Apr 232016
 
furies

It was another rough week. I was even more challenged than last week to limit myself. So, out of eight that I bookmarked (although there were even more that I didn't), here are three which really call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

Of the two police brutality stories, I picked this one, even though no one died (which someone did in the other one); in fact, there don't seem to have even been any marks left on the hapless arrestees (that's pending a health check, as two are diabetic).  What makes it so jaw-dropping face-palming outrageous is that (a) the five or more arrestees were children.  The oldest was 13, the youngest 6.  Most were under 10.  (b)  The children were arrested, with warrants, at their school, in front of their peers.  (c) The charge was that they failed to break up a fight which, incidentally, occurred, not in a public place, but in someone's backyard.  At least two of the arrestees were not even present at the disagreement.

You know, if I had a child who was six years old, and he was in a friend's back yard, and a couple of other kids disagreed about a basketball game and pushed each other some, I would hope to God he would NOT try to break it up.  But these arrested children have been charged with criminal responsibility for each other (which sounds to me like they are being charged as adults, which is insane.)

Jen Hayden, who uses her real name in her bylines at Daily Kos, but whose Twitter handle is @Scout_Finch, had this to say: "Any way you slice it, these kids did not deserve to be handcuffed in front of their peers, hauled away to juvenile detention without notifying the parents and ultimately headed down the classroom-to-prison pipeline."

This happened in Murfreesboro, TN, where the chief of police is Karl Durr.  That is really all I know about him.  Someone about whom I know even less of but we all probably should know more about is the judge who signed these warrants with which the officers apparently showed up.  He's the guy (or, I hope not, but possibly she's the gal) who precipitated this abomination.  I am going on record that this whole scenario can best be described as grudging, so, Megaera, I trust you will be on it.

Staying with the legal profession for the second item, there is a county circuit court judge in Mississippi, name of Jeff Weill, who has a habit of holding piblic defenders in contempt … for doing their job.  Well, mostly he threatens it rather than does it, but a little over a week ago, on Wednesday April 13 to be precise, he actually locked one up.  Of course leaving his client, a woman with a three month old baby, without representation.

In fact the public defender had to get a lawyer himself, to file an emergency appeal with the state supreme court, which, to their credit, granted it, or most of it.  To their discredit, they wanted $500 bond from the public defender while he appeals.

His supervisor, THE Hinds County Public Defender, Michele Purvis Harris, stated on Thirday, "The actions of Judge Weill on yesterday in effect criminalized the very job we are sworn to do."  Yup, that's about the size of it.  She added that every public defender who has served in Judge Weill's courtroom "has at some point been threatened with the contempt that has never occurred in any of the other courtrooms."  She herself was thrown out of his courtroom in December (the word she uses is "escorted out" but that sounds like being thrown out to me.)  The State Supreme Court sided with her also (he doesn't learn, does he?)  But, she adds, “We will not be intimidated. We will not be bullied.”  I believe the consistent repitition of this injustice qualifies it as unceasing, so, Alecto, off you go.

I will give the voter ID issues a rest this week, as well as the obligatory legislator arrested (this one in Georgia, open container, open carry, 4 children in vehicle, BAC 3x legal.  Do I need to say he is a "family values" Republican?  I didn't think so.)  I'll just move right along to the New York Tactical Officers Association (NYTOA) annual conference, this year to be held in Verona, New York the end of this month.  It's the kind of gathering that police go to to learn to be the bullies we all hate, instead of getting mental health and crisis diffusion training which we all want them to have.

And there are a lot of these gatherings, and the general public and journalists are excluded from them.  They keep a very low profile.  The only reason this one has attracted a little attention is that somehow word got out that Ryan Mauro will be honored as a key presenter.

And who is Ryan Mauro, when he's at home. you may ask?  Well, for starters, he is an anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist who has been personally designated an extremist by the SPLC.  And now I'll bet you can see vengeful destruction coming right up.

His day job is as a national security "analyst" for the anti-Muslim think tank Clarion Project.  Among other things, he things the DHS is full of Muslim Brotherhood types.  He has stated that "civilians really need to step up" and start reporting suspicious activity they see on Facebook.  Seriously.  He has promoted the discredited myth of Muslim no-go-zones and fear-mongered over Somali refugees living in the US.  Media Matters outed him in 2014 as "not (a) credible source … given (his virulent history of Islamophobia."

"There are reasons police violence fill our headlines and politicians ride waves of hate. One of those reasons is SWAT trainings and expos like NYTOA, where Islamophobia and major arms dealers take center stage," Ali Issa, national field organizer for the War Resisters’ League, told AlterNet. "Unnoticed, these trainings happen all the time, all over the country. Stopping this national phenomenon means empowering our communities to live without fear."

The executive director of the NYTOA, Larry Beresnoy, however, is a believer.  “Ryan Mauro is a national expert on terrorism and Islamic extremism,” he said. “His entire job is researching the issue. I’ve looked at Ryan’s stuff, looked at Clarion’s stuff. I’ve seen their videos Third Jihad and Obsession. There are many experts who believe that the information is accurate. He has good information to share.”

I won't even go into the details of the martial arts training and weapons manufacturers' booths which will be part of the fun.  I think it is already pretty clear that this is not just vengeful destruction, but organized, state-sponsored vengeful destruction.  Knock yourself out, Tisiphone.

The Furies and I will be back.

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Apr 082016
 

My new A/C is certainly powerful enough to cool my tiny place.  It’s also very loud, and the noise bothered me last night.  I’m sure I’ll get use to it, and after a night of three, I won’t even hear it.  I’m about to leave to go to PT with Courtney.  Later.  Back and pooped.  George needs an ankle adjustment.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:48 (average 4:45).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From The Guardian (H/T Daily Kos):A group of Polish women walk out of a church service to protest against a proposed tightening of the country’s abortion laws. The video, posted on Facebook, shows the women leaving as a priest reads out a letter in favour of the ban. In Warsaw, thousands of people have attended a pro-choice rally outside parliament, after the leader of the ruling party backed a call from Catholic bishops for a full ban on pregnancy terminations.

 

It looks like Poland has Republicans that hate women too!

From Daily Kos: In disappointing Tuesday news, the Wisconsin Supreme Court race went to Rebecca Bradley, a conservative. Bradley beat progressive candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg in the non-partisan election. Wisconsin residents are now stuck with Bradley for the next ten years.

It’s a sad end to an ugly race, and an ugly type of race at that. Judicial elections are rife with problems as a general matter—politics, bias, secret money, and low voter engagement, to name a few. But in Wisconsin the elections have been particularly grimy.

Bradley is so Republican, she makes Nancy Grace seem like a progressive. This is how she won.

From Media Matters: A Media Matters investigation of the discredited right-wing group Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), the main source of baseless smears against, and false characterizations of, Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, reveals a familial web of self-dealing between the organization, a major dark money funder of JCN called the Wellspring Committee, and a third nonprofit that also receives funding from Wellspring.

 

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Nepotism’R’Us, Nepotism (R-US), or just plain Koch sucking?

Cartoon:

0408Cartoon

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Mar 162016
 

President Barack Obama has nominated Merrick Garland to take the place of deceased and descended Antonin “Sturmbannführer” Scalia.  I’ll need more time to research, before I can offer an opinion oh his choice, but I can tell you this:  Garland would be an improvement over Scalia, because it would be virtually impossible to be as bad.  I can also tell you that he deserves a fair vote, whether I like him or not.  Needless to say Republicans are apoplectic.

0316obama-merrick

President Obama on Wednesday nominated Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court, setting up a protracted political fight with Republicans who have vowed to block any candidate picked by Obama in his final year in office.

Garland, 63, is a longtime Washington lawyer and jurist who is chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Considered a moderate, Garland is widely respected in the D.C. legal community and was also a finalist for the first two Supreme Court vacancies Obama filled.

In announcing his choice in the White House Rose Garden, Obama said he followed “a rigorous and comprehensive process” and that he reached out to members of both parties, legal associations and advocacy groups to gauge opinions from “across the spectrum.”

He said Garland “is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence.” …

Inserted from <Washington Post>

Here’s a clip of the announcement.

Bought Bitch Mitch (R-KY) has reaffirmed that Garland will not get a vote.  Snake in the Grassley (R-IA) has reaffirmed that Garland will not get a Judiciary Committee hearing.  All of the sitting Republicans who previously voted for Garland, when he was confirmed to the DC Circuit now oppose giving him a vote.  Here are some of the statements Republicans made about Garland then, in 1992.

GOPSedition

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

“Merrick B. Garland is highly qualified to sit on the D.C. circuit. His intelligence and his scholarship cannot be questioned… His legal experience is equally impressive… Accordingly, I believe Mr. Garland is a fine nominee. I know him personally, I know of his integrity, I know of his legal ability, I know of his honesty, I know of his acumen, and he belongs on the court. I believe he is not only a fine nominee, but is as good as Republicans can expect from this administration. In fact, I would place him at the top of the list.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

“I have nothing against the nominee. Mr. Garland seems to be well qualified and would probably make a good judge — in some other court.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)

“He has a high position with the Department of Justice and, by all accounts, does a good job there. There will be a number of judgeship vacancies in the D.C. trial judges. He has been a trial lawyer. He would be a good person to fill one of those. I would feel comfortable supporting him for another judgeship.”

Then-Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)

“I believe Mr. Garland is well qualified for the court of appeals. He earned degrees from Harvard College and Harvard Law School and clerked for Judge Friendly on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for Justice Brennan on the Supreme Court and, since 1993, he has worked for the Department of Justice. So there is no question, he is qualified to serve on the court.”

Then-Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC)

“I have no reservations about Mr. Garland’s qualifications or character to serve in this capacity. He had an excellent academic record at both Harvard College and Harvard Law School before serving as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. Also, he has served in distinguished positions in private law practice and with the Department of Justice. Moreover, I have no doubt that Mr. Garland is a man of character and integrity.”

Then-Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT)

“[T]he nominee has the character and is highly qualified for the position.”

 

Inserted from <Think Progress>

Whether or not Garland is qualified has nothing to do with this seditious attempt by Republicans to block his nomination.  They are hoping they can find a way to steal the Presidency and make the appointment themselves.  Now, I have to admit that a Republican President’s appointment could not be much worse than Scalia, even an appointment by Trump or Cruz.  However consider this.  The next President will appoint the replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I consider it highly unlikely that Garland will be confirmed.  Republicans may try to save face by going through some of the motions, but they will only be stalling for time.  Therefore, it is imperative that the next occupant of the White House be a Democrat.  I know that many of you aren't very keen on Hillary, but if she is nominated, it is imperative to work as hard for her as we would for Bernie.  Do you question that?

Do you want Trump to replace Ginsburg?

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Jan 292016
 

Sorry I wasn't here yesterday to post an Open Thread but my arthritis flared up, swelling my fingers and making it too painful to type or use the mouse, although I managed to respond to TC's articles.  I suspect the heavy rains were the catalyst.  It wasn't until late this afternoon that things started to normalise.  Well I know I am in the dog house, so to speak, with my furbabes as Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday they ignored me, completely!  I suspect it may be the reduced rations.  It is amazing though — the power of food — as they started coming to me a bit more.  I think I am forgiven now.

The Intercept — New FEC filings show that all of the $417,250 in monetary donations to a Super PAC called “Black Americans for a Better Future” comes from conservative white businessmen — including $400,000, or 96 percent of the total, from white billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Mercer.

donors-theintercept-graphic-v2

Call the PAC something that it is not in hopes that it will convince some African American voters to get behind Ted Cruz . . . Black Americans for a Better Future, thy name is deception.

Huffington Post — California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is asking voters to overturn a strict sentencing law he signed nearly 40 years ago because of its "unintended consequences," including a surge in the prison population.

Brown, in a call with reporters Wednesday, announced a ballot initiative called the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, which he said would likely reduce prison time for many of the 127,000 nonviolent offenders locked in the state's overcrowded correctional facilities. 

Personally, I think this is  a great move.  Couple it with Obama's recent call to ban solitary confinement for juveniles and as punishment for low-level infractions in federal facilities, and you have the first steps of prison reform.

Global News — Months after being released from an Egyptian jail, Mohamed Fahmy is adjusting to the life of an academic at the University of British Columbia, talking to students about his experiences as a journalist.

“It feels very inspiring that I’m actually lecturing students and getting feedback about various topics,” he said.

He has no shortage of things to talk about. Fahmy spent more than 400 days in prison on terrorism charges after an Egyptian court case that was the subject of broad international criticism.

From CBC News

Click through for the interview and short videos to see what Fahmy is trying to do.  I really don't know how much Americans know about the Mohamed Fahmy case in Egypt.  Fahmy, Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera English and an award winning journalist, was arrested  29/12/2013 and accused of conspiring with a terrorist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and fabricating news to portray Egypt in a state of civil war.  His journey has been long, unnecessarily so, courtesy of ex-PM Stephen Harper who would not speak to the Egyptian president on behalf of Fahmy.  I support Fahmy.

My Universe — h/t Ted W and Carol D, Care2

 

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Jan 262016
 

Today was one of those days!  I missed my alarm and awoke 5 minutes before physio.  I was going to be very late so we rescheduled to 14:30.  I promptly fell back asleep for 2 hours.  So much for getting some chores done.  Over 2.5 hours of physio, which included 40 minutes of peddling my sasquatch butt on the recumbent bicycle, I was done. Tomorrow I take the furbabes for their annual checkups and vaccinations.  I am guaranteed to be tired after corraling the beasts and transporting them.  Their godfather (the vet) will be very glad to see them!  When I saw my mother Sunday, I told her that her grandcats said "meow, meow, meow!" and she gave me a big smile.

Short Takes

Alternet — … William J. Kruvant described the process in a 1975 journal article:

“Disadvantaged people are largely victims of middle- and upper-class pollution because they usually live closest to the sources of pollution—power plants, industrial installations, and in central cities where vehicle traffic is heaviest. Usually they have no choice. Discrimination created the situation, and those with wealth and influence have political power to keep polluting facilities away from their homes. Living in poverty areas is bad enough. High pollution makes it worse.”

Environmental racism.  I had not heard the term before, but it certainly makes sense.  And that same idea also extends to poor people.  I remember as a small child living in a small house in a very working class neighbourhood. Next to the house (within 20 feet) was a railroad line that carried industrial supplies so trains were heavy and rattling. On the other side of the tracks was a canal, heavily polluted with industrial waste. Directly across the street was a hydro-electricity plant, and just across the canal on the same side as the plant, was the Massey Ferguson plant (manufactured farm implements) and all it's spewing of pollution.  As soon as they could afford it, my parents moved us to a neighbourhood away from the pollution.  Click through to see 7 US communities of colour subjected to a toxic assault.  Here is the report mentioned in the article: Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty 1987—2007 .  Look at pages 124-133 to see New Orleans, post Katrina, and pages 134-151 to view Dickson County, Tennessee.

Huffington Post — A Texas grand jury has indicted two anti-abortion activists in a case involving covert videos on fetal tissue procurement talks with Planned Parenthood and found there was no wrongdoing on the part of the health group, a district attorney said on Monday.

The grand jury decision was a result of a probe launched last year under Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, who accused Planned Parenthood of the "gruesome harvesting of baby body parts." No evidence was provided by Texas to back the claim.

Good news!  Now will there be a conviction when the case goes to trial?

Mother Jones — On Monday, the US Supreme Court permanently laid to rest North Dakota's controversial "fetal heartbeat" law that would have banned abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

After a series of appeals, a federal judge again ruled the law unconstitutional in July. Once more the state appealed the ruling and it went to the Supreme Court. But the court on Monday refused to review the lower court's ruling, effectively overturning the ban.

More good news!  

My Universe — 

ATT530861

Brody in the powder roomAnd that's not all the dog blocked!

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Jan 222016
 

I have another busy day today.  My shower-aide just left, leaving me smelling like a rose.  PT is coming at 9:00 and OT at 10:00, so they will have come and gone by the time I get this posted.  Arvilla (PT) is bringing a cane to see if it will give me sufficient stability to aid in transfers, when I’m out and don’t have my walker for transfers.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today;s took me 3:24 (average 5:10).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos: Ted Nugent may have totally broken the law and called for the lynching of a sitting president and (possible) future sitting president. [Fascist criminal delinked]

Our unholy rotten soulless criminal America destroying government killed 4 Americans in Banghazi. Period! What sort of chimpass punk would deny security, turn down 61 requests for security, then tell US forces to STAND DOWN when they were ready to kickass on the allapukes & save American lives! Obama & Clinton, thats who. They should be tried for treason & hung. Our entire fkdup gvt must be cleansed asap.

Can’t you feel what Republicans call love?!!?

From Media Matters: Fox News has devoted roughly three hours to promoting the release of Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, a movie about the 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Libya, praising the film, repeatedly characterizing the movie as a threat to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and hyping several debunked myths about the Benghazi terror attacks. More than half of the network’s 32 segments focused on falsehoods about the State Department and Obama administration’s responses to the attacks, and nearly 60 percent of the segments linked the movie to Clinton’s 2016 bid for the White House.

012213hours-foxnews

No matter how many times the lies are debunked, The Republican Reichsministry of Propaganda, Faux Noise, refuses to let this go.

From NY Times: In a significant victory for President Obama, a federal appeals panel on Thursday rejected an effort by 27 states and dozens of corporations and industry groups to block the administration’s signature regulation on emissions from coal-fired power plants while a lawsuit moves through the courts.

The rule, issued last summer by the Environmental Protection Agency, is at the heart of Mr. Obama’s efforts to tackle climate change. It would require each state to significantly cut greenhouse gas pollution from electric power plants, the nation’s largest source of such emissions.

Once fully in place, the regulation — which would cut emissions from existing power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 — could transform the electricity system, closing hundreds of heavily polluting coal-fired plants and sharply increasing production of wind and solar powers.

But the 27 states, many of which have economies that rely on coal mining or coal-fired power, have sued the administration to kill the plan. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit set June 2 to hear arguments in that case, although it is widely expected to be ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, most likely in 2017.

Won’t it be wonderful, if a Democratic President can replace a Republican Injustice on SCROTUS by 2017?

Cartoon:

0122Cartoon

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Jan 222016
 

What an enjoyable lunch I had with my lady friends.  We met at a 12 week programme in the fall of 2014, and following my suggestion, we have met once a month for conversation and lunch since the end of the programme. After today's lunch, I was feeling very good, more confident . . . I was told by 3 people that I looked like I had lost weight.  Inside I was doing handsprings!  Then at my local bookstore, a clerk told me the same thing.  I had to laugh later though because I realised I was sitting straighter and walking taller.  Now, if I only knew it was true . . . I do not have a scale.

Short Takes

Robert Reich  Why did the white working class abandon the Democrats?

The conventional answer is Republicans skillfully played the race card.

In the wake of the Civil Rights Act, segregationists like Alabama Governor George C. Wallace led southern whites out of the Democratic Party.

Later, Republicans charged Democrats with coddling black “welfare queens,“ being soft on black crime (“Willie Horton”), and trying to give jobs to less-qualified blacks over more-qualified whites (the battle over affirmative action).

The bigotry now spewing forth from Donald Trump and several of his Republican rivals is an extension of this old race card, now applied to Mexicans and Muslims – with much the same effect on the white working class voters, who don’t trust Democrats to be as “tough.”  

All true, but this isn't the whole story. Democrats also abandoned the white working class.

Click through to see how, in Reich's opinion, Democrats abandoned the white working class.  He makes some very valid points.

Crooks and Liars — A pictoral essay.  Isn't this the truth!  Although in my mind, Kagan, Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer would be good to add some diversity.

Open Thread - SCOTUS Dream Team!The SCOTUS Dream Team

Politico — Senator Ted Cruz invoked President John F. Kennedy's name and legacy in a campaign appearance the other day, arguing that if he were alive today, Kennedy would be a Republican. Specifically, he said Kennedy “would be tarred and feathered by the modern Democratic Party.  

Cruz described the Kennedy campaign as one for tax cuts, limited government and tough talk against the Soviets.

And yet, accepting the nomination of the Democratic Party in 1960, Kennedy said this: “There may be those who wish to hear more—more promises to this group or that—more harsh rhetoric about the men in the Kremlin—more assurances of a golden future, where taxes are always low and subsidies ever high.” But he admitted he wasn’t that candidate. He outlined his vision for a New Frontier—a platform of challenges rather than promises, an appeal to public interest over private comfort. Clearly, Cruz hasn’t read that speech.

JFK Jr must be rolling in his grave at the audacity of Ted Cruz dragging his name and legacy into the Republican mud!

Washington Post — Stephanie Czech Rader was the daughter of Polish immigrants, uneducated laborers who settled in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in the early 1920s and barely spoke English. Her immersion in Polish language and culture proved critical to her success, against daunting odds, as a U.S. spy in Europe after World War II.

Recruited to the Office of Strategic Services and the Strategic Services Unit of the War Department, precursors to the CIA, she was officially employed as a clerk at the U.S. Embassy. In reality, she was undercover, an agent whose flawless Polish accent and mannerisms allowed her to move around the Soviet-dominated country with relative ease.

She faced near-constant hazard anyway. Conditions in Warsaw were bleak and dangerous.   

Mrs. Rader did not embody the cliches of Hollywood espionage. She was a chemistry major who glided into the shadows, hardened to spycraft but only up to a point.

“They gave me a gun but I never carried a gun,” she said. “What the heck was I gonna do with a dumb gun?”

I ran across this obituary and found Rader's story compelling.  In a Daily Beast story, author Shane Harris noted:

pushing through a Legion of Merit recommendation that was approved by Rader’s senior officers in 1946. The War Department, though, thought she should get a lesser award.

Rader perhaps had two strikes against her. First, she was a woman. Second, she was a member of the newly formed Office of Strategic Services, the United States’ first central intelligence service and the precursor to the CIA. 

Harris is likely correct . . . being a woman was likely a prime reason for not receiving the Legion of Merit.  I hope this folly willed be rectified.

Huff Post — Adorable kitties are getting sanctuary inside a mosque in Turkey this winter.

cats in Turkish mosque

Big-hearted imam Mustafa Efe lets stray cats shelter from freezing cold temperatures inside the Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi Mosque in Istanbul, according to local English-language newspaper Daily Sabah.

I make no secret about it . . . I adore cats!  So I wanted to share this story of stray cats given shelter, and more importantly, love.  The videos are cute.  They might even be rated CO — Cuteness Overload!  Are you up to it?

My Universe — 

31Happy_FrannyPenny_OK

I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.  —   Jules Verne

 

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Jan 072016
 

The US is currently under attack, not by the Canadian Army, or the Mounties, or even a band of marauding Sasquatches, nut by a bevy of loon-paid lawyers the employ of TransCanada, the company, whose domestic operations Canadians are blocking.

0107KeystoneTPP

TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, announced Wednesday it is filing a claim under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying that the project’s permit denial was “arbitrary and unjustified.” TransCanada is seeking $15 billion in costs and damages due to the denial, and has also filed a separate lawsuit against the U.S. in federal court.

Under NAFTA, companies can sue governments that put investments at risk through regulation. If it proceeds, the case will go in front of an international tribunal. (A U.S. company sued Montreal in 2013 over a fracking ban, using the same rationale). The tribunal cannot overturn the permit denial, but it can force payment of damages.

A NAFTA challenge had been previously identified as a potential legal recourse for the company.

In the notice to submit a claim for arbitration, TransCanada notes that two previous pipelines, carrying oil from the same tar sands region across the U.S. border, were both approved. This, TransCanada claims, suggests that the denial was political in nature, which is prohibited under NAFTA.

“Environmental activists … turned opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline into a litmus test for politicians—including U.S. President Barack Obama — to prove their environmental credentials. The activists’ strategy succeeded,” TransCanada states in its filings. “Stated simply, the delay and the ultimate decision to deny the permit were politically-driven, directly contrary to the findings of the Administration’s own studies, and not based on the merits of Keystone’s application. The Administration’s actions violated U.S. obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”).”

The company even headed the notice with a quote from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: “I would venture to say that there’s probably no infrastructure project in the history of the United States that’s been as politicized as this one.” …

Inserted from <Alternet>

I sincerely hope that TransCanada’s suit fails.  However, this is the best thing that could have happened.  It shows us how these trade agreements compromise our national sovereignty.  It demonstrates the need to stop the TPP.

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Jan 022016
 
furies

More incidents which seem to me to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with. Just as a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

I ask Megaera to turn her attention with me to the small college town of Prairie View, TX, the home of Prairie View A&M University, which was the alma mater of Sandra Bland, and which had just hired her as a summer program associate, the day she was stopped by a state trooper, ostensibly for failure to signal a lane change.

From some video footage of the event, it appears that the lane change to which the officer was referring in the stop was the change of lane she made because he had gone past her going the opposite direction, turned around, turned on flashers and siren, and appeared to want her to stop, which she did.

Now why might an officer stop a driver for failure to signal a lane change which was at his orders (which appears to be expecting the driver to be psychic)?  Well,

Texas has no state income tax, and money for social services must come from somewhere. Gouging people with traffic tickets and criminal convictions is an easy way for the state, counties, and municipalities to collect lots of money.

They do it through a byzantine schedule of fees. The state keeps most of the money, but counties and cities retain a percentage. There’s a $25 “records-management” fee, for instance. A $15 “judicial fund” fee. Fifteen dollars added to each bail-bond payment. The list goes on, with scores of charges. As a former Waller County Justice of the Peace described it, a trivial infraction can rack up charges totaling as much as $500.

The most arbitrary pinch comes from what’s known in Texas as the “Consolidated Court Cost.” Added to a fine, it’s a fixed amount imposed upon everyone who pleads guilty or is convicted of any offense, no matter how small. The fee is $40 for a non-jailable misdemeanor like a traffic ticket, $83 for a higher-level misdemeanor, and $133 for a felony.

Note that the author of this article even says this is grudging, although she spells it "gouging."  She refers to the Texas Fair Defense Project, which aims to "challenge policies that jail poor people because they can’t afford bail-bond fees and post-conviction fines and costs."

What I would like is for someone to explain to me how it can be considered profitable to sock poor people with fees and costs which are uncollectable, and therefore end up keeping them in jail, which costs something and brings in nothing.  I think they are doing it wrong.  Perhaps Megaera should be explaining to the state of Texas exactly how wrong they are doing it.  (BTW, Prairie View A&M itself actually gets a lot of what monies they do collect.  Ironic, isn't it?)

One thing Alecto is probably used to by now is fraud and hypocrisy from right wing candidates for election and from their election teams.  In fact, she is probably as tired of it as I am.  But, poor thing, it's her job. 

You may remember over the past few weeks Katrina Pierson, the National Spokesperson for the Trump campaign, discussing Trump's ideas for dealing with Muslims, and, when asked if those ideas were not discriminatory, saying "So what?  They're Muslims."  A real sweetie.  She got some more attention in the past few days wearing a necklace made out of bullets – not to bring attention to 90 Americans fatally shot each day; just, apparently, as a fashion statement.  Criticized, she responded "Maybe I'll wear a fetus next time."

She did herself, in 2014, run for Congress in Texas in 2014, but her campaign was derailed by revelations that, not only was she once arrested for shoplifting in JC Penney's, but that in 2012 and 2013, while working as a consultant for Ted Cruz's campaign, she had collected at least $11,000.00 in unemployment benefits.  Golly gee.

So, you think Trump keeps her around to make himself look honest by comparison?  That is also an old, old story. 

Tisiphone usually gets the ones that are covered with blood – and this week is no exception.  Here's the headline: "Sadistic Cops Make K-9 Maul Unarmed Suicidal Teen – Caught Planning and Celebrating It in Texts," and I'm sorry to say that every word of that is borne out with fact.  I'll make the picture small, but it is still ugly, ugly, ugly.

The mother of 18-year-old Jared Lemay of North Port, FL learned that he was about to commit suicide, and called police, presumably to stop this from happening.  Instead – the K-9 unit's lead handler texted to another handler to come and join in.  "COME GET UR BITE."  This handler, you see, was new, and his dog had not yet bitten anyone.

The police entered the garage where the teen, hearing their arrival, had hidden in a trash can.  One officer lifted the can lid, saw the teen, repaced the lid, and forcefully pushed over the can so that the teen fell out.  At that moment, the new handler sicced the new dog.  Jared received injuries to his face and back.

After Jared was taken to the emergency room, another officer texted the new handler "CONGRATS" (for his dog's first bite).

Over a four year period, the K-9 handlers of the North Port Police Department commanded their dogs to attack more than the K-9 handlers of Sarasota, Bradenton, Palmetto, Venice, and Punta Gorda COMBINED.

Charles Mesloh, a former K-9 handler for the Venice Police Department, called Bush’s messages to Dietz “horrifying” and said a serious investigation is warranted.

This is people deciding in advance deciding how they’re going to hurt someone,” said Mesloh. “In my opinion it should be investigated by the Department of Justice. I have defended agencies accused of civil rights violations in the past, and I have never seen anything that has approached what I have seen in this report.”  (emphasis mine)

By the way, although there is never any shortage of material for the Furies, I will not be doing it every week going forward.  Maybe I should say, "Because there is no shortage of material."  Human beings can only stand so much outrage, and this is an election year.

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Jan 012016
 

Well today is one of only twelve times each year that the international date format that I use is the same as the American format that TC uses.  LOL!!! There were certainly extensive fireworks last night, and I swear they were on my balcony, they seemed so loud and close.  But I survived and my babes, Primo, Winnie and Annie, were calm and asleep.  All's well that ends well!

Short Takes

CBC — Natalie Cole, the American pop and blues singer known for hits such as This Will Be, Unforgettable and Our Love, has died at age 65 [on 31/12/2015].

The daughter of Nat King Cole, she won nine Grammy Awards in a career that began in the 1970s. Her Unforgettable… with Love sold 30 million copies and won the Grammy for album of the year.  

"Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived … with dignity, strength and honour. Our beloved Mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain UNFORGETTABLE in our hearts forever," read the statement from her son, Robert Yancy, and sisters Timolin and Casey Cole.

A sad note to start the new year off.  I grew up listening to the mellow tones of Nat King Cole — Unforgettable, Ramblin' Rose are two I especially remember — as my mother would not allow the early rock n' roll into the house (that included the Beatles).  As I aged, I came to appreciate his music very much, and the pieces that Natalie did virtually with her father are exceptional.  Rest in peace Natalie Cole.

Cole wasn't the only death on New Year's  Eve. Actor Wayne Rogers of M*A*S*H* fame passed away 31/12/2015 at age 82 from pneumonia. And special in Vancouver, Dal Richards, orchestra leader and musician who played New Year's Eve for 79 years straight, died of congestive heart failure just minutes before midnight.  His last gig was just before Christmas and he had been scheduled to play on New Year's Eve which would have been his 80th straight year.  RIP Dal and Wayne.

Alternet — Koch brothers exploit criminal justice reform to protect corporate criminals.

People within the prison reform movement had long been skeptical of the Koch brothers sudden interest in the topic. With crime at record lows, a sympathetic president in the White House, and Black Lives Matter changing the conversation around our criminal justice system, the time was right to finally pull back many of the harsh “tough-on-crime” laws that were passed in the 90's under Bush and Clinton.

So why the interest from the right-wing titans? Most of the media simply chalked it up to ideology, after all, the Kochs were libertarians and libertarians don’t like drug laws and state incarceration, right? But like with much of what the billionaire brothers do, it wasn’t so simple. Lee Fang and Dan Froomkin over at The Intercept dug a little deeper and revealed the Koch’s ideology wasn’t the only thing animating their support for criminal justice reform. Firstly, they continued to buy ads for and donate to candidates like Louisiana's David Vitter who supported some of the harshest and most racist drug laws in the country while allocating minimal resources to justice reform. As Fang notes:

Out of 38 federal lobbyists employed by Koch, only one is registered to work on criminal justice issues. Most work on projects important to Koch Industries’ bottom line, such as rolling back Environmental Protection Agency rules.

This wasn’t the only indication the Koch’s were simply piggy-backing off the movement to advance their corporate interests:

Koch “Alliance” on Criminal Justice Reform Exposed as Trojan Horse

So, while the Kochs and the liberal groups used similar language in their critique of the criminal justice system, when it came down to actual legislation, the Kochs were focused on reducing criminal prosecutions of corporations, not people.

Koch and the House Republicans turned out to be pushing a bill that critics describe as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for white-collar criminals.

Members of Washington’s elite media crave stories about bipartisanship, so groups like the pro-Clinton Center for American Progress garnered positive media attention for finding common ground with the Kochs earlier this year.

The real aim for the Kochs' prison reform was to reduce the liability of white collar criminals, not the largely black, Latino and poor constituency of most prisons. As The Huffington Post reported, the bill being lobbied would make it more difficult to fine executives at corporations liable for financial fraud and environmental pollution. Leftist reformers were predictably upset, with Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, telling the Huffington Post, "there is absolutely no reason for the otherwise laudable criminal justice reform bill to contain any measure to weaken already feeble standards for corporate criminal prosecution.”

Click through for the other four Most Cynical Libertarian Stealth Campaigns of 2015.  I have to say that my first reaction to the Koch's pushing prison reform was to protect themselves from going to prison for corporate crimes, if anyone could get enough information together and had the cajones to charge them.

Mother Jones — This summer, the Wisconsin Supreme Court took up the question of whether to stop the investigation into alleged coordination between Walker's 2012 recall campaign and conservative outside groups that receive unlimited donations from undisclosed donors. The problem was that the election campaigns of two justices on the state's top court hadbenefited significantly from spending by those same groups accused of illegal coordination with Walker. The special prosecutor overseeing the investigation, along with legal ethicists, asked the two justices with conflicts of interest to recuse themselves. But no justices stepped aside.  

But if it does consider a Caperton challenge to the situation in Wisconsin, it could not just determine whether the Wisconsin Supreme Court crossed the line when it came to conflicts of interest, but could help set ethical standards across the country in an era when judicial elections are increasingly fought with millions of dollars in outside spending.

And would the SCOTUS, even though not elected, be subject to ethical standards, standards that the right wing justices seem to think don't apply to them?

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