Friday, June 19, 2015

Last Call For Free Speech For Some

Republicans keep talking about how they are constantly being "silenced by political correctness" but they sure want to use the power of government to destroy a person for their opinions when those opinions are critical of Republicans.

An African-American lawmaker in Kansas could be expelled from the statehouse for accusing supporters of legislation that eliminated tuition breaks for undocumented immigrants of being racist. State Rep. Valdenia Winn (D) of Kansas City will face a special investigative committee in a hearing June 26 that will weigh possible sanctions against the lawmaker for the remarks. 
“What’s most disturbing is the purposeful chilling effect that this type of conduct has on legislators. It’s not right,” Winn’s lawyer, Pedro Irigonegaray, told TPM.

During a March committee meeting considering the legislation, which would have repealed in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants, Winn called the proposal "a racist, sexist, fear-mongering bill," according to the Lawrence Journal-World
"I want to apologize to the students and parents whose lives are being hijacked by the racist bigots who support this bill, because this bill is an act," she said, before being interrupted by Rep. John Barker (R). 
"She just referred to this committee as racist," he objected
She insisted she had said, "supporters," and went on, "I am not saying anything, but you know what, you can do anything you want, but I am going to say what I have to say because if the shoe fits, if the shoe fits, it fits. But this is an example of institutional racism, not individual racist, institutional racism because it deals with societal structural changes."

This opinion of the legislation was illegal, and now she's facing expulsion from the Kansas legislature.  Which goes to show you, the worst possible thing you can do to a Republican, one they will absolutely obliterate you for, is to point out their racism.

First Amendment?  That's only when it's convenient for Republicans, you know.

Capture The Flag

In the wake of the massacre at Charleston's historic Emanuel AME Church Wednesday night, Ta-Nehisi Coates says it's well past time for the state to rid itself of the Confederate battle flag flying over the statehouse in Columbia.

The Confederate flag’s defenders often claim it represents “heritage not hate.” I agree—the heritage of White Supremacy was not so much birthed by hate as by the impulse toward plunder. Dylann Roof plundered nine different bodies last night, plundered nine different families of an original member, plundered nine different communities of a singular member. An entire people are poorer for his action. The flag that Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, does not stand in opposition to this act—it endorses it. That the Confederate flag is the symbol of of white supremacists is evidenced by the very words of those who birthed it:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth...

This moral truth—“that the negro is not equal to the white man”—is exactly what animated Dylann Roof. More than any individual actor, in recent history, Roof honored his flag in exactly the manner it always demanded—with human sacrifice.

Surely the flag’s defenders will proffer other, muddier, interpretations which allow them the luxury of looking away. In this way they honor their ancestors. Cowardice, too, is heritage. When white supremacist John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago, Booth’s fellow travelers did all they could to disassociate themselves. “Our disgust for the dastardly wretch can scarcely be uttered,” fumed a former governor of South Carolina, the state where secession began. Robert E. Lee’s armies took special care to enslave free blacks during their Northern campaign. But Lee claimed the assassination of the Great Emancipator was “deplorable.” Jefferson Davis believed that “it could not be regarded otherwise than as a great misfortune to the South,” and angrily denied rumors that he had greeted the news with exultation.

Especially at this point in America's history, where one party gives us the constant rhetoric of "taking our country back" from those who they view as beneath them, the Confederate battle flag is a barbaric relic of a traitorous past.  Under no circumstances should it be celebrated. It is the flag of those who do not believe in the quest towards a more perfect union, but the fantasy of disunion and the poison of discord.

As Coates says:

Put it in a museum. Inscribe beneath it the years 1861-2015. Move forward. Abandon this charlatanism. Drive out this cult of death and chains. Save your lovely souls. Move forward. Do it now.

If we cannot accomplish this at least, we have much larger problems.  The violence of the last several hundred years will never be broken unless we stop praying at the altar of those who split this country in order to defend the practice on enslaving others.

Take it down.

Weather Or Not, John Thune Is Wrong

Republicans like South Dakota Sen. John Thune have declared war on the National Weather Service over climate change and are looking to slide in a back door cut, consolidating the country's 122 weather service offices down to just six for the entire United States.

The National Weather Service Improvement Act would order the NWS to come up with a plan for establishing regional forecasting centers within a year of enactment. It recommends that these centers be co-located with a university or government lab and staffed to ensure that local forecast quality would not be not “degraded.” After a review of the plan from the National Academy of Sciences, the NOAA administrator is ordered to set up the regional hubs within a year. 
“Focusing the National Weather Service’s resources regionally would improve the public’s access to quality forecasting and reduce the danger of local staff being overwhelmed during severe weather outbreaks,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), who is sponsoring the legislation. “Reforming an agency and increasing accountability will always be a challenge, but increasing public access to quality forecasting can save lives.”

It will supposedly save money, and no offices will actually close, at least that's the plan.

The bill says cost savings from consolidating forecasting would enable NOAA to reinvest in the following areas: expanding super-computing capacity, improving weather forecasts, enhancing communication of weather forecasts to the public, and expanding the use of ground-based observations and strengthening radar coverage where necessary. 
Although the measure mandates centralizing forecasting operations at six regional offices, it would not result in closure of any of the existing 122 forecast offices. Rather, it specifies that these offices maintain a warning coordination meteorologist to serve as a liaison with emergency management for storm preparedness and response activities as well as to conduct media and public outreach. Offices also would continue to maintain radar instrumentation and launch weather balloons.

But the reality is a lot stormier.

Senate Commerce Committee staff stressed that the bill is “resource neutral” — meaning that no jobs are added or taken away. But the NWSEO says that the centralization of jobs would, in time, lead to fewer positions and a deterioration in forecasting quality
Likely it would mean the elimination of over 1000 meteorologists jobs,” said Dan Sobien, president of the NWSEO. “It would take a decade for the field of meteorology to recover from a blow like that and those meteorologists to be absorbed back into the enterprise.” 
The NWSEO also worries that the consolidation would effectively sever the flow of local knowledge and expertise into the forecast process. Richard Hirn, counsel for the NSEO, wrote a commentary warning that predictions made by meteorologists unfamiliar with local geography and effects would suffer, citing academic studies.

Because what we need with stronger and more dangerous storms brought about by climate change is less weather forecasting capacity and fewer people on the ground in these local offices.  What better way to get rid of those problematic meteorologists who believe in climate change than by "streamlining" NOAA and the NWS?

Oh, and by the way, 2015 is still shaping up to be the hottest on record globally, so far ahead of 2010's record heat.


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