Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Or Maybe Guns

On a radio show last week, GOP Representative Chris Sessions of Texas, reports Scott Keyes of Think Progress,

was asked to weigh in on the horrific shooting on live TV of two journalists in Virginia. After acknowledging that widespread gun violence is a daily occurrence in the United States, Sessions zeroed in on what he viewed as the real cause.

“It has a lot to do with distrust of people. Chris, I have been in lots of societies, we could say like Japan, where they have a homogeneous society, where people are more alike,” Sessions said. He went on to discuss “this thought process that we have to have diversity in America.”

Although Sessions did acknowledge that “we should and we need to work for” a kind of mutual respect across diverse groups, the thrust of his remarks was that diversity breeds a kind of mistrust that sparks gun violence. “We have a group of people that are in our country that we’re afraid of, that have created chaos and confusion. And now our country is confused” he told Salcedo, without elaborating on precisely who that group of people is.

It's an interesting theory, one not original with Sessions, although to assume the approach  Republicans take on climate change: I am not a sociologist (only a Bachelor's Degree there).  It is, at least and probably only, a better explanation than mental health.

But if ethnic diversity per se increases crime at all, the good Senator might want to explain why Hawaii has the lowest rate of gun-related deaths (table from The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, below; also, here) in the nation. Another website, determining the most diverse state in the nation, concluded

At the top of the list, understandably, the state that lies farthest from the homeland: the volcanic island paradise of Hawaii. Ranking first for its non-white population (69.8% in 2009) and mixed-race population (18% in 2009), Hawaii is far above the national average for all three categories. (It ranks sixth in foreign-born population.)

And it's not as if  Hawaiians are prone to use their fists, knives, or some other weapon because firearms are relatively unavailable.  Its murder rate is second lowest in the nation. The first is Iowa, which has the tenth most restrictive gun laws.

If he chose to, Sessions could point to Alaska, though he wouldn't, because it is GOP-dominated and very conservative. Alaska has a very high rate of murder, especially by firearm, and it's a relatively diverse state. However, it has the least restrictive firearm laws in the country. Louisiana is the next most lax- and has the highest rate of gun-related deaths.

Mental disease, diversity, too few guns, Democratic mayors, whatever: Sessions and other Republicans with an A+ from the National Rifle Association must find some excuse for the firearm violence more common here than practically anywhere else in the western world.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Explanation Requested

As with her husband who apologized ad infinitum for a consensual affair with a young woman, Hillary Clinton has apologized repeatedly. In her case, it was her support for Gulf War II, which sowed the seeds of the Islamic terrorism and civil war, death and destruction, which have gripped the region.

In her 2014 memoir Hard Choices, Clinton had admitted "I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn't alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple." More recently, in May, she explained "I made it very clear that I made a mistake, plain and simple. And I have written about it in my book, I have talked about it in the past."

Senator Biden also made the mistake of voting for the Iraq war resolution.  That was, however, an honest mistake, a case of bad judgement, which should be forgiven. However, well before  his unfortunate vote, as chairman of the Senate Judicial Committee, Biden acted reprehensibly and in a manner which has had serious repercussions for the nation. In an article written last year for The Huffington Post, The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism addressed Senate approval of an unqualified Clarence Thomas for the US Supreme Court:

Another witness was waiting to testify against Thomas, with information that could have helped corroborate Hill's allegations. But Angela Wright, then a North Carolina journalist who had been subpoenaed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and left waiting in a Washington hotel for three days, was never called to testify.

Wright heard Anita Hill and thought, "I believe her because he did it to me." Her testimony might have changed history. She was subpoenaed. Why wasn't she called to testify -- and what would she have said if she had been?

In 1994, Florence George Graves cleared up those mysteries in the Washington Post, revealing the intricate -- and bipartisan -- behind-the-scenes maneuvering by several Senate Judiciary Committee members to discourage Wright's testimony. The article, entitled "The Other Woman," uncovered a surprising agreement among top Republicans and Democrats not to call Wright, apparently because they feared either that her testimony would create even greater political chaos or that it would doom Thomas' nomination.

The article also revealed evidence suggesting that Thomas lied to the Committee. Several senators -- including then-Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, then-Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.), and several other key senators -- told Graves they believed that if Wright had testified, Thomas would not have been confirmed to the Supreme Court, where he has repeatedly voted to narrow the scope of sexual harassment law.

Further information, possibly leaked by Mrs. Clinton's campaign, has been brought to light. An e-mail sent October, 2010 by HRC confidante Sidney Blumenthal included a memorandum by David Brock which in turn, Politico reports, summarized interviews, appearing that week in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Washington's ABC television affiliate, with

Lillian McEwen, a former prosecutor, law professor and judge, who said she was romantically involved with Thomas during the time of the Anita Hill scandal.

McEwen was not subpoenaed to testify by Democrats or Republicans during the infamous October 1991 hearing, even after appealing to then-Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, for whom she had worked on the Judiciary Committee. According to Maureen Dowd's column cited from Oct. 23, 2010, Biden only allowed women who had professional relationships with Thomas to testify.

The memo, titled "Memo on Impeaching Clarence Thomas," cited the Times article in which McEwen called pornography for Thomas "just a part of his personality structure" and that he frequented a Washington store "that catered to his needs" and allegedly bled over into his personal relationships. The assertions stood in contrast with Thomas' sworn testimony in 1991 in which he denied having any sexual discussions with Hill.

The memo also detailed differences between McEwen's 2010 accounts and Thomas' testimony in terms of workplace behavior, including incidents in which Thomas remarked on the size of a woman's breasts or her bra size, as well as making the case for suppression of evidence and intimidating witnesses.

"A fourth woman with knowledge of Thomas's behavior, Kaye Savage, was first named in a 1994 book Strange Justice by Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer. Savage was a close colleague of Thomas's and Hill's in the Reagan Administration. Savage was interviewed by Judiciary Committee staff after she contacted the committee, and a staffer made notes, but she was never called to testify. Her story did not become public until Abramson and Mayer obtained the staff notes and interviewed Savage, who told the authors of visiting Thomas's apartment during the time Hill was working for Thomas and observing stacks of pornographic magazines and all of the walls of the apartment papered with centerfolds of large-breasted nude women," Brock wrote.

"You have the benefit of doubt, Judge," repeated chairperson Biden, a shocking statement from a lawyer, who presumably understands that benefit of the doubt applies specifically to criminal trial. If the Vice-President declares a presidential candidacy, he needs to be asked why he cleared a path for a lifetime job at the highest court in the land for a fellow who has voted against reproductive freedom, voting rights, campaign finance reform and the Affordable Care Act, and in favor of discrimination based on claimed religious belief.

Joe Biden must be asked repeatedly, until a clear and verifiable answer is given.  Senator Biden was not misled, unlike the occasion of the Iraq war vote.  He pampered and appeased Clarence Thomas, who reprehensibly accused the panel, engaged in its constitutional duty of advice and consent, of "a high-tech lynching"  (video, below). No objection was heard, and the race-mongering proved successful.  Although Biden ultimately voted against the nomination, the damage was done- Senators can count votes. Thomas now has stained the High Court for 24 years and without the help of the committee chairperson, he very likely would not have had that chance.

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Chris Christie Is Still The Master

When the most sensible comment by a GOP presidential contender is from Rand Paul, you know the Repub field is descending even deeper into the rathole.

There have been a lot of dumb ideas put out,” the Kentucky senator observed. “One that the Mexicans will pay for a wall, was probably the dumbest of dumb ideas. But putting a wall up between us and Canada is sort of a ridiculous notion."

That is an idea from Governor Scott Walker as he heads, if the country is lucky, toward political oblivion.  He spoke on Meet The Press Sunday of his town hall meetings in New Hampshire and in an exchange that wasn't shown on television, Walker was asked about building a wall on the USA-Canadian border. He replied "They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago. So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at,"

There are reasons that is a harebrained idea. It is at 5,525 miles the largest international border in the world, although 1,538 of that is between Canada and Alaska. The USA-Mexico border is a relatively paltry 1,933.4 miles, and you can see how quickly that is going up. Most Democrats are ideologically opposed to construction, and Republicans are still trying to figure out how it can be done for free. There are, additionally, a lot more Mexicans streaming into the USA than there are Canadians because it's, well, Canada. Charlie Pierce remarks

... consider the vast and staggering vista of stupidity opened up by the idea of building a fence from upper Maine to the shores of the Pacific. Leave aside the basic impracticality of the entire idea- What the hell are you going to do about that part of the border that runs through Lake Superior? Submarine nets? Sonar? Volunteer muskie fishermen with AK's intheir boats? Yikes. Forget I said that last part....

But if building a northern wall is impractical to the point of ludicrous, it is not as appalling as a suggestion from Chris Christie who, rumor has it, is still the the governor of New Jersey. The New York Times reports

 “At any moment, FedEx can tell you where that package is. It’s on the truck. It’s at the station. It’s on the airplane,” Mr. Christie told the crowd in Laconia, N.H. “Yet we let people come to this country with visas, and the minute they come in, we lose track of them.

He added: “We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in.”

He said 40 percent of illegal immigrants are allowed into the United States legally with a visa and then stay longer than their visa allows.

It's that police state element that might concern you, though for fans of American literature, it could be entertaining as a throwback to the Scarlet Letter.   However, the concept has been put into practice elsewhere in the world before, albeit in a more extreme fashion, with rather unpleasant consequences.

Cattle are branded (video, below) but human beings might be a little trickier. It would require a major expansion of government power, right up the alley for a guy whose authoritarian nature can rival that of Donald Trump.   But few middle class jobs would need to be created because a President Christie would take it private, and handing out subsidies to private companies like they're candy canes at a children's Christmas parade is his modus operandi.

Still, Christie's idea has the advantage, in a GOP competition, of being both inhumane and impractical. Scott Walker- and maybe even Donald Trump- have a lot of learning to do.

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