How A Killer Got Away With Murder

DDNot protesters but the system of American justice is morally and intellectually out of control. Justice is in the hands of vigilantes who are brutes intent on robbing liberty without fear of rebuke, and America is proving false to its own promise, indifferent and deaf to its whirlwinds of cruelty. Much of America revels instead in the brutish delight that shines in its inner soul, as it calls others demons and reveals how it has lost its reverence for providence or truth.

With blood on its hands, it has no legitimacy lecturing the aggrieved about safety or destruction, when it has proven it will not protect the lives of youth unarmed, when its lust for killing spreads unchecked to every border, when a single prosecutor cloaked as an agent of authority manipulates the system and calls its darkest evils fair play, taking a measure of time to display a sentiment of contempt and arrogance, putting a default on liberty without life and improvement. Power pretends concessions as it silently approves citizens’ peril by emptying life from souls lying still against curbstones—bodies left in plain view for all to see the pride of termination taken in the kill and the madness of this accruing demand and the political taste for blood, blood to gratify an exasperated illogic, that bullets weighed on the scale of human powers make some unworthy and inferior, and that their general dislike warrants this impression and sanction of foul play.

Michael Brown’s death was a modern, “justified” lynching. Months after, his killer is uncharged.

Focus in: the local prosecutor, his father a police officer killed by a black civilian, his mother a police department clerk, his family still serving on the force, should have been immediately removed for a special prosecutor. The Governor failed to do so.

This prosecutor then took his knowledge of the system and created a secret jury that tried guilt and determined innocence before charges were brought. The roles of the participants reversed and switched, the grand jury did not take up the matter of guilt for trial, but began to try, by its impressions and its unchallengeable decision, whether the killer of Michael Brown, a police officer on duty, was innocent.

The prosecutor pressed the case and made clear the impression that Michael Brown’s killer had committed no crime. He did not present a bill of indictment to the grand jury. He never specified any offense—manslaughter or murder—or any degree—recklessness, negligence, maliciousness, intent—he as prosecutor supported by law, evidence or testimony of the killer’s actions or guilt.

In putting “all” of the evidence before the grand jury, the prosecutor actually selected what the grand jury would see in secret, changed its function, and presented the killer’s defense. This prosecutor went one step further. He made the case for the defense before an indictment or trial, by relinquishing the role of prosecutor as an advocate and adversary protecting the rights of the people.  In his abdication, he led the jury to protect the rights of the accused by rules of procedure, by questioning testimony, and by avoiding a rigorous presentation of both sides that a trial would bring.

To show how far off course was this prosecutor’s revolt, Supreme Court Justice Antonia Scalia disagrees with his ambitious use of the grand jury, as Justice Scalia firmly spelled out the role and purpose of the grand jury’s proceedings in a 1992 case (United States v. Williams), cited by ThinkProgress:

Justice Antonin Scalia, in the 1992 Supreme Court case of United States v. Williams, explained what the role of a grand jury has been for hundreds of years.

It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be] denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor. Respublica v. Shaffer, 1 Dall. 236 (O. T. Phila. 1788); see also F. Wharton, Criminal Pleading and Practice § 360, pp. 248-249 (8th ed. 1880). As a consequence, neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.

This prosecutor instead paraded and coddled witnesses for the defendant (openly, and publicly calling those who disagreed liars and persons who “made stuff up!”). He let the killing officer testify for hours, and he avoided challenging or probing or any adversarial role—when it was beyond the scope and not the role of the grand jury to hear the officer’s statement in the first place!

One of the “believable” witnesses wrote in his diary that he always called black people “niggers,” including, according to his handwritten diary, the day he witnessed the shooting!

But the key moments come when the killer police officer himself testifies before the grand jury in secret, although the transcript is now released and public. It shows how a skilled, deft prosecutor disobeys his oath of office, abandons his role, and engages by discourse in a legal enterprise of shameless hypocrisy to take the evil and guilt away from a wrongful death.

Consider a few minor examples: think of the size of a car window, its height from the ground. Is it credible to believe that a 6’4″ man can strike blows through a car window and travel through an interior space restricted and obstructed by a steering wheel, to render his killer nearly unconscious by striking his right cheek? Not the left cheek, the side that actually faces the window, but the right cheek, the side of the face away from the window, which is turned and not positioned well for the direct impact of a punch, “a full swing.” The limited redness and swelling in the photograph and its wide area indicate the killer’s testimony is open to question—and doubt. The prosecutor raised none and asked for no explanation, despite the major inconsistency.

Oh, and why not roll the window up? Trapping Michael Brown’s arm?

If this minor description raises questions from common sense and appears to show exaggeration (or lying), how reliable will the killer police officer’s other statements be, especially when compared to eyewitnesses, one of whom was next to the man he shot dead?

In the middle of a fight with a police officer, would you, as the officer described, turn to a friend and say, “Here, hold these,” passing over a pack of cigarillos? Is this credible or surreal?

And from the novels of Herman Melville and the tradition of racial stereotyping, the twice-shot youth, “bulking up,” making a step or a hop from a disputed distance, is stuck by the final bullets that end his life, although he was known to be unarmed.

Well, maybe not. After fighting in the car, running away, being hit by bullets, the killer officer says, he appeared to be reaching (or reached) into his waistband (of his basketball shorts). Other witnesses, like his friend standing next to him, say it did not happen. His hands remained in view, either raised or at his sides. But the prosecutor says they “make stuff up.” No gun or weapon was found. Twelve shots were fired. One person died.

How was that death handled by the local police, fellow officers and colleagues of the killer, according to grand jury testimony, released after its decision? The Washington Post reports:

When Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson left the scene of the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, the officer returned to the police station unescorted, washed blood off his hands and placed his recently fired pistol into an evidence bag himself.

Local officers who interviewed Wilson immediately after the shooting did not tape the conversations and sometimes conducted them with other police personnel present. An investigator with the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s office testified that he opted not to take measurements at the crime scene.

Injuries to Wilson’s head caused by punches he said were thrown by Brown were photographed by a local detective at the Fraternal Order of Police building.

Maybe some people who testified did make “stuff” up.

The killer police officer told detectives at the scene he fired one shot from inside the car; before the grand jury, with the benefit and knowledge of physical evidence, confronted by the forensics, he remembered firing twice.

Critical of social media for questioning the killer’s account (Wilson has said he would do it again), the hideous prosecutor revolted law and understanding by releasing transcripts that left the no hope for justice from the state, and even shares how he suborned justice by its own hand; by the paradox of evil and choice that lies at the justice system’s crossroads. The prosecutor’s horrible choices failed to obtain an indictment, but he succeeded by his forfeit. Then he took a half-hour of live national television to indict the rest of us. Continue reading How a Killer Got Away with Murder

Stormy Monday, 11/24/14

StormyMondayRacist, sexist, homophobic jackass and Speaker-designee of the Nevada Assembly Ira Hansen, a – surprise! – Republican, will resign his speakership, presumably this week, after excerpts of controversial (meaning astoundingly stupid and deeply objectionable) columns he wrote for the Sparks Tribune between 1994 and 2010 were reprinted by Reno News & Review, an alternative weekly. It’s not clear whether he will also resign his seat. Like any self-respecting member of the Party of Personal Responsibility, Hansen blamed his troubles on “a carefully orchestrated attack to remove a conservative Republican from a major leadership role in State government.” For good measure, his official statement included a baleful reference to “deliberate character assassination and the politics of personal destruction.” Uh-huh.

Michael Brown Sr. and a group of supporters went door to door in Ferguson, Missouri on Saturday, handing out turkeys to surprised residents, as the community and the nation await a grand jury decision on charges against Darren Wilson. “Everyone is suffering over this… I came back to make sure that people have a nice Thanksgiving,” Brown told reporters. The grand jury will reconvene Monday, according to an e-mail circulated to members of St. Louis business advocacy group Downtown STL Inc. Ferguson remains under a state of emergency declared by Governor Jay Nixon last week, when the grand jury was originally expected to announce its findings.

Speaking of free turkeys, DC’s annual Ward 8 Turkey Giveaway, scheduled for Tuesday, will have to go ahead without its founder, Councilman and former Mayor Marion Berry, who died early Sunday morning after returning home from a brief hospital stay. A family announcement regarding funeral arrangements is still pending.

The President heads home to Chicago on Tuesday as part of the administration ‘s continuing sales pitch for newly announced executive actions on immigration. He’ll speak at the Copernicus Center after participating in an immigration roundtable at the city’s Polish American Association.

Buffalo and area residents begin the week braced for flooding as a warm front encounters last week’s enormous snow accumulations. As of this writing, Monday’s high temperature is predicted to be 61, with sustained winds of 25 miles an hour and gusts up to 55 also forecast. Rain began Saturday, greatly adding to the likelihood of more collapsing roofs. Tuesday’s forecast is for six more inches of lake effect snow, as temperatures again approach whatever it is that passes for seasonal norms these days. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 11/24/14

Sunday Talks, 11/23/14

President Obama will make an appearance on ABC’s This Week, to discuss his decision on immigration. The roundtable, with Dr. Ben Carson, Democratic strategist James Carville, ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, and editor and . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 11/23/14

Gloom and Doom in the Senate

Grumpy2Grumpy: Ya know, Mouse, I’m actually not exactly grumpy today. Now that the post-election fog has lifted and I can get a clear picture of what the next two years are going to look like, my grumpiness has been replaced by unmitigated terror. The havoc that the Teapublicans could cause on every aspect of American society and economy has me ready to crawl under a rock until sanity is restored. The reality is that if we all did that then the insanity would continue and only get worse.

Mouse: I’d crawl under a rock too but they’re kinda uncomfortable and don’t provide near enough protection from the elements and cats, snakes, owls, and, well… you get the idea.

Grumpy: I don’t think we have time in this discussion for touching on all the areas of dread, so I’ll bring up a few on the Senate side of things as they relate to defense and “homeland security” (I really do hate that phrase but I guess we are stuck with it).

Mouse:Homeland security” reminds me of the Bush Jr. years. That’s yet another thought to curdle the milk on your breakfast cereal.

Grumpy: The Senate Armed Services Committee will now be chaired by John McCain. That fact alone sends me into spasms. On the plus side though, Sen. McCain has made noises about going after cost overruns. Don’t get too hopeful, however. He has made no mention of going after programs and projects that even the military doesn’t want. Another sobering example of his “leadership” is that he wants to modify the Teapublican darling of sequestration but only so far as he thinks it takes too much away from our military budget. I suppose his “pay-for” will be to cut more programs for the poor and middle class.

Mouse: McCain is proof that the people of Arizona have really poor taste in Senators. But don’t look at me, I voted for the other guy. At least we can be thankful that McCain wasn’t elected President, and he can’t declare war on anyone as a committee chairman.

Grumpy: Oh, Lord, the thought of McCain as President just sent a shiver up my spine. The man with such good judgement he would have put Palin a heartbeat away from the nuclear button? Can’t you just hear Palin’s screechy voice as she runs through the White House yelling, “John? Johhhnnnnn? You can’t hide John, I want that nucular football, John, ‘cuz I’s kin see Poootin from me house.” Yikes!

But enough about Teapublican terror fantasies that will never come true, back to reality which is scary enough.

If your looking for answers or openness on matters relating to the CIA or NSA, you’re in for a big disappointment. The Senate Intelligence Committee will now be chaired by Sen. Richard Burr (said to be the CIA’s favorite Senator). Here is what the Senator recently said about the killing of bin Laden and the use of “enhanced interrogation” (torture) in getting him:

“The information that eventually led us to this compound was the direct result of enhanced interrogations; one can conclude if we had not used enhanced interrogations, we would not have come to yesterday’s action.”

Even the CIA admitted that the torture — sorry, “enhanced interrogation” didn’t work. How “intelligent” is it to keep repeating easily proven lies?

Mouse: Yet another effort by a Republican to rewrite history.

Grumpy: Just these two committees in the Senate have the power to disrupt our military and procurement, increase an already oversized military budget, let the intelligence agencies run around or crash through what little Senate oversight is left, and pass more of the costly burdens of our nation’s adventurism to those least able to pay for it. Continue reading Gloom and Doom in the Senate

Friday Talking Points [328] -- Obama's Gutsy Move

FTP3When Congress wouldn’t pass a bill, the president had to act on immigration and deportation policy, to keep families intact — a measure that affected 40 percent of the undocumented immigrants in the United States. The president in question was George H. W. Bush, and the year was 1990. Congress, at the time, was run by the opposition party. What did they do in response? They passed a bill, which Bush later signed.

Last night, President Obama announced he’s acting on immigration and deportation policy, to keep families intact, which will affect the same 40 percent of undocumented immigrants here. Congress is soon to be run completely by Obama’s opposition party. What will they do in response?

There are a lot of possible answers to that question, but very far down on the list would be “pass a bill which Obama can sign.” That was never going to happen — it wouldn’t have happened if Obama hadn’t acted, it wouldn’t have happened before the end of the year, it wouldn’t have happened next year with a new Congress. And now it is definitely not going to happen. Nothing has changed on that front.

What is different is that this time Obama realizes this fact. Ever since his re-election, Obama has been coming around to the position that Republicans in Congress are simply not good-faith negotiators, because no matter what deal he hammers out with John Boehner, Boehner can never produce the votes from within his caucus to pass such a deal. So Obama has largely stopped banging his head against this brick wall.

Instead, he is setting the agenda in Washington in a breathtaking way. Since the midterm election, Obama has come out strongly for net neutrality, sealed the first deal that China has ever agreed to on curbing emissions, and now he’s announced a new immigration and deportation policy which will affect the lives of millions of families for the better.

Republicans react to each of these presidential announcements, but they have already lost all the momentum they gained in their midterm electoral victory. Instead of setting the agenda themselves, on their own terms, they are reduced to reactionary moves each time Obama acts. The one thing for certain: nobody’s arguing whether Obama is “relevant,” the way they normally do at the start of a president’s seventh year in office. Obama is more relevant than ever. In fact, if the tough negotiations don’t fall apart this weekend, Obama may have a new treaty which curbs Iran’s nuclear ambitions as early as next Monday to announce, as well (this is a long shot, admittedly). Obama is rolling out new initiatives by the week, and Republicans have been caught flatfooted.

Obama’s move on immigration was certainly provocative, in the literal sense of “provoking a reaction.” His speech was short and to the point, and he tossed down a few gauntlets in front of congressional Republicans, defying them to act on their own. He knows full well they won’t, because their leaders cannot control the wilder factionalists within their ranks. “Pass a bill,” Obama challenged, secure in the knowledge that they won’t be able to.

This is because Republicans don’t have a policy of their own. As a party, they cannot agree on what America should do to solve the immigration problem. About the only thing they come close to agreeing on is to “secure the border,” but the House can’t even get its act together to pass a bill which does that. Obama has now shifted the debate to what should be done about the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already here — a subject the Republicans aren’t even close to agreeing on any particular plan or action. Self-deportation? Round everyone up and ship them back to their country of origin? Allow them to stay and work, but never become citizens? A path to citizenship? Anything? Republicans have no plan — they don’t even have a bad plan, they simply have nothing.

The biggest question hanging over Washington right now is how crazy the Republican response is going to be. The Republican leaders are desperately trying to head off any radicals from making odious and offensive statements in public, but my guess is they won’t be successful in this effort. It won’t take long before some Republican officeholder somewhere says something incredibly offensive, at least if recent history is any guide.

What else (other than exposing their extremism on the issue) will Republicans attempt to do? Well, there’s always the “shut down the government in a temper tantrum” route. Again, Republican leaders are desperately trying to nip this knee-jerk action in the bud, as well as any even-more-extreme reactions (like impeachment). “We’re suing him in court!” John Boehner offers up to the Tea Party, but that may not be red enough meat for them, at the end of the day.

The redder the meat for Tea Partiers, though, the more it looks to the middle-of-the-road American like nothing short of petulance and whining. Rather than attempting to set their own agenda in Congress next year, Republicans will be consumed with rage, caught in a loop of reacting to President Obama’s actions. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [328] — Obama’s Gutsy Move

We Know Tar Sands, But Why Don't We Know Biomass?

DDThe US Congress perseverates. Its new leaders, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, have it bad. John McCain holds its longest recognized precondition. It is incurable and resists every treatment. Perseveration is a state of thought and speech, a mindset on a loop that repeats and repeats and prolongs an action long after the stimulus that prompted it has ceased. Think Keystone XL. Think Keystone. A political mutation from the perseveration of Obamacare.

Perseveration is a dangerous condition. It is a frequent condition that infects terrorist leadership who carry it to inhuman extremes. At home, perseveration often occurs as a host/carrier relationship between politicians and the media. Media is highly susceptible to its effects and has created recent epidemics and panics that stem from the main condition. Fears of Ebola’s spread to US soil is one such recent incident. The grand jury verdict in Ferguson is now another.

Congressional Republicans are single-minded and love to perseverate. About the XL, they ring memes: “thousands of jobs,” thousands of jobs,” “thousand of jobs;” the loud repetition masking that the pipeline has many dirty little flaws—beginning with the misleading jobs claim. Perseverating Republicans have a wild XL jobs math that includes school crossing guards anywhere near trucks with XL equipment, the counter and register workers at the doughnut shops where the truck drivers have coffee, and the supermarket worker who sells the bread for their sandwiches and the banker who receives their mortgage.

Here’s a more accurate picture: As we know, XL pipeline construction jobs will be less than the number on any NJ-NY highrise, less than those involved in building the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

The XL requires infrastructure (mainly grading, bed prep including stone and rock beds, drainage, installing braces), but is easy construction (mainly bolting and welding); these jobs will turn over swiftly as it builds out. The main impact will be in transportation and heavy equipment jobs (engaged hauling pipe sections, parts and instruments; then in lifting and positioning sections for installation, transferring and moving equipment and parts along the pipeline). Total new jobs: less than 500! New jobs lasting for more than six months: 150. Permanent jobs added to the economy: 50. Mainly for pipeline monitors, reading instruments and driving along to visually inspect the pipeline for damage and leaks.

The impact on refineries? The Texas Gulf refineries aren’t empty or idle. And no one proposes building new capacity. Net result: Jobs will remain constant; output will increase. China benefits. No tanker leaves Houston or Port Arthur empty.

The Washington Post says the economy adds the numbers of jobs provided by the XL every 10 minutes and nine seconds. Exactly the time it takes Republicans to perseverate about their lie of thousands.

The danger of perseveration is not only its exaggerated realities, but it how it pushes out new ideas and solutions and keeps them away from public attention.

Biomass is perhaps the most important green energy technology no one has heard of and for which Congress has not taken up a banner of support.

At its most basic, biomass is producing energy from organic matter; burning wood in a stove or fireplace, for example. At its most advanced, biomass energy is sustainable and an efficient recycler of bio products considered waste and left abandoned by lumber and agricultural industries. It is one of the most scalable of green technologies, and breakthroughs are happening swiftly, improving the process and dropping the costs of production and transmission.

biomass_graphic

Beaver Wood Energy, a Vermont company, reclaims forest waste from logging operations. Within a 50-mile circumference of its facilities site, 2.6 million tons of logs are harvested annually, leaving behind nearly a million tons of waste, mainly in the form of tree tops and branches stripped from the stem trucks to be used as timber in construction and craft. Continue reading We Know Tar Sands, But Why Don’t We Know Biomass?

Friday Talking Points [327] -- The Calm Between The Storms

FTP3What walks like a duck and quacks like a duck but seems to have serious mobility problems?

That’s right — we have entered the season of the lame duck! So far, it’s shaping up to pretty spec-quack-ular. OK, I apologize. I’ll stop, now.

Lame jokes aside, the lame-duck Congress has a lot on its plate. Other than passing a flurry of bills with precisely zero chance of becoming law, the Senate has a whole bunch of confirmations they need to get through before the end of the year (since pretty much nobody’s going to be confirmed in the next two years). But the heavy lift for both houses of Congress is going to be passing a budget bill. They have to do this before December 11, if reports are correct, because that is precisely how far Congress kicked the can the last time they put off regular budgeting — conveniently beyond the election, in other words. Well, that time has now come, and it will be interesting to see what is the result.

There are really only three possible outcomes, and which one is chosen will be instructive as to how much control Republican congressional leaders can be expected to have over their own fractious caucuses. In other words, it’ll be pretty easy to see who is in the driver’s seat soon — Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, or the Tea Party.

The first possibility is they could pass a budget which takes us all the way through the end of the federal fiscal year (next October). The second possibility is they could punt only a few months, by passing a continuing resolution which takes us only to March or maybe April. And the third possibility is that they can’t manage to pass anything, and we have a government shutdown fight before the end of this year.

Now, mind you, we are going to have another government shutdown fight. Bet on it, no matter how many times Boehner or McConnell lies about it to the press right now. It is inevitable. The Tea Party will, indeed, demand it sooner or later. The only question is when it will happen — sooner, later, or much later.

If it happens next September and October, this is (believe it or not) a solid win for the Establishment Republicans over the Tea Party. If it happens in early Spring, it will signify that the Tea Party and Establishment Republicans are both about equally as powerful. But if it happens in the next few weeks, then the Tea Party will be driving the Republican bus for the next two years, and we are in for a wild ride indeed.

The Establishment Republican faction, which includes most of its leadership (but not all), wants to put off the budget battle for as long as possible, because they already know the Tea Partiers are going to demand that Republicans paint themselves into the shutdown corner once again — and they remember how badly it went for them last time around. The Tea Partiers, on the other hand, are convinced they have a mandate from the voters to shut the government down as soon as possible, because they retain the fantasy that doing so will give them the upper hand with President Obama. Those who do not remember history, in other words, will be the ones begging for a replay. But if the Establishment Republicans can’t even get a continuing resolution that takes us to the next Congress, then it will mean that Ted Cruz is essentially de facto Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader. Like I said, buckle your seatbelts.

Of course, this struggle isn’t happening in a vacuum. Democrats are showing some fractures in the party lines as well, as evidenced by the tense vote for Harry Reid to become Senate Minority Leader next year. While the Republicans battle Tea Partiers in their own ranks, it seems that there was somewhat of a revolt among Senate Democrats over the direction Reid is leading them in. Reid did emerge victorious, but at least six Democrats didn’t vote for him (possibly more, those are just the ones who went public with their vote). To assuage the grumbling in the ranks, Reid created two leadership positions out of thin air, and handed one to a moderate Democrat from a purple state (Jon Tester of Montana), and one to a liberal darling (Elizabeth Warren). They will both “have a seat at the table” and thus help set Democrats’ direction in the Senate. This is the only time Reid has faced such pushback from within his own caucus, it’s worth noting. Whether Tester and Warren have any actual power and input in the coming years remains to be seen, but at least their voices will be heard on a regular basis by the likes of Reid, Charles Schumer, and Dick Durbin. Hopefully, this will improve Democratic tactics and priorities for the coming two years.

What’s really riling up Republicans in Congress, however, isn’t a leadership scuffle by Senate Democrats, but rather fears of President Obama’s newfound resolve to get some things done. This is somewhat pent up, since Obama didn’t want to rock Democrats’ boat during election season, but now that that is over, he has been freed up to move independently once again. He began with a new nomination for Attorney General, and then surprised everyone by unveiling a climate change agreement with China. This weekend will mark the start of the second open enrollment period on the Obamacare exchanges — which will go much better than last time around, because it would be almost impossible not to be better than the initial rollout disaster, really. Add to this the possibility that Obama may soon have a big announcement on a deal with Iran to curb their nuclear program (they’ll either cut a deal or the talks will fall apart in the next two weeks), and you can see November is going to be a productive month for the president.

But it’s not what Obama has done in the past week that is causing Republican rage, but what he’s about to do. Because the major issue Obama postponed until after the election is his big change in deportation policy. We’re kind of in the calm between two storms right now. The election cloudburst is over, but there is another storm about to break (and this doesn’t even count the storm the media will soon be egging on in Ferguson, Missouri, either).

President Obama is going to be announcing a new executive policy on immigration before the end of the year. He might do it as early as next week, he might do it right around Thanksgiving, he might wait until after the budget issue is resolved in December, and he might just push it back until Christmas. But whenever he acts, it’s pretty clear by now that there is no question that he is indeed going to act. The only remaining question really is how big he will go — how many millions of people will be affected, in other words. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [327] — The Calm Between The Storms

Feelin' Groovy?

Grumpy2Mouse: (strolls into Blog singing:)
“Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy.”

Ahhhh! What glorious weather! Temps in the low 80s and nothing but sunshine. Palm trees swaying in the breeze, and just the first hint of leaves changing on the regular trees.

Grumpy: Bah, humbug! You’re just trying to make me grumpy. Well. I’ve got news for you Ms. Mouse. You’re too late!

Mouse: Ya know how folks who live in snowy areas can’t wait until spring and they throw open windows and go outside to do anything and everything, whatever it is, just to be outside again? Well, that’s how us desert dwellers feel about fall. Throw open the windows, have dinner on the patio, do long-neglected yard work. Hey, even wash the dust off the cars! It’s all good.

Grumpy: Dust on cars? Try scraping 18 inches of snow off your car! They say it’s good cardio exercise. Then they say old folk (like me, which also makes me grumpy) shouldn’t do it. I say where’s all this global warming when you really need it?

Mouse: Right now a beautiful light breeze is blowing through the patio door, and the neighbor’s critters (they have goats and chickens, but that’s another long story) are making a fuss, but who cares when the sun is shining and all is right (well, except for what happened on election day… sigh) with the world.

Grumpy: Now you’re just piling on. First with the weather and now with the politics. Who knew a little mouse could be so mean to an old man! (That’s me playing the “ageism” card, as if you didn’t know.)

Mouse: Hmm… I wonder if your attitude is getting to me, Grumpy. Seems like for every silver lining, I’m also seeing the dark clouds (by the way, none of those clouds is in the sky right now and just the fact that I can see that… well, that’s reason to hope).

Grumpy: My attitude? You’re the one came in singing and carrying on about your lovely weather! I wouldn’t get too cocky basking in all that sunshine. Remember that November brings the snowbirds to your fine desert climes, and you’re going to have to put up with them ’til March or April.

Mouse: Ya know what they say: “So many snowbirds, so little freezer space.” At least that’s what I’ve heard, anyway. Continue reading Feelin’ Groovy?

A Time To Act

DDThe next Republican step will be to force President Obama to use the veto in a way that tanks Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the Presidency. The GOP-led Senate will not be interested in passing any useful legislation. The Senate will function only as a political wedge, driving bills that the President will veto, but that will also be loaded with riders affixed to the GOP agenda.

With the McConnell Senate, President Obama will be consistently faced with the lesser of two evils, between which there won’t be a dime’s worth of difference. The Senate will turn his vetoes into a political wedge, often pointing to the issues from both sides, to create a circle of confusion.

Remember, the House rarely sent up a clean bill, whether on the debt or a continuing resolution—which is what led to the government shutdown in 2013—surprisingly never mentioned by Democratic candidates, who gave the GOP a free pass on one of the worst of its legislative disasters domestically and internationally, damaging US standing in every world capital. Expect no less from Democrats, nor any more from Republicans with their win in the Senate.

It seems throughout the election Democrats were thinking about offices; Republicans were thinking about power. Republicans used the very shadows they created (a do-nothing Congress, Obama!) and pretended to oppose it by feigning substance, taking even tougher stands on waste, debt, red tape and intrusion—all of which they created in the shadows, all of which had been reduced in the light. But no one among the Democrats attached this darkness to Republican names.

Only dark money was attached. Russ Choma, at NoOpenSecrets.org (part of the Center for Responsive Politics) writes:

The real story of the election’s campaign finance chapter was not which side had more resources, but that such a large chunk of the cost was paid for by a small group of ultra-wealthy donors using outside groups to bury voters with an avalanche of spending.”

OpenSecrets further noted:

Spending by outside groups fall in three categories: independent expenditureselectioneering communications and communication costs. The 2004 election marked a watershed moment in the use of independent expenditure to sway voters, with most of the new spending coming from the national party committees. The 2010 election marks the rise of a new political committee, dubbed “super PACs,” and officially known as “independent-expenditure only committees,” which can raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and other groups, as well as wealthy individuals.

The center issued this chart that looks at combined totals: Continue reading A Time to Act

Consequences

freehandWell. With last week’s little unpleasantness out of the way, it’s at least a small relief that the cable news networks have mothballed their portentous horn-laden stings and seizure-inducing election-themed graphics. Until shortly before the first ’16 primary, anyway.

It’s less comforting that their energies now shift to helping Republicans craft their Grand Obstructionist Lame Duck narrative for the last half of the last term of Barack Obama, one where the “deeply unpopular” President, still diligently portrayed as a disengaged and feckless weakling, will nonetheless also be vilified as a stubborn, unreasoning bulwark against the bold (though coincidentally asinine) policy ideas of Republicans, through his preternatural command of a microphone and a veto pen.

Unless Republicans impeach him, of course, in which case… well, who the hell knows? Personally, I’d be delighted if the President were to veto everything the new Republican majorities stink up the inbox of the Resolute Desk with, and publicly call them all out as mendacious shitweasels in his next SOTU before daring them to start impeachment proceedings. Alas, that’s not going to happen.

As is his wont, the President will pick his battles with a seeming overabundance of caution, especially early on as the parties begin to square off in Congress. And that very well might entail his signature on some misshapen, though – one hopes – not monstrous legislation. In a landscape this ugly, there’s no reason to believe this is going to be anyone’s finest hour, and whatever compromising there is, I’m sadly sure most of it will be done by Democrats.

Magnitudes worse, though, is the effect of more Republicans in state legislatures and governors’ mansions. The appalling consequences of this sort of thing were vivid in the wake of Republican state-level gains in 2010, and they’re going to get a whole lot worse come January. Progressive or even moderate victories in the Obama Era have been muted, blunted or outright denied to citizens of red states via Republicans in charge there, with the ready assistance of ALEC, Koch money, and a “free press” soundly asleep at its post. Continue reading Consequences