Thursday, June 30, 2011

Interference & the Duty to Retreat: Why the Right is Wrong When It Claims Prosser Can't Be Guilty, But ONLY Because He Is a Republican

The Right wing blogosphere is contorting themselves into granny knots trying to justify, and even defend, the alleged actions of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Prosser.  Some sites, such as Fox News Propagandist Gretchen Van Susteren, are trying to twist this incident on purely partisan lines, seriously ignoring the facts. 
THIS IS SO WEIRD…..did Justice Prosser choke Justice Bradley? or did she attack him first? did he choke her or did she make it up? And what’s up with the CHIEF JUSTICE? Where was she and why does her name surface in all these incidents? Something really, really, really, really weird is going on…..
The propaganda spin, in a dizzying lack of reason, and excess of hypocrisy, tries to shift responsibility for the incident to Justice Bradley, and to Chief Justice Abrahamson.  The only 'something' that is weird is how the heck voters could have elected Prosser (if they did - his re-election had serious problems with vote security and legitimacy), given his past record of issues, including control of his temper.

Let me quote to you from the applicable Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct, that applies to judicial discipline, including the Wisconsin Supreme Court members, and give credit to the Wisconsin State Journal for confirming my reading of the Code of Conduct:

"discipline and correct judges who engage in conduct which has an adverse effect upon the judicial administration of justice and the confidence of the public and the judiciary and its process."
Judges, which includes Justices and the Chief Justice, are required by chapter 60 of the Judicial Code to :
"uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary"
"avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety"
"be civil in their dealings with one another"
"abstain from any conduct that may be characterized as uncivil, abrasive, abusive, hostile or obstructive."
Although I am not a legal professional, it would seem obvious to anyone that Justice Prosser's previous swearing at Chief Justice Abrahamson, calling her a bitch, and threatening to destroy her would appear, clearly and overwhelmingly, to violate those parts of the Judicial code. 

A brief summation of events, Justice Prosser, who has lost control of his temper on multiple previous occasions and behaved  inappropriately and abusively, was asked by Justice Bradley to leave her chambers. 

There doesn't appear to be any controversy or disagreement about the request for Prosser to leave.

He refused to leave.  Right here, before the physical part of the alleged conflict, I have a problem with Prosser's conduct.  It would seem prima facie that in refusing to leave, Prosser behaved uncivilly, and that in refusing to leave, PROSSER precipitated what followed, that it is PROSSER who is clearly the catalyst.

Justice Bradley reportedly approached Justice Prosser, expressing displeasure with offensive comments made by Prosser and his persistent refusal to leave.   Justice Bradley had the right to be in her chambers; Justice Prosser, once any permission was rescinded, did not, and under the common law premise of interference, which appears to occur as well in Wisconsin Law relating to self-defense, from my limited and untrained background, gave Justice Bradley some reasonable right to approach Justice Prosser in any reasonable way that defended herself from that interference.

Some versions of the events say she had her hands balled into fists.  None of the accounts appear to assert that she struck at, or swung at, or reached out towards Prosser.  Only one account, apparently from someone aligned politically with Prosser, interprets having her fists balled up was a POSSIBLE threatening gesture.  I'm not a lawyer, I don't pretend to be one here; but Prosser appears to me to so clearly be in the wrong, that it seems ludicrous to claim PROSSER is the victim, not Justice Bradley.

If Prosser felt threatened at any time.......WHY (allegedly) did he put his hands on Justice Bradley, instead of using good judgement, good manners, and self control, BY SIMPLY LEAVING?  His actions suggest far more strongly that he was angry and lacking self-control, that he was belligerent (AGAIN), and that HE was acting in a physically confrontational manner.  To leave a confrontation rather than to engage physically, so far as it is possible, is something we instill in children, and expect from rational adults as mature behavior.

Prosser himself has been known to ball up his fists in anger, as these two YouTube videos demonstrate, and he has on those occasions gestured in a threatening manner, all too quick to use his hands aggressively:

This is not the behavior of a man with appropriate judicial temperament. 

Had it not been for the intensity of political division brought on by Governor Walker's actions, it is far more likely that Prosser would have been treated more as an individual, assessed on his merits, and less as an expression of political solidarity.  It appears clear to me that the heat of partisan politics put conservatives in the position of supporting a bad candidate, and that the conservatives did not appear to concern themselves with the merits of their candidate, but acted out of strictly partisan issues.  And now that is coming back to bite them in the backside, so the conservatives who like to talk loud and large about supporting people being responsible must, out of embarrassment, try to dodge that responsibility, trying to shift responsibility and blame to someone else, to anyone in opposition to them.

Justice Bradley has not claimed that Prosser applied pressure, actively choking her; she has claimed that he put his hands on her neck in a choke hold position, which was interrupted by another Justice.  I don't particularly find it plausible that Justice Bradley posed a reasonable threat to Justice Prosser.

It was inappropriate for Prosser to touch Bradley AT ALL in anger. Doing so appears to violate the Code of Judicial Conduct.

An utterly lame explanation for this was that Justice Prosser accidentally 'touched' Bradley's neck in a defensive gesture.

Reaching for Justice Bradley's throat is not a defensive gesture.  Crossing one or both of his arms to block Justice Bradley - had she actually moved her hand and arm towards him - would have been a defensive gesture.  Turning away from Justice Bradley would have been a defensive gesture.  Reaching past her arms to her throat? That is NOT a defensive gesture, that is an offensive gesture.

Don't simply accept my interpretation of the body language, however obvious it appears to be.  Loot at these sites which address variations of clenched fists and defensive arm gestures:
"Research by Nierenberg and Calero on the hands-clenched position brought them to the conclusion that this was a frustration gesture, signalling that the person was holding back a negative attitude."
 Leaning forward with closed arms and/or hands = Aggression, fighting stance
 Clenched hands = Frustration, anger
Interactions and Reactions
• A guilty person gets defensive. An innocent person will often go on the offensive.
Hand and Arms Gestures
Tightly clenched hands on the other hand (no pun intended!) reveal that a person is frustrated or has a hostile attitude.  Arms Gestures:   When a person folds his/her arms about the chest firmly, a feeling of being threatened may exist, since most people may use this gesture as a defensive manoeuvre . (my emphasis added - DG)
Defensive gesture - fold arms across chest, not reach for someone's throat.

While I am certainly not especially knowledgable about Wisconsin laws pertaining to battery, the generally applicable duty to retreat would appear to pertain to any unwelcome or aggressive contact made by Justice Prosser towards Justice Bradley, in Justice Bradley's chambers after he was asked to leave:
In the criminal law, the duty to retreat is a specific component which sometimes appears in the defense of self-defense, and which must be addressed if the defendant is to prove that his or her conduct was justified. In those jurisdictions where the requirement exists, the burden of proof is on the defense to show that the defendant was acting reasonably. This is often taken to mean that the defendant had first avoided conflict and secondly, had taken reasonable steps to retreat and so demonstrated an intention not to fight before eventually using force.
Some American jurisdictions require that a person retreat from an attack, 
Similarly, some courts have found no duty to retreat exists when a victim is assaulted in a place where the victim has a right to be, such as within one's own home. [1]. The Model Penal Code [2] suggests statutory language that also recognizes an exception to the usual duty to retreat when the victim of the attack is in his or her own dwelling or place of work.

Many states employ "stand your ground" laws that do not require an individual to retreat and allow one to match force for force, deadly force for deadly force. The Washington State Supreme Court, for example, has ruled "that there is no duty to retreat when a person is assaulted in a place where he or she has a right to be."
After being requested to leave Justice Bradley's chambers, arguably Justice Prosser had NO right to remain, or even to defend himself had he incorrectly interpreted that Justice Bradley was attacking him or about to attack him.

But the right continues to assert that apparently Justice Prosser is innocent by reason of right wing insanity, on the sole justification that he is a Republican, and as one of theirs, they will defend him no matter what he does. 
In aid of this defense of the indefensible, we have the call for Chief Justice Abrahamson to resign:
And while I have no idea who is off the wall (Justice Prosser or Justice Walsh or both), I do know one thing, CHIEF JUSTICE SHIRLEY ABRAHAMSON sure is not doing her job to lead the court and to give confidence to the people of Wisconsin. She needs to step aside and let someone else attempt to run that zoo.
Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson is one of the most respected jurists in the country, and in our history.  Discipline of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices is the responsablity of the Judicial Commission, which must bring a complaint before the court for action.

To suggest that Chief Justice Abrahamson should resign, for not controlling the outbursts by Justice Prosser, while conspicuously NOT calling for the resignation of Justice Prosser, who has appeared to repeatedly violate the laws relating to judicial conduct, is the height of irresponsibility, insanity, and hypocrisy.  Where is the call from the right to hold Justice Prosser accountable for not leaving Justice Bradley's chambers, ESPECIALLY if he felt he was attacked or could be attacked, under the Duty to Retreat?  Where is the call for resignation and accountability for Justice Prosser's attack on Chief Justice Abrahamson?


I am appalled that this patently unfair double standard is blithely accepted by the right without a break, a pause, without the slightest critical thinking or questioning.  SHAME ON YOU.  YOU, yes YOU, are facilitating precisely this kind of apparent misconduct by Justice Prosser.

Is THIS what it means now to be conservative? Because there is NOTHING prinicpled about it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Obamacare" Found Constitutional by Appellate Court!

Today saw a major judicial decision on the issue of the individual mandate.

From Howard Portnoy at the Libertarian Examiner:
A federal appeals court in Cincinnati became the first to render a verdict on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, ruling that Congress can require Americans to buy insurance coverage.

The decision, which was 2 to 1, is being hailed as by the White House and Justice Department as a major victory. Opponents of the law maintain that they will continue to fight the good fight all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the final determination will almost inevitably be made.
A conservative group, the Thomas More Law Center, argued before the panel of judges that the law was unconstitutional and that Congress overstepped its powers. The plaintiffs in the case also claimed that forcing private citizens to buy insurance or face penalties was not only in violation of the Commerce Clause but of ethical law in that it would subject them to financial hardship.
The majority countered that the measure was a necessary step in the overall plan to reduce health care costs, adding that the mandate will help keep the cost of changes from being shifted to households and providers. Judge Boyce F. Martin, appointed by President Jimmy Carter, wrote for the majority:
Congress had a rational basis for concluding that the minimum coverage provision is essential to the Affordable Care Act’s larger reforms to the national markets in health care delivery and health insurance.
The minority opinion was voiced by a Ronald Reagan appointee who is a U.S. district judge in Columbus. He wrote:
If the exercise of power is allowed and the mandate upheld, it is difficult to see what the limits on Congress’ Commerce Clause authority would be. What aspect of human activity would escape federal power?
The third jurist on the panel was Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a Bush appointee. While casting his vote with Judge Martin, Sutton cautiously raising questions about the law’s impact on individual freedoms and the right of Americans “to be left alone” by the government. In the end, however, he opined that requiring citizens to buy health insurance isn’t the same as ordering them to buy other goods or services:

The novelty of the individual mandate may indeed suggest it is a bridge too far, but it also may offer one more example of a policy necessity giving birth to an inventive [and constitutional] congressional solution.
The ruling today was on one of nearly three dozen legal challenges that have been filed over the health care overhaul.
While the Obama-led Health Care Reform has faced other legal challenges, this appears to be the first to clear the Appellate Court.   For a list of other court cases working their way through the judicial system, you can find them at this web site which also includes information on who appointed the judges in those cases. A majority of the suits appear to be in some stage of dismissal.  Reuters also has a web site which covers each of the law suits individually which can be read here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Justice Prosser's Conduct: Wrong, Right or Just Right-Wing?

I began researching this post by reading the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct, which readers can peruse for themselves here.  (A special thanks to my favorite lawyer for his assistance in understanding what I read.)  Both the Dane County Sheriff's office (at the request of the Capital Police) and the Wisconsin State Judicial Commission have found sufficient grounds to open two investigations into the accusations.

Justice David Prosser, Jr. was accused last week of behavior which if true, was possibly misconduct at the very least, illegal at worst.  Justice Ann Bradley has accused Justice Prosser of putting his hands on her in an unwelcome and intimidating manner during a dispute in which he was asked to leave her office, and did not do so.

This alleged act was witnessed by six of the seven Supreme Court Justices; all but one appears to have confirmed the accusation of Justice Bradley.  Justice Bradley has been very specific and clear in her accusation, which you can read here, courtesy of  JSOnline:
"The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold. Those are the facts and you can try to spin those facts and try to make it sound like I ran up to him and threw my neck into his hands, but that's only spin.
Matters of abusive behavior in the workplace aren't resolved by competing press releases..
I'm confident the appropriate authorities will conduct a thorough investigation of this incident involving abusive behavior in the workplace."
It is worth noting that it was Justice Bradley who called out Justice Prosser for his verbal abuse of Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.  It was her emails becoming public which eventually led to Prosser admitting he made the 'intemperate remarks', but he blamed the victim of his attack rather than taking responsibility for his own behavior. 

Again, from JSOnline, The conflict with Chief Justice Abrahamson was, it should be noted in order to properly understand this subsequent conflict, the possible recusal of Justice Michael Gableman from ruling on a criminal case.  The justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court who are perceived as more liberal held to the higher ethical standard of Justice Gableman not ruling on a criminal case, and also over an ethics violation by Judge Gableman for not being honest and factual in campaign ads.  Justice Prosser has also opposed Justice Abrahamason over an ethics issue, where Justice Ziegler was formally reprimanded for violating the judicial ethics code.  I think it would be a fair statement that Justice Prosser tends to consistently favor a lower or lesser bar for conduct in the context of the judicial ethics code, rather than the higher standard of interpretation.  This appears to be reflected in his own conduct as well.
Justice Prosser's statement in response to the choking accusation by Justice Bradley, is here.
Once there's a proper review of the matter and the facts surrounding it are made clear, the anonymous claim made to the media will be proven false. Until then I will refrain from further public comment.
As additional context to this specific accusation, is the assertion that the improperly aggressive conduct by Justice Prosser is not recent, and that it is part of a larger pattern of conduct.  Justice Bradley had written in emails and described in interviews:
In a March interview, Bradley said Prosser had flashes of extreme anger on and off over the years.

"It's been going on for years off and on," she said.

After Prosser's outburst, Bradley sent an email to him and other justices saying the behavior was unacceptable. She said this March that from the time of her email until then there had been no incidents of similar magnitude.

She said she sent the email in an effort to stop Prosser from behaving inappropriately.

"I've been trying over the years to (figure out) best how to deal with it and one way is to call it out, and that's what this email was," Bradley said in March. "I've thought of other ways that have been unsuccessful. This was to describe it as it is and then you can deal with it." "This . . . for me at least in part is about the institution," she added. "This behavior shouldn't be occurring at the workplace."

An hour and a half before sending her Feb. 18, 2010, email to all the justices, Bradley sent an email to Abrahamson and Crooks expressing her frustration with Prosser's outbursts.
"As you both know, I am no longer willing to tolerate Prosser's abusive behavior," Bradley wrote. "I have been at a loss just how to proceed."
Just because Justice Prosser has had anger issues, which appear to be documented by conflicts outside the Supreme Court as well as within it, does not prove that Justice Prosser battered Justice Bradley.  But it does raise concerns in the context of the Judicial Code of Conduct as to his behavior.

While Justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court have described Justice Bradley as aggressive in presenting her point of view, and even as provocative, I cannot find any similar pattern of Justice Bradley or Chief Justice Abrahamson having lost their self-control, or resorting to swearing, or threats and intimidation, or a similarly physical aggressiveness.  The following youtube video presents actual footage of Justice Prosser in action:

I could find no comparable video footage of either Justice Abrahamson or Justice Bradley acting in anger.  But what I did find was that Chief Justice Abrahamson was named Wisconsin's best justice in 2009 by the Wisconsin Law Journal, as shown in this video.  This is the woman that Justice Prosser called a bitch and threatened to destroy Abrahamson, with the bizarre and enigmatic additional statement that it 'wouldn't be a ground war', whatever the heck that means.  :

Additionally, in March, former Democratic Governor Lucey, who had been the CO-Chair of his re-election campaign, left that campaign, and gave his support to Prosser's competition, JoAnne Kloppenburg:
MADISON, Wis. -- Former Democratic Gov. Patrick Lucey is withdrawing his support for incumbent Justice David Prosser for Wisconsin Supreme Court and is throwing it to Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg.

Lucey released a statement to the media Thursday evening saying the campaign has revealed what he called "a disturbing distemper and lack of civility" in Prosser, though he did not cite specifics.  "I have followed with increasing dismay and now alarm the campaign of Justice David Prosser, whom I endorsed at the outset of his campaign and in whose campaign I serve as the honorary co-chairman," Lucey said in the statement. "I can no longer in good conscience lend my name and support to Justice Prosser's candidacy. Too much has come to light that Justice Prosser has lost that most crucial of characteristics for a Supreme Court Justice -- as for any judge -- even-handed impartiality. Along with that failing has come a disturbing distemper and lack of civility that does not bode well for the High Court in the face of demands that are sure to be placed on it in these times of great political and legal volatility."
At the same time, Lucey said he has continued to be impressed by Kloppenburg, saying she has shown the proper judicial temperament.
While I commend many of my conservative friends and colleagues for their vehement opposition to any form of violence against women, there is what appears to me to be a significant atmosphere of threats and intimidation against women on the bench in Wisconsin, that appears partisan in nature.  The cumulative effect of the apparently chronic loss of self control and anger management issues attributed to Justice Prosser, in conjunction with his lower standards for judicial ethics strongly suggests to me that there are some serious problems with behavior issues for Prosser.
There have been threats of violence on both sides of the political divide in Wisconsin; a 26 year old teacher was arrested for making death threats by email to Republican legislators, for which she was charged.  The woman told investigators that she had no intention of carrying out the threat, which parallels some (but not all) of the threats against Democratic federal law makers over the passage of health care reform.  However, as the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct notes, the judiciary is held to a higher standard of conduct that other people, which should be kept in mind as we await the outcome of the dual investigations of Justice Prosser.

Iranian Missles? An Open Letter to Middle Eastern Theocrats

I was just perusing headlines, and saw this one, from the MSNBC news service:
Iran: Our missiles can reach US bases, Israel

War games offer 'message of peace and friendship to countries of the region,' commander says

which prompted the unbidden thought, that goes both ways.  Our missiles can also hit you, and not just from Afghanistan.  We probably have more of them.  And it's not like we can't track any such launch of missiles by you, well before they strike.
Iran, are you paying attention?
Because if you were, instead of this silly, stupid posturing - the kind your crazy, not-really-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad likes to present in public forums - you would be presenting foreign policy statements that were sane, in the dignified and rational manner that is expected of nations, instead of this nonsense.
Iran, about your claimed ability to strike Israel...
Back in 1981,  with Operation Opera, Israel bombed a nuclear site south of Baghdad, Iraq.  I think it is safe to say that from 2009 onwards, Israel planned and was capable of executing, a similar strike on Iran IF sufficiently provoked.  I think the perfect name for such an operation, in view of the name Operation Opera would be Operation Melodrama, because your pretentious nonsense is such a farce.  Or maybe Operation Punch and Judy, because your regime is such a bunch of sock puppets, rather than legitimately reflecting the Iranian electorate.
You see Iran, (by which I mean specifically the segment of Iranian government that comes up with this bellicose bogus baloney, not the Iranian populace), while such statements advance a demagogic position that is pure ideology, it ignores the reality of geography and demography.  Perhaps you don't CARE that any such attack as you announce you have contemplated would also kill large numbers of your fellow muslims.  You should care; your religion as expressed in the Koran is firmly against that.
 "And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell to abide therein; and the Wrath and the Curse of Allaah are upon him, and a great punishment is prepared for him" (4:93)

It is true that Muslim sectarian conflicts have probably killed more Muslims than either the U.S. or Israel, but this goofy saber-rattling would seem to be in contradiction to the prevailing surge of the politics of Arab Spring sweeping Muslim-dominated nations across the Middle East.  You are out of touch, disconnected from the populace of Iran, and from your coreligionists.

Now to be fair, just as more Muslims kill each other than other people do,  Christians have probably killed each other in greater numbers than non-Christians have killed them, too.  And both Israel and the U.S. have more than their fair share of right wing saber rattling reality deniers as well.  We even here in the U.S. have some 'End Days" believers, who WANT to see such a conflict, as the culmination of their religious fantasies, which is mirrored by similar believers in Islam.  We have millions of these crazies here in the U.S.; estimates range from 65 to 80 million of them.  I imagine the discrepancy in the estimates is because of the confusion over how to count the outlier crazies like Harold Camping, who keeps predicting the end of the world over and over on specific days - May 21, 1988, September 7, 1994, May 21, 2011, and now October 21, 2011.

But letting them anywhere near power is disastrous. These people, which includes our own right wing bat-shit crazy nut job, Michele Bachmann, are the last people you want to let anywhere near the power to order bombings, much less nuclear bombings.

So, be careful with the stupid threats of war disguised as peaceful statements, Iran. 

Iran, you control your crazies, and keep them away from political power, especially ordering bombings, and we'll try to do the same.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Racism Accusations and Rahm Emanuel's Chicago Administration

Crossposted from MikeB's blog:

From HuffPo by way of aol, video from youtube:

Garry McCarthy, Chicago Top Cop, Calls Gun Laws 'Government-Sponsored Racism'; Right Responds

Gun rights advocates and other right-wing groups responded harshly on Friday to some strong words on gun control by Chicago's new top cop.
Garry McCarthy, brought in as the superintendent of police by newly elected mayor Rahm Emanuel, made the comments at St. Sabina, a liberal black church in the heart of Chicago's South Side. The Auburn-Gresham neighborhood where the church is located has struggled with gun violence for years, and its pastor, Father Michael Pfleger, is an outspoken supporter of limiting gun rights.
So McCarthy was playing to his audience when he made remarks like these (at around 5:40 in the video):
"So here’s what I want to tell you. See, let’s see if we can make a connection here. Slavery. Segregation. Black codes. Jim Crow. What did they all have in common? Anybody getting’ scared? Government sponsored racism. I told you I wasn't afraid [of race]. I told you I wasn't afraid. "Now I want you to connect one more dot on that chain of the African American history in this country, and tell me if I’m crazy: Federal gun laws that facilitate the flow of illegal firearms into our urban centers across this country, that are killing our black and brown children."
Immediately after those remarks, he also insisted, as he has often said since coming over to Chicago from Newark, N.J., that the gun control debate has to move "back to the center."
But conservative commentators overlooked that more moderate position in their response to the recently-surfaced video.
“After several minutes of gratuitous self-promotion, McCarthy launched into a racially charged tirade in which he accused the NRA and law-abiding gun owners of participating in a government-sponsored program to kill black people," Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, wrote on the group's website.
Like most of you, we believe an assertion such as McCarthy’s is too nutty to dignify with a response." Andrew Breitbart's Big Government blog goes for guilt by association: "McCarthy states his comfort speaking to the “right audience” about his views," blogger Rebel Pundit writes. "Could this be because outspoken radical activist Rev. Dr. Michael L. Pfleger is the Pastor of the Faith Community of Saint Sabina? Pfleger is known for his strong anti-gun views, outreach to prostitutes, anti-drug campaigns, and warm relationships with Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton and Jeremiah Wright."

And a vitriolic blog post on ChicagoNow pulled no punches. "[W]e have a top cop more interested in appearing at racist churches making race-baiting speeches than doing his job," writes Warner Todd Huston. "Emanuel better watch out because what we obviously have here is just another arrogant jack-booted thug that thinks he should be allowed to make up his own laws instead of enforcing the laws actually on the books.

McCarthy issued a relatively toned-down statement on Friday. "Strong gun laws against illegal firearms are critical in order to maintain public safety and private rights,” McCarthy said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “Gang and drug activity intersect with guns, and all three must be the focus of violence-reduction efforts in our communities.”
Obviously from my previous writing, I agree with Mr. McCarthy that gun violence has a disproportionately large impact on certain demographics of race and economic status.  I agree with him completely that preventing - so far as it is humanly possible - the possession of illegal firearms by people who will do violence or commit crimes is essential to public safety.  I would point out that doing so makes all of us safer, whether we are legal gun owners, or choose not to own firearms.

In considering the knee-jerk reaction on the right against Mr. McCarthy, I found the following video to be informative in how effective McCarthy has been in pursuing his theories, as they are reflected in crime statistics, including the reduction of gun violence.

This kind of result is what I wish to see, and what I believe my co-bloggers also wish to see happen.  I believe this is absolutely possible, without keeping legal and responsible gun owners from possessing firearms.  If minor inconveniences like registration and gun purchasers being checked for things like a criminal conviction (including drugs and/or gang activity), or a pattern of domestic violence as evidenced by a restraining order, or a medical history of mental illness that includes violent behavior or threats, then that is a reasonable balancing of individual rights to own firearms for their own enjoyment and the need for public safety where far too many people are injured, killed, or threatened.  McCarthy correctly addresses issues which have a disproportionate and devastating impact on largely minority areas of Chicago, issues which parallel those problems in other communities.   I would argue that those areas are affected in this way not because of a correlation to race or ethnicity and violence, but because of the correlation to prejudice against minority individuals that tend to result in fewer opportunities, greater obstacles to success, and other problems that are the result of poverty.  So long as poverty affects those demographically defined groups more severely than other segments of our population, they will be more strongly affected by crime and gun violence as well; the two go together.

I strongly disagree with the right attempting to discredit McCarthy, and the way in which the right characterizes both the black religious community and sincere, legitimate, effective efforts to reduce crime.  Black churches have a long history of being a source of stability and progress in these communities, of making positive and constructive contributions to solving the problems of the areas in which they are located.

There is nothing 'jack booted' or 'thuggish' about McCarthy.  Government is in part very much a matter of our laws and law enforcement.  McCarthy is perfectly correct when he points out the racism that has been inherent and intended in the old 'Jim Crow' laws.  Another example of racism as it intersects with government is the recent indictments of the campaign staff of the former Republican governor of Maryland from the 2010 Maryland state election, where there was attempted voter suppression of exclusively black voters: .

Just one more in a long line of conservative, and recently largely Republican, political and government connected racism.  I think the balancing of the right to free speech by the legislation that prohibits this kind of voter suppression very closely parallels the need to balance the right to own guns against the legitimate public safety issue of regulating legal guns to reduce crimes by illegal guns which were initially legally owned and obtained, or illegally transferred to criminals.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Planes and Trains of Thought, or Sex and Fear of Flying

Yesterday I saw this photo in conjunction with a news story about this man flying on a commercial airline:

I am a fairly open minded individual, and certainly no prude, but this doesn't strike me as 'street wear'.  I would be uncomfortable traveling, especially with children, to see anyone effectively in just their underwear in an airport or sitting next to them on a plane.  I would be equally uncomfortable in a restaurant, a library, or a church.

This comes in the context of recent events where a young woman, a college student, was embarrassed for wearing a short skirt on a plane from California to Arizona, and nearly removed from that flight. The same woman, wearing the exact same clothing a few hours later and using the same airline, not only received no objections from the flight crew members, but she reports she was complimented on her attire by one of the stewardesses.  While her skirt was admittedly short, it was not indecent, and was consistent with usual street attire.

If I were to try to describe why it is that this attire (or lack of it) bothers me, it would be because the exhibitionist nature of it suggests to me that this man may in some way be gratifying  a sexual urge by wearing this odd outfit.  While I do not care in the slightest what consenting adults do in private, I do not wish to be an unwilling participant in their fetish, sexual or otherwise.  Clearly, this man appears to be very pleased with himself.

A male college student was arrested in California, flying back to New Mexico, and is being held on $11,000 bail, for not pulling up his pants when the upper part of his underwear was visible.

In neither of the cases involving the two college students was there as much skin displayed as in the above picture.  While a small amount of undergarment was revealed in the case of the male college student, it was nothing like the revealing outfit worn by the man in the picture.

But this led me to a rather whimsical chain of thoughts, including, would the TSA NEED to either screen or pat down the man wearing pretty much nothing except women's underwear?  And would it simply add to his enjoyment of his particular kink?

So, clearly there is no consistency in airline policies; not on the same airline, on different flights, and not between airlines as some sort of industry standard.

After getting past that initial overwhelming desire to place a 911 call to the fashion police, and I admit to laughing a bit at this guy in the photo, the next thought that came into my mind was to think back to the Jesse Ventura kerfuffle over his being patted down by the TSA.  Given some of the outfits Jesse wore, back in the day, like these:

The floral pattern is not terribly different from the solid blue of the guy in the air travel photo.  While the ever-flamboyant former governor of Minnesota is showing less skin from the waist down, he showing a lot more north of that border.  As he is in the second photo in the red outfit.

Ventura was no less flamboyant in the outfits worn by his 'action figures' (apparently doll is too feminine a classification for these toys, or perhaps it makes them seem more adult and less childish).  These two action figures also seem to favor the pink and floral motif, and presumably had the governor's approval before they were issued by the toy manufacturer.

Regrettably, none of the photos of the real wrestler Jesse Ventura or the figures of his image shown here display his famous signature feather boas, most of which he has donated to charities, to his credit.  But I don't think that Jesse's wrestling era work clothes, or lack of them, would really be suitable street wear either, and they would be doubly unpleasant on a fellow-traveler who lacked the celebrity of Ventura who likes public attention himself.

Which led me to wonder, whatever happened to the TSA lawsuit filed by Ventura in federal court in Minnesota in January of 2011?  The answer is that the end of March 2011, the feds moved to have the case dismissed back in April (April 1st, appropriately), and it was reopened in May 2011 by a motion to intervene filed by 'American Travelers', whoever they are.  In response to the reopening of the suit, and the intervention motion, the last I can find is that the feds responded to the intervention motion of 'American Travelers' on May 31st, 2011.  For anyone else who is interested in tracking the developments of this case as it progresses, the case number is 0:11-cv-00174-SRN-AJB.
Now I wouldn't wish our former governor, who flies quite often apparently for his conspiracy theory show, to be made uncomfortable by the actions of the TSA, including sexually. Whatever professions he has followed in his life, his sensibilities do deserve respect.  Just as I wouldn't wish to be made uncomfortable by sitting next to the man in the blue women's underwear and high heels.  But in contrast, at least the TSA is attempting to prevent terrorist violence which could kill people, both those flying and on the ground, while I cannot find a similar safety pretext for the under-dressed gentleman in the top photo.

I think for those who fly, and for those who travel by any other mode of public transport, we need to find some common ground and some common sense that respects the freedom of people to dress as they wish and to express themselves, including so far as is consistent with public safety, those who wear ethnic modes of clothing,  without disrespecting the freedom of those around them.  I would be satisfied if the travel industry came up with a dress code of some kind that formalized that concept, so at least there might be some consistency in our airports, train depots, bus stations, etc.

Written with special affection for those of my blogging colleagues who spend a lot of time in planes and trains, and even automobiles.  Happy Traveling!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ed Stein Skewers the SCOTUS, All Too Appropriately

Way to go Ed!  Genious!

The SCOTUS should not be exempt from the judicial standards that apply to the ethics of judges lower down the ladder.  The recent revelations - and decisions - of the SCOTUS raise serious questions as to their judicial impartiality and therefore, their legitimacy. 

Certain of the conservative Justices seem to be more frequently at issue than the liberal justices in their conduct.  (Yes, Clarence Thomas, I mean YOU.)

From EdSteinInk:


Tonight President Obama will announce the long-term troop dispositions for the continuing fight in Afghanistan. It is assumed that he will announce we will reduce the number of troops by 10,000 or so by the end of 2012.

This war was started in the fall of 2001 after Al Qaeda operatives (most of whom were Pakistani) were trained and sheltered in Afghanistan by the extremist government of the Taliban, headed by Mullah Mohamed Omar. Attacking Afghanistan after it abetted an attack on our soil was more than justified.

Staying 10 years in an occupation role, propping up a government not loved by its people, which has the same flaws of corruption, drug trafficking, and depravity which caused the people of Afghanistan to chose the Taliban over that form of government after a half-dozen years after the Soviets left, is not justified.

There is nothing we can do to save Afghanistan from eventually choosing its own course, of having its people choose what they prefer, either by vote or by fiat of supporting totalitarians they know (the Taliban) over those they abhor. Much like Iraq, our military presence only prolonged the ability of thugs to put-off the reckoning necessary.

On Sunday, Sec of Defense Robert Gates, a man I have deep respect for, created a strawman argument for our continuing presence in Afghanistan, asking,"just like in 2001, what is the price of failure?" The problem is that we have NO evidence that had we stayed involved in Afghanistan in the 90's that we'd have succeeded, in fact the evidence suggests the exact opposite. Afghanistan is a country deeply distrustful of outsiders, and which reviles occupiers just as they reviled the Soviets. Equally, there is no evidence our continuing presence in Afghanistan will stave off further Al Qaeda attacks. The destruction of the safe havens in Afghanistan WAS impactful on Al Qaeda, the further killing or capture of their leadership since then, especially the death of Bin Laden, has had a highly destructive effect on Al Qaeda, but nearly ALL of that success has been through our actions in Pakistan. Pakistan is the heartbed of Wahabism (along with the Saudi peninsula). Our presence in Afghanistan in fact is a lightning rod for Al Qaeda. Suggesting our lack of presence in Afghanistan LEAD to 9/11/2001 is no more supportable than demanding a homeless man prove he's homeless. It requires someone to prove if we had been there it wouldn't have been different, that can't be proved. The obligation on Gates' part (and on McCain's part who made a similar argument), is to prove that staying WILL make a material difference. They can't, and they can't because it won't. You don't couch your foreign policy in fear of what 'might' happen if we don't do something, you state your goal, you support it with reason and fact, and you live with the consequences if you fail. In this case, President Bush failed to properly staff/support putting a REAL government in place in Afghanistan and so, since nature abhors a vacuum, the same old thugs resurfaced once the Taliban was gone.

Our mission in Afghanistan, and its success in providing stability, has improved dramatically since Obama took office and the contemptuous attitude the Republicans showed toward Iraqi and Afghani casualties was pushed aside (starting in 2007 in Iraq and in 2009 in Afghanistan). Ultimately our failure to move aside the corrupt Karzai government, though, a government Bush embraced and which Obama deserves condemnation for not more aggressively pushing aside, is our epitaph in Afghanistan. Our presence there no longer does any meaningful good. It saves lives today, but only until we leave. Ultimately they must sort this out themselves and whether they do this today or in 5 years only makes one point of difference, we spend 5 more years of money, blood, and lives pushing the decision off 5 more years, and nothing more.

I sincerely hope Obama gains the guts many of us thought he had when we voted for him and finally stands up to the out of control spending on the military which this nation has engaged in without relent and simply says "no more." No more lives, no more public spigot for private contractors when it gains us nothing. It is time to go.

Right Wing Racism, Voter Suppression, and Election Fraud: Recent Indictments in MD

It has been a recurrent theme on the right that liberals / Democrats "steal elections".  As a result, the issue of voter fraud, voter suppression, and related issues in election fraud and manipulation have become a recurrent theme in my writing here on Penigma. 

What I have uncovered is that there is far greater activity to alter the vote by the Right, by conservatives and Republicans.  Investigation demonstrates very little improper or illegal activity by the left, despite the Right's blind belief and relentless repetition of the claim without supporting facts.

A case in point:
From the Baltimore Sun, June 16, 2011 by way of Governors Journal:
By Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz

Two longtime political operatives who worked last year on Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s gubernatorial return campaign were indicted today for ordering what the state prosecutor called deceptive robocalls intended to suppress votes on the night of the election.

Julius Henson and Paul Schurick each face three counts of conspiracy to violate Maryland election laws, one count of attempting to influence a voter's decision and one count of failing to provide an authority line (on campaign material). Schurick also is charged with one count of obstruction of justice.
The Baltimore Sun in their article provided a link to the actual indictments.  As regular readers already know, I read court documents; some of them are quite entertaining.  Others are rather dry, but informative.  These are the former. 
From page 2,
"7.  ...The Plan centered on what was termed "The Schurick Doctrine", which was "...designed to promote confusion, emotionalism and frustration among African Democrats, focused in precincts where high concentrations of AA vote." [sic]  The Plan stated that "[t]he first and most desired outcome [of the Schurick Doctrine strategy] is voter suppression."  The Plan focused on 536 precincts, and provided that "[v]oter suppression operations will take place in 472 precincts, and we found that 64 precincts warrant persuasion operations..."

The Right frequently protests they are not racist, and it is true that some of them are not; but some of them are, in so far as they demean or target a segment of the electorate on the basis of race for voter suppression.  I think it is fair to assert that this is pretty clearly an attempt at black voter suppression when the people indicted themselves refer to their intent to commit voter suppression.  It is pretty hard to spin this as anything else, given their own wording.

The indictment goes on, on page 9, to state:
"44.  ..."Counts by County of African American Voters"; a second page captioned "Proposed African American Messaging", and numbered at the bottom center as page "1"; a third page captioned "Proposed AA Messaging Cont..." and numbered at the bottom center as page "2".

From the Baltimore Sun article, continuing:
Edward Smith, Jr., Henson's attorney, said his client will plead not guilty. Peter Zeidman, an attorney for Schurick, said the charges are "based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts."

"When the truth comes out," Zeidman said, it will be clear that Schurick "did not violate any laws."
An arraignment in Baltimore Circuit Court is scheduled for July 18.

The former governor was not accused of wrongdoing. He released this statement: "I believe in the rule of law. I believe in my friend and colleague, Paul Schurick. I hope a fair resolution is reached as quickly as possible for both Paul and Mr. Henson."

The indictment, handed up by a Baltimore City grand jury, came after an eight-month investigation by State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt into tens of thousands of robocalls that went out late on Election Day. A caller instructed voters in Democratic areas to stay home and “relax” because Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley had already won. In fact, the polls were still open.
The indictments are in fact pretty clear about the meetings with the campaign leadership, the payment, the phone calls made directing the robocalls to take place, the confirmation that the calls were made and how much was to be paid for those robocalls.  The indictments are pretty clear about exactly what election laws were violated and how.  The investigation appears to be meticulously conducted; the evidence is pretty overwhelming.  I cannot see from reading the Grand Jury Indictments how it is that there is any "fundamental misunderstanding of the facts" as the defense attorney alleges.

From what I read in the Baltimore Sun article, and from the Indictment, this appears to be very clearly a case of race targeted voter suppression, of election dirty tricks, conducted with careful planning by the campaign of the Republican candidate for Governor in Maryland.  The Republican candidate lost, but one wonders, had he won, if the investigation would have been as successful.

Reading cases like this, it is much more difficult to believe the protestations from the right that they have no interest in keeping voters from the polls who don't vote their way when they claim voter fraud, and when they pass Voter ID legislation without any proof that voter fraud is occurring or that their legislation would in fact prevent the voter fraud they fear.  One means is illegal, one means is to try legalize voter suppression; the goal is the same.

A genuine respect for representative government, for the principles of the Founding Fathers in this country, is to encourage the widest possible participation in elections and in government.  The Right doesn't really seem to care about those principles when it means they don't win by honest means.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Midsummer!

I am almost as much an astronomy geek as I am interested in the biosciences.....

So I am wishing all of our Penigma Readers (and Authors) a very happy Summer Solstice and Midsummer celebration this June 21st, 2011.  In aid of marking that occasion, I offer the hotword explanation, from, one of my favorite sites:

Wait a minute, is this solstice “Midsummer’s Eve?” Let us explain . .

The Gregorian calendar tells us that the summer solstice marks the longest day of the calendar year and the beginning of the summer season in the northern hemisphere. However, literature refers to a point called Midsummer’s Night. So which, and when, is it? This is a celestial quandary that involves the sun, the earth and…William Shakespeare.
The term solstice is derived from the Latin scientific term solstitium. Containing the Latin so- meaning “the sun” and stittium meaning “stoppage,” the term translates “point at which the sun seems to stand still.” Just as the Roman author and philosopher Pliny the Elder used the term in his Natural History, an encyclopedia published in AD 77-79, solstice continues to be used today to describe the exact moment when the earth’s axial tilt is closest to or furthest from the sun.
The meteorological start of the season is based primarily on temperature patterns. According to meteorologists, summer encompasses the months of June, July and August in the northern hemisphere. Astronomically speaking, days continue to lengthen from equinox to solstice, after which they progressively shorten. According to astronomers, midsummer happens on the day of the summer solstice.
(What is the difference between an equinox and a solstice? Find out here.)
William Shakespeare clearly had astronomy on his mind when he chose the title A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1590 – 1596), a play that takes place on midsummer’s eve, or as we commonly refer to it as – the summer solstice.
Ancient cultures celebrated the summer solstice in colorful and distinct ways. For example, ancient Rome’s festival of Vestalia – a celebration honoring the Roman Goddess of the hearth, Vesta, was the only time of the year that married woman were allowed to enter the shrine of Vesta. Only the vestal virgins were permitted inside for the remaining 359 days of the year. In ancient China, the solstice was marked by honoring the earth, the feminine, and the yin forces.
How will you celebrate the upcoming solstice? Let us know.
I celebrated last night by watching the PBS series Nova episode, Secrets of Stonehenge.

If you missed the episode, here is a glimpse of what the event looks like:

If this has piqued your curiosity, here is the wikipedia link to read a little bit more, here and here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

UNCONSTITUTIONAL: Tim Pawlenty's Presidential Campaign Proposals

Look at this video, aproximatley 13 minutes in (slide the button forward to skip the rest - it isn't any better):

Tim Pawlenty and other conservatives give a lot of insincere lip service to honoring and supporting the U.S. Constitution and the intent of the Founding Fathers. 

Except, they don't.  Not really.

If you don't know the U.S. Constitution well, read about it here.

I do know the Constitution, not as a constitutional scholor or a constitutional lawyer, but as an ordinary person who has had a good education in history, including U.S. history.  So my ears perked up when I heard Tim Pawlenty, who I consider an embarrassment to Minnesota, claiming he would privatize the Post Office.

Because our Constitution is very clear on the Unites States Post Office, Article 1 Section 8, the 'enumerated powers':

The Congress shall have power To

lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;  To borrow Money on the credit of the United States; To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes; To establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States; To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures; To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
 To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries; To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court; To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations; To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water; To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy; To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces; To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress; To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;—And To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

And TPaw either doesn't know or doesn't care about the Presidential Oath of Office, from Article 2, Section 1, which states:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

No, Tim Pawlenty wants to abandon the enumerated powers, and simply sell off the government of the United States as defined in the U.S. Constitution, and as decided by the citizens of the states and counties and local communities as well for that matter, to the benefit and control of rich individuals and big corporations, in the futile name of specious economic growth (in other words, not progress, but just plain greed).

Here is a marvelous video from youtube that shows you just what the reality of Pawlenty's ideas (stolen from Steve Goldsmith, not really his own) would look like:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I'm going to watch you grow

This morning my daughter gave me a card which said, despite how it may appear, she "really is listening."

Each of us, for the vast majority of us, would do nearly anything for our children, work long hours, sacrifice our desires and sometimes let our dreams slip by, so that they might have a better life than we otherwise might have dared. We trade our dreams for theirs, and we don't regret it.

It is said the purest form of unconditional love we can know is the love our mothers show us as we grow from crying infant into young adulthood. Little represents safety to us so well as our mother's loving embrace, or the security we found in our father's deep voice and quietly supportive ways.

Christians like to say that it is this same kind of unconditional love which Christ and God mean for us. The unconditional forgiveness of our being less than we wish we were or see ourselves to be. The constant request to try again, to learn from our adversity and our weakness, and to above all, show that same love that we desire to those around us who need a kind word, a loving embrace, a supportive hand, when the world has them down. In it's earliest days Christianity was known as "The Way", because it was attempting to teach not (only) subservience to God, but truly, subservience to the idea that all of us contain great good, and each of us deserves the unconditional love from US, not just from God.

In the movie, "The Wild Thornberry's", a cartoon movie remembered by my daughter and I for two things, the first a great line where the teenage daughter quips to her somewhat obtuse father who doesn't "get" sarcasm, that he should wait and "Let me get a bucket to contain my joy", the second was a fabulous song by Paul Simon which describes the bond between a father and a daughter called simply "Father and Daughter." The beautiful and poignant lyrics precisely identify the ways in which dads all over the world marvel and rejoice as their little girls grow into womanhood. A line I read said, "I hope this is the song they'll play for the Father-Daughter dance at her wedding." I feel this way too.

And as I feel this way, I also know I'm asked to expand my view, to look past just my daughter to my neighbors, and past them to my city, and past them to my state, and in truth to look at every little girl, as impossibly as that may feel or seem, to care about each just as I care for her. I should not turn a cavalier ear or eye to the little girl's plea in Fallujah, I should not care less about the death of a babe in Mumbai from poor water than I care about my daughter's happiness. It may be an impossible task, but I know I am supposed to love those neighbors near and far with the same love my mother and father showed me.

No one ever said being a parent would be easy, but this Father's Day, there is only one way to do right by her, and that is to have as much concern for everyone as I can, to teach her to do the same. It's what my Father did for me.

More Right Wing Racism, and Calls to Violence

Ed Schultz caught Glenn Beck in another one of Beck's racist moments, along with other racist accusations from the right wing propaganda media.  Beck's stock in trade is pandering to fear; he's made made himself very rich by it, at the expense of his gullible non fact-checking audience:

Glenn Beck has subsequently claimed he wasn't pointing at the image of President Obama, but his show is scripted; it was not reasonably an accident that right on cue Obama's face replaced the Glenn Beck logo.

And who spends a disproportionate amount of her time on Fox, who is a huge fan of Beck, sharing so very many of his opinions?  Right wing politicians, including our own Michele Bachmann.

If you are waiting for Michele to criticize Beck or any of the others for racist comments, or for their inciting violence, you'll wait for a very very long time.
Happy Father's Day to our readers.  We hope you will take some time today to honor not only those men who are devoted biological parents, but also those who act as fathers by caring, guiding, nurturing and protecting kids, whether their own or others.  Dad's are very special people; join us in celebrating them.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reps. Steve King, Michele Bachmann: Right Wing Racism, Examples

I'm not usually a fan of the Ed Show on MSNBC, but a private exchange recently caused me to be curious enough to take a closer look at 'Big Ed', a tv and radio commentator from this part of the country.

His recent programming the week of June 12, 2011 had three very clear examples of what appears to me to be clearly the right wing propaganda machine operating to gin up racist fears and hatred, promoting misunderstanding between individuals and groups of individuals by making completely and totally false claims.  Claims that appear intended to do only that, and nothing more useful or constructive.  This is hateful, and should be broadly condemned across the political spectrum.  I will address those sequentially, beginning with the allegations made by Congressman Steve King.

The first clip below is from the same dishonest, hypocritical conservative congressman who empathizes with suicide bomber domestic terrorists, now spreading lies and disinformation about the nature of court awards to black farmers.  These are farmers who were found, by full legal process, to have been discriminated against on the basis of race by an agency of the federal government of the United States, which you can read about here and here.  Per the pdf of the report from the Congressional Research Service:
On April 14, 1999, Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia approved a settlement agreement and consent decree in Pigford v. Glickman, a class action discrimination suit between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and black farmers. The suit claimed that the agency had discriminated against black farmers on the basis of race and failed to investigate or properly respond to complaints from 1983 to 1997. The deadline for submitting a claim as a class member was September 12, 2000."
Quoting again from the Congressional Research Service, even the USDA's own independent study found and agreed that there was clear evidence of this discrimination:
"USDA-Commissioned Study
In 1994, the USDA commissioned D. J. Miller & Associates, a consulting firm, to analyze the
treatment of minorities and women in Farm Service Agency (FSA) programs and payments. The study examined conditions from 1990 to 1995 and looked primarily at crop payments and disaster payment programs and Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) loans. The final report found that from 1990 to 1995, minority participation in FSA programs was very low and minorities received less than their fair share of USDA money for crop payments, disaster payments, and loans."
Note the dates involved here; this is clearly about recent practices, not something which took place in the 19th century or earlier.  This is CLEARLY about modern discrimination, and not about any kind of slavery reparations - particularly as it also focuses on discrimination against women, including CAUCASIAN women.  The class action suit also addressed discrimination against OTHER minorities, including Native Americans. 

The assertion that this is ONLY discrimination against black farmers is ludicrous.

So, look closely, pay attention, to the lying, racist statements made on the floor of Congress by Iowa Representative Steve King shown in this video clip:

IF the good Congressman had bothered to read the document prepared by the Congressional Research Service, he would have understood the cause for the discrepancies in the number of claims being reported for payment of discrimination compensation.  Those higher numbers are clearly accounted for, and the process for proving that a potential recipient properly qualified to receive the money is described.

Congressman King's assertion about widespread fraud is bogus, it is a lie, it is totally bullshit, and it has been debunked long ago, which you can read the Snopes debunking HERE and the debunking of that claim of fraud HERE.

Congressman King appears here to be a bald-faced liar, a racist bigot, and fr too profoundly incompetent to be proposing amendments on the floor of the House of Representatives on behalf of the citizens of the United States and especially the citizens of Iowa.

Unfortunately, his unfounded claims of fraud and slavery reparations are themes that are widely circulated on the right, including but by no means limited to figures like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, who delight in making claims that black people are trying to get money from the rest of us to which they are not legitimately entitled, that black people hate white people, and that black people are a threat in other ways to the rest of us in this country who are not black.

Facts and fact checking are the enemies of these voices of bigotry on the right.  The Tea Partiers and other conservatives decry being tarred with the brush of racism; well - here's just one example of why they are, and fairly so.

And it is not as if this is the only time that Congressman King has run his mouth spewing bigotry and racism.
It is a pattern with him.

So, who else do we see peddling this racism?  Bachmann likes to repeat and repeat lies, and to promote hatred, frear and paranoia. She repeats such misstatements so frequently that it cannot be excused as simple error.  It appears to clearly be deliberate, and she does it because it has an appeal to her base. 

Apparently the Religious Right doesn't care too much about that part of the ten commandments that direct us not to lie.

Republicans and New Revenue: A Crack in the Wall?

Is this the beginning of the end of the Republican and Tea Party all cuts budget, no new taxes position that has been so very unpopular?  We can only hope and pray, when a politician of the far right like Coburn comes out for addressing increasing revenue, breaking the iron conformity of the Republican lock-step ideology.  After the Republican folly, especially the Ryan proposals, this is a breath of fresh air and sanity.  Hurray!

Let the sanity, the humanity, the progress continue!  There is more hope than I had previously thought for real democracy to survive the  corporate special interest subsidies and loop holes.

Friday, June 17, 2011 FAILS Bachmann (AGAIN)

Bachmann doesn't do well when up against any of the fact checking entities; she has done particularly poorly with passing the scrutiny of; but this week Bachmann fails to pass the scrutiny of, a project of the Anneberg Public Policy Center.  Michele Bachmann, a true Minnesota LOON.

from the latest emailed update of

FactChecking Bachmann

June 16, 2011

We are periodically taking a look at past claims from the 2012 presidential candidates. Today's topic: Michele Bachmann.

The Republican representative from Minnesota announced during this week's debate that she was running for the nation's highest office. Several claims from Bachmann have appeared on our site before, including:

■Earlier this year, Bachmann falsely claimed that $105 billion in spending was "hidden" in the federal health care law and that this was done "secretly, unbeknownst to members of Congress." But Congress had debated several items Bachmann referred to as "hidden," such as $40 billion to fund the Children's Health Insurance Program for two years, $11 billion for community health centers and $5 billion to set up high-risk insurance pools.

■In March, she wrongly said that the Obama administration had only issued one new oil drilling permit since the president took office. The real number was 276, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement’s online database, as of the day of Bachmann's speech. It's now 296.

■In a response speech to Tea Party Express activists after this year's State of the Union address, Bachmann said the bailout, or Troubled Asset Relief Program, signed into law by President George W. Bush, had cost taxpayers $700 billion. Actually, the net cost at the time was $25 billion. The Congressional Budget Office has since updated its estimate to $19 billion.

■Last year, Bachmann made the greatly exaggerated claim that "now we have the federal government … taking over ownership or control of 51 percent of the American economy." But total government expenditures were 20.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2009, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. You have to go back to 1944 to find a time when government spending was close to 50 percent of GDP.

■She twisted a report on Medicaid recipients and abortion into a bogus statistic when talking about the potential impact of the federal health care law on abortions. She said that "if there is taxpayer funding of abortion, there will be 30 percent more abortions." That would be about 360,000 more abortions each year. But the congresswoman was actually referring to an unrelated report from the Guttmacher Institute that said if Medicaid provided coverage for all abortions, there would be a 28 percent increase in the number of abortions among Medicaid beneficiaries in states that don't already pay for abortions beyond what federal law allows. Besides, the health care law doesn't change Medicaid rules on abortion funding.

■Bachmann also has done her fair share of spreading false Internet-fueled rumors, like the off-base claim that Rep. Nancy Pelosi ran up a $100,000 "bar tab for alcohol" on congressional trips, and the highly doubtful assertion that Obama's trip to India last year cost $200 million per day. On the president's trip, Bachmann told CNN's Anderson Cooper that "these are the numbers that have been coming out in the press," but the unsupported figure came from one India news report based on an anonymous "top official" in Mumbai. She also was wrong when she said in June 2009 that the community group ACORN "will be in charge of going door-to-door and collecting data from the American public" as part of the census. ACORN was just one of more than 30,000 "partners" the Census Bureau had recruited to help publicize the 2010 census to encourage participation.

See our previous posts on claims by President Barack Obama and Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum.

– Lori Robertson