Going Great Guns, Deep in the Heart of Texas
By Doug Porter
Stories about pushback resulting from votes against the Senate’s most recent efforts at gun legislation are making the rounds this week, including poll results showing voter frustration with elected officials who opposed background checks.
This weekend, however, the media landscape will shift as the National Rifle Association holds a three day gathering in Houston, Texas. Today’s ‘leadership forum’ will boast conservative heart-throbs like former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum.
From Raw Story:
The main event Saturday is the “annual meeting of members,” with speeches by NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre and chief lobbyist Chris Cox, among other NRA executives.
“You could be part of an historic event like (actor) Charlton Heston raising a rifle over his head and saying those five unforgettable words … “from my cold dead hands” at the 2000 NRA convention, the event’s website says.
Meet Jim Porter (No Relation)
Those of you hoping for a ‘sanity intervention’ by more levelheaded members of the NRA (who actually support background checks) are bound to be disappointed as the organization will be trotting out a new President. (He is not, as far as I can tell, related to me.) From Hunter at Daily Kos:
It looks like the NRA has no intention of toning down the batshit crazy, and calls for “responsible NRA leadership” just got shot in the thigh and left to bleed out behind the ol’ shed. The new NRA president (the job rotates every two years, presumably because maintaining such a high level of indignant batshit crazy is a high-effort job) is current NRA vice president Jim Porter, who ascends to the job because apparently every last member of the NRA leadership is entirely off their rockers. Let’s meet Jim, shall we?
“NRA was started 1871 right here in New York state. It was started by some Yankee generals who didn’t like the way my Southern boys had the ability to shoot in what we call the ‘War of Northern Aggression.’ Now y’all might call it the Civil War, but we call it the ‘War of Northern Aggression’ down south.”
Welcome to Houston
Early arrivals for this weekend’s NRA confab got a special show yesterday as 29-year-old Carnell Marcus Moore walked into George Bush Intercontinental Airport Termial B and reportedly fired an AR-15 in the air, then shot himself.
According to the Houston police, Moore apparently left a suicide note that said he was having trouble controlling his “monster inside.”
Critics of the NRA plan to turn out in force this weekend to remind its members that more than 30,000 deaths in the United States every year are gun-related. They’re planning a non-stop reading of the names of victims of gun violence since the Newtown shootings, as well as a press event with US military veterans who disagree with NRA policy.
Stay tuned, as the Second Amendment meets the First Amendment…
Is Obama is the Worst Socialist, Ever?
The chattering class has much to prattle about today, as a better than expected jobs report sent the stock markets soaring. And we’ve seen a seemingly endless series of articles about how the housing market is getting back on its feet again. (And I hope you realize that I’m being sarcastic in the headline.)
I hope you’re not fooled by all this happy talk. As former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Reich puts it, “We remain in the gravitational pull of the Great Recession.”
Happy Days are not here again, as The Guardian’s Heather Long notes:
But there are two glaring problems with this view of things: some Americans are so dejected that they are simply dropping out of the job search (and thus disappear from the statistics), as Guardian economics guru Heidi Moore pointed out last month. It’s not exactly an economic victory when job-seekers are giving up.
Equally problematic is the persistently high unemployment rate for young people. For many subsets of the population, there’s been a marked improvement from a year ago, but not for African Americans; nor for the young. The figures for the 20-24 age group have been especially dispiriting. The seasonally adjust unemployment rate for these young people is currently 13.1%, almost the same as last April. Consider that that is a worse unemployment rate than for those without high school diplomas (11.6%), and that the effective youth unemployment rate, which is adjusted for those who have given up looking for work, is several percentage points higher still. And combining those two subsets, more than one in five (20.4%) of 18-29-year-old African Americans is without a job.
One church on Long Island, near New York, has gone as far as to recommend that its attendees refrain from asking young people “what do you do?” Instead, as a recent church bulletin advised (pdf), it’s better to ask the more generic “So, tell me about yourself.” You know we’ve reached a tipping-point when you can’t ask even twentysomethings about their work.
The New York Times Economix Blog notes:
There is always some unemployment. Millions of Americans are out of work at any given moment even in the best of times. But the economy is still roughly 10 million jobs short of returning to normal levels of unemployment and labor force participation. That’s a lot of missing jobs.
Some of those losses may be permanent. The number of Americans receiving disability benefits has increased by 1.8 million since the recession began, and people on disability rarely return to the work force, even if they would have preferred to keep working in the first place.
And as the economy improves, it is likely that labor force participation among older workers will finally begin to decline. But the evidence suggests that the majority of the 10 million are just waiting for a decent chance.
What’s This About Obama and Socialism?
The jobs part of this equation must be President Obama’s fault, right? As financial writer Mark Gongloff points out at the Huffington Post:
Conservatives blame President Obama for much of the weakness in the job market, saying small businesses aren’t hiring because of his health-care reform law and other new regulations. But employers are also reluctant to hire due to weak demand and lingering anxiety after the financial crisis and recession.
In what has become a vicious cycle, the weak job market has kept wages stagnant, which keeps demand weak, which keeps employers reluctant to hire. In April, the average hourly earnings for workers were up just 1.9 percent in the past year, not enough to keep up with inflation.
Now for the real socialism part.
I don’t know if you heard the reports over the past few days, but the Tea Party types on the right are getting all juiced hope, hoping that implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka) ObamaCare will provoke a backlash guaranteeing GOP supremacy in 2014. From DC’sThe Hill:
The enactment of healthcare reform’s major provisions on Jan. 1, 2014 couldn’t come at a better time for conservative activists. On that date, the law’s state insurance exchanges will begin offering coverage, the Medicaid expansion will take effect and the bill’s consumer protections will become active.
All three developments pose major challenges to the Obama administration, and they leave nine months for the Tea Party to hammer Democrats over any bumps in the road. In interviews with The Hill, movement leaders described plans to launch aggressive event and messaging schedules centered around ObamaCare.
The law’s implementation is “reinvigorating the movement,” said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots. “We’re doing street rallies and protests over the next month to three months, initially. We’re working to recruit candidates that can talk about this.”
There might just be a few problems with that strategy, given the amount of crying ‘wolf’ that’s gone on over the past few years. Heard anything about the death panels lately? They should be in full swing by now, as Obamacare is already the law of the land for those who already have health insurance, if earlier predictions on the right had panned out.
As Joshua Green over at Bloomberg Businessweek points out:
A new poll out this morning from the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals an obstacle to repeal that Republicans may not have been counting on: One in five Americans believes that Obamacare has already been repealed. These misinformed millions divide into two camps: the 12 percent who wrongly believe that Congress has already undone the law and the 7 percent who wrongly believe that the Supreme Court struck it down (they must be CNN and Fox News watchers).
Needless to say, it will be rather more difficult to foment anger and rally voters to repeal a law that many of them believe has already been struck from the books. Public awareness that Obamacare has not, in fact, been repealed may increase next year, when the law goes into effect. But this could present its own obstacle to repeal: People might decide they like it.
Nobody, even those most ardent supporters of the new healthcare plan, expects implementation to go off without a hitch. But don’t fall for the wave of propaganda that’s heading your way.
Ethiopian Blogger Gets 18 Years in Prison
We here at the San Diego Free Press have certainly become a lot more aware of the situation in Ethiopia in the wake of a story posted earlier this week by Anna Daniels, who reported on a confrontation in City Heights between pro and anti government groups.
Our inbox was flooded with comments and emails, and we took the highly unusual step of shutting down comments on Daniel’s story in the wake of a vitriolic and obviously manufactured campaign aimed at attacking us for even daring to post a story that raised questions about the Ethiopian government.
We had no idea, prior to the story, about the intensity of the conflict between the government and dissident groups. The experience has led many of us to do further research on the situation and, trust me, it ain’t pretty.
And rather than shut us down, the pro-government ‘campaign’ has insured that we’ll give regular coverage of human rights abuses in Ethiopia in the future. From a posting by the Electronic Freedom Foundation, which advocates for free expression around the world:
Yesterday, the Ethiopian Supreme Court upheld the conviction and extreme sentence of award-winning online journalist Eskinder Nega, who now faces 18 years in prison. Nega was arrested in September 2011 and charged with “terrorism” under a vague law in Ethiopiathat has been used to target online journalists and political dissenters. His trial and appeal faced repeated delays, while international human rights and free expression groups continued to criticize his imprisonment and punishment. EFF, PEN America, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and others campaigned for his release, and a United Nations panel found his conviction to be in violation of international law.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that there are six journalists currently imprisoned on vague terrorism charges in Ethiopia.
Where Have All the Teachers Gone?
That is a question people are likely to be asking at some point in the future. Education activist Diane Ravitch passes along data from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing showing a sharp decrease in future educators.
For the eighth consecutive year, the number of newly credentialed teachers dropped, falling from 23,320 in 2007-08 to 16,450 educators earning their credential in 2011-12. The number of students enrolling in teacher preparation programs has also decreased, to 34,838 in 2010-11 from 51,744 in 2006-07.
As always, Ravitch doesn’t mince words:
The corporate reform movement has been bashing teachers and public education without let-up for the past several years. The bashing became super-charged after the introduction of Race to the Top in 2009, because it explicitly blames teachers for low test scores despite evidence to the contrary.
The “reformers” claim they want “great teachers” in every classroom, and the way to do it is to fire teachers whose students get low scores, to close schools with low scores, and to deny teachers the right to due process. This is their formula, and they are sticking to it even though no other nation in the world has launched a vendetta against the teaching profession and public schools.
This fraudulent reform movement is not going to achieve any of its stated goals. It will not lead to a great teacher in every classroom. Left unchecked, it will turn teaching into a temp job and dismantle public education. This will benefit the haves, not the have-nots. And that may explain why the haves are dumping millions of dollars into state and local school board races, to elect candidates who share their contempt for career educators and democratic control of public education.
On This Day: 1939 – “Beer Barrel Polka” was recorded by The Andrews Sisters. 1948 – The Supreme Court ruled that covenants prohibiting the sale of real estate to blacks and other minorities were legally unenforceable. 1971 – National Public Radio broadcast for the first time. 1971 – Anti-war protesters began four days of demonstrations in Washington, DC
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