Guns, etc.

Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi is hands down my favorite pundit out there right now. In his latest column, Republicans Have Their Worst Week Ever, he writes that watching the GOP over the past week has been like watching the Three Stooges try to perform a liver transplant on roller skates.

Consider: Conservative action group Political Media launches Gun Appreciation Day and got 50 million people (which is a not insignificant 1.6%) to sign a whereas-packed petition that concludes with the money shot of:

Therefore, We the Undersigned petition the United States Government to cease and desist all efforts to disarm or short-arm the American people by limiting and disparaging the Second Amendment or rendering it a dead letter through federal legislation, interpretation and regulation.

I don’t even know what the means legally, except that maybe if you try to short arm them you’ll end up in the dead letter office.

But even before their excellent idea gets out of the gate, it stalls out, as obnoxious reporters check the list of “Gun Appreciation Day” sponsors and find that the “American Third Position,” a group that purports to represent the “unique political interests of White Americans,” is one of the event’s sponsors.

So now, Political Media has not only decided to hold its Gun Appreciation Event on a holiday meant to celebrate the life of a black leader who was a symbol of nonviolent protest and who was killed by a white man with a gun, it’s done so with the financial help of some yahoo white supremacist group. But this doesn’t derail the whole thing, as it’s of course just an innocent mistake. Political Media kicks “Third Position” out and appropriately issues a statement, saying, “We have removed the group and reiterate this event is not about racial politics, it is about gun politics.”

So far, so good, right? Well, then they go and actually hold their “Gun Appreciation Day” rallies all over the country, on Martin Luther King Day. And what happens? Five people get accidentally shot!

Definitely read on for more examples of Herculean idiocy including the suggestion that the film Django Unchained makes the argument for gun rights because there wouldn’t have been slavery if slaves had gun rights. Brilliant!

Here’s Matt on Totally Biased w Kamau Bell. A great interview on a great show, and I extra-heartily encourage you to watch Matt Taibbi & Chrystia Freeland on Bill Moyers show that explores income inequality, which is at its greatest in recorded history right now. Come on, watch it.

Kevin Dooley provided the photo and the title of this post, Guns, etc. Kevin is a wonderful photographer who shares his photos via Creative Commons, about which he writes (in part):

If you don’t care about making money from your images (at least at this stage of your life) but want them broadly seen, then you have to label your photos as Creative Commons and get on the open source photography bandwagon.

See it bigger and see more in his Valley of the Sun slideshow.

I’m voting for Barack Obama

On Tuesday I am going vote once again for Barack Obama.

He’s one of the rare few who have become more than a President, a true Commander in Chief.

Did he magically solve all our problems and reach across the aisle to convert recalcitrant foes to allies? No, he did not.

Did he act decisively and wisely to stave off what could easily have been the 2nd Great Depression, exercise a calm and firm hand in the face of a host of foreign policy challenges, and accomplish far more than you would expect given an opposition who decided that the purity of their party was more important than the health of our nation. Yes he did*.

We’re standing at the the doorstep of the future and more than rising water and raging weather are coming to our door. I for one want a proven and tested leader who has demonstrated honesty on a constant vision rather than an opportunistic and shadowy operator who stands wherever the people he’s talking to want him to stand.

*For those who feel that he’s done nothing, I give you whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com.

 

King Abdullah II of Jordan on Arab Spring

Jon Stewart of the Daily Show had a very interesting interview with King Abdullah II of Jordan about Arab Spring and the situation in Iraq and the Middle East. One thing that struck me was the fact that we’re watching a bunch of nations go through the same tumult that the U.S., France and others struggled through over a period of decades and somehow expecting it to all be wrapped up by the next news cycle.

Arab Spring is a world-shaking phenomenon and it makes me feel a bit better knowing that thoughtful & rational individuals like King Abdullah and President Obama are on the job right now. I hope you get a chance to watch it!

H.M. King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein is (according to his website) a 41st-generation direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammad who assumed the constitutionally based monarchy of Jordan in 1999.

The photo of King Abdullah was taken by Monika Flueckiger at the 2008 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. See 42 years of their pics right here.

Planet on Fire

High Park Fire

I just finished Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math by Bill McKibben in the Rolling Stone. It begins:

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.

…Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

So Climate Change Deniers, in case you missed that, the chance that our hellish weather pattern is the result of chance is statistically ZERO. It’s time to stop arguing about whether or not climate change is a reality and to start working as frantically as Bruce Willis at the end of an action flick to avert our destruction. This is due to some very stark math:

  • 2 degrees Celsius – the amount nations agreed to in Copenhagen as the maximum rise our biosphere could tolerate and still (maybe) maintain civilization as we know it. We’re at 0.8 C increase right now and computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees … and 2 degrees C might actually even be too high.
  • 565 Gigatons of carbon – how much can be burned before we hit that 2 degree number – 16 years is how long it will take at the current rate.
  • 2,795 Gigatons of carbon – how much is already on the books of energy companies, enough to raise temps 11 degrees Fahrenheit and create a planet straight out of science fiction. Energy companies are already treating that as extracted, borrowing money and setting value and it’sFIVE times what’s necessary to destroy our way of life.

McKibben continues with a look at what strategies have failed and what might possibly work. It’s clear that to have any chance, we must treat this issue as the single greatest threat to our society we’ve ever faced … because it is.

The photo is High Park Fire by The National Guard. See more in their 2012 Wildfire Response slideshow.

Warren Buffett calls his own bluff … by not bluffing I guess

Warren Buffett with Fisher College of Business Student

“I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions.”
~Warren Buffett

Late last summer, Warren Buffett broke ranks with most of the other dedicated men and women of Occupy the Top 1% and called for more taxes for top earners. Senator Mitch McConnell, a millionaire in his own right and champion of the uptrodden, said that if Buffett was feeling guilty about his tax bill, he should send in a check. Senator John Thune rushed to the rescue with the cynical Buffett Rule Act, placing an option on tax forms allowing people to donate more in taxes to help pay down the national debt. In an interesting new TIME interview with Rana Foroohar, Buffett says:

“It restores my faith in human nature to think that there are people who have been around Washington all this time and are not yet so cynical as to think that [the deficit] can’t be solved by voluntary contributions,” he says with a chuckle. So Buffett has pledged to match 1 for 1 all such voluntary contributions made by Republican members of Congress. “And I’ll even go 3 for 1 for McConnell,” he says. That could be quite a bill if McConnell takes the challenge; after all, the Senator is worth at least $10 million. As Buffett put it to me, “I’m not worried.”

I wouldn’t be worried for my money if I were Buffett either.

The photo is by Aaron Friedman.