WHERE HAVE YOU GONE MATT DILLON—A NATION TURNS ITS LONELY EYES TO YOU

DodgeCityPeaceCommission-280

A little over one week ago Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed into law a new measure that permits anyone over the age of 21 to carry a concealed handgun, with no license or training required, so long as that person is not prohibited by federal or state law from possessing weapons.

WELCOME BACK TO THE 1870’S, Kansas.

Ah, yes, the good old days when Dodge City, Kansas was notorious for bootlegging, bribery, and gunplay.

Kansas has but one Dodge City, with a broad expanse of territory sufficiently vast for an empire; we have only room for one Dodge City; Dodge, a synonym for all that is wild, reckless, and violent; Hell on the Plains.”

— A Kansas Newspaper in the 1870’s

http://www.legendsofamerica.com/ks-dodgecity.html

Most of us are familiar with Dodge City only through the TV show Gunsmoke,  which the intrepid and unshaken Matt Dillon served as Marshal, chasing off or killing all mannner of scalawags and miscreants in order to protect Miss Kitty, Doc, Chester, Festus, and all the other worthy citizens.

But, despite the stories told in 635 episodes spread over twenty TV seasons, the real Dodge City was much more both dangerous and intriguing. In the link above there is a photo gallery of the city both historically and as it exists today, its Wild West reputation maintained as a tourist trap.

The new law is both ironic in the face of Dodge City’s history and potentially tragic in that Boot Hill may need to be updated and expanded.

For the lesson of Dodge City (and Tombstone, Arizona) is that they were part of the Wild West for one main reason and are still the Wild West only for the benefits of tourists for one other main reason.

Wild? Guns

Mild? No guns.

Note the picture at the top? Those folks are the members of the Dodge City Peace Commission. You may recognize the names of some of them.

Top row, L-R  W.H. Harris, Luke Short, W.B. Bat Masterson and W.F. Petillon.

Bottom, L-R    Charles S. Basset, Wyatt S. Earp, Frank McLain, Neil Brown

Yes THAT Wyatt Earp and THAT Bat Masterson, both stars of their own TV series.

And that famous Gunfight at The OK Corral? Also starring Wyatt Earp as well as his brothers and Doc Holliday who made a notable guest appearance in Dodge where  he first met Wyatt.

Both towns  notorious for gunfights and rowdiness and both towns tamed by…ready for this…are you sure you are prepared….GUN CONTROL!

You see Earp traveled to Dodge City when the state of its character resulted in a letter to the Evening Star of Washington, D.C.

Dodge City is a wicked little town. Indeed, its character is so clearly and egregiously bad that one might conclude, were the evidence in the later times positive of its possibility, that it was marked for special Providential punishment.

And Kansas’s own Hays City Sentinel editorialized

Dodge is the Deadwood of Kansas.. Her incorporate limits are the rendezvous of all the unemployed scallawagism in seven states. Her principal business is polygamy without the sanction of religion, her code of morals is the honor of thieves, and decency she knows not.

Wyatt and his fellow commissioners to the rescue.

Intending to restore order, one of the first things the new lawmen did was to initiate a “Deadline” north of the railroad yards on Front Street to keep the commercial part of the city quiet. On the north side, the city passed an ordinance that guns could not be worn or carried. On the south side of the “deadline”, those who supported the lawlessness continued to operate as usual, with a host of saloons, brothels, and frequent gunfights. The expression “Red Light District” was coined in Dodge City when the train masters took their red caboose lanterns with them when they visited the town’s brothels. The gun-toting rule was in effect around the clock and anyone wearing a gun was immediately jailed. Soon, Dodge City’s jail was filled.

http://www.legendsofamerica.com/ks-dodgecity2.html

I’ll grant you the entire town was not immediately tamed. The growth of railroads into Texas which negated the need to push herds to Dodge was a major factor in change. But it is notable that at least a part of the town was peaceful after the gun ban was implemented, certainly not subject to the frequent random violence in the wanton section of town.

Likewise the entire Gunfight in Tombstone resulted from the Clantons and their cohorts defying that town’s ban on guns which were supposed to be surrendered upon entering town. They were confronted by the Earp brothers and the ubiquitous Doc Holliday. (Please now remember that the Earps were Republicans enforcing gun control.).

Another little quirk here is that one of the Clanton survivors claimed they had their hands raised in surrender…a la Michael Brown.

Whatever, the principle here is that these towns were not tamed and rendered safe for ordinary citizens until casual gun possession and use was ended. And yes, I recognize there were other elements in the taming of the West but those other elements themselves were why eliminating the open presence of guns was desirable.

Yet in Kansas it is now legal to conceal carry and in many states or localities where open carry is the rule your chances of facing a gun that, in the course of daily activity that can occasionally entail a minor confrontation, may now be escalated into a major, possibly lethal, confrontation.

So watch out honking at that driver who cuts you off in Kansas and most assuredly don’t raise your middle finger to him. And definitely be careful of accidently jostling a guy in a bar.

Matt Dillon can’t help you.

IS THAT A NUKE IN YOUR POCKET OR ARE YOU JUST HAPPY TO SEE ME?

treaty

On the heels of the just announced agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, negotiated by China, Russia, Germany, France, England, and, of course, the United States, comes praise for the diplomatic efforts of President Barack Obama.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/02/iran-deal-obama-legacy_n_6996586.html

In that framework of a final agreement, which is to be reduced to its legal language by June, Iran is to scale back its nuclear program signficantly and a series of inspections and safeguards will be implemented to ensure compliance.

Earlier this year Obama took major steps to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba after more than a half century of rancorous discourse, travel taboos, economic sanctions, and assassination plots.

In the ongoing battle against climate change—the most difficult part being the intransigence of conservatives to even acknowledge the problem as something to seek resolutions to—last November Obama announced a bilateral agreement with China in which that nation works to reduce emissions.

This triumvirate of accomplishments… an Axis of Non-Evil?… certainly is more worthy of Nobel Peace Prize scrutiny than anything Obama did prior to being honored with that award in 2009, the year he entered office.

Of course the praise for this feat is near universal in this country as Congress rejoices that, with the threat of Iran nukes eliminated, it can finally pare the Defense budget to a reasonable level that will still allow for our security as a nation.

Oh, I wish. Republicans right and righter (no left in that Party) are vociferous in their condemnation of the pact and issuing vague threats…well, not so vague…to attempt to dismantle it. They seem to be in utter defiance of the Benjamin Franklin adage

There has never been a good war, nor a bad peace.

They seem determined to commit war on Iran no matter the cost.

One can reasonably express skepticism that Iran will fail to keep its bargain or that the inspection process will somehow fail or that, just maybe, instead of nukes Iran has the largest garage in the world with a battalion of Ted Kaczynskis producing pipe bombs to be mailed to each American household.

But, it does not matter what the terms of the agreement are nor how staunchly they can be enforced. Were Iran simply to surrender all nuclear materials it possesses, with Geraldo Rivera hosting the biggest live TV event since the opening of Al Capone’s vault so the world can bear witness, these critics speak and act as if nothing will satisfy their concerns short of bombing Iran into submission.

Will there be strict compliance with this agreement should it go into effect? How the hell do I or anyone know that. And strict compliance means Iran builds no nuclear weapons. But, absent strict compliance, is there some basis for forecasting whether it’s true and clear goal…preventing Iran from raining nukes down on Israel, the U.S. or any other nation..is achieved?

Well look at this list of treaties dealing with limiting nuclear arms.

  • Treaty of Tlatelolcol           1967
  • Treaty of Rarotonga          1985
  • Treaty of Bangkok             1995
  • Treaty of Pelindaba           1996
  • Treaty of Semipalatinski    2006
  • START I                             1991
  • SALT I                                1972
  • ABM Treaty                        1972

Some of these treaties have expired of their own accord. Others experienced the withdrawal of at least one of the signatories including the United States.

From a technical viewpoint, have all these treaties been upheld while in effect? I don’t know and I don’t care. The principal purpose of each and every one of these diplomatic coups was to avoid mushroom clouds that were killing people.

Since there have been none of these mushroom clouds appearing with the intent of killing large numbers of humans since August 9, 1945, I look at them as a success. Not unequivocably so, but the expiration and/or violation of any of them has not resulted in catastrophe.

But we all know that prior to this basic agreement’s inception, there was  a wide call among the neocons to just go ahead and bomb Iran as the primary preferred pre-emptive action to be taken.

Here on Moyers and Company Robert Perry scores the pre-agreement commentary by such as John Bolton, Thomas Friedman, and Joshua Muravchik that appeared in either the Washingtton Post or the New York Times. Friedman actually advocated for arming ISIS to help thwart Iran while the other two were all in for the U.S. to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.

http://billmoyers.com/2015/03/30/nyt-publishes-call-bomb-iran/

Bolton continued the contrived warmongering of the Bush Administration of which he was a part (also getting paychecks from Reagan and Bush I as part of his resume) by ignoring or lying about some basic facts. Here  he is taken to task for doing so by Jon  Schwarz.

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/04/04/factual-errors-john-boltons-bomb-iran-op-ed-new-york-times-care/

And there are even commenters on a Post-Gazette editorial who extend their record of inane insanity by urging us to have war with Iran now rather than waiting until later.

http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/editorials/2015/04/05/Iran-s-framework-Negotiators-deserve-a-chance-to-finish-the-details/stories/201504040026

Iranians seem to be pretty damned happy.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/02/iranians-celebrate-nuclear-deal-tehran

Surprisingly that grumpy old red state conservative Pope Francis not only spoke favorably of the deal but had the temerity and audacity to do so during his annual Easter address. According to many folks in this country promoting peace is not very Christian.

Alas, no matter the outcome of this deal, thwarted by Congress or not, observed fully by Iran or not, unilateral destructive action by Israel or not, this small step towards peace will remain that. Just one small step for man, but forever leaping into war for mankind.

Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is nopeace—and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar

Ezekiel 13:10

INDIANA WANTS ME—LORD I CAN’T GO BACK THERE

indiana

Last week Governor Mike Pence signed into law the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act  (IRFRA) which, in essence, provides that individuals and businesses in that state, if charged with violation of anti-discrimination laws, criminally or civilly, may invoke their sincere religious beliefs as a defense.

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1696428-read-indianas-religious-freedom-restoration-act.html

As noted in many media reports Indiana joins nineteen other states and the federal government in passing similar laws, or at least laws with very similar titles, though the wording may differ in significant ways.

What the law does not do is to permit racial or other forms of discrimination, most especially against the LGBTQ community, What it does do, in the simplest terms, is if there is an anti-discrimination law or ordinance in place, a person—as defined in this law—may use their religious beliefs as a defense to any action taken against them for discrimination in violation of such laws.

However, Indiana does not currently have a state law banning discrimination against the LGBTQ community, so members of that segment of our society were already subject to discrimination. The new IRFRA does nothing to change that situation.

An article written by an Indiana lawyer analyzes that state’s law and distinguishes it from those similar laws passed in other states.

Indeed, as Gov. Pence provided in his statement yesterday: “Fortunately, in the 1990s Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—limiting government action that would infringe upon religion to only those that did not substantially burden free exercise of religion absent a compelling state interest and in the least restrictive means.”

The flaw in this implication is that it is misleading for several reasons. The federal act was deemed inapplicable to state actions. Consequently, several states have copied the federal act or have adopted similar legislation. A fair collection of all religious freedom statutes and court decisions can be found here. (Hats off to Liberty Counsel for making the effort to compile this list and publish it.) Upon my quick scan, Indiana’s version of the bill most resembles a similar law passed in Texas in 1999 but even that bill contains significant limitations that Indiana’s does not.

What is clear is that Indiana has not copied the federal legislation or those passed by other states, but has instead added more expansive language as seen below. The IRFRA adds several clauses which rightly give pause to the endless possibilities of using religion and religious freedom as a sword and a shield.

https://inadvancesheet.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/the-indiana-religious-freedom-restoration-act-an-analysis-of-its-controversy/

He notes how different the Indiana law is from other states and cites some cases already litigated in them.

First, the definition of “exercise of religion” does not require that it be compelled by, or central to, any system of religious belief.

Another objection he voices is that any “person” charged with discrimination may use his “exercise of religion” as a defense without involving the government entity that banned such discrimination as a party to the action.

But the most severe objection of all, is that the law is so poorly written as to be vague and/or ambiguous so that a proper interpretation of it and how far reaching it is is nigh impossible. That likely will result in prolonged, extensive, and expensive litigation as this is all sorted out.

As of this date the only governmental units in Indiana with such anti-discrimination laws or ordinances in place are the cities of Bloomington, Indianapolis, Evansville, South Bend, and the counties of Monroe and Marion. So the type of discrimination of concern here is not illegal elsewhere in the state.

So the protests against the law are not entirely misplaced nor is the concern expressed by a number of businesses such as the NCAA, Angie’s List, and others. Of course the jewel of the NCAA’s money generating machine, The Final Four, is in Indianapolis this next weekend.

So it could be that the first practical reverberations will be evident during this upcoming event. I have not heard of such plans but I imagine various advocacy groups could attempt to provide opportunities for businesses to discriminate to test the waters, so to speak.

As to the Tournament itself, a pox on all their houses, but their corruption is another issue.

BUSH VS CLINTON—2016

CAMPAIGN

I just had a thought. At least it’s not as dangerous as most of my impulses.

While reading an article about Bill Clinton’s possible role in Hillary’s campaign, and having seen a headline where former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley stated that we need to get rid of the Clinton—Bush mindset, I was inspired. (Also expired and perspired but that’s for later)

Let us have a Clinton vs Bush contest in 2016, but Bill against Dubya, not Hillary against Jeb.

There’s no Constitutional problem with a third term for either because, as the Teabaggers have been telling us for several years, the Constitution has been taken away, just like school prayer, everybody’s guns, and their freedom to worship  the two or three time divorced Conservative heroes of their choice.

You ask, “how is this a good idea?” And I pretend I am on a Sunday morning network political talk show and reply, “How is it not?”

Don’t ask again, I’m moving on with my own talking points. (I am a HUGE fan of Meet The Press)

How in the world could one not appreciate another Presidential campaign involving these men, but for the first time, facing off directly.

The contrasts are clear. It would be as if Sandy Koufax were to come out of retirement to pitch to a similarly unretired Willie Mays. Their records are clear, if not written in stone…or, as in the case of Koufax and Mays…written in BaseballReference.com.

One easy comparison would be to say one sucked and the other one was sucked. But that would be crude and lowdown and I refuse to go there.

Another easy comparison is that one finally brought the federal budget back into balance with a surplus four years running as he left office while the other immediately brought yearly deficits back to life.

One used his powers as Commander-in Chief (CINC) to deploy troops with a loss of approximately one hundred as a result. The other used his powers as Commander-in-Chief to deploy troops who suffered deadly losses of over 6000.

One saw the creation of nearly 23 million private sector jobs during his tenure and the other saw the creation of fewer than 2 million private sector jobs during his.

But I’m taking myself far too seriously here. What I am really concerned about is entertainment value.

Just imagine the delight the media will take in bloviating about draft dodging vs AWOL, about “not inhaling” vs drunken, cocaine fueled escapades.

Post-Presidency fund raising from foreign despots vs Post-Presidency crappy artwork.

Avoiding your Vice-President because you never got along anyhow vs avoiding  your Vice-President because you refuse to hang out with known criminals.

But there is one main reason Bill, rather than Hillary Clinton should run. We probably will not hear the word Benghazi more than 6453 times in attack ads if Bill runs while the number would be infinite if Hillary did.

On the Bush side running George instead of brother Jeb means the deepest desires of their mother, Barbara,  to not have another Bush in the Oval Office will be satisfied.

And I kind of like the old gal.

HOMOPHONIA—-HEAR, THEY’RE, AND EVERY WARE

HOMOPHONE

If one reads letters to the editor, comments in response to letters to the editor, Facebook posts and comments, or other sources written by the hoi poilloi…and even on occasion written by the should-be-better polloi….you, like myself, may have been struck by the use of certain words rendered devoid of meaning because they have been submitted in place of a similar word which, when spoken, sounds like the word employed but which is spelled quite differently and which entails a definition or proper place in our English language no way close to what the writer intended.

One of these sets of homophones most cited is the interspersion of they’re, there and their as if they were interchangeable.

Hint. They are not.

I hate these people. They’re either ignorant or lazy in their posts and you look at them and there they are.

I want to take these folks and stuff them in a pale pail where I wear them out so their verbal wares are nowhere in sight. At least on that site. And if their sins are repeated I will have them cited. Of course most of us are sighted, or we wouldn’t be reading this.

Perhaps as punishment we can give them fare to travel to the fair and force them to subsist solely on the fare they’re able to find there. Then they can hone their skills and ability to home in on the problem of they’re use of there when they mean their.

When they think of you, be glad they’re not standing there picturing in their minds a ewe, though when they repeat these mistakes over and over again they should feel sheepish. But far too often these days in texts with who knows what subtext they use u even though Thant is long gone.

If they do not have fare to get to the fair a reasonable alternative might be to send them in search of ore downstream by canoe with hope they have a good oar as they wend their way to there o’er the stream. As they row they may find some fish roe. Or while using their oar (and their wiles) they could work up an appetite so we will send them off for ore with Hors d’Ouevres. But while they’re still here before their canoe goes there in search of ore using an oar we will hear what questions they have about their quest.

We know they have no sense of how many cents this quest costs though surely they could scent this information out. I mean what does it cost to buy this trip and say Bye? Or, in fact, to oar their way to the ore which is to be found there for their benefit.

One may suspect that if we turn thee dummies loose they will lose their way so we must weigh the odds of this event occurring. And while they use their wiles to get there perhaps they can call on some dairy farmers to cull their whey there. We do know there is no assurance, as we threw them out there to use their oar to get the ore, they might not get through since they will not be on a thruway.

We ought also to assess whether the weather is safe to convey them on a journey in the aughts when Mel Ott is long passed and now in the past so their task will not be successful but rather will come to naught. I do not know if any knots will be untangled.

It is easily evident that we should never hire these language miscreants  for higher forms of employment in our hierarchy. Not even if they abandon the stream for higher ground.

While I prefer to have my prose soar, and I read many pros whom I emulate, I get sore when I read the abuses of language. Collectively I believe our sensitivity to this abuse manifests in less than an hour and as we are grown we are apt to groan when reading.

Yet, though we ourselves reign as superior wordsmiths as these homophones rain down upon us we must rein in our tendency to gloat.

Avoiding violence is our goal so may we never raise a shoe to shoo these writers away even as we ourselves eschew the same mistakes.

Naturally as we pen our paean to our own abilities it would be unwise to wield the peen of a hammer against whom we rail. For if we do we may be signaling our own death rale and our shame for doing so will be real as we cannot reel that back in.

I hope this is a whale of a tale for you as I wail about language abuse as I desire to spank the tail of all who offend even if the corduroy wale of their pants stings my hand.

What is plainly true is that in days of yore you’re less likely to find examples to offend your love of language.

I am just glad I avoid the pain of putting my hand through a pane of glass so I can watch where I threw the treats for my forest friends of whom I am fond and quietly sigh, deer dear me.

THE DEATH PENALTY IS A BLACK AND WHITE ISSUE

piano

Just like on a piano where the black keys are in the minority, so, too, in American life our black citizens are in the minority.

And just like on a piano where it is difficult, if not impossible, to play a full and satisfying musical piece in full harmony without the black keys so, too, in American life we cannot have true harmony without our black citizens.

Few pianists, except as a stunt, ever try to play the piano without fully integrating the black keys. In American life, however, far too many of our “white keys” have total disdain for the black ones and feel they can get along perfectly well without them. Not only that but they also feel they have to abuse the black keys which, in effect, create a maelstrom of irrational and totally harmful human behavior in contrast to the discordant and irritating note emanating from the misplayed piano.

Nowhere is this as destructive, offensive, and horrifying as in the American system of (In)Justice, particularly in the application of the death penalty.

Now my position on that abhorrence is that capital punishment is so wrong in and of itself no matter whom is subjected to it that even some aggravating factors are not absolutely necessary to the conversation.

But, were there even to be a persuasive rationale to utilize that method of punishment at all, certainly there are cases in which racial prejudice plays such an undeniable role that, no matter how heinous the crime, sentencing the defendant to this fate is equally heinous as it results from racial hatred, not the evidence at hand.

After reading this article by Marc Bookman, a death penalty lawyer and head of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation in Philadelphia, I trust you will find it difficult to disagree with me.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/03/fults-death-penalty-racism?page=1

In That’s What that Nigger Deserved in Mother Jones Bookman puts the spotlight on Georgia and provides examples of where death sentences there seem to have been driven as much by racial bias as by the combination of aggravating and mitigating factors that are mandated by states to be weighed by jurors to arrive at a sentence in a murder case.

In 1997 Kenneth Fults was sentenced to death for murdering his neighbor, Cathy Bounds, in Spalding County, Georgia. In April 2005

one of the trial jurors made a startling admission under oath: He’d voted for the death penalty, he said, because “that’s what that nigger deserved”.

Spalding County is a small County south of Atlanta with but a single Public Defender. For Fults that defender was one Johnny Mostiler, a flamboyant though apparently very capable personage of an attorney. But in a rural southern area a black man on trial for his life might desire his defense counsel were other than someone who drew this recollection from a fellow attorney.

I recall one occasion when I was in the lawyer’s lounge at the Spalding County Courthouse. There were a number of other lawyers there including Mr. Mostiler. Mr. Mostiler began telling racist jokes filled with racial epithets like “nigger.” Some of the lawyers would laugh. Some would laugh nervously. Some would try to ignore it. And others would leave the room to get away from it. On another occasion, I remember walking into the lawyer’s lounge and Mr. Mostiler was again telling racist jokes. Ms. Nancy Bradford, who is now deceased, looked at me, noticed that it was making me uncomfortable, and told me “that’s just Johnny.”

Ain’t that just dandy! Facing a biased juror (or jurors) with your equally biased defense lawyer. Should we ask how quickly can you kiss your ass goodbye?

Not only did Mostiler appear to be racially biased but, as in many small counties, the relationship between the prosecutor, the defense bar, and the Bench can be nigh on incestuous, as Bookman relates.

But the writer gives ample evidence of how race has infused death penalty cases and how the judiciary has pretty much ignored that fact when it comes to appeals. But in addition to the racial aspects not gaining the necessary consideration in appeals Bookman further remarks

The prevailing narrative about legal technicalities, thanks to Hollywood portrayals and posturing politicians, is that they open jailhouse doors—which is one reason crime sometimes seems to be on the rise when in fact it is plummeting. In reality, though, legal technicalities are far more often used to preclude people from having their postconviction claims heard. The Fults opinion, written by the outspoken Judge Jordan, is a virtual primer on how the law has evolved to block, rather than illuminate, allegations of injustice.

Time for Fults is running out. (let me emphasize that the controversy is over his sentence, not his guilt) The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied his plea though he does have a remaining shot at the Supreme Court. But its sympathies in this are have been spectacularly callous in the past do an ominous precedent has been set. Too, Fults presents as possibly mentally retarded but Georgia has indicated its refusal to recognize such personal infirmities as a reason to not execute just this past January when Warren Hill was killed.

So Fults, like Hill, faces the double whammy of black and mental deficiency whereas one makes him more vulnerable to a death sentence in the first place but, despite prior court rulings, the infirmity does not insulate him from that sentence being carried out.

If you’re looking for more another reason to end capital punishment, it is all there in black and white.

COURTROOM JUNGLE

FORD JUNGLE

In the 1955 movie Blackboard Jungle actor Glenn Ford had to face a classroom full of juvenile delinquents played by such as Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow, and Jamie Farr, 20 and nearly 30-somethings playing teenagers.

In 1984 in State of Louisiana vs Glenn Ford a non-actor Glenn Ford played a real life role as a defendant charged with a murder he did not commit.

In 2014, after serving thirty years n the infamous Angola State Prison on Death Row after conviction for the crime he did not commit, Ford was released after evidence came to light about the actual perpetrators of that murder.

You can read more about him and the context of that story here, and realize that eating a doughnut and opening a car door represent huge triumphs for a man wronged by the American (In)Justice System.

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/03/glenn-fords-first-days-of-freedom-after-30-years-on-death-row/284396/

In the aftermath of Ford’s release now comes this extraordinary apology of the lead prosecutor in that case, A.M. “Marty” Stroud, III which, if nothing more, would itself be an eloquent message as to why the death penalty is so wrong. though Stroud himself has followed up his apology with a clear appeal to end the barbaric death penalty.

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/longform/opinion/readers/2015/03/20/lead-prosecutor-offers-apology-in-the-case-of-exonerated-death-row-inmate-glenn-ford/25049063/

Unlike the vast majority of public figures who issue namby-pamby apologies because someone “may have been offended”…clearly meant as a “fuck you” instead, Stroud minces no words in what should be the model of such self remonstrations.

I apologize to Glenn Ford for all the misery I have caused him and his family.

I apologize to the family of [the victim, Isadore} Mr. Rozeman for giving them the false hope of some closure.

I apologize to the members of the jury for not having all of the story that should have been disclosed to them.

I apologize to the court in not having been more diligent in my duty to ensure that proper disclosures of any exculpatory evidence had been provided to the defense.

And this is how Stroud characterized himself and his mindset at the time of that 1984 trial.

In 1984, I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning. To borrow a phrase from Al Pacino in the movie “And Justice for All,” “Winning became everything.”

After the death verdict in the Ford trial, I went out with others and celebrated with a few rounds of drinks. That’s sick. I had been entrusted with the duty to seek the death of a fellow human being, a very solemn task that certainly did not warrant any “celebration.”

In my rebuttal argument during the penalty phase of the trial, I mocked Mr. Ford, stating that this man wanted to stay alive so he could be given the opportunity to prove his innocence. I continued by saying this should be an affront to each of you jurors, for he showed no remorse, only contempt for your verdict.

In his mea culpa Marty Stroud makes it exceedingly clear what elements went into this unwarranted conviction and death sentence, elements that can be to some degree found in nearly all the 150+ death row exonerations, each of which would itself serve as a convincing argument to end capital punishment.

There were lying or perjury committing witnesses.

There was racial bias (An all white jury faced by a black defendant, any potential black jurors eliminated by the prosecutor.)

There was junk forensic science that was almost laughable in retrospect. (Testimony that the shooter could only have been left-handed, as was Ford)

There was ineffective counsel, but at least here not due to lack of effort. But when your appointed counsel has never tried a criminal case, let alone a capital one, you may as welll do the proverbial “bend over and kiss your ass goodbye” ritual.

That even ONE defendant is sent to Death Row due to such incompetence is offensive to humanity, that it happens time and time again is thoroughly obscene.

Everyone knows life can be a jungle and unfair. Our courtrooms should be immune to that.

YOU JUST CAN’T NEGOTIATE WITH THEM THERE IRANIS—OR CAN YOU?

reagan and iran contra affair

In another forum several days ago I responded to another commenter’s claim that you just can’t negotiate with Iran because…you can’t negotiate with Iran. Not his precise words but essentially his reasoning was equally self-cancelling. My reply was just as brilliant in that I pointed out that…obviously…if you don’t negotiate with iran you can’t negotiate with Iran.

Of course that was in a “debate” about recent events with 47 Republican Senators embarrassing themselves with a letter to Iran’s leaders telling them that negotiating an end to their nuclear weapons program is futile because the next President will be a Republican who will bomb them back to the Stone Age anyways. Better surrender their yellow cake now and commit hari kiri.

Naturally the errant, arrant, and unrecalcitrantly tactless GOPers think of President Barack Obama as an incompetent boob and oppose every tack he takes as he tries to tack down his legacy with what would be a historic agreement stopping another nuclear weapon wanna be in its tracks.

But, then again, the GOPers on pretty much any topic think of Obama as an incompetent boob and score and scold every action or non-action as an unprecedented Presidential misstep, even if preceding Presidents set preceding precedents in proceeding as they did.

Now I see a problem with the right wing’s avowed American Idol, one Ronald W. Reagan. For it seems in their haste to waste Obama the Republicans cling to the waist of St. Ronnie as a toddler clings to her mother for protection against the actual dangers of the outside world as well as the imagined dangers of the monsters beneath her bed.

But Reagan is a convenient reference, though not deserving of the reverence accorded him by Republicans not the deference shown him by many Democrats. For you see Reagan had a philosophy, if you will, of “trust but verify” and that was in dealing with the Soviet Union that had thousands of nukes already pointed our way. Why cannot the principals negotiating with Iran (not including the Principality of Monaco) apply that same principle to any agreement reached?

What these Senate Republicans should have done to the lobbyists clamoring for them to derail these talks was to show them to the lobby and put them on a rail to be run out of town. Tar and feathers optional.

And though Reagan admonished to trust but verify, his administration early in his term neither was trustful or trustworthy nor would it verify, until pressure was exerted, that it was itself negotiating with the Iranis to supply missiles in a roundabout way so that money could be raised to assist the Contras in Nicaragua in another roundabout way such that the inevitable 11 car pileup became a highway gawker’s delight.

Oh, yeah, those same Iranis who only recently had held American hostages for 444 days and were now fighting a war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Saddam having arms supplied by…The United States?

Ain’t diplomacy grand?

CAN BROTHERS BE BROTHERS?

SAE

That would seem to be the attitude of the members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity (SAE) at the University of Oklahoma who recently became infamous for a little song they performed in a video that went viral.

There will never be a nigger at SAE,” the students sang to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” while dressed in formal attire and riding a bus. “You can hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me. There will never be a nigger at SAE.

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/03/10/several-sigma-alpha-epsilon-chapters-accused-racism-recent-years?utm_source=slate&utm_medium=referral&utm_term=partner

This article from Inside Higher Ed purports to tell the tale of that fraternity as historically racist. Thus the individual incident at Oklahoma should not be viewed as an outlier or as a very rare exceptional occurrence within that Greek organization’s culture.

It recounts other incidents (citing various sources) that can be traced to SAE chapters at the University of Cincinnati, Texas A&M, the University of Memphis, Oglethorpe University, Syracuse University, and Washington University in St. Louis.

These incidents included black face stunts, racial slurs targeting black athletes or other students, and parties perpetuating racial stereotypes such as welfare and absent fathers.

This article drew my attention for more than the obvious reasons and a much more personal one. The grandson of my best friend is a freshman here at WVU, a very nice and bright young man, and circumstances recently put us together for a period of several hours during which we discussed, among other topics, his rushing fraternities this semester.

He indicated that SAE was among the front runners of his possible choices. Since this was before the racial issues surfaced my advice to him was that he should choose the fraternity, if any, which seemed most compatible to his own standards. I added that he should run like hell from that fraternity should its members put him in any danger of physical harm during his pledge period (or whatever term may now be used).

After all, WVU is the school where a Kappa Sigma pledge was forced to—in effect—drink himself to death in the chapter house last fall during a Pledge-Active weekend. Criminal charges have been brought in that case, which has received national publicity.

His grandfather and I were pledge brothers together in 1966 and we never were faced with any such potential abuse or harm.

But now I wonder if, indeed, he did choose SAE and might have to deal with this pattern of racism depicted in the article.

After all, WVU does lie below the Mason-Dixon Line and during the 1960’s was a member of the Southern Conference. When I was in school we had one fraternity, Kappa Alpha Order which held an annual “Old South Weekend“, during which the brothers dressed as Confederate soldiers and their dates as Southern Belles.

Ah, yes, the pre-Civil War South with its slaves and faux aristocracy were so romantic.

At that time no fraternities on our campus were integrated racially. But there came a time when my fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, almost became the first to lead the way towards having black members.

Almost. Close but no cigar.

In 1968 one of our brothers had a friend who he knew from classes or his dorm…I can’t recall the exact connection…who was a young black man.Save for his skin color he was indistinguishable from our members and had the qualities we looked for in prospective members.

As background our chapter, though part of one of the strongest fraternities nationally, was very small. I doubt we ever had more than 35 active members at one time in our brief history (established 1949) and so we were among the youngest and smallest at WVU. There were several houses with membership exceeding 100. The system favored  the larger houses. In addition, our house’s location was on a street away from campus where four of the behemoth chapters surrounded us.

College students, regardless of IQ or grades or scholarships have a tendency to do stupid, immature things, especially fueled by alcohol. Thus our house, both the physical building and the collection of us brothers occasionally came under assault from our rivals. Broken windows were common and a stone with our Greek letters in our front yard…which we painted with our colors…was burned so often that one time we lit  it up ourselves after our latest decoration just to deprive the surrounding assholes from getting the satisfaction of doing it.

Against this backdrop after “Bruce” the potential black recruit had made his initial visit, we had our usual post-rush session to determine which candidates we wished to ask to return and probably extend a bid for membership to.

When Bruce’s name arose, what ensued was not fiery rhetoric for or against, but instead a truly mature discussion of the positives and negatives of having Bruce as a member.

On the positive were his intelligence and personality and campus involvement and social acumen and on the negative was absolutely nothing within the criteria we usually applied to such dealings.

That he was black was unassailable. Out of the roughly 25 active members participating there were a few who, honestly, wanted no part of a black member, no matter his qualifications. But they were a very distinct and very small minority faction.

The rest of us, to a man, agreed that he had all the qualities we normally looked for.But there was a definite divide as to whether, given our position within the WVU Greek hierarchy, we could take a chance on offering membership.

I believe this was an honest concern but I, among others, thought that we could ,overcome this potential problem (drawing even more enmity from the “good” brothers of other frats) and urged that we get him back and present a bid.

We needed a majority to proceed that way but the vote, though close, was negative.

Though my chapter has long since folded, I note that many Lambda Chi chapters across the country have minority members and several of the fraternities at WVU have at least outwardly ended any discrimination on the basis of race.

Whether the SAE as a whole has a history of racism, or whether that has been confined to a few errant chapters, or where the WVU chapter stands in such matters is not really relevant to my tale. I’m just trying to present an honest take about how one pretty small group of young men dealt with a difficult issue during the still turbulent but somewhat post Civil Rights Era sixties.

Our own regional diversity within our chapter showed our makeup was of a fair number of brothers from the Pittsburgh region, another segment from the Charleston area and more rural sections of West Virginia, and a smattering from Maryland, New York, Ohio, and Missouri, and Florida.

Although we did not pioneer, I am proud that the brothers who spoke that evening did so without using slurs and spoke their hearts, but not in a hateful way. That some were disappointingly wrong in their views I freely admit and make no excuses for them. If the majority had been for Bruce, I’d like to think he would have been accepted by all.

But who knows?

I do know the hateful singing of SAE at Oklahoma was wrong as wrong can be.

I can adapt their lyrics as follows

“There will never be an UMOC at SAE.”

GOP TO WORLD—-DIE!

keep-calm-and-die-die-my-darling-2

Well Republicans in the House of RepresentativesThe People’s House…have now unveiled their budget proposal.

Naturally it is a travesty. I’m not going to waste my time analyzing every tidbit but summaries indicate that three areas are addressed that bode dire consequences.

First, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is again on the table. There have been approximately as many attempts at repeal as there have been people who have gained insurance under the law, somewhere above ten million.

Second they seek to slash SNAP and Medicaid by turning the programs into block grants for the states who will have full control as to how those funds will be spent.

Third, in a strange way to actually balance the budget they want to increase defense spending!

That’s according to the summary of those proposals to be found here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/17/republican-budget_n_6885244.html

 

There is one thing each of these proposals have in common.

Death!

First of all in the short time the Affordable Care Act has been in effect there are numerous documented cases of lives saved of people with severe illnesses or injuries who, prior to the law, were unable to procure health insurance coverage.

There have been credible estimates that, absent the ACA, as many as 45,000 Americans died each year due to lack of health insurance. For a discussion of those estimates and the reasoning behind them see this:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2013/sep/06/alan-grayson-claims-45000-people-die-year-because-/

The basic argument is this. People without insurance often have no access to essential preventative health care and get no treatment for serious, potentially fatal illnesses until it is too late for treatment to save their lives.

I’ve used this high figure…or similar ones…previously in arguments in favor of the ACA. It is irrelevant whether it is 100% accurate or whether the number can be quantified.. Common sense tells us that people with no health insurance who are thus unable to access medical care have their physical health put at risk with ensuing death a definite possibility. And aren’t we told constantly by the right that all lives are precious?

So removing over ten million people from the rolls of the insured means more deaths.

Too, since the law prohibits insurers from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, people with life threatening illnesses can now be assured of being able to procure insurance.

SNAP and Medicaid both provide assistance to millions that can lead to improved lives or even, as above, saved lives. Medicaid beneficiaries due to no or low-paying jobs or disabilities have low incomes which do not allow for the purchase of insurance. But there are studies and real life experiences that show that under Medicaid they can obtain needed care which, while saving lives as having regular insurance does as described earlier, also frequently enables them to be healthy enough to work and to thus contribute to the economy and pay taxes.

SNAP helps families put food on the table. Despite unsupported allegations to the contrary SNAP recipients make healthier food decisions than do other people.

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/junk-food-stamps-snap

Yet these block grants mean fewer  citizens receive the assistance they need. States already set the criteria for Medicaid eligibility which means a wide swing between states of the maximum income a person can have. This is especially troubling for SNAP since we’re talking entire families including children being negatively affected.

While death may not be such a direct consequence of fundamental change in food programs as in health insurance coverage,  cutting those programs makes life more difficult so if you’re against life are you then favoring death?

Ah, defense spending. Easy to love if you think we should put boots on the ground for every imagined offense against American security/pride/attempt to control other lands; preceded of course by the requisite multiple bombing runs. And the more hardware the better lest the military contractor element of the military/industrial complex have fewer funds to pay their employees, er Congressmen.

Somehow the fact that escapes Congress is that we are not now engaged in any wars as the term is generally understood, thus justifying huge cuts in what we spend on our military, still the most in the world,

Naturally the higher the military budget the greater the odds of military adventures whether though conventional bombers, drones, shelling from our mighty navy, or from those boots on the ground, unfortunately those boots clinging tightly to the feet of real live human beings whose chances of remaining that way are sunstantially diminished.

And while I have been concerned with American lives to this point our military misadventures also inevitably lead to removing lives of the citizens of other nations the majority of whom, in fact, do not have “Jihadist” painted on their foreheads as perfect targets for American snipers.

Now, will this budget get passed? Not very damned likely in my opinion as it will soon appear obvious that the budget will in no way truly eliminate deficits.

After all it was modeled on Paul Ryan’s prior efforts with the same goal but the reasonable projection that deficits would extend to at least 2043 or so.

I suspect the new budget proposal will prove to have any impact on deficits for a similar time, and by then I’ll probably be dead and thus unable to say, “I told you so!”

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