From Ted McLaughlin at jobsanger:
It has become obvious that Congress is not going to act on the gun violence problem in this country -- not even to close the loopholes in the background check law (which is supported by about 90% of all Americans). So President Obama has spent much of his vacation preparing an executive order concerning the problem.
This executive order should add to the already impressive legacy of his presidency.
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- Last Of The Millenniums summarizes the state of the debate on gun safety and makes it personal.
For Your Consideration:
I love that she apparently just walked in off the street to show everyone how it's done
From Tony Messenger at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
The flood maps are all wrong.
The old water marks on grain elevators are meaningless.
This was the message Washington University geology professor Bob Criss presented to a small room of environmentalists, water experts and river rats at Union Station just a few months before the December flood water came to St. Louis. We were both there to speak of an ongoing problem in our region: the failure to learn lessons from past floods.
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From New York Magazine:
One of the bigger — maybe the biggest — political questions for 2016 other than the identity of the major-party nominees is whether the so-called "Obama coalition" of minority and Millennial voters will turn out for Democrats now that the 44th president will no longer be on the ballot.
One clue (h/t Paul Waldman at the Washington Post) is provided by a new Reuters analysis of recent polling on party identification. Here are the most important numbers:
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From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The hedge fund magnates Daniel S. Loeb, Louis Moore Bacon and Steven A. Cohen have much in common. They have managed billions of dollars in capital, earning vast fortunes. They have invested large sums in art — and millions more in political candidates.
Moreover, each has exploited an esoteric tax loophole that saved them millions in taxes. The trick? Route the money to Bermuda and back.
With inequality at its highest levels in nearly a century and public debate rising over whether the government should respond to it through higher taxes on the wealthy, the very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes.
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to get episodes automatically downloaded.
On April 15, 1992, a private jet landed at Standiford airfield in Louisville, Kentucky. The plane's destination was a closely guarded secret. Most of the world expected the hotel executive to arrive at the Blue Grass airport about 80 miles away. Reporters missed the moment as she checked into her new location. The fantastically wealthy Leona Helmsley became known simply as 15113-054 at Lexington's Federal Minimum Security Facility for Women.
"We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes." When Leona Helmsley spoke those words, she had no idea her views on position and privilege would go public. Those words followed her for the rest of her life. But that was not the worst of it.
That casual utterance, spoken in private, became an item of interest during the court proceeding that finally placed her in prison. The phrase made her a household name, but it probably made little difference in the verdict. By that time, the case had been pretty much cast in amber and sealed with superglue. Paper and numbers put her away.
Leona Helmsley had a solid reputation of screwing around with those little people, the ones who pay taxes and live by rules. This time she picked on the wrong people.
The Helmsleys bought a huge luxury mansion as a summer home, then refurbished it to a fabulous new level of glamour. Those of us who own 21 room summer homes might still envy the addition of an enormous new ballroom for occasional dance celebrations.
Of course, they short-changed the contractors who had worked on the project. The tactic was tried and true. If you don't accept our unexpected new terms, you can sue us. You might even eventually win. Just keep in mind that we have terrific lawyers, and you will be tied up in court until your great grandchildren have their own great grandchildren.
But these contractors didn't just go to civil court. They went to the feds. They produced bills, invoices, check stubs, and account ledgers. Federal authorities didn't care who owed money to whom. They did care about federal tax evasion. The Helmsleys were paying for their fabulous new home as a tax deduction, billed through their hotel corporations as a series of disguised business expenses.
What can we suppose would have been the popular reaction if that unfortunate statement, that Leona Helmsley had honestly felt that rules were only for little people, had been introduced at her trial, not as part of the prosecution, but rather as a defense.
I thought about Leona Helmsley as I read about the "affluenza" kid, arrested with his mother in Mexico. Young Ethan Couch drove recklessly while drunk and killed a stranded motorist, her daughter, and two people who had stopped to help them. He got put on probation. He broke probation at a drinking party, recording it and posting it on line. As authorities closed in to arrest him again, he disappeared along with his extremely protective mom.
It was a seeming confirmation of yet another stereotype. The rich kid had been taught from an early age that rules are for other people, the lessor ones, the under achieved, the middle class, or even those who struggle against poverty, the losers.
What made the case unusual, and famous, was that the Leona attitude had been presented by the teenager's lawyers as a defense at his original trial, back when he was guilty only of killing the good Samaritans and those they were helping. An expert psychiatric witness for the kid used the term "affluenza" for what he described as a mitigating mental condition.
The idea was that young Mr. Couch had been taught from childhood that bad behavior produces good results. Rules are for lessor folks. Every time the kid broke rules, those who caught him were threatened or cajoled into silence by the lad's doting parents. He had never learned that it matters that some actions are wrong. He had never been held accountable.
So it would be unfair to hold him accountable now for partying to a stupor, borrowing his dad's pickup, speeding down a small road at 70 miles an hour with 7 jubilantly yelling buddies, and smashing through 2 automobiles until he reached and killed 4 innocent people. Because of his doting upbringing, he had no idea he should not do what was wrong.
To one uninitiated in criminal psychiatric defense, it might seem that a tautology had been proposed, one that could be used by anyone who was obviously guilty of a serious crime. You should not punish me because I honestly thought I could get away with it.
Judge Jean Boyd, sentenced the wayward youth to ten years probation. No drinking. No partying where drinking was happening. Also included was a stint in a private rehabilitation facility. The stay would be paid for by his dad.
The public anger at the 4 deaths, the affluenza defense, and the light sentence of probation, combined into a cold fury when details about that rehab center itself went public. Turned out that the rehabilitation of Ethan Couch would include horseback riding, martial arts, cooking lessons, basketball, a swimming pool, and .... private massages.
The judge is retired now, a good career move. The screams for her head grew louder after the young misguided man recorded himself breaking his probation, drinking and partying. Still, he is unlikely to get a meaningful stint in prison, even after his capture in Mexico with his mom. Seems prison time for the probation he broke is covered under Texas law for juveniles, and cannot extend beyond the age of 19. Such was the degree of judicial wisdom as practiced by this member of the judiciary.
In fairness to Judge Boyd, she has always defied the stereotype of a harsh Republican judicial appointee. In fact, she has a history of looking for rehabilitation for young offenders where circumstances warrant. She has tried to turn lives around rather than simply punish bad behavior. And she still insists she found the affluenza defense without merit and disregarded it. It had nothing to do with the sentence she pronounced.
I wonder if she ever regrets that. A non-professional observer, you know - like me, might conclude that a youngster taught from infancy that there are no consequences for him, that rules are for losers, that such a youngster might benefit from a new and harsh education. One part of that core curriculum that comes to mind might have helped: the lesson that consequences are real and that they do apply to him.
Rather than ignoring the unusual defense, the judge might better have considered the obvious after hearing about affluenza. She could have administered the beginnings of a cure to the Leona Helmsley defense.
From Rabbi Ben Kamin at The Moderate Voice:
CHARLESTON, SC, June 21–Like a lot of people around the nation, I simply felt the need to be here on that Sunday with the good people of “Mother Emanuel”—The African Methodist Episcopalian Church. Four days earlier, a crazed young white man had opened fire and killed 9 black people who were studying Bible and had welcomed him in.
Not everyone who was so moved could actually manage it, though one could feel the presence of millions of kindred spirits in the humidity and holiness of this aggrieved community. I was joined by my daughter Sari, who met me in common concern, from New York.
‘Come on down. We’re all children of the Lord.’
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From Green Eagle:
Since no one with a real political voice, not even Bernie Sanders, has had the courage to state the real way out of the current Middle Eastern mess, I guess I will give it a try. In fact, the answer is not complicated nor is it difficult, except when we run into the hatred and abuse that are the inevitable tools of the right when they want to protect their right to be as subhuman as possible. Anyway, here's my plan.
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Recently, Sam’s Club’s CEO Rosalind Brewer, a black woman, made comments regarding diversity on her executive team and lack thereof in the corporate world altogether:
“My executive team is very diverse, and I make that a priority. I demand it within my team…Just today we met with a supplier and the entire other side of the table was all Caucasian males. That was interesting. I decided not to talk about it directly with [the supplier’s] folks in the room because there were actually no female, like levels down. So I’m going to place a call to him.”
In other words, Brewer believes that there should be people of different backgrounds (people of color and women) in executive positions as demonstrated by her team. However, she was kind of taken aback when she met with a group of top business folks who happen to be all white males. So, she wanted to talk to the supplier about that. That’s all.
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From Libertarian Michael A. LaFerrara at Principled Perspectives:
One of the most obnoxious responses to the San Bernardino massacre, which at this writing appears to be a Jihadist Islam-generated attack, is the Left’s virtually uniform outcry for more gun control laws.
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If you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it, and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Osama bin Laden, there's a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death.
To tell you the truth, I don’t like this president very much.
But, as a Marine, I would take a bullet for him.
From PZ Myers at Pharyngula:
I bet you didn’t know that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a social justice propaganda film. I didn’t either. I thought it was a nostalgia movie with a recycled plot, but one thing it doesn’t do is hammer you with didacticism. But this guy watched it, and all he saw was a woman and a black man in lead roles, and it made him furious.
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From Tommy Christopher at the Daily Banter:
In case you missed Saturday night’s well-hidden Democratic presidential debate, the one piece of news that seems to have come out of it is that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pulled a Carly Fiorina, and claimed to have seen videos that didn’t exist. Instead of seeing a fetus kicking it on a Planned Parenthood table, though, Hillary apparently claimed to have seen Donald Trump appearing in ISIS recruiting videos. This is huge, if true, because just like Fiorina’s fetus fever-dream, ISIS recruiting videos of Donald Trump don’t exist...
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From Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg:
Senator Marco Rubio appears to be attempting a risky strategy: running in Iowa and New Hampshire with a less-than-traditional field operation. We won’t know whether it will pay off until after those states vote, and perhaps not even then. But here are the potential risks and rewards:
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Tee Tee: Cute
From Jon Perr at Perrspectives:
Watching the Republican presidential debate last Tuesday night, I kept flashing back to George W. Bush's acceptance speech at the 2000 Republican National Convention. Vice President Al Gore, Bush charged that August night, "now leads the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but the only thing he has to offer is fear itself." Coming as it did even as the economy boomed and two wars in the Balkans had been ended by Democratic leadership in the White House, Bush's slander was bad enough at the time.
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From Human Voices:
Christmas seems to bring out the worst in Americans, particularly the ones who still think "hippies" are burning flags to protest a war that most Americans don't remember. You know, those Bully Boys who walk around with a chip on their shoulders daring you to say anything that allows them to pick a fight with the "politically correct" or those who have read history.
This thing has been making the rounds today and judging by the comments, not too many people realize that the "founding Fathers" version of that propaganda aimed at school children was written in 1892, not 1776. When Eisenhower was pressured by godmongers to change it in 1954, during the height of the cold war, it wasn't mentioned that it had been written by a Socialist -- surprising in an era where that other relic, inseparable from the holiday, It's a Wonderful Life was seen as containing secret Communist messages to corrupt the young mind and was investigated by HUAC. After all it does criticize the Sacred Banks and other institutions of Capitalist greed.
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