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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What We Left Behind: Filkins profiles the Maliki "Frankenstein"

Some articles should be required reading for all Americans and What we Left Behind by Dexter Filkins in the April 28 2014 "The New Yorker" is definitely among the essential classics. 

In a nutshell, Filkins describes what, in my mind, is the creation of a Frankenstein version of an Iraqi leader named Nuri al Maliki. It's beyond a non-fiction tragedy, because so much of America's youth and money have been misplaced in this terrible creation. 

Filkins profiles the emergence of Maliki, selected by the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), to prop up the American invasion of the sovereign Iraq nation and create the illusion of forming a Constitutional government. Maliki's reign of terror is just as miserable a failure as Frankenstein was at becoming a human being - only, of course, Iraq is not Shelley's fiction. In fact, he's worse.

How Americans got wrapped up in the invasion of Iraq under the guise of "we must never forget", a smoke and mirrors offshoot of a misunderstood anti-terrorism retaliation, is something future historians will definitely autopsy. An attack on New York City's World Trade Center and the Washington DC Pentagon building, on September 11, 2001, became fodder for the invasion of Iraq, while the terrorists who initiated these attacks were nestled in the mountains of Afghanistan and remote regions of Pakistan.

But that's not what Filkins writes about.  

Instead, "What We Left Behind" describes the creation of the monster leadership of Nuri al Maliki, to create the illusion of a new Iraq.  In reality, there's only misery, tyranny, corruption and continued violence in Iraq, post the American invasion. 

What's most sickening is how the Iraqi city of Falluja, where over a thousand Americans died while defending, is now in the hands of an Al Qaeda splinter group of men, who fought against the Americans. In other words, the fight for control of Falluja has, ultimately, been lost.

It now appears the Iraqi government is more aligned with Syria than with the US, meaning there's potentially Russian, behind the scenes, influence (but Filkins doesn't hint at this concept in his article, except for one reference to the Syrian-Iraqi connection). 

If Maliki wins a third term as Iraq's prime minister, the prediction is that he will never leave. In fact, his son Ahmed Maliki is being groomed as his successor. This real possibility of a third term makes Maliki no better, maybe even worse, a dictator than, Saddam Hussein.   

How did this happen?

"The capture of Iraqi territory by Islamic extremists, barely two
years since the last American soldiers left, prompted an extraordinary wave of soul-searching in Iraq and the United States, which lost more than thirteen hundred men and women in Anbar Province," writes Filkins.

In my opinion, the answer to the rhetoric question about "how this happened?", is tragically unsolvable. Nevertheless, just asking the question underscores the underlying difficult issue for the historical medical examiners to unravel. Future historians, those unleashed from the shackles of misplaced patriotic emotions, will undoubtedly determine that it was completely unnecessary for Americans to invade Iraq, in the first place.  

Meanwhile, the Maliki "Frankenstein" reign of "in your face America", appears to be heading toward the point of no return.  If Maliki wins a third term, his nation will then take up arms against the Kurds, who are trying to set up a civilized government in northern Iraq and may well secede from the Iraqi nation. Any move toward Kurdish independence will be perceived and reacted to like Russian president Putin re-claiming the Crimea. Furthermore, I predict, America's response will be just as lame.  

Nevertheless, in my opinion, Iraq's fiasco isn't because of President Obama's leadership. It was President George Bush (41) who prevented the first Iraq War from finishing off the dictator Saddam Hussein. Then, his son President George W. Bush (43) claimed "mission accomplished!", although, it never was accomplished.....and still isn't.  President George Bush(41) didn't follow up with General Swarskopf's leadership and President George W. Bush created a blood bath in Iraq, trying to clean up what his father left undone. (I know that's a brutal synopsis, but it's how I see it.)

Obviously, I'm not the historical medical examiner, trying to determine how Iraq has deteriorated, when America was supposed to have saved it under George W. Bush's banner of "freedom". 

Neither do I have any idea how America can un-create Maliki's Frankenstein leadership.  

One thing Filkin makes clear in his exceptionally well written report is that America's lack of presence in Iraq is a huge mistake.

Americans created this Frankenstein Maliki, in my opinion. Therefore, it's essential for us to make the monster Maliki disappear, back into his test tube. 

But, we're no longer in Iraq. As a result, the CIA created Maliki monster, supported by the Bush administration, lives on.

All Americans must take the time to become educated by reading "What We Left Behind - An increasingly authoritarian leader, a return of sectarian violence and a nation worried for its future," by Dexter Filkins in the April 28, 2014 The New Yorker.  

In other words, the Bush administration's misguided leadership to free Iraq, by both Presidents 41 and 43, as influenced by Vice-President Dick Cheney, were miserable and embarrassing failures.

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Meeting two saints - Saint Pope John XXIII and Saint Pope John Paul II

This is a story about having the rare opportunity to meet two saints. Both of them were canonized today, in St. Peter's Basilica, at an extraordinary double canonization Mass, con-celebrated by Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.   

Okay, one of those two saints I met posthumously. Yet, he was there, all laid out and fully dressed, found while I was walking around St. Peter's Basilica, like any ordinary tourist. I just happened to find the beautifully dressed remains of Saint Pope John XXIII displayed in full view for anyone who wanted to spend time with him. There were no directions to a shrine announcing where Pope John XXIII was laying in state, but faithful wanderers in the magnificent St. Peter's Basilica could simply find him laying in a crystal glass reliquary. Indeed, my husband Richard and I spent quiet time with the remains of Blessed Pope John XXIII. We meditated within a few feet of his crystal casket, and pondered the man who was once alive. It was more like looking at a painting, rather than witnessing human remains. Was his spirit there with us while we gazed at his remains? Certainly, our human curiosity was evident. Not many people gathered around Pope John XXIII's remains. His mortality was too real, too close to our own inevitability and starkly displayed, reminding us of our imminent deaths. This overt exposition of remains is not practiced in the United States. To say it's an unusual display is an understatement. But, nevertheless, my husband and I spent silent time with the beautiful remains of Saint Pope John XXIII. He really looked good.

Meeting Saint Pope John Paul II was a different experience. He was very much alive when my husband and I saw him, when we attended his celebration of Christmas Midnight Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in the late 1990s. Pope John Paul II was well enough, at that time, to walk down the basilica's center aisle when we saw him. It's a long walk down that center aisle, a lengthy distance, even for a healthy senior citizens.

I was struck by the joyous reception Pope John Paul II received from the thousands of attendees at the Midnight Mass in St. Peter's. At that time, I'd never seen a Pope before, either living or dead. Therefore, it surprised me to experience the enthusiasm with which he was greeted. Thankfully, my Italian mother prepared me for the use of the word "Papa".  She told me the Italian people would address the Pope as "Papa". In fact, that's exactly what happened. At the stroke of Midnight on Christmas morning, the basilica began to fill with the growing chorus of "Papa, Papa!" repeated over and over until the Pope himself nearly sprinted down the center aisle. I believe the year we saw Pope John Paul II celebrate Midnight Mass was the last time he walked into the St. Peter's Basilica without assistance. In subsequent years, he used a mobile cart.  

Seeing a Pope who was alive at the time was just like being in the presence of a religious rock star. There's no other way to adequately explain this experience. Indeed, the charisma exuded from the person who represents the church Jesus Christ founded on earth, was electrifying. His appearance sent joy throughout the basilica, like seeing a rainbow form following a refreshing summer shower.

Being in the presence of Pope John Paul II, gave us a sense of awesomeness. In contrast, witnessing the remains of Pope John XXIII was sobering.

Nevertheless, my husband and I are sincerely humbled to have shared these rare experiences. There's no doubt that both of these holy Pope's are in heaven. They were flawed men, but the totality of their lives displayed an overwhelming devotion to God, prayer and holiness. 

I just wonder, with some trepidation, if my husband and I will have the rare chance to tell both men, who are now saints, how nice it was to meet them, while we were both mortal earthlings.  

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Republicans have no new ideas - many candidates run on fear, misinformation and myths

Pundits are already predicting the 2014 election will be challenging for Democrats and good for Republican candidates. Why? Instead of making hollow predictions, media reports have a responsibility to inform the the public about the ideas and policies defining candidates. Let me list the ideas and policies I see for each party, in a comparison report. After compiling these two quick lists below, I can't find any reason whatsoever for supporting Republican candidates.  

What's most distressing is how Americans are not hearing from the media, in a meaningful way, about how Republican and Democrat candidates are supporting the chance for the middle class to achieve and maintain the American Dream.  

Republican Ideas

1. Cut taxes for the rich

2. Support tax incentives ie corporate welfare for big corporations.

3. Cut social safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for the poor, veteran’s benefits, Pell grants for poor college students and food stamps.

4. Cut medical coverage for women who need access to health care and contraception.

5. Oppose equal pay for equal work for women and men.

6. Increase defense spending to spend on contracts for corporations that receive tax incentives.

7. Control access to voting by restricting polling hours on voting day and requiring picture ID cards, even though third world countries are able to minimize voter fraud with finger print or thumb prints.

8. Obstruction of job creation investments in the economy to build vital infrastructure like bridges, roads, railroads, high speed rail, public transportation and airports, policies that will benefit and improve the quality of life for the middle class.

9. Oppose universal access to health care.

10. Oppose Obamacare while government workers and elected officials enjoy government funded health insurance.

11. Support for unlimited Second Amendment rights regardless of the number of innocent people who are victims of gun violence.

12. Oppose quick path to citizenship for immigrants and asylum seekers.

Democrat Ideas

1. Share the wealth by supporting a graduated tax system based on income.

2. Assess corporations with a fair tax; eliminate loopholes.

3. Support for the promise made to people who invest in Social Security and Medicare.

4. Create support for people who need public assistance like Medicaid for the disabled, severely and persistently mentally ill and the mentally challenged.

5. Support for universal health care.

6. Support for women’s health and safety net for children’s health programs like CHIP and food stamps.

7. Support for equal pay for equal work “Lilly Ledbetter”

8. Support a strong defense system.

9. Support for veterans who give up their youth to defend America.

10. Expand voting rights for all American citizens.

11. Support investment in America’s infrastructure, bridges, high speed rail, roads, public transportation and the jobs associated with these projects.

12. Support for Obamacare.

13. Support for reasonable gun regulations to prevent the growing public health problem of gun violence.

14. Support for education for all children from pre-school through high school, college or technological institutes.

15. Support for a rapid path to citizenship for all immigrants and asylum seekers.

It makes no sense for Republicans to be declaring the 2014 elections as theirs to loose.  Instead of acting like the rooster at sunrise, the Republicans should be creating ideas rather than reacting to worn out old policies where there is virtually no proof of desirable outcomes.  There's virtually no evidence that any of the Republican ideas on my home made list has created one job or improved the human condition.  

Instead of intimidating voters with picture ID cards and obstructing voters rights, I'd like for all Secretary of State regulations to include asking voters to write, on the ballot, the reason why they're voting for a particular candidate. I suspect a required explanation by voters could create an informed electorate, as well as educate those of us who are mystified to understand why anybody would vote for idea void Republicans.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Georgia joins the gun-a-thon obsession - guns everywhere becoming a dangerous fashion trend

It's cynical and certainly not funny, but it seems to me the ownership of guns in America has now reached
the obsession level of a fashion craze. It won't be long before models with pencil thin figures will wear tiny handguns in their cleavage. Gun manufacturers will soon be crafting these deadly fashion accessories in designer colors. Men will wear their fashion weapons like an extension of their phallus designs.

In George, the Southern fashionistas might  even be pre-ordering their custom made weapon designs as I write this blog.

Unfortunately, Georgia doesn't want to be accused of being the last southern state to sign on to guns on demand obsession, so the Governor signed a law allowing all  guns all the time, even if the weapons are accidentally carried into an airport.

Of course, Georgia is the state where born again Christians believe fervently in pro-life and anti abortion politics. Being pro-life doesn't seem to matter when it comes to guns. Of course, protecting babies in utero is noble and moral. Yet, if an expectant mother happens to be shot by a gun in Georgia, it might not be quite such a terrible crime as accessing an abortion, even if the mother's decision happens to be driven by crises circumstance - like rape.  

I'm even surprised guns aren't sold at home retail parties.

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association controls all politicians who might stand in opposition to unlimited access to guns. In other words, anyone who dares to speak sensibly about gun ownership is simply defeated at the ballot box. This is corruption by one special interest group that's abusing the Second Amendment rights provided by the US Constitution, upheld by the US Supreme Court. (Former US Supreme Court Justice Stevens is speaking about the Court's recent decisions to lift regulation about gun ownership. Stevens says the Second Amendment, written in 1787, was intended to protect militias, not to support gun ownership of deadly assault weapons for private use.)

With Georgia's Governor Deal's signature, the state joins the gun-a-thon fashion obsession. Huffington Post reports:

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed a sweeping gun rights bill on Wednesday.  House Bill 60, also known as The Safe Carry Protection Act, will allow licensed gun owners to carry their firearms into public places, including bars, nightclubs, schools, churches and government buildings.

“People who follow the rules can protect themselves and their families from people who don’t follow the rules,” Deal said, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should reside at the forefronts of our minds.”

The National Rifle Association has praised the bill as "the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent state history" and called it a “historic victory for the second amendment.” Americans for Responsible Solutions, a gun control organization started by former Rep. Gabrille Giffords (D-Ariz.), fought todefeat the bill, calling it "the most extreme gun bill in America."

Colin Goddard, a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting who now works with the advocacy group Everytown For Gun Safety, called the bill "unprecedented."

“The Stand Your Ground expansion is truly a new type of Stand Your Ground as we know it,” Goddard said of the measure, which some critics dubbed the "guns everywhere" bill. “To expand it in such a way to remove all carrying or possession offenses is really unprecedented.”

I wonder if Georgia's Governor would throw live influenza virus on the streets of Atlanta? Perhaps Governor Neal needs to understand how guns kill people just like germs, viruses and cancer.

Shame on the justices of the US Supreme Court! Their Second Amendment rulings protect gun owners rights over the innocent lives of victims of uncontrolled violence, caused by access to guns.
These victims of gun violence includes police officers and Congresswoman Giffords, of Arizona.

But, right now, the obsession with gun ownership has gone vogue.
Owning a gun is as fashionable as hip clothing or designer shoes.

Consequently, thousands more innocent people will preventably die as a result of this unexplainably deadly trend.  

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Louisiana's Bible "book" - denying French Acadians raises anti-Catholic discrimination

Louisiana Bible"book" information reveals hypocrisy, posted April 25 2014, in "The Week", in  "Only in America", a side bar segment, - p.4. It's like a Ripley's Believe it or Not religious enigma.  

If the King James version of the Bible becomes Louisiana's state book, then the New Orleans Saints football team should change their name to the "Creationists".

Hypocritical, history denying, politicians and religious zealots in the Louisiana legislature are in the process of passing a law to create the King James version of the Bible as the "official state book". 

What happened to the Bible read by other Christians - like the French Acadians, for example?

Wake up you French Acadians! Those of you who live in the land of Evangeline! This elite selection of the King James version of the Bible as the state "book" is anti-Catholic and anti-French cultural discrimination.

Louisiana has a long history as Roman Catholic territory. Even the state's namesake is King Louis of France and may even have been named after the one who was canonized. Hello?  
St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square (visited by Pope John Paul II), the French Quarter, the Creole French spoken by native Louisianans. Even the state's seal is a Roman Catholic symbol of the Pelican, a water fowl that has a legend of feeding its young from its own flesh and blood.

If the King James version of the Bible becomes Louisiana's state book, then the New Orleans Saints football team should change their name to the "Creationists".

In fact, what's more significant, by singling out the King James version of the Bible, Louisianans are denying the tragic history of the largely Roman Catholic French Acadians, who found refuge in Louisiana before Christian religious zealots took hold there. These down trodden Acadians (Cajuns) were people thrown out of their homes in Nova Scotia (Acadia), in 1755, by the British. Their property was illegally confiscated and their families were separated so they couldn't reclaim their inheritances. Many of these desperate refugees eventually found their way to Louisiana, because it was a Catholic colony where French was spoken. Since the 1800's, the French Acadians have maintained their culture, their Roman Catholicism and tried to retain their way of speaking French. It's an absolute insult to the success Acadians brought to building the cultural economy of Louisiana to have its lawmakers create a state book that excludes the Roman Catholic edition of the Bible.  

Nevertheless, more alarming is how the French Acadians allowed this ridiculous legislation to advance, without squelching it for the discrimination fears it raises. After all, the state's modern history of Ku Klux Klan rallies included Roman Catholics in cross burning hate rallies.

The The Times Picayune newspaper reports on some legislators who are trying to educate their peers, by voting against this bill for the very reason that it has the potential to create religious intolerance.

"In particular, some lawmakers worried that singling out the King James version of the Bible would not properly reflect the culture of Louisiana. The Catholic Church, for example, does not use the King James text," reports The Times Picayune.

"Let's make this more inclusive of other Christian faiths, more than just the ones that use the King James version," said Rep. Stephen Ortego, D-Carencro.

Unbelieveable, but the Louisiana legislators gave the first hurdle of this horrible piece of legislation a pass.  

So, let me get this right.  

When 2015's Mardi Gras rolls around, a time when New Orleans is cashing in on the resulting economic boom this event brings their way, the motto should no longer be "les bontemps roule", but rather, "....you have made my house a den of thieves..."
(Mathew 21: 12-13 KJV)

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rancher Cliven Bundy reveals the farm welfare issue - smart ranchers should tell him to mind his own business

When will ranchers circle their wagons around the dangerously recalcitrant Cliven Bundy, for the purpose of telling him to mind his own business?  An informative article in the blog Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) explains a little about the lot I don't know, regarding grazing rights for cattle that feeds on federal land.  After reading the blog, sent by a follower who lives in Bangor, ME, the information, as I understand it, means that rancher Bundy has drawn undue attention to the issue of cattle grazing fees.  In fact, Bundy owes the government a huge amount of money, because he refuses to pay the fees, while his cattle have been eating for free. Truth be told, if the federal government Bundy complains about sold the land to ranchers, the cost of feeding cattle would go up, meaning food prices would go even higher and, thereby, put at risk the entire US cattle farming business. Why? It turns out, cattle grazing fees are less of a cost to ranchers than the money needed to own and maintain private grazing land. 

Here's the blog titled Western Welfare Queens April 18, 2014:


Americans often look at the men and women who earn their living off the land in the west as rugged individualists. That may be true, but look a little closer at their books and many are less Marlboro Man and more Fat Cat. Under their weathered veneer is a public subsidy cowboy living high on the hog because of sweetheart deals including water, mining, crop insurance, grazing, livestock disaster, and other subsidies from Uncle Sam. There’s too much to cover in one Wastebasket, but since the issue of federal land management and grazing in the West was in the spotlight this past week we’ll look at that.

Grazing on public lands came into the fore recently when federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents seized Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle to settle the more than $1 million in fines he has racked up since 1993. The fines are a result of Bundy grazing his cattle on BLM lands where grazing is prohibited, land for which he didn’t have one of the 18,000 federal permits in the west.

Leaving aside the whole armed standoff and ridiculous constitutional questions that Bundy boosters raised (yes, they are federal lands, they were before Nevada became a state and Nevada gave up any claim to them to become a state; furthermore state law has a litany of provisions regarding the intersection of grazing and federal land) this latest incident highlights the problems with the nation’s grazing rules for federal lands.

Federal grazing rules are outdated, too generous, and don’t even come close to covering the costs taxpayers bear in maintaining federal grazing lands.

While the Forest Service has charged private cattlemen a fee to graze on public lands for 108 years, BLM is a relative newcomer – charging only since 1936. Supposedly BLM annually takes livestock prices, cost of cattle production, AND private grazing fees into account when setting the price. That’s hard to figure whengovernment data pegs private grazing fees at roughly $18 per Animal Unit Month (AUM represents the amount of forage (e.g. grass) a cow and her calf need for a month) throughout the west over the past two years. In Nevada the average private grazing fee was $15 per AUM. Yet this year the BLM fee is set at $1.35 per AUM.

These highly discounted rates come about because current rules enshrine the cost ranchers paid to graze on private lands in 1966, $1.23 per AUM, as the starting point for fees. This year’s $1.35 per AUM represents a whopping 12 cent increase over the last 48 years. And part of that is only because a 1986 Executive Order set a floor of $1.35 for the grazing fee. Even though the costs to graze on private land have increased substantially since Lyndon Johnson was president, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) found that in the 28 years since the 1986 Executive Order the annual fee has been set at the floor 16 times and has never exceeded $2.00, topping out at $1.98 in 1994. Simply taking inflation since 1966 into account the fee should be at least $8.97.

The fees charged for grazing permits fall far short of the cost taxpayers incur for opening these lands to ranchers. In 2005, the Government Accountability Office estimated that federal grazing fees covered a little more than 13 percent of overall program funding in fiscal year 2004, a pattern confirmed by the Congressional Research Service in their analysis of fiscal year 2009 spending. Certainly there are differences between private land and public land in quality, but there are also a variety of federal programs such as Wildlife Services (killing wolves and other predators) that also benefit ranchers.

The federal grazing program is a sweetheart deal for ranchers so it’s not surprising ranchers want to use that land. If you think about it, if they owned that land, they would have to maintain it and pay taxes on it. Having taxpayers subsidize your grazing fees is a much cheaper way to go. The vast, vast majority of ranchers using public lands are law abiding, responsible citizens. It’s just that the law gives them a trough full of subsidies at taxpayer expense.

Question from Maine Writer:  Does Fox News ever research anything the network reports, or do their incendiary reporters just accept yellow journalism as being good for their right wing ratings?  Since Republicans and right wing extremists are vocally opposed to all the US government supports, except , of course, for the Constitution according to them, then it seems to me Fox News should be on the side of investigative journalism, to find out how much money tax payers are investing in subsidies for cattle grazing.
Instead, Fox News reporters are hanging out like vultures on a battle field just frothing at the prospect of reporting on ranchers rights versus the federal government.  In fact, the real story is ranchers rights versus tax payers rights!
  
An even better idea is for the US Congress to cut grazing rights subsidies, instead of veterans benefits earned on the battle fields of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although Fox News clearly takes advantage of it's right to free speech under the Constitution, the fact is, the network violates the do no harm rule of journalism, ie, "report the news, don't create it".

Meanwhile, as Fox News buzzards circle the cattle grazing fields, looking for government conspiracies to improve ratings, the hard working, smart and compliant ranchers, who benefit from paying grazing rights fees, should take Bundy out to the range barn. That's the place where Bundy can get an education, from his peers, about what's at stake when tax payers figure out how much money we're pouring into their welfare system.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Cliven Bundy abuses his American citizenship to demand illegal free cattle grazing rights

Standing hypocritically in front of a high flying American flag while the incendiary Fox News network froths in anticipation of harmful violence, the rancher against the federal government is played out, again, like an orchestrated historical reinactment. Unfortunately, the only difference between this historic tension and a reenactment is that we don't yet know the outcome of this power struggle. Nevertheless, the fact is, rancher Cliven Bundy is breaking the law.

Rancher Bundy is a free loader, because his colleagues pay for the cattle grazing rights he protests against the federal government via the media.

Regardless of how sympathetic a figure Fox News is creating in Bundy's illegal resistance to a law everybody else adheres to, there's a lot the federal government can do, absent violence, to assure Bundy will eventually wind up in jail.  

In the event Bundy continues to uses the Fox News yellow journalism to misrepresent his unlawful behavior, the federal government, nevertheless, has the authority to hold the rancher's family and heirs accountable to abide by federal land use laws.  

Although I'm certainly not a lawyer, I suspect the Bundy family will be unable to sell any of their land while they owe the federal government over one million dollars in land use fees.

What irks me is how Bundy, or somebody who's staging the media events the rancher uses to create a brouhaha about how he's breaking the law, speaks like he's a misguided Moses, standing in front of a high flying American flag. In any other country on earth, Bundy would already be in prison. Bundy uses his American free speech rights to break the law, while he calls in Fox News to make his unlawful behavior look sympathetically legitimate. I don't know anything about land rights laws in the west, except that almost everybody abides by them. 

If Bundy believes these long standing land use laws are illegitimate, then he and his Fox News friends should be challenging them in the courts, including the US Supreme Court, rather than staging made for television stand off media events.  

Meanwhile, Bundy is delusional if he believes his defiance will win against the long view of the federal government. Bundy's land use will be seriously curtailed until he figures out a way to either pay his one million dollar back land use fees, or goes to federal prison for breaking the law or both.

Unfortunately, Bundy feels empowered by the yellow journalism of Fox News. This is exponentially tragic, because the ripple effect of the rancher's defiance will undoubtedly lead to spin off violence. In my opinion, anybody who wants to deliberately break the law should be punished. This includes Fox News, because, by fueling the rancher's delusional belief that he can defy the federal government in the media, they are contributing to whatever violence ensues in the future.

There's precedent for this premise. Oklahoma City bombing being the most heinous example. 

Fox News is enabling the rancher Bundy's delusions, as well as encouraging future violence resulting from the illegal power struggle over land use fees.    

Fox News and Cliven Bundy are using their free speech rights as Americans to challenge the federal government's authority.  

Of course, both Fox News and rancher Bundy have the right to challenge anybody, including the federal government. But, neither of them as the right to break the law or enable somebody to do so. Moreover, it's highly unlikely Bundy will be allowed to continue breaking the land use laws, regardless of how anxious Fox News becomes to support this illegal behavior.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Michael Bloomberg excercising free speech to stand up for gun safety while National Rifle Association complains

Free speech in America is a right for all citizens to appreciate and enjoy. Therefore, when the US Supreme Court equated money with free speech, it made perfect sense for former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg to exercise his right under the Constitution, to give money for the purpose of fighting gun violence. It's his free speech right.

In other words, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has the right to support unmitigated access to assault weapons used to kill people, as interpreted by the Second Amendment. Likewise, Michael Bloomberg exercised his free speech rights to oppose unregulated access to guns used to kill people. He gave money to "Every Town for Gun Safety" and to oppose the unlimited sale of assault weapons.

Bloomberg's right to spend his money to exercise free speech rights has raised the ire of the NRA. Now, the NRA will be challenged by the grass roots movement that Bloomberg's free speech money is funding. Finally, the NRA will have competition over the influence they exhibit with politicians who, as a result of strong arm tactics aka "campaign donations" are left powerless to support gun regulations.

CNN reports -- Michael Bloomberg is investing a chunk of his personal fortune to minimize the influence of the National Rifle Association.

The former New York City mayor pledged $50 million to his new group Everytown for Gun Safety, an umbrella organization for his two other gun control groups: Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It aims to make the political climate more supportive of gun control.

The new organization plans to compete against the NRA by adopting its playbook. The NRA has built an impressive and effective organization that touts millions of members, a robust lobbying organization and a massive campaign arm.

"You've got to work at it piece by piece," Bloomberg told the The New York Times.


Thank you Michael Bloomberg.  Finally, somebody is standing up for those who are harmed and murdered in preventable gun violence. Rather than obsessing about Second Amendment rights, the Every Town for Gun Safety intends to prevent the useless loss of life because of zealots who believe guns are more important than protecting the lives of innocent victims.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Evil in Kansas City on the eve of Jewish Passover - Congress Must Act

Evil infects hate mongers like viruses attack healthy cells in polio or the deadly influenza. When people who harbor evil fueled by hate, and then access guns, the results are as deadly as any lethal disease.

It makes virtually no sense to see gun violence killing more innocent people than some infectious diseases. Consequently, it's incredulous for the US Congress to remain politically paralyzed, being unable to pass laws to regulate the sale of weapons or the ammunition used to kill people.

Tragically, the evil cocktail of hate, racism antisemitism and guns took hold of Frazier Glenn Cross 73, a white supremacist, when he shot and killed innocent Christians at Kansas City, Kansas Jewish Community Centers, on the eve of Passover. 

CNN is reporting that Cross opened fire at two Kansas City-area Jewish centers. But the three people he killed were Christian.

The suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, faces charges of first-degree murder. Organizations that track hate groups describe Cross, who is also known as Frazier Glenn Miller, as a long-time white supremacist.  At a news conference on Monday, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said that investigators had "unquestionably determined...that this was a hate crime."

What's also unquestionable is that Cross (aka Miller) had access to guns. In the absence of deadly weapons, the three innocent Christians, one being a 14 year old young man, who were killed in Kansas City, couldn't have become the victims of this violent hate crime. If the white supremacist had infected the three innocent victims with the plague or a nerve paralyzing toxin, the US Congress would, no doubt, be calling for ways to prevent people from gaining access to deadly biochemical weapons. But, guns are protected by the US Constitution under the Second Amendment so they  don't qualify as being as deadly as biochemical toxins. Although the intention of guns in the hands of a hate filled white supremacist are the same as access to deadly biochemical weapons, the US Congress will, nonetheless, do absolutely nothing to prevent gun deaths, while it's highly likely outrage would ensue to prevent the latter.

We feel tremendous sympathy for the victims of the Kansas City white supremacist killings.It's impossible to understand how evil can so easily overcome innocent people on the solemn occasion of Passover eve. Nevertheless, the mother of the 14 year old killed, who is also the daughter of a second victim, and who found both of their bodies, asks for prayers for herself and the others. As a survivor, she expressed tremendous faith, saying that the killings of her father and son will somehow lead to a spiritual community awakening, by bringing people together in shared grief. She's obviously a lady strengthened by her extraordinary faith.

By continuing to allow guns and ammunition to remain unregulated, our US Congress is behaving irresponsibly. Congress has the means to pass laws to prevent many gun violence deaths but remain unable to act - like they just don't get it....guns cause preventable deaths, it's as simple as that.

Meanwhile, political inaction permits evil, harbored by hate mongers consumed by delusions of power, to access guns for the purpose of infecting harm on innocent people.  

Our sincere sympathy to the innocent Kansas City victims of the Passover eve gun killings.  

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ukraine must not be the 21st century deja vu of 1939 Poland versus Hitler

Russia's President Putin's actions to challenge a take over of the Ukraine is like Adolf  Hitler's evil ambitions in the years before Europe was ravaged by the Nazi and the 1939 invasion of Poland.

In the mid, and late 1930s, France, and especially Britain followed a foreign policy of appeasement with Germany, Hitler and the Nazi political party. The objective of this policy was to maintain peace in Europe, by making limited concessions to German demands for claiming Austria and Poland. In Britain, public opinion tended to favor some revision of the territorial and military provision of the Versailles treaty after World War I. 

Moreover, neither Britain nor France in 1938 were militarily prepared to fight a war against Nazi Germany, so few years after the World War I horror.

Britain and France essentially acquiesced to Germany's rearmament (1935-1937), remilitarization of the Rhineland (1936), and annexation of Austria (March 1938). In September 1938, after signing away the Czech border regions, known as the Sudetenland, to Germany at the Munich conference, British and French leaders pressured France's ally, Czechoslovakia, to yield to Germany's demand for the incorporation of those regions. Despite Anglo-French guarantees of the integrity of rump Czechoslovakia, the Germans dismembered the Czechoslovak state in March 1939 in violation of the Munich agreement. 

Britain and France responded by guaranteeing the integrity of the Polish state. Hitler responded by negotiating a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union in the summer of 1939. The German-Soviet Pact of August 1939, which stated that Poland was to be partitioned between the two powers, enabled Germany to attack Poland without the fear of Soviet intervention.

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. The Polish army was defeated within weeks of the invasion. From East Prussia and Germany in the north and Silesia and Slovakia in the south, German units, with more than 2,000 tanks and over 1,000 planes, broke through Polish defenses along the border and advanced on Warsaw in a massive encirclement attack. After heavy shelling and bombing, Warsaw surrendered to the Germans on September 27, 1939. Britain and France, standing by their guarantee of Poland's border, had declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. The Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland on September 17, 1939. The demarcation line for the partition of German- and Soviet-occupied Poland was along the Bug River.

In October 1939, Germany directly annexed those former Polish territories along German's eastern border: West Prussia, Poznan, Upper Silesia, and the former Free City of Danzig. The remainder of German-occupied Poland (including the cities of Warsaw, Krakow, Radom, and Lublin) was organized as the so-called General gouvernement (General Government) under a civilian governor general, the Nazi party lawyer Hans Frank.

Nazi Germany occupied the remainder of Poland when it invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Poland remained under German occupation until January 1945.

Fast forward to 2014, and the world is in a deja vu situation.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed along Ukraine’s eastern border near Donetsk, Western leaders have worried that Moscow might use unrest in Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking areas as a pretext for an invasion.

LOVYANSK, Ukraine — For the first time, the Ukrainian government on Sunday sent its security services to confront armed pro-Russian militants in the country’s east, defying warnings from Russia. Commandos engaged in gunfights with men who had set up roadblocks and stormed a Ukrainian police station in Slovyansk, and at least one officer was killed, Ukrainian officials said. Although several officers were injured in the operation, as were four locals, officials said, the Russian news media and residents disputed that account, saying the Ukrainian forces had only briefly engaged one checkpoint. In either case, the government in Kiev has turned to force to restore its authority in the east, a course of action that Russia has warned against.

Putin's ambitions must be stopped. 

Economic sanctions have had a negative impact on Russia's stock market;  moreover, the currency of the ruble has been valueless, as a foreign currency, for decades.

Nevertheless, Russia's Putin is fiscally desperate. Money is owed to investors who extended their credit on the cost of the military and the opulence of the now passe Sochi 2014, Olympic Games.

Understandably, 21st century leaders are justifiably horrified by the prospect of challenging Russia and provoking the potential for another European conflict. Unbelievably, the only world leader who doesn't appear fearful of a European conflagration, like the prelude to World War II, is the Russian President Putin.

Ukranians can't become victims to Putin's ambitions. 

Ukranians don't have a puppet leader like the Syrian President Assad. Syria's president is supporting Putin's ambitions to maintain an open sea port at Tartus, regardless of the millions of innocent people, many of them Christians, who are murdered, tortured, killed and persecuted.

It will be difficult for all of Europe to hold together against Putin's ruthless vision to create a 21st century empirical Russia.

Yet, the horrible lessons of the 20th century must motivate the world to stand in opposition to the proliferation of Putin's evil ambitions.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Gun violence epidemic rooted in wrong minded Congressional interpretation of Constitutional Second Amendment rights

Retired Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court said in 1991:
the Second Amendment, "has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime", said Justice Burger.

If only America's founding fathers in 1787, had foreseen health care as an inalienable right, maybe the political struggle around the basic concept of keeping people from morbidity  and death wouldn't be so unnecessarily decisive. 

Ironically, the Second Amendment rights provided by the founding fathers are defending the gun violence over the safety of ordinary people. Nevertheless, the health care people desperately need when they tragically become victims of preventable gun violence is not provided for in the US Constitution. Only the right to own guns to inflict morbidity and mortality is protected.

Now, former US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is calling for a re-examination of how the Second Amendment has been protected since 1787, when the law was included in the basic rights of all Americans by the US Constitution.

A Washington Post article explains:  John Paul Stevens served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010. This essay is excerpted from his new book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.”

Following the massacre of grammar-school children in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, high-powered weapons have been used to kill innocent victims in more senseless public incidents. Those killings, however, are only a fragment of the total harm caused by the misuse of firearms. Each year, more than 30,000 people die in the United States in firearm-related incidents. Many of those deaths involve handguns.

The adoption of rules that will lessen the number of those incidents should be a matter of primary concern to both federal and state legislators. Legislatures are in a far better position than judges to assess the wisdom of such rules and to evaluate the costs and benefits that rule changes can be expected to produce. It is those legislators, rather than federal judges, who should make the decisions that will determine what kinds of firearms should be available to private citizens, and when and how they may be used. Constitutional provisions that curtail the legislative power to govern in this area unquestionably do more harm than good.

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution placed limits on the powers of the new American federal government. Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of the Second Amendment, which provides that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

For more than 200 years following the adoption of that amendment, federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated Militia.”


When Stevens joined the court in 1975, that holding was generally understood as limiting the scope of the Second Amendment to uses of arms that were related to military activities. During the years when Warren Burger was chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge or justice expressed any doubt about the limited coverage of the amendment, and, he writes, he could not recall any judge suggesting that the amendment might place any limit on state authority to do anything.
Organizations such as the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and mounted a vigorous campaign claiming that federal regulation of the use of firearms severely curtailed Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Five years after his retirement, during a 1991 appearance on “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” Burger himself remarked that the Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.

In recent years two profoundly important changes in the law have occurred. In 2008, by a vote of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court decided in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects a civilian’s right to keep a handgun in his home for purposes of self-defense. And in 2010, by another vote of 5 to 4, the court decided in McDonald v. Chicago that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment limits the power of the city of Chicago to outlaw the possession of handguns by private citizens. I dissented in both of those cases and remain convinced that both decisions misinterpreted the law and were profoundly unwise. Public policies concerning gun control should be decided by the voters’ elected representatives, not by federal judges.

In my dissent in the McDonald case, I pointed out that the court’s decision was unique in the extent to which the court had exacted a heavy toll “in terms of state sovereignty. . . . Even apart from the States’ long history of firearms regulation and its location at the core of their police powers, this is a quintessential area in which federalism ought to be allowed to flourish without this Court’s meddling. Whether or not we can assert a plausible constitutional basis for intervening, there are powerful reasons why we should not do so.”

“Across the Nation, States and localities vary significantly in the patterns and problems of gun violence they face, as well as in the traditions and cultures of lawful gun use. . . . The city of Chicago, for example, faces a pressing challenge in combating criminal street gangs. Most rural areas do not.”


In response to the massacre of grammar-school students at Sandy Hook Elementary School, some legislators have advocated stringent controls on the sale of assault weapons and more complete background checks on purchasers of firearms. It is important to note that nothing in either the Heller or the McDonald opinion poses any obstacle to the adoption of such preventive measures.

First, the court did not overrule Miller. Instead, it “read Miller to say only that the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns.” On the preceding page of its opinion, the court made it clear that even though machine guns were useful in warfare in 1939, they were not among the types of weapons protected by the Second Amendment because that protected class was limited to weapons in common use for lawful purposes such as self-defense. Even though a sawed-off shotgun or a machine gun might well be kept at home and be useful for self-defense, neither machine guns nor sawed-off shotguns satisfy the “common use” requirement.

Thus, even as generously construed in Heller, the Second Amendment provides no obstacle to regulations prohibiting the ownership or use of the sorts of weapons used in the tragic multiple killings in Virginia, Colorado and Arizona in recent years. The failure of Congress to take any action to minimize the risk of similar tragedies in the future cannot be blamed on the court’s decision in Heller.

A second virtue of the opinion in Heller is that Justice Antonin Scalia went out of his way to limit the court’s holding not only to a subset of weapons that might be used for self-defense but also to a subset of conduct that is protected. The specific holding of the case covers only the possession of handguns in the home for purposes of self-defense, while a later part of the opinion adds emphasis to the narrowness of that holding by describing uses that were not protected by the common law or state practice. Prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons, or on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, and laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings or imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms are specifically identified as permissible regulations.
Thus, Congress’s failure to enact laws that would expand the use of background checks and limit the availability of automatic weapons cannot be justified by reference to the Second Amendment or to anything that the Supreme Court has said about that amendment. What the members of the five-justice majority said in those opinions is nevertheless profoundly important, because it curtails the government’s power to regulate the use of handguns that contribute to the roughly 88 firearm-related deaths that occur every day.

There is an intriguing similarity between the court’s sovereign immunity jurisprudence, which began with a misinterpretation of the 11th Amendment, and its more recent misinterpretation of the Second Amendment. The procedural amendment limiting federal courts’ jurisdiction over private actions against states eventually blossomed into a substantive rule that treats the common-law doctrine of sovereign immunity as though it were part of the Constitution itself. Of course, in England common-law rules fashioned by judges may always be repealed or amended by Parliament. And when the United States became an independent nation, Congress and every state legislature had the power to accept, to reject or to modify common-law rules that prevailed prior to 1776, except, of course, any rule that might have been included in the Constitution.

The Second Amendment expressly endorsed the substantive common-law rule that protected the citizen’s right (and duty) to keep and bear arms when serving in a state militia. In its decision in Heller, however, the majority interpreted the amendment as though its draftsmen were primarily motivated by an interest in protecting the common-law right of self-defense. But that common-law right is a procedural right that has always been available to the defendant in criminal proceedings in every state. The notion that the states were concerned about possible infringement of that right by the federal government is really quite absurd.

As a result of the rulings in Heller and McDonald, the Second Amendment, which was adopted to protect the states from federal interference with their power to ensure that their militias were “well regulated,” has given federal judges the ultimate power to determine the validity of state regulations of both civilian and militia-related uses of arms. That anomalous result can be avoided by adding five words to the text of the Second Amendment to make it unambiguously conform to the original intent of its draftsmen. 


As so amended, it would read:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

Emotional claims that the right to possess deadly weapons is so important that it is protected by the federal Constitution distort intelligent debate about the wisdom of particular aspects of proposed legislation designed to minimize the slaughter caused by the prevalence of guns in private hands. Those emotional arguments would be nullified by the adoption of my proposed amendment. The amendment certainly would not silence the powerful voice of the gun lobby; it would merely eliminate its ability to advance one mistaken argument.

It is true, of course, that the public’s reaction to the massacre of schoolchildren, such as the Newtown killings, and the 2013 murder of government employees at the Navy Yard in Washington, may also introduce a strong emotional element into the debate. That aspect of the debate is, however, based entirely on facts rather than fiction. The law should encourage intelligent discussion of possible remedies for what every American can recognize as an ongoing national tragedy.
Copyright © 2014 by John Paul Stevens. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company. All rights reserved.

Of course, Justice Stevens is an expert on the US Constitution. We can't determine why the founding fathers gave gun ownership a high priority in crafting their brilliant document, while not addressing health care at all. Therefore, it's time to remedy both the phrasing of the Second Amendment and add an amendment to protect the right of all people to access health care. It obviously makes no sense to protect gun rights while ignoring the result of preventable morbidity and mortality caused by gun violence.  

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Putin has launched his blackmail campaign to withhold fuel to Europe - a temper tantrum that will eventually backfire

Russia's President Putin is desperately acting like the spoiled child who can't get his own way. Russia is short on cash and Putin is long on ego. So, now Putin is engaged in blackmailing Europe with threats to cut 18 nations natural gas deliveries, unless he gets his way - which means anything he wants. 

Remember when Putin stole a Super Bowl ring? Incredulously, he denies stealing it but everybody in the know let him get away with the theft, plus allowed him to lie about what he did. Robert Kraft was a perfect gentleman about the theft, preferring to not create an international incident, but in hind sight, the world should have seen the bully for who he is and demanded the ring to be returned. As a result of continuing to get his own way, Putin is now pulling the strings with Syria, and Crimea and the Ukraine while the rest of the world just issues one threat after another.

Nevertheless, Putin's Russia is short on cash and the ruble currency is useless outside of the country. So, maybe that Super Bowl ring Putin didn't steal will show up on an ebay auction, by an anonymous seller.  

It's difficult to say if Europe and the Ukraine can withstand Putin's dangerous temper tantrums and blackmail tactics. Eventually, Putin will have to sell his natural gas to somebody- like China. Yet, if those 18 European nations that received his blackmail letter would hold together, they're bound to create an economic crises in Russia when unsold gas is sitting around with no revenue forthcoming.

Meanwhile, Europe and the Ukraine are seeking alternative energy sources as their national defenses against any one nation holding hostage all fuel supplies. For example, atomic energy is abundantly evident throughout France and Germany.

Obviously, Putin is desperate for money or he wouldn't be using blackmail to get his way. 

Yet, just like a child who holds its breath in a temper tantrum, the way to break the habit is to let nature take its course and the breathing will naturally resume. Although Putin's tantrum is an extremely dangerous bully tactic, unfortunately, there's no other way to cure him but to let his money run out and he'll be forced to sell his Super Bowl ring to buy food.  

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Creationists apparently don't read the US Constitution but there's proof it was written in 1787

Why is it all the people who claim to be Creationists are also Republicans? I could be wrong (but I doubt it), yet I don't know anybody who claims to be a Creationist who is liberal, a Democrat, a feminist or a progressive. This observation gives even more proof of the Republicans' self fulfilling prophesy of, as Governor Jindal says, being "the stupid party".

Now South Carolina Republicans are contributing to Governor Jindal's prophesy by causing a Creationist brouhaha about passing a law declaring the Woolly Mammoth as the state's official fossil.

It's like "believe it or not". South Carolina's "stupid party" Creationists amended a bill about declaring the Woolly Manmoth the state's official fossil to include a reference to the Biblical description about how the earth was created.

It all began with a South Carolina child's attempt to make the Woolly Mammoth the state fossil of South Carolina. Incredulously, a bill to create the designation nearly became derailed when some state legislators wanted to mention that the woolly mammoth was made by the Christian God (not a Jewish or Muslim God?)

Well, indeed, the Woolly Mammoth is on track to becoming South Carolina's state fossil, because the Senate passed the bill! Unfortunately, this is how the bill was amended:

The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field, is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina and must be officially referred to as the 'Columbian Mammoth', which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field.

What happened is this. Apparently the Woolly Mammoth, contrary to the evidence via fossils proving its existence, didn't really exist at all. That's because nothing lived on earth beyond 10,000 years ago, say Creationists. Yet, there's evidence of a creature called the Columbian Mammoth having lived about 6,000 years ago. Therefore, this particular Mammoth creature was legitimate while the Woolly Mammoth, evidently, was illegitimate to believers of Creationism.

To make matters even "stupider", if Creationist Republican lawmakers in South Carolina could read the US Constitution, the one they swear to uphold, maybe they'd understand how our government doesn't allow blending of church (ie "religion") and state (ie laws). 

Thankfully, Americans have evidence of when the US Constitution was written, because it's dated 1787, which is clearly within the era when Creationists believe life created by God existed.   

Seems to me, the US Constitution should be easy for any Creationist to understand because many of them also believe it was a divinely inspired document.

Regardless of how Creationists want to think about when God created the earth or when Woolly Mammoths lived, they have no right under the US Constitution to put their beliefs into any laws.

Therefore, in my opinion, the Woolly Mammoth law in South Carolina is unconstitutional.  

Sadly, the school girl who initiated this good idea has now seen the stupid party at work. Perhaps an unintended consequence of this ridiculous legislative charade might be to encourage all school children to consider eventually putting Creationists into fossil boxes. South Carolina might even want to consider Republican Creationists, rather than the Woolly Mammoth, to be their official state fossil. 

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

When was the last time the US Supreme Court ruled in support of the people?

E.J. Dionne writes about how the US Supreme Court's rulings are undermining democracy in favor or oligarchy.

An oligarchy, Webster’s dictionary defines as “a form of government in which the ruling power belongs to a few persons.” It’s a shame that the Republican majority on the Supreme Court doesn’t know the difference between an oligarchy and a democratic republic, writes Dionne.

To put it in Maine Writer language, when was the last time the US Supreme Court created a ruling in favor of the people? 

Okay, maybe we can point to the one recent ruling in support of Obamacare. Even this ruling included the caveat that ordinary people who can't afford the health insurance exchanges, provided for in the law, are at the mercy of right wing state governments that won't expand Medicaid coverage. In other words, the high court ruled in favor of allowing people who can pay for health insurance to be able to buy it, but stopped short of extending the ruling to help those who cannot afford the coverage.  

Now the court is asked to rule on whether or not corporations can be protected from paying for contraception for women employees. Do these same corporations pay for Viagra for their male employees?  

Dionne points out the impact of the combination of decisions, Citizens United several years ago, and now McCutcheon - allowing unlimited campaign donations. Dionnne says the five Republican appointees to SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) - the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito - always side with the wealthy, the powerful and the forces that would advance the political party that put them on the court. The ideological overreach that is wrecking our politics is now also wrecking our jurisprudence.

America's Founding Fathers were aware of and opposed to the notion of unchecked hereditary wealth. But, they never anticipated the explosion of wealth in one generation on the scale seen it in the past several decades, where a Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg or others of that ilk could accumulate so much proportional to the rest of us that they could basically buy and sell entire state legislatures and administrations.

Campaign finance laws supported by the SCOTUS is changing the rules of democracy so the wealthy few have the opportunity to own a slice of America.

In so doing, the wealthy are undermining the value of the individual voters.  

Honestly, I simply can't recall any recent ruling by the SCOTUS where the average person is supported.  

Thereby, pointing to yet another excellent reason for all Republicans to be voted out of office- so the next round of Supreme Court Justices (whenever that is) will be of the people and for the people. 

Although  Supreme Court justices are appointed for life, they are mortal. As a result, their eternal salvation will be their ultimate jurisprudence. Meanwhile, the right wing Republicans on the court continue to issue rulings inconsistent with the best interest of our American democracy and undermine the value of voting rights by supporting oligarchy.

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Monday, April 07, 2014

Russian President Putin just can't control his Napoleonic aggression - NATO alert! Putin must be stopped, but when and how?

It's impossible to know when Russia's President Putin will eventually tip the patience of Western allies. Nevertheless, he's determined to stir up trouble until he gets his territorial way, regardless of the international consequences. Now, Putin is provoking Ukrainian unrest by setting up bullies to create violence inside the Ukraine, just to prove his antics can make a lot of trouble.
Portrait- Russian President Putin as painted by former President George W. Bush

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the US is warning Putin again about the fiscal sanctions Russia will incur if the aggression against the Ukraine and other potential targets continues.

“If Russia moves into Eastern Ukraine, either overtly or covertly, this would be a very serious escalation,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said, adding that the U.S. is “prepared to impose further sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy should the situation escalate.”
One thing is economically apparent. Putin's can't afford his Napoleonic ambitions in the Crimea or the Ukraine or anywhere else. His nation's ruble currency is useless outside his Russian borders. In my opinion, those braggarts and bullies that Putin is sending into the Ukraine to break windows for television viewing could easily be paid to defect by giving them each a handful of US dollars.  

Yet, President Putin is convinced he must create trouble or risk becoming irrelevant. 

It seems to me, the diplomats Secretary of State John Kerry and the Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov understand the seriously flawed international ramifications of Putin's spoiled behavior. It's a dangerous situation for the world to have a president in Russia, ie Putin, who simply can't mind his own business. 

Russia certainly has plenty of internal economic, infrastructure and ethnic problems. Nevertheless, Putin is a Cold Warrior rather than a diplomat or a national leader. He's certainly not interested in improving Russia's domestic stability, unless he can lock dissident people up and throw away the key. Rather, Putin seems to be at his worst when he has an enemy. He's incapable of summoning the statesmanship necessary to command a world leadership position, unless he gets his own way.  

Therefore, President Putin's cold war ambitions must be stopped.

Senator John McCain is an advocate for providing military support to the Ukraine so the people can be better armed to prevent more Russian agression.

Although this quick action shoot from the hip might provide some interim relief for the Ukraine, the long term risk of such military actions can't be foreseen.

Therefore, think about the preponderance of evidence in favor of patience as a tactic that might work to implode Putin's ambitions.  

Thinking about the junk Russian ruble, the cost of paying to keep the evil Syrian President Assad in power, and now the cost of assuming the Crimea as part of the Russian nation, will obviously implode the Russian economy. Maybe President Putin doesn't realize this, but he's not allowed to live forever. Consequently, patience and economic sanctions will undoubtedly bring down Putin's Napoleonic ambitions.

Of course, the problem is, how much danger will the spoiled Putin stir up before his nation experiences an implosion? Therein is the risk. Yet, there doesn't appear to be any alternative, except to wait.


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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Guns - Increase support for mental health care coupled by levying exorbitant taxes on ammunition to prevent future preventable killings

A Christian Science Monitor article raises the question about having military personnel carry guns on bases following a second Fort Hood Texas deadly shooting last week.  

Carrying guns won't solve the problem of preventing a lone gunman with a history of mental illness from killing people without warning, regardless of where, military base or anywhere else. 

What would be preventative, instead, is more support for mental health services coupled with levying exorbitant taxes on ammunition. 

Of course, it's impossible to say if either of these two recommended prevention initiatives would've saved lives at Fort Hood. Yet, the fact is, the killer who eventually died of a self inflicted wound was actually receiving mental health care at the time he shot people.  

In retrospect, the shooter who injured many, plus killed three people and himself needed to receive intense psychiatric treatment. Unfortunately, he wasn't kept under observation during an obviously deadly psychotic episode. 

Moreover, although the shooter was qualified to buy a gun at the local Guns Galore automat, he wasn't a wealthy man, so having to pay an exorbitant tax for ammunition could've deterred him from acting on his psychosis.  

US Army Spc. Ivan Lopez went on a shooting spree that left three fellow soldiers dead and 16 injured on Wednesday at Fort Hood, Texas.  Eyewitnesses reported seeing people fleeing buildings and jumping fences to get away from the barrage of gunfire. It wasn’t until a Fort Hood Military Police officer raised her gun toward Mr. Lopez that the spree ended, with the 34-year-old enlisted man taking his own life.

Gun zealots might use the confrontation of the shooter by an officer with a gun as the solution to prevent future killings. Although the officer was certainly brave in her confrontation, her actions didn't save the lives or prevent injuries for those who were already victims, before the shooter killed himself.

What the Fort Hood victims needed was prevention of the incident.  
Tragically, Lopez was badly in need of mental health care but he was not receiving the intense treatment he badly needed.

Tragically, Lopez acted out his psychosis by buying a gun and ammunition.  

Tragically, the people at Fort Hood are traumatized by another mass shooting; and they, probably more than anyone else, know that this incident could've been prevented.

It isn't more guns that will save lives and prevent shootings on military bases or anywhere else. Rather, it's support for prevention, and that means money. Therefore, use the money received from taxing ammunition to fund mental health care. 

In my opinion, a common sense solution of coupling taxes on ammunition with mental health care is a far more effective and humanitarian way to save lives than putting even more guns into our society. 

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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Texas Senator John Cornyn has no business standing in tragic Fort Hood news conference - he voted to cut veterans benefits and supports NRA

In the midst of extraordinary tragedy, Republican Texas Senator Cornyn is a disgusting hypocrite. While voting to cut veterans benefits, he sanctimoniously stood beside a magnificent Lt. General Willey, who was appropriately mourning the loss of life by gun violence on Fort Hood, during today's press debriefing.  

Senator Cornyn, your presence at the press conference on April 3rd, alongside a heroic Lt. General Willey, frankly, made me sick.

Looking respectably sympathetic and calling for prayers, the unconvincing Texas Senator John Cornyn, wearing funeral appropriate suit and tie, was in full view during the televised debrief with heroic Lt. General Willey. Indeed, Wiley spoke expertly to the press about another tragic mass shooting at Fort Hood Texas.

Senator Cornyn, on the other hand, had no  business standing alongside Lt.General Willey. He looked like the undertaker welcoming the hearse.

Cornyn was inappropriate. Nevertheless, not one journalist asked Senator Cornyn, during the press conference, about why he lets the National Rifle Association support him when their right wing politics prevents gun regulations that would save lives.  

Instead, Senator Cornyn sanctimoniously took an upstaging position alongside a clearly competent and appropriately mourning Lt. General Willey, because, in my opinion, the  politician wanted to be seen on television standing beside a military general.  

Dear Senator Cornyn, you looked absolutely out of place in your suit and tie standing next to Lt. General Willey. By the way, Senator Cornyn, were you among those Republican Senators who voted to cut military retirement and benefits for veterans?

Indeed, Senator Conyn voted to cut veterans benefits but he stood beside a Lt. General to upstage a press conference.

After a veterans’ benefits bill backed by Democrats failed to survive a filibuster in the Senate Thursday, Texas Sen. John Cornyn said he voted against the bill because it would have created more difficulties for veterans seeking help through the Veterans Administration. (Hello? What kind of convoluted reasoning is this?)

The bill, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), would have provided $12 billion in medical, educational and job-training benefits. It attracted 56 votes _ four short of the 60 votes it needed to advance.   Thank you Senator Sanders.....

Cornyn said, “Without question, after all our veterans and their families have sacrificed for this country, they deserve the very best in benefits and care.”

Well, this is outrageous hypocrisy from Senator Cornyn, who voted tp cut veterans benefits while standing beside a US Army General who was trying to console a grieving community.

Dear Senator Cornyn, if the active duty Army man who murdered innocent people at Fort Hood and then killed himself could've been helped by having access to more intense mental health care, then those who died as a result of his gunshots are partly  your responsibility. I pray for all the victims of the Fort Hood massacres, including those murdered when Major Malik Hasan shot innocent people on the same base during a 2009 massacre.

I simply can't understand the ego of Senator John Cornyn. He should not have been seen on CNN and the international news media wearing an undertaker's uniform, while a Lt. General of the US Army was so appropriately providing supportive information to the press today, one day after the shootings.

Texans must vote Senator Cornyn  out of office. He's clearly an example of how American politicians should not behave in a crises. Senator Cornyn should be calling for more money to fund veterans programs instead of consuming oxygen at a press conference where he had nothing to contribute to preventing future gun violence deaths at Fort Hood, or anywhere else.  

Thank you Lt. General Willey for your steadfast leadership during the crises at Fort Hood.

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