Obama lays out solution for mass shootings while right-wing gun craziness continues

Source: Why Evolution is True

Author:whyevolutionistrue

Emphasis Mine

Last night President Obama addressed the nation in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings. If you missed his twelve-minute talk, here it is:

In general I think he did the best he could given the circumstances, though, with the exacerbated calls for gun control, it sounded a lot like “we’ll do more of the same.” It was basically a Presidential attempt to calm the country down. Here are the good and not-so-good bits:

The good stuff:

  • The call for Congress to make it harder for Americans to buy assault weapons and a call to ban those on the terrorism watch list from buying any guns (Republicans recently voted down that law)
  • A review of the relatively lax “fiancee visa” regulations that allowed the female shooter in San Bernardino to enter the U.S.
  • A review of our policy about visa waivers
  • A refusal to put American forces in a ground war
  • A call for Americans to resist the demonization of Muslims, and an emphasis on our law-abiding Muslim citizens and residents, many of whom serve in the armed forces. Obama said that this demonization is exactly what ISIS wants, though I hear the trope about “not doing what ISIS wants” all the time, and I’m not sure what they really do want. We shouldn’t demonize Muslims, but not because it plays into the hands of ISIS, but because treating Muslims as equal citizens, and avoiding personal or legal discrimination against them on the basis of their faith, are simply the right things to do
    • An implicit emphasis on maintaining Englightenment values, i.e., a refusal to abandon American principles when combating terrorism (then we should close Guantanamo, for crying out loud!)

    The not-so-good stuff:

    • Obama’s emphasis that terrorists or members ISIS instantiate a “perverted interpretation of Islam” and that ISIS “does not speak for Islam.” Well, ISIS speaks for Islam just as much as Pat Robertson speaks for Christianity. But at least Obama said the “I” word.
    • The call for Congress to declare war on ISIS by authorizing continuing military involvement. I’m not sure exactly what that means, or how it would change our present strategy. I fear that American ground troops will eventually be involved, what with a Republican Congress in place and a more hawkish President, Hillary Clinton (or any Republican) in the wings.
    • The nod to God at the end: “God bless you and God bless America” (omitted in the video). The ritual invocation of the deity at the end of Presidential speeches is a relatively new development: the first President to use the phrase was Richard Nixon, during a 1973 exculpation speech on Watergate.  

    In general, though, the only real change that will result from this talk will be is a stricter review of the U.S. visa program. Our military strategy in Syria and Iraq probably won’t change, Congress won’t pass laws tightening gun restrictions, and God won’t bless America, because he doesn’t exist.

    But against the braying and braggadocio of the right-wing gun nuts, who use mass killings as a rationale for loosening gun regulations, Obama sounds like a saint. Here, for instance, is Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of the Matchbox and his successor as President of the fundamentalist Christian Liberty University, speaking at the University convocation. Fallwell fils called for more guns, implied he was carrying one in his back pocket, urged students to carry more legal, concealed handguns (nothing that the University has free courses on this), and added, “If more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they, before they go out there and kill.”

    And listen to all those Christian students cheering Falwell on!

     

    Seriously “end those Muslims”?

    Finally, here’s Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican Presidential candidate, defending his vote allowing people on the “no fly list” to buy guns. His rationale: the majority of people on the list are there by mistake. This is of course a dismissal of President Obama’s statement, “Right now, people on the No-Fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun. That is insane. If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun.”

    h/t: GB James, jsp

See:http://wp.me/ppUXF-FiE

Reagan’s Chickens Home to Roost?

Source: RSN

Author: William Boardman

The guilty get some breathing room, but not safety yet

Former members of the Reagan administration are breathing easier, now that they are somewhat less likely to face criminal charges for their part in the Guatemalan genocide of 1982-1983, supported by Reagan policies.

The threat that former officials might be held accountable for genocidal policies of the Reagan administration increased on May 10, when a Guatemalan lower court convicted the country’s former president, General Efrain Rios Montt, 86, of genocide and crimes against humanity for his part in the killing of thousands of Guatemalan civilians.

Rios Montt’s conviction and sentence included an order by Judge Iris Yassmin Barrios to Attorney General Paz Y Paz to further investigate everyone else involved in Rios Montt’s crimes, an investigation that would include many Guatemalans including the country’s current president, as well as U.S. military advisors, the CIA and other American agents, and Washington officials like Elliott Abrams and others directly involved in supporting the Guatemalan governmental genocide.

But this threat of prosecution for accessories and accomplices to genocide didn’t last long, as Guatemala’s highest court, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala, ruled by a vote of 3-2 on May 20 that the lower court’s proceedings going back to April 19 were dismissed, thus annulling the verdict.

The Genocidal General’s Trial May Yet Begin Again

But the Constitutional Court ruling also allows the trial to resume at some undetermined time in the future. The dismissal sets the trial back to April 19, when a judge who had heard earlier but separate proceedings relating to Rios Montt asserted jurisdiction over the continuing trial that had started a month earlier. Judge Barrios overruled the prior judge supported by Attorney General Paz Y Pay, who said his claim was unlawful.

The jurisdictional dispute proceeded to the Constitutional Court while Rios Montt’s trial continued to its unsurprising conviction, given the weight of the evidence against him and his administration.

Rios Montt came to power in 1982 through a military coup, after he had lost a democratic election for the second time, claiming massive fraud both in 1974 and 1982. Between elections, in 1978, Rios Montt had left the Catholic Church and become a minister in the evangelical/Pentecostal Church of the Word, based in California. His friends and supporters included Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Pat Robertson, and others connected with the evangelical movement that helped elect Ronald Reagan president in 1980.

Rios Montt would be the American-supported dictator of Guatemala for only 17 months, before he fell to another military coup. But in that time he was responsible for government forces that killed more than 1,700 people, mostly indigenous Mayans, and also tortured, raped, kidnapped, and brutalized thousands more – for which he was found guilty on May 10.

Ronald Reagan and His Administration Supported Gen. Rios Montt

President Reagan praised Rios Montt for his anticommunism and claimed that human rights were improving under his rule, while human rights organizations condemned the general and the army. Amnesty International estimated that Rios Montt’s forced killed more than 10,000 rural Guatemalans from March to August 1982, and drove more than 100,000 from their homes.

Reagan evaded Congressional oversight in order to provide Rios Montt with millions of dollars of military aid. When Reagan and the general met in Honduras in December 1982, Reagan spoke warmly of him: “I know that President Rios Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment. I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice. My administration will do all it can to support his progressive efforts.”

“The next day,” the London Review of Books reported in 2004, “one of Guatemala’s elite platoons entered a jungle village called Las Dos Erres and killed 162 of its inhabitants, 67 of them children.” The report continued:

Soldiers grabbed babies and toddlers by their legs, swung them in the air, and smashed their heads against a wall. Older children and adults were forced to kneel at the edge of a well, where a single blow from a sledgehammer sent them plummeting below. The platoon then raped a selection of women and girls it had saved for last, pummelling their stomachs in order to force the pregnant among them to miscarry.

They tossed the women into the well and filled it with dirt, burying an unlucky few alive. The only traces of the bodies later visitors would find were blood on the walls and placentas and umbilical cords on the ground.

On another occasion, Reagan claimed that the dictator was getting a “bum rap.”

In 1983, then assistant secretary of state Elliott Abrams told PBS, “the amount of killing of innocent civilians is being reduced step by step…. We think that kind of progress needs to be rewarded and encouraged.”

Guatemalans Have Struggled for Decades to Get Justice

The currently interrupted trial is part of a judicial process that began in 2001, with a ruling by the Constitutional Court on March 21, exposing Rios Montt and others of the ruling party to prosecution for corruption. The next day, two grenades were thrown in the yard of Judge Iris Yassmin Barrios. Three days later, the head of the Constitutional Court, Judge Conchita Mazariegos, had shots fired at her house.

The criminal role of the United States in Guatemala has continued at least since 1954, when the Eisenhower administration engineered a CIA-backed coup d’etat against the country’s elected president.

American reporting on the Rios Montt trial and America’s role in genocide in Central America goes largely unreported in the United States. According to FAIR, none of the three major TV networks have mentioned the trial since it began. Perhaps the most detailed coverage has come from DemocracyNOW, which summed up the present situation this way:

In the run-up to its latest decision to overturn, the court had come under heavy lobbying from Rios Montt supporters, including Guatemala’s powerful business association, CACIF. Rios Montt remains in a military hospital where he was admitted last week. His legal status is now up in the air. He will likely be released into house arrest, and it is unclear when or if he will return to court.

For the moment, that leaves surviving Reagan administration officials beyond the reach of Guatemalan law and international law.

In 1998, Bishop Juan Gerardi, head of the human rights commission uncovering the truth of the disappearances associated with the military, including Rios Montt, was assassinated. His successor is Catholic bishop Mario Enrique Rios Montt, the convicted general’s brother. The trial and conviction of Bishop Gerardi’s killers in 2001 was the first time members of the military were tried in a civilian court.

Emphasis Mine

See: :http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/17558-reagans-chickens-home-to-roost

 

Siding With the Billionaires: How the Right Is Waging a Class War Against All But the Wealthiest Americans

the Right’s default position is to side with the billionaires – and to show little or no regard for the fate of anyone else, whether NFL players or sick senior citizens.

From Alternet:

If American football fans end up facing a fall without NFL games, they probably won’t blame George W. Bush and other Republican presidents for packing the federal courts with right-wing judges, but it was two Bush appointees who reversed a District Court ruling that would have ended the lockout of players.

The Appeals Court judgment encouraged the NFL’s hardline billionaire owners to resist making the kinds of compromises that a few less intransigent owners recognize could easily resolve the impasse.

Now, the hardliners simply assume that Republican judges will keep siding with the NFL owners and thus enable them to beat down the players, eventually assuring the billionaire owners a bigger piece of the revenue pie – even if that means losing some or all of the 2011 season.

What many average Americans, especially white guys, don’t seem to understand is that whatever the populist-styled rhetoric of Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, the Right’s default position is to side with the billionaires – and to show little or no regard for the fate of anyone else, whether NFL players or sick senior citizens.

Still, one must give the Right credit for having worked hard refining how to phrase its arguments. Right-wingers even have turned the term “class warfare” against the Left by shouting the phrase in a mocking fashion whenever anyone tries to blunt the “class warfare” that the billionaires have been waging against the middle class and the poor for decades.

On right-wing TV and talk radio across the country, there are tag teams of macho men pretending that ”class warfare” exists only in the fevered imagination of the Left. But billionaire investor Warren Buffett has acknowledged the truth: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

The right-wing propagandists further earn their keep by disparaging science as “elitist.” So, even as the dire predictions from climate-change experts that global warming will generate more extreme weather seem to be coming true, many Americans who have listened to the “climate-change-deniers” for years still reject the scientific warnings.

While no single weather event can be connected to the broader trend of climate change, the warnings about what might happen when the earth’s atmosphere heats up and absorbs more moisture seem to be applicable to the historic flooding in some parts of the world, droughts in others, and the outbreak of particularly violent storms.

Heat and moisture are especially dangerous ingredients for hurricanes and tornadoes.

Ironically, the parts of the United States hardest hit by this severe weather are those represented predominately by Republicans who have been at the forefront of obstructing government efforts to address the global-warming crisis.

Flooding, hurricanes and tornadoes have inflicted horrendous damage on Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Missouri and Oklahoma – all part of the Republican base.

God’s Punishment?

If televangelist Pat Robertson were a left-winger instead of a right-winger, he might be saying that God is punishing these “red states” for doubting the science of global warming.

However, even as the U.S. news obsesses over the violent weather, mainstream media stars have steered clear of whether global warming might be a factor. It’s as if they know that they’d only be inviting career-damaging attacks from the Right if they did anything to connect the dots.

The Right also is not eager to explain how these catastrophes will require emergency funding and rebuilding assistance from the federal government. After all, you don’t want Republican voters to understand that sometimes “self-reliance” alone doesn’t cut it; sometimes, we all need helpand the government must be part of that assistance.

In the case of the killer tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri, House Republicans, without a hint of irony, are extracting the funds for disaster relief from green energy programs, which remain a favorite GOP target since many Republicans still insist there is no such thing as global warming.

At both state and national levels, Republican leaders have lined up behind climate-change deniers, with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty just the latest GOP presidential hopeful to apologize for his past support of a cap-and-trade system aimed at reducing global-warming gases.

Any serious move toward alternative energies would, of course, be costly to the giant oil companies and their billionaire owners, like David Koch of Koch Industries who has spent millions of dollars funding right-wing organizations, such as the Tea Party. The Right’s media/political operatives know better than to bite the hand that feeds them.

GOP orthodoxy also disdains tax increases on the rich or even elimination of tax breaks for the oil industry. The Republican insistence on low tax rates for the wealthy, in turn, has forced consideration of other policy proposals to achieve savings from services for average Americans.

That is why congressional Republicans have targeted Medicare with a plan that would end the current health program for the elderly and replace it with a scheme that would give subsidies to senior citizens who would then have to sign up for health insurance from private industry, which has proven itself far less efficient in providing health care than the government.

The GOP budget, drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, would impose the Medicare changes on seniors beginning in 10 years.

Most attention on the Ryan plan has focused on estimates that it would cost the average senior citizen more than $6,000 extra per year, but the proposal also has the effect of privatizing Medicare, meaning that the government would make direct “premium support” payments to profit-making insurance companies whose interest is in maximizing profits, not providing the best possible care for old people.

While the Ryan plan would achieve budget “savings” by shifting the burden of health-care costs onto the elderly, Ryan’s budget also would lower tax ratesfor the wealthiest Americans even more, from 35 percent to 25 percent. Partly because of that tax cut, Ryan’s budget would still not be balanced for almost three decades.

Class Warfare

Thus, the battle lines of America’s “class warfare” are getting more sharply drawn. The conflict is now over the Right’s determination to concentrate even more money and power in the hands of the rich by hobbling any government capability to protect the people’s general welfare.

If the Right wins, individual Americans will be left essentially defenseless in the face of unbridled corporate power.

Ryan’s Medicare plan may be just the most striking example because it envisions sick old people trying to pick their way through a thicket of private insurance plans with all their confusing language designed to create excuses for denying coverage. It is not an exaggeration to say that Ryan’s tight-fisted Medicare plan could consign millions of Americans to a premature death.

The Right’s priorities hit home at a town hall meeting held by Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Georgia, when he chastised one of his constituents who worried that Ryan’s plan would leave Americans like her, whose employer doesn’t extend health benefits to retirees, out of luck.

“Hear yourself, ma’am. Hear yourself,” Woodall lectured the woman. “You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, ‘When do I decide I’m going to take care of me?’”

However, another constituent noted that Woodall accepted government-paid-for health insurance for himself.

“You are not obligated to take that if you don’t want to,” the woman said. “Why aren’t you going out on the free market in the state where you’re a resident and buy your own health care? Be an example. …

“Go and get it in a single-subscriber plan, like you want everybody else to have, because you want to end employer-sponsored health plans and government-sponsored health plans. … Decline the government health plan and go to Blue Cross/Blue Shield or whoever, and get one for yourself and see how tough it is.”

Woodall answered that he was taking his government health insurance “because it’s free. It’s because it’s free.”

Self-reliance, it seems, is easier to preach to others than to practice yourself.

Woodall’s explanation recalled the hypocrisy of free-market heroine Ayn Rand, whom Rep. Ryan has cited as his political inspiration. In her influential writings, Rand ranted against social programs that enabled the “parasites” among the middle-class and the poor to sap the strength from the admirable rich, but she secretly accepted the benefits of Medicare after she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

A two-pack-a-day smoker, Rand had denied the medical science about the dangers of cigarettes, much as her acolytes today reject the science of global warming. However, when she developed lung cancer, she connived to have Evva Pryor, an employee of Rand’s law firm, arrange Social Security and Medicare benefits for Ann O’Connor, Ayn Rand using her husband’s last name.

In 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand, Scott McConnell, founder of the Ayn Rand Institute’s media department, quoted Pryor as saying: “Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out.”

So, when push came to shove, even Ayn Rand wasn’t above getting help from the “despised government.” However, her followers, including Rep. Ryan, now want to strip those guaranteed benefits from other Americans of more modest means than Ayn Rand.

It seems it’s okay for average Americans to be wiped out.

Hypocrisy, Hypocrisy

While the Right’s penchant for hypocrisy is well-known (note how many Republicans involved in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton had their own extra-marital affairs), the bigger mystery is why so many average-guy Americans volunteer to fight for the rich in the trenches of the Right’s class warfare.

Clearly, the Right’s propaganda with its endless repetition is very effective, especially given the failure of the American Left to invest significantly in a competing message machine. The Right also has adopted the tone of populism, albeit in support of a well-to-do economic elite.

Yet, perhaps most importantly, the Right has stuck with its battle plan for rallying a significant percentage of middle-class Americans against their own interests.

Four decades ago, President Richard Nixon and his subordinates won elections by demonizing “hippies,” “welfare queens” and the “liberal media.”

Then, in the late 1970s, a tripartite coalition took shape consisting of the Republican Establishment, neoconservatives and the leaders of the Christian Right. Each group had its priorities.

The rich Republicans wanted deep tax cuts and less business regulation; the neocons wanted big increases in military spending and a freer hand to wage wars; and the Christian Right agreed to supply political foot soldiers in exchange for concessions on social issues, such as abortion and gay rights. Ultimately, each part of the coalition got a chunk of what it wanted.

From Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, the rich got their taxes slashed, saw regulations rolled back and gained a larger share of the nation’s wealth and political power. The neocons got massive military spending and the chance to dispatch U.S. soldiers to kill Israel’s Muslim enemies. The Christian Right got help in restricting abortions and punishing gays.

But what did the American middle-class get?

Over those three decades, the middle-class has stagnated or slipped backward. Labor unions were busted; jobs were shipped overseas; personal debt soared; education grew more expensive, along with medical care. People were working harder and longer – for less. Or they couldn’t find jobs at all.

With today’s Tea Party and the Ryan budget, the Right’s coalition is staying on the offensive. If the House budget were passed in total, tax rates for the rich would be reduced another 10 percentage points; military spending would remain high to please the neocons (who foresee a possible war with Iran); and Planned Parenthood and other pet targets of the Christian Right would be zeroed out.

Yet, with the proposed elimination of traditional Medicare, the Ryan budget has lifted the curtain on what the Right’s “free market” has in mind for most average Americans, who could expect to find their lives not only more brutish but shorter.

The real-life-and-death consequences of the Right’s tax cuts, military spending and culture wars are finally coming into focus. If you’re not rich – and can’t afford to pick up the higher tab on health care – you’re likely to die younger. Or your kids might have to dig into their pockets to help you out.

Less extreme but still troubling, another consequence of the Right’s remarkable success over the past three decades might become apparent on your TV screens this fall.

Thanks to all those right-wing judges packed onto federal appeals courts by Reagan and the two Bushes, American football fans might not have the NFL to watch.

The NFL’s lockout of its players seemed to be ending several weeks ago when a lower-court judge ruled against the billionaire owners, but the NFL’s lawyers confidently filed an appeal to a three-judge panel on the Eighth Circuit, knowing that they would surely get one dominated by Republican judges.

They did. Steven Colloton and Duane Benton, two Republicans appointed by George W. Bush, constituted the majority on the panel and reflexively sided with the NFL’s owners.

The ruling should have surprised no one. After all, the Right’s default position is almost always to side with the billionaires.

[For more on these topics, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a two-book set for the discount price of only $19. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com

emphasis mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151138/siding_with_the_billionaires%3A_how_the_right_is_waging_a_class_war_against_all_but_the_wealthiest_americans?akid=7039.123424.rXHQHd&rd=1&t=5