AMERICAblog NewsBecca Morn – AMERICAblog News A great nation deserves the truth // One of America's top progressive sites for news and opinion Thu, 20 Sep 2018 19:23:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Why a die-hard Sanders supporter is happily voting for Hillary Mon, 16 May 2016 14:36:24 +0000 Hillary is not the lesser of two evils. Donald Trump must be stopped, period.

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I “Felt the Bern” for a long time during Sanders’ candidacy, within days of his announcement. On a basic gut level, I preferred his populist progressive positions over Clinton’s.

Even as early on, Clinton was trotting out “protect Social Security and Obamacare” messages and promoting those awful free trade agreements, Sanders was proposing expanding Social Security, lowering the retirement age back to 65, increasing benefits, replacing Obamacare with universal healthcare, making public college tuition free, and so on.

On the other hand, on the social issues, they didn’t disagree at all, so I had nothing to complain about there. Really, the early Democratic debates were boring because they spent most of the time agreeing with each other.

My initial hopes for Sanders didn’t pan out

I was hopeful when the caucuses and primaries started that the unashamedly liberal firebrand would take the lead early and take the nomination in a rout. That didn’t happen. From the first Super Tuesday on, Clinton proved she was preferred by more Democrats than Sanders. Week after week, primary after primary, she kept increasing her lead. Sanders would recover when he hit the favorable demographics and open caucuses, but then would lose ground again — often by large amounts — whenever the race turned back to the closed primaries and Clinton-favorable demographics.

Put simply, whenever Sanders won big percentages, it was the small caucus states mostly; whenever Clinton won big percentages, it was the high-population primary states. Hence her current lead of more than 3 million in the popular vote.

April 26th was my self-imposed deadline, the middle-Atlantic Super Tuesday, which included coincidentally my original home state of Pennsylvania. Either Sanders needed to show he could start beating Clinton by double-digit margins, or it was time to recognize the reality of “the math” simply not being in his favor. Yes, a week later he won in Indiana by a small margin… and fell further behind on the percentage of pledged delegates remaining that he’d need to win the nomination. Even if he started beating Clinton in every single state remaining by 55/45, he would still lose. In California, the biggest remaining state of all, he’s behind by around 10 points; he’d have to turn that around by more than 25 now. Which seems very unlikely at this point.

Then Sanders started to lose me

I supported Sanders staying in the race until the end, if only to help keep pulling Clinton to the progressive left, as is obvious he’s already done. I supported Sanders’ notion he should have a hand in shaping the party platform — and perhaps even have a prominent position in the Clinton administration. Hell, I actually mused what a powerhouse a Clinton/Sanders ticket would be. (Not likely, I know, but still.)

However, as I noted in other comments of mine scattered about the Internet blogs, I was unsettled by Sanders’ lack of specificity and seeming lack of grasping the details of getting things done in the NY Daily News interview. (Seriously, I think that paper should get a Pulitzer just for managing to interview just about all the prominent candidates, in-depth, and to ask really great questions.) I didn’t like how “Wall Street” and “Goldman Sachs” became a drinking game whenever he spoke. I was bothered more by Sanders’ continued insistence, even now, that he can still win the nomination outright. And my breaking point was almost there when he began suggesting the super-delegates — the elected and former leaders of the Democratic party — should defy the popular vote, the pledged delegates, and the primary results and give him the nomination.

I’m even witnessing his supporters apparently moving the goalposts, saying Sanders only needs a bare majority of the pledged delegates to win (2,026), whereas they insist Clinton’s “magic number” benchmark is now 2,283, in pledged, not super-delegates.

My “screw it” moment

My “screw it, I just can’t even” moment came when Sanders said this back on April 25th:

“We’re not a movement where I can snap my fingers and say to you or to anybody else what you should do, that you should all listen to me. You shouldn’t. You make these decisions yourself.

“And if Secretary Clinton wins, it is incumbent upon her to tell millions of people who right now do not believe in establishment politics or establishment economics, who have serious misgivings about a candidate who has received millions of dollars from Wall Street and other special interests. She has to go out to you.”

That’s the opposite of responsible leadership and an abdication of responsibility as a would-be leader of the Democratic party. It is his, and every leader’s job, to persuade people to do the right thing.

Even hinting he won’t endorse the party’s nominee if it’s Clinton is appalling. And he’s basically implying it’s okay to just sit out the election if Clinton doesn’t persuade all his people to switch to supporting her instead. Sanders won’t lift a finger to help make that happen.

Clinton isn’t the lesser of two evils

Sanders isn’t morally equivalent to Trump. Neither is Clinton. Neither of them is perfect. I still prefer Sanders’ positions in general, but over the months I’ve become more confident in Clinton’s ability to get things done and command of the details of governing — and most of what she says she wants to do isn’t bad at all. Her husband gave us Ginsberg and Breyer; I expect her SCOTUS picks to be even better. If Clinton says she’ll improve the PPACA (‘Obamacare’) in some incremental way, I’ll complain about it, but her chances of getting it done far exceed Senator Sanders’ chances for giving the country universal no-insurance healthcare. Not when her plan is “win back Congress” and his (in his own words) was for people to email and fax the Republicans.

But Trump IS Trump — and he will be the GOP nominee. Hell, in an alternate reality where Romney suddenly declared he was a Democrat and was the party’s unexpected nominee — I’d vote for HIM rather than sit out the election or throw away my vote on a pointless 3rd party candidate.

This isn’t “lesser evils.” This is someone you might or might not like, or even have decided you hate, versus an outright monster. An avowed racist, xenophobe, misogynist and guy eager to torture prisoners, bomb innocent civilians, and maybe even use nuclear weapons. Nixon was run out of office for targeting his political enemies; Trump has already promised he’ll “do the same, and more.” And Trump has literally said he wants to make “unfair” statements about him illegal. Including no doubt this blog post right here.

Only the Democrats can stop Trump

No independent Sanders run or 3rd party Green or Libertarian candidate will stop Trump. Only the Democrats can do that right now. Only them. Provided the party as a whole doesn’t mess this up, as I already know they can do.

As far as I was concerned, Sanders’ narrow win and pick-up of just 6 delegates in Indiana was the final nail in the already sealed coffin. I could support him as long as he was promoting the liberal-populist cause itself. I could no longer support Sanders when it became clear he intends to do as much damage to the Clinton campaign as possible during the next several weeks, and that he apparently had no loyalty to the Democrats at all. They seem to have been just a convenient vehicle for his own ambitions.

I’ll be honest here, too: While I supported and was enthusiastic about Senator Bernie Sanders for many months, I never stopped believing Clinton was a perfectly acceptable alternative. Especially given who the GOP is running. I finished off many of my remarks with “I support Sanders, but I will support whomever the Democrats nominate for President, and every one of their down-ticket candidates this year. Because it’s just that important.”

Well, the nominee is just about certain now to be Clinton. So I decided it was time finally to do what I promised to do for all those months: Support the presumptive Democratic party nominee. I just donated to her campaign, for my first time this cycle.

I wish Bernie Sanders well back in the Senate and I hope he continues to fight for his causes. But I really don’t want him harming the party which has been giving him plum committee assignments despite his not belonging to them for all those years.

I won’t make the 3rd Party mistake again

Senator Sanders through his own actions and statements lost me and Secretary Clinton won me over, in roughly equal measure. And Trump convinced me to set aside any impulses I might have ever to cast symbolic ‘message sending’ votes. I’m never doing that again because they don’t work. Sanders managed to shift the party leftward by running as a candidate inside it; all he’d accomplish running against the party as a 3rd party candidate would be to make the Democrats even less like he’d want them to be.

Oh and just maybe give the country President Trump instead. Yeah, this is electoral extortion. Sorry. However it’s also our current reality and protest votes aren’t going to change it, not in 2016 and probably not ever. Not as long as here in America it’s winner-take-all and a winner is simply the man or woman who wins the most votes, even if it’s significantly less than 50%. Ask Nader, Perot, and Anderson supporters whether the party their candidate ran against became more or less like they wanted it to be, after their guy lost and the candidate they would have preferred least was declared the winner.

When you declare the Democrats are too far gone ever to get your vote, what happens is they don’t say, “Gee, we should change to recapture the support of those who’ve rejected us.” What they do is say, “There’s people in the middle and center-right who haven’t made up their minds. We’ll go for them.” It’s what’s been happening with the Dems for the last half century.

Sure, Clinton is not in any way entitled to your vote — I get that — but your country is entitled to your responsible use of that important privilege. Voting simply to feel better isn’t being responsible.

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Reality (sic) TV Tue, 09 Dec 2014 17:23:14 +0000 It's just trash TV, 'Potemkin Village' shows. It's the fast-food version of entertainment.

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‘Reality’ TV is the opposite of reality. It is fiction masquerading as reality.

The cameras are never forgotten by those present, even though we viewers are supposed to pretend the camera crew’s presence doesn’t affect how the people on the show behave.

The inside scoop is all of the scenes portrayed on these shows are basically scripted, even if the dialog isn’t (and often it is). The people on these shows aren’t playing themselves; they’re amateur B- or C-grade actors pretending to be someone we’re supposed to think they’re exactly like in real-life.

Les Stroud of "Survivorman."

Les Stroud of “Survivorman.”

Those people on the ‘survival’ reality shows are never in any real danger, because there are safety crews. Even the guy I actually like and have learned some useful tips from, Les Stroud, even though he shoots all his own video, nevertheless doesn’t record his regular daily contacts with his safety crews. Sure, he puts himself in some very uncomfortable situations, but always in the back of his mind is the comforting knowledge that escape is one radio call away. Which he’s done on more than a few occasions when a bad situation became a little too ‘real.’ (CORRECTION: Mr. Stroud has reached out to me personally and said (1) he is not in daily contact with his safety teams and (2) he has not ever actually had to ask for rescue. Mea culpa.)

And the guys on the fishing boats aren’t actually desperate for that ‘last catch of the season’ — because as long as they bluster all macho-style for the cameras, they can count on the TV syndication checks to tide them over. The ‘homesteaders’ in Alaska mostly put on little vignette scenes to show what they would’ve done 20-odd years ago before the Discover channel showed up and gave ’em enough money to live comfortably (and usually elsewhere) whenever the cameras are turned off.

(For instance, it is never EVER mentioned that the Kilcher homestead on Kachemak Bay is a mere 5 miles or so from the town of Homer, Alaska, population 5,000, with dozens of stores, restaurants, and attractions; and with Kenai, an even bigger town with a Walmart and Home Depot, another hour or so up the coast on Hwy 1. Oh no — those folks are living on the frontier! “Have to kill that bear or go hungry… ‘cuz the Safeway in Homer might be short on ground beef and frozen pizzas this week.” (/snark))*

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And these ‘ethnic’ reality shows, that John has written about, are nothing but voyeuristic soap operas, where the actors are told to behave outrageously and stereotypically by the producers and show-runners — because NORMAL is repetitive and boring. They’re instructed to ham it up as much as possible. The shows are as real as a Harlem Globetrotters basketball game, or any TV wrestling match.

It’s just trash TV, ‘Potemkin Village’ shows. Trash sells, and the TV producers like ‘reality’ (sic) shows because they’re crazy-cheap to make. It’s the fast-food version of entertainment. You think maybe you’re consuming something genuine, but afterwards you just feel numb, bloated, and vaguely dirty.

* = I know a fair amount about the survival-ish / homesteading shows because my wife is into them, and sometimes we watch together, because not everything is about the shows I’d prefer. ;-)

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Why gay marriage opponents lost: The social angle Tue, 14 Oct 2014 15:13:11 +0000 We won because we are extraordinary in being ordinary.

The post Why gay marriage opponents lost: The social angle appeared first on AMERICAblog News.

John just posted a piece about the legal and logical reasons why gay marriage opponents have essentially lost the fight against marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.

I figured I’d chime in with the other angle, the social one, as to why we went from support for gay marriage being a very small minority to majority support in a rather short period of time.

First, a rather interesting graphic from the always entertaining and insightful xkcd:

Marriage, by xkcd, included via Creative Commons permission

In truth, we have one man to thank for much of it: Harvey Milk.

Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk

One of Milk’s campaign slogans was “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” Many don’t remember, but another cornerstone of his campaign for mayor of San Francisco in 1978 was Proposition 6, also known as the Briggs Initiative, so named after John Briggs, state legislator from Orange County.

The proposition also had the backing of Anita Bryant of the oxymoronically named “Save Our Children.”

Prop 6 would have banned gay people from working in public schools, at any level. The language of the proposition would have also banned anybody known publicly to be in favor of gay rights. That’s right: If you were a school teacher and publicly made any pro-gay remark, you could be summarily fired.

The proposition lost, fortunately, 58-42.

To their credit, opposition to Prop 6 is what led to the founding of the Log Cabin Republicans in 1977. And the chances of defeating the proposition did not look good in September 1978 when it was ahead in the polls, with 66% of Californians in favor of it.

In one of his moments of non-evilness, Governor Ronald Reagan declared that he was opposed to the measure, and even penned an editorial in the LA Herald-Examiner. If you want to hear some real leadership though, check out this video-illustrated audio recording of Mayor Harvey Milk:

That was the start. When the homophobes would have had gay people remain invisible, in the closet, leaders like Harvey Milk were saying it would take the courage of being out, proud, and visible to change how straight people saw gay people. To hide, to be invisible gave unwarranted legitimacy to the position there was something wrong with being gay, something deserving of shame.

This was also the genesis and necessity of Gay Pride parades.

It was a long, long struggle just for ‘tolerance,’ much less the real goal: acceptance. For many years, it didn’t look good. Homophobes like Bryant were successful in repealing anti-discrimination measures.  States like Oklahoma and Arkansas did pass laws banning gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. Many states passed laws banning gay people from adopting.

And of course, we shouldn’t forget how when Governor Reagan became President Reagan, he completely ignored the AIDS/HIV epidemic for nearly six years, well into his second term. Reagan’s press secretary, Larry Speakes, actually laughed in 1982 about the fact that an estimated 1 in 3 of those infected were dying. Speakes found it particularly funny that the sick and dying were gay:

Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement–the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?
Q: Over a third of them have died. It’s known as “gay plague.” (Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it’s a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the President is aware of it?
MR. SPEAKES: I don’t have it. Do you? (Laughter.)
Q: No, I don’t.
MR. SPEAKES: You didn’t answer my question.
Q: Well, I just wondered, does the President–
MR. SPEAKES: How do you know? (Laughter.)
Q: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?
MR. SPEAKES: No, I don’t know anything about it, Lester.
Q: Does the President, does anybody in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?
MR. SPEAKES: I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s been any–
Q: Nobody knows?
MR. SPEAKES: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.
Q: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping–
MR. SPEAKES: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning and he’s had no–(laughter)–no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.
Q: The President doesn’t have gay plague, is that what you’re saying or what?
MR. SPEAKES: No, I didn’t say that.
Q: Didn’t say that?
MR. SPEAKES: I thought I heard you on the State Department over there. Why didn’t you stay there? (Laughter.)
Q: Because I love you, Larry, that’s why. (Laughter.)
MR. SPEAKES: Oh, I see. Just don’t put it in those terms, Lester. (Laughter.)
Q: Oh, I retract that.
MR. SPEAKES: I hope so.
Q: It’s too late.

Whenever it seemed like there might be progress — whether it was gays being permitted to serve openly in the military, or the first serious proposals that maybe gay and lesbian couples should have some partnership rights — the door was slammed in our faces. First “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” then the “Defense of Marriage Act.” Sadly, both of these measures had strong bipartisan and popular support.

Something began to shift with the turn of the millennium, however, and most of it was because of what had been happening over the previous 20-25 years. (Not coincidentally, 20-25 years is considered roughly a ‘generation.’)

Back in the 1960s and 70s, you probably would have found only a few people who would say they knew someone gay. The truth is, they probably did, but weren’t aware.  Remember, the whole point of the closet was to be invisible. It would be “oh, just those two ladies who’ve lived with each other for decades.” Or the “confirmed bachelor neighbor” who always seemed to have a handsome friend with him.

By the time we got to the late 1990s, there weren’t nearly as many people who would or could say the same. It seems like everybody knew someone who was gay, and increasing numbers were gay family members.

So along comes 2003 and the marriage cases in Massachusetts. Where the question simply was:

“We know these people are gay. We know they’ve been committed to each other for years and even decades in some cases. Some are raising children together. In every aspect but one — the physical gender of the two adults involved — they meet the traditional definition of ‘family.’ Many have even solemnized their relationships within accepting religions. Who is harmed in any way if we extend the legal definition of civil marriage to include them?”

The answer, of course, is no one. No one is harmed.

The cover of the Arkansas Times.

The cover of the Arkansas Times.

Indeed, it’s been ridiculously easy for gay and lesbian couples, and their families, to point out exactly how they are harmed by the withholding of legal recognition. Including some 1138 rights, privileges, and responsibilities at the Federal level alone.

As for the objective science, as opposed by the lies and misrepresentations of the anti-gay side, children actually do best in stable, loving families, regardless of the gender of their parents. And one of the ways stability is encouraged is when the adults raising those kids are allowed to marry each other.

The operative word in the repeal of DADT, as championed by OutServe and SDLN and other activist groups, was “fairness.” It was not fair to let gays and lesbians serve, only to be exploited and kicked out whenever a commander felt like it. It wasn’t fair for women to be raped and coerced into silence lest they be accused of being lesbian. It was not fair to ask someone to sacrifice for their country, then discard them because of who they loved.

It’s been the same with marriage equality. I also do firmly believe one day we’ll have ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, it bars job discrimination against gay and trans people under federal law). But I believe here’s why we’ve been winning over the last decade, with a veritable dam breaking in the last year after DOMA’s Section 3 was overturned by the Supreme Court.

It happened because of people like this:


And this:


And this:

indiana gay marriage

A gay couple gets married in Indiana.

And this:

A gay marriage proposal at a Home Depot.

A gay marriage proposal at a Home Depot.

And this:

Pediatrician Paul Melchert holds son Emmett, left, while his husband, James Zimmerman, holds their son Gabriel, at a press conference in Minnesota in favor of gay marriage.

Pediatrician Paul Melchert holds son Emmett, left, while his husband, James Zimmerman, holds their son Gabriel, at a press conference in Minnesota in favor of gay marriage.

And this:


And this:


What do they all have in common? They’re extraordinary in being ordinary.

It’s easy to fear something unknown and unfamiliar. But when your next door neighbors are a lesbian couple raising a couple of kids, or two gay men who, say, throw terrific beer and BBQ parties, it’s hard to keep that irrational fear going. Which is probably why homophobes like Tony Perkins (head of the SPLC-identified hate group, Family Research Council) is desperate to keep his children from learning such people exist. Because his lies and his irrational bigotry would be exposed.

And so this circles back around — because Harvey Milk was right. He has been vindicated. Step 1 in winning civil rights for gays and lesbians (and also hopefully B’s and T’s) is coming out of the closet. When we come out, people eventually learn that there isn’t anything to be afraid of. And gradually, the haters and homophobes become reduced to objects of ridicule and derision, as they should’ve been all along.

Anybody remember this guy? Even the gay-hating far-right distances itself from him now.

Fred Phelps Westboro Baptist Church gay

From GodHatesFags(dot)com

As soon as the courts began to say, “You can’t invoke your religion, or some nebulous concept of ‘tradition’ to justify anti-gay animus” — it was over for them. In case after case, they’re reduced to promoting bogus and easily disproved claims about the purposes of, and state interests in, civil marriage.

Take, for example, this argument put forth by the Republican Governor of Idaho, Butch Otter (yes, that’s his real name). The 9th Circuit decision last week had a field day with this one. (“He,” below, is Gov. Otter):


I leave you with the dyspeptic and forehead-vein-throbbing dissent of Justice Antonin Scalia in the DOMA overturn during the summer of 2013:

When the Court declared a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy, we were assured that the case had nothing, nothing at all to do with ‘whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter. Now we are told that DOMA is invalid because it ‘demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects,’ ante, at 23 — with an accompanying citation of Lawrence.

“It takes real cheek for today’s majority to assure us, as it is going out the door, that a constitutional requirement to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage is not at issue here — when what has preceded that assurance is a lecture on how superior the majority’s moral judgment in favor of same-sex marriage is to the Congress’s hateful moral judgment against it. I promise you this: The only thing that will ‘confine’ the Court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with. (…)

“As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion, whatever disappearing trail of its legalistic argle-bargle one chooses to follow, is that DOMA is motivated by ‘bare . . . desire to harm’ couples in same-sex marriages. How easy it is, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples marital status.”

Argle-bargle indeed, Mr. Justice.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are!”

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Per the NFL, Ray Rice’s only crime was getting caught on tape Fri, 12 Sep 2014 17:00:14 +0000 The NFL isn't upset that Ray Rice beat his wife unconscious. They're upset that he got caught.

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Speaking as someone who experienced domestic violence first hand, I concur with John’s decision to post the animated gifs and video footage to Jon Green’s earlier story about the NFL’s inaction regarding former Baltimore Raven’s star Ray Rice knocking his girlfriend unconscious, on tape.

One of the reasons abuse and violence happens and is allowed to continue to happen is because people don’t see it happening in front of them.

“He hit her. He punched her. He dragged her unconscious from the elevator and then acted like it was no big thing.”

These are descriptive but ultimately abstract statements. People will analyze them in a subjective way. Most people haven’t actually witnessed such things happening, and so in nearly every case the mental image they’ll come up with won’t be nearly as bad as the reality.

Video of Ray Rice apparently spitting on his fiancée right before getting on an elevator with her and knocking her unconscious. If the motion stops, you can refresh the page to restart it.

Video of Ray Rice apparently spitting on his fiancée right before getting on an elevator with her and knocking her unconscious. If the motion stops, you can refresh the page to restart it.

The video… well, it doesn’t lie. Ray Rice and his fiancée are having an argument. And yes, the clearer video before they got onto the elevator does appear to show Rice spitting on her (or some similar motion), and she responded with a rather lame backhand slap.

In the elevator, he shoves Janay a few times. I and several others think it shows him spitting on her a second time, she pushes back, then he appears to slap her face. She then puts her hand up to protect herself.

Ray Rice appears to spit on his fiancée a second time, then appears to hit her for the first time. If the motion stops, you can refresh the page to restart it.

Ray Rice appears to spit on his fiancée a second time, then appears to hit her for the first time. If the motion stops, you can refresh the page to restart it.

She then comes towards him, and he decks her with a punch so hard her head appears to bounce hard off a metal railing in the elevator.

And then — this is the part that gets me — he spends the next several seconds just standing there, waiting for the elevator to stop. Doesn’t bend down to check on her, doesn’t show the least concern that she’s unconscious. And then when the doors open, as John remarked, Ray Rice dragged her out like a rag doll, not caring that her dress was hiked up, drops her on the hard tile floor (even though she’s just had a head injury) and even at one point shoving her leg to one side with the toe of his shoe.

First, he knocks her out.


Then he does nothing, initially. Finally he bends down to pick her still-unconscious body up, like a rag doll. He doesn’t check her vitals. He doesn’t loving touch her face to see if she’s okay. He just picks her up, as if this kind of thing happens all the time.


Then, he appears to change his mind and drops her on the ground. Note her head landing on the right side of the frame, not guided by his hand — she simply appears to have been dropped.


Next comes the rag doll drag and kick. Note the little kick he gives her at the end, after he picks up her shoe:


And then, after the kick, check how many times he bends down to see if she’s all right. Zero.

Video of Ray Rice apparently spitting on his fiancée right before getting on an elevator with her and knocking her unconscious. If the motion stops, you can refresh the page to restart it.

Video of Ray Rice apparently spitting on his fiancée right before getting on an elevator with her and knocking her unconscious. If the motion stops, you can refresh the page to restart it.

The important thing as we’ve learned isn’t that Ray Rice was accused of assaulting his fiancée (now his wife, and about-to-be-statistic). It didn’t matter that there was incontrovertible proof the assault happened. The NFL and the Ravens didn’t particularly care about more than a token gesture — a suspension shorter than if he’d been caught smoking grass — until the video came out and Rice (in their eyes) committed the far more serious offense of embarrassing the league. According to NFL standards, if you want to beat your girlfriend, fiancée, or wife, sure go right ahead, it’s no big deal — just don’t be SEEN doing it, and most of all don’t be videotaped doing it. Or then, we gotta let you go.

So yeah — this stuff needs to be seen. It needs to be experienced and witnessed, or else people will continue to talk themselves into believing “he assaulted her” or “he punched her” can’t possibly be as bad as some might describe it. Once you see the spitting, and the punches, and then see Janay’s head bouncing off the railing, and Rice’s apparently indifference and disdain for her condition — you can’t unsee it. And no one should.

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This gun owner thinks it’s nuts to hand a 9 y.o. an Uzi Thu, 28 Aug 2014 21:17:39 +0000 It was grossly negligent to let a 9-year-old girl fire an Uzi, resulting in the death of her instructor.

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John wrote earlier about the 9-year-old girl in Las Vegas whose parents thought it would be a good idea to let her shoot an Uzi submachine gun.

Not surprisingly, the gun, set on automatic — a setting at which it fires 600 rounds per minute — went wildly out of control in the little girl’s hands. As she lost control of the weapon, it shot her instructor in the head, killing him.

Simplifying somewhat, there are basically three ways a gun or rifle can fire. (Not going to get into single-action vs double-action.)

One: The gun fires. and then you need to do something to chamber another round, like a pump-action shotgun or a lever-action rifle for example. Or a breach-loading shotgun.

Then there are semi-automatics. These fire one shot for every time you pull the trigger. If you’ve seen a 9mm handgun with a magazine and a slide-action, that’ll be a semi-auto. Most of the assault rifles out there carried by civilians are semi-auto. Even these ones require a bit of training to use responsibly.

To own a fully-automatic gun requires a special federal firearms license (FFL). If you do not have this license, you could technically still own an Uzi, for example, but only if it has been disabled for fully automatic operation.

There is a gigantic loophole in this law (actually several loopholes.). Yes, you need the FFL, which isn’t cheap. However, you as the owner of said fully-automatic firearm can grant permission to just about anybody to fire it in your presence, even a tiny child.

The 9-year-old girl moments before she lost control of the Uzi and shot her instructor in the head, killing him.

The 9-year-old girl moments before she lost control of the Uzi and shot her instructor in the head, killing him.

I’ll tell you something else about fully-automatic firearms: Have you ever fired a gun? Ever watched someone actually shoot a gun? (And Hollywood movies don’t count.) They kick. The barrel invariably wants to go up. The peculiarity of Uzis and other rapid-fire full-automatics is they not only go up, they also push the barrel to the left (part of this is the effect of the rifling inside the barrel and part is due to the ejection of the spent rounds). Hold down the trigger for more than a couple seconds and, unless you are strong and well-braced, that sub-machine gun will literally try to make you spin around in place.

That “instructor” made a whole series of stupid mistakes. But the first mistake? Letting what appears to be a 70lb 9-year-old child fire a fully-automatic sub-machine gun. No child that size can control a weapon like that. Disaster was all but guaranteed.

The second mistake was standing exactly where the barrel was all but guaranteed to go the instant she put her finger down on the trigger.

But really, mistake #1 outweighs everything else. Nobody should be surprised that this happened.

Hell, even if he hadn’t been standing where he was, that little girl still would have lost control of that submachine gun. If not him, it could’ve just as easily been the person who was filming the event, or other bystanders.

Grown adults (unless trained), who are physically capable and knowing exactly what to expect, will have trouble controlling an Uzi. (In fact, it’s also why Uzis are actually pretty crappy guns to begin with. They’re the archetype of ‘spray and pray’ firearms whose military value was based more on fear and intimidation than in actually being able to hit anything reliably… but I digress.)

This wasn’t just an accident and a tragedy. In my opinion, this was an act of gross negligence on the part of the “instructor” and the girl’s parents.

The detail that boggles me, even among the gun aficionados who acknowledge it was criminally stupid to let a 9-year-old fire an Uzi on automatic, is how many insist that children need to be taught how to handle and shoot a gun safely. I’m sorry, but as a gun owner myself, and even given the family I grew up in, this is a bs statement. Very young children do not need to be taught how to ‘handle and shoot’ guns. Their first lesson with firearms should be: “Do not touch or go near a gun. If you see a gun, find an adult because these things are dangerous.”

When a minor is old enough to qualify for a hunting license, that’s another matter. (In many states, the age is 12 years and up.) Even then, questions of physical ability and mental fitness of the kid, and appropriateness of the specific firearm need to be addressed. I remember a time when my kid brother was demoted by our father to pack-carrier, because he carelessly wouldn’t pay attention to where the barrel of his 20ga was pointed. That’s how you teach a kid to use a gun.

An Uzi submachine gun, via Shutterstock.

An Uzi submachine gun, via Shutterstock.

We do not let children drive cars or motorcycles because we have deemed that they lack the emotional maturity and physical prowess to do so without endangering others.

We do not let children drink alcohol or buy cigarettes, because we’ve deemed they lack the maturity to do so responsibly.

We do not give children the right to vote for the same reason.

And yet there’s almost no restriction on letting a child use a device that, when used as intended, is fully capable of maiming or killing.

It’s nuts.

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Monday morning mental health break: iDiots (video) Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:00:21 +0000 An all too familiar observation on consumerism, and an open thread.

The post Monday morning mental health break: iDiots (video) appeared first on AMERICAblog News.

Given the unrelenting barrage of bad news out of the Ukraine and Gaza and everywhere else, I thought we could all use a mental health break.

Here’s ‘iDiots’, a stop-motion video by the visual effects studio, Big Lazy Robot.

iDiots by Big Lazy Robot

iDiots by Big Lazy Robot

And here’s the video:

Consider this post an open thread…

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For Putin, there’s never been a better time to rebuild the empire Sat, 19 Jul 2014 20:25:39 +0000 Political opportunism overrides everything else for the GOP. As for western Europe's backbone...

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A big part of the problem President Obama faces in responding to Russian President Putin’s increasingly violence in Ukraine and beyond is that the U.S. does not have a functioning federal government. To be sure, the majority of foreign policy remains in the hands of the Executive branch, but the old saw about “politics stopping at the water’s edge” is no longer operative.

Today’s Republican party openly uses the language of secession, treason, and incitement to coup.

In my opinion, much of Obama’s fecklessness is self-inflicted. But on the other hand, the GOP gladly undercuts him at every turn — which then unavoidably makes him weaker internationally. Through their constant obstructionism, the Republicans have also ensured that the U.S. will never be seen as a reliable negotiating partner.

Putin seems pretty clearly to be looking to reconstitute the former Soviet, now Russian empire, starting with the most strategically significant territories. Europe and the U.S. are in disarray. Whether this is getting into the old “LIHOP” or “MIHOP” territory (the old acronyms associated with 9/11 conspiracy theory truthers and their constant arguments over whether the Cheney administration LET it happen on purpose or MADE it happen) is beside the point. Who benefits from atrocities and unrest in eastern Europe? Russia. Who will have opportunities to expand their ‘sphere of influence’ through intervention, occupation, and intimidation? Russia.

putin-rainbow-hitlerAt this point, I don’t even think we could count on the NATO treaty to mean much if Putin decided to do to Estonia what he did in Crimea. A common defense treaty isn’t worth the paper its written on if the nations involved won’t or don’t want to back up the promises.

Back in the 1980s, when KAL 007 was shot down, the Democrats didn’t contradict their president, even as they were in the opposition in general. They didn’t undercut him. They didn’t immediately insist that everything Reagan said or did was 100% wrong.

That’s not the GOP today. They not only oppose every last thing Obama and the Dems say and do, they yell it loudly enough to make sure the entire world hears it. Or to put it another way, if this was 1941 and Pearl Harbor had just happened, the Republicans wouldn’t vote to declare war, but rather, they’d immediately convene impeachment hearings against FDR. Political opportunism overrides everything else for the GOP.

As commenter The_Fixer points out, the United States isn’t united on anything these days. And all Europe seems to care about anymore is deciding which of their poorer countries is ripe for more bankster plundering in the form of imposed austerity measures.

For a would-be imperialist like Putin, there’s probably never been a better time to rebuild the empire.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN

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Further thoughts on whether one must be radical to be gay Wed, 09 Jul 2014 20:22:06 +0000 To romanticize radicalism is a nostalgia we can’t afford, and it’s actually inimical to the goals of equality.

The post Further thoughts on whether one must be radical to be gay appeared first on AMERICAblog News.

John wrote the other day about an article by Julie Bindel, expressing concern that the modern gay rights movement, with marriage equality at the forefront, has grown too conservative, and thus strayed from gay liberation’s historical radical roots.

I think Ms. Bindel is romanticizing LGBT activism and history. Exactly as our friend The_Fixer notes below, it used to be unimaginably radical simply to ask for acceptance.

Not that many years ago, the announcement, “I’m gay” — or more accurately, the involuntary discovery of such by someone else — usually meant your life as you knew it was over. Your job, your home, your family — gone. If you had kids, they were taken from you.

There was nothing left but to decide whether to slink away, hide and disappear (Mad Men fans might remember what happened to the gay character, Salvatore Romano). Or to turn radical.

Or to use another example: In 1957, the entertainer Liberace brought a libel suit against the Daily Mirror for publishing a story that merely suggested he was gay. Think about that: A libel suit. Meaning this flouncing guy who dressed in sequins and capes, and who never had a female liaison or partner that anybody knew about, believed credibly it would ruin his career if anybody actually knew he was gay. And he won settlements.

Protesters outside the Supreme Court, and across from the US Congress, for the oral arguments on the gay rights cases involving DOMA and Proposition 8 in March, 2013. © John Aravosis 2013

Protesters outside the Supreme Court, and across from the US Congress, for the oral arguments on the gay rights cases involving DOMA and Proposition 8 in March, 2013. © John Aravosis

Some more examples: Being gay used to be automatic disqualification for a U.S. security clearance, as well as dishonorable discharge from the armed forces under Section 8 — a mental illness designation. (Aside: By the way, those who remember MASH and the crossdressing antics of Cpl Klinger and his quixotic pursuit of a Section 8 discharge might also recall the episode when visiting psychiatrist Milton Friedman finally offered to give it to him — if Klinger would sign a form attesting to being gay. When the life-long consequences of that notation on his permanent record were explained to him, Klinger relented and didn’t sign.)

As some of our commenters can attest, LGBTs used to be routinely thrown into mental hospitals and subjected to the most horrific of treatments, including ECT and insulin shock. Arrested by the cops ‘in flagrante delecto‘ by the cops with someone of one’s own gender? If it hit the papers or became general knowledge, being fired and evicted immediately were all but expected. Unless you really were a member of the counterculture, moving to another city and trying to start all over again, anonymously, was the only option.

I guess that’s what I’m saying: To be out and gay, being ‘radical’ was the ONLY resulting option available. Which meant there was a whole list of ‘ordinary’ things you were forever excluded from participating in. Including an ordinary career, an ordinary family life, and an ordinary social life.

Again, just wanting not to be oppressed to that degree was radical in and of itself. But the thing is, at the core, most of us never wanted to be radicals. We just wanted ordinary lives — someone to love and settle down with. For some of us, the freedom to raise our own biological or adopted kids. The right not to be fired from our jobs. And not to have to lie to everyone about this person we’re seen with. No more, “This is my housemate” or “My long-time friend.” (In India, where being gay remains illegal, my wife and I usually passed ourselves off as mother and daughter. I never liked it, but the lie was necessary.)

We didn’t want jobs as protesters — which doesn’t pay the rent or mortgage in any case. Way back, gays and lesbians laughed at institutions like marriage because most of us never would have dreamed we could have access to it. Now, increasingly, we have the ultimate freedom: To marry OR NOT, as we choose. It’s the same deal with jobs (although we still need ENDA) — increasingly (although sadly not entirely yet) we don’t have to fear the revelation of sexual orientation as resulting in automatic termination. (Consider that town in South Carolina where the homophobic mayor was overruled by his town’s counsel and the lesbian police chief rehired over his objections. We’re talking a tiny rural SC town — and they picked her over him.)

The Lovings, of Loving v. Virginia.

The Lovings, of Loving v. Virginia.

So despite the bigots’ yowling objections and slanderous lies about LGBTs, we’re nevertheless passing out of the “ordinary is radical” phase. It used to be radical for two men or two women to be “married” (irony quotes intentional) and *gasp* raising a child or two. Now it’s ordinary; slightly unusual, but still ordinary. People don’t refer to someone they know as “my GAY friend” anymore; now it’s just “my friend…oh, and he’s bringing his boyfriend to the dinner party, you’ll love him.”

Ordinary is becoming…ordinary, once more.

To romanticize radicalism is a nostalgia we can’t really afford, and it’s actually inimical to the goals of equality, tolerance, and full acceptance. It’s like being in a war and saying, “I really miss the bomb-dropping part — that was exciting. I know we won and all, but I wish it hadn’t ended. This peaceful rebuilding part is boring.”

Increasingly, we’re free simply to be ourselves…and the vast majority of us are rather boring, ordinary people, with just one or two differences over the rest of the huddled masses.

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The nomination of far-right conservative Michael Boggs to the federal bench Mon, 19 May 2014 16:00:18 +0000 Would a GOP President ever nominate a far left liberal for a lifetime appointment as a federal judge? No.

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(An alternate reality parable)

Dateline: Yam 4102, The Times MirrorWorld Gazette

Majority Republican Senators have threatened to oppose one of President John McCain’s nominees for the federal judiciary.

Throughout his terms in office and despite his party holding a majority of the Senate, McCain has faced numerous Democratic party filibusters of his nominees at all levels. This continued to the point where Republicans drastically restricted the use of minority Senate Democrat filibusters for some nominees, but the practice of ‘red slips’ continued to hold sway.

The use of ‘red slips’ is nowhere mandated in law or Senate rules, but was adopted on an informal basis some years back by Senate Republicans as a way to give a Senator from any given state a personal veto over judicial nominees. After having their filibuster abilities curtailed, Democratic Senators seized on the red slips practice and have used it aggressively ever since, blocking nearly all of President McCain’s judicial nominees, at all levels.

Even Chief Justice Elizabeth Warren — nominated to the Supreme Court by McCain’s predecessor, President Gore — has denounced Senate Democrats’ behavior as recklessly irresponsible and endangering the ability of the entire judiciary to operate as a co-equal branch of government.

In response to repeated red slips from Illinois Senators Barack Obama and Dick Durbin, McCain has nominated an outspoken far left liberal state judge for for a lifetime appointment as a federal judge. The deal is said to be so that four other district judges and two federal circuit court picks will be permitted confirmation votes by the minority Senate Democrats.

McCain’s ‘compromise’ nominee is Illinois Court of Appeals Justice Michelle Biggs:

  • She is an outspoken advocate for abortion  and contraceptive rights, and voted several times against fetal ‘person-hood’ bills and amendments.
  • She supported a measure which would have, for the sake of personal safety, outlawed the public posting of the names of doctors who perform legal abortions.
  • Additionally, she wanted to outlaw deceptive advertising by anti-abortion groups pretending to provide pregnancy services and ban any form of state funding for these ‘crisis pregnancy centers.’
  • Although a registered Republican, she ran for and served in the Illinois state legislature with fliers proclaiming she would oppose her party’s conservative positions and fight to represent liberal Unitarian Church ideals, as well as the rights of non-Christian Americans.
  • She is on record as saying the Boy Scouts should be compelled to allow both gay scouts and leaders.
  • She is 100% behind marriage equality rights for gay and lesbian couples, and favors a national law to make gay marriage the law of the land throughout the country, and voted twice in favor of an Illinois state constitutional amendment to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.
  • Biggs has said she believes no religion’s symbols or statements belong on public or government property.
  • She supports a federal ban on so-called ‘voluntary prayer’ in public schools, labeling them inherently coercive in intent and practice.
  • And finally, she favors a ban on the Confederate flag in any governmental use or capacity as a symbol, referring to it as a symbol of division and rebelli–… (brrzzt! crackle! hshhhhhhhhh!)

{{{Boop!}}} (…signal lost…cannot re-acquire…) 

Looks like the wormhole portal to MirrorWorld has just collapsed.

Meanwhile, in our version of reality…

Yeah, meanwhile in our reality, we have the other scenario.

President Obama, in exchange for the Senate minority Republicans allowing votes on six of his judicial nominees in the Democratic majority Senate, has nominated a far, far right conservative for the federal bench, Michael P. Boggs.

Georgia State Judge Michael Boggs, Obama nominee for federal judge position

Georgia State Judge Michael Boggs, Obama nominee for federal judge position

Supposedly though, the original deal was for three hand-picked GOP judicial nominees, in exchange for ending the GOP’s 2013 filibuster of Obama’s nomination of Jill Pryor for the 11th Circuit.

That MirrorWorld practice of ‘red slips’ is called ‘blue slips’ here, and other than the color and the parties being reversed, it’s otherwise exactly as described.

All those things I listed above as being the positions of the fictional MirrorWorld McCain nominee Michelle Biggs? Michael Boggs believes the exact opposite.

Currently serving as a judge in the Georgia Court of Appeals, Michael Boggs also served in the Georgia State House of Representatives — as a hyper-conservative Democrat — from 2001 to 2004.

Although a registered Democrat, Boggs ran campaign fliers insisting he’d be as conservative as could be, oppose his own party on any issue deviating from toe-the-line conservatism, and would stand up totally for conservative Christian values.

During Biggs’ time in office, he:

  • Co-sponsored the ‘Choose Life’ bill to allow for an anti-abortion political message to appear on people’s license plates, but which had no provisions for a pro-choice variant.
  • Voted in favor of state money for phony ‘crisis pregnancy centers’. Those ‘Choose Life’ license plates would have provided the funding.
  • Co-sponsored another bill requiring any female under the age of 18, even if emancipated or separated from her parents, to have a parent or legal guardian accompany her in person for any abortion procedures. (The bill did not pass.)
  • Voted to create a Georgia state-funded committee to consist of state politicians and the chairman of Georgia Right to Life, for the purpose of studying ‘post-abortion syndrome’ — a phony condition with no basis in legitimate medicine.
  • Voted twice in favor of an amendment to a bill on criminal penalties for child abuse to define children as “both born and unborn.”
  • Voted in favor of Georgia’s state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, as well as any other legal arrangement similar to marriage, such as civil unions or domestic partnerships, including those performed elsewhere in the country.
  • Voted to keep the Confederate symbol on Georgia’s state flag.
  • Voted to require all Georgia county courthouses display the Ten Commandments.
  • Has said he favors the Boy Scouts banning gay scouts and leaders.
  • Says he favors ‘voluntary prayer’ to be allowed in schools, despite all the court cases showing such prayer, in practice, is almost never anything but Christian and coercive.

To his credit, Mr. Boggs has said he made a mistake when, while a Georgia state legislator, he favored a proposal to make public — on the Internet — the names of all doctors in the state who perform abortions. This particular lapse he excused by lamely claiming he wasn’t aware of violence and terroristic threats against abortion providers prior to his time in office.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) pressed Boggs on that point, suggesting that Boggs’ explanation didn’t quite add up. “You were a state legislator at the time and you weren’t aware of any of the public safety issues that were involved around this whole issue?” Franken asked. “Doctors were murdered for this, and yet you were not aware of that at all?”

“I wasn’t,” Boggs said. “That was probably attributable to the fact that this was a floor amendment to a bill … and not something that I had an opportunity to study.”

Yeah, right. More details and documentation on the items above are here.

I have to ask this: Can anybody here, especially regular AmericaBlog readers, imagine any Republican President from Reagan through Bush and Bush-the-Lesser and to the fictional MirrorWorld President McCain, deliberately nominating a far-left liberal judge for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench?

I’m not talking about nominees who, upon being confirmed, turn out not to be as nearly conservative as their nominators would have liked. But an actual avowed liberal.

Would they ever set aside the usual GOP litmus tests requiring a total public commitment to opposing reproductive rights and gay rights? Or being in favor of an impenetrable wall between Church and State?

I don’t think so.

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Cliven Bundy thinks God hates toll booths Mon, 28 Apr 2014 13:00:01 +0000 More Cliven Bundy, unplugged and unhinged.

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Cliven Bundy thinks he’s on a mission from God.


If you don’t know who Cliven Bundy is, John and I have written several posts about Nevada’s infamous resource-stealing subsidy-mooching now-former GOP/Wingnut media darling, Cliven Bundy.

If you want the background, it’s here.

Then came the day last week when Mr. Bundy said he had something he needed to tell us about The Negro.

You see, as Bundy tells it, the problem with African-Americans it that they’ve forgotten how to pick cotton, and in the end, they’d all be better off as slaves, rather than living in government-subsidized housing.

Cliven Bundy and a dead calf he says starved to death because of America

Cliven Bundy and a dead calf he says starved to death because of America

There was also something about black women sending their sons to jail and having abortions, lots of them.

John wrote about all of this here and here. If you need a laugh, those are the go-to posts.

When Bundy isn’t opening interviews by holding up a dead calf, he’s excoriating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s ghost for failing to make it so racists could say racist things without anybody being offended… well, according to Cliven Bundy, God himself speaks to him.

Crazy attracts crazy

I kind of knew all along we were dealing with a special kind of crazy out there in Bunkerville. But according to Caty Enders of Esquire, we’re only seeing a tiny fraction of the batsh*t insanity in that northeast corner of Nevada.

In a story posted in Esquire on Friday, Ms. Enders lets us in on the Tea Bagger Wingnut rodeo / conspiracy theory circle-jerk, including:

  • An ‘Oath Keeper‘ named Mark who says the Bureau of Land Management, which is a subdivision of the Department of the Interior, a cabinet-level position in our government, actually works for the United Nations. “They might as well be wearing blue helmets,” he says.
  • A self-trained “lawyer” who agrees with the previous and says that any attorney who is Bar-certified has actually sworn allegiance to Great Britain, whose laws encourage Bar attorneys to have sex with clients.
  • News that Bundy and his supporters believe the entire reason for the BLM actions recently wasn’t them deciding after 20 years they’d had enough of Bundy’s refusal to pay his grazing fees and court-assigned penalties, and his wanton destruction of ecologically sensitive desert by grazing too many cattle. No, the real reason is because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his brother Troy want to build a solar energy facility and/or wind farm on the land, supposedly involving the Chinese government. (Wow…)
  • At least one old dude drives around in a car plastered with signs warning that anybody born after 1980 has been implanted with government microchips, and advises people to Google ‘MKUltra.’ On the other hand, another supporter says what’s wrong with today’s kids is the Internet itself. I guess these two didn’t meet up.

But it’s Cliven Bundy who’s the star of the show

And it’s clear he knows it.

What isn’t clear is whether Mr. Bundy is actually sane.

I’m not kidding or exaggerating.

god-hates-tollsThe crowd, fresh off their victory at the Battle of Bunkerville, gives Bundy a standing ovation. But he doesn’t seem pleased. (Bundy) reproaches the crowd for failing to follow the word of God – to the letter – which he says is being delivered through him. They failed, for example, to follow his instructions to tear down the toll booths at Lake Mead and disarm the Park Service.

This isn’t gonna end well…

Mr. Bundy remonstrated his supporters, saying, “The message I gave to you all was a revelation that I received. And yet not one of you can seem to even quote it.”

Ho-lee-cripes. He really means it.

He’s not just Cliven Bundy, patriot rancher standing up to those gol-darned gub’mint Revenuers and Chinese solar-farm companies!

Cliven Bundy is on a mission from God!

In case you were wondering, there are day-use fee stations near the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Five days of access for a normal visitor is $5. A year-long pass costs $30 — but only $10 if you’re a senior and it’s free if you’re active military.

Cliven Bundy wants these stations to be destroyed and the National Parks Service employees taken into custody.

Cliven Bundy's God is displeased Bundy's followers didn't destroy this Lake Mead day-use fee station

Cliven Bundy’s God is displeased Bundy’s followers didn’t destroy this Lake Mead day-use fee station within a 1-hour deadline (photo: 1willwander)

Cliven continues, sermon-like: “The records of our bible — how long have they been kept? Thousands of years. They’ve been turned over generation after generation, buried, and all kinds of things happen to ‘em. And yet, here, something I felt was inspired [by God] and yet we haven’t even carried it forth for even a couple of days. Shame on us.”

How dare that Parks Service fee station remain un-smited! T’is an abomination!

According to Esquire’s journalist, Ms. Enders, there was a “smattering of clapping” at this new harangue and finger-wagging from Mr. Bundy. Perhaps because some of the attendees had some wee inkling they were listening to a man whose cheese was no longer firmly centered on its cracker? And hadn’t been for some time?

Maybe that was why they didn’t run off to destroy the NPS fee stations in the first place?

Bundy went on to say that while the BLM had been temporarily thwarted, he wasn’t pleased because his supporters (acolytes?) had failed to head out and destroy those toll booths / fee stations at Lake Mead within the one hour deadline given to him personally by God several days back. And to disarm any National Parks Service employees present, of course.

According to the Esquire article, a few days before when Bundy’s supporters had declined to obey his order to go on a fee station rampage, after the initial one hour deadline had expired, he’d climbed onto his own bulldozer to go do it himself.

However, the ‘dozer soon got stuck in the mud. (Satan’s mud! Must’ve been!) At which point, in this later speech, Bundy recounted another revelation from God.

“It come to my mind real plain — the good Lord said, ‘Bundy, it’s not your job, it’s THEIR job.’ So we come back over here and heard that they had brought some cattle back. So I want you to understand,” addressing the crowd, “This is not my job, it’s YOUR job.

“This morning, I said a prayer, and this is what I received. I heard a voice say, ‘Sheriff Gillespie, your work is not done. Every sheriff across the United States, take the guns away from the United States bureaucrats.’”

I didn’t know the 2nd Amendment, which these folks are so fond of, didn’t apply to government employees.

But seriously though…

The other day, I mentioned how one of my fears was Bundy and his people wanted to spark another Waco or Ruby Ridge incident, hence the talk from Oath Keeper Richard Mack about making sure the Feds killed a bunch of unarmed women and children first.

Now though, I worry whether Bundy, Mack, and the rest of them are working themselves up to the point where someone gets inspired to go blow up a Federal building.

Oklahoma City - Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building - the site of America's worst right-wing domestic terrorist attack

Oklahoma City – Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building – the site of America’s worst right-wing domestic terrorist attack, April 1995 (photo: Wikipedia)

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Cliven Bundy blamed Martin Luther King for racism (video) Fri, 25 Apr 2014 20:03:13 +0000 Cliven Bundy, gov't-subsidized NV rancher, wonders why people object to his racist remarks about "the Negro."

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I’ll give the man this much: Cliven Bundy is understandably bothered and bewildered by the fact there are a lot of people who don’t like him very much and who’ve concluded he’s a subsidy-mooching resource-stealing scofflaw racist.

Although it seems it’s only the very last term — racist — that bothers him more than the others.

Well, as of Friday, he went on CNN to try to explain and apologize and let’s just say it didn’t go well.

The background

There’s this Nevada rancher who’s been grazing his cattle illegally on federal lands for going on two decades now, refusing to pay both the grazing fees and the fines he’s accumulated for failing to pay those fees, as well as grazing far more cattle than he would’ve been allowed anyway.

Fox News' version of Cliven Bundy.

Fox News’ version of Cliven Bundy.

In court, Mr. Bundy has tried to assert a bizarre sovereign citizen theory, that the U.S. federal government cannot own land, and thus has no authority to assess fees of any kind nor to regulate land usage — and was shot down repeatedly. This is no amateur opinion or theory, no question of constitutional law up for debate; state and federal courts have ruled against him, every single time.

Bundy now owes the government more than $1m in back-fees, fines, and penalties, and still refuses to remove his trespassing cattle from protected federal lands.

When the BLM and local law enforcement tried to seize said cattle to remove them and to sell them off to pay back some of the fines in arrears, Mr. Bundy called in his family, friends, and a bunch of heavily armed militia members with ties to insurrectionist groups (the Bircher-allied Oath Keepers) to intimidate and threaten the Feds.

Happy to be getting all kinds of attention and national exposure, especially from right-wing media outlets such as Fox News and Sean Hannity, Mr. Bundy subsequently decided to expound on a whole host of issues…and it turns out he’s an ignorant racist with no sense of irony. Or self-awareness that he himself has been the recipient of ‘government subsidies’ all his life. Surprise! (Not…)

Oh, and Mr. Bundy — even though he loves to surround himself with the American flag — has been on record as saying he doesn’t believe the United States of America even exists.

cliven-bundy-3Well, in recent days, most of Bundy’s supporters on the far right — including figures as famous as Sean Hannity, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Dean Heller (R-NV) have disavowed him and called his remarks repugnant. (None, however, has said Mr. Bundy should relent pay his fines and land licensing fees, which have been upheld repeatedly in courts of law.)

Anyway, there’s a long backgrounder post here and another in which we first learned of (but weren’t surprised by) Mr. Bundy’s rather blatant racism here.

Meanwhile, John’s also posted about the war between Jon Stewart and Sean Hannity over the Bundy matter, as well as a rather clever satirical piece on a (fictional) move by Mozilla to appoint Bundy as a CEO who probably won’t enslave Mozilla’s ‘Negro’ employees.)

Mr. Bundy digs his hole ever deeper

Friday morning (4/25), Cliven Bundy went on CNN to try to salvage his reputation. He started off with a somewhat self-effacing joke about taking off his boot to make the experience of putting his foot in his mouth less awful. (For those who don’t want the commented version, feel free to skip on down to the full quote in context.)

Bundy: “I took this boot off so I wouldn’t put my foot in my mouth with the boot on. Let me see if I can say something. Maybe I sinned and maybe I need to ask forgiveness and maybe I don’t know what I actually said.”

That’s nice, actually, almost endearing. Although I think he could’ve done without all those ‘maybes’.

“But you know, when you talk about prejudice, we’re talking about not being able to exercise what we think and our feelings.  We don’t have the freedom to say what we want.”


This, my friends, is the lonely twilight call of the unreconstructed racist in his natural habitat.

Confused and bewildered because he thinks free speech consists of being able to yawp highly objectionable ‘thoughts’ and ‘feelings’ — like suggesting that slavery wasn’t so bad and ‘negroes’ should be taught to pick cotton again — without anybody complaining. Or telling him, “That’s abominable and morally repugnant, and shame on you for even suggesting it.”

Sadly, it gets worse.

“If I call — if I say negro or black boy or slave…”

Oh gawd. Dude, stop talking. What follows words like those will never, ever help.

“I’m not — if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offended…

‘Those people’? Yeah right, what African-American gentleman could possibly be offended by being called a ‘negro’ or a ‘black boy’ by a white guy, one who doesn’t seem to be totally clear on the core concept of ‘slavery’?

And who among us hasn’t thought we should have a free and open debate on the merits of re-instituting slavery and involuntary servitude? (I know: Anyone with even a smidge of human decency knows better…)

Okay, let’s finish this off by putting Mr. Bundy’s remarks into their full context, including the last part.

Bundy: “I took this boot off so I wouldn’t put my foot in my mouth with the boot on. Let me see if I can say something. Maybe I sinned and maybe I need to ask forgiveness and maybe I don’t know what I actually said. But you know, when you talk about prejudice, we’re talking about not being able to exercise what we think and our feelings.

“We don’t have freedom to say what we want. If I call — if I say negro or black boy or slave, I’m not — if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offended, then Martin Luther King hasn’t got his job done then yet. They should be able to — I should be able to say those things and they shouldn’t offend anybody. I didn’t mean to offend them.”

Sadly, Mr. Bundy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr cannot pursue ‘his job’ any further because he was shot dead by another unreconstructed racist some 46 years ago.

And the fight for civil rights for the poor and for minorities wasn’t to make it so that racists could throw around racial epithets and prejudicial stereotypes with impunity. Dr. King’s cause was for men and women to be judged by the content of their character. Not to create an equivalence between those who believe all of us are equal and deserving of respect and dignity, and the unrepentant racists who want to suggest we should literally re-enslave African-Americans, as if both those positions are legitimate and reasonable.

There is a bit more:

Bundy: “I didn’t say it to offend them. I was trying to ask a question. And maybe I said it wrong. I’m sorry if I said it wrong. The question was a good question and it comes from my heart, not done as prejudice. And you guys try to make everyone in the world think I’m prejudiced. No, I’m not prejudiced.”

Sorry, Mr. Bundy, but there is no right way to ask whether African-Americans — who you refer to as The Negro — would be better off as slaves on plantations, picking cotton. Sure, there are probably better solutions and outcomes than public housing without any educational or economic opportunities. But at least those folks — who actually include more poor whites than poor people of color — have a roof over their heads and a little help to put food on the table.

But there is no decent human being, nobody with any degree of humanity in their hearts who believes that this–


Or this:

Slavery 2Or this:

Slavery 3

Or this:

Slavery 4

Or this:

Slavery 5

…is even in the same universe as being in public housing. Nor is slavery merely an innocent proposal to be debated as a possible answer for the poverty and lack of opportunity for minority American citizens.

Slavery in the United States of America — real, actual human bondage and forced servitude, as opposed to the dubiously metaphorical ‘slavery’ of being the recipient of government help — was an abomination, a stain on the history of this country which will never be wiped clean.

The appalling inhumanity of even suggesting equivalence, much less saying actual, plantation-style slavery would be better than being on the government dole, is not excused in the least by phrasing the proposal as a Jeopardy-style question and sticking “I wonder…” on the front.

So, sorry Mr. Bundy. It really is too bad you’re upset by people exercising their free speech rights in response to yours. It’s 100% true: You have every right in the world to say the problem with ‘The Negro’ is they weren’t taught to pick cotton and that you “wonder” if it’d be better for them if they were slaves again.

But we have the same free speech right to say in reply, “You’re a monster for even suggesting that, sir.”

And the fact we say such in reply is no failure of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr to ‘get his job done.’ I’d say it’s evidence his legacy lives on and has gone much further than he would have dared to hope. However, men like yourself, Mr. Bundy, men who cling to ignorance and racism, do show indeed that the ‘job’ isn’t done, so the rest of us will have to take up the burden and carry on.

I feel certain you want to be liked and well-regarded, and not to be thought a terrible human being. Unfortunately, your racism, ignorance, and hypocrisy gets in the way of all that.

Anyway, to see Bundy’s CNN interview, it’s here:

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Cliven Bundy, proud racist, shares his thoughts on “the negro” (video) Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:04:45 +0000 Scofflaw Nevada rancher thinks "Negroes" should learn to pick cotton. And be slaves again.

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Yesterday,  I posted a long article about Cliven Bundy and his friendly band of heavily-armed Oath Keeper militia men (and their human-shield wives and daughters), who are happy to threaten bloodshed and violence against government employees doing their jobs.

UPDATE: There’s video.

Well, having found he really likes the spotlight, Bundy has taken to doing long, rambling daily interviews with his supporters and an increasingly dwindling number of reporters who actually care.

He said he would continue holding a daily news conference; on Saturday, it drew one reporter and one photographer, so Mr. Bundy used the time to officiate at what was in effect a town meeting with supporters, discussing, in a long, loping discourse, the prevalence of abortion, the abuses of welfare and his views on race.

Adam Nagourney of the New York Times broke the story, and it’s that last bit about race that’s the real doozy.

Fox News' version of Cliven Bundy.

Fox News’ version of Cliven Bundy.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

(Emphasis added.) That’s right: Cliven Bundy thinks the main problem for “Negroes” is they never learned to pick cotton.

He further believes the whole slavery thing wasn’t so bad. I mean, except when being worked all day in the fields, there’s lots of time for a family life for a slave, assuming of course your master didn’t sell your family members to some other plantation owner hundreds of miles away.

(That was intended as a great heaping serving of sarcastic snark, in case it wasn’t obvious.)

UPDATE: Cliven Bundy has clarified today that he was simply “wondering” if blacks were better off being slaves to the white man rathe than being slaves to the federal government today.  Bundy went on to note that he was simply using a phrase that he learned from Glenn Beck, using the word “wondering” in order to (allegedly) not necessarily claim that you agree.  Uh huh.

“I’m wondering are they happier now under this government subsidy system than they were when they were slaves and they was able to have a family structure together and chickens and a garden and the people have something to do. So in my mind I’m wondering are they better off being slaves in that sense or are they better off being slaves of the United States government in the sense of a subsidy?”

Senator Rand Paul, (KY-Tea Bagger GOP) and Senator Dean Heller (NV-same) had both expressed support for Bundy and his theft-of-resources lawbreaking, but apparently even this was too much for them. According to Nagourney’s article:

A spokesman for Mr. Paul, informed of Mr. Bundy’s remarks, said the senator was not available for immediate comment. Chandler Smith, a spokesman for Mr. Heller, said that the senator “completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.”

Anyway, I expect there’ll soon be waaaay less coverage of Mr. Bundy in the coming weeks, even on Fox. The conservative right, especially Fox News and the Tea Party and the rest, generally prefer their racist dog-whistles to sound rather less like an air-horn at a church service.

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Cliven Bundy is a seditious liar, not a patriot Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:00:00 +0000 Bundy claims there's no such thing as federally-owned land, and doesn't recognize the US govt. "as even existing."

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As a resident of the American Southwest — New Mexico to be exact — I’ve become familiar with complicated interplay of federally-owned lands, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), state lands, reservations, and even this interesting notion of ‘land grants’ which sometimes date back to before there were states in this part of the country.

We also have more than our share of radical libertarians and wingnuts. So I’ve been watching the Cliven Bundy situation in Nevada with a fair amount of interest because all of these elements are in play.

Long story short: Bundy is not the states-rights patriot he claims to be, but appears to be a law-breaking liar who has — quite literally — said he doesn’t believe in the legitimacy of the United States government. Not just since a black man became President, but EVER.

Pretty much the opposite of ‘patriot’ in every respect.

The Cliven Bundy story in a nutshell

Bundy owns a 160-acre cattle and melon ranch in Clark County, Nevada, near the town of Bunkerville, which is on the Virgin River — close to the Nevada-Arizona-Utah borders. Interstate-15 runs right through the area. This much is not at all in dispute. (BTW, the Virgin River is one of the feeders into Lake Meade, site of Hoover Dam.)

Fox News' version of Cliven Bundy.

Fox News’ version of Cliven Bundy.

In 1993, in response to reports that a local desert tortoise was dying off and that cattle were doing too much damage, the Feds began restricting access to cattle grazing on federally-owned lands throughout the entire region.

On top of denying access to some areas and more strictly enforcing grazing fees in others, the Feds began limiting which grazing ranges were open in any given year and how many cattle were allowed on the allotments.

Nevada’s Clark County also bought up and retired all of the remaining grazing leases in the nearby Gold Butte area, south of Bunkerville.

Well, Cliven Bundy refused to pay. He’s also defied repeated orders not to graze his cattle on protected federal lands.

He claims there is no such thing as federally-owned land and that there is no Constitutional basis for the Interior Department or the BLM. Yes, he’s that far out there.

Time and time again, Bundy went to court, including an appeal to the 9th Circuit in 1998, in which Bundy represented himself. His claims have invariably been nonsensical and at odds with established facts and laws.

In the ’98 case, a federal judge issued a permanent injunction ordering Bundy to remove his cattle from federal lands. By 2014, the unpaid fines and fees are now in excess of $1 million. He’s never paid a dime.

In August 2013, he was given 45 days by the BLM to remove his cattle, or they would be seized and sold off to pay the fines. Bundy refused. (Actually, the BLM has warned him a whole bunch of times over the years to remove the cattle or risk forfeiture.)

Last April, in response to a BLM move to seize Bundy’s cattle which were still grazing illegally on federal land, he rounded up about hundred friends, relatives, and would-be allies and began threatening BLM rangers and federal employees.

The militia types from out-of-state also showed up, heavily armed. They talked openly about firing on BLM rangers and federal law enforcement officers. In one report, one of the militia types — a retired sheriff from Arizona and member of the Oath Keepers (a radical Bircher-related militia movement) — Richard Mack, said they were planning to put the women and children in front. How courageous.

“I would have put my own wife or daughters there, and I would have been screaming bloody murder to watch them die,” he said. “I would’ve gone next, I would have been the next one to be killed. I’m not afraid to die here. I’m willing to die here.”

“But the best ploy would be to have had women at the front,” he continued. “Because, one, I don’t think they would have shot them. And, two, if they had, it would have been the worst thing that we could have shown to the rest of the world, that these ruthless cowards hired by the federal government will do anything.”

Right, because there’s nothing cowardly about using unarmed women and children as human shields so the heavily armed menfolk don’t get killed first.

In an effort to defuse the situation and avoid bloodshed, the BLM backed down, for now.

“I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing”

Cliven Bundy and his allies have never won in a court of law, whether it’s Nevada state or a federal court. In a radio interview in April, he said, I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.

Cliven Bundy and his friends say they’re patriots, but they deny the authority of our elected federal government — and apparently Nevada state, too, whenever it suits them.

Sedition: (noun) (1) incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government. (2) any action, especially in speech or writing, promoting such discontent or rebellion.


Sound familiar?

Cliven Bundy is either a liar…or a serious exaggerator

In many of the early reports, Bundy is quoted as claiming his family had been ranching there since 1877. According to a report by KLAS:

“I’ve lived my lifetime here. My forefathers have been up and down the Virgin Valley here ever since 1877. All these rights that I claim, have been created through pre-emptive rights and beneficial use of the forage and the water and the access and range improvement”

Well, that first sentence is more or less true. The rest is sovereign citizen gobbledygook.

And the claim of his ancestors being there, with legal rights to the land since 1877, is not true. KLAS-TV out of Las Vegas and their investigative reporter, Nathan Baca, has done some terrific research and reporting on that particular claim of inherited rights that would predate the creation of the BLM itself in 1946.

Bundy’s father didn’t start grazing cattle there until 1954

Clark County records show that Cliven Bundy’s parents bought his ‘ancestral’ 160 acre ranch in 1948, and didn’t start grazing cattle on the adjacent federal lands until 1954. Prior to that, they lived in Arizona. Bundy himself was born in 1946.

“All my life” apparently doesn’t include his first two years.


See Jon Stewart's segment on Bundy's madness below.

See Jon Stewart’s segment on Bundy’s madness below.

According to court records, his father grazed cattle for several years in the Bunkerville Allotment, then stopped. Then presumably Bundy himself resumed in 1973, paying the required fees until 1993 when he stopped paying but kept grazing. After being served with several notices in 1994 to pay up or remove the cattle, he asserted ‘vested grazing rights’ — which have never been upheld in any court, nor has Bundy offered any documented proof of those rights when given numerous chances to do so.

Bundy has further claimed, “My rights are before the BLM even existed, but my rights are created by beneficial use. Beneficial use means we created the forage and the water from the time the very first pioneers come here.”

Again, apparently the rights Bundy claims also predate his ancestor’s presence in the immediate vicinity of his current ranch. And he weirdly claims he’s creating the water and the grass his cattle herds have been using up. Last I checked, Mother Nature took care of that sort of thing.

The term ‘beneficial use’ by the way is a term from the original 1862 Homesteading Act, whereby a family could lay claim to lands in certain designated areas, pay a small fee, and as long as they improved it and lived on it, they could claim title after five years. The Act itself was repealed in 1976, and in any case was limited to claims of just 160 acres total. It has never been recognized as an authority to seize or use federally-owned lands not listed as eligible for homesteading. (BTW, it’s no accident that Bundy’s ranch is 160 acres.)

According to additional reporting from KLAS’s Steve Karnigher, no Bundys lived in Bunkerville NV in 1930 or 1940. Bundy’s mother and her parents lived in the neighboring town of Mesquite, with census records from 1930 indicating John and Christena Jensen (Bundy’s maternal grandparents) were from Utah, which is about another 20-30 miles up the present-day I-15. They did have a farm (usually not considered the same thing as a cattle ranch), but it’s reported to have been near Main Street in Mesquite.

Although Bundy’s assertion is his right to graze and water his cattle on federal lands comes from his mother’s side of the family, he can point to no document, no contract, no license or agreement, and no law establishing this inheritable right in perpetuity. Just his specious assertion that the Federal government cannot legally own land inside any state — an assertion that has been dismissed repeatedly in state and federal courts.

Indeed, the only established legal rights he has under the law are the water rights, including water from the nearby Virgin River, associated with the 160-acre ranch which was purchased from Raoul and Ruth Leavitt in 1948. There are no records of inherited grazing rights, pre-emptive rights, special rights, or grandfathered federal land use rights assigned to Bundy or his ancestors.

Basically, Bundy claims grazing rights on the federally-owned lands adjacent to his property because he says so.

Irony abounds

One of the militia types in from Alaska, a man named Justine Giles, who is apparently as history- and irony-challenged as Bundy himself, remarked, “They are literally treating western United States citizens, ranchers, rural folks like this are the modern-day Indians. We’re being driven off of our lands.”

Bundy says his claim dates to 1877. The irony is that in 1875, the local Paiute Indians were forced off those lands into reservations so white men could move in and seize them.

Two years earlier, in 1873, the same land Bundy now owns and uses to grow his melons and raise cattle had been promised to the Paiute. A promise broken, obviously.

Those ‘pioneers’ of the late 19th century stole the land from the indigenous people already living there.

Bundy is a moocher, and he’s stealing from all of us

It costs money for the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and National Parks Service to manage the lands they’re in charge of. There are access roads to maintain, firefighters to deal with range fires, reclamation efforts, soil and water conservation — and the need to repair the damage done by overgrazing.

A big chunk of the BLM and NPS budgets comes from the Federal government — funded by us taxpayers — because although they can charge licensing fees for the grazing, farming, and mineral rights they regularly lease out, these fees are just a fraction of fair value and actual cost of management.

For example, for the last 30 years, the BLM has charged a mere $1.34 per animal per month (AUM) of grazing. That’s less than a quarter of what it costs the BLM to manage the lands. In 2004, the GAO estimated that private grazing fees, in today’s 2014 dollars, to be $10-29 AUM.

From Salon (emphasis added):

The public lands livestock grazing program uses approximately 250 million acres of the arid west, with permitted users paying a pittance to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the Forest Service for the privilege to do so. And it is truly a pittance. When Bundy stopped paying BLM in 1993, he owed just $1.86 per animal unit month for his mama cows, or $3,348 to use the land year-round. But Bundy refused to pay the fees because he didn’t want to reduce his herd to just 150 animals in order to help save the Mojave desert tortoise, a species given an emergency Endangered Species Act listing, and whose existence is specifically threatened by livestock competition for scarce desert vegetation and direct crushing and trampling of tortoise burrows. Bundy’s non-payment of fees was coupled with non-cooperation about getting his cows off the range. Since 1993, Bundy’s herd has ranged from 550 to more than 900 animals, far more than he was ever legally permitted. His cows have roamed over a much broader area than he was ever legally allowed to use. Without accounting for the legal expenses incurred by BLM and the costs of last week’s failed roundup, Bundy has since racked up a million dollar bill for overdue fees, trespass fees, and fines.

The lands Cliven Bundy claims as his own, to do with as he pleases, belong to all of us. Through our federal government and its laws, we elected to try to preserve a portion of those near-desert range lands, even as ranchers are being treated exceedingly generously with those ridiculously low grazing fees.

But that’s not good enough for a man like Bundy, a man who denies the United States even exists as a legitimate nation.

I’ll give him this much: He’d rather take a stand and cheat the rest of us out of the few thousand bucks a year he’d otherwise owe than to admit the federal government of the United States of America has any authority over him, a citizen not of America but of the sovereign and apparently independent nation-state of Nevada.

However, these are not the beliefs and positions of an American patriot. They’re the acts of a man committing an act of rebellion against lawful authority, a man whose patriotism and allegiance is not to any nation or state, but to himself alone.

The funny thing is he’s not even being a patriot to Nevada either, whose government’s position is he should pay for the damned grazing licenses like everybody else.

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And here’s on Stewart’s take on Cliven Bundy, from Monday night:

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First thoughts on Mozilla’s anti-gay CEO resigning Fri, 04 Apr 2014 00:04:14 +0000 Brendan Eich had donated $1,000 to California's anti-gay Proposition 8 and to Pat Buchanan, among others.

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Brendan Eich, the would-be CEO of Mozilla (the makers of Firefox), has resigned after just 11 days in the position.

Although most of the news stories were noting Eich’s 2008 $1000 donation for the pro-Prop 8 campaign (the one that banned same-sex marriage in California after it having been legal for months), others were beginning to notice that Eich has a rather self-revealing pattern of donating to far-right politicians as well.

According to FEC records, he’s given $2100 to CA-4’s rabidly anti-gay (and anti-everything progressive) GOP Rep. Tom McClintock, between 2008 and 2010. GOPer Linda Smith, another Eich campaign donation recipient, said “homosexuality is a morally unfit inclination.”

Brendan Eich, official Mozilla Foundation photo

Brendan Eich, official Mozilla Foundation photo, with some embellishments.

Eich also donated to Ron Paul in ’96 and ’98 ($2500), according to another story in the Guardian. And $1000 to Pat Buchanan in ’91 and ’92.

In 1990, a year before Eich’s first donation to his campaign, Buchanan said in relation to the (AIDs) outbreak that “our promiscuous homosexuals appear literally hell-bent on Satanism and suicide”. A a few years earlier he said “homosexuals have declared war on nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution”.

When asked by the Guardian for a response or to clarify whether or not he still agreed with Buchanan’s positions on homosexuality, Eich declined to answer.

And as for Ron Paul… well, he’s long been dogged by accusations of espousing both racist and homophobic views, particularly in the newsletter that bore his name.

I stand by my observation and considered opinion that people don’t donate to the campaigns of politicians whose views they don’t agree with. And Eich sure does seem to have a predilection for the gay-haters.

Oh, also, OKCupid’s rather public boycott of Firefox, as well as reports of a brewing Mozilla employee insurrection might’ve contributed to Eich’s departure.

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The sudden eruption of anti-gay legislation nationwide is not a coincidence Fri, 21 Feb 2014 17:00:18 +0000 The American Religious Freedom Program pushes a 'bigotry for all' bill, aiming for gays but hitting everybody

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Readers of this blog know well that 2013, and the first month or so of 2014, have been quite good for gay rights, especially marriage equality rights.

As the saying goes, for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. I think none but the most self-deluded believed that homophobic bigotry was dead, or that the bad guys would simply sit back and let gay people have lives of happiness and equality.

As John noted in his article about Arizona this morning, in the past few weeks there’s been an eruption of anti-gay measures in state legislatures across the country. And it’s not a coincidence.

Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah have seen efforts — always introduced by Republicans, mind you — to pass laws they claim are to “protect” the free exercise of religion. (I was going to say “radical conservative fundamentalist Republicans” — but I’d be repeating myself.)

From Mother Jones:

Republicans lawmakers and a network of conservative religious groups has been pushing similar bills in other states, essentially forging a national campaign that, critics say, would legalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Republicans in Idaho, OregonSouth Dakota, and Tennessee recently introduced provisions that mimic the Kansas legislation. And Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have introduced broader “religious freedom” bills with a unique provision that would also allow people to deny services or employment to LGBT Americans, legal experts say.

Some of them, such as the proposals in Nevada and Ohio last year and the new one in South Dakota, came right out and specified that the reason was so conservative fundamentalists could discriminate against gays and lesbians. All three of these measures, by the way, appear to be dead.

The bills that have been under consideration now… oh boy. And there are a lot of them:

  • January 16: Kansas, introduced by Republican state Representative Charles Macheers
  • January 28: Idaho, by Rep. Lynn Luker (Republican, obviously)
  • January 30: South Dakota, from a ‘coalition’ of Republican senators and representatives
  • February 5: Tennessee, Rep. Bill Dunn (R) and Sen. Brian Kelsey (R), as well as other GOP co-sponsors

They just don’t stop at anti-gay bigotry

God Hates Fags home page home page of Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church.

I’ll be honest here and admit I don’t know what the hell these homophobic Republicans are thinking now though, because these newer measures, all of which have similar language and rationales, state they want to make it legal for people to discriminate on the basis of religion.

Not ‘discriminate against gay people’ but simply ‘discriminate.’

And by the way, there’s a reason why the bills are all similar, often with the same language and all promoted with the same homophobic concern-trolling talking points. “Oh how horrible it is for that poor baker to be FORCED to use her artistic skills to make a cake and write, in buttercream frosting, ‘Best Wishes to Cindy and Eve on the joyous day of their Wedding’! Oh the humanity!”

The Arizona state Senate just passed a bill with the following provisions:

1. Expands the definition of exercise of religion to specifically include both the practice and observance of religion.

2.  Expands the definition of person to include any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.

3.  Changes the terminology within the prohibition of burdening a person’s exercise of religion to apply to state action instead of government.

4.  Defines state action as any action by the government or the implementation or application of any law, including state and local laws, ordinances, rules, regulations and policies, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether the implementation or action is made or attempted to be made by the government or nongovernmental persons.

5.  Specifies that a free exercise of religion claim or defense may be asserted in a judicial proceeding regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding.

Translation: Anybody who wishes to discriminate against someone for any reason need only state it’s because it’s in their religious beliefs. According to an earlier passage, it doesn’t even matter if that belief is “compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”

For example, let’s say you’re a Catholic, and identify as such. Catholicism has nothing in its tenets about racial discrimination. Doesn’t matter — you can still discriminate against African Americans or Hispanics if you feel like it, and say it’s because God’s Holy Trousers told you to.

Shorter translation: The Arizona bill attempts to nullify all civil rights legislation ever passed, including federal laws, regardless who is being protected.

Here’s a few scenarios for you:

  • Don’t feel like paying women a wage equal to men? Or hiring women at all because in your religious opinion, all women should be housewives? No problem.
  • Hate people of color? You don’t have to hire them or rent to them or anything. If you own a store, you can dust off that old “No Coloreds” sign and put it back in the window. Go ahead and add “No Gays” if you like. And according to the law, you can also re-add “No Chinese, Jews or Irish either” like they used to have in the olden days. Just have an asterisk — “* = The Lord My God Commands It“.
  • Let’s say you’re an EMT. And you come across a gay person bleeding out after a traffic accident. You don’t have to treat them if you think they should die. Same thing if you object to people being Jewish or Romani or ginger.
  • Or let’s say you’re a cop answering a domestic abuse call. You see a husband beating his wife. You’re free to say, “Fine — it’s there in the Bible, men are allowed to beat their wives. Sweetheart, you need to submit to him. Call me if he uses a stick larger in diameter than his thumb.”
  • Or a state-employed poll worker who believes that only white men should be allowed to vote, for people of color bear the Mark of Cain…

There literally is no limit. I saw one wag quip in a comment section, “Yay! Human sacrifice and slavery are back, baby!”

godhatesfags6 phelps westboro

From Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps klan (with permission)

The South Dakota bill had an extra-special F.U. to gay people built into it. If you were discriminated against for being gay and filed a lawsuit to challenge that discrimination, not only would your case be thrown out, you yourself would be fined not less than $2,000 in punitive damages for bothering the courts with your, um, ‘gayness.’ (Status: The bill was just killed by the state Senate judiciary committee.)

The Idaho legislation would have prohibited the state from denying professional licensing to anybody who wanted to discriminate. Doctors, hairdressers, employment agencies, funeral directors, home inspectors, notaries public, real estate agents, car dealers, and taxi drivers — and much more, all would’ve been permitted to discriminate at will by the Idaho measure, against anybody, as long as it was justified by a claim of religious exemption. (Status: Returned to committee and probably will not pass this session.)

The Kansas bill was more straightforward in its anti-gay animus, although the GOP Teajadis were loose enough in their language — perhaps to try to make the gay-hating not quite so obvious — that they would’ve made it legal to discriminate against anybody on the basis of their relationship or living situation. Single mothers, divorced persons, hetero couples who want to live together but not marry, all eligible for discrimination. Want to discriminate against an interracial hetero married couple? Go right ahead.

Most infamously, the Kansas bill extended discrimination privileges to both private and public employees. So yes, a police officer could refuse to intervene in the beating of a gay person, even if it was happening right in front of him. A doctor could refuse to treat a gay person suffering from a heart attack. A schoolteacher could refuse to teach girls if he believed women should not learn how to read. (Status: Stalled and might not pass due to the uproar, but anti-gay bigots vow to keep trying to pass the measure.)

The Tennessee bill is very similar to the one Kansas was/is considering, and just as bigoted and intolerant:

According to the bill, no person or religious and denominational organization will be required to perform a laundry list of actions “related to the celebration of any civil union, domestic partnership, or marriage not recognized by the state, if doing so would violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the person or religious or denominational organization regarding sex and gender.”

This includes providing services, facilities, counseling, employment and employment benefits.

(BTW, they also made sure that it was 100% okay to discriminate against transgender folks. That’s in there too.)

The problem is that word ‘celebration’ might mean something to one person — like let’s say a wedding reception. But put yourself in the mind of a bigot. (Don’t worry, we have plenty of brain bleach on hand.) The kind of bigot who thinks that two people walking down the street, holding hands, are ‘flaunting’ their relationship. (Only if they’re gay, of course.) Such a person can and will easily redefine “celebrate” as “merely existing and being visible where I can see them.”

In case you think I’m reaching, consider that second sentence up there. “This includes providing services, facilities, counseling, employment, and employment benefits.”

Can any of you recall the last time you attended a wedding with an officiating couples therapist? Or an in-church Job Fair?

It’s for damned sure they’re not just looking out for the homophobic florists and wedding cake bakers. Anyway, once again, it looks like the public shaming is still working. The status of the Tennessee bill is it just lost an important Republican sponsor, State Senator Brian Kelsey, and was sent back to committee where it’s expected to die. This time.

Sadly though, the Arizona House passed the bill, intact, and it’s now on Governor Jan Brewer’s desk, waiting for her signature. She vetoed a similar bill last year as part of a budget disagreement, but has said nothing in objection to this blatantly unconstitutional measure. Most of the reports I’ve seen predict Brewer will sign this hateful mess into law.

The fact there are so many of these homophobic laws being introduced is no coincidence

By now you may be wondering why the same types of bills are popping up in GOP-controlled legislatures all over America now. Well, just like it was with the “gays are bad for children” talking points cropping up all over the globe, originating with bogus BS ‘studies’ published by Regnerus, Marks and others and funded by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), this effort is being coordinated, too.

As reported by Al Jazeera America:

Cornerstone in Idaho, the Kansas Family Policy Council, and the Center for Arizona Policy, which supports the bill there, are all part of a network of 38 state “family policy councils” pressing for these laws under the umbrella of Citizen Link, the advocacy arm of the conservative Christian powerhouse Focus on the Family.

The religious right Phelps clan protesting outside the Supreme Court during the DOMA and Prop 8 oral arguments.  © John Aravosis 2013

The religious right Phelps clan protesting outside the Supreme Court during the DOMA and Prop 8 oral arguments. © John Aravosis 2013

Focus on the Family is James Dobson’s hate-mill, by the way, now headed by Jim Daly. Another backer is the American Religious Freedom Program, headed by Brian Walsh — who disingenuously claims these efforts are nothing more than trying to ensure that priests and florists don’t have to participate in Big Gay Weddings. And the ARFP sounds familiar, that’s because it’s part of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think-tank and lobbying organization run by Ed Whelan, former Reagan official in the DoJ and also former clerk for Justice Scalia.

The fact that it’s legal to discriminate against LGBTs in many states is nothing new. Twenty-nine states already have some form of ‘religious exemption’. But now this AFRP group has drafted its wide-reaching bill, and according to reports in the Wichita Eagle, has been shopping it around to state legislatures around the country.

Brian Walsh, executive director of the ARFP, which supports religious freedom measures, acknowledges that his group consulted with the legislators on the bill, but he says that lots of other groups did as well: “We gave them suggestions and they took some of them.” Walsh says that ARFP was contacted by legislators who wrote the Tennessee bill and that the group frequently talked to legislators in South Dakota about “religious freedom” but not the state’s specific bill. Julie Lynde, executive director of Cornerstone Family Council in Idaho, one of many state groups that are part of Citizen Link, a branch of Focus on the Family, told Al Jazeera America, “We’ve been involved in working on the language” of the Idaho bill. Another member of Citizen Link, the Arizona Policy Center, has been active in supporting the Arizona bill.

Why the sloppy “discriminate against anybody you want” language in these bills?

I’ve long been of the opinion that along with bigotry goes ignorance, and quite often stupidity. Some, for sure, have the thuggish cleverness of the bully, coming up always with new ways to make people they perceive as weaker than them suffer. Indignities to be visited upon their victims — and I feel certain that most of these homophobes take a cruel glee out of the idea of ruining what’s often touted as any couple’s “happiest day,” their wedding ceremony and celebration.

That’s why I think that many of these Republican state legislators falling all over themselves to enshrine anti-gay animus in their state laws and constitutions probably don’t even think through the consequences of their hateful actions. A lot of them seem to be sincere when they say they’re only trying to protect those oh-so-suffering Fundamentalist Christian florists and caterers.

I look instead toward where this is all coming from: The Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Religion is the excuse. Gays, lesbians and transgender folks are the wedge issue. Hate-groups like Focus on the Family, NOM, FRC, and the rest are the foot soldiers. State legislators are the true believers, the paid-for enablers, and the useful idiots.

What is the actual goal?

In my opinion, Whelan’s organization didn’t write a sloppy bill to shop around. I believe the bill does exactly what it means to do, which is something the far-right conservatives have been itching to do ever since the first sweeping civil rights bills were passed in the 1960s: Repeal them.

Not just some, and not just to enable anti-gay and anti-trans discrimination, but all of the equal rights laws. Using ‘religious freedom’ as the cudgel to roll back women’s reproductive freedoms is just another prong of the attack.

After all, let’s not forget how their vision of America’s Golden Age is the fictional white-bread Ozzy & Harriett 1950s, when discrimination of all kinds was legal and segregation the norm. The time when the phrase “That’s mighty white of you” didn’t draw stares. When women held positions of employment no higher than secretary and abortions were almost universally illegal. And when gay people, of course, were reviled and shunned.

That, I believe, is the bigger picture.

In some respects, I take heart from these flailing efforts of theirs, because it reeks of desperation. Just as with women’s rights and reproductive freedoms, religious conservatives are trying to carve out special rights for themselves, exemptions from the movement toward full equality for all LGBT Americans. Plus, as I said, I do think the big enchilada is to try to repeal or overturn all the civil rights laws.

I’m glad to see the bigots on the defensive, I really am. But with the mid-term elections coming up and the relentless nature of the forces of hatred and intolerance, and especially given how radical they’ve become, complacency is one attitude we absolutely cannot afford right now.

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Science Sunday: Black holes are really gray, and other science news Sun, 02 Feb 2014 16:21:28 +0000 From Curiosity on Mars to breathtaking leaps from the stratosphere, it's Science Sunday again on AMERICAblog.

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Hi friends, I took a bit of a break over the holidays, then was inundated with post-holiday work…now it’s time for some fun — and a return of Science Sunday. In this week’s round-up:

Space News


It wouldn’t be Science Sunday without my usual Mars news obsession.

In this case, it’s reports from NASA’s Curiosity rover (the big one) which has been experiencing unusually heavy wear and damage to its tracked wheels during its second year of operation.

Curiosity’s operators at JPL are trying to deal with this unexpected wear by lifting two wheels at a time and just driving on four of the six, finding less rocky ground to drive over, and so on. By point of comparison, Curiosity has only traveled about 3 miles since landing, whereas the Energizer Bunny of Mars rovers, Opportunity, has traveled over 24 miles since 2004 — and is still going strong.

The left-front wheel of NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars, showing dents and wear (photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The left-front wheel of NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars, showing dents and wear (photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

(((sigh))) A ‘scientist’ by the name of Dr. Rhawn Joseph has sued NASA for what he alleges is a refusal to investigate an odd rock that showed up on one of Opportunity’s photographs from the Martian surface.

Dr. Joseph seems to think the rock is some kind of Mars Mushroom and has accused NASA and JPL of covering up evidence of life on the red planet.

Meanwhile, Opportunity’s ‘Principal Investigator,’ Dr. Steve Squyres, has said that they did look at the rock — including  several times with a microscope-camera — and it’s nothing but a rock.

While it’s true they’re not positive how the rock got there — whether it’s a fresh chunk of meteorite or, more likely, a rock dislodged by one of Opportunity’s wheels as it drove along — they’ve released plenty of information to indicate it really is just a rock. Dr. Joseph, on the other hand, has a reputation as more than a bit of a crank, having authored conspiracy-minded papers about alien life, the 9/11 attacks, and bizarre theory of panspermia in which not only did life on Earth originate from out there, but that somehow evolution itself is being directed intelligently and purposefully by our DNA.

A rock on Mars, most likely dislodged and flipped over by one of the Curiosity rover's wheels (photo: NASA)

A rock on Mars, most likely dislodged and flipped over by one of the Curiosity rover’s wheels (photo: NASA)

The tiny rover associated with China’s recently landed lunar probe, Yutu (Jade Rabbit) has been experiencing malfunctions recently. While the main probe itself, Chang’e, appears to be fine, last weekend Jade Rabbit began experiencing what were described as “mechanical control abnormalities” and shut down. Chinese mission controllers have presumably attempted some kind of reset and they’re hoping to reactivate the rover when the lunar night ends — which will be in about a week or so, for the rover’s location.

Blacks holes are actually gray

Stephen Hawking once again upsets the table of cosmology by theorizing that ‘black holes’ as commonly depicted in both science and science fiction, don’t actually exist as such. In particular, he’s now saying there probably is no such thing as an ‘event horizon’ — a fixed boundary at a certain distance from a gravitational singularity beyond which light cannot escape. He now thinks that the ‘horizon’ actually varies considerably based on quantum interactions between the particles inside the hole. And what this means is that although energy (light) and matter would have a difficult time escaping, eventually they would. In short, black holes viewed up close would be dark, dark gray.

Earth News

Indonesia’s volcano

Gorgeous blue sulfur flames from Indonesia’s Kawah Ijen volcano. (Sorry, can’t include photos due to copyright issues. It’s worth checking out though, over on the National Geographic website.)

Peanut allergies

Researchers at the University of Cambridge, led by Dr. Andrew Clark, believe they may have found a successful desensitization treatment for sufferers of peanut allergies. According to the linked story, as many as 15 million Americans have food allergies of some kind, and a little over 7.5% of kids under 18 can have life-threatening reactions, and for kids apparently peanut allergies are the worst and most common. The treatment is simple “oral immunotherapy” or OIT, and consists of ingesting small but increasing amounts of peanut powder over the course of months.  In the study, after six months, “84 to 91 percent of children in the trial could safely tolerate 800 mg of peanut powder or the equivalent of five peanuts.” This may not sound like much, but we’re talking about going from “anaphylactic shock if simply near someone eating peanuts” to “should just try to avoid.” That’s a huge and life-altering improvement.

Tech news

Is Google trying to become Cyberdyne and build Skynet?

They’re already building driverless cars. They’ve acquired Boston Dynamics, the company that has built some incredibly creepy four and two legged robots. And now Google has acquired DeepMind, a company involved in artificial intelligence technologies.

I’m more of a technophile than most, but I’ve always wondered, “If we ever do build an AI, how do we know for sure it’ll be benign towards humans?” (For those who think that Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” will suffice, it’s worth remembering that even he later wrote of AIs finding ways around those laws.)

New passpword protections

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU — and my own alma mater) have come up with a new double-layer of password protection that they say is far more secure against brute force computerized attacks.

Called GOTCHA (Generating panOptic Turing Tests to Tell Computers and Humans Apart), it combines a traditional password with a colored inkblot test. The system shows you several inkblots and you’re supposed to come up with a phrase to describe each. Then, the next time you log in and enter your password, you’re shown both the blots and your phrases and told to match them again.

Apparently computers just can’t guess which blot a human might see as a butterfly or as a spatter of paint (that is until Google Skynet gets their hands on them). On the other hand, I always felt that XKCD’s approach to password strength to be far more effective and elegant — not to mention crazy-simple.

Password strength, by, Creative Commons License

Password strength, by, Creative Commons License

Finally, in closing, our treat of the day: The unbelievable — and complete — video footage of Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking Mach 1-shattering freefall from 23 miles up on 14 October 2012. We’re not talking just video from the balloon capsule from which he made the jump, or the grainy almost impossible-to-see video from the ground.

Baumgartner was festooned with those GoPro high-def video cameras, and this is a first-person view of his experience. Enjoy.

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India’s Supreme Court stands by ruling re-criminalizing homosexuality Wed, 29 Jan 2014 12:00:18 +0000 India's Supreme Court refused to reconsider its highly-controversial re-criminalization of homosexuality.

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Back in December, India made it a crime to be gay.  There have been some updates, not all together good.

Specifically, a Division Bench ruling from India’s Supreme Court reinstated Section 377 of its penal code, a British Victorian / Raj-era law from the mid 1800s that outlawed homosexuality, making it a felony offense and subject to fines and prison sentences of up to ten years to life.

As I wrote back then:

In a devastating ruling for gay rights supporters, India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday, December, 11, 2013, overturned an earlier 2009 Delhi High Court ruling which had struck down India’s existing anti-sodomy law.

That earlier ruling had effectively decriminalized “homosexual acts” (i.e., gay sex of any kind).  The new ruling recriminalizes homosexuality in a country of one billion people.

In the Supreme Court Division Bench ruling, the court said it was up to the legislature to change the law, and not for the courts to overturn it. Civil rights groups blasted this rationale, because they feel — as do many others — that it’s up to the courts to serve as guarantors for people’s rights, and not an Indian legislature that is often as paralyzed as America’s Congress.

In short, after four years of it being legal to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual in India, their Supreme Court re-criminalized it. And the world’s largest democracy (by population) re-joins 76 other nations in legalized repression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Well, on Tuesday, 28 January, the Indian Supreme Court in what appears to be another Division Bench ruling, has declined to review the ban they reimposed. The two judges who heard the case, Justices H. L. Dattu and S. J. Mukhopadhaya, rejected the petition from India’s government’s lawyers.

One detail it is worth noting, which took me some time to track down and verify in the writing of this post, is that while Justice Dattu is new on this particular case, the other Justice, S. J. Mukhopadhavya was one of the authors of December’s Division Bench ruling. In addition, the second Justice in December, G. S. Singhvi, retired immediately after the case.

Not knowing all the ins and outs of the Indian judicial system, I nevertheless take this to mean that this request for a ruling review is not unlike it would work here in the States.  Judge or Federal Judge or even the Supreme Court issues a ruling, and the plaintiffs or defendants can essentially file a petition that says, “Please reconsider what you just decided.”

Justices Dattu and Mukhopadhaya said no, forget it.

“We have gone through the review petitions and the connected papers. We see no reason to interfere with the order impugned. The review petitions are, accordingly, dismissed,” a bench of Justices H L Dattu and S J Mukhopadhaya said, dismissing a bunch of eight petitions in chamber proceedings.

At this point, there remain only a few options for LGBT citizens of India and their supporters:

Two options are now available before the government and the LGBT community to have the law overturned: the legal remedy of filing a curative petition in the Supreme Court, arguing the question of the constitutionality of IPC Section 377; and seeking the parliamentary route to amend the law.

What they’re saying is what was reported back in December, that the only ways out are either for the Indian legislature to pass a new law repealing Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, or for the case to be appealed to a higher section of the Supreme Court. Such as request is termed a “Curative Petition” — which is generally reviewed by the three most senior Justices of the Supreme Court, who then if they decide to take the case can invite additional Justices to sit on a ‘Constitutional Bench’ to hear it.

What’s especially sad is this ruling does not even reflect the wishes of the Indian government or its leaders, who did not want the original 2009 ruling which declared Section 377 unconstitutional to be challenged. As has happened in many nations, including here in America, the challenges are from a determined fundamentalist conservative minority which simply hates gay people:

Few thought the legal challenge – launched by conservatives including Muslim and Christian religious associations, a rightwing politician and a retired government official-turned astrologist – against the 2009 decision to succeed. The supreme court is known for broadly progressive judgments that often order politicians or officials to respect the rights of the poor, disadvantaged or marginalised.

Nevertheless, voices have risen in opposition, including among the Indian government:

Sonia Gandhi, the president of the ruling Congress party, called on MPs “to address this issue and uphold the constitutional guarantee of life and liberty to all citizens of India” in the wake of the judgment.

We’ll see what happens.

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India’s former top shrink: Homosexuality is “unnatural,” can be cured Wed, 22 Jan 2014 13:00:55 +0000 Dr. Sharma also suggested that violence against women could be prevented by encouraging randy men to marry young.

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I suppose this is a bad news / good news post concerning gay rights in India, and attitudes in that country towards gay people.

Recently gays and lesbians in India suffered a huge setback when a Division Bench ruling of India’s Supreme Court re-criminalized homosexuality after four years of it having been legal to be gay.

In a front-page article on 21 January (Tuesday) in the Times of India, former president of the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS), Dr. Indira Sharma, was questioned about her remarks three days earlier at a meeting of the IPS in which she referred to homosexuality as “unnatural.”

Indira Sharma

Indira Sharma

At the meeting, Sharma also said that those who were uncomfortable with their sexual orientation should seek psychiatric treatment, presumably to be cured of same-sex desires.

This, despite all of the independent and unbiased scientific — and psychiatric — research indicating that sexual orientation cannot be cured psychiatrically, psychologically, or by any other means. And moreover, that such attempts to “cure” someone of being gay nearly always does more harm than good.

Indeed, all of the legitimate, peer-reviewed research would indicate that a person who is conflicted with their sexual orientation is better served by helping with acceptance, rather than rejection and repression of same-sex attractions.

Basically, Dr. Sharma’s message is that gay people should be ashamed to be gay, and should avoid bothering anybody by staying deep in the closet.

In the Times of India interview, Sharma is quoted as saying, “The manner in which homosexuals have brought talk of sex to the roads makes people uncomfortable. It’s unnatural.”

The article went on:

She explained to the Times of India, “There are some who are comfortable [with their orientation], but there are many who are not. The latter should realize they can get help (from psychiatrists). Some of them may even be able to change their orientation.”

The paper also summarized Sharma as adding that “those comfortable with their orientation should be made aware that their behaviour was causing a lot of uneasiness in society.”

No stranger to controversy, and willing to express notions even the rather conservative Indian society finds…well, odd and unhelpful, at the last IPS meeting in January 2013, Dr. Sharma sparked additional controversy by suggesting that violence against women could be curbed by encouraging young men to marry as early as possible.

Sharma (…) had claimed early marriage “preferably in early 20s or as soon as the boy gets employed” could curb violence against women. Early marriages were recommended so that “sexual needs are satisfied in an appropriate manner.”

Yeah, right… I find myself feeling more and more sorry for Dr. Sharma’s patients, assuming she’s ever actually treated real human beings. (Her bio lists her as an academic at Banaras Hindu University.)

Fortunately, the Times of India, although it didn’t go terribly far in refuting Dr. Sharma’s contrary-to-science opinions, did at least quote Dr. Harish Shetty as saying, “Same-sex orientation needs to be accepted as normal. Sexual orientation has different dimensions and should be tackled compassionately. This will help many come out of the closet. Mental health professionals need to accept the differences and bring down distress.”

Now then, I did promise this was a bad news / good news post. Dr. Sharma’s ignorance and homophobia were the bad news.

The good news is twofold. First of all, despite having been president of the IPS, her views clearly do not represent the views of the entire Indian psychiatric discipline. In 2009, the IPS had written open letters to a number of newspapers in support of the court ruling which decriminalized Section 377 (India’s ban on homosexuality).

Secondly, Dr. Sharma gave that speech over the weekend at the IPS meeting as that organization’s outgoing president. Here’s hoping she’s replaced by someone more enlightened and less irrationally bigoted against LGBT people. And with an education in human sexuality, and psychiatry, more recent than the 19th century.

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New Mexico police anal probe victim wins settlement Tue, 14 Jan 2014 20:15:50 +0000 Man who suffered anal search, colonoscopy, and 3 enemas at hands of NM local law enforcement receives justice.

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Back in November, John ran a series of stories — shocking accounts really — about out of control law enforcement officers in southern New Mexico with a proclivity for conducting anal exams and enemas on people for minor traffic infractions.

Specifically, on 2 January 2013, a man named David Eckert apparently rolled through a stop sign out of a Walmart parking lot. Upon stopping him, police later claimed Eckert appeared to be “clenching his buttocks.” And as a consequence they concluded he must have drugs up his anus. The cops found a cooperative deputy DA who obtained a search warrant.

Actual court documents in the "clenched buttocks" lawsuit, courtesy of KOB4.

Actual court documents in the “clenched buttocks” lawsuit, courtesy of KOB4.

Eckert’s horror unrolled like… well, a horror movie. Or perhaps the law enforcement “live action role play” (LARP) version of “Deliverance.”

As John recounted, the following was inflicted upon Mr. Eckert:

  1. They x-ray his abdomen, find nothing.
  2. They examine his anus digitally, find nothing.
  3. They examine his anus again digitally, find nothing.
  4. They give him an enema, make him defecate in front of the doctors and cops, examine his stool, and find nothing.
  5. They give him a second enema, find nothing.
  6. They give him a third enema, find nothing.
  7. They x-ray him again, find nothing.
  8. So what do they do next? Prepare him for surgery and give him a forced colonoscopy.  And find nothing.

Not surprisingly, the man is now suing the cops and the hospital.

In addition to the humiliating treatment inflicted on this man, the officers didn’t even obey the appallingly broad terms of the probable cause-absent search warrant. The warrant was valid only in Luna County (where Deming NM is located, and Gila Medical Center is in Grant County), and it expired at 10pm, whereas Mr. Eckert was being prepped for his unnecessary and forced colonoscopy surgery at 1am the following morning. (Hidalgo county’s involvement was related to Sheriff officers who jumped in on the sadism under-color-of-law action.)

This was also the case, by the way, where the cops used an un-certified canine to claim that the dog had detected drugs in Mr. Eckert’s car — and of course, after the search, none were found. The cops seized Eckert’s car and arrested him anyway.

To add insult to injury, Gila Medical Center attempted repeatedly to bill Mr. Eckert for the sadistic and medical malpractice inflicted upon him against his will.

Thus, also not surprisingly, Mr. Eckert just settled part of his case for a rather substantial settlement.

The same local TV station which broke the story back in November, KOB4 Albuquerque, posted a followup story.

Originally, Eckert had sued the City of Deming NM and Hidalgo County (both of whom had officers on the scene during Mr. Eckert’s repeated violating searches), as well as Gila Regional Medical center and its doctors, and the deputy district attorney who signed off on the warrants.

KOB’s “4 On Your Side” just learned that in December that Deming and Hidalgo settled for $650k and $950k respectively, for a total of $1.6 million.

Mr. Eckert’s lawsuit is still pending against the medical center, the doctors, and the deputy DA. It is thought this case might have to go to a jury court, particularly against the Gila Medical Center in Silver City and the doctors, because they don’t want to admit wrongdoing. This, despite the fact Gila was in fact the cops’ second choice; they tried to have it done at a Deming area hospital’s emergency room.

The lawsuit claims that Deming Police tried taking Eckert to an emergency room in Deming, but a doctor there refused to perform the anal cavity search citing it was “unethical.”

But physicians at the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City agreed to perform the procedure and a few hours later, Eckert was admitted.

KOB4 also reported:

For the first time, Eckert is speaking out about the case through a written statement:

“I feel that I got some justice as I think the settlement shows they were wrong to do what they did to me. I truly hope that no one will be treated like this ever again. I felt very helpless and alone on that night. My family and I hope that people understand that I don’t want my face linked with jokes related to anal probing. For this reason, I asked my attorneys to issue this statement in the hopes that the media will respect my privacy.”

Attorneys for Hidalgo County have racked up nearly $55,000 in legal fees.

Sometimes there is still justice to be had. I for one am glad to have seen such a blatantly illegal sado-sexual assault to have been punished. Of course, the sad downside is it’s not those vile cops or their legal system enablers who will suffer the longer term consequences, but the taxpayers of Hidalgo County and Deming.

One thing remains certain: There are some vile, sadistic men out there yet who represent the absolute worst in law enforcement, and they give all the good cops a bad name.

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Utah’s Mormon governor un-marries 1,300 gay couples Thu, 09 Jan 2014 13:00:15 +0000 Utah Gov. Herbert decided unilaterally to un-marry over 1,300 gay couples, something he can't actually do.

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Last month, on 20 December 2014, Utah became the 15th state with legal gay marriage, due to a ruling from Federal District Court Judge Robert Shelby.

In his ruling, Judge Shelby declared Utah’s state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guaranteeing due process and equal protection under the law, and in a very clear and forthright opinion, tied marriage equality to the previous bans on interracial marriage.

Since then, both Judge Shelby and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to issue a stay pending appeal, resulting in an estimated 1300+ newly married gay and lesbian couples in Utah.

I think perhaps our host, John Aravosis, had a smidge of optimism that the Mormons would forbear from their usual knee-jerk homophobia, suggesting this turn of events could represent a new chance for them to reform their reputation… but I’ve been skeptical all along. Heck, one Utah man went on a hunger strike to stop gays and lesbians from marrying.


Mormons via Shutterstock

Indeed, mere days later on New Year’s Eve, the Mormons and the GOP both begged for Federal intervention from the Supreme Court, referring their request to the supervising head of the 10th Circuit, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who then referred the matter to the full bench, which then did issue the requested stay on January 6th, Monday.

The marriages stopped. Yes, everybody knows that the legitimacy of those 1300+ Utah marriages remains in question pending a final judicial ruling. However, there’s the judicial precedent of California. Roughly 18,000 couples from the 2008 “Summer of Love” did have their marriages upheld, despite the lack of Federal recognition.

And now we have a situation where these 1300+ Utah couples, regardless how the state government feels about it, would enjoy post-DOMA Federal rights and protections. Thus, there is clear and unavoidable ‘tangible harm’ if those marriages are overturned, whereas — as I like to put it — the only harm to homophobic bigots and religious radicals is their fee-fees are hurt because gay people aren’t suffering. Every reason posited to oppose same-sex marriage equality and equal protection under the law is based either on outright lies (harm to kids, procreation, etc.) or blatant anti-gay animus, or both.

So what does the Utah state government do? What Mormon bigots always do – attempt to un-marry gay people.

In this case, Governor Gary Herbert (R-of course) announced Wednesday (Jan 8) that the state will not recognize those 1300+ marriages. It’s also worth noting that Governor Herbert (why do I always think of Star Trek when I hear that name) felt compelled to issue this statement despite the fact that Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes (also Republican, surprisingly) said he could not determine on his own whether or not the marriages were valid.

Reyes said:

We are unable to reach a legal conclusion as to the ultimate validity of marriage  between persons of the same sex who completed their marriage ceremony in Utah between Dec 20, 2013 and Jan. 6, 2014. That question remains unanswered and the answer will depend on the result of the appeal process.

Actually, they’re married.  The Supreme Court stayed the federal court’s decision, pending appeal.  But they didn’t say anything about undoing the marriages that were already done.

In the meantime, I for one will be quite interested to hear the official position of the Obama Administration and his Department of Justice. Will these couples be considered married by the Federal government, despite the pending case?

We have no doubt what Governor Herbert has in mind though, do we?

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