What About People’s Right to Live in an Environment where People are not Allowed to Carry Guns Around?

Too many of the people who have availed themselves of concealed handgun licenses are right wing thugs.  Often racist, anti-Latino, homophobic bigots and bullies.

Too many of them are looking for the opportunity to shoot someone, preferably a person of color but a gay or lesbian would do.

When I was working as a supervisor in a big box store I knew several of my workers were carrying loaded guns at work.  They knew I am a sport shooter and go to the range.

Thing is, had I been in charge of issuing CHLs I would have had serious qualms about having these people carry guns around with them.  I had seen a couple go off on other workers and was very much relieved that gun violence did not ensue.

Too many CHLs are in the hands of hyper-aggressive men who are deeply offended by things like women over stepping their position.

The gun culture thrives on fear.

For the better part of thirty-five years I live in either the San Francisco Bay Area or in Los Angeles where I rode buses. Sometimes I was the only white person on the bus.  Perhaps I’m odd but I didn’t feel threatened by the working class men and women of color with whom I shared the bus.  Granted I avoided the back area of the bus because that tended to be an area where rowdy young men gathered.

I took subways too.  Waited for buses in the late evening and never felt I needed to carry a gun for my own personal protection.

Indeed the only time during those years I felt I needed a gun for protection was when a friend who was seriously strung out on speed threatened to stalk and murder me.  This was a specific threat though, not a general environmental threat.

I  have opted out of getting a CHL.  I don’t feel I really go anywhere I would need to carry a gun.  I also feel that if I were thinking about going some place where carrying a gun would be a prudent act then perhaps I should rethink going there.

So far the gun people who think everyone should have a gun on them at all times have had their say.

In Texas the population is: 26,403,743 people of those 23,213,579 live in metropolitan areas.  There are approximately 500,000 CHLs.

This means the vast majority of citizens here in Texas does not have a CHL.  Hopefully most of those people are not carrying guns illegally.  There is an image of Texas being wide open spaces but again the vast majority of people live in metropolitan areas.

I said I sport shoot.  I am a member of an indoor range with a lot of safety features.  Were those safety features not a part of my range I would not shoot there.  There are a lot of indoor pistol ranges.

On the other hand outdoor ranges in metropolitan areas are nearly non existent.  Further at those ranges people are not permitted to engage in rapid fire.

Which brings us to those AR style rifles and those AK47 style rifles.  I for one have a hard time figuring out where the majority of people buying them find a place to shoot them.

We have an outdoor range in our town.  People over a mile away are trying very hard to close it after bullets from the range penetrated the roof of their house and ended up embedded in their children’s bed rooms.

At some point we have to ask where is our right to be free from all this gun violence and the threat of gun toting people in our midst, people who feel so threatened by the world around them they feel the need to carry guns.

What about the rights of those of us who just want to go about our lives in a gun free world?

Where are our rights?

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Transitioning in a Misogynistic Society

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lucas-waldron/transitioning-in-a-misogynistic-society_b_2360264.html


12/26/2012

About a year ago, when I was first starting my female-to-male transition, a male co-worker of mine said to me, “I guess men and women are just different.” The context? He had just asked me, “What are you more into? Tits, ass or pussy?” I was already annoyed with him, because I get this type of question all the time from men who are both fascinated by my sexual orientation and bewildered by my gender identity, and decided just to respond with a simple, “I don’t really care.” Astonished that I, a female-bodied but male-identifying person, didn’t spend large swaths of time pondering the relative sexiness of each part of the female body, my co-worker continued to press me for conclusive answers. He finally announced that men and women must be different, classifying me as female because I didn’t seem to think about my genitalia (or other people’s genitalia) as much as he considered normal.

The conversation led me to ask myself, “Are men and women really that different?” I’ve never felt like a woman. But maybe my female body has kept me out of the loop of this exploitive culture? Or maybe men and women are not different, and he was just an exception. This interaction, along with countless other similar interactions in my life, has stuck with me as I proceed with my medical transition. I took my seventh shot of testosterone just a few days ago, and I still don’t have a way to reconcile my utter disgust with misogyny and personal commitment to feminism with my male identity. I find it hard to believe that feminism and masculinity are mutually exclusive, considering that my father, a passionate humanist, raised me, and considering that many of the men in my life break the stereotypes society assigns to heterosexual male-bodied people. However, my personal experiences leave me without a definition for masculinity and how it might be expressed outside the culture of exploitation.

I am halfway through my fourth year in college, and during that time I have learned a lot from my cisgender female friends. I recently comforted a friend who went to a male classmate’s house to study for a final in the class they shared and was met at the door with not-so-subtle hints that the study date was not happening if she didn’t put out first. I go to bars with friends and watch men a decade older than they stare at and comment on their bodies. A close friend of mine accepted an offer to sleep at a male friend’s apartment last week after a late night out with mutual co-workers in a part of the city far away from her apartment. After repeatedly asking him to stop groping her, she fell asleep to be awakened periodically by his wandering hands. The next day she told me that she felt guilty for not sleeping with him, as if the expectation in society is that women will reward men for nice gestures with sex. What’s more, had she rejected his offer to stay at his apartment, she would have been waiting for a bus late at night downtown and risking her safety through different means.

Although I loathe that the term “risking her safety” is even in my vocabulary, I feel that the patterns of rape culture and misogyny that I have witnessed merit such phrases’ existence. When I recount the experience of women in my life, I feel compelled to assess the privilege I am gaining in assuming a heterosexual male identity. I ask myself, “What kind of gender am I joining?” I am walking away from a lifelong, societally projected identity as a lesbian woman to become something that will make me feel considerably more comfortable with my own body and experience, but does assuming this privilege somehow make me inherently anti-woman?

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lucas-waldron/transitioning-in-a-misogynistic-society_b_2360264.html

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Should trans people fear rejig of Britain’s NHS?

From Gay Star UK:   http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/should-trans-people-fear-rejig-britain%E2%80%99s-nhs101212

Transgender people and groups want their voices heard about changes to the NHS in England which may impact on gender dysphoria treatment

By Helen Belcher
10 December 2012

Former British Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s re-organisation of the country’s beloved National Health Service (NHS) is moving forwards, with many parts being implemented in only a few months time.

While for most of us the impact will be difficult to see, many trans people across England are highly concerned about the effects for them.

On the face of it, the movement of gender identity clinic services and genital surgery to be commissioned on a national basis should be a good thing – as it should remove the regional lottery that is often in effect. Some Primary Care Trusts have really good reputations for funding medical treatment of trans people, while others have created no-go areas for trans people due to the difficulty in gaining any funding whatsoever. National commissioning should smooth that out. Also, in theory, it may open the door to more providers – meaning different clinics and new surgeons.

But there is controversy over the specification of these services – what is covered and expected of the providers. Consultation over them with the Department of Health has been patchy – a meeting between them and representatives of various trans groups in May quickly descended into uproar. It did force the Department of Health to consult with service users (as trans people are grandly called in that context), but it was made clear that this government body could not actually tell the new National Commissioning Board what to commission or how.

This new National Commissioning Board has an advisory panel that is stuffed full of medics, and the draft policies all appear to have been drafted by them. A recent survey by the Scottish Transgender Alliance uncovered that 62% of respondents reported at least one issue or conflict with their gender identity clinic.

There is a very real fear that the voices of trans people are still being drowned out, and concerns with current services are not being addressed. An example is the on-going requirement for a trans person to be employed or in training in order to be eligible for surgery. It is a struggle to find any other NHS-provided medical procedure that is dependent upon your ability to earn money.

Continue reading at:  http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/should-trans-people-fear-rejig-britain%E2%80%99s-nhs101212

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Pussy Riot: ‘Things have changed, but our desire to protest remains’

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/dec/26/pussy-riot-protest-interview

In the latest in our series of interviews with newsmakers of 2012, Miriam Elder meets Yekaterina Samutsevich, one of the women whose punk protests as Pussy Riot electrified Russia

in Moscow
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 26 December 2012

One year ago, Yekaterina Samutsevich was riding a euphoric high. Moscow had exploded in an unexpected storm of protest, as tens of thousands took to the streets to show their anger at Vladimir Putin‘s upcoming return to the presidency. Samutsevich and a group of friends went to protest dutifully – and returned home to don balaclavas and bright dresses for a secretly planned performance by their anti-Kremlin punk band, Pussy Riot.

“I had huge hopes,” Samutsevich said wistfully as she recalled those days during an interview in a Moscow cafe.

A year later, and although anger at Putin remains high, the spirit of protest that rocked the country has stalled. Also, two of Samutsevich’s best friends are in prison, far from the capital, far from their family, and far from the Kremlin that put them there.

The three band members – Samutsevich, Maria (Masha) Alyokhina and Nadezhda (Nadya) Tolokonnikova – rapidly shot to global prominence in the summer after performing an anti-Putin punk anthem in a Moscow cathedral. They were charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and sentenced to two years in prison. Two months later, Samutsevich was let out on appeal after taking on a new lawyer who argued she should be set free since she was kicked out of the church before the performance.

She notes now with sadness that some accuse her of winning her freedom at the expense of her friends. Yet she feels no guilt – only the responsibility to speak for the friends who can’t speak for themselves.

“Now that I’ve been let out early, I can be here and free and speak in the name of the group,” Samutsevich said. “We took part in the trial and only we saw it from inside. Now I can tell everyone about that. Unfortunately Nadya and Masha can’t, since they’re in jail.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/dec/26/pussy-riot-protest-interview

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Wage History and The Case for A Living Wage

From Op-Ed News:   http://www.opednews.com/articles/Wage-History-and-The-Case-by-Brian-Lynch-121225-974.html

By
December 26, 2012

A conservative friend of mine was astonished to learn that a couple with two children in his town would need an income of  $52,000 per year to live there. “I’m a CPA and I’ve had partners who didn’t make $57,000 some years,” he said.

That sounds about right, yet we have come to the point where a living wage, defined as the minimum hourly income necessary for a worker to afford basic needs, is close to the U.S. median family income.  Nearly half of the USworkforce are unable to meet all of their families basic needs without some assistance from relatives or the government.

“Everyone” can’t be above average,” he protested.  “If we set the poverty line or living wage standards above the average American income, the government could NEVER provide [enough for the poor].”

First, living wage standards are not set by the government.  They are set by the market place where people spend their wages for the goods and services they need.  Living wages are calculated based on the cost of food, shelter, clothing, medical care, transportation and other necessities for living.  These essential requirements have a free market price tag that varies from place to place.  The poverty line, on the other hand, is an arbitrary federal government measure used to determine who may be eligible for government financial subsidy, among other uses.  It is a single value that does not take local economies into account.

Second, his response assumes that it is government’s role to subsidize America’s workforce.  To the contrary, it is, and ought to be, the responsibility of employers and business owners to maintain strong communities and a stable, well compensated workforce.  When families can no longer afford to meet their basic needs in a given location they either migrate to places where their prospects are better or they devolve to survive and the social order breaks down.  Either way, businesses suffer when this happens.  Ultimately, commerce and markets cannot exist without solid communities and a stable, healthy workforce.  When businesses shirk their responsibility to properly compensate employees, governments step in to help stabilize the workforce.  This amounts to a hidden business tax subsidy.

Continue reading at:  http://www.opednews.com/articles/Wage-History-and-The-Case-by-Brian-Lynch-121225-974.html

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The Catholic Church’s angry Christmas

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2012/12/26/the_catholic_churchs_angry_christmas/

After the pope denounces gay marriage, in a bizarre holiday message, the Church goes on the attack for “life”

By
Wednesday, Dec 26, 2012

For the holidays this year, the Catholic Church chose to give the world the gift of bizarre, alienating and utterly missing the point rhetoric. Oh, you shouldn’t have! We already got one of those from the NRA! 

First, Pope Benedict XVI used his annual holiday message to the Vatican to denounce gay and lesbian progress as a “manipulation of nature” and an “attack” on the family. Now, Cardinal Sean Brady, the Primate of all Ireland, has used the galvanizing death of a pregnant woman in a Galway hospital as an excuse to double down on anti-abortion rhetoric. Guys, maybe next year you could ask Santa for a sense of timing and a pair of ears that aren’t tone-deaf.

The harrowing, cruel experience of Savita Halappanavar, who died of septicaemia in October, has provoked unprecedented national outrage. Her widower alleges her doctors wouldn’t intervene to save her life while her fetus still had a heartbeat, on the excuse that “This is a Catholic country.” Now, following a wave of public protests and an advisory from the European Court of Human Rights, Ireland, the only European Union nation that still outlaws abortion, has begun the delicate process of loosening its restrictions. Earlier this month, Minister of Health James Reilly announced the government is introducing new laws that will permit abortion when the life of the mother is at risk. The new regulations will still be plenty restrictive – a mere risk to the mother’s health will still not be sufficient to obtain an abortion, and Reilly assures that the changes will “clarify what is legal for the professionals who must provide care while at all times taking full account of the equal right to life of the unborn child.” 

Yet at a moment when a minute move toward preventing more women from dying in agony is finally on the table, Brady took the opportunity to deliver a Christmas message about “life” to the people of Ireland, urging, “No government has the right to remove that right from an innocent person.” In case you’re wondering, it’s not the innocent life of Savita Halappanavar he’s referencing here.

Nobody expects the Catholic Church to do a sudden, swift about-face on the topic of abortion. But instead of trying to whip up the masses with some phony-baloney rhetoric about honoring life, Brady – or any other Irish priest with an ounce of true courage – could have spoken out with compassion about a tragic loss. He could have extended condolences to her family. He could have mentioned that while the Church opposes abortion even to save the life of a mother – Pope Pius XI famously, chillingly declared that “However we may pity the mother whose health and even life is imperiled by the performance of her natural duty, there yet remains no sufficient reason for condoning the direct murder of the innocent” – it does however clearly insist “physicians must do everything in their power to save both the mother and the child.” In other words, you can’t just sit back and let a woman die.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2012/12/26/the_catholic_churchs_angry_christmas/

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There Are Now As Many Nonreligious Americans As Evangelicals — 6 Ways Politicians Can Court Their Vote

From Alternet:   http://www.alternet.org/belief/there-are-now-many-nonreligious-americans-evangelicals-6-ways-politicians-can-court-their

The nonreligious are proving to be a crucial voting bloc.

By Adam Lee
December 19, 2012

In the aftermath of President Obama’s electoral romp over Mitt Romney, the media and pundits have paid much attention to the demographics that propelled him to victory, especially women, Hispanics and young voters. But there’s one more group that played an underappreciated yet crucial role in his reelection, and which only now is starting to get the recognition it deserves.

A growing segment of American society — up to 20%, according to recent surveys, and higher than that in younger generations — is what pollsters call the “nones,” people who answer “None of the above” to questions about religious affiliation. This includes declared atheists and agnostics, as well as people who choose not to identify with any organized religion. In many swing states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia, President Obama lost both Protestants and Catholics by relatively small margins, but won nonreligious voters by huge margins, enough to put him over the top. In the country at large, there are now as many nonreligious people as there are evangelical Christians.

But the political loyalties of this group can’t be taken for granted. For example, despite his dependency on unaffiliated voters, President Obama has broken a campaign promise by continuing to fund and promote George W. Bush’s ” faith-based initiative,” which funnels federal money to religious charities that discriminate in hiring. In effect, nonbelieving taxpayers are being forced to subsidize jobs they could never be hired for.

In this cycle, the specter of a Romney presidency indebted to the religious right persuaded nonreligious voters to choose the lesser of two evils. But there’s no guarantee that this will happen in every future election. If Democrats continue to antagonize atheists and other nones, they may just stay home, and that’s a prospect politicians shouldn’t take lightly. As the Republicans become increasingly ideologically purified, Democratic candidates will need, more than ever before, for their base to turn out in big numbers, and that includes the nonreligious. Anything that turns them off, that dampens their enthusiasm or discourages them from showing up, could mean the difference in a close race.

So, how do politicians motivate the nonreligious vote? How do they appeal to them and get them to come out and support them? Here are a few suggestions.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/there-are-now-many-nonreligious-americans-evangelicals-6-ways-politicians-can-court-their

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The Price of Revolutionary Illusions

From Consortium News:   http://consortiumnews.com/2012/12/26/the-price-of-revolutionary-illusions/

Exclusive: A number of Americans – on the Right and Left – embrace fantasies about fighting some glorious revolution in the future, requiring them to maintain arsenals of weapons today, even if the cost of their violent illusions is the brutal murder of children at school, at play or in the home, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry
December 26, 2012

The 20 school kids slaughtered in their classrooms in Connecticut – and many other children who die of gun violence every day – are a sacrifice that some Americans feel is “worth it” for their personal dreams of waging some violent revolution sometime in the future, whether from the Right or the Left.

Some of these revolutionary dreamers may have watched movies like “Red Dawn” too many times and are obsessed with absurd plots about North Korea, Cuba or maybe the United Nations invading and conquering the United States. Others look forward to the collapse of the world economy, followed by some armed uprising of the dispossessed.

So, to stay armed in anticipation of such eventualities, elements of the Right and the Left are saying, in effect, that the ongoing butchery of American children and thousands of other innocents each year is just part of the price for “liberty” or “justice” or whatever.

Thus, whenever anyone suggests that perhaps some commonsense gun control might at least begin ratcheting down the numbers of victims, there is an angry reaction from believers in this romanticized idea of armed revolution. You’re accused of wanting to disarm the American people and put them under the boot of totalitarianism.

Especially on the Right, there also has been a cottage industry of concocting a false or misleading history about the Second Amendment, with quotes from Framers cherry-picked or simply fabricated to suggest that the men who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights wanted an armed population to do battle with the U.S. government.

The actual history indicates nearly the opposite, that the Framers were deeply concerned about the violent disorder that surfaced in Shays’ Rebellion when poor veterans and farmers rose up in western Massachusetts. The revolt was subdued by an ad hoc army assembled by wealthy Bostonians in early 1787, just weeks before the Constitutional Convention convened in Philadelphia.

George Washington, who followed Shays’ Rebellion closely, was alarmed by the spreading unrest, thinking it might validate the predictions of the European powers that the new United States would collapse amid internal strife, pitting the rich against the poor and regions against one another.

Continue reading at:   http://consortiumnews.com/2012/12/26/the-price-of-revolutionary-illusions/

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The N.R.A. at the Bench

From The New York Times:  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/the-n-r-a-at-the-bench/?ref=opinion

By LINDA GREENHOUSE
December 26, 2012

There has been plenty written about the National Rifle Association in recent days. But nothing that I’ve seen has focused on the gun lobby’s increasingly pernicious role in judicial confirmations. So here’s a little story.

Back in 2009, when President Obama chose Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his first Supreme Court nominee, the White House expected that her compelling personal story, sterling credentials, and experience both as a prosecutor and, for 17 years, as a federal judge would win broad bipartisan support for her nomination. There was, in fact, no plausible reason for any senator to vote against her.

The president’s hope was Senator Mitch McConnell’s fear. In order to shore up his caucus, the Senate Republican leader asked a favor of his friends at the National Rifle Association: oppose the Sotomayor nomination and, furthermore, “score” the confirmation vote. An interest group “scores” a vote when it adds the vote on a particular issue to the legislative scorecard it gives each member of Congress at the end of the session. In many states, an N.R.A. score of less than 100 for an incumbent facing re-election is big trouble.

Note that the N.R.A. had never before scored a judicial confirmation vote. Note also that Sonia Sotomayor had no record on the N.R.A.’s issues. (True, she voted with an appeals court panel to uphold New York State’s ban on nunchucks, a martial-arts weapon consisting of two sticks held together with a chain or rope, commonly used by gang members and muggers. The appeals court didn’t even reach the interesting issue of whether the Second Amendment guaranteed the right to keep and bear nunchucks, ruling instead that the amendment didn’t apply to the states – which, before the Supreme Court later ruled otherwise by a vote of 5 to 4, it didn’t.)

Continue reading at:  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/the-n-r-a-at-the-bench/?ref=opinion

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The NRA and Gun Companies Stand to Profit From Newtown Tragedy

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/171913/nra-and-gun-companies-stand-profit-newtown-tragedy#

Lee Fang
on December 24, 2012

Last year, shortly after the shooting of then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, a financial analyst asked Mike Fifer—CEO of one of the largest gun companies in America—if the incident would lead to a wave of new gun sales. “The commentary from the NRA that President Obama might be coming out with some sort of speech on some sort of gun control,” asked the analyst, “has that stirred gun owners and prospective gun owners to go visit the stores?”

Gun companies, like almost any profit-driven enterprise, must keep pace with investor demands. Unlike most consumer businesses, however, people generally only need to buy their product once. Guns are very durable, and a well-maintained one can last a lifetime.

That’s where the National Rifle Association comes in.

NRA-stoked fear about the government coming to seize America’s guns has been a useful marketing tool to the gun industry, which must continually encourage gun-owners to buy more and more weapons.

This dynamic drives rather macabre incentives. Horrific gun violence leads to calls for gun control, which in turn leads to NRA-organized fear-mongering and conspiracy theories that inevitably results in more gun sales. What the financial analyst pondered last year with the Giffords shooting is playing out with Newtown—and the NRA and the gun industry is earning what is likely to be an unprecedented fortune.

While pundits and politicians debate the possibility of new gun restrictions in the wake of the Newtown massacre, the NRA is playing it’s now-familiar role spreading paranoia, and Americans are flocking to stores to stock up on weapons—lots of them.

From Alaska to Florida, gun sales across the country are going through the roof, with thousands buying up ammunition, high-powered semiautomatic rifles and other weaponry out of concern that the federal government will enact new regulations on gun ownership. In Tennessee, officials say gun purchases likely hit an all-time high. Walmart has reportedly run out of semiautomatic rifles in five states.

Continue reading at:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/171913/nra-and-gun-companies-stand-profit-newtown-tragedy#

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Conservatives’ full-on meltdown

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2012/12/26/the_conservapocalypse_continues/

In the wake of Wayne LaPierre’s looney press conference, Dick Armey is exposed as a gun-empowered extortionist

By
Wednesday, Dec 26, 2012

The ugly, funny-if-it-wasn’t-scary truth about our right wing overlords keeps emerging as 2012 comes to a close. Last week we learned that House Speaker John Boehner is a pathetic hostage to the Tea Party crazies in his caucus, while the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre shared his delusions at a post-Newtown press conference where he memorably intoned: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” – ignoring the fact that gun “enthusiast” Nancy Lanza was murdered by her own guns, which then slaughtered 20 first-graders and six educator-heroes, plus her disturbed and ultimately suicidal son Adam.

Then over the weekend we discovered that the late Andrew Breitbart’s empire of hate is imploding, and the ridiculous Dana Loesch is trying to use the lifeboat of labor law to flee the ship of bullies she once helmed.

Most recently, on Christmas Day, those of us who loathe Dick Armey received the gift of Amy Gardner’s Washington Post expose, which detailed the way he tried to take over FreedomWorks backed by a gun-toting thug, and wound up, defeated, with an $8 million golden parachute. Here’s the gist:

[Armey] walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks’ top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.

Yes, the attempted coup took place over Labor Day weekend, but the fact that the factions are continuing to use the media for revenge is just another sign that the forces of backlash unleashed in 2009 are coming undone.

Let’s hope President Obama is paying attention.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2012/12/26/the_conservapocalypse_continues/

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Even Mainstream Pundits Are Now Saying, Republicans ‘No Longer a Normal Governing Party,’ ‘Unfit for Government’

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/even-mainstream-pundits-are-now-saying-republicans-no-longer-normal-governing-party-unfit-government

Outrage is growing over Republican sabotage of … well, everything.

By Dave Johnson
December 26, 2012

Outrage is growing over Republican sabotage of … well, everything.

E. J. Dionne Jr. in the Washington Post, writing in  It’s our system on the cliff, (emphasis added, for emphasis)

The United States faces a crisis in our political system because the Republican Party, particularly in the House of Representatives, is no longer a normal, governing party.

The only way we will avoid a constitutional crackup is for a new, bipartisan majority to take effective control of the House and isolate those who would rather see the country fall into chaos than vote for anything that might offend their ideological sensibilities.

Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast, in  The GOP Brings Politics to a Crisis Point,

Really, what is to be done about this Republican Party? What force can change it—can stop Republicans from being ideological saboteurs and convert at least a workable minority of them into people interested in governing rather than sabotage? … They are a direct threat to the economy, which could slip back into recession next year if the government doesn’t, well, govern. They are an ongoing, at this point almost mundane, threat to democracy, subverting and preventing progress the American people clearly desire across a number of fronts. They have to be stopped, and the only people who can really stop them are corporate titans and Wall Streeters, who surely now are finally beginning to see that America’s problem is not Barack Obama and his alleged “socialism,” but a political party that has become psychologically incapable of operating within the American political system.

[. . . They didn’t come to Washington to govern. They came to sabotage. So our working assumption must be whatever the issue, sabotage is what they’re going to do.

Andrew Sullivan, also at The Daily Beast, says  Enough!, (emphasis added, for emphasis)

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/even-mainstream-pundits-are-now-saying-republicans-no-longer-normal-governing-party-unfit-government

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Watchdogs: US Regulators Are Not Prepared to Prevent Arctic Spill, Sue for Access to Info on Shell Oil Drilling Plan

From Truth Out:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/13540-watchdogs-say-us-regulators-are-not-prepared-to-prevent-arctic-oil-spill-file-suit-for-access-to-more-information

By Mike Ludwig 
Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Royal Dutch Shell plans to drill for oil this spring in the arctic Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the northern coasts of Alaska, but watchdogs and environmentalists are not yet convinced that Shell and federal regulators have taken enough steps to prevent or contain a potential oil spill in the treacherous and icy waters.

The watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) says the new regulatory agency that was set up to ensure offshore drilling safety after the Deepwater Horizon disaster “lacks basic assurances” that oil spills and other accidents will be prevented if Shell begins producing oil in arctic waters where sea ice and harsh conditions make drilling and spill containment difficult.

PEER filed a lawsuit last week against federal regulators seeking access to information about what is being done to ensure operational safety.

Shell originally had planned to begin drilling this fall despite challenges from environmental groups, but the company fell behind schedule and postponed drilling after ice interrupted exploratory drilling and its spill containment and prevention equipment suffered a series of embarrassing failures during tests in the much more forgiving waters of the Puget Sound.

The worst accident occurred during a test of an oil spill containment dome in September. The dome malfunctioned, sank 120 feet and had to be recovered before hitting the bottom. Mark Fesmire, a top offshore drilling regulator, described the dome’s failure to a colleague in a startling email that was later released to the media: “As bad as I thought … basically the top half is crushed like a beer can,” he wrote.

Fesmire heads the Alaska office of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), the regulatory agency under the Interior Department created during a reorganization of federal agencies in the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Continue reading at:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/13540-watchdogs-say-us-regulators-are-not-prepared-to-prevent-arctic-oil-spill-file-suit-for-access-to-more-information

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On a Wyoming Ranch, Feds Sacrifice Tomorrow’s Water to Mine Uranium Today

From Pro Publica:  http://www.propublica.org/article/on-a-wyoming-ranch-feds-sacrifice-tomorrows-water-to-mine-uranium-today

by Abrahm Lustgarten
Dec. 26, 2012

GILLETTE, Wyo. — On a lonely stretch at the edge of the Great Plains, rolling grassland presses up against a crowning escarpment called the Pumpkin Buttes. The land appears bountiful, but it is stingy, straining to produce enough sustenance for the herds of cattle and sheep on its arid prairies.

“It’s a tough way to make a living,” said John Christensen, whose family has worked this private expanse, called Christensen Ranch, for more than a century.

Christensen has made ends meet by allowing prospectors to tap into minerals and oil and gas beneath his bucolic hills. But from the start, it has been a Faustian bargain.

As dry as this land may be, underground, vast reservoirs hold billions of gallons of water suitable for drinking, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Yet every day injection wells pump more than 200,000 gallons of toxic and radioactive waste from uranium mining into Christensen’s aquifers.

What is happening in this remote corner of Wyoming affects few people other than Christensen — at least for now.

But a roiling conflict between state and federal regulators over whether to allow more mining at Christensen Ranch — and the damage that comes with it — has pitted the feverish drive for domestic energy against the need to protect water resources for the future. The outcome could have far-reaching implications, setting a precedent for similar battles sparked by the resurgence of uranium mining in Texas, South Dakota, New Mexico and elsewhere.

Twenty-five years ago, the EPA and Wyoming officials agreed that polluting the water beneath Christensen Ranch was an acceptable price for producing energy there.

The Safe Drinking Water Act forbids injecting industrial waste into or above drinking water aquifers, but the EPA issued what are called aquifer exemptions that gave mine operators at the ranch permission to ignore the law. Over the last three decades, the agency has issued more than 1,500 such exemptions nationwide, allowing energy and mining companies to pollute portions of at least 100 drinking water aquifers.

Continue reading at:  http://www.propublica.org/article/on-a-wyoming-ranch-feds-sacrifice-tomorrows-water-to-mine-uranium-today

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