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This is the blog for Sean Brennan and London After Midnight. For more information please see the LAM website at londonaftermidnight.com.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

We Need Gun Control NOW; Study Shows Weak Gun Laws CAUSE Crime; Jon Stewart says Stupid Stuff about Guns on Oprah; Republicans Fail America; Obama Too Conservative; Obama 'Hope' Artist Losing Hope; more

- Why The Democrats’ Response to the Republican Pledge Has Been Inadequate ...if the voting public voted on the basis of the economic details, plus the Democrats’ system of values, the Republicans wouldn’t have a chance in hell in the November elections.

- The Republican Pledge to America?  I Pledge Allegiance to the Rich, And the United States of Wall Street, And to the Plutocracy for which it stands, One Nation, under Greed, Extremely Divisible, With Wealth Reserved for the Few.

- Lax State Gun Laws Tied to Crimes in Other States A study due to be released this week ... uses previously unavailable federal gun data to identify the states that most often export guns used in crimes across state lines. It concludes that the 10 worst offenders per capita, led by Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky, supplied nearly half the 43,000 guns traced to crime scenes in other states last year.... It finds that, across the board, those states with less restrictive gun laws exported guns used in crimes at significantly higher rates than states with more stringent laws. An advance copy of the study was provided to The New York Times.  “What this does is help refute some of the statements that people make on the pro-gun side in saying that tougher gun laws are unconnected to reducing crime,” said James Alan Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern University.

- Really, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show? Really? Did you really suggest on the Oprah Show while promoting your Rally to Restore Sanity that when it comes to the horrific experience of school shootings that it’s not the guns that are the problem, but “crazy is the problem”?

Did you really say that if all the guns were gone that there would be “a 100,000 percent increase in school bludgeonings”? Did you, Jon Stewart, really say that? When, really, was the last time somebody in America was able to terrorize a college campus, kill 32 people, and wound 17 others in less than 12 minutes with a blunt instrument? The Virginia Tech killer was able to do these incredibly awful things by getting off 174 rounds with the two semi-automatics that he wielded. In less than 12 minutes.

- Nonviolent Resistance or Climate Hell As courageous activists from Appalachia prepare to confront a government seemingly held hostage by the inordinate wealth and influence of fossil fuel based corporations, there is a unique opportunity for alliances to be formed that can build a stronger and more empowered movement.

- Obama Argues His Assassination Program is a "State Secret" At this point, I didn't believe it was possible, but the Obama administration has just reached an all-new low in its abysmal civil liberties record.

- Famed Obama 'Hope' Poster Artist Losing Hope In an exclusive interview with National Journal on Thursday, Shepard Fairey expressed his disappointment with the president -- a malaise that seems representative of many Democrats who had great expectations for Obama.

Fairey explained that when he came up with the poster in 2008, he was trying to find a single image that embodied the issues he cared most about -- promoting health care, helping labor, and curtailing lobbyists.... He lamented that health care reform was watered down, Tea Party activists have been emboldened, and his man has fallen short on bold campaign promises like closing Guantanamo Bay.

- Hungry In America: Wal-Mart's Midnight Bread and Baby Formula Line So that's what a record 43.6 million people living in poverty - the highest number in 51 years - looks like.

- Disappointing Yet Again Obama's Department of Justice asked a California federal judge Thursday to continue enforcing the military ban on openly gay troops, thus defending a policy Obama has said he wants repealed.

- US Army to Hold First Hearing on Grisly Afghan Killings The US Army holds its first hearing Monday in a grisly war crimes case that charges five soldiers with killing Afghan civilians for sport and plotting a cover-up.

Authorities say the troops opened fire on the Afghan civilians in unprovoked assaults over several months in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province, with some of the soldiers accused of mutilating corpses and removing bones.

President Obama: Finding Love in the Wrong Places
With Barack Obama heading towards his first Mid-term as president, concerns are developing among his core constituents.
by Cliff Schecter
Published on Monday, September 27, 2010 by Al-Jazeera-English

Accompany me, if you will, to an alternative universe. It is one where President Richard Nixon said “we’re all Keynesians now” and founded the Environmental Protection Agency, and President Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex, and dismissed any party that would even think of eliminating unemployment insurance or Social Security.

In this world, President Gerald Ford supported the Equal Rights Amendment and even the high priest of Conservative daydreams, Ronald Reagan, raised corporate taxes and inaugurated a cabinet department to care for American veterans. As you may or may not know, this is not actually another world, but an accurate description of another time, when the Democratic Party and its progressive philosophy played offense, and Republicans felt a need to prostrate themselves before it, lest they join the Whigs, Federalists, and Know Nothings in that big political convention in the sky.

Yet, as a more assertive President Obama once pointed out, even while Reagan still bowed to some of the 50-year consensus that progress was good and with freedom came responsibility to our fellow countrymen, he lead a “transformative” presidency that blamed Big Government for all our nation’s ills (this “big government,” of course, only referred to economic issues, as growing the government to police your personal life and the world at large was as cool as a credit default swap).

It wasn’t only Reagan, of course, but the growth of talk radio buffoonery, new television channels that were not all that fair and balanced, and a wholesale movement by many segregationist Democrats into the Republican Party that also helped send the conventional wisdom in a more Jean-Marie Le Pen kind of direction.

Now fast forward to today. Most Democrats seem to stumble around like Leonard in Memento, possessing no institutional memory that when their forebears spoke out passionately with a strong progressive vision for the country, most Americans agreed with them and elected them overwhelmingly.

But they also seem to have forgotten—and George W. Bush could remind them if they need a refresher course—that even when people disagree with their President, Senators, Governors and Congressmen, they are looking for leaders—those who unabashedly stand up and tell you what they think is right. It’s what everyday people do in their own lives, and they expect at least as much from their leaders.

So why do many Democrats—and there certainly are a few impressive exceptions—hedge, hem, haw, hide and otherwise somersault to the Right on any number of issues when they feel threatened? Well, there are probably a few reasons, but the main one would seem to be that they simply buy wholesale the conventional wisdom doled out by lobbyists, big campaign contributors, certain media outlets, and Sarah Palin’s ghost-written, grammatically-challenged Twitter feed. Namely that America is a “center-right” or even conservative country.

You can’t go too far to the Left they repeat ad nauseam. You have to appease Big Business, or they’ll do to your political career what they did to the public option.  You have to be “moderate,” or “centrist,” because Americans just love that mythical middle, like its cotton candy or the “Contest” episode of Seinfeld. Of course, all it takes is a couple of minutes perusing poll numbers on virtually any issue to know that this is as accurate as a Hutton Gibson’s Holocaust history or George Will’s “hair.”

Lets look at a few hot button issues, such as gun control, gay rights and taxes.
When asked by Republican pollster Frank Luntz whether they wanted to see the gun show loophole—or the lack of a background check for those purchasing guns from “private” gun sellers—even 85% of gun owners and 69% of those who are members of the radical National Rifle Association said yes.

A recent CNN poll showed that an overwhelming 78% of Americans support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. Finally, when the argument is over taxes, a USA Today/Gallup Poll found that while only 37% want the richest Americans to keep tax cuts enacted by President Bush in 2001, while 59% either want only those making less than $250,000 a year to keep theirs, or want them to expire for everyone.

Now, I know that states are different and Congressional districts even more so, but with these overwhelming numbers, most to all Democrats are in safe territory to stand up for progressive values. And if being progressive kills candidates, once again looking to history, someone is going to have to explain to me how unapologetic liberals such as Frank Church of Idaho, Mike Mansfield of Montana (who introduced the Civil Rights Act of 1964), and even George McGovern of South Dakota (to name only a few) managed to get elected and re-elected so many darn times.

This pattern of electing those who choose to lead continues today. Even as the Midwest, or Middle America, is fetishized in Washington for its middle-income, middle-class, moderate political bent, somehow Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, and Al Franken of Minnesota are among the half-dozen to dozen most progressive Democrats in the Senate.

So to summarize, Democrats won for much of the 20th Century by being proudly progressive, forcing Republicans to tack to the left early and often, polls show Americans agree with progressives on hot button issues, and there are many current examples of proud and loud progressives who have made it to the Senate from swing or conservative states.
Any questions?

Sean

Friday, September 10, 2010

9/11; Fox News Thinks You're Idiots; US Soldiers Kill Afghans for Sport; Immigration Lies from the Right; United States of Fear; Quran Burning Racists; MLK and Racist Glenn Beck have NOTHING in Common

- The United States of Fear: Ten Examples Who would have thought that there once was a US president who said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance…”?
You tell me what happened to the land of the free and the home of the brave since September 11, 2001.

- US Soldiers 'Killed Afghan Civilians for Sport and Collected Fingers as Trophies' Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret "kill team" that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.

- Racist Florida Pastor Calls Off Quran Burning Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla., called off plans to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, he said Thursday.

Jones's decision came after his plans came under heavy criticism from national political and military leaders, who warned that the inflammatory plans would spark violence against U.S. soldiers stationed overseas.

The controversial anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., which has long staged pickets of soldiers' funerals, reportedly has vowed to host its own Quran burning if Jones canceled his.

- This 9/11, Let’s All Take Responsibility for Ending a Summer of Hate ...This summer marks the worst anti-Muslim backlash we’ve ever seen here. As the nine years since 9/11 have passed, Americans have forgotten an essential fact: Extremists can use any religion to justify murder, and the stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists sacrifices both American values and community safety. While we welcome national leaders condemning not just Quran burning, but all the less obvious forms of Islamaphobia along the way, the daily interruption of hatred is a job for all of us.

- Still striving for MLK's dream in the 21st century Martin Luther King III responds to last months Washington DC rally for white people organized by racist Glenn Beck/Fox "News"

- Fear and Loathing in Prime Time Media Matters Action Network undertook this study in order to document the rhetoric surrounding immigration that is heard on cable news. When it comes to this issue, cable news overflows not just with vitriol, but also with a series of myths that feed viewers' resentment and fears, seemingly geared toward creating anti-immigrant hysteria.

- Immigrants Don't Take Jobs From Americans, Fed Study Says  Immigration has no 'significant' effect on the number of jobs available to U.S.-born workers and helps boost incomes and productivity over time, according to a paper by an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

- 5 Myths about Immigration Despite the fact that we are a nation of immigrants -- or perhaps because of it -- immigration continues to be one of America's most contentious topics. The new law in Arizona authorizing police to arrest individuals who cannot show documents proving that they are in the country legally has set off a fresh bout of acrimony. But as in the past, much of the debate is founded on mythology.

- When Sensationalism Rules the News We live in a culture in which propaganda is passed off as news regularly with little sustained contextual confrontation by responsible reporters and news outlets. We live in the land of the argumentative, where nothing sells better on TV than a shouting match that typically signifies next to nothing beyond the sound and fury of its participants.
[NOTE from Sean: this article points out the reality of today's news media, however ignores the fact that all sensationalism is right-leaning. There is virtually NO liberal or left leaning approach to mainstream news coverage (that is to say, FACTUAL news coverage), let alone any left leaning sensationalism. If just the facts were reported on the incredibly dire problems of climate change, or the criminality of our corporate right leaning governments, for example (causes ignored by the Right), these stories would surely be far more attention grabbing than the right-wing lies we see on our cable news programs (like "Obama's a Muslim", the fake controversy over the "ground zero mosque", lies about immigrants, etc). But the 6 Right-leaning media corporations that own all the networks in the USA ignore reality and focus on shallow nonsense that will inspire racists, idiots and other cavemen to pay attention. After all, getting conservatives angry helps the Right-wing achieve their goal of corporate dominance over government and tax cuts for the ultra rich).

- White House Turns Down 'Free Solar Panel' Offer... I just walked out of a disappointing meeting with the White House: they refused to accept the Carter solar panel we came to Washington to deliver and said that they would continue their "deliberative process" to discuss putting solar panels back on the White House roof.

Fox News Thinks You're All Idiots
Published September 10, 2010 at MediaMatters.org

Though the conservative media are fueled by overhyped, often-false, phony "scandals," every so often a story comes along that is so mind-bogglingly absurd that it exposes in no uncertain fashion the entire conservative media for what it is: a propaganda machine far more interested in pushing pre-determined narratives than conveying accurate information.

For much of the summer, conservatives have been aggressively working to blur the lines between the radicals who attacked us on September 11 and the moderate Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in order to claim his planned Islamic center in lower Manhattan is some sort of "victory mosque." This week, when conservatives were not busy trying to equate Rauf with lunatic pastor Terry Jones and his plan to burn Qurans, they were suggesting that Rauf literally commands the forces of Al Qaeda.

On Wednesday, Rauf went on CNN's Larry King Live and warned of the dangers of perceived anti-Islam sentiment in the United States, especially as it relates to his Park51 project. Specifically, Rauf said that outspoken opposition to his project creates "danger from the radicals in the Muslim world to our national security." Before we get to the resulting epic conservative freak-out, it's important to point out that Rauf's comments track closely with comments from national security experts -- including Gen. David Petraeus -- who have repeatedly warned of the security implications of anti-Muslim protests.
Undeterred by reality, conservatives claimed Rauf was "threatening" America when he made this entirely non-controversial statement of fact.

Fox Nation broadcast as its top story that "Imam Threatens U.S., Says If Mosque Moves, Terror Will 'Explode.'" Pam Geller -- whose anti-Muslim bigotry leads her to view the world as a Magic Eye book filled with hidden Islamic crescents --announced in a headline that "Ground Zero Supremacist Imam Rauf Threatens America." Jim Hoft claimed in a post about Rauf's "threat" that the "radical" Rauf "warned that if America did not get down on its knees and allow the victory mosque to be built on the bones of dead Americans that ...'They will attack.'" Hoft instructed Rauf to "take your victory mosque and shove it."

Rush LimbaughCharles Krauthammer and Media Research Center's Brent Baker speculated that Rauf may be engaging in "blackmail." Fox News hosted Debra Burlingame to say that Rauf had given an "ultimatum" and that his comments represented a "form of extortion." Fox also gave a 9-11 firefighter a platform to smear Rauf as a "tax-evading, terrorist sympathizing, Armani-wearing slumlord" who is "try[ing] to extort America" and "wants to build a Tower of Triumph on the graveyard of my friends." Bill O'Reilly fearmongered that Rauf's warning about violence may be a "self-fulfilling prophecy."

This morning, the Fox & Friends hosts (and the accompanying on-screen text) referred to Rauf's comments as a "threat" at least ten times. Gretchen Carlson interpreted his "troubling" statement as "If you move it now, we're gonna attack you."

The lone voice of sanity in the conservative wilderness was Chris Wallace, who twice stated that he did not hear Rauf's comments as a "threat." As always, this acknowledgment of reality made him the exception, not the rule.

There is no gray area here: by pushing this story, conservative media figures have revealed -- as they do pretty much every week -- that they are either completely oblivious to reality, or they think their viewers/listeners/readers are. And they do this all the time -- remember the forty-eight hours during the 2008 presidential campaign when conservatives decided to pretend Barack Obama had compared Sarah Palin to a pig when he said "you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig" to describe McCain's policies? 

When the top-rated cable news organization in the country joins with leading conservative bloggers and radio hosts to smear someone as "threatening" to attack America for stating something that is widely agreed-upon by security experts, their dishonesty should be news. Unfortunately, since media conservatives seem to have a knack for escaping consequences for their serial mendacity, their role in the unwarranted demolition of Rauf's character will likely disappear down the memory hole.

The damage will already be done, and conservatives' perpetual dishonesty machine will roll on.


Sean