10/07/2015 archive

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville-A Gun Story

Twenty years ago I had a much different life, one that I walked away from, and I don’t look back all that often, but tonight I’m going to, so I can tell you all one of my gun stories. I’m not anti-gun, but I’m damn wary of ’em because none of my gun stories are pretty. I mean the ones I have personal knowledge of.

I used to have a very good friend who lived a few miles from me, in what I would call the boonies. What I mean by that is that there’s at least half a football field between houses and woods out back, sometimes some woods between houses too, narrow winding roads. I lived behind a shopping mall right off the highway, but the boonies weren’t five minutes away, she was divorced, living alone back there after, so she had a gun, a handgun. Well, who could blame her? Not me.

Now, she was a fun loving gal, and we used to party hard together, and before too long she started bringing a guy around regularly. They were a great couple, very social, except one thing–they would get into epic, crazy fights. Screaming, throwing shit, getting out of cars on busy highways kind of fights. Most of this happened off-stage so to speak, except the car one, I was in the car for that, and for a moment I didn’t know if she was trying to catch him or run his ass over.

I’m guessing at this point I don’t need to tell you she wound up shooting him, do I? I wasn’t there. They were fighting. She winged him. I talked to her on the phone, she didn’t know what charges she was facing or what. It was going to depend on what he had to say. Was he charging at her? Did she have cause to fear? She’s on the phone freaking out, and him? He wants to come…to her house. For some strange reason the cops don’t want him to do that. Huh.

The whole thing was a mess. The best thing I can say is that he wasn’t hurt bad, and her ass didn’t go to jail, but the aftermath still wasn’t pretty. From what I read, a good portion of the people who discharge their personal firearms wind up doing so on somebody they know. A lot of the times with much worse results than my friend. Hers is the best gun story I know, and it sucked.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Joanne Liu: Enough. Even War Has Rules.

On Saturday morning, MSF patients and staff killed in Kunduz joined the countless number of people who have been killed around the world in conflict zones and referred to as ‘collateral damage’ or as an ‘inevitable consequence of war’. International humanitarian law is not about ‘mistakes’. It is about intention, facts and why.

The US attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz was the biggest loss of life for our organisation in an airstrike. Tens of thousands of people in Kunduz can no longer receive medical care now when they need it most. Today we say: enough.  Even war has rules.   [..]

Today we pay tribute to those who died in this abhorrent attack. And we pay tribute to those MSF staff who, while watching their colleagues die and with their hospital still on fire, carried on treating the wounded.

This was not just an attack on our hospital – it was an attack on the Geneva Conventions. This cannot be tolerated. These Conventions govern the rules of war and were established to protect civilians in conflicts – including patients, medical workers and facilities. They bring some humanity into what is otherwise an inhumane situation.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The War on Planned Parenthood

For a likely future speaker of the House, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) isn’t much of a speaker. “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” he boasted to Sean Hannity on Fox News last week. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought.”

Forget McCarthy’s use of the word “untrustable,” a term I trust you will not find in the Oxford English Dictionary. McCarthy’s real sin, as far as even Republicans are concerned, was that he accidentally told the truth. For years, the GOP has laughably pretended that the House Select Committee on Benghazi – which last week surpassed the Watergate committee as the longest special congressional investigation – was a sober-minded inquiry into the deaths of four Americans in Libya. Then the man likely to be third in line to the presidency admitted, on national television no less, that it was all just another partisan witch-hunt. To quote another tongue-tied Republican: “Oops.”

Republicans haven’t done this much hand-wringing since Donald Trump rode his escalator into the presidential race. But McCarthy’s “gaffe” hasn’t put the brakes on the GOP’s cynical strategy. In fact, they plan to replicate it.

May Turck: Oregon massacre coverage stigmatizes mental illness

Headlines foster stereotypes, suggest facile solutions

On Oct. 1, a gunman killed nine people and wounded 20 others at Umpqua Community College in southwestern Oregon. Headlines about the massacre have trumpeted mental illness as the cause. “Madman kills nine” led The New York Daily News. Fox News followed with “Issue of mental health part of national discourse again following Oregon college shooting.” “The CBS Evening News” featured “Mass shootings and the mental health connection.”

This is both the wrong explanation and a too-quick conclusion about the tragedy that contributes to the stigmatization of people with mental illness. Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 4 through 10) offers an opportunity to step back and take a closer look at what mental illness is, how stigma makes it worse and what resources need to be marshaled to help those who have a mental illness.

Amy B. Dean: Labor rights by executive decree

With Congress gridlocked, President Obama must follow states’ leads to help working Americans

This summer, 1 million working people in Massachusetts won paid sick leave. This remarkable advance was the result of a 2014 referendum, which passed with the support of 60 percent of voters. It granted workers one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. With that vote, the Bay State became the third in the nation – after California and Connecticut – to extend such protections to its citizens.

In September, President Barack Obama went to Boston to announce a new regulation for federal government contractors, which will be required to offer their workers paid sick time as well. The federal standard will grant seven days of paid medical leave per year. The White House estimated that the executive order will benefit 300,000 people when it goes into effect in 2017. [..]

This summer, 1 million working people in Massachusetts won paid sick leave. This remarkable advance was the result of a 2014 referendum, which passed with the support of 60 percent of voters. It granted workers one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. With that vote, the Bay State became the third in the nation – after California and Connecticut – to extend such protections to its citizens.

In September, President Barack Obama went to Boston to announce a new regulation for federal government contractors, which will be required to offer their workers paid sick time as well. The federal standard will grant seven days of paid medical leave per year. The White House estimated that the executive order will benefit 300,000 people when it goes into effect in 2017.

Martha Plimpton: Those who decry abortion but condone gun violence are anti-woman, not pro-life

Another gunman opened fire on a classroom last Thursday, this time at Umpqua Community College in my mother’s hometown of Roseburg, Oregon. Nine people were killed and nine others seriously injured. It was the 294th mass shooting in our country in 274 days.

The same day as the massacre in Oregon, North Carolina’s law imposing a 72-hour waiting period to have an abortion went into effect. North Carolina is now tied with Missouri as having the longest waiting period for women seeking to exercise their constitutional right to abortion.

What do these three things have in common? What possible corollary could I be drawing between such seemingly disparate events? The short answer is: North Carolina doesn’t have a waiting period to buy a gun.

Penny Okamoto: Guns kill people in the US because we pervert the Second Amendment

America’s gun violence, like our grief in Oregon, seems to know no bounds, no limits, no end. The reason is deadly simple: our very lives are chained to a constitutional amendment that is willfully misinterpreted by many and perverted by gun rights advocates for political ends.

That sullied amendment is the United States constitution’s Second Amendment which states, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The gun industry and its supporters have turned that simple statement into a clever marketing tool, and Americans are paying the price in blood.

The Breakfast Club (A New Day Has Begun)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

U.S. and Britain strike Afghanistan; Achille Lauro hijacked; Supreme Court pick Clarence Thomas faces damaging claims; Matthew Shepard beaten to death; Singer John Mellencamp born; ‘Cats’ hits Broadway.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

You can observe a lot by watching.

Yogi Berra

On This Day In History October 7

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 7 is the 280th day of the year (281st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 85 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1955, Beat poet, Allen Ginsberg reads his poem “Howl” at a poetry reading at Six Gallery in San Francisco.

Irwin Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997) was an American poet who vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression. In the 1950s, Ginsberg was a leading figure of the Beat Generation, an anarchic group of young men and women who joined poetry, song, sex, wine and illicit drugs with passionate political ideas that championed personal freedoms. Ginsberg’s epic poem Howl, in which he celebrates his fellow “angel-headed hipsters” and excoriates what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States, is one of the classic poems of the Beat Generation  The poem, dedicated to writer Carl Solomon, has a memorable opening:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by

madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn

looking for an angry fix…

In October 1955, Ginsberg and five other unknown poets gave a free reading at an experimental art gallery in San Francisco. Ginsberg’s Howl electrified the audience. According to fellow poet Michael McClure, it was clear “that a barrier had been broken, that a human voice and body had been hurled against the harsh wall of America and its supporting armies and navies and academies and institutions and ownership systems and power support bases.” In 1957, Howl attracted widespread publicity when it became the subject of an obscenity trial in which a San Francisco prosecutor argued it contained “filthy, vulgar, obscene, and disgusting language.” The poem seemed especially outrageous in 1950s America because it depicted both heterosexual and homosexual sex at a time when sodomy laws made homosexual acts a crime in every U.S. state. Howl reflected Ginsberg’s own bisexuality and his homosexual relationships with a number of men, including Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong partner. Judge Clayton W. Horn ruled that Howl was not obscene, adding, “Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?”

In Howl and in his other poetry, Ginsberg drew inspiration from the epic, free verse style of the 19th century American poet Walt Whitman. Both wrote passionately about the promise (and betrayal) of American democracy; the central importance of erotic experience; and the spiritual quest for the truth of everyday existence. J. D. McClatchy, editor of the Yale Review called Ginsberg “the best-known American poet of his generation, as much a social force as a literary phenomenon.” McClatchy added that Ginsberg, like Whitman, “was a bard in the old manner – outsized, darkly prophetic, part exuberance, part prayer, part rant. His work is finally a history of our era’s psyche, with all its contradictory urges.”

Ginsberg was a practicing Buddhist who studied Eastern religious disciplines extensively. One of his most influential teachers was the Tibetan Buddhist, the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa, founder of the Naropa Institute, now Naropa University at Boulder, Colorado. At Trungpa’s urging, Ginsberg and poet Anne Waldman started a poetry school there in 1974 which they called the “Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics”. In spite of his attraction to Eastern religions, the journalist Jane Kramer argues that Ginsberg, like Whitman, adhered to an “American brand of mysticism” that was, in her words, “rooted in humanism and in a romantic and visionary ideal of harmony among men.” Ginsberg’s political activism was consistent with his religious beliefs. He took part in decades of non-violent political protest against everything from the Vietnam War to the War on Drugs. The literary critic, Helen Vendler, described Ginsberg as “tirelessly persistent in protesting censorship, imperial politics, and persecution of the powerless.” His achievements as a writer as well as his notoriety as an activist gained him honors from established institutions. Ginsberg’s book of poems, The Fall of America, won the National Book Award for poetry in 1974. Other honors included the National Arts Club gold medal and his induction into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, both in 1979. In 1995, Ginsberg won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986-1992.

The Daily Late Nightly Show (Playoff Baseball!)

Umm… what about that do we not understand?

The New Kid

Aaron Sorkin– actually a neolib shill.  Deal.

This week’s guests-

The New Continuity

John Avalon, Jessica Kirson, and Joey Badass.

The Dancing Man

Baseball, even if it is Junior League Rounders, is infinitely more interesting than Bill Clinton.  Also Billy Eichner, and Florence and the Machine.

This Week’s guests-

Junior League Wild Card: Astros @ Yankees

Whatever Lola wants

Lola gets

And little man, little Lola wants you

Make up your mind to have no regrets

Recline yourself, resign yourself, you’re through

I always get what I aim for

And your heart’n soul is what I came for

Whatever Lola wants

Lola gets,

Take off your coat

Don’t you know you can’t win?

You’re no exception to the rule,

I’m irresistible, you fool, give in!…Give in!…Give in!

Hello, Joe

It’s me

He hits so far

-hold on-that’s you


Poo poo pa doop



I always get what I aim for

And you heart’n soul is what I came for

…Lola wants

…Lola gets

…You’ll never win

I’m irresistible, you fool,

Give in…Give in…Give in.

Look, just because Broadway tells you the Yankees have a blood signed pact with the Devil doesn’t make it true.  I assure you it’s simply an informed rumor.

Oh, I have most of the roster sure, but there are always one or two hold outs.  Honest.  Mostly I take care they get dumped on nowhere organizations like the Mariners and the Phillies, even under George my knuckle ball (which is flat out unhittable) would occasionally miss the zone, but that’s why you tip the Umpires well.

What I liked about George is he wasn’t a cheapskate.  He wanted a winning club and paid until he got them.  The only one that compares is the Cardinals (who are actually better since they play real baseball in the Senior League).

I know they’ve been a heart attack all season, their aging ace is in rehab and out of the playoffs, A-Rod is a Choke King arrogant asshole, and they’ve benched Ellsbury for right hander Young, but they’re playing the Astros for goodness sake.  I think they can win this one.  The ‘Stros have been self destructing all September and lost their Division (with a 4 game lead no less) to the ex-Washington Senators.

Not a recipe for success.

Of course they’ll never make it through a real series, even a 5 game one, so get your Yankees rocks off now.  Four games and they can go golfing.

Astros will be starting Dallas Keuchel (L, 20 – 8, 2.48 ERA).  Damn Yankees Masahiro Tanaka (R, 12 – 7, 3.51 ERA).  Game in the Bronx (87 – 75 v. 86 – 76) at 8 pm on ESPN

MSF Kunduz: US Finally Admits Bombing The Hospital

The story has now changed four times in four days.. This is from the comprehensive reporting by Spenser Ackerman at The Guardian:

US special operations forces – not their Afghan allies – called in the deadly airstrike on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, the US commander has conceded. [..].

Shifting the US account of the Saturday morning airstrike for the fourth time in as many days, Campbell reiterated that Afghan forces had requested US air cover after being engaged in a “tenacious fight” to retake the northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban. But, modifying the account he gave at a press conference on Monday, Campbell said those Afghan forces had not directly communicated with the US pilots of an AC-130 gunship overhead. [..]

Campbell did not explain whether the procedures to launch the airstrike took into account the GPS coordinates of the MSF field hospital, which its president, Joanne Liu, said were “regularly shared” with US, coalition and Afghan military officers and civilian officials, “as recently as Tuesday 29 September”.  [..]

It is also unclear where the US special operations forces were relative to the fighting, but Campbell has said that US units were “not directly engaged in the fighting”.

Campbell instead said the hospital was “mistakenly struck” by US forces.

“We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility,” Campbell told US lawmakers, declaring that he wanted an investigation by his command to “take its course” instead of providing further detail.

But Jason Cone, Doctors Without Borders’ US executive director, said Campbell’s shifting story underscored the need for an independent inquiry.

“Today’s statement from General Campbell is just the latest in a long list of confusing accounts from the US military about what happened in Kunduz on Saturday,” Cone said.

They are now back to talking about a ‘mistake’. A mistake that lasted for more than an hour, despite the fact that the location of the hospital was well known to them and that they were informed during the airstrike that it was a hospital being hit. All this confusion just underlines once again the crucial need for an independent investigation into how a major hospital, full of patients and MSF staff, could be repeatedly bombed.” [..]

Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor of international law at the University of Notre Dame, said that according to international humanitarian law, the critical question for determining if US forces committed a war crime was whether they had notified the hospital ahead of the strike if they understood the Taliban to be firing from the hospital.

Any serious violation of the law of armed conflict, such as attacking a hospital that is immune from intentional attack, is a war crime. Hospitals are immune from attack during an armed conflict unless being used by one party to harm the other and then only after a warning that it will be attacked,” O’Connell said.

emphasis mine

Ths is today’s statement from MSF’s International President, Dr Joanne Liu on this blatant breach of international law

For four years, the MSF trauma center in Kunduz was the only facility of its kind in northeastern Afghanistan, offering essential medical and surgical care. On Saturday, October 3, this came to an end when the hospital was deliberately bombed. Twelve MSF staff and 10 patients, including three children, were killed, and 37 people were injured, including 19 members of the MSF team. The attack was unacceptable.

The whole MSF Movement is in shock, and our thoughts are with the families and friends of those affected. Nothing can excuse violence against patients, medical workers and health facilities. Under International Humanitarian Law hospitals in conflict zones are protected spaces. Until proven otherwise, the events of last Saturday amount to an inexcusable violation of this law. We are working on the presumption of a war crime.

In the last week, as fighting swept through the city, 400 patients were treated at the hospital. Since its opening in 2011, tens of thousands of wounded civilians and combatants from all sides of the conflict have been triaged and treated by MSF. On the night of the bombing, MSF staff working in the hospital heard what was later confirmed to be a US army plane circle around multiple times, releasing its bombs on the same building within the hospital compound at each pass. The building targeted was the one housing the intensive care unit, emergency rooms and physiotherapy ward. Surrounding buildings in the compound were left largely untouched.

Despite MSF alerting both the Afghan and Coalition military leadership, the airstrike continued for at least another 30 minutes. The hospital was well-known and the GPS coordinates had been regularly shared with Coalition and Afghan military and civilian officials, as recently as Tuesday, September 29.

This attack cannot be brushed aside as a mere mistake or an inevitable consequence of war. Statements from the Afghanistan government have claimed that Taliban forces were using the hospital to fire on Coalition forces. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital, which amounts to an admission of a war crime.

This attack does not just touch MSF, but it affects humanitarian work everywhere, and fundamentally undermines the core principles of humanitarian action. We need answers, not just for us but for all medical and humanitarian staff assisting victims of conflict, anywhere in the world. The preserve of health facilities as neutral, protected spaces depends on the outcome of a transparent, independent investigation.

emphasis mine

The “mistake” is that the US knowingly committed a war crime by  targeting and bombing a hospital, killing 22 people, wounding 37 and depriving Kunduz of its only hospital.

Of course the US, and the Afghan government don’t want an independent investigation, what criminal would?

You can warch Gen. Campbell’s full testimony before the Senate Aemed Services Committee below the fold.