How to Buy Power and Influence

DDOnce, you bought elected officials. Today, you buy the election. How? With ads! Short, distorted, repetitive, intense, saturated, without facts. Who pays? Outside groups. An example: since 2006, the Republican State Leadership Committee has gone from spending $20 million on GOP candidates to a projected $37 million by next week, mainly aimed at state legislatures and judges. In a break with precedent (and mainstream media coverage!), the new era of free speech has focused attacks on elected judges, especially on state Supreme Courts. In North Carolina, one televised ad accused a sitting judge of “siding with child predators.”

And win or lose, these ads are working. A new report  says state judges are considering these ads when they issue rulings in court. The net effect of these ads is slowly, invisibly changing justice, even on constitutional questions.

According to the American Constitution Society (ACS):

Outside interest groups, often with high-stakes economic interests or political causes before the courts, now routinely pour millions of dollars into state supreme court elections. These powerful interests understand the important role that state supreme courts play in American government, and seek to elect justices who will rule as they prefer on priority issues such as environmental and consumer protections, marriage equality, reproductive choice and voting rights. Although their economic and political priorities are not necessarily criminal justice policy, these sophisticated groups understand that “soft on crime” attack ads are often the best means of removing from office justices they oppose.

The Society issued a report, Skewed Justice: Citizens United, Television Advertising, and State Supreme Court Justices’ Decisions in Criminal Cases, that compiled data from more than 3,000 criminal appeals decided in state supreme courts in 32 states from 2008 to 2013.

It found:

  1. The more TV ads aired during state Supreme Court judicial elections in a state, the less likely justices are to vote in favor of criminal defendants. In a state with 10,000 ads, a doubling of airings is associated on average with an 8 percent increase in justices’ voting against a criminal defendant’s appeal.
  2. Justices in states whose bans on corporate and union spending on elections were struck down by Citizens United were less likely to vote in favor of criminal defendants than they were before the decision. In these states, the removal of those prohibitions after Citizens United is associated with, on average, a 7 percent decrease in justices’ voting in favor of criminal defendants.

ThinkProgress notes: “Outside spenders pay for ads with particularly vicious content” even as candidates they support distance themselves; one in Ohio dissembling its support by claiming an ad against his opponent as not an “appropriate approach to judicial campaigning.”

A Mother Jones article cites these phrases from ads: “Terrorist sympathizer. Friend to criminals. Pedophile supporter.” A “free a terrorist” ad ran in Michigan 416 times!

Heavy on emotion, short on facts, completely without context or specifics, watch this example from Michigan:

This kind of ad, televised, makes electoral debate a tough sell and appeals to the lowest forms of information, anger and fear—at the sacrifice of the freedom the soldier died for.

In states with elections for local court seats, money is also wielding a bigger presence on justice.

But the changes in political funding created by the Citizens United decision, along with the internet, have also created more citizen ads, with low production values and distinctively local flavors. For example, these next four, each a little bizarre: Continue reading How to Buy Power and Influence

Fever Dreams

freehandFor all the mainstream media’s obsession with Ebola in recent weeks, one disquieting aspect of the virus remains largely unexamined: its ability to provoke delusional raving from right-wingers.

Take, for example, Larry Klayman, whose history of delusional raving actually predates the current outbreak by about 63 years. Klayman took some time out from his current projects (barking at the moon and petitioning the Department of Homeland Security to deport Barack Obama) to discuss Ebola in the October 10 edition of his WND column. More specifically, Barack Obama and Ebola. His opening salvo echoes criticism leveled at the President from various quarters, not all of them arch-conservative, insisting that “free entry” into the United States by people from Ebola-affected nations be halted.

But Klayman’s just getting started. He then alleges the White House forced CDC Director Thomas Frieden “… to walk the proverbial medical plank, by spewing forth what in street vernacular was vintage cr-p to the American people.” Putting aside the odd revelation that there’s such a thing as a “proverbial medical plank” – who knew? –  Klayman’s contention that Frieden is being “forced, likely to keep his job” to toe the White House line on travel from West Africa begs the question of why the CDC Director would acquiesce and allow, in Klayman’s framing, “potential massive death to our citizenry.” Maybe there’s an obscure out clause in the Hippocratic Oath.

Breaking out multiple dog whistles, Klayman then goes on to claim that Ebola “appears to be even worse a threat to this nation than AIDS or other incurable African generated diseases,” and then calls it “more than likely” that “suicide terrorists from ISIS, perhaps American Muslim traitors” will infect themselves with Ebola and enter the United States. Hey, way to give ‘em ideas, Larry.

Klayman then promotes his deportation petition and closes out by castigating the President for “relegating whites and others who are not black or Muslim to the back of the bus,” castigating Republicans for lacking the “guts or desire to impeach a black president,” and promising a lawsuit to “force Obama to curtail travel and immigration from Liberia and the rest of West Africa.” No doubt the judicial system is on pins and needles.

Also courtesy of WND, living antediluvian fossil Phyllis Schlafly shared her “wisdom” by observing:

“Obama doesn’t want America to believe that we’re exceptional,” Schlafly said. “He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude.”

Which I suppose is, in a sense, exceptional. And in yet a third unhinged tirade about the President’s supposed yen to unleash viral Armageddon on, among others, the 65,915,796 Americans who voted him into a second term, has-been actress and wannabe pundit Morgan Brittany cited DHS stockpiling of guns’n'ammo and a billion dollars’ worth of “disposable FEMA coffins” stashed somewhere in Georgia (she didn’t say where, but my intuition tells me it’s probably Statesboro). Why, you ask? Over to you, Morgan: Continue reading Fever Dreams

Say NO to Voter Suppression

Grumpy2Mouse: Gotta say I’ve been feelin’ a bit grumpy myself these last few days. You all know how important I consider voting, and the Supreme Court ruling on Texans needing ID has me spitting mad. The Justices said it was too close to the election to change the ruling requiring ID. I hope the Koch brothers like what they’ve bought.

Grumpy: Well, now you’ve gone and ruined my whole day, Mouse! You should know better than to use four-letter words like “Koch” so early in the day. I haven’t even had a chance to digest my breakfast yet!

Mouse: The Texans who wrote these laws don’t care if they’ve taken away a few Republican votes with this law as certainly a few people who would have voted Republican don’t have the proper ID. As long as they make sure that a greater number of Democratic ballots are denied, they’ll be satisfied the numbers will work in their favor.

It’s no surprise the vast majority of people without the proper ID are African-American and Hispanic. Hmm… I think I see a pattern here. The groups most likely to vote for Democrats are being denied their right to vote.

Grumpy: Are you suggesting that the Teapublican Party has a history of suppressing the African-American vote? Why, everyone knows it was the Democrats responsible for Jim Crow, poll taxes and other suppression methods! Why, just look at the likes of Strom Thurmond. Oh wait, he sorta flipped parties over the whole Civil Rights struggle thing didn’t he? Bad example.

OK, well what about George Wallace? Don’t you remember that dyed-in-the-wool Southern Democrat standing in front of the school to keep “those people” out? Why just look at what he said about those days some 30 years later:

“Those days were filled with passionate convictions and a magnified sense of purpose that imposed a feeling on us all that events of the day were bigger than any one individual. Much has transpired since those days. A great deal has been lost and a great deal has been gained, and here we are. My message to you today is, ‘Welcome to Montgomery.’

“May your message be heard. May your lessons never be forgotten. May our history be always remembered.”

Oh, wait, that was an apology, wasn’t it? Another bad example.

Well, OK. I’ll have to admit that whole period sorta turned the political tables on the civil rights struggle didn’t it. The party of Lincoln became the party of Jeff Davis and the Democrats took up the mantle of Lincoln and King. I’ll admit it: the Teapublicans are now the vote suppressors!

Mouse: The bottom line is the current crop of Republicans don’t care about democracy. They just want to hang on to power and if that means cheating Americans out of their right to vote, well, that’s just the cost of doing business. Continue reading Say NO to Voter Suppression

Friday Talking Points [325] -- McConnell For Sale!

FTP3A program note, before we get started: there will be no Friday Talking Points column next week. We have to make room for our traditional Hallowe’en column, where we try to scare the pants off of everyone across the political spectrum with spooky tales of what the upcoming election might mean (plus, we get to show off our politically-inspired Jack-o-lanterns). So don’t miss that, but the Friday Talking Points column won’t be back until after the election.

Campaign season has reached its peak, and is getting downright frenetic in all the big battleground Senate races. One of these is Kentucky, where first Democrats thought their candidate didn’t have a chance, but then Alison Lundergan Grimes got some good polling numbers so the money is now flowing back in. Maybe some of it should go towards exposing what is supposed to — no, really! — be a pro-Mitch McConnell ad. An organization called the National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund tried to give McConnell a boost with a mailer. The only problem? Well, it’s how they chose to present their message:

In large letters, you see “Mitch McConnell.”

Below that, a sign with even larger letters: “FOR SALE.”

Check the link out for the image of the mailer — it’s (pun intended) priceless!

A reader of ours in Kentucky also pointed out pointed out that the black line under the words “FOR SALE” is a flap on the mailer — when you lift it up the word “SOLD” appears.

Now, everyone knows that the public really prefers to elect politicians who are bought and paid for, right? How could the positive message: “Mitch McConnell — FOR SALE” not resonate with the voters? Maybe this is a cautionary story about how groups like this are not supposed to coordinate with campaigns — which often leaves them to come up with their own ads, which can occasionally be off message. I mean, who in their right mind would think “FOR SALE” is a valid (again, pun intended) selling point to the voters?

In other bad campaign advertising news, we have a “Sharknado” ad attacking Gary Peters in Michigan. The idea’s not that bad for what they trying to accomplish (they’re trying to tie him to a loan shark), but the execution is pretty pathetic. Hire a better cartoonist next time, guys.

In Minnesota, Republicans are running an ad exploiting the death of a 4-year-old child without ever asking the family’s permission. Stay classy, GOP ad creators!

Up in Alaska, Republican Don Young is saying some insulting things on the subject of suicide, and then when asked to respond to the controversy, saying even more insulting things. Now that’s the way to win voters over!

Down in Georgia, a Republican House candidate showed how Godwin’s Law relates to politics, by comparing public schools in America to Hitler’s Third Reich. Here’s the full quote: “Obviously, if we have government — which is what the public school is — if we have government indoctrinating what students are learning, then we have a problem. This took place in Germany, friends. I’m not trying to say we are necessarily headed in that direction, but it is undeniable that one of the first things Hitler did was to grab, so to speak, the minds of the youth.”

Over in Wisconsin, a co-chair of the Republican National Committee showed how to respect a state’s voters — by calling them stupid. The full quote: “I don’t want to say anything about your Wisconsin voters but, some of them might not be as sharp as a knife.” Hoo boy.

North Carolina Republicans are fighting hard to keep college students from being able to easily cast their ballots. This is a prime example to use when arguing with anyone who swears the GOP is just interested in “voter fraud” and not outright voter suppression. How does making college kids travel further to vote have anything to do with “fraud,” guys?

And finally (for campaign news this week), Republicans are now — are you sitting down? — portraying themselves as the saviors of Social Security. That’s right, groups (like Karl Rove’s) are attacking Democrats from the left for even considering the Bowles-Simpson plan a few years back. Democrats would have had to accept such “entitlement reform” in exchange for Republicans accepting some tax increases — that’s the way the “Grand Bargain” was supposed to work. It fell apart because Republicans would not accept it — for the higher taxes, not for the Social Security changes. They were all for changing Social Security in fact, and now they’re trying to flim-flam the public into believing it was the Democrats who were pushing for such changes. My guess is the public’s just not that stupid, personally. Mitch McConnell apparently missed the memo, though, and is bizarrely out there bragging that he was trying to be “bipartisan” in passing George W. Bush’s idea to privatize Social Security, showing that Republican logic is impossible to understand (“We’re saviors of Social Security, except for Mitch!” maybe?)

Speaking of swimming against the tide in Republicanland, Michael Gerson wrote an interesting article about how the GOP may misread a Senate victory. Warning his fellow Republicans not to get too exuberant if they win, he writes some sobering thoughts, looking ahead to the national situation the GOP will face in the next election: “At the presidential level, the GOP brand is offensive to many rising demographic groups. Republicans are often perceived as indifferent to working-class struggles (because they sometimes are). The GOP appeal seems designed for a vanishing electorate.”

In other sober news, this week saw a brief respite from Ebola panic on the nightly news, but then OH MY GOD ALL OF NEW YORK CITY IS GOING TO DIE!!! So I guess we’re going for another trip on this insane merry-go-round. Buckle up, folks!

On the political side of Ebola, Think Progress has a great piece on all the politicians who use the cop-out “I’m not a scientist…” when talking about climate change, but then feel fully qualified to talk about Ebola and spread false information about it. Those dots needed to be connected, so hats off to Think Progress for doing so. To be fair, though, some Democrats are also fond of this cop-out.

Republicans came very close to admitting that all the political hay they’re making over Ebola is precisely that — a campaign issue to grandstand, not a serious crisis that needs an immediate response. Here’s the quote: “In reality, Republicans are not planning a legislative response, at least for now, Republican leadership aides said Monday. They merely want their voices heard.” Got that? They are not planning a legislative response for now. In other words, the issue will likely die right after the election is over. They’re telling everyone to panic, but also that it’s not important enough for them to act now. Cynical politics at its worst, or par for the course — you decide.

Ebola is not exactly an “October Surprise,” properly defined, since neither political party caused the Ebola outbreak to embarrass the other side. But it is October, and it is a surprise that the issue is so central in the heart of an election. What is being absolutely lost is that the system now appears to be working just fine, and none of the idiotic political responses would have changed things in New York City one tiny bit. The latest Ebola patient is an American, needs no visa to come here, did not take a direct flight from the affected country (since such flights do not actually exist), was self-monitoring his temperature, and immediately when he became symptomatic called the health authorities and was successfully quarantined. Not only is this precisely the way things are supposed to work, but none of the proposed travel bans would have affected him at all — but try telling that to the politicians. Or the media. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [325] — McConnell For Sale!

Turkey, Sayreville, and Some Democrats Get It Wrong

DDI.

Turkey’s actions, however it thinks itself justified by its internal and regional politics, have been outrageous on the international front and strike the wrong balance for a country concerned about its security.

Turkey should have promised aid long ago when the international coalition against ISIL formed. Aid helps promote peace and opens new channels. Aiding the Kurds in the fight against ISIL might further the peace talks with its Kurdish opposition and win support for coexistence within Turkey among its Kurds, 20% of its population and long oppressed. One thing is sure: the act of denying support and access only hardened old tensions and angered the international community and the Kurds at home. Turkey is missing a unique opportunity to forge a new era of cooperation by failing to focus on a dangerous regional enemy and turn a new page.

That missed opportunity—which Turkey is now trying to regain—may prove to be a greater threat to Turkey’s future than the narrow concerns that drove it to launch air attacks early last week on the Kurdish rebels, taking advantage of the Kurdish forces’ engagement with ISIL.

After hitting the Kurds with F-16s, Turkey accused the Kurds of using Kobani support as a “blackmail” tactic for the peace process. In reality, Turkey is using Kobani to further its wrongheaded military aims and as blackmail to compel the US coalition to attack and engage the Assad regime in Syria.

Turkey’s change of direction may help in the fight over Kobani. But it may come too late to win brownie points internationally or further peace internally.

II.

Attitudes in response to the Sayreville hazing range from cavalier to laissez-faire to open anger and hostility—all which point to evidence that we have a larger problem: we are becoming a nation of bullies and victims who are to minimize their degradation and find the humor in their shame. It matters less the details of who did what; the crime here is the attitudes that are shaping the response of both the children and adults. It seems that few can see or realize the moral failing put on display by the hazing. Whether as a potential threat or a real one, physical restraint is not “bonding,” it is intimidation. It takes away a fundamental right to feel safe and secure physically among peers. It’s a social form of attack that violates every moral and legal practice, but few seem to get it. All have dismissed the homoerotica in the nature of the hazing which was planned and executed; the lights out symbolic of denial.

Evidence the young female student quoted in the New York Times as saying, “We sure as hell hate them now,” about the victims. She feels her righteous indignation is justified by her sacrifice—not being able to attend football games. She has not a single thought of empathy for those hazed and expressed no ambivalence about the misconduct. She simply wants to pile on. She does not see in her own anger cause for remorse.

In a sport in which individual behavior affects and penalizes the team, many seem to be denying this fundamental relationship and consequence of bad behavior. Too many are focusing on sport and competitive success. If not the hazing, it’s really about a massive failure of character and the community climate which enables, supports and justifies the debacle.

III.

Neither party nor policy is responsible for the shredding of the President’s leadership by Democratic candidates: with job growth unprecedented, GDP growth up, troops at home, uninsured numbers reduced, US oil production globally number one, the Dow doubled, consumer confidence tripled, and higher wages on his plate and several successful fixes for the bureaucracy in progress, his opposition is in name only. Largely without support or cause. Continue reading Turkey, Sayreville, and Some Democrats Get It Wrong

Democrats Getting My Goat

Grumpy2Grumpy: You know, Mouse, it is usually the Teapublicans that get my goat, but every now and then the Democrats get my grumpy old self going more than any Teapublican ever could. It seems to get worse just before the elections and this year is no different.

Mouse: I hear ya loud and clear, Grumpy. I haven’t been checking my e-mail as often as I should because of all the pleas for money. (BTW: sorry about not getting your e-mails for 3 days because of that… oops…)

Grumpy: The closer we get to this midterm (and very important) election, the more the Democrats seem to go a little bit insane. My e-mail inbox is getting flooded with fundraising pleas. The theme this year seems to be “The Sky is Falling!” We wonder why Democratic turnout is bad in these off-year elections but maybe the answer is in the mirror. Most of our mothers urged us that if we didn’t have anything nice to say then we should not say anything. Democrats should learn to put that rule into effect when talking about ourselves.

Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about from the doom and gloomers:

• “devastated…  (re: Michelle)”
• “6 points down”
• “utterly crushed”
• “devastating defeat”
• “most crushing failure in history:”
• “everything is falling apart, Friends”
• DOOM FOR DEMOCRATS?!?!

These are just the subject lines. You should see what is in the e-mails themselves!

Mouse: I’ve heard these e-mails describe as sounding like desperate ransom notes. Ya know, the “bad guys” are raising tons of money and if you don’t send me some small bills (but large bills would be better) right f’ing now I’m gonna be a goner!

Hmmm… I wonder would that work for me if I sent out e-mails pleading for cheese?

Grumpy: I shouldn’t get too down on the Democrats’ e-mail campaigning, since I did manage to find some positive ones.

• “STUNNING loss for Mitch: Long-ignored red state race could destroy GOP Senate takeover”
• “S-U-P-E-R-W-O-M-A-N” (Referencing Michelle Obama)
• “We’re winning again!”

Sometimes the e-mails just sound pathetic and pleading:

• “Absolutely urgent”
• “Please, don’t click delete”
• “check, check … missing”

Sometimes they are just confusing:

• “counting on you {{CF:Digital-FirstNameSpecial,DefaultTo=}”

How about trying just a little honesty? We don’t need to be scared by predictions of doom. We don’t need rosy scenarios to pump us up. We shouldn’t ever do pathetic. We certainly don’t need to be confused. We’re Democrats for God’s sake! We do confused and disorganized naturally. Just be honest with us. Give us the facts and figures and tell us what you need done; we can take it from there. Continue reading Democrats Getting My Goat

Sunday Talks, 10/19/14

On ABC’s This Week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins will be discussing Ebola. Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan will . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 10/19/14

Friday Talking Points [324] -- Don't Panic

FTP3That headline, of course, quotes the cover to the fictional Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: “Don’t Panic.” This week, it seems like timely advice, as the news media and American politicians go into full-blown panic mode over one death and two illnesses within the United States.

We’ll get to all that in a bit, since we will be pre-empting our talking points this week for my own “Don’t panic!” rant (which, for science-fiction fans who were already thrilled with this week’s title, will also quote the learned philosopher Ellen Ripley). But first let’s quickly run through some other political news, before we get to the idiocy of the “travel ban fever” running rampant among American politicians.

The biggest news from any of the myriad state-level candidate debates held in the past week came out of Florida, where Governor Rick Scott refused to appear (for seven agonizingly long minutes) on stage with Charlie Crist’s fan. No, really. “Fangate” became a thing this week.

Late-night comic Craig Ferguson, tried to helpfully explain the political theater to his audience by quipping (this is from memory, I should mention, and not a transcript): “There’s a difference, of course, between a politician and a fan. One oscillates back and forth and blows a steady stream of hot air in your face… and the other is a fan.”

Late-night humor aside, the ad wars are getting fierce, in the home stretch of the 2014 campaign, including one Republican virtual clone of the infamous Willie Horton ad, now running in Nebraska. Outside of the ad wars, Republicans are showing they know how to charm the lady voters, once again, as state lawmaker Steve Vaillancourt of New Hampshire offered his thoughts on a House race in his state: “Let’s be honest. Does anyone not believe that Congressman Annie Kuster is as ugly as sin? And I hope I haven’t offended sin.” He also compared her to a “drag queen.” This provoked one of the best responses I’ve ever heard in politics, from Jess McIntosh of EMILY’s List: “This is a lawmaker? Like, a person who makes laws? This person has no business anywhere near laws that affect women or other human beings.” Well said!

In other crazy and offensive things said by Republicans (always a fertile field, it seems), President Obama is either secretly leading Africa instead of the United States, or just plain crazy (according to that noted expert on sanity, Donald Trump). And an elected Republican official in Missouri is trying to talk the American military into launching a coup against Obama. No, really. She responded to the uproar her comments caused by stating: “Something innocent and simple got twisted into a disaster because it’s an election.” Um, no. In fact, a disaster got elected to an innocent and simple job because of a previous election. She’s up for re-election this year, too (so get out and vote, non-seditious people of Jefferson County, Missouri!).

Federal judge and wife-beater Mark Fuller has still inexplicably not been impeached.

A candidate for Senate died, and the mainstream media largely yawned and ignored it. Doug Butzier was the Libertarian candidate in a race that could be decided by a razor-thin margin in Iowa, so you’d think more people would be analyzing the possible effect, but sadly, this has not happened.

It’s a new week, so Marco Rubio has a brand-new ISIS-fighting strategy! Which completely contradicts all his other positions on the issue, but hey, who’s counting?

John McCain called for Obama to appoint a “Ebola czar,” which he promptly did. Wonder how long it’ll be before McCain and other Republicans start complaining about all of Obama’s czars again? Here’s McCain, tweeting from 2009: “Obama has more czars than the Romanovs – who ruled Russia for 3 centuries. Romanovs 18, cyberczar makes 20.” How quickly we all forget, eh?

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post has been doing an exemplary job reporting on how we got to where we are now on public health and Ebola, first getting a stunning interview with the head of the National Institutes of Health. You’d think a statement like: “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine [for Ebola] in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready,” would have raised some interest in other parts of the media, but not so much. Stein followed this scoop up with a deeper dive into why we were so unprepared for Ebola, which is also a heck of a lot better journalism than anything you see on television these days.

And finally, just to end on a light note (don’t panic!), President Obama’s credit card just got declined. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

 

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvania deserves at least an Honorable Mention this week, for focusing in on actually doing something productive which might wind up doing some good in the midst of the Ebola panic. Rather than beating the “travel ban” drums, Casey instead called for more money for the “Hospital Preparedness Program,” which as you can see (from the chart) has had its budget slashed in recent years. Bravo to Senator Casey for being just about the only person in Washington who has proposed something useful that might actually be quite proactive in the future, instead of demagoguing and scapegoating along with the rest of the political world.

But the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to Charlie Crist and his campaign team. After “Fangate,” the Florida Democratic Party wasted not a second of time in getting a hilarious ad up on the air. The ad ends with quite possibly the funniest thing we’ve yet heard in the 2014 election cycle: “Next debate airs Tuesday. It’s going to be cool.” Crist’s campaign is also now going to send donors a hand-held fan if they donate at least five bucks. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [324] — Don’t Panic

Teapublicans Scarier Than Ebola

Grumpy2Grumpy: I suppose a word of warning is appropriate, and by that I mean let me tell you a little about my grumpy old self. If you end up not liking me or what you read here, at least you can’t say you weren’t warned.

Since Democrats For Progress is a political website, let’s get the politics out of the way first. I am a Socialist. If you think that means I believe in gulags and forced indoctrination of children then you are really in the wrong place. I suggest you check out your local library or, at the very least, use Google to find out about Socialism.

I believe that certain essentials to living should be community endeavors. Our infrastructure, our safety, our health system(s) are too important to be left to the whims of a capitalist’s bottom line.

That’s enough about politics for now; that talk always makes me grumpy. Other things that make me grumpy include hypocrisy (other people’s, not my own), greed (see previous disclaimer), racism, inequality, poverty and willful ignorance. Hardly a complete list, of course. I didn’t include things like my trick knee that likes to give out halfway up the steps from the basement.

Something that doesn’t make me grumpy is the fact that I was raised by two strong women. If we last long enough with each other in this mythic blogosphere place, you’ll probably hear a lot more about them. Each trod a very rough road and I am sure that I made them very grumpy at times. I just hope I didn’t disappoint them too badly.

Another thing that doesn’t make me grumpy is that when things go very badly with this blog, I have a co-conspirator to blame it on. That’s her, my muse mouse, peaking over my left shoulder (of course it would be to my left… duh) in my very bad selfie above. That little mouse will be responsible for anything I say that makes any sense at all, and the best part is that she works cheap. A little cheese is all it takes. If she is particularly lenient with her criticisms I will even shred the cheese for her so she doesn’t have to chew so hard.

Mouse: Hi. You can call me Mouse. Most people do. Supposedly it’s because I can be a bit mischievous and I really like cheese. I hope it’s not because they think I have big ears. That would be mortifying.

I’m a liberal Democrat. I can’t imagine being anything else.

Anyway, I’ve known Grumpy as an on-line friend for many years, and just between you and me, he’s not as cantankerous as he says he is… but I’m not gonna put that to a test just now. If he says he’s in a bad mood and he’s got some cheese, good enough for me.

Grumpy: So let’s get on with it, Mouse. Here is what is making me grumpy today.

I read this week that a person — make that an idiot — thought it was a good idea to joke about having Ebola while sitting on an airplane. Why would anyone think this was either funny, at best, or only mildly irritating, at worst? That is gallows humor at its worst. It should be no surprise to anyone that this idiot got taken off the plane by people who aren’t idiots in hazmat suits. Wouldn’t you have loved to have seen the look on his face as those “suits” came up the aisle?

If I was on that plane I’d certainly be grumpy. Probably grumpy enough to punch the guy in the nose, but then he’d start bleeding on me and we’d both be carted off by the “suits.” That would make me as idiotic as that guy.

Well, what’s one idiot, right? There’s always one in every crowd, right? But what if you have a whole crowd of guys like that idiot? Well, unfortunately we have just such a group right here in the good old US of A. I like to call them the Teapublican Party (aka the GOP).

Actually, I do the idiot on the plane a disservice comparing him to the Teapublicans. He only thought he was making a lame joke. The Teapublicans, on the other hand, are taking what is already a scary disease and trying to make political hay out of it. With the midterm elections just around the corner, it looks like they are trying to turn Ebola into this cycle’s October Surprise!

Don’t take my word for it; just do a quick Google search for “GOP Ebola quotes.” I just did that and here are the first two headlines that pop up: “8 Conservative Ebola Freakouts That Blamed Obama” from Talking Points Memo, and “Why conservatives blame Obama for Ebola” from CNN.

This Talking Points Memo article gives a good rundown that includes Teapublican faves like Mike Huckabee, “The Donald,” Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh. Competition like that is hard to beat, but I think a former GOP executive from South Carolina beats that crew handily for outrageous, idiotic and possibly dangerous rhetoric. His name is Todd Kincannon and if I had my way his mug would grace the page of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary next to the entry for “Stupid.” Here is how Kincannon expounded on Ebola, 140 characters at a time, via Twitter:

“People with Ebola in the US need to be humanely put down immediately.”

“There’s just no other way with Ebola. We need to be napalming villages from the air right now.”

“We elected a Kenyan as president. Now nobody has a job and there’s an Ebola outbreak in Dallas. These things are not coincidental.”

“There’s nothing wrong with compassion. But there’s also nothing wrong with survival. Sometimes you gotta put Old Yeller down.”

Those are bad enough, but Kincannon doesn’t hold back about his contempt for an entire continent or at least the inhabitants of it. Here are a few gems from this idiot about Africa, or, more accurately, Africans: Continue reading Teapublicans Scarier Than Ebola

Police Bullets Kill People and Truth

DDA cop’s strongest weapon is the truth. Honesty is more powerful than his or her bullets. I can sense doubts, objections and disclaimers rushing forward. Honesty won’t save you from physical threats, from people armed with guns! True, but is the prime strength of policing the biggest capacity for violence? It’s a dangerous world! True, but is strength measured by who’s quicker to the trigger?

An irony of violence is it loses its strength when it is applied for the wrong reasons or when it serves the wrong purpose. When state violence steps outside of the law, or only serves itself, it is illegal. It violates the social order it cunningly claims it protects.

More and more, violence is embraced by individual police officers, who cite a person’s actions as “threatening” to their own safety and welfare. This assertion is not made on behalf of public safety, but officer safety: the state is making the claim on behalf of its right of enforcement that officer safety, no matter the degree of doubt about the claims of “threat,” is paramount, above all public good and order. It asserts the police decision is supreme. This is a meta-legal process. It argues I have to kill to protect my right to kill and to protect my person, and my judgement is sufficient alone to determine the threat.

The last group of renegades who acted on these self-granted claims of violence and power were the Confederate Cavalry under “Fightin’” Major General Joe Wheeler, who pillaged and sacked Southern plantations, looted their treasures and supplies, and raped their women (to maintain morale), in support of the cause.

Police violence is no longer serving the public; it is acting out personal ends. With the rubber stamp of the state. Protest and the police show up with armored personnel carriers, military rifles, and snipers aimed and ready.

Once the threat that entitled force was “resistance,” violence was justified when the subject was resisting arrest or apprehension. During slavery, Frederick Douglass reported the most common offense for whipping was “impudence;” it was charged whenever it pleased the propertyholder. Today, the police buzz word is the ubiquitous “threat.”

Is violence justified by the feeling of a threat without a real perception? Is the mere idea of a “threat” enabling police to get away with murder?

In some analyses, anger is a threat. An angry officer, “threatened” by a subject, fires and kills.

Are there elements within police culture that tacitly support violence—or vigilantism, the taking of the law into their own hands?

The strongest weapon of policing is the one that meets the goals of policing: to protect and serve, to reduce crime and threats. That weapon is truth. But let’s look at the law.

Violence, which used to be the last resort for police, is now becoming the first choice. The legends of the Wild West, of Dodge City and the OK Corral, haunt certain neighborhoods, where police training standards are disappearing and their fade is supported by administrators who argue the justifications for the wanton and obvious misuse of force, deferring to excuses and denials, and more often, just plain lies.

Trust is based on truth. Trust is the collective virtue that is the basis for the unnamed rights implied and protected by the seldom mentioned Ninth Amendment, that addresses a host of the natural rights of people and communities, including the right to associate and travel freely, without state interference, suspicion or monitoring.

Strangely, no court cases have ever been decided under the Ninth Amendment. It has been alluded to only once, as the basis of the legal protection of privacy within marriage. It does, however, provide constitutional protection that citizens have the right and expectation to be free from state violence—and police shootings—during the normal enjoyment of their lives and their duties and leisure. Further protection is provided by the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects citizens against the denial of those natural rights without due process—which includes snap decisions made by police under duress. Continue reading Police Bullets Kill People and Truth