Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

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Merry Xmas and Happy Holidays

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Pope’s Attack On Marriage Equality Will Backfire

From Truth Wins Out:  http://www.truthwinsout.org/opinion/2012/12/32556/

December 24, 2012

Instead of using his annual Christmas address to call for unity and peace on earth, Pope Benedict squandered his big moment to declare war on the gay community. In a mean-spirited and hyperbolic speech, the Pontiff tried to whip up fear about the unfounded threat caused by marriage equality. He demanded that the world’s major religions join forces – like a twisted version of the old Super Friends cartoon – to defeat gay marriage initiatives worldwide.

According to the Reuters report:

“The Vatican has gone on the offensive in response to gains for gay marriage in the United States and Europe, using every possible opportunity to denounce it through papal speeches or editorials in its newspaper or on its radio station…In some countries, the Catholic Church has already joined forces with Jews, Muslims and members of other religions to oppose the legalization of gay marriage.”

While the ranting from Rome sounds scary, this campaign offers more pitfalls than positive outcomes for the Vatican. The 2012 elections in America were the equivalent of winning the Kentucky Derby for the LGBT community, yet this most unsympathetic and unpopular Pope thinks he can put the champion racehorse back in the barn. The Vatican is a bit late to the track, it seems, and if Benedict thinks this miracle is going to happen, his handlers should stop him from inhaling more incense.

Urging American Catholics to vote against marriage equality is a losing strategy already tested this year by Derek McCoy, Executive Director for the Maryland Marriage Alliance. At the Values Voter Summit, which took place in Washington in September, McCoy warned:

Continue reading at:  http://www.truthwinsout.org/opinion/2012/12/32556/

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When Prophecy Fails

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/24/opinion/krugman-when-prophecy-fails.html?_r=0

Published: December 23, 2012

Back in the 1950s three social psychologists joined a cult that was predicting the imminent end of the world. Their purpose was to observe the cultists’ response when the world did not, in fact, end on schedule. What they discovered, and described in their classic book, “When Prophecy Fails,” is that the irrefutable failure of a prophecy does not cause true believers — people who have committed themselves to a belief both emotionally and by their life choices — to reconsider. On the contrary, they become even more fervent, and proselytize even harder.

This insight seems highly relevant as 2012 draws to a close. After all, a lot of people came to believe that we were on the brink of catastrophe — and these views were given extraordinary reach by the mass media. As it turned out, of course, the predicted catastrophe failed to materialize. But we can be sure that the cultists won’t admit to having been wrong. No, the people who told us that a fiscal crisis was imminent will just keep at it, more convinced than ever.

Oh, wait a second — did you think I was talking about the Mayan calendar thing?

Seriously, at every stage of our ongoing economic crisis — and in particular, every time anyone has suggested actually trying to do something about mass unemployment — a chorus of voices has warned that unless we bring down budget deficits now now now, financial markets will turn on America, driving interest rates sky-high. And these prophecies of doom have had a powerful effect on our economic discourse.

Thus, back in May 2009 the Wall Street Journal editorial page seized on an uptick in long-term interest rates to declare that the “bond vigilantes,” the “disciplinarians of U.S. policy makers,” had arrived, and would push rates inexorably higher if big budget deficits continued. As it happened, rates soon went back down. But that didn’t stop The Journal’s news section from rolling out the same story the next time rates rose: “Debt fears send rates up,” blared a headline in March 2010; the debt continued to grow, but the rates went down again.

At this point the yield on the benchmark 10-year bond is less than half what it was when that 2009 editorial was published. But don’t expect any rethinking on The Journal’s part.

Now, you could say that The Journal’s editors didn’t give a specific date for the fiscal apocalypse, although I doubt that any of their readers imagined that they were talking about an event at least three years and seven months in the future.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/24/opinion/krugman-when-prophecy-fails.html?_r=0

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David Gregory Shocked By NRA’s LaPierre: You Fly In The Face Of Common Sense

From Think Progress:  http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/12/23/1374631/david-gregory-shocked-by-nras-lapierre-you-fly-in-the-face-of-common-sense/

By Adam Peck
on Dec 23, 2012

During Sunday’s Meet the Press, the National Rifle Association’s Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre sat down with host David Gregory and defended his organization’s universally panned call for armed guards to be stationed at every school in the country.

The NRA’s tone-deaf press conference on Friday has been widely criticized by all corners of the political arena, and several commentators were quick to point out that armed guards stationed at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech and Fort Hood in Texas were all unable to prevent mass shootings. But LaPierre dismissed those cases on Sunday, and said that lawmakers should be willing to try anything that might work. Anything, noted David Gregory, so long as it doesn’t involve guns and ammunition:

GREGORY:This is a matter of logic, Mr. LaPierre, because anybody watching this is going to say ‘hey wait a minute. I just heard Mr. LaPierre say that the standard is we should try anything that might reduce the violence. And you’re telling me that it’s not a matter of common sense that if you don’t have an ability to shoot off 30 rounds without reloading, that just possibly you could reduce the loss of life? Would Adam Lanza have been able to shoot as many kids if he didn’t have as much ammunition?’

LAPIERRE: I don’t buy your argument for a minute.

Complete article at:  http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/12/23/1374631/david-gregory-shocked-by-nras-lapierre-you-fly-in-the-face-of-common-sense/

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Celebrating the Prince of Peace in the Land of Guns

From Michael Moore:    http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/celebrating-prince-peace-land-guns

By Michael Moore
December 24th, 2012

After watching the deranged, delusional National Rifle Association press conference on Friday, it was clear that the Mayan prophecy had come true. Except the only world that was ending was the NRA’s. Their bullying power to set gun policy in this country is over. The nation is repulsed by the massacre in Connecticut, and the signs are everywhere: a basketball coach at a post-game press conference; the Republican Joe Scarborough; a pawn shop owner in Florida; a gun buy-back program in New Jersey; a singing contest show on TV, and the conservative gun-owning judge who sentenced Jared Loughner.

So here’s my little bit of holiday cheer for you:

These gun massacres aren’t going to end any time soon.

I’m sorry to say this. But deep down we both know it’s true. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep pushing forward – after all, the momentum is on our side. I know all of us – including me – would love to see the president and Congress enact stronger gun laws. We need a ban on automatic AND semiautomatic weapons and magazine clips that hold more than 7 bullets. We need better background checks and more mental health services. We need to regulate the ammo, too.

But, friends, I would like to propose that while all of the above will certainly reduce gun deaths (ask Mayor Bloomberg – it is virtually impossible to buy a handgun in New York City and the result is the number of murders per year has gone from 2,200 to under 400), it won’t really bring about an end to these mass slayings and it will not address the core problem we have. Connecticut had one of the strongest gun laws in the country. That did nothing to prevent the murders of 20 small children on December 14th.

In fact, let’s be clear about Newtown: the killer had no criminal record so he would never have shown up on a background check. All of the guns he used were legally purchased. None fit the legal description of an “assault” weapon. The killer seemed to have mental problems and his mother had him seek help, but that was worthless. As for security measures, the Sandy Hook school was locked down and buttoned up BEFORE the killer showed up that morning. Drills had been held for just such an incident. A lot of good that did.

And here’s the dirty little fact none of us liberals want to discuss: The killer only ceased his slaughter when he saw that cops were swarming onto the school grounds – i.e, the men with the guns. When he saw the guns a-coming, he stopped the bloodshed and killed himself. Guns on police officers prevented another 20 or 40 or 100 deaths from happening. Guns sometimes work. (Then again, there was an armed deputy sheriff at Columbine High School the day of that massacre and he couldn’t/didn’t stop it.)

Continue reading at:  http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/celebrating-prince-peace-land-guns

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Do Armed Civilians Stop Mass Shooters? Actually, No.

From Mother Jones:   http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/armed-civilians-do-not-stop-mass-shootings

Five cases commonly cited as a rationale for arming Americans don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Wed Dec. 19, 2012

In the wake of the unthinkable massacre in Connecticut, pro-gun ideologues are once again calling for ordinary citizens to arm themselves as a solution to mass shootings. If only the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School had possessed a M-4 assault rifle she could’ve stopped the killer, they say. This latest twist on a long-running argument isn’t just absurd on its face; there is no evidence to support it. As I reported recently in our in-depth investigation, not one of the 62 mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years has been stopped this way. More broadly, attempts by armed civilians to intervene in shooting rampages are rare—and are successful even more rarely. (Two people who tried it in recent years were gravely wounded or killed.) And law enforcement overwhelmingly hates the idea.

Those pesky facts haven’t stopped the “arm America more!” crowd from pressing the argument with alleged examples of successful armed interventions. The problem is, the few examples they keep using—in which they depict plain old folks acting heroically and with definitive results—fall apart under scrutiny. Here are five of them and why they don’t work:

Appalachian School of Law shooting in Grundy, Virginia
Gun rights die-hards frequently credit the end of a rampage at the law school in 2002 to armed “students” who intervened. They conveniently ignore that those students also happened to be current and former law enforcement officers, and that the killer, according to police investigators, was out of ammunition by the time they got to him.

Middle school dance shooting in Edinboro, Pennsylvania
An ambiguous case from 1998, in which the shooter may well have already been done shooting: After killing a teacher and wounding three others, the 14-year-old perpetrator left the dance venue. The owner of the venue followed him outside with a shotgun, confronting and subduing him in a nearby field until police arrived. The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, who himself recently argued for more guns as an answer to gun violence, told me this week that one police source he talked to about this case said that it was “not clear at all” whether the kid had intended to do any further shooting after he’d left the building.

Continue reading at:  http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/armed-civilians-do-not-stop-mass-shootings

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The Horror Continues: 4 Firefighters Shot, 2 Fatally, in New York; Gunman Dead

Children, teachers, fire fighters. 

Have we no decency?

Fuck the profits of the gun manufacturers.

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/25/nyregion/2-firefighters-killed-in-western-new-york.html?hp

By and
Published: December 24, 2012

WEBSTER, N.Y. — It was a simple call to put out a car fire, the sort of routine job that firefighters tackle all the time. The fire truck hurtled to the assignment early Monday in this drowsy town on the shores of Lake Ontario that was preparing for the joys of Christmas.

But it apparently was a trap, the authorities said. There were a house and a car burning. There was also a waiting killer, who had stationed himself like a sniper on a berm above the firefighters.

Before they could begin to extinguish the fire, the firefighters were met by a burst of gunfire. Four were hit by the volley of bullets, and two died. An off-duty police officer from nearby Greece, N.Y., who was on his way to work, was wounded when he and his car were hit by shrapnel.

For a few hours, the scene was chaotic: flames ignited adjacent houses as the police frantically searched for the gunman. They would find him dead near the beach, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was identified as William Spengler, 62, a man with a lengthy criminal record, who lived in the burning house. In 1981, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter for bludgeoning his 92-year-old grandmother to death with a hammer. He was imprisoned until 1998.

He remained on supervised parole until 2006, and the Webster police said they had not had recent brushes with him. His mother, Arline, who lived in the same house, died this year. A former neighbor, Roger D. Vercruysse, said Mr. Spengler and his sister had also lived in the house, but “he stayed in one part with his mother and his sister stayed in the other part, and they never talked to each other.”

Mr. Spengler’s ire for his sister was matched by love for his mother, Mr. Vercruysse said.

Mr. Spengler did not seem to have a lot of friends, but “every time I needed help, he was there,” Mr. Vercruysse, 64, said, whether it was for shoveling snow or driving Mr. Vercruysse’s blind sister to the store. The police said they found Mr. Spengler with three weapons by his side, including the rifle used in the shootings. Authorities said that they did not know where he got the weapons, but that there had been recent gun thefts in Monroe County, where Webster is. As a felon, Mr. Spengler was prohibited from owning guns.

Continue reading at:   http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/25/nyregion/2-firefighters-killed-in-western-new-york.html?hp

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‘Frankenfish’ Approval Could Open Floodgates for Other GM Animals

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/12/24-3

by Steve Connor
Published on Monday, December 24, 2012 by The Independent/UK

An American license to permit the commercial development and sale of genetically modified salmon could open the door on a new era of GM animals designed for human consumption, although at present there are few signs they are wanted by either consumers or supermarkets.

The AquAdvantage salmon is an Atlantic salmon engineered with two extra genes – one from the Pacific Chinook salmon and one from an eel-like species called the ocean pout – which together boost the fish’s growth hormones so it puts on weight all year round instead of seasonally.

AquaBounty Technologies of Maynard, Massachusetts, says its GM salmon grows twice as fast as conventional farmed fish.

It can also be reared on land-based fish farms, rather than in sea pens, which according to the company are less polluting as well as having smaller carbon footprints and lower transport costs because they can be sited nearer big cities.

If the US government gives approval to AquaBounty, which now looks increasingly likely, it could change the economics of salmon farming. This could put commercial pressure on producers in Britain and the rest of Europe to follow suit, even though they and their customers have little appetite for GM food.

Complete article at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/12/24-3

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Rebecca Solnit, 2013 as Year Zero for Us — and Our Planet

From Tom Dispatch:   http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175632/tomgram%3A_rebecca_solnit%2C_2013_as_year_zero_for_us_–_and_our_planet/

by Rebecca Solnit
December 23, 2012.

The Sky’s the Limit
The Demanding Gifts of 2012
By Rebecca Solnit

As this wild year comes to an end, we return to the season of gifts. Here’s the gift you’re not going to get soon: any conventional version of Paradise. You know, the place where nothing much happens and nothing is demanded of you. The gifts you’ve already been given in 2012 include a struggle over the fate of the Earth. This is probably not exactly what you asked for, and I wish it were otherwise — but to do good work, to be necessary, to have something to give: these are the true gifts. And at least there’s still a struggle ahead of us, not just doom and despair.

Think of 2013 as the Year Zero in the battle over climate change, one in which we are going to have to win big, or lose bigger.  This is a terrible thing to say, but not as terrible as the reality that you can see in footage of glaciers vanishing, images of the entire surface of the Greenland Ice Shield melting this summer, maps of Europe’s future in which just being in southern Europe when the heat hits will be catastrophic, let alone in more equatorial realms.

For millions of years, this world has been a great gift to nearly everything living on it, a planet whose atmosphere, temperature, air, water, seasons, and weather were precisely calibrated to allow us — the big us, including forests and oceans, species large and small — to flourish. (Or rather, it was we who were calibrated to its generous, even bounteous, terms.) And that gift is now being destroyed for the benefit of a few members of a single species.

The Earth we evolved to inhabit is turning into something more turbulent and unreliable at a pace too fast for most living things to adapt to. This means we are losing crucial aspects of our most irreplaceable, sublime gift, and some of us are suffering the loss now — from sea snails whose shells are dissolving in acidified oceans to Hurricane Sandy survivors facing black mold and bad bureaucracy to horses starving nationwide because a devastating drought has pushed the cost of hay so high to Bolivian farmers failing because the glaciers that watered their valleys have largely melted.

This is not just an issue for environmentalists who love rare species and remote places: if you care about children, health, poverty, farmers, food, hunger, or the economy, you really have no choice but to care about climate change.

Continue reading at:   http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175632/tomgram%3A_rebecca_solnit%2C_2013_as_year_zero_for_us_–_and_our_planet/

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West Antarctic Ice Sheet warming twice earlier estimate

From BBC:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20804192

By Matt McGrath
23 December 2012

A new analysis of temperature records indicates that the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming nearly twice as fast as previously thought.

US researchers say they found the first evidence of warming during the southern hemisphere’s summer months.

They are worried that the increased melting of ice as a result of warmer temperatures could contribute to sea-level rise.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The scientists compiled data from records kept at Byrd station, established by the US in the mid-1950s and located towards the centre of the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS).

Previously scientists were unable to draw any conclusions from the Byrd data as the records were incomplete.

The new work used a computer model of the atmosphere and a numerical analysis method to fill in the missing observations.

The results indicate an increase of 2.4C in average annual temperature between 1958 and 2010.

“What we’re seeing is one of the strongest warming signals on Earth,” says Andrew Monaghan, a co-author and scientist at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to determine that there’s warming going on during the summer season.” he added.

Continue reading at:   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20804192

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