On Govt. Shutdown, GOP Represents the Lunatic Fringe

When I first read about the poll, I completely dismissed it as ridiculously inaccurate.

ThinkProgress: ...[T]he vast majority of Americans still don’t want Congress to delay or defund the health reform law, according to the results from a new tracking poll.

The Morning Consult group finds that just seven percent of voters support delaying or defunding Obamacare. On the other hand, 39 percent of voters want Congress to either let the law take effect or expand the law even further. Another 29 percent think that Congress should work on making improvements to Obamacare, but ultimately leave the law in place. By a two to one margin, the poll’s respondents said “the results from the 2012 presidential election represented a referendum on moving forward with the Affordable Care Act.”

In a memo regarding the new results, the Morning Consult group notes that voters have ultimately been “unmoved by three months of the defund argument.”

That 7% pro-defund/delay Obamacare percentage seems to me to be ridiculously low. But a redditor linked to a CNN poll [pdf] to point out something that's been true from the gitgo -- adding the Obamacare supporters with the people who think it isn't liberal enough results in a clear majority.

Republican "government takeover" messaging must be an extremely sour note to the majority of Americans.
The tracking question, last asked in May, found that 43% favor Obamacare, 35% oppose it as too liberal, and 16% oppose it as not liberal enough. 43% + 16% = 59% = pretty large majority. And before you accuse me of playing mix and match with the numbers, people who don't think Obamacare is liberal enough are definitely pro-healthcare reform.

The health insurance status quo in America is unsustainable and the Republican Party has no real answers. Health savings accounts? People can't put away money as it is and you want them to save more? No wonder only 35% think it goes too far.

I'm still convinced that Morning Consult's percentage of delay/defund supporters is low, but not by as much as I'd originally assumed and probably not by all that much at all. Even if 35% oppose Obamacare as too liberal, it doesn't mean they aren't interested in reform at all. I'd imagine that the people who think the health coverage status quo is perfectly acceptable are probably in at least the low double digits.

Which leaves House Republicans enthralled to the Tea Party base -- a demographic who have a real reality problem. A recent CNBC poll found that only 19% wanted to defund Obamacare, but that 54% of self-identified Tea Party Republicans did -- the only demo with a majority on that question. It may not be that 7% want to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act, but more reliable numbers still show this "plan" is a fringe idea. When you start getting to 20% or below, you're into crackpot numbers. Those are who Republicans are representing right now and, for some reason, they seem to believe that this is going to work out for them.

On that point -- as with so many others -- Republicans are just deluding themselves.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]


The GOP -- Pretend Warriors in a Made-Up War

Kid in homemade cardboard knight costume
If you want a good indication that the current particular manufactured crisis of a government shutdown threat is winding down into nothing, I give you the fact that Republicans are already talking about how they plan to use the debt ceiling as a hostage strategy to attack Obamacare. This plan presupposes the failure of the current attempt, obviously. Greg Sargent gets to the skinny:

The conservative drive to threaten a government shutdown to defund Obamacare is collapsing, thanks in part to the news that Mitch McConnell won’t vote with Ted Cruz, effectively meaning the strategy is dead. So now, multiple reports are telling us that House Republicans are preparing to use the debt limit to force an Obamacare delay.

This comes as new polling confirms yet again the basic dynamic here: The American people, even if they disapprove of Obamacare, do not support using this fall’s fiscal confrontations to sabotage the law, whether we’re talking about a government shutdown or the debt limit.

Aha! So that's how they're going to destroy Obamacare once and for all, by... delaying it?

OK, so if that seems like it's probably not the most serious idea any has ever had, it's because it's not. It's not serious at all. Sargent points us to a piece on the GOP's super-awesome debt limit plan and it looks like a letter to Santa Claus.

The package that House GOP leaders plan to unveil when their members return to Washington late Wednesday will be anchored by proposals to simultaneously raise the federal borrowing limit and delay for a year further implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, the legislation would likely include a collection of previously introduced bills popular among House Republicans and difficult for Obama to dominate, including construction of the job-rich Keystone XL pipeline.

The debt-ceiling package, set for a House vote by week's end, could include a variety of GOP-friendly economic proposals, including tax reform, Medicare means testing, medical liability reform, an overhaul of the federal employee retirement system, elimination of the Dodd-Frank bailout, the easing of Environmental Protection Agency rules, restrictions on federal regulators and an expansion of offshore energy production.

"Gee, that’s it?" Sargent asks. "Maybe Republicans should also ask Obama to impeach himself while they’re at it."

This is basically Tea Party fan fiction. No one living in the real world expects any of this to happen. This is a prelude to a cave-in and Republican leadership, planning to lose, want to make it look like they really, really tried to bring "conservative values" to Washington. They're planning a grand battle -- not grand in the sense of the fighting, but grand in the sense of the stakes -- to rally the base around. Remember, actually winning a fight is of questionable electoral value -- what happens to the single issue voter when that issue has been resolved? If you want to keep voters coming back to the polls and opening their wallets to fundraisers, then losing isn't such an awful thing. And if you're planning to lose anyway, you might as well lose a heroic battle for the soul of America -- or, at least, something that kind of looks like one if you squint right and cock your head.

The last time the GOP politicized the debt limit, things didn't work out so awfully well. Their childish tantrum-throwing literally hurt America and voters were given another piece of evidence that the GOP puts ideology above the country's well-being. But the Republican Party seems trapped in a pattern. Their base drives them to extremist positions, which in turn brings them to places where they can't possibly win. Look at Obamacare itself for evidence of that. If they really had substantive problems with it, they'd try to fix them. Instead, they pretend to try to tear it down, because that's more dramatic. They plan to lose in a spectacular fashion and become heroes of the lost cause.

So we have this series of completely avoidable crises, because the Republican Party is no longer capable of governing. They're too weighed down by their own posturing, the histrionic BS coming from rightwing media, and the Tea Party's impossible expectations to ever do anything that real. Instead, they're reduced to play acting in response to Democratic moves.

The problem with being a reactionary is that it is, by definition, impossible to lead by reacting. Reaction is following someone else's lead. The Democrats are the ones leading, all the Republicans are doing is resisting that leadership -- i.e., the old label as the "party of no" is entirely accurate. The party can not government because it can not lead. It's simply lost the capacity for it.


[photo by jshontz]


In Obamacare Defunding Fight, GOP's Best Option is to Take a Dive

"Most Americans these days are simply ignoring Republicans. And they should."

That's the first sentence of an op-ed former GOP Senator Judd Gregg, published in the capital newspaper The Hill. The subject is using the debt ceiling to defund Obamacare and the title, "Defunders are playing Russian roulette with GOP, writes ex-senator," makes it pretty clear he thinks it's a bad idea. Not that he's a fan of the Affordable Care Act -- he's just not willing to burn the nation down to get rid of it.

An approach to the debt ceiling that says one will not vote for its extension unless ObamaCare is defunded is the political equivalent of playing Russian roulette with all the chambers of the gun loaded. It is the ultimate no-win strategy.

You cannot in politics take a hostage you cannot shoot. That is what the debt ceiling is. At some point, the debt ceiling will have to be increased not because it is a good idea but because it is the only idea.

Defaulting on the nation’s obligations, which is the alternative to not increasing the debt ceiling, is not an option either substantively or politically. 

I.e., the problem with playing politics with "must pass" legislation is that it's making a threat with a doomsday machine; you can't set it off without destroying yourself in the process. The old cold war principle of mutually assured destruction applies -- if you go to war with this particular nuke, no one wins because no one survives.

And a new poll out today demonstrates this fact very well. A CNBC poll finds that most Americans oppose defunding Obamacare under any circumstances; 44% to 38%. Not a sign of great enthusiasm by any means, but not bad either -- if it were to be put up for a vote today, Obamacare would win.

But throw a government shutdown or default into the mix and the numbers change drastically.

Opposition to defunding increases sharply when the issue of shutting down the government and defaulting is included. In that case, Americans oppose defunding 59 percent to 19 percent, with 18 percent of respondents unsure. The final 4 percent is a group of people who want to defund Obamacare, but become unsure when asked if they still hold that view if it means shutting down the government.

Even Republicans oppose a shutdown or default over Obamacare, 48% to 36%. In fact, the only group that is willing to crash this Zero into the deck of the USS Obamacare are the tantrum-throwing kamikaze pilots who make up the radical right.

[A] 54 percent majority of Republicans who also identify themselves as Tea Party supporters want the new health care law defunded even if it means a government shutdown – the only demographic measured in the poll with such a majority.

That the 'baggers are solidly in favor of mass suicide gives you some idea of how inconsequential a minority they actually are. Those 54% of wingnuts who are willing to burn America down make up only a fraction of the mere 19% of the total polled who want the same. And that tiny, loudmouthed minority is managing to drive the nation to the brink of disaster and tear the GOP apart at the same time. Thanks gerrymandering, for giving such lopsided power to the enemies of reality.

All of this leaves Tea Party Senators like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul in little bit of a self-inflicted pickle. They've painted themselves into a corner on this thing, they pretty much have to go through with some sort of resistance -- but it's also a fight they know they simply must lose. So the question isn't "how to defund the Affordable Care Act," the question is "how to take a dive in the fight to defund the Affordable Care Act without being too obvious about it." Perhaps a talking filibuster that only delays things but changes nothing, like Rand Paul's big grandstanding speech on drones.

Of course, then it goes back to the House, where things may get a little more dicey. That's where those gerrymandered districts and the completely unrepresentative influence of the Tea Party comes into play. The Senate are state-wide elected offices and are, therefore, gerrymander-proof. House Republicans are also going to have to figure out how to take a convincing dive or pay for it in primary races. And of course, if they don't take a dive, shutting down the government or defaulting on our debt, they'll likewise pay in the general election. Unless they can figure out how to make it look like they were outmaneuvered -- or even screwed -- by Democrats, this fight doesn't seem eminently survivable for them.

It's not a task I envy and it may not be a task that they're up to, but it's a burden they've laid on their own backs and it's up to them to figure out how to get rid of it.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]


Tea Party Taking GOP Elites on a Kamikaze Ride-Along

Kamikaze run
Karl Rove is scared. That much is very clear. As House Tea Partiers threaten to go on what the Wall Street Journal called a "kamikaze mission" to defund Obamacare, the GOP establishment -- to which Rove definitely belongs -- find themselves strapped into the copilot's seat, without a parachute. As the nose dips down and the engines begin that high-pitched whine, the establishment gets a good look at the size of the USS Obamacare below them and thinks what every kamikaze pilot must've thought -- "This isn't even going to make a dent."

Greg Sargent catches a Rove op-ed and you can practically smell the panic.

In a new Crossroads GPS health-care policy survey conducted in 10 states likely to have competitive Senate races and in House districts that lean Republican or are swing seats, 60% of independents oppose President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. If this holds through 2014, then Republicans should receive another big boost in the midterms. There is, however, one issue on which independents disagree with Republicans: using the threat of a government shutdown to defund ObamaCare. By 58% to 30% in the GPS poll, they oppose defunding ObamaCare if that risks even a temporary shutdown. [...]

But won’t voters be swayed by the arguments for defunding? The GPS poll tested the key arguments put forward by advocates of defunding and Mr. Obama’s response. Independents went with Mr. Obama’s counterpunch 57% to 35%. Voters in Senate battleground states sided with him 59% to 33%. In lean-Republican congressional districts and in swing congressional districts, Mr. Obama won by 56% to 39% and 58% to 33%, respectively. On the other hand, independents support by 51% to 42% delaying ObamaCare’s mandate that individuals buy coverage or pay a fine.

Of course, Tea Party Republicans -- who are most definitely not listening to people like Karl Rove at the moment -- are semi-correct about one thing; this is their last chance to stop Obamacare. Once things really start rolling in 2014, it's most definitely over. At that point, none of their panic-inducing BS is going to pan out, Americans will see their healthcare costs fall, the number of people with coverage will rise, and the anti-Obamacare hysteria that Republican fearmongering has whipped up will pretty much evaporate.

But, of course, it's already too late. Their inability to make a dent in Obamacare the last forty-some times they crashed into it is proof enough of that. The appetite to take down the Affordable Care Act really exists solely in the House. It dies in the Senate and anyone who thinks Pres. Obama would actually sign an anti-Obamacare bill into law is seriously deluded. David Corn made a good point on MSNBC recently (unfortunately, I don't have the video), when he said that the GOP "Kamikaze mission" was an inapt WWII reference. Republicans are much more like the forgotten Japanese soldier at an abandoned outpost who doesn't know the war is over and keeps fighting pointlessly on.

The war on Obamacare is over. Republicans lost. Sargent points out that Rove's Crossroads poll is certainly biased in favor of Republicans, meaning the real numbers are probably worse.

"The poll is obviously one commissioned to advance an argument against defunding, but the very fact that Crossroads GPS — whose mission is to win elections — commissioned it and is calling Republicans’ attention to it is itself noteworthy," he writes. "And it finds independents in key districts and states tilt heavily against the current GOP effort to sabotage Obamacare with a government shutdown threat, even though they also overwhelmingly disapprove of the law. And they support the Obama argument over the GOP one on defunding (though seeing question wording would be key here)."

But Rove -- and the rest of the GOP establishment -- are voices squeaking objections in the back seat, unheard over the high-pitched drone of the kamikaze plane's diving engine. To House 'baggers, Sargent writes, "Rove has devolved into little more than a liberal squish and stooge of the tacitly pro-Obamacare GOP establishment, so his warnings will be disregarded. But it’s an ironic outcome that GOP elites now openly worry that anti-Obamacare animus has grown so radical and destructive that the battle over the health law — which GOP elites themselves spent years duping the base into believing would bring about the inexorable collapse of the Obama presidency — is now threatening to do profound, untold damage to the Republican Party."

That's the nature of the kamikaze run; the ship goes sailing on, but the kamikaze pilots do not survive. If a government shutdown -- which, I should add, could still be avoided -- wouldn't pointlessly hurt the nation, I'd welcome the suicidal efforts of Tea Party Republicans and applaud as the fireball lit up the sky. But this isn't going to turn out well for anyone, it'll just do the most damage to the GOP.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]


America is Getting Tired of Your Cowardice and Your Guns

I suppose it's wrong to hope that gun extremists all wind up killing each other off. Still, it's not hard to imagine it happening. If there are two things that are hallmarks of the Second Amendment Hero, they're incredibly bad judgment and a yellow-streak a mile wide. After all, the obsessive need to carry a firearm with you every place you go and to collect arsenals of weapons and piles of ammunition is not evidence of an overabundance of courage. And bad judgment? Well,this comes to mind:

ThinkProgress: Earlier this month, two men decided to wander into a crowded farmers market in Appleton, Wisconsin each with an AR-15 assault rifle strapped across their back. They did not make it to the market. After several residents called 911, expressing concerns about the two gun-toting men. Police briefly detained the men, with at least one officer drawing his weapon after they determined that the assault rifles were real. The men were briefly handcuffed and detained but were eventually released without citations.

Although open carry is legal in Wisconsin, police say they stopped the men to prevent a panic — “walking into a farmers market filled with a couple thousand individuals would be a recipe for disaster.” Yet the a county attorney told the Appleton Post-Crescent that the men could not be charged because “they had not made it to the farmers market” at the point when they were stopped and the men are reportedly considering a lawsuit against the police. In video of the men’s encounter with the police, one of the men tells an officer that they are carrying a highly visible pair of assault rifles into a crowded public market for “self defense.”

Meanwhile, there's no shortage of concealed-carry dopes wandering around among the sweet corn, nursing their own paranoid fantasies of needing their sidearms at any moment for self-protection. And here come two clowns who look exactly like what you'd expect mass shooters to look like -- after all, that's why people called the cops on them in the first place. Take all this cowardice and mix it all together and you've turned a farmers' market into a powder keg -- for absolutely no good reason. These two Second Amendment Heroes may sue the cops for not allowing them to disturb the peace, because conservatives are opposed to frivolous lawsuits right up until they're not. When it comes to having government fail to enable their emotional instabilities, gun owners can get pretty whiny.

But who is really in the majority here? Cops got calls from "several residents" about two gun-wielding loons approaching a crowd of people. The mayor called the men "two idiots trying to prove a point" and said "we don’t need vigilantes." The local paper says open-carry laws have to go. You get the distinct feeling that the people of Appleton aren't on board with the need to be armed to the teeth everywhere and anywhere.

And of course, there's the aforementioned bad judgment. These guys have it in spades. Behold all the stupid:

One of the two men, Charles Branstrom, of Appleton, told Post-Crescent Media on Friday he had no regrets.

“We never did it to prove a point, I carry every day for my safety,” Branstrom said. “It’s 100 percent within the law, we never should have been stopped in the first place ... I was one nervous twitch away from getting shot.”

Branstrom carries it for his own safety and it brought him "one nervous twitch away from getting shot." I don't suppose the inherent contradiction here has -- or will ever -- occur to this Einstein. His assault rifle didn't make him more safe, it made him less safe. And it always will, because the only way to tell the difference between a coward too afraid to leave the house without his rifle and a mass killer is to wait and see if they start shooting or not. Apparently, the people of Appleton would rather not wait. And some of those Appletonians are their fellow Second Amendment Heroes -- just as constantly terrified, just as dumb, and just as armed. How long before some open-carry genius finds tragedy at the hands of a concealed-carry genius? How long before they decide it's too dangerous to wait until the bullets start flying and launch a preemptive strike? It wouldn't be the first time a shooter invoked the Bush Doctrine.

As I say, the possibility that they'll kill each other off isn't exactly remote. The problem is that those of us endowed with a modicum of courage would get caught in the crossfire.

And I can't be the only one who's come to this realization. Tolerance for weapons in public places seems to be wearing thin. For example, you're just going to have to risk getting coffee without your shootin' iron. Maybe if you run in and run out real quick and serpentine, you'll manage to survive.

ThinkProgress: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has written an open letter asking customers to stop bringing guns into his 7,000 coffee shops — just two days after a man who had been enlisted in the Naval Reserves allegedly shot and killed 12 people at Washington DC, Navy Yard.

The decision is a reversal for the company, which had previously abided by local “open carry” laws, allowing patrons to bring guns into coffee shops where they were permitted to do so under state law. But the growing frequency with which advocates appeared at the shops with guns to celebrate “Starbucks Appreciation Days” alarmed Schultz, who argued that the demonstrations made some customers feel uncomfortable and gave off the mistaken impression that the company opposed gun safety measures.

Last month, San Antonio police broke up an “open carry” rally outside of a local Starbucks “after passersby complained about the three men and their rifles.” While the action was legal, “San Antonio police Chief William McManus explained that the gun holder can still be charged with disorderly conduct if anyone, at any point, feels threatened.”

In other words, "Starbucks Appreciation Day" resulted in a reversal of Starbucks policy. The gun nuts did themselves more harm than good. Being a wild-eyed loon waving guns around turns out to be a lousy way to win friends. Who knew?

By wallowing in their cowardice, by rubbing it in our faces, by demonstrating their inability to operate within reasonable limits or to have some respect for anyone other than themselves, gun nuts are beginning to lose what they've gained since the Tea Party won big in 2010. And they aren't losing in the state legislatures or the halls of congress, where everyone is just as timid as they are. No, they're losing on the street corners. They're losing as "no firearms allowed" signs go up in window after window. They have the right to bear arms, but soon there will be no place left to bear them -- other than along duck ponds and deer trails, where those weapons have always belonged. In their zeal to cram guns into every aspect of our lives, they're alienating everyone.

And wearing out their welcome and our patience.


[photo by Frank Steiner]


Sorry Gun Fans, Reality Doesn't Work that Way

'Call of Duty' wallpaper art
A recent news release is bad news for those who think everyone and their brother should be armed. From NPR:

Investigators now do not think there was a second shooter, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said late Monday evening. Throughout Monday, authorities had run down witness reports and other evidence indicating there might have been additional gunmen.

Aaron Alexis, acting alone, killed twelve people and died himself as a result of his rampage. And the fact that there was no second -- or third -- shooter is a terrible blow to the "arm everyone" argument, since it demonstrates panicked people aren't extremely good at identifying shooters. Second shooter reports had other shooters wearing uniforms with guns drawn wandering around, causing havoc. But these "shooters" were most likely law enforcement. Had any one of these witnesses been armed, the tragedy would likely have been aggravated. The panicked witness might've fired on law enforcement and, given the situation, there's no reason for the law enforcement personnel not to return fire.

Those arguing that workers in the Navy Yard were needlessly turned into sitting ducks by a "gun free zone" are wrong. They'll no doubt be surprised to find out that everything they've learned from their countless hours playing "Call of Duty" is wrong. The real world works in a way contrary to what the "guns solve everything" crowd would have you believe. Given everything we know, more guns in that situation would've made things much worse, not better.

But of course these fantasy-based hypotheses don't come from the brains of the people who repeat them, for the most part. They're fed to these chumps by gun industry lobbyists who couldn't care less if they live or die. For them, every mass shooting is both a problem and a gift. A problem in that it wakes up calls for common sense gun regulation. A gift in that their target audience are cowardly fools who see any act of violence as a good reason to buy more guns. So, after every mass shooting, gun sales go up as the gun lovers crap themselves in sheer terror. And at the same time, calls for gun regulations increase, as less fearful people realize that an armed society isn't turning out to be anything close to a safer society.

But hey, let's entertain the gun nuts fantasy anyway. Let's say an armed killer enters a place where everybody has a gun and starts blasting. What might this look like?

CNN: A former Navy SEAL known for claiming a record number of sniper killings in Iraq was one of two men shot dead at a Texas gun range, allegedly at the hands of a fellow military veteran, officials say.

Chris Kyle, the author of the best-selling "American Sniper," and Chad Littlefield, also a veteran, were gunned down Saturday afternoon on the grounds of the expansive Rough Creek Lodge and Resort in Glen Rose, Texas, southwest of Fort Worth, law enforcement officials said.

About four hours afterward, and 90 miles from where those two men's bodies were found by a hunting guide, authorities arrested suspect Eddie Ray Routh, 25, on a capital murder warrant.

So two armed, combat-trained, and exceptionally capable veterans were murdered by a shooter -- at a gun range, where everyone was armed. He is not stopped by Second Amendment Heroes at this point, but is able to run back to his car and escape, to be apprehended 90 miles away by law enforcement. It turns out that the difference between armed heroes among armed heroes and sitting ducks in a gun free zone is largely a sales job. Rough Creek Lodge and Resort can be happy that Routh fled before the cops showed up or all their Second Amendment Heroes might've wound up exchanging gunfire with "second shooters" who happened to be cops. As it is, all those guns did nothing to prevent tragedy or bring the killer to justice.

In fact, Aaron Alexis began his rampage with a shotgun. He died with a shotgun, a pistol, and an AR-15 assault rifle. He was collecting weapons as he went along. What weapons there were in the Yard didn't stop him, they enabled him.

A gun free zone is no less safe from gun violence than a gun range. And people being fired upon suck at identifying shooters. The fact that employees at the Navy Yard aren't allowed to carry weapons is blessing, not a curse. Anyone who believes otherwise is disinterested in the facts and reason. They're only interested in rationalizing their cowardly over-reliance on firearms.


[image by niels97oet]


Guns, Colorado, and the War for Public Opinion

It was quite a long time ago, so I don't remember who said it. I wish I did, because it's stuck with me. John Kerry had just lost to George W. Bush and a radio show was doing a campaign post-mortem to figure out what went wrong for Democrats. The subject of marriage equality came up and a Democratic strategist dismissed the idea of retreating from that front to win elections. "I'd lose a thousand elections over gay marriage," he said. It wasn't John Kerry's position or the Democratic Party's, but it was the rank-and-file's. It's always the progressive wing that drags the Democrat Party into the future. And it always works out well in a historical sense. Progressives are the conscience of the party. You don't abandon what's right for political gain.

Beyond the obvious reasons for this -- e.i., winning elections for the sake of winning elections is nihilism -- there is a longer term reward. If you stand up for what's right when the odds are against you, history remembers that courage and you own that issue forever. It wasn't conservatives who marched with Martin Luther King, as much as they like to pretend the opposite. It was liberals. The conservative attitude toward King was summed up by Ronald Reagan, who argued that King was on the wrong side of the law and, therefore, the wrong side of history. "It's the sort of great tragedy when we begin compromising with law and order and people started choosing which laws they would break," Reagan said, referring to the campaign of civil disobedience that challenged segregation by breaking Jim Crow laws. Being an authoritarian party, order is more important to Republicans than justice.

At the time, King was a deeply unpopular figure, but progressives stuck with him and now the left is rewarded for that courage. The percentage of African-Americans who vote Republican is so tiny that they're basically the crank demographic. You can call it karma if you want, but it's just the obvious result of making the right call -- when you stand on the right side of history, public opinion eventually comes to you. It has to.

I bring this all up because of a recall vote in Colorado last night.

Denver Post: An epic national debate over gun rights in Colorado on Tuesday saw two Democratic state senators ousted for their support for stricter laws, a "ready, aim, fired" message intended to stop other politicians for pushing for firearms restrictions. Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron will be replaced in office with Republican candidates who petitioned onto the recall ballot.

Party insiders always said Giron's race was the harder one. Although her district is heavily Democratic, Pueblo is a blue-collar union town. Morse's district included Manitou Springs and a portion of Colorado Springs — and more liberals.

I would lose a thousand elections over gun safety.

The elections were largely symbolic, since they have no chance at all of resulting in the gun regulations being overturned. Control of the Senate remains Democratic. Gov. John Hickenlooper is on shaky ground for reelection, but that was true before the issue came up.

Basically, the point of the recall was entirely political and not so much about Colorado. It was about the gun lobby hanging two shrunken heads from their belt, which they'll use to scare other politicians away from voting for common sense gun regulations. But they're cherrypicking their battles, only picking the ones they know they can win and hoping no one notices the ones they sit out. One like this:

ThinkProgress: After more than a year and hundreds of hours of testimony, a version of a Newtown gun ordinance first proposed before the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has been adopted unanimously by the town’s Legislative Council.

The compromise measure, which encountered significant resistance before tragedy struck the town, addresses recreational shooting and does not apply to hunting, in a town that is home to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. It gives shooters four hours after notifying the police to use their firearms, and such recreational shooting can only occur one person at a time, at set distances from the target, neighboring properties, and any school, according to the News Times.

This follows another high profile loss for the gun industry, when the state of Connecticut passed the "toughest" gun restrictions in the nation. While the gun lobby offered token resistance at the time and has complained about the law, talk of repeal has been largely absent.

And that's another reason to be willing to lose a thousand elections over gun safety -- because the NRA isn't. We don't win battles by default if we don't show up either. It's easy to choose only the fights you'll know you'll win, but if you believe in a cause, you're willing to defend hills you know you'll lose -- just to bloody up your opponents and wear them down. When the civil rights marchers were attacked by dogs and racist cops with truncheons and water cannons, it sure didn't look like they were winning.

But they were.

And so are we. Our fight is so much easier, because we won't be asked to suffer beatings and arrests.

No election will end the fight for safer streets and schools. We win that one by changing people's attitudes. When Mothers Against Drunk Driving began their campaign to crack down on DUI, they were opposed by the well-funded liquor industry and tavern leagues. But they've worked at changing people's attitudes and were so successful that their former opponents have come to at least pretend they're on the same page. No one would argue that drunk driving isn't all that big a deal or that cops shouldn't waste a lot of resources fighting it. They wouldn't dare.

The NRA will march around with heads on pikes, pretending they're undefeatable. But they run from more fights than they win. And when they run, we should make sure that there's always someone chasing them.


[photo by Michele Hubacek]


The Latest Anti-Science from the Conservative Flat Earth Society

In order to be a global warming denying wingnut, you have to leave logic at the door. This is why climate-deniers crawl out of the woodwork whenever there's a blizzard someplace and laugh at this whole crazy global warming idea. Remember how scientists said that global warming meant it would never snow anywhere ever again? Ha! Libtards...

Never mind that blizzards aren't usually accompanied by especially cold weather and that winter storms, like all storms, are driven by heat energy. Let's all laugh and laugh and laugh. And let's look out for stories like this one, so we can proudly parade our scientific ignorance around.

Telegraph: There has been a 60 per cent increase in the amount of ocean covered with ice compared to this time last year, they equivalent of almost a million square miles.

In a rebound from 2012's record low an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia's northern shores, days before the annual re-freeze is even set to begin.
The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year, forcing some ships to change their routes.
A leaked report to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seen by the Mail on Sunday, has led some scientists to claim that the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century.

According to climate-deniers, decades of data showing a warming planet can be safely ignored, but one season of ice recovery proves beyond all doubt that the planet isn't warming, but cooling. Because that's how rightwing science woks -- you cherrypick the data that seems to back up your argument and ignore the mountains of evidence that don't. And even that cherrypicked data is presented dishonestly.

The Guardian: When it comes to climate science reporting, the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph are only reliable in the sense that you can rely on them to usually get the science wrong. This weekend's Arctic sea ice articles from David Rose of the Mail and Hayley Dixon at the Telegraph unfortunately fit that pattern.

Both articles claimed that Arctic sea ice extent grew 60 percent in August 2013 as compared to August 2012. While this factoid is technically true, it's also largely irrelevant. For one thing, the annual Arctic sea ice minimum occurs in September – we're not there yet. And while this year's minimum extent will certainly be higher than last year's, that's not the least bit surprising...

The piece goes on to explain that the growth in ice extent can be explained by "a principle in statistics known as 'regression toward the mean'." This is a pretty straightforward and easy to understand principle. Basically, we lost so much ice last year that any ice recovery this year will look pretty impressive. But that's only in comparison to last year. Think of it this way -- say you're a farmer who had a big drought last year and a fairly normal year this year. Compared to last year, your yields would be huge. But the fact is that they're really unremarkable. And if the trend is toward more and more meager harvests, it wouldn't actually mean you had a good year at all.

And the trend toward less sea ice is unmistakable. If you compare each year to the previous year, it looks like it fluctuates wildly up and down. But if you look at it as a mean, the trend is undeniably downward. We are not gaining ice in the long run, we're losing it. It's completely undeniable.

There's a reason why the words "Republican scientist" are becoming an oxymoron. "Scientists used to be well represented among the nearly half of Americans who voted Republican," reported the Salt Lake Tribune last month. "But that’s changed over the years, and one poll found that just 6 percent of scientists call themselves part of the GOP now." And scientists aren't bolting the party because Republicans are so unbearably right about global warming. Republicans have become the anti-knowledge party -- and not just scientific knowledge, but historical knowledge. They use this sort of cherrypicking of factoids not just to misrepresent climate science, but to portray the party of Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond as the anti-racist party and to portray the Nazi Party was a leftwing movement. Maybe it's all a leftover from their creationist phase, who knows? But they've gotten very good at twisting facts and cherrypicking numbers.

So no, we aren't heading into a period of global cooling. No, Thomas Jefferson didn't spend his life crawling around on his knees in constant prayer. No, people never saddled dinosaurs and rode them around. No, Hitler formed the Nazi Party to oppose the left, not to join it. No, the things that talk radio and rightwing tabloids and wingnut blogs tell you aren't facts, they're lies. The Earth is not flat.

We're losing ice because the climate is warming. You may not like that fact, but guess what? Neither do I. But believing whatever you want to believe is not fixing the problem, it's just ignoring it. You can collect all the BS you want, but reality doesn't care and it doesn't change the facts.

All it does is make you a fool.


[image via Wikimedia Commons]


The Moral Cases For and Against Military Intervention in Syria

Missile launch from destroyer
Let me start by saying I'm not sure where I am on Syria and I'm going to try to work this out on paper, so to speak. First off, President Obama is absolutely correct -- if we stand by after watching a nation use chemical weapons, the idea that this is actually a crime is mostly theoretical. Assad will pay for his crime if he loses his little civil war, which is by no means a given at this point. But if he wins, it all gets swept under the rug and Assad rewrites history to make himself his own nation's Lincoln. Gas attacks -- if they're mentioned at all in Syria's history books -- will be remembered as eminently justified and totally within reason.

Then there's the "both sides are just as bad" argument. It may be true that Syrian rebels are not good people. But the definition of war crime doesn't include the phrase "good people." A murderer killing another murderer is still murder and we put people who kill other criminals on trial for murder all the time. Not necessarily because the victims deserve justice (although I think everyone does), but because punishing crime is designed to keep good order. Besides, gassing civilian populations takes out people who'd rather not have anything to do with the war and are just sitting in their houses waiting for someone to win and end all the violence. I think we can dismiss the "both sides are just as bad" argument right there. If we look the other way when countries commit war crimes against people we don't trust, it's basically condoning it. "It's OK when you use it against bad guys" is legalizing this crime, since everyone thinks they're the good guys and the people they're killing are the bad guys. Whether you agree or disagree with some form of intervention in Syria, we should all agree to put this argument to a very painful and public death. It's extremely dangerous and verges on the genocidal.

But, as so many have rightly pointed out, we are not the world's police. It's not our job to go running off to answer every crime committed by any nation -- and we sure do let enough of them slide. We should only act in unison with the UN. Military action should always be a last resort and to take unilateral action is to travel down the road taken by George W. Bush. This did not work out well the last time. The problem here is the anachronistic and not at all democratic UN Security Council. The five permanent members of the Security Council hold all the power, being the only members who have veto power, and the make-up of the permanent council members -- China, France, Russia, the UK, and the United States -- guarantees that someone's interests will always conflict with the rest. In this case, China and Russia are allies with Syria -- and they're two countries who could not care less about human rights and war crimes.
Still, it looks like the UK is out on this one as well -- although it's probably not as clear how they'd vote on the Security Council. It's possible they could clear the way for action, but personally sit it out. But the bottom line is that the UN Security Council cannot be counted on to vote to enforce international law (and the US is as guilty of this as anyone, often vetoing to protect Israel's system of apartheid). In a perfect world, the UN Security Council would be disbanded and these things would go to a full vote, but this is not a perfect world.

At least it's not a partisan issue for the president at home. Intervention in Syria has split both parties. Much like the NSA controversy, Syria has become an issue that comes down to personal beliefs, rather than partisan ideology. Republicans, for example, are split between their hawkish impulses and the corporate world's desire for unending war on one hand, and their belief that Democratic presidents are always wrong about everything on the other.

I know it sounds like I'm leaning toward military action, but I'm just laying all the cards out. The bottom line question is "would we be justified in killing innocent people" -- because killing innocent people, especially if we avoid "boots on the ground," would be inevitable. I don't believe we would be. I don't believe some school kid or newlywed or corner butcher or what have you absolutely must be sacrificed for the crimes of the Syrian government. And, in the end, that's what the entire concept of war crimes is all about anyway -- to protect the lives of innocents. If we kill innocent people in response to war crimes, it's missing the whole damned point by about a million miles. Even the targeted strikes the President advocates, aimed at disabling the government's ability to use chemical weapons (i.e., the stockpiles, manufacturing facilities, means of deployment, etc.), will result in the deaths of innocents -- this is especially true since intelligence can't possibly be 100% accurate and we'd wind up taking out "suspected" sites.

There has to be another way, because doing nothing is also not a moral option. Thank goodness I'm not the one tasked with coming up with an alternative, because right now I'm pretty stumped.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]