Saturday, December 29, 2012

Some good news

How refreshing, to have good news.

In 2012, New York City has had the lowest number of recorded homicides since records have been kept.   Peaking in the low-2000 range in the early 1990s, the previous record low was 471 in 2009, before jumping back up to 508 last year.  Now down to 414 at the end of 2012.

Mayor Blumberg attributes the decline to better policing on the streets and more attention to prevention, especially the police force's active and early intervention in domestic violence disputes.

One category of major crimes did increase, rather dramatically:   theft.   In fact, theft of one particular type, Apple products.    The total number of reported Apple iphones, ipads, etc stolen was more than enough to account for the overall increase in theft crime.

They are popular items, but I'm cynical enough to wonder how many were actually "stolen," as opposed to "reported stolen" in order to get a new one model from insurance coverage.


Obama won re-election in spite of Republicans suppressing the vote

Can the GOP recover?    Not just from losing the election.  Not just from their ideological split.   Not just from the dumbing down of their party and letting the far right wing pull them their way.  Not just from having run a campaign based on distortions, lies, non-disclosure, and hypocrisy.

I'm thinking today about what must be a deep-seated collective shame from having tried, once again, to steal the election.   Or are they incapable of shame?   Most of us, I think, would be ashamed if the only way we thought we could win is to lie, distort, cheat, and suppress the opposition vote.

Now we have some objective evidence to back up what we all knew:   that Republican controlled states were going all out to suppress the voting of those likely to vote for Democrats.

Assistant Professor Theodore Allen of Ohio State University has studied the voting day experience and determined that as many as 49,000 voters in Central Florida alone did not vote because of problems at the polls.   If they had, Obama's margin of victory over Romney would have been 11,000 higher.

Beyond the voter ID laws, the most egregious of these suppression tactics led to some people having to wait in line as long as 9 hours.   Many, of course, simply did not/could not wait and did not vote.   This affected working class people and African-American and Hispanic voters most of all.

Several things contributed to this:   Florida decreased the number of early voting days by almost half, and they had an excessively long ballot, cluttered with meaningless trivial referendums, apparently designed to make it take much longer to vote, thus causing the lines to back up and up.

Needless to say, Obama won anyway.   So this both proves that decisions by the election board did suppress the vote -- and that President Obama won re-election anyway.   But it could have flipped the vote if it had been closer, not only in Florida but also in Ohio and Pennsylvania, which also had similar problems.

Yes, Republicans lost overall in the national elections -- but they still control the state houses.  So we're not done with this problem yet.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas wish

My wish for those I hold dear -- and for the whole world:

                    Peace and Love


Monday, December 24, 2012

Maybe we won't lose Barney, after all

Since Barney Frank is retiring from the House, I was already lamenting the loss of him as a witty commentator to political reporters.

Now there are rumors that he may become a television commentator himself.   I would imagine MSNBC would snap him up, at the least, as a frequent guest on other talk shows.

In a final interview before he leaves office, Barney was his usual candid self.   He's for legalizing both prostitution and marijuana.   He defended the free speech of the Westboro Baptist Church people:  "Free speech means supporting the right of people to say vicious things you strongly disagree with."   Yes, let them say it;  but can't they be kept away from the families as they bury their innocent dead?

On marriage equality, he is of course for it, having recently married his partner.   But he thinks the Prop8 case is arriving at the Supreme Court prematurely.  He makes the same prediction I do:  that they will decide it narrowly as applying only to California, leaving a more sweeping decision for a later time.

But here was the prize (IMHO):   In reference to a recent anti-gay remark made by Justice Antonin Scalia, Frank said:
“I was glad that he made clear what’s been obvious, that he’s just a flat out bigot. . . I’d previously said he was a homophobe.  And Fox and the right wing said, ‘Oh just because he’s not for same-sex marriage?  And I said, ‘No, let me be very clear. That’s not it.
This is a man who has said you should go to prison for having sex.’ It was an extraordinarily abusive sentiment and it was dead wrong.  And, by the way, for a guy who is supposed to be so smart [Scalia] -- quite stupid.  This young man said to him, ‘Why do you compare sodomy to murder?’ And he said, ‘Well because I have a right to say if I think something is immoral.’ Well the question wasn’t about his right. The question was:  By what morality is expressing your love for someone in a physical way equivalent to killing that person? It makes it clear that the man is an unreconstructed bigot, and given that you have a bigot on the Supreme Court like that, it is useful to know.”
Now that is the kind of talk that makes me admire Barney -- and makes me so glad that we may still be hearing from him.  Maybe even more than we did before.   Just tell me when and where to tune in.


PS:   Now that John Kerry has been nominated to be Secretary of State, his senate seat will be open.   It would be great if he decided to run for that.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

NRA speaks #2

Re Wayne LaPierre's calling for armed guards in every school:

There was an armed security guard at the Columbine school.   He shot at the killer five or six times -- and he missed every time.

Recently in a situation at the Empire State Building, police shot and killed a guy who was threatening mass killings and, in the process, wounded seven innocent people on the street.

So, if armed security guards and New York policemen are so inaccurate with guns, how accurate would you expect the kindergarten teacher to be, Mr. LaPierre?


Despicable perversion of religion #3

Huffington Post Online interviewed Nate Phelps, one of the many offspring of Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist Church.   He left the church, along with three other siblings who are estranged from their father.  Nate currently identifies himself as an atheist and is the Executive Director of the Centre for Inquiry Canada, a secular organization that educates and advocates for reason and science.   He is also on the board of directors of Recovering from Religion.

While he disagrees strongly with his father's interpretation of the Bible, he defends his family's sincerity against accusations that they are just being provocative and don't believe what they're saying.  He says he is convinced that they really do believe what they preach.  Then he adds that character is another thing.  He made reference to his father having been abusive to the children when they were growing up, and this has to come into as assessment, he says.

Nate comes across as a well-educated, well-spoken man.  This fits with what friends I know in Topeka say:  that the Phelps sons and daughters are very bright and well educated, many of them lawyers.   This comes from people who have taught them in school.  One of the daughters, a lawyer, successfully defended the church all the way to the Supreme Court and won the lawsuit that had been brought against them for protesting at the funeral of soldier killed in Iraq.

It's a strange family.   I have trouble seeing how such bigotry can co-exist with high intelligence and good education.   One explanation would be the kind of mind-control that sometimes comes from an abusive relationship, especially of children early in life.  They may grow up not daring to think for themselves or to oppose anything put forth by the abuser -- unless they escape, as several of them have done.

Preaching God's hatred at funerals of innocents is not simply bigotry -- it's just plain cruel.