kitchen window and touch the cinder-block wall. That window once overlooked the empty, grassy side yard of a neighbor's house.

According to Fernando, the developer of the apartment complex initially told neighbors he would be building a "little home for his mother" on the 50x100 foot lot. But Patty did some digging on the internet and discovered that the actual plan was for an eight-story apartment building with 16 dwellings. (Since then, the plan has been revised to a four-story building with 14 units.)

The Justinianos say the structure is so close that ten of their windows have been rendered "useless" - just inches from a cinder-block wall. Their dining room now gets no sunlight. What's more, the new building is so close that the Justinianos are unable to clean or make necessary repairs to their first- and second-story gutters, which are now touching the new apartment building.

What can they do about it? Absolutely nothing - because there is no government regulation, no zoning requirement, to prevent the developer from doing exactly what he's doing, nothing to stop him from building literally right to the property line (which he is doing on the other side as well) and jamming 14 apartments onto a 50x100 lot.

So just a reminder: You really don't like government? That's what you get: Money makes might and might makes right.


Left Side of the Aisle #92 - Part 3

Outrage of the Week: Banks get tax deduction for payments for illegal foreclosures

On January 16, the Federal Reserve Board announced a settlement with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley companies to settle claims of wrongful foreclosure and other forms of mistreatment and illegality inflicted on homeowners. The deal is similar to one reached a week before with 10 other major lenders, those being Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, MetLife Bank, PNC Financial Services, Sovereign, SunTrust, US Bank, and Aurora.

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley will together put up $232 million in direct payments to eligible borrowers and $325 million in other forms of assistance, such as loan modifications, for a total of $557 million. For all 12 banks together, it will be $3.5 billion in cash compensation and $5.5 billion for mortgage assistance. That's $9 billion.

Which may seem like a lot of money, and it is - but not to them. That $557 million Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley together will pay? Morgan Stanley made $507 million in profit in the 4th quarter of 2012. And speaking of Goldman Sachs, it had profits of $7.3 billion in 2012, so it alone could almost cover the entire amount to be paid by all 12 banks with just one year's profits. Not sales, not gross receipts, not total income, remember: profit.

This is nothing but a slap on the wrist, especially in light of the huge potential liabilities the banks can now just write off their books. And it's not even a slap on the wrist, not when you consider that this is "compensation" for hundreds of thousands of people who had their homes wrongfully taken and millions more dealing with delinquency notices and other problems because of the failures and illegalities of the banks.

In fact, some 4 million homeowners are covered by this agreement. With a $9 billion fund, that's an average payout of $2250. As compensation for having your home wrongfully taken away from you.

Now to be as fair as I possibly can, there is a range of figures for compensation depending on, to put is simply, in just what way the bank screwed you. The top figure is $125,000. Some will get just a few hundred.

Bear in mind that according to the National Association of Realtors, the cheapest region of the US for house prices over the past 12 months was the Midwest, with a median figure of $142,000 at the end of 2012. It was $157,000 in the South, $233,000 in the Northeast, and $248,000 in the West.

Which means that it's possible - it's possible - that if you had a very modest home in the least expensive area of the country, you hypothetically might, might, be able to get compensation at least approaching the financial value (not the emotional value) of what you lost. But what's far more likely is that after having your home stripped away from you as a result of the illegal behavior of the banks, your "compensation" will be a check for a couple of thousand dollars and a shrug.

Not enough? Want to go one more round? This is what, to use a great old expression, caps the climax: All that money going to lenders as compensation for what the banks did wrong? All that money as supposed compensation for deceiving you, two-timing you, even taking your home?

The IRS regards the money as a cost incurred in the course of doing business. That's right: It's tax-deductible.

This is not only not even a slap on the wrist, it's a kiss of the ring. It is an outrage.


Left Side of the Aisle #92 - Part 2

Good news: "Strip scanners" are going away

A quick bit of good news: Those airport scanners with their all-too revealing body images, the ones dubbed "strip scanners," are going bye-bye.

The Transportation Security Administration says the scanners will be gone by June.

The idea behind them was that by using them security workers could spot hidden objects, including both metallic ones like guns and non-metallic ones like plastic explosives. The problem was, they also showed everything else you normally want to keep secret.

In the wake of persistent and large-scale complaints about invasions of privacy and a number of occasions when women passengers were told things like, as one was told, that she needed to be scanned more than once because she had "a cute figure," the feds told the two companies providing the machines that they had to fix them. One was able to change its software so that it now produces only a generic outline as an image. Its machines are staying. The other was not able to fix the privacy issues. Its machines are going.

So, one small victory for privacy. Unfortunately, the overall record on that particular issue is still well into the negative, which is a topic I need to spend more time on very soon.


Left Side of the Aisle #92 - Part 1

Hero Award: Ivan Fernandez Anaya

We're going to start this week with a little feel-good news. It's our Hero Award, given as the occasion arises to someone who just does the right thing.

You may know about this; it went sort of viral, but it's still a feel-good story and worth repeating.

Our hero is Iván Fernández Anaya. He's a Spanish cross-country runner who experts say is one step away from entering the elite among his fellow cross-country runners in Spain. His goal this year is to at least make the Spanish national team for the world cross-country champions.

On December 2, he was competing at a meet in Burlada, Navarre; Navarre being a province of Spain. He was running second to Abel Mutai, a Kenyan athlete who had won a bronze medal in the London Olympics. The race was almost over, the gap too great. He knew he couldn't catch Mutai.

Then Mutai stopped running. He mistakenly thought the end of the race came about 10 to 20 meters - a little over 10 to 20 yards - sooner than it did.

According to Anaya, Mutai “looked back and saw the people telling him to keep going. But since he doesn't speak Spanish, he didn't realize it."

Anaya could have charged right past him to win. Instead, in a moment that showed that winning isn't always the only thing that matters, he slowed down and by gesturing, guided Mutai to the actual finish line - and victory.

And what's even better is that Anaya didn't think much about it. He said
I didn't deserve to win it. I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn't have closed if he hadn't made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn't going to pass him.
And, he said, he would have done the same thing even if a place in the Spanish team for the European championships was at stake.

His coach, Martín Fiz, is not too happy with him, saying
The gesture has made him a better person but not a better athlete. He has wasted an occasion. Winning always makes you more of an athlete. You have to go out to win.
That may be so, and Anaya admitted that if something like a world or European medal was at stake, then yes, he would have exploited Mutai's mistake to win. But ultimately, presented with the choice between being a better athlete and a better person, Iván Fernández Anaya made the right choice. And for that, he is a hero.


Left Side of the Aisle #92

Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of January 24-30, 2013

This week:

Hero Award: Iván Fernández Anaya

Good news: "Strip scanners" are going away

Outrage of the Week: Banks get tax deduction for payments for illegal foreclosures,0,2351377.story,0,7542521.story

Reality check for libertarians

Clown Award: Don't talk about white privilege!

Guns: How Obama's proposals fall short,0,917364.story

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #91 - Part 6

Guns and blood

Updated I have not nearly enough time to talk about this, this week, but there is something I want to say now.

This is Wednesday, the day I'm doing this. This is the day the White House is supposed to release its legislative agenda on what it wants to do about guns. I don't know what it is; it hasn't been released yet at the time this is being recorded. And there's way, way too much to talk about here. But there is something that needs to be said now.

Already - already - gun control groups are already talking about "Well, maybe, you know, we'll get the background checks but, well, we're not going to get anything else."

Already Democrats in Congress are going "Yeah, well, assault weapons ban, it's not gonna pass."

Harry Reid is already saying the Senate is going to concentrate on working on what will pass the House - in other words, nothing.

This is another example of what I call preemptive capitulation. They're giving up before the battle even starts.

Well, I'm going to tell you something, Harry Reid and all you Congressional Democrats and you Republicans and all the rest of you in Congress: There is blood on your hands.

Any one of you who does not vote for, advocate for, push for, the strictest possible, the strictest possible, restrictions on guns has blood on your hands and I call you an accessory to murder.


Updated to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the legislative agenda Obama laid out. It wasn't everything I would have wished for (of course) but it is far better than what I expected. More on the next edition of Left Side of the Aisle.

Left Side of the Aisle #91 - Part 5

Clown Award #3: Faux News host Eric Bolling

So earlier we had one Faux news host being our Outrage of the Week, so it's only fair and balanced that another Faux News host be one of our clowns of the week.

I know it's an embarrassment of riches over there, but in this case our clown is Eric Bolling, who on January 9 accused some school textbooks of “pushing the liberal agenda” by teaching an algebra lesson about the distributive property in math. If you've forgotten your Algebra 1 class, the distributive property is the one that says, for example, 6 x 15 = (6 x 10) + (6 x 5).

Well, the worksheet provided by a company called Scholastic has a cartoon of a girl with a bag of money saying “Distribute the wealth.” That was enough to get Bolling off on a rant because, apparently, mathematics is a liberal conspiracy.

He wasn't ranting alone for long: Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle declared that the algebra worksheet had put her on “high alert” for the liberal agenda hidden in her 6-year-old son’s curriculum.

Co-host Dana Perino - Remember Dana Perino? She was George Bush's press secretary who admitted in 2007 that when she was asked about it she had no idea what the Cuban missile crisis was and in 2009 claimed that there were no terrorist attacks on the US during Bush's presidency - which was true if you ignore the anthrax letters and, oh yeah, 9/11. Anyway, she chimed in to gripe about some effort somewhere to stop children from role playing “cowboys and Indians” at Thanksgiving - I have no idea where cowboys at Thanksgiving came from, but remember this is Dana Perino we're talking about - anyway, some effort somewhere to stop children from role playing “cowboys and Indians” at Thanksgiving because experts say that “the historic enemy of Indians was not cowboys, but the U.S. government.”

Co-host Greg Gutfeld asserted that “Everybody has anecdotal evidence" of this hideous liberal manipulation. “I think the only way leftism can survive is through indoctrination - so you got to get them young." Proving that he was worthy to be in this crowd, he added that "A lot of this comes from the teachers. They get their news from The Huffington Post and their antiperspirant from a health food store. This is the way they live.” I have no idea what that is supposed to mean and I doubt he does, either.

Not to be outdone by his never-ending roll of co-hosts, Bolling ranted that his son’s history textbook was also in on the plot. It addressed the Iraq war, he said,
and they were very, very liberally biased, saying George Bush went in there because he heard there were weapons of mass destruction and they were never found. It was a very liberal bias to the history books.
Which does go to prove, like folks say, that reality - along with math, apparently - has a liberal bias.


Left Side of the Aisle #91 - Part 4

Clown Award #2: GOPper Rep. Phil Gingrey

Our next clown can be found by starting with a reminder. Remember former GOPper Senate candidate Todd Akin, who insisted it was almost impossible for a raped woman to be pregnant because if it's "legitimate rape" the woman's body has a way of "shutting that whole thing down?"

GOPper Rep. Phil Gingrey does, and he's on Akin's side. Gingrey, a former OB/GYN and co-chair of the House GOP Doctors Caucus, defended Akin at a recent Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

"I've delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things," he insisted. Which is kind of like someone claiming to know all about how gasoline is refined because they've pumped lots of gas.

As if to prove that he does indeed have a lot of gas, he related how he would tell couples that are having trouble conceiving to "Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don't be so tense and uptight."

Now, it is true that physical or emotional stress can interfere with a woman ovulating - but it's also true that this has absolutely nothing to do with what Akin said, which was about a woman's supposed magical ability to prevent a pregnancy, to "shut that whole thing down," in the wake of a rape. And it is also true that repeated studies have shown that a pregnancy is as likely to arise from a rape as from any other single act of intercourse.

Just to confirm his clown status, at that same breakfast, Gingrey also defended former GOPper Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who said in October that he opposes legal abortion without an exception for rape victims because if a woman conceives from rape, "it is something God intended to happen."

Remember what I said earlier about this goes beyond the question of abortion to a woman's right to choose, period? Clowns like Phil Gingrey help make that point for me.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #91 - Part 3

Clown Award #1: Catholic League President Bill Donohue

We have a trifecta of clownishness this week. I just couldn't decide which of these three seemed the most clownish to me, so I decided to take all three.

Our first entry starts with the tale of Louie Giglio, a Georgia pastor who was to be part of Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony but dropped out after his history of anti-gay bigotry came to light. MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell commented on the matter, saying Giglio was merely "quoting the Bible" but went on to point out a few of the other things that the Bible condemns, before saying that having presidents take the oath of office with their hand on the Bible is an "absurd tradition" because no one actually believes or practices everything the Bible says. The commentary was rather disjointed, but the point was clear enough once he got around to actually making it.

In response, our first clown flapped on stage with his size 25 clown shoes. His name is Bill Donohue and he's the notoriously homophobic president of the Catholic League. Last Friday, in response to O'Donnell, he proposed that President Barack Obama should swear in on a copy of Das Kapital - Karl Marx's famous analysis of political economy - rather than the Bible. Yeah, well, clowns never were known for subtlety.

Donohue defended Giglio, saying that the pastor's "only crime" was being a Christian and that "Practicing Christians, along with observant Jews, Mormon, Muslims and millions of others, accept the biblical teachings on the sinfulness of homosexuality." None of which, of course, responds to O'Donnell's actual argument about how no one believes everything in the Bible. But wasn't it nice and just so wonderfully inclusive of him to declare that "Muslims and millions of others" - non Judeo-Christians all - believe in his Bible?

And, unhappily for Donohue and the rest of his ilk, it seems that fewer and fewer people, at least in the US, agree with him. According to a survey done in November for the conservative Christian ministry Lifeway, just 37 percent of Americans believe homosexual behavior is a sin, a seven point drop from one year earlier. Meanwhile, those who say it is not a sin rose two points to 45 percent. That is a net nine point shift in just one year.

It's always fun to see the clown get the pie in the face, isn't it?


Left Side of the Aisle #91 - Part 2

RIP: Aaron Swartz, victim of prosecutorial abuse

Aaron Swartz is dead. He hung himself in his apartment on January 11. He was 26.

Here's what you should know about Aaron Swartz. He was something of an internet wunderkind. At the age of 14 he co-developed something called Really Simple Syndication, or RSS - and if you're online and you have a blog and you distribute it or if you use a newsreader or if you any of a number of related things you likely use RSS to do it.

He helped to create Reddit, one of the most widely read news aggregating sites in the world. He developed the technical architecture for the Creative Commons license, which enables people to allow free distribution of their work under the requirement they be given credit for its creation. Among his social and political activities was founding the site Demand Progress, which became instrumental in defeating the so-called Stop Online Privacy Act, or SOPA, which would have given a handful of corporations control over most all information distribution on the Web and government the power to shut down whole domains based merely on a corporate accusation that something on some site somewhere within that domain violated a copyright.

And, most importantly for now, and I'm going to quote Chris Hayes here,
at the time of his death Aaron was being prosecuted by the federal government and threatened with up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines for the crime of - and I’m not exaggerating here - downloading too many free articles from the online database of scholarly work [called] JSTOR.
Here's how it works. JSTOR contracts to digitize articles from around 1400 scholarly journals. It then sells these articles, often at a high price, to subscribers. That offends free-data activists - of who Swartz was one - both because it essentially denies access to that information to large swaths of people and because the license fees JSTOR pays go to the publishers, with nothing going to the original authors.

Some people, because of their academic connections, have access to that database for free. Aaron Swartz, as a Harvard fellow, was one. So he wrote a simple computer script to download nearly five million articles. In effect, he automated the process of right-click-save-as at computer speeds.

The government's indictment alleges that his activity at JSTOR was detected and his access was blocked, so he went to MIT, which has a notoriously and deliberately open structure to its network and whose members also have free access to JSTOR. There he trespassed into an MIT computer-wiring closet in order to physically download the data directly onto his laptop.

Remember, that as a Harvard fellow Swartz had legal access to those articles. So the only actual crime found so far is at worst misdemeanor trespassing.

Nonetheless, the federal government claimed he intended to distribute those articles for free - even though he never did - and charged him with 13 felonies, including wire fraud and computer fraud, under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a law so infamously vague and broad that prosecutors can stretch it to charge people with felonies for acts that would otherwise barely qualify as illegal.

As a result, Swartz faced up to, again, 35 years in jail and a $1 million fine. That this was massive, unconscionable, prosecutorial overreach becomes even clearer when you realize that JSTOR, the supposed victim in the case, declined to press charges. Instead, two days before Swartz was arrested, the Secret Service took over the case. And when his attorneys tried to work out a plea bargain, the government's "offer" was for him to plead guilty to all 13 charges and go to prison for at least 6 months.

Something else you should know right now is that Aaron Swartz suffered from depression. His lawyers told the prosecutors he was a suicide risk. Their answer was, according to his lawyers, "Fine, we'll lock him up."

We'll never know for absolutely sure if the financial and emotional pressure of this persecution - the word is chosen deliberately - contributed to Swartz's suicide. But if it didn't, it was one hell of a coincidence.

There are three reasons why this case is worthy of note beyond the obvious personal tragedy. One is the question of why the Secret Service got involved: What was the grave threat to the nation involved? Many are answering that there wasn't one, that the case was pursued because the government wanted to make an example of Swartz, to make him their scarecrow in the attempt to frighten other hackers - I shouldn't say "other" because he didn't actually hack anything here - but to frighten hackers into not challenging corporate and government control of information.

Another is the question of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, because any law which can be used to turn what Swartz did into 13 felonies desperately needs a massive re-write.

The third is the issue of prosecutorial abuse, of, in the words of Swartz's family, "a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach." The issue is the power of prosecutors to bring in effect the whole weight on the federal government down on someone in pursuit of some other agenda, something other than justice but more about power or revenge or just proving who's boss.

And actually there is one more thing, one more reason, and it is the real reason I spent this much time telling you about this. The federal prosecutor, the US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, is one Carmen Ortiz and the word is she's thinking of running for governor. And if she does, I want you to remember this case. I want you to remember how Carmen Ortiz was prepared to throw aside proportionality, to throw aside humanity, to throw aside justice, in favor of raw government power.

RIP, Aaron Swartz.


Left Side of the Aisle #91 - Part 1

Outrage of the Week: Bill O'Reilly lies about Planned Parenthood

This is from something over a week ago or so. January 8, to be exact. Faux News host Bill O'Reilly, the man with the world's most perfect initials because no matter how you abbreviate his name it comes out as either B.O. or "bore" - opened his show with this: "Aborting babies at taxpayers' expense."

He went on to declare that he and his crack-head - er, crack - staff had uncovered what, he intoned, "may be a major violation of federal law."

See, the Hyde Amendment, that moldy monument to right wingnuttery, forbids federal tax dollars from being used for abortions. So what's the problem?

Omigod, Planned Parenthood gets federal funds!

Okay, so ... what's the problem?

Well, Mr. BO says,
Planned Parenthood says it doesn't use that money for abortion purposes, but that's hard to believe. In 2011, Planned Parenthood performed 334,000 abortions - close to half of all the abortions performed in the USA.

Now, Planned Parenthood will tell you that they perform prenatal services. Yet in 2011, it's estimated that fewer than 30,000 women received prenatal care from the organization.
He called Planned Parenthood an "abortion mill" and an "agency that specializes in abortion" and demanded a Congressional investigation of the group's funding and "what could be a gross violation of federal law."

Now first off, 334,00 is slightly more than a quarter of legal abortions performed in the US and nowhere near half. And Planned Parenthood would probably perform an even smaller number and smaller percentage if it wasn't for the fact of so many states (and assorted terrorists) doing everything they can to prevent the existence of any clinics providing legal abortion services.

But more importantly, while it's true that fewer than 30,000 women received prenatal care from Planned Parenthood, 4.5 million got services involving STDs, 3.4 million obtained contraceptive services, and 1.3 million got services related to cancer screening and prevention. In fact, about 97% of Planned Parenthood's services have nothing to do with abortions - except for the fact of contraceptive services that by preventing unwanted pregnancies make abortions unnecessary.

Further, the feds provide only about 45% of Planned Parenthood's income and a lot of that is not from any sorts of grants but payments for services rendered under Medicaid - which obviously could not relate to abortions because if they had, the government would not have paid the claims.

So could Planned Parenthood provide 3% of its services with well over half its budget? Yeah, I think so, too.

The attacks on Planned Parenthood - we need to understand, these attacks are not really, ultimately, about abortions. That is, they are not about a woman's right to choose an abortion. They are about a woman's right to choose, period. They are about women's autonomy. About women being able to chart their own course. About the role of women in society. They are part and parcel of a way of thinking - more properly, of not thinking - a way of not thinking that looks back and the 1950s and thinks they were too advanced. George Will, regarded as the great intellectual of the conservative movement, once wrote that "'back to 1900' is a serviceable summation of the conservative goal." The attacks on such an established and establishment group as Planned Parenthood are just more proof of the truth of that statement.

As for Mr. Body Odor, bearing in mind that a good definition of a lie is "a statement made with the intent to deceive," he has just yet again shown himself to be a notorious, serial, and outrageous liar.


Left Side of the Aisle #91

Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of January 17-23 2013

This week:

Outrage of the Week: Bill O'Reilly lies about Planned Parenthood

RIP: Aaron Swartz, victim of prosecutorial abuse

Clown Award #1: Catholic League President Bill Donohue

Clown Award #2: GOPper Rep. Phil Gingrey

Clown Award #3: Faux News host Eric Bolling

Guns and blood

Friday, January 11, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #90 - Part 6

PS: Thomas Paine quote

With a bit of time left, I'm going to include this, which I've been wanting to do for some time. I'm going to read you a quote and I want you to guess the source. Here it is:
Land, as before said, is the free gift of the Creator in common to the human race. Personal property is the effect of society; and it is as impossible for an individual to acquire personal property without the aid of society, as it is for him to make land originally.

Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a continent to possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases, that where the former do not exist the latter cannot be obtained. All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.

This is putting the matter on a general principle, and perhaps it is best to do so; for if we examine the case minutely it will be found that the accumulation of personal property is, in many instances, the effect of paying too little for the labor that produced it; the consequence of which is that the working hand perishes in old age, and the employer abounds in affluence.
So who was the source? It was Thomas Paine. So take that, all you right-wing bozos ranting about how the "Founding Fathers" were the source of all social and political wisdom: Thomas Paine, describing land as a "free gift in common to the human race" and declaring personal riches are "the effect of paying too little for the labor that produced it," was a socialist.

Thanks to the blogger Digby for providing the quote.


Left Side of the Aisle #90 - Part 5

And Another Thing: video of giant squid obtained

And Another Thing is our occasional detour into things not expressly political. Usually it's some cool science thing - which is the case here.

For centuries, tales of sea monsters like the Kraken, giant squids with their tentacles pulling sailors or even whole ships under the water were told in hushed tones. For some time, scientists doubted that such creatures existed - and even until relatively recently, most of the knowledge of them was based on carcases that had washed ashore or a few that had been tangled in nets or lines and dragged to the surface. It was only a few years ago that pictures of a giant squid in its natural habitat far below the surface of the ocean were obtained.

And now, for the first time ever, scientists have obtained video footage of a giant squid in its natural habitat.

You want to know what a giant squid looks like? It looks like this. And close up, it looks like this.

The squid caught on video is 9 feet long, but it is also missing its two longest tentacles. If those tentacles were still intact, the squid could have measured as much as 26 feet in length.

The research team used a smaller squid as bait and for the first time also used a lure that mimics the bioluminescent display of a jellyfish to attract the giant squid's attention. That's because the squid is a visual predator with an eye bigger than your head. Which also is why they've been so hard to track: You go down with your bright lights so you can see what's going on - and it seems you and stays away.

This time, researchers found a giant squid just over 2000 feet below sea level and tracked it down to nearly 3000 feet below before losing it in the darkness.

Members of the team said they were "amazed at what it looked like." One said it was "shining and so beautiful." Another said "It looked carved out of metal. And it would change from being silver to gold. It was just breathtaking."

The video will be released on January 27, shown on the Discovery Channel. I'll be watching.

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