Originally Published: 4/26/2014
Welfare Cowboy: As I told you last week (TWW, The Welfare Cowboy, 4/19/14), Cliven Bundy claims that his family has been grazing cattle on the federally-owned Nevada land since the late 1800s. He said he’s lived there all his life. But Clark County property records show that his parents bought the 160-acre ranch in 1948, when he was 8 years old. Water rights were also transferred to the ranch itself, but not the federally-managed land surrounding it. The Bundy family began grazing cattle on that land in 1954. Bundy also claims that his rights go back to before the Bureau of Land Management existed, but the BLM was created in 1948. Records also show that his maternal grandmother was born in Nevada in 1901 and that she later helped settle Bunkerville, where Bundy currently lives. However, 1930 and 1940 census records show that she lived in Mesquite, where his mother was born in 1924. And Bundy claims that he has ancestral livestock water rights through his mother’s side of the family. But federal grazing districts were established by Congress with the passage of the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, and the Las Vegas-area grazing district - which surrounds both Bunkerville and Mesquite - was established 2 years later. (KLAS-TV) Bundy has also exposed himself as a screaming racist. (NY Times) Can we assume that most of his gun-toting supporters are also racists? Probably. Even conservatives are distancing themselves from Bundy. (Raw Story) And, for the chuckle of the week, watch Stephen Colbert and hear his Ballad of Cliven Bundy. And watch Jon Stewart on Sean Hannity’s hypocrisy.
NGI: The Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is on its way. Since 2008 the FBI has been transforming its massive fingerprint database into the even more massive NGI which will include iris scans, palm prints, and images of faces that can be scanned using facial recognition technology and matched to age, race, address, ID number, immigration status, and a lot of other things. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has obtained documents showing that the FBI’s efforts to amass as much identifying data as possible is going well, thank you very much. They’ve obtained 13.6 million images of 7 to 8 million people and expect to have 52 million photos by next year. Most of the images come from local and state law enforcement agencies. The FBI says it has no plans to collect social media images, but if you believe that I have some property in southern Florida to sell you.
Drones: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd District in New York has ruled that the U.S. government “must publicly disclose in redacted form secret papers describing its legal justification for using drones to kill citizens suspected of terrorism overseas.” (Guardian)
Iraq: We’re sending more “intelligence officers” to Iraq in an effort to “find ways to counter growing violence by Islamic militants.” (Reuters)
Israel: In light of the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, Israel has suspended peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA). The current talks were scheduled to end on April 29th, but the security cabinet suspended talks on Thursday and said they will not consider extending them past the deadline. (Jerusalem Post) However, PA president Mahmoud Abbas is trying to get the talks extended. (Jerusalem Post)
Syria: Anti-tank missiles “recently shown in videos being fired by Western-backed Syrian rebels” were manufactured in the U.S., “and their transfer to the rebels would have required direct American government approval. . . That makes the videos the first hard evidence that the Obama administration has undertaken what may be a test of the rebels’ ability to adapt to advanced weaponry in a conflict that to date has been primarily a battle of outdated Soviet-era equipment.” (McClatchy) Great. Let’s make sure they have the proper equipment to more effectively kill each other.
Ukraine: Obama is responding to Russia’s aggression “with military exercises in Eastern Europe.” According to McClatchy, “600 U.S. troops are headed for Poland and the 3 Baltic countries for live-ammunition infantry exercises with armed forces from the 4 former Soviet-bloc nations.” And Russia has begun military exercises on its border with Ukraine. (Al Jazeera) This doesn’t look good, does it? Historian Stephen Cohen suggested that a “prolonged Cold War-style conflict between Russia and the West is all but inevitable.” He’s particularly concerned about the “absence of a substantive debate - in the media or Congress - over the prudence of the administration’s Russia policy.” He calls it “a crushing defeat for democracy.” (The Nation) Then again, as we now know (TWW, Oligarchy, 4/19/14), we’re not a democracy any more. The G7 has chimed in and will “intensify sanctions” against Russia. (Guardian)
Arizona: The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors “cannot charge pot users for driving under the influence of marijuana simply because traces of the drug remain in their bloodstream.” A driver had said that he had smoked weed the night before and a blood test found cannabis metabolite Carboxy-THC in his system. However, metabolite does not cause impairment. (Reuters)
Arkansas: Arkansas Circuit Court Judge Timothy Fox struck down Arkansas’ voter ID law, “ruling that it violates the right to vote guaranteed in the state’s constitution.” (MSNBC)
Florida: The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case of the executive order by Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) that required all state employees to take random drug tests. Last May the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined the governor’s order “to be too broad,” so its ruling remains intact. (Reuters)
Georgia: The devil went down to Georgia and Governor Nathan Deal (R) signed the “Guns Everwhere” legislation. (TWW, Georgia, 3/29/14) Now, in Georgia, you can legally carry firearms just about anywhere: schools, bars, churches, restaurants, airports, government buildings, and even courthouses. You name it. It also allows felons to use the state’s “stand your ground” law to claim self-defense if they feel threatened. I bet the police love this. It also legalizes the use of silencers for hunting and “clears the way for school staffers to carry guns in school zones.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Nebraska: Yes, it’s a very conservative state. However, the legislature passed, and Governor Dave Heineman (R) signed, a bill that enacts a form of same-day voter registration. It “allows citizens to register to vote at the polls during the early voting period and cast their ballot on the same day. Same-day registration will be available until the second Friday before Election Day.” (Voting News)
Oklahoma: The state supreme court stayed the executions of 2 people after the “showdown” over the state’s secrecy in obtaining lethal drugs. Last month a district court declared the supplier secrecy law unconstitutional. (TWW, Death Penalty, 3/29/14) “The case is part of a growing legal battle nationally over secrecy in methods of execution, as traditional drugs have become scarce and states have engaged in covert scrambles to find new drug combinations and manufacturers. Oklahoma officials say they must offer secrecy because potential manufacturers fear reprisals for involvement with the death penalty.” (NY Times) But on Wednesday they lifted the stay, ruling that those awaiting death are “not entitled to know the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them.” They probably will be executed next week. (Al Jazeera)
Texas: A jury awarded a $2.925 million to plaintiffs who sued Barnett shale fracking company Aruba Petroleum for “intentionally causing a nuisance on [their] property which impacted their health and ruined their drinking water.” (DeSmogBlog) You know this will be appealed.
Vermont: The legislature has approved the first state bill to require labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods. Governor Peter Shumlin (D) said he’ll sign it. (Guardian)
Affirmative Action: The Supreme Court ruled that Michigan’s ban on affirmative action is okie, dokie. “A state’s voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in college admission.” I wonder if anyone has thought of outlawing legacy admissions. The 6-2 decision (Justice Elena Kagan recused herself since she had worked on the case as the U.S. solicitor general) means that if voters don’t like affirmative action, then you can’t do it. By that reasoning, I guess if voters like lynching, that’s okay too. (Washington Post) Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a scathing 58-page dissent. Of course, she is on the Supreme Court - as is Justice Clarence Thomas - because of affirmative action. (Washington Post)
Anonymous Tips: The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld the arrest of a California man’s “drug-laden” car following an anonymous tip. Interestingly, the majority opinion was written by Justice Clarence Thomas, who rarely writes anything. And one of the dissenters was Justice Antonin Scalia. (McClatchy)
Porn Awards: The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, limited the amount of damages that can be assessed for child pornography victims, “throwing out a $3.4 million award that went to a woman whose childhood rape has been widely seen on the Internet.” Those convicted of child pornography, they said, must pay restitution to victims but in amounts “proximate to the harm that a specific offender has caused.” (Washington Post) How do you assess that?
Inequality: According to income data compiled by the Luxembourg Income Study over the last 35 years, the U.S. has lost its place as the wealthiest middle class in the world. That distinction now goes to Canada. Things have been going downhill for the middle class since 1990, when Reagan reforms had settled in. If you take into account things like healthcare, retirement, and education, the U.S. loss is even greater. (NY Times) And what is Canada doing that we’re not? Lynn Stuart Parramore, writing at Alternet, noted that they have better education, including subsidized higher education, universal healthcare, more unions, and a better social safety net, as do the European countries whose middle classes are better off than ours. The AP did a survey and found that 80% of all U.S. adults “struggle with joblessness, near poverty, or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.” [Emphasis added.] And the rich are getting richer because, well, they’re rich. It’s wealth from wealth. The wealthiest are, for the most part, no longer “self-made.” It’s inherited. By investing their enormous wealth, they take an ever greater share of the nation’s wealth - which then gets passed on to their children and grandchildren. Analysis of data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that income from wealth going to the top 1% surged to 54% in 2010 from 33.5% in 1979. (Economic Policy Institute) But because inherited wealth is growing, this percentage will continue to grow, unless we do something. For a great explanation, see Bill Moyers’ interview with Paul Krugman regarding Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
IRS-Gate: Remember this? Yeah. It’s still a matter of discussion for right-wingers. But Think Progress obtained some IRS documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the information “appears to contradict the claims by Rep. Darrell Issa (R, CA) and his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that only Tea Party organizations applying for tax-exempt status ‘received systematic scrutiny because of their political beliefs.’” The 22 “Be On the Look Out” keywords that triggered more scrutiny of the applications “included more explicit references to progressive groups, ACORN successors, and medical marijuana organizations than to Tea Party entities.” Check out the chart.
Net Neutrality: We’re really in trouble now. Thomas Wheeler, chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has proposed a new net neutrality rule. It doesn’t restore net neutrality as it was before Dubya got ahold of it - like candidate Obama promised in 2008. According to the NY Times, the new rules would allow for “the creation of special, faster lanes for online content to flow to consumers - for content providers willing to pay for it.” Interestingly, the FCC “had previously warned against those types of deals, saying they could unfairly discriminate against companies that could not or were not willing to pay.” The Guardian claims it would “axe-murder Net Neutrality.” Gabe Rottman, an ACLU legislative counsel and policy advisor who focuses on First Amendment issues, explains: “If the FCC embraces this reported reversal in its stance toward net neutrality, barriers to innovation will rise, the marketplace of ideas on the Internet will be constrained, and consumers will ultimately pay the price.” (Washington Post) And what about when rich manipulators like the Koch Brothers start paying the price for rightwing propaganda to come through faster than real news? Write, or better yet, call your congress critters NOW.
Social Security: Why do politicos keep going after Social Security? To understand the movement watch this video from Mike Papantonio. (You Tube) It explains everything.
Drug Offenders: The Obama administration announced an initiative that “could grant clemency to hundreds, even thousands, of drug abusers and other nonviolent federal prisoners who’ve served 10 years or more.” The Justice Department is putting together a process for offenders to apply and for their applications to be reviewed. (McClatchy)
400 ppm: For the first time in human history, we have hit a month where “levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide were higher than 400 parts per million for an entire month.” Yup. Remember it. April 2014. Before the industrial revolution levels were 280 ppm. (Climate Central)
Renewable Energy: Political attacks against renewable energy are well underway and the Koch Brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, and others are turning it into the boogie man. They’ve launched an all-out mission against it. “At the nub of the dispute are 2 policies found in dozens of states. One requires utilities to get a certain share of power from renewable sources. The other, known as net metering, guarantees homeowners or businesses with solar panels on their roofs the right to sell any excess electricity back into the power grid at attractive rates.” The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been drafting legislation in many states targeting net metering. “The group also helped launch efforts by conservative lawmakers in more than half a dozen states to repeal green energy mandates.” (LA Times)