Washington (AFP) - When the coronavirus pandemic shuttered restaurants in California, Aleida Ramirez lost her job as a waitress, plunging her -- along with many other single mothers -- into a vicious cycle of poverty, unpaid bills and reliance on food banks. The pandemic has been particularly hard on women who work in the service sector, which has been crippled by the economic crisis. And more than 12 million Americans who are unemployed or without income face losing their benefits the day after Christmas, when the aid package passed by Congress in the spring expires -- barring a deal in high-...
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This weekend's horrific mass killing in Buffalo serves as a tragic reminder that the radicalism of the American right-wing is not confined to abortion policy or an anti-democratic movement to take over the election machinery for partisan gain. The most established extremist movement in the country is the unfettered gun rights movement.
Much like the anti-abortion zealots, gun extremists have been methodically chipping away at existing gun safety laws in states while pushing for federal action that would finally achieve their goal of legal possession of deadly firearms by anyone, anywhere, for any reason. There hasn't been as much talk about it, but the Supreme Court heard a case this session that could do for gun proliferation advocates what the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case looks poised to do for the anti-abortion movement. The decision could even be announced on the same day. It was just 14 years ago, in a case called District of Columbia v. Heller, that a bare majority of the Supreme Court held for the first time that the Constitution grants an individual right to bear arms. It was a landmark case that handed the gun lobby the definition it had long sought. Former Justice John Paul Stephens called it the worst decision of his tenure, noting that when he came on the court there was not even any discussion of gun ownership being a "fundamental right." Over the years, however, the NRA worked very hard to make the case and Heller was finally taken up by the conservative majority in 2008. However, even with that proclamation, the court did not suggest that this meant states had no right to enact gun safety measures. The author of the opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia held that while people had the right to keep guns in their homes, communities still had an interest in public safety and keeping dangerous modern weapons off the streets. That was unsatisfying for the gun fetishists so they immediately began taking steps to ensure that interest was as proscribed as possible.
The case the court heard this term, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, involves New York's long-standing law that only people with a specific need ("proper cause") can be licensed to carry a concealed weapon in the state. The plaintiffs in this case both applied for and were granted concealed carry permits but were restricted in where they were allowed to carry their guns. They, along with the NRA, sued, saying they have an unfettered 2nd Amendment right to carry their guns virtually whenever and wherever they feel they might need to defend themselves. In other words, they believe they have a constitutional right to carry a gun at all times.
The most established extremist movement in the country is the unfettered gun rights movement.
The thinking among legal observers is that this court is not going to uphold New York's law as it currently stands, which seems obvious. The only question is whether they find a workaround of the "proper cause" standard to keep it on the books without any real purpose or use the case to greatly expand gun rights. Law professor Eric Ruben explains what that means:
Bruen could be a turning point for how judges evaluate all Second Amendment cases – whether they're about assault weapons, tasers or felon-in-possession offenses. Until now, judges have generally assessed whether such restrictions are justified by current public safety concerns.
Many gun rights advocates are asking the Supreme Court to reject that approach. Instead, they want judges to decide cases on the sole basis of history and tradition unless the judiciary's interpretation of the text of the Second Amendment resolves the issue. This is known as the "text, history and tradition" test.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh is credited with first articulating this test in a dissent he issued prior to his rise to the Supreme Court. Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett all have embraced similar judicial philosophies to some degree.
Unless they've all had some kind of wake-up call over the leaked abortion draft, I don't think you need to be a professional fortune-teller to read the tea leaves on this one. There is an excellent chance they are going to overturn the New York law under this specious new philosophy from the beer-swilling Kavanaugh and that will be that.
Ruben points out that in 1980 most Americans lived in states that regulated concealed carry of weapons. The NRA managed to lobby many of them to overturn those laws leaving big, populous states New York and California, along with Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island refusing to go along, thus necessitating the organization to use the courts to get their way when the people in those states refused.
The states in question represent one-quarter of the U.S. population. If the Court overturns the New York law, the gun proliferation advocates will tell the people in those states they just don't know what's good for them and that "an armed society is a polite society." The evidence is clear that this simply isn't true.
This ruling would open the door to confusing litigation based upon this daft "text, history and tradition" test that will require judges to figure out if other, long -standing, regulations adhere to it. They will be forced to decide if regulation of large capacity magazines or semi-automatic weapons are constitutionally based upon their similarity to guns and laws in use 150 years ago which is ridiculous.
Legal observers worry that the Court could take the most extreme approach and introduce this new "text, history and tradition" test at least partly because of trumped up partisan grievance politics that insist the 2nd Amendment has been treated as a "second class" right. The whining, self-pitying tone underlying Alito's draft in the abortion decision suggests that the radical majority is not immune to such all-too-common, self-indulgent right wing predilections.
No one knows for sure, but the assumption among some court watchers is that Justice Clarence Thomas will probably write the Bruen opinion since he seems to be particularly energized over the prospect of blowing up all gun regulations and turning the country into even more of a free fire zone than it already is. I doubt if he, or any of the other ultra-right wingers on the Court, would be any more respectful of precedent in gun rights cases than they are in women's rights cases. They have a revolutionary agenda and they aren't going to let anything stand in their way.
Buffalo killer's 'road map' largely ripped off from other shooters: 'They’re all consuming similar propaganda'
The Buffalo gunman's online manifesto is a mostly plagiarized from other mass shooters' expressions of white supremacist hate, and shows how these screeds are essentially conversations between the killers.
Payton Gendron plotted the grocery store massacre for months and intended to kill more Black people at other locations, and he uploaded a 180-page explanation for his actions that was lifted directly from racist killers in California, Germany, New Zealand and Texas and, like other killers, live-streamed his attack, reported The Daily Beast.
"The document is not meant to be novel," the website reported. "It’s a road map for violence, tailored to a growing cadre of racists who already espouse its main ideas."
Approximately 28 percent of the document was plagiarized, according to the Khalifa Ihler Institute, and relied heavily on a manifesto uploaded by a mass shooter who killed 51 people at New Zealand mosques in 2019, whose words and actions served as a template for subsequent killings.
“It’s evident from this, as well as from other terrorist manifestos that these terrorists both build on each other’s ideological narratives and strategies,” said Bjørn Ihler, a Khalifa Ihler co-founder. “They also largely directly reference each other, not only through the direct plagiarization of text but also often by name-dropping previous terrorists in these texts and other symbolic and textual elements. This goes back at least to the manifesto of [Norwegian mass-murderer Anders] Breivik, which again, largely was plagiarized from other online sources in the white supremacist and Islamophobic environment.”
Other themes from the manifesto sound remarkably similar to Republican stump speeches or Fox News programming, and extremist researchers warn that the Buffalo massacre could be seen as part of a wave of politicized violence that includes the Jan. 6 insurrection.
"Political violence in the United States, and specifically violence involving far-right militias and militant social movements, typically manifests in peaks and lulls,” warns a new report from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. “Against this backdrop, the recent decline in aggregate events should not be taken as a sign that the threat of violence has abated. On the contrary, current trends indicate that it may only represent a relative calm before the next storm.”
Roudabeh Kishi, director of research and innovation at ACLED said white nationalism has become a primary motivation in far-right protest activity, and she said attackers should not be seen as "lone wolves."
“They’re all consuming similar propaganda,” Kishi said. “They’re in the same circles.”
A new study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters shows that keeping global warming below the key 1.5°C threshold by the end of the century will require not just halting the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure, but also shutting down many existing sites.
"Some existing fossil fuel licenses and production will need to be revoked and phased out early."
Led by Kelly Trout of Oil Change International, the study estimates that 40% of fossil fuel reserves at currently operational development sites across the globe must be left in the ground if the world is to have a 50-50 chance of adequately slashing carbon emissions and limiting warming to 1.5°C or below.
If fossil fuel reserves at existing sites are extracted, the researchers find, nations will "substantially exceed" the 1.5°C carbon budget that corporations and governments are already burning through at an unsustainable clip.
The paper, which relies on a commercial model of the world's
25,000 oil and gas fields, leaves unanswered the question of precisely which existing development sites should be shut down, noting that "it requires considerations of equity and of the best mechanisms to manage a just transition away from fossil fuel jobs and revenues within and between countries."
One recent analysis suggests that some of the largest fossil fuel companies in the world are planning or already operating more than 190 "carbon bombs," huge oil and gas projects that could unleash nearly 650 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions and doom efforts to avert climate catastrophe.
"Our findings show that halting new extraction projects is a necessary step, but still not enough to stay within our rapidly dwindling carbon budget," said Greg Muttitt of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a co-author of the new study. "Some existing fossil fuel licenses and production will need to be revoked and phased out early."
"Governments need to start tackling head-on how to do this in a fair and equitable way, which will require overcoming opposition from fossil fuel interests," Muttitt added.
The research comes as the fossil fuel industry is exploiting Russia's assault on Ukraine—and the punitive measures the West has taken in response—to lobby for new fossil fuel development. In late March, the Biden administration pledged to ramp up U.S. gas exports to European Union members as they attempt to wean themselves off of Russian fossil fuels.
Climate advocates warned that the White House's initiative would likely spur the construction of new pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, potentially locking in more planet-warming pollution as scientists say emissions must be halved by 2030.
"Our study reinforces that building new fossil fuel infrastructure is not a viable response to Russia's war on Ukraine," said Trout, Oil Change International's research co-director. "The world has already tapped too much oil, gas, and coal. Developing more would either cause more dangerous levels of warming, if fully extracted, or create a larger scale of stranded assets."
Thijs Van de Graaf of Ghent University in Belgium, a study co-author, similarly cautioned that "each new coal mine, gas well, or oil field that is developed deepens political entanglement with the fossil fuel industry."
"Increasing the scale of extraction-related jobs and investments," he added, "only makes it harder for governments to manage."