Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What bugs me about the Ferguson thing...

It's the ignorance surrounding what a Grand Jury does and how it is supposed to work.  And it doesn't come from just the general public since I saw one "legal scholar" make a comment that there should have been rigourous cross examination.

There are two different parts of the criminal process for determining whether a case should go to trial: the preliminary hearing and a grand jury.  Neither of these two proceedings involves a finding of guilt or punishment of a party.  In fact, no "jeopardy" attaches and one can be retried if found "innocent" in one of these proceedings.  The difference between the two is that a preliminary hearing looks like a trial it is open to the public with a prosecution, defence, and judge addressing the matter: None of those are present in a grand jury.

Grand jury proceedings are much more relaxed than normal court room proceedings. There is no judge present and frequently there are no lawyers except for the prosecutor. The prosecutor will explain the law to the jury and work with them to gather evidence and hear testimony. Under normal courtroom rules of evidence, exhibits and other testimony must adhere to strict rules before admission. In fact, a grand jury has broad power to see and hear almost anything they would like.

Well, almost everything.  United States v. Williams, 504 U.S. 36 (1992) points out that there is no right to testify or produce exculpatory evidence:
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.
The difference in procedures and rules lead to a situation that a former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler would comment that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.”  Of course, that is also due to the fact that the burden of proof in these proceedings is less than a regular criminal trial: preponderance of the evidence v. beyond a reasonable doubt.  In other words, is it more likely than not that a crime occurred.

Federal law required a grand jury indictment before beginning a criminal proceeding.  There were 162,000 federal cases filed in 2010:  Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them. Of course, this was a state proceeding rather than a federal one (and the feds love cases they can't lose). On the other hand, “If the prosecutor wants an indictment (in a non-federal case) and doesn’t get one, something has gone horribly wrong,” said Andrew D. Leipold, a University of Illinois law professor who has written critically about grand juries. “It just doesn’t happen.”

 Of course, a lot of commenters are thinking that the prosecution didn't want to bring charges, but this is a high profile case with a lot at stake.  What better than to pick a procedure where these is no real scrutiny.  In fact, ordinarily the proceedings in a grand jury case should be sealed, but they have been released in this case to try and give some form of legitimacy that this was some form of adversarial proceeding, which gets to the comment about cross examination.

That didn't happen here.  In fact, from what I heard the prosecution basically discounted anyone who contradicted Officer Wilson's defence.  Additionally, this was done without any real cross examination, yet there is this mysterious "grand jury proceeding" to lend an air that "justice has been done" when that was hardly the case.

Of course, I can guess that people who believe that a white person can carry a gun late at night in a known drug and prostitution area will find that the police acted with justification in shooting an unarmed black youth who may have been surrendering.  If the police officer in the first instance faces reprimand--shouldn't he also in the second one?  In fact, it would seem more important that justice is done in the second situation since deadly force was actually used.

The real issue is not so much whether Michael Brown was an innocent young man as much as whether justice has truly been done.

Of course, that is something that far too many people have missed in this situation.

See also:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday again -- Fun Day, again!

And what could be more fun than a little Fiore video?

and now coming up on two-weeks post-election (or is that too weak?) a little home truth about that dark money from special interests:

and 'bomb it'.......rhymes with vomit!

and to round out the political commentary -- true of Congress while on recess, true of them now that they're back, except for some loud and nasty empty posturing.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Because ONLY Conservatives could be this kind of ugly-crazy

You couldn't make this up if you tried.

Conservatives on the religious right give God and religion a bad name.

Just a little perspective - the guy was court martialed while in the military, and likes the moniker "Dr. Chaps". He's got a very large file over at Right Wing Watch - and deservedly so.

Shame on Coloradoans who elected this jerk. They'd be better off electing a monkey, or maybe a dead guy, or an actual horse's rear end.

Smoke and Mirrors, and Gum - because you can't make up stuff this stupid from the right

Numb-nuts Bo Dietle, some 4 minutes in, personifies the idiocy of the radical right and their appalling lack of knowledge of other countries, customs or cuisine. You'd expect better from a former New York City cop, given the cultural diversity of that city, but it's best to expect dumbed down from a right wing nut who mostly appears on Imus in the Morning on Fox Business rather than Fox not-news, although in this case apparently the sole perpetual topic is offensively (Not) funny-business.

Then again, the Rush Limbo variety of conservative has to be talked down to, somewhere around an elementary school level.

Then there was this clear example of unprofessional standards of correction, of the kind of mistake one would expect from a child not an adult -- however this is typical of conservative propaganda, which follows the coverage of the Obama trip to China.

Conservatives believe things which are factually false on a daily basis -- and it diminishes us all, damages us all, dumbs down all of us.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Thanks, properly expressed

I've made no secret that I spent 12 years in the US Army and Reserve, with the vast majority of that time in the Reserve (in fact I was active duty only for my training time and a couple of extra activations).

Every time (lately) someone hears that I served, they "thank me for my service."  I appreciate the sentiment, it's both good and nice that people now recognize it's not easy, and far more so than for me, it's extremely stressful for those who were deployed overseas to a combat area, and even more than just stressful, dangerous/scarring for those who served in combat directly.

To THOSE folks (who served overseas and in even more in combat), I express my deep and profound thanks and gratitude.  The bottom line is, as soldiers, we go where we're sent, no matter the political leader or reason for the warfare.  We (they) served, and that service is beyond honorable, it's self-sacrificial with the laudable and idealistic goal of protecting US citizens AND the citizens of the country in which they served.  A simple thank-you is hardly sufficient, but at least on this webpage, and in person at that exact moment, it's all I have and all I can do.

But it's not all I can do in general nor is it close enough to "enough."  If you TRULY are grateful, VOTE, exercise your civic responsibility, show honor to their sacrifice to give you that right by using it.  If you are TRULY grateful, speak up, get educated, get involved, learn why our system of government works so well (mostly), and what you OUGHT to care about.  But more than anything else, if you are TRULY grateful, vote for those people who will fund the Veterans Administration and PAY for the care those veterans. who were injured in service, deserve to receive.  In short, put your money where your mouth is.  Pay out of your pocket for their care, for the care of their surviving family members (for those who've died), for the care for the roughly 2 MILLION homeless vets who need mental health care and a warm meal.  Saying "thanks" is nothing more than conscience salving lip-service letting you get away with doing nothing REAL if you don't back it up with action.  So, put up or shut-up, I appreciate your thanks, but if you really mean your thanks, act, don't talk.  Often times, when I hear "thank you", I want to laugh at it because it's such pablum, so hollow, without the actions to back it up.  If you are acting to help vets, then that's FAR FAR more meaningful to me than any words, and I'm very grateful that you did/do.  The point being, we've all been thanked 10,000 times, and if you aren't doing something (like pressing your Congressman to support veteran's benefits) then you're talking out both sides of your face and your thanks appear to be nothing other than hypocrisy. So ACT.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Honor Our Veterans

Thank you to all those who served, and to those who served in the armed forces of our allies. Just as no one builds a business entirely on their own, no war has been won without both our own brave efforts and sacrifice, but also the brave sacrifice and efforts of our allies.

We can reflect on that all the way back to our origins with the American Revolution, through the two World Wars, and into our modern conflicts to protect this nation and keep it safe.

A little history of the day, on the day :

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect. On November 11, 1919, Armistice Day was commemorated for the first time. In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the day should be "filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory". There were plans for parades, public meetings and a brief suspension of business activities at 11am.

In 1926, the United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I and declared that the anniversary of the armistice should be commemorated with prayer and thanksgiving. The Congress also requested that the president should "issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples."

An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) was approved on May 13, 1938, which made November 11 in each year a legal holiday, known as Armistice Day. This day was originally intended to honor veterans of World War I. A few years later, World War II required the largest mobilization of service men in the history of the United States and the American forces fought in Korea. In 1954, the veterans service organizations urged Congress to change the word "Armistice" to "Veterans". Congress approved this change and on June 1, 1954, November 11 became a day to honor all American veterans, where ever and whenever they had served.

In 1968 the Uniforms Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) made an attempt to move Veterans Day to the fourth Monday of October. The bill took effect in 1971. However, this caused a lot of confusion as many states disagreed with this decision and continued to hold Veterans Day activities on November 11. In 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which stated that Veterans Day would again be observed on November 11 from 1978 onwards. Veterans Day is still observed on November 11.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

And the Wall Came Tumbling DOOOOWWWWWWNNNNNNN!!!!!

This seemed a worthwhile lead in to a piece on the Berlin wall, since the Biblical account of the fall of Jericho and the archeological version of events seem to have some significant points of difference -- including the archeological evidence that the events of the Jewish captivity and subsequent Exodus from Egypt never took place. Twenty-five years ago tomorrow, November 9th, the Berlin wall came tumbling down.  That is, more or less -- mostly less. Badly educated Americans, at least some of them, have bought into the revisionist history/propaganda and mistakenly give credit for this event to Ronnie Ray-gun. They might as well give the credit to Ronald McDonald. The reality of the Reagan speech is very different than the myth. The Guardian newspaper in the UK does an excellent job of urban myth-busting:
From Reagan to Hasselhoff: 5 people who didn’t bring down the Berlin Wall From Ronald Reagan’s ‘tear down this wall’ speech to David Hasselhoff’s bizarre ‘looking for freedom’ serenade, countless urban myths have sprung up about who was really responsible for the fall of the wall. Do any have any merit? "...One popular theory says that while the collapse of the iron curtain may have looked inevitable, it took the intervention of some great minds to provide the crucial nudge. Never mind Polish trade unionists, Soviet politicians or East German dissidents, it was British and American politicians and popstars who made all the crucial interventions, right? 1) Ronald Reagan The words went down in history: “Mr Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” And lo and behold: soon after the US president Ronald Reagan had voiced his bold demand to the Soviet president in front of the Berlin wall, the borders opened. As John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, has put it: “One cannot ignore how [Reagan’s] powerful conviction ended the cold war by firing a verbal salvo, an oratorical demand to let freedom prevail.” But one also shouldn’t ignore that Reagan gave his speech on 12 June 1987, a good 29 months before the actual fall of the wall. And there is little evidence that it had much impact on the dynamics of the dissident movement in East Germany, or on Soviet politics at the time. Some 45,000 Berliners witnessed Reagan’s wall speech, compared to the 450,000 people who attended John F Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in 1963 – in other western parts of the city, there were demonstrations against the US president’s visit. Coverage of the event was only published in the back pages of the major international papers. German weekly Die Zeit did not even quote his request to Gorbachev.
Reagan had made similar speeches before, in 1982 and 1986. The only new element was him addressing Gorbachev directly. Reagan had been losing support domestically, so this show of strength may above all have been directed at an American audience. In that respect, it undoubtedly did the job.
------------- It is unlikely that Gorbachev ever knew of the challenge Reagan nominally directed at him, in a blatant display of American-oriented political theater. Also, NO, the wall really didn't come down on November 9 1989; more on that in the Chicago Tribune piece. Gorbachev, NOT Reagan, was quite properly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, for his courageous actions in the USSR/Russia and Europe. Kudos to the Chicago Tribune for consolidating some of the myths about the Berlin Wall, and then busting them. The entire piece deserves a widespread read. But to specifically address the part about Reagan :
Many Americans believe that Ronald Reagan's June 1987 speech in Berlin ("Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!") led to the wall's fall in 1989. However, Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms in the Soviet bloc were far more important than Reagan's speech, as were the actions of the East Germans themselves. When the wall started to fall on Nov. 9, it was a mistake. In the face of mass protests against the regime in 1989 and thousands of East Germans seeking refuge at West German embassies in Eastern Europe, East German leaders waived the old visa rules stating that citizens needed a pressing reason for travel, such as a funeral or wedding of a family member. East Germans would still have to apply for visas to leave the country, but they would supposedly be granted quickly and without any requirements. Yet the Communist Party official who announced these changes, Guenter missed most of the key meeting about the travel procedures and went unprepared to a news conference on Nov. 9. In response to reporters' questions about when the new law would take effect, he said, "Immediately, without delay." Schabowski left the impression that people could immediately cross the border, though he meant to say they could apply for visas in an orderly manner. Over the next several hours, thousands of East Berliners gathered at checkpoints along the wall. Since the country's leaders hadn't intended to completely open the border, the supervisors at the crossing points had received no new orders. The chief officer on duty at the Bornholmer Street checkpoint, Harald Jaeger, kept calling his superiors for guidance on how to handle the growing mass of increasingly angry East Berliners expecting to be let through. Jaeger finally gave up around 11:30 p.m. and allowed people to pass through en masse. Guards at other crossing points soon followed suit. The East German regime never fully regained control.
Don't expect the correct version of events to appear in any Tea Party school board dominated history books; they call it being un-American if you tell the truth.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

It's time to put up or shut up

The Republicans won a significant election on Tuesday.  I feel they did so by creating hysteria about things like Ebola, the Affordable Care Act, fracking, the IRS, and on and on, but look, they won.

So, now is the time.  You won, you get to do things your way.  Just like you got to do them your way between 2001 and 2007 in Washington, just like you got to do them under Pawlenty (mostly) here.

My suspicion is that the country took their frustration with the overreach that Obama committed in promising the world, out on Obama.  They forgot the failures of the Republicans, the needless wars, the economic calamities brought about in part by under-regulation and an equal part of a lack of other good investments outside real estate here in the US quite simply because our "new ideas" didn't exist in reality, we moved manufacturing away and didn't replace it.  So we built a "market economy" on middle-class home equity loans, and very little else.  In 2007, 40% of all profit in the US was from the financial services industry as it managed the wealth of the ultra-wealthy and the equity transition to that wealthy of the middle-class as they took out home equity loan after home equity loan.  Sure, they talked in 2008 about "drill baby drill" but they didn't mean the shale oil in North Dakota, that was just a happy surprise.  There ARE jobs there (in shale oil), but at what cost?  Do we even care any more as a nation?  Are we so desperate for good paying jobs that we're going to trade our future?  Apparently so, apparently the 31 permanent jobs the Keystone Pipeline will create, to allow oil companies to avoid US taxes worth BILLIONS, are more important than the billions.

So, let's see it.  It's time to put up or shut up.  Let's see how your policies create GOOD PAYING jobs, not just jobs.  Let's see you balance the budget (federally), let's see you improve/re-define the health care system.  Let's see you do all this while cutting taxes on the highest earners, just like you said would work between 2001 and 2007, but didn't.  Your ideas were failures then, I think they'll fail now, but you get a do-over, you get to show that they can work - even though basic economics say they cannot, vast empirical evidence showed they don't and didn't, but perhaps you can come up with something which will.  I hope you can, I mean it, our country needs it, badly.  I don't think the vote on Tuesday was a repudiation of Obama as much as it was a repudiation of the government generally for failing to deliver those good paying jobs, the ones lost to your economic calamity in 2009 and into 2009, and Obama was the face, the face YOU made it become.  Congratulations, but now YOU get to deal with a public that doesn't trust you due to the trust you destroyed, and a minority party (the Democrats) who get to blame YOU just like YOU blamed them.  The difference being the Dems are generally wimpy about calling you devils - well anyway, I hope you can - we need it as I said, badly.  I hope you succeed, nothing about your policies suggest in the slightest way you CAN succeed, but still, I hope and pray you can.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mine were here to greet them...

I'll be the first to admit that I am not PC, and, while this does portray a stereotypical Native American, this clip from "Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm" (1951) makes a very good point:

Fear of Facts, Fear of Ebola, Fear of ISIS, FEAR OF FAILURE

The Hagedorn campaign for CD-1 against Tim Walz has taken a hard right turn for the nastier foolish propaganda as the date for the election nears.  This is intended to appeal to the right wing neo-con hatriots, the ones who are the most science illiterate on the right, and who never met a war they didn’t like (so long as someone else fought it, and paid for it).

Ebola Political Ad  Large 1
Not only does it fear monger to the anti-immigrant bigots, reaching for the broadest possible appeal among that ugly, wilfully ignorant demographic, but it reflects the attempt by the right to turn Ebola into a big dumb stick with which to try to beat Obama, in the hopes that it might at least indirectly damage any and every Democrat in the country running for office through guilt by association.

I’ve been watching this trend of right wing propaganda for a few weeks now.  It includes the usual suspects in the right wing propaganda machine, beginning with Alex Jones and his silly info-wars, claiming that the President and the CDC are LYING TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ABOUT EBOLA!

In support of that red meat for the conspiracy theory crowd, they offer a publication in the Lancet, cited in the New York Times back in 2000 to argue that people riding the bus with you could appear perfectly healthy, not having any Ebola symptoms (you know, like bleeding from every orifice, looking like a Zombie), not even feeling ill, AND STILL SPREAD THE DISEASE TO EVERY AMERICAN (especially the right-wing red-blooded ones).  They don’t even have to eat your brain, or bite you (wait…that’s vampires, not zombies), all they have to do is breathe or sneeze on you!  You can get it like flu, from doorknobs, even if they don’t bite you or eat your brain!

Of course, the righties don’t actually READ these studies that gin them up and send them to the polls, but I do.  That 14 year old study appears to be an outlier, doesn’t appear to have been replicated anywhere; while another  referring to a few pig farmers in the Philippines who never showed any symptoms of having ‘the Ebola’, but who did register a weak immune response to it, suggesting they had been infected by it at some point in time.  Apart from the fact that it appears you can be infected and not be symptomatic, from the two different reports, it does NOT appear you can actually infect someone while asymptomatic, as no documented case of doing so appears anywhere.
from the original 2000 Lancet article:
The Lancet study does not warn of an apocalyptic scenario where any casual contact could cause infection. It is more focused on contagion through sex or blood transfusions.

It should be noted that NEITHER study claims that Ebola can be transmitted by asymptomatic individuals, or that anyone, anywhere, EVER, caught ‘the Ebola’ from asymptomatic individuals.  But part of the fear being generated by fliers like the one above, of ISIS suicide terrorists infected with Ebola is that they might not LOOK or FEEL sick enough to be identifiable, and if they lose their obvious terrorist outfits, they could walk among us — like ZOMBIES AND VAMPIRES!– infecting us all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bloomberg Politics did a great summary of 8 GOP leaders, linking closing the border, ISIS and Ebola, ranging from the claims of Congressman Duncan, to Senate candidates like Scott Brown in New Hampshire (he should be sure to say Hi to Chip Cravaack); here are just a few of the highlights:
“She’s [Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen] voted not to secure the border and I have and it’s so critically important that we really use every tool, shut out every mechanism for them and that disease and other potential diseases to come into our country.”
Distance from the Mexican border: 1,800 miles

North Carolina Congressional candidate Mark Walker:
“If you have foreigners who are sneaking in with drug cartels, to me that is a national threat. And if we’ve got to go laser or blitz somebody with a couple of fighter jets for a little while to make our point, I don’t have a problem with that, either.”
Distance to Mexican border: 1,340 miles

New York Representative Peter King:
“We definitely have to be on our guard. That’s the type of thing that ISIS has to be considering. Obviously, the southern border is more porous and vulnerable. We have to absolutely be on our guard on the southern border.”
Distance to Mexican Border: 1,700 miles

Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton
“We’ve got an Ebola outbreak, we have bad actors that can come across the border; we need to seal the border and secure it.”
“Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico who have clearly shown they’re willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism. They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas.”
Distance to Mexican border: 600 miles

It’s not like this is unique to Hagedorn, he’s just in GOP-stupid lock-step with the rest of the right wing candidates trolling for the radical tea party vote.   Hagedorn appears to be hoping that a mix of ignorance and hysteria might help him against Walz.

Politico suggests it is not working – at least, not against Rick Nolan in CD-8.  Perhaps with that congressional district snug up against our common border with Canada, those Minnesotans are just too far from the threat for that to work.  Distance from Mexico to Minnesota : 1,656 miles.  I doubt the difference between, say, Bemidji and Mankato, 233 miles,  will change that.
In Minnesota, the National Republican Congressional Committee has released two ads targeting Nolan for being soft on terrorism as part of a nationwide campaign attacking vulnerable Democrats.

But in Nolan’s 8th Congressional District, ISIL discussion has been surprisingly rare, even though the two candidates disagree.

“Launching airstrikes on another country, by any standard, by any definition, is an act of war,” Nolan said in a House floor speech the week of the vote on Syria military aid. “Have we not had enough of imperial presidencies doing what they want in the world?”

During a recent debate, Mills said he supports U.S. airstrikes and working with regional allies to “crush the threat.” But it was the one issue in the debate in which the candidates did not attack each other over their differences. Mills has spent more time on the campaign trail talking about guns and mining than ISIL.

“This is just not an area where either side sees the best punch,” said Larry Jacobs, an expert in state politics at the University of Minnesota. “It’s not that they don’t have differences — and they do … [but] it’s not kind of a hot issue that’s breaking decisively for one side.”

Nonetheless, ISIL is a significant issue in many midterm races.

Republicans are using the militant group’s rapid rise and the new U.S.-led military campaign to put Democrats on the defensive. Already, the fight has gained significant public traction: A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found it was the No. 1 issue for Republicans, with 41 percent calling it the most important factor for their vote.

Polling has been showing Walz with at least a 6% lead over Hagedorn.  I can only hope that even our right wingnut Minnesotans will have better judgement than to fall for this kind of lowest possible denominator appeal.

A vote AGAINST Hagedorn and the MN GOP, and the national GOP is a vote AGAINST sleazy, tasteless ignorance like this.  We’re finally shut of Michele Bachmann; we don’t need another tacky teabagger in Congress from Minneosta to embarrass us.

Don’t stay home — VOTE!

Throw fliers like this, and candidates like this, out with the trash.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

I'm realising I've spent way too much time in Pays Francophone

Since I can catch that this is (a very good) parody of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin (amongst other French cultural references lately). And, this seems appropriate given that 'Allo 'Allo was a soft porn parody of Secret Army (I'll confess that I watched episodes of 'Allo Allo after watching Secret Army since SA is pretty heavy stuff).

Anyway, here is the original, which sounds like the soundtrack to a porn film (and if you are at all familiar with Serge Gainsbourg, you know he did some seriously weird shit).

With that, I'll leave you to enjoy steak frites and a glass of vin rouge.