Tag Archives: Slate

THE MAN WHO KNOWS TOO LITTLE

The Twit-in-Chief has struck again. His hail of lying, insulting, and threatening inanities gives one the impression he has a bump stock attached to his Notsoverysmart Phone.

This is one of his latest, hence the meme quoting Andy Borowitz;

With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!

This tweet is offensive on many levels. First of all, NBC itself is not licensed by the government. Only TV and radio stations using public airwaves are subject to federal law and regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). But his ignorance extends far beyond lack of knowledge about a major independent agency within the United States government.

There is also a little thing within the United States Constitution called the First Amendment which reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That great document also has this provision in Article II, Section 1 requiring that the President when assuming office, take this oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States

His threats on this and other issues are in direct violation of the oath he took January 20, 2017.

As Jordan Weissman explains here the threat against NBC is utterly empty so far as the power of the Twit or the govenment goes, but is still frightening nonetheless.

https://slate.com/business/2017/10/donald-trumps-threats-against-nbc-are-empty-yet-frightening.html

An element of the cause for alarm is that, given other statements in the past and ongoing wars with media and media/entertainment personalities, it is clear he BELIEVES he has this power. And when he fails to exercise it he will brag of course about how wonderful and considerate and sparing he is.

Which brings us to other examples of his ignorance. And the ignorance is palpable leaving one to speculate whether he really is that stupid or is being willfully so just to further whatever demented agenda he has. Here are a few:

Not knowing anything about the nation’s nuclear arsenal and why it is the size it is.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2017/10/now_we_know_why_rex_tillerson_called_donald_trump_a_moron.html

Inferring the rising stock market somehow ammeliorates part of the National Debt.

https://slate.com/business/2017/10/trump-says-the-rising-stock-market-is-erasing-the-national-debt-in-a-sense.html

His utter lies on the effects of the estate tax, declaring erroneously how it burdens small business owners and farmers

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/sep/28/donald-trump/donald-trumps-pants-fire-claim-about-estate-tax-sm/

That is just one of SEVENTY Pants on Fire ratings he has received from Politifact

http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/

And that was a lie he repeated just last night in Harrisburg:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/presidential/trump-harrisburg-pa-estate-tax-cuts-trucking-20171011.html

His Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson allegedly and probably and logically and accurately called him a “fucking moron”. The response was to challenge Tillerson to a test of IQ’s. Twit against Tillerson in an IQ contest is like me against an eagle in a flying contest.

I could cite so many more instances of this ignorance, this lack of knowledge about or even interest in the powers and mechanisms of our government and our laws, but I can’t write the equivalent of Moby Dick or War And Peace in this space.

There is a popular term millennials are now using to describe someone who is aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice) amd that term is woke, a brand new use of an extremely old word.

Would that Twit was woke.

In the meantime I wish I could be woke  from this nightmare.

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THE WHARTON FOLLIES

Wharton Follies is an annual Spring comedy show written, produced, and performed by Wharton MBA students. A certain graduate of Wharton…from its undergraduate school, not its MBA program…has brought this follies idea onto the national stage and it is a 24 hour a day 7 days a week production with only occasional unscheduled but very brief intermissions. It is, of course, headquartered at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washngton, D.C. which provides the primary stage but its road companies are legion and come in a variety of packages for your entertainment.

They may be presented as a political rally before a decidedly less than capacity Pennsylvania Farm Show Arena which somehow was “record attendance” or at Town Halls across the country where the legislative provocateurs who kowtow to that certain graduate have been drawing nearly uniformly panning reviews, to even the bushes at the White House where the chief spokesman for that certan graduate took to hiding from reporters seeking an explanation of that day’s performance.

Now, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania has a mostly deserved reputation for churning out top business leaders. But this certain graduate, one could conclude, is the exception that proves the rule. For his economic beliefs and ideas are decidely a bunch of hogwash. They defy facts, logic, and a rational thought process.

In his personal life he has demonstrated that a teeny tiny loan of just $1,000,000 from his father, and the use of that same father’s name and connections and  loan guarantees and the provision of other financing, as well as that certain graduate’s ultimate inheritance of possibly as much as $200 million from his by then dead father can be built into an empire worth much less than if it had been invested in an index fund and he could have avoided the ignonimy of six bankruptcies, a failed football franchise, a failed airline, a university that was both a fraud and a failure, and at least one year—1995—in which he lost over NINE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS from all his multiple enterprises.

Along the way he excoriates NAFTA and any notion of international trade that takes jobs away from the United States to foreign climes while simultaneously shipping production of his own line of clothing overseas and purchasing steel from China to build at least his Las Vegas hotel if not other of his edifices. (And his daughter is equally adept at these same business maneuvers.)

And the hell of it all is that his Follies play to an audience that gets no bang for their bucks.

Nevertheless he persists. In an interview with The Economist, partially recounted here

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/05/11/donald_trump_thinks_he_invented_the_phrase_priming_the_pump.html

that certain graduate inexplicably lays claim to coining the phrase “priming the pump” as a metaphor for cutting taxes to stimulate the economy.

Yes.
We have to prime the pump.

It’s very Keynesian.
We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. Have you heard that expression before, for this particular type of an event?

Priming the pump?
Yeah, have you heard it?

Yes.
Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.

The phrase itself dates to at least as early as 1840 in reference to pumping water from the ground but economist John Maynard Keynes used the term beginning almost a century ago when describing how government spending, in times of economic distress, could put money in people’s hands so that the economy would improve. Of course this certain graduate perverts the term in the sense that he speaks of tax cuts for the already rich, not the expansion of government spending that will “prime the pump”. So not only did he NOT coin the phrase, he does not even understand its meaning.
If you can stomach the entire desultory interview have at it.

http://www.economist.com/Trumptranscript

I note that, as usual, the certain graduate is either grossly misinformed or outright lying in his statements on a regular basis. I would have fact-checked but my time is limited. I’m preparing for my 100th birthday in thirty years and have not the time to spare.
However, some real facts about our trade with Mexico provide some enlightenment. There is no denying that we run a deficit in our trade with Mexico. For instance in 2016 that deficit was just over $63 Billion. We exported $231 Bn and imported $294 Bn worth of goods. But, predating NAFTA, in 1985 that deficit was $5.5 Bn but with a total of slightly less than $33 Bn in total trade between the two. In other words the total volume of trade between the U.S. and Mexico in 31 years increased 16 times while the deficit in trade increased only 12 times. Of course there are differences from year-to-year but the U.S. Census Bureau provides this handy chart to trace the history of such trade.
Trade with Canada in the same period has been more of a roller coaster ride. From a deficit of $21 Bn in 1985 to just over $11 Bn in 2016 seems like a huge improvement under NAFTA with a four-fold increase in volume but, beginning in 2000 through 2008 that deficit ranged from $48 Bn to $78 Bn. However, since 2009 it has never been more than roughly $36 Bn. Hmmm, what do those years coincide with?
With regards to Mexico, furthermore, experts like to point out a key fact: 40% of the parts in a typical Mexican product originate in the United States, according to the Commerce Department. And that’s a key reason why 6 million U.S. jobs depend on trade just with Mexico, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Can we thus assume that this certain graduate was not exposed to an examination of facts during his Wharton years that would have led him to contrary approaches to economics than he now espouses? Or can we thus assume this certain graduate is simply fact averse under any and all circumstances.
What is clear is that the value of a Wharton education is bigly lost on some of its graduates.
Sad.

MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN? THIS ELECTION SEASON I’D SETTLE FOR MEDIOCRITY.

drumpf

 

Earlier today I blew up on Facebook. I called friends who generally share my views stupid and those who don’t stupider. Much of my heartfelt enmity is the result of the rise of Drumpf.

Why do I refer to him as Drumpf? You can thank John Oliver for that.

Immediately after my viewing of this episode I downloaded the Chrome extension that converts Drumpf to Drumpf (I have found I can’t even type the actual name here without it undergoing the transformation) on stories in my browser. It is one small consolation to see this at work in the headlines and stories I see on Slate, Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, and elsewhere, even on sites that lean farther right.

I deplore the lowlghts from all the 2016 campaigns. Our Presidential  electoral process is in the gutter, dragged there by Drumpf who has been joyfully joined there by Marco Rubio  who questions the size of Drumpf’s penis; by Ted Cruz simply being Ted Cruz; by Jeb Bush forced to defend charges of being a mommy’s boy; by Ben Carson, who fell in while sleep walking; by John Kasich, who destroyed any possible claims of being a moderate by defunding Planned Parenthood; and by the millions of presumably sentient human beings who listen to all the crazy talk about immigrants and an out of control government who couldn’t pass a U.S. citizenship/civics test if it were an open book exam and the original Declaration of  Independence and Constitution were splayed in front of them.

Holding them hostage there are David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremicist groups armed to the teeth courtesy of the National Rifle Association, crazed Evangelicals who believe Drumpf somehow possesses better Christian bona fides than the Pope when The Donald is probably more likely to provide a quote from a Smokey Stover comic book than from II Corinthians when asked about his favorite Bible passage.

Let us not forget the Secret Srvice which somehow has improved its training to the point that a reporter who wanders 10 inches outside the designated journalist area at a Drumpf rally is strong armed when only a few months ago intruders inside the White House grounds stole President Obama‘s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe before being hustled to the requisite nearby mental hospital for observation.

Oh I’m not forgetting the Democrats. Their participation is in somewhat shallower waters near the curb cutouts that allow wheelchair crossing rather than in the middle of the block, but where the H2O is equally putrid. This time it is not so much the candidates themselves…Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton …hurling invectives at each other so much as it is the so-called BernieBros who have been accused of ugly misogynistic characterizations of the other camp while feminist icons Like Gloria Steinem, though using politer language, are equally sexist in how they portray young female Sanders enthusiasts.

And from these nominal Progressives come the enabling threats to withold their vote from the nominee should he or she not be the one they love to death at this moment. Enabling threats because by doing so they will practically guarantee that our next President will have a bulbous red nose, bizarre multi-colored makeup, a fright wig,  and will be making nonsense noises as he struts around the circus ring. Of course all but Drumpf will need to be fitted for this outfit.

Accompanying this flotsam down the gutter where it will eventually empty into the stream that will make the water supply of Flint, Michigan seem utterly pristine by comparison are various pundits, analysts, economic gurus, and the like offering opinions that may be parsley, rosemary, or thyme, but most certainly not sage.

Perhaps the only good that is coming from this is Spotlight. No, not the latest Oscar winning film but the harsh relentless glare focused on the entire Presidential nominating process that places premiums on a candidacy that begins within weeks after the prior election and is fueled by endless speculation, pollmongering profiteers, the need to fill cable TV news with anything but substance, and the proliferation of web sites whose sole purpose is to promulgate lies, denigrate anyone with opinions different from theirs, and disregard anything remotely likely to benefit the America they all profess to love but which they incessantly subject to virtual domestic violence while declaring their fealty between bruising blows.

Super Tuesday is an agglomeration of primaries in states and American Samoa which would be significant just for the sheer numbers of opportunities for voters to express their choices were it not for the media telling us that the issues have been decided by the primaries/caucuses already consigned to history in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina and whch have a combined poulation dwarfed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania whose own 2016 primary is not until April 26, a date by which the names of many former candidates will be not even a memory and which may represent only the merest possibility of ultimate success to the horses (asses) still in the race.

All this makes the Swiftboating of John Kerry in 2004 look more like the highest level of forensic debate by comparison.

Oh, hell. I’ll admit it. I, too have awkwardly stepped off the curb and fallen into the slime. But the murky waters are deep and I really can’t swim so I am about to drown in this torrent I am now a part of.

In splashing around for survival I might occasionally send splurges of nastiness into the open mouths of others, but they were there first voluntarily.

THE ISIS WARS—MEDIA EDITION

isis

With apologies to Oscar Hammerstein, “How do you solve a problem like ISIS?”

That is not an easy question to answer. A popular suggestion is akin to the militant cry often expressed in identical or similar terms, “Bomb ’em back to the Stone Age!” The difficulty with that position vis a vis ISIS is that there is a salient argument that the organization has never really left the Stone Age.

But strategic and tactical and practical solutions cannot exist without an understanding of what…precisely…ISIS is. (And please do not invoke the common pro athlete’s cop out, “It ISIS what it is”)

I’m not really sure I trust the government…ours or any other nation’s…to determine and act on this forthrightly. To do so would be to delve into self-interest, self-righteousness, and self-delusion.

On the other hand we have many honest, hard-working journalists with apparently vast amounts of time on their hands. If they did not we would not have witnessed a plethora and effusion of stories about Brian Williams’s war lies, and now Bill O’Reilly’s emulation of Williams which, curiously, took place much more than a decade prior to the foggy mind of war Williams experienced in Iraq.

Just today I have read a friend’s praise for a well-researched essay in The Atlantic by Graeme Wood which, beneath the story’s title, What  ISIS Really Wants, summarizes Wood’s findings as “The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/?fb_ref=Default

That immediately called to mind a headline I had read on Salon titled “The Atlantic’s Big Muslim Lie: What Muslims Really Believe About ISIS”. Obviously a negative critique of Wood’s work, it was written by American Muslim scholar and frequent contributor to many media outlets, Haroon Moghul. (For more background on him visit this: http://www.loonwatch.com/2012/12/exclusive-loonwatch-interview-with-haroon-moghul/)

Moghul attacks Wood for his over-reliance on learning what ISIS is  from ISIS members and supporters themselves.

Imagine a group of people who rape.  Enslave.  Maim.  Murder.  Ethnically cleanse.  Extort.  Burn.  Behead.  But then imagine this—they don’t lie?  Can’t lie.  Won’t lie. That’s what Graeme Wood…really wants us to believe.

That a movement that has earned the world’s nearly universal opprobrium for its grotesque violence and wickedness is nevertheless honest in describing why it does what it does.  I beg to differ.  The only Muslims who think ISIS represents Islam, or even Muslims, are ISIS themselves.

http://www.salon.com/2015/02/19/the_atlantics_big_islam_lie_what_muslims_really_believe_about_isis/

But is Moghul’s piece in any way definitive?

Well, the common response to perceived Islamaphobia is to deny that it is a hateful violent religion but is at heart a peaceful one, and that the Jihadists are outliers.

Then along comes President Barack Obama, at the National Prayer Breakfast, making note of the overall peacefulness of Islam, with very notable exceptions. In that manner Obama likened it to Christianity while highlighting that faith’s iown violent past both distant—the Crusades and the Inquisition—and more recently in America supporting slavery, Jim Crow laws and the Ku Klux Klan. All that in stressing that his approach to ISIS, among other issues, is that we are fighting extremists and their religious background is of relative unimportance.

“But not so fast there, Mr. President”, Jeffrey Tayler seems to be saying in his criticism of Obama’s speech, very different from the other criticism Obama generated.

The chief impetus for all this bloodshed and mayhem is, obviously, religion – the commonality Obama conveniently skirted. Had religion not existed, had it waned by our time, all this violence would just not have happened. If some of these people would have found other reasons to fight, the religious aspect of the conflicts renders them intractable, even insoluble.

and adds later regarding Christianity

Straightaway, remember that both the Old Testament and the New sanction and even sanctify slavery, as well as proffer helpful advice to slave masters. The Catholic Church embarked on the Holy Inquisition not to do inexplicable violence “in the name of Christ,” but to rid its “flock” of unclean “sheep” – most notably “secret Muslims” and Jews, heretics and witches.

http://www.salon.com/2015/02/15/faith_fueled_forces_of_hatred_obamas_religion_speech_was_troubling_but_not_for_

And, of course, for the “lighter side” of attacks on Islam as a religion per se, we always have Bill Maher.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/09/bill-maher-doubles-down-on-islam-terrorists-and-the-mainstream-share-a-lot-of-these-bad-ideas.html

Are any of these opinions 100% correct? Is there any sense attempting to make religious sense of ISIS?

Maybe yes, maybe no.

This piece appeared in Slate recently

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/02/20/might_isis_collapse_before_america_can_destroy_it.html?wpsrc=fol_fb

Here Joshua Keating posits that the funding mechanisms for ISIS have been interrupted severely enough that it may possibly collapse or implode of its own accord before the United States or any other power can dispose of it through force.

I posted that story on Facebook together with my own brief commentary.

ISIS is not another terrorist group a la Al Qaeda. It is not really a terrorist group at all but instead a form of rebel army with territorial aspirations seeking to establish its status as a true Caliphate. It mirrors the regular tactics of war while occasionally committing horrific acts of intimidation akin to the terrorism we know and hate. You know, like the KKK and Timothy McVeigh.
But that also makes it more vulnerable to traditional military opposition than have been Al Qaeda and other known terrorist organizations. If indeed its funding mechanisms have been interrupted, perhaps irreparably so, then the utterly misguided idealists flocking to join the “cause” from many corners of the Earth are going to be rapidly disillusioned when they learn they have left the comforts of home for near starvation and only a hole in the desert, not a pot, to piss in.

I’ll reconsider my remarks to this extent. I am not in total agreement with any of the assessments above regarding Islam as irredeemably violent or simply a peaceful ideology perverted beyond reason.

Rather I would offer this.

There are evil people in this world, some of whom only demonstrate those tendencies in a small way…one-on-one murders, spousal abuse, and certain professional sports come instantly to mind. Each of them has a distorted rationale as justification for their actions.

But those with more grandiose ambitions of achieving glory through mass annihilation or war often are not creative enough to develop these more mundane rationales and so revert to the teachings that were inherent in their upbringing or were fervently adopted at more mature stages of their lives, and those teachings are religious in nature.

Yet, in the end, evil is evil and ultimately is due to greed. Whether that greed manifests as financial, territorial, sexual, or religious is irrelevant as to determining motivation. It is relevant as to determining counter-measures.

In applying these counter-measures we must caution ourselves not to become who we deem evil. That has frequently not been too easy for us to accomplish.

t

THE COMEDIANS

comedians

Jamelle Bouie is a young writer for Slate. He covers policy, politics, and race. I have read many very interesting stories from his pen and our opinions are compatible more often than not.  I have quoted from his pieces and posted them on Facebook.

But I find myself at odds with him here. And it’s on a relatively simple matter. He believes Jon Stewart of The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Stewart has announced he is stepping down from his perch as host of the hit satirical cable program later this year.The liberal world that pays attention to such matters is in mourning. He has been our “spokesman” for over a decade and a half as he has torn down the facade so often erected by the right of political positions and absurdist societal ideals that are based on superstition, distortions and outright lies.

But he has not been hesitant to bring to our attention the sometimes hilarious, and, at times, equally ugly and disturbing faux pas of actual liberals and even of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, true liberals only in the worst nightmares of of those who oppose their every action or word.

But the primary function of Stewart is to make his audience laugh. And his audience mostly skews liberal. It may be the only two conservative viewers he has are Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, both digging for ammunition to maintain ongoing feuds, just as Stewart himself mines their programs for his own material, taking extra delight in tossing barbs their way.

And when Stewart is sometimes attacked for his mainly liberal take on things and notation is made of his show’s influence and higher credibility ratings than either most mainstream or conservative media, he is wont to protest that he is “merely a comedian”.

Bouie dissents.

More often however, Stewart’s stance is frustrating. His protests to the contrary, Stewart is a pundit, and like many pundits, he’s wed to a kind of anti-politics, where genuine difference doesn’t exist (or isn’t as relevant as we think) and political problem-solving is mostly a matter of will, knowledge, and technocratic know-how.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/02/jon_stewart_stepping_down_from_the_daily_show_he_was_bad_for_liberals.html

I like this writer but have to disagree with him here. But our differences may stem more from our age disparity and the perspectives our own life experiences represent. He graduated from college in 2008, I in 1969.

Perhaps his relative youth lends him more optimism that true engagement on the issues is possible. I, on the other hand, have been witness to the deterioration of the relationship between our two major national “sides”— conservative and liberal.

I have vivid memories of my (thankfully brief) embrace of Barry Goldwater in 1964 and voting for Richard Nixon in 1968 upon my first eligibility. And though today I would not support either of these legendary Republicans based on their platforms and accomplishments in their time, today I’m not sure many conservatives would either, were they to look more closely at what they, especially, Nixon did. And that is utterly apart from Watergate which really cannot eradicate his diplomatic overtures to China or establishment of the now frenetically hated Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or (GASP!) …as modern conservatives disparage the minimum wage itself…Nixon’s proposal of a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) in 1969.

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=2194

Bouie sees Stewart as feeding into uncompromising dysfunction of the contemporary political dialogue (more accurately simultaneous monologues) and the seeming inability of Congress to pass anything other than the 3462nd attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and sponsoring bills to eliminate even more long-standing laws.

I see Stewart as providing a necessary counterpoint to…in  my own views… a far conservative right wing wanting to dismantle the great progressive improvements to America since…let’s say…the New Deal. And he makes me laugh, though much of that laughter is as attributable to his “correspondents” as it is to him.

And I need laughter. As much as I may be the beneficiary of confirmation and validation of my own opinions I am the receptor of material that tickles my funny bone. Comfort food, if you will.

In this very piece whether you agree with my views, individual or as a whole, that I express here, is irrelevant. I know some of you do not see things as I do. But this is about Stewart and what place he merits in our psyche.

As much as I admire Jon Stewart and would love to have a conversation with him over a few beers, in the end, though, whether you deem Stewart a comic or an acutely perceptive political pundit cum humor, he is simply one of the Comedians and I am not referring to characters in the Graham Greene novel of the same name.

Then again, it could be the Lords of FOX who take him much too seriously nail it, which would..I believe..make them the Tontons Macoutes 

FOLLOW THE LEADER

badge

This is part of a continuing theme of expressing concern and occasionally contempt for policing methods, attitudes, and actions that seem to be consistent across the board in instances of possible misconduct, even criminal misconduct, on the part of law enforcement agencies across the United States. There are many examples easily recalled such as the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner but also derived from tales of SWAT raids, traffic stops, and other varieties of police/civilian interactions.

The focus here is not on whether there is a racial element at the heart of many of these cases but rather reflects upon the role that police leadership plays where such misconduct occurs.

It has become trite to state that police officers on nearly every level and in most departments often face danger to themselves or share that danger with civilians who may be under an attack of some nature. I knew and was friends with a W.Va. State Trooper who was killed in the line of duty and I have sadly witnessed the aftermath of murdered officers in my adopted hometown of Morgantown, my original hometown of Washington, Pa., and my favorite big city (where I have family) of Pittsburgh when three city cops were victims of a cold-blooded killer who lured them with the very specific intent of committing lethal mayhem.

But, in Pittsburgh and all across the country, I have learned of actions that are offensive to my sense of justice where citizens have been needlessly and wantonly killed, or innocent people have been convicted of crimes as serious as murder, or ordinary citizens are constantly harassed for even the most minor violation…or perhaps none at all…in the name of “safe streets” or other ultimately meaningless slogans.

It is also trite to say that within any law enforcement agency there may be some bad eggs…the inevitable result of our very human nature.

Yet I have a theory  that out of control policing is a direct result of leadership at the top that lets officers know, directly or tacitly, that all but the most egregious conduct will be tolerated, all in the name of law and order.

On the other hand, I don’t believe most cops set out deliberately to be the most vicious examples of serving and protecting.

This article from Slate provides some evidence of the validity of my theory. It concerns William Bratton the former and current head of the New York Police Department (NYPD) and in the intervening years of his dual New York tenures the chief of the Los Angeles Police.

In “They Couldn’t Breathe, Either” Jason Peters highlights the consistencies of Bratton’s service wherever. The good—reductions in crime; the bad—-high levels of misconduct complaints; the ugly—death by choking of suspected offenders.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2015/01/_i_can_t_breathe_eric_garner_wasn_t_the_only_victim_of_excessive_force_by.single.html

Each time Bratton has been selected to lead these big city departments he has expressed to the officers under his command that he has their backs and carries that pledge through many incidents.

One way to garner the support of your underlings is to shield them from external criticism. And Bratton has a record of resisting transparency in his police departments. Overzealous civilian oversight or the threat of being held accountable for their actions causes cops to be tentative, which makes them less effective at maintaining order. Throughout his managerial career, Bratton has consistently advocated for policies that give police officers latitude to enforce the law free from outside scrutiny and discipline.

Now Peters is not an unrelenting critic of Bratton. He offers high praise in some areas.

… the one thing that Bratton’s supporters and detractors agree on is that he is a fantastic manager and communicator, someone who cuts through bureaucracy and inspires loyalty in his officers.

I would question that shielding police officers from outside scrutiny and discipline is necessarily a good thing. Remember that all police departments are subject to civilian control and they exist to serve the public, not as a vehicle for individual or a collective of officers to enforce the law according to their personal whims.

Surely there are police departments in this land in which it is made clear that enforcing the law is the utmost priority but, under our Constitutional form of government and the precepts of human decency there is a right way and a wrong way to proceed with that enforcement. And…with proper training…cops will be as prepared as possible to deal with the nebulous situations where the right way is not crystal clear but exigencies require split second decisions.

The better training is (and part of that is the selection of the highest possibly quality of candidates for training) the greater likelihood that the correct decision will be made in these split second situations.

Part of the training also need be that officers inclined to and committing misconduct are in violation of the ideals of law enforcement and that misconduct will not be tolerated.

Too often cops stand together even when blatant misconduct or outright corrupt criminality is present because they are “brothers in uniform”.

It may be painful to call out a brother for his  misbehavior but in a good family the parents have demonstrated that doing so is the ideal.

In a police department the chief is, in effect, in loco parentis.

It

OKLAHOMA IS NOT OK

I began this late last night, but still had re-writing to do and went to bed. After catching up on everything else here on the inter web thingie, I was prepared to return, finish and polish and publish it. I have no need to do so now. Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick has said everything I planned on saying, said it quite well, and possibly said it better than I could have.

The facts behind the botched Oklahoma execution two nights ago she recounts are by themselves sufficient to demonstrate that the sole purpose of the death penalty is vengeance. The actions of the Oklahoma legislature and governor are contrary to every principle of the separation of powers to be found in the U.S. Constitution as well as in each state’s governing laws.

It should not be a matter of pride that Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared that the executions of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner were to proceed despite the Oklahoma  Supreme Court issuing a stay. It should not be a matter of pride that Mike Christian, a member of the state House of Representatives, began drafting a bill to impeach the Supreme Court justices who had voted for the stay.

No matter which political party these folks belong to (Republican in both cases) voters should be appalled at this extreme overstepping of both authority and common sense. But while this is a blatant example of violating a constitutional precept (state rather than federal) the usual suspects from the right who will claim nearly any action by President Obama is unconstitutional instead are outraged for other reasons.

Eric Ericson of FOX NEWS wrote about remembering the victim, 19 year old Stephanie Nieman, who was buried alive. That is fine. In every death penalty case there are one or more victims who suffered needlessly. But that basic fact does not mean that we, as a civilized nation (allegedly so, anyways) should wreak justice by revenge. It also does not mean that any reason, vengeance or otherwise, used as a rationale for capital punishment, justifies in turn torturing a murderer while in the process of taking his life.   http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/04/30/botched-oklahoma-execution-did-anyone-remember-clayton-lockett-victim/

Let us allow Ms Lithwick to take it from here.

To be crystal clear: A state Supreme Court, in an effort to promote the value of justice and acting in its capacity as an independent, fact-finding, deliberative body, ordered that an execution be postponed in order to ensure that nothing like what actually happened would happen. And then a state governor, in an effort to protect the values of speed, secrecy, and vengeance, called the court’s jurisdiction into question, and a state legislator, in order to promote the value of retribution against unpopular legal decisions, initiated impeachment proceedings. According to the National Center for State Courts this is the fourth time in four years that state high court judges have been threatened with impeachment over their judicial decisions. 

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2014/04/clayton_lockett_s_botched_execution_the_grim_but_predictable_result_of_oklahoma.single.html

She has much more to say and her entire opinion piece is worth reading.

But the situation in Oklahoma—and wherever the death penalty is used—reminds me of what was a popular dig at bossy playmates when I was a child. “Hey, who died and made you god?” we would declare in objection.

“Vengeance is mine”, sayeth the Lord is found in several different versions in the Bible.

So I ask of Governor Fallin and Rep. Christian (an appropriately ironic name, don’t you think), and even the state of Oklahoma for having the death penalty at all,  “Who died and made you god?”

 

TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OUT OF NONSENSE

Okay, I’ll narrow the field for you since there is so much nonsense afoot at any particular time.

We have learned that the IRS targeted right wing groups regarding their tax-exempt status or efforts to secure that status. I’ve already addressed this issue and I can safely maintain that I’m agin’ it! https://umoc193.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/no-country-for-old-tax-exempts/

We have also learned that the Department of Justice obtained at least two months of phone records of Associated Press (AP) journalists in an attempt to determine the source of leaks in conjunction with anti-terrorist activities.

There is no doubt these actions by our government are extremely troubling and the Obama Administration is deservedly taking heat.

Piggy-backing on top of the renewed Benghazi investigation Republicans in Congress are undoubtedly feeling their oats. Especially joyful at these revelations are those on the right who are constantly preaching of the evils of the federal government and warning of complete government suppression.

Infortuitously for Obama and his minions, it will be easy to exploit these missteps to make political hay that even, conceivably, could carry over into the 2016 Presidential campaign.

However much one is offended by these actions, and I am sorely offended, I really cannot say that they signal a seachange in government misdeeds that threaten our very Republic.

Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid offered his two cents that the IRS focus on Tea Party groups is no different than when the agency picked on Greenpeace and the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California during the Cheney…er…Bush Administration without a peep of protest from Republicans. http://www.salon.com/2013/05/14/reid_republicans_hypocritical_for_benghazi_irs_outrage/

In the former instance Greenpeace was subject to an extensive IRS audit due to allegations its advocacy passed lines of permissibility for a tax-exempt. It seems that a supposed watchdog group, heavily financed by Exxon, instigated this audit. Exxon, of course, is the natural enemy of Greenpeace. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0322-10.htm

The Church got into trouble when its former Rector, Rev. George F. Regas, gave a guest sermon chastising Bush for the Iraq war. http://articles.latimes.com/2005/nov/07/local/me-allsaints7

Neither did spying on journalists originate with the Obama DOJ.

But obtaining phone records of journalists is an extreme course of action that has serious ramifications. There are special rules in place in the United States that authorities are supposed to adhere to when obtaining journalists’ communication records, and they’re intended to protect press freedom and stop prosecutors from compromising journalists’ constitutionally protected newsgathering role. Federal regulations instruct investigators that they can obtain journalists’ phone records only as a last resort, and the decision to seek the records should receive the “express authorization of the Attorney General.” The authorization should be given on the basis that “effective law enforcement and the fair administration of justice” is deemed, in the specific circumstances, to outweigh “the public’s interest in the free dissemination of ideas and information.”

In recent years, however, the FBI has flagrantly disregarded these rules on multiple occasions. A scathing 2010 review by the DoJ’s inspector general criticized how the feds had spied on Washington Post and New York Times reporters in a leaks investigation carried out in 2004. The feds obtained 22 months of reporters’ phone records “without any legal process or Attorney General approval,” the inspector found, which illustrated “the absence of internal controls” and was judged to be “negligent in various respects.” The same report detailed two other cases of the FBI obtaining reporters’ phone records without following the proper procedures. One of these cases was described as “deficient and troubling” and the other a “clear abuse of authority” that violated the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, federal regulation, and DoJ policy.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/05/14/ap_reporters_allegedly_spied_on_by_the_justice_department_aren_t_alone.html

Also in the past American journalists have allowed themselves to be used by the CIA for intelligence gathering, i.e. spying, mostly furing the Cold War. Carl Bernstein gave a lengthy review of this practice in this essay. http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php

So the great concept of Freedom of the Press has often been compromised in the past and, on occasion, it is the Press doing the dirty deeds.

Our level of disgust when we are informed of these abuses usually depends on whose ox is getting gored. That is, if the party in power is one you are antipathetic towards, your umbrage will reach record highs.

It often develops that the offenses are dreamed up at the lower levels of bureaucracy, whether out of a misgiuded sense of loyalty to the administration then in power or from an inner need to feel self-important by wielding power not actually granted to you.

But these offenses and abuses are most egregious when they are the product of the high political appointees to office who are most likely striving to consolidate and enhance their designated powers.

However outraged we are over the AP spying, we seem to be less so when faced with the erosion of 1st and 4th Amendment rights when it comes to fighting terrorism. In Salon, Natasha Leonard enumerates the steps taken, laws enacted, etc, that seem to have us going quickly down the slippery slope. Again, though not new with Obama or even George W. Bush, since 9/11 the government has sought and been granted greater access to our personal lives, all in the name of “anti-terrorism.” http://www.salon.com/2013/05/14/whats_so_special_about_journalists/

Reg Henry of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opines that these current scandals are simply more of Obama’s opponents crying wolf. http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/reg-henry/obamas-opponents-do-a-lot-of-crying-wolf-687665/

I take a more wait and see attitude before judging the impact of these matters. I’ve already clearly stated that the IRS actions merit full investigation.

I do have a suspicion that there will be no sustained effect on the Obama Presidency. I’ve had my own bones to pick with him but to date these latest “sins” don’t appear to be anywhere near as serious as what I’ve been railing about.

In the end, history will tell us which it is. We do not, however, need to wait thirty years or so in order for that history to be written. These scandals often have a way of working themselves out so that in a few years down the road we will need stark reminders to recall they ever occurred.

MY OUTRAGE ABOUT BOSTON

I am outraged that anyone, for any reason, would place bombs near the finish line of The Boston Marathon!

I am outraged that these bombs were planted with the obvious intent to kill and maim human beings, no matter the reason behind it!

I am outraged that it took thousands of law enforcement officers from numerous jurisdictions about twenty-four hours to finally capture the second suspect after he and his brother allegedly added an MIT campus officer to the carnage as the suspects still presented danger to the public!

I am outraged that thousands upon thousands of Massachusetts residents were effectively prevented from working, playing, learning, worshiping, or otherwise going about their daily lives as this drama unfolded before them!

I am outraged at the person or persons who commited this atrocious act whether it was the two brothers named as suspects or different people, or people in addition to the two brothers!

I am now outraged that The Justice Department has questioned or plans to question Dzhokhar Tsarnaev without reading him his Miranda Rights!

You, know, the statement presented to criminal suspects informing them that they have a right to be represented by an attorney during questioning because whatever they say may be introduced into evidence against them in court.

The DOJ is invoking the ‘public safety exception” to the Miranda Rule. That is:

The police can interrogate a suspect without offering him the benefit of Miranda if he could have information that’s of urgent concern for public safety.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2013/04/dzhokhar_tsarnaev_and_miranda_rights_the_public_safety_exception_and_terrorism.html

So explains Emily Bazelon in her column in Slate.com in which she presents the history of this “public safety exception”. It was established by a Supreme Court ruling in New York v Quarles, (1984) where the interrogation of an arrestee without Miranda Rights was permitted. There the suspect was known to have had a gun but when arrested he had an empty holster, so the possibility existed that harm could come from the gun unless information was obtained immediately.

Then some cases involving alleged terrorists came to light where this public safety exception was invoked. The interrogation of Zacarias Moussaoui was bungled, he being the possible 20th 9/11 killer. He was arrested before 9/11.  FBI agent Coleen Rowley requested guidance as to when the exception applied.

Then Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas day bomber, and Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, (neither of whom was successful of course) who were first questioned under the exception and then Mirandized. The former quit talking but the latter continued.

After these incidents  Attorney General Eric Holder suggested a law defining the exception be passed but this went nowhere. The DOJ subsequently produced a memo to the FBI (Note to self…when DOJ writes a memo concerning our rights, run for the fucking exits!) that stated:

Agents should ask any and all questions that are reasonably prompted by an immediate concern for the safety of the public or the arresting agents,

and then expanded upon that:

…there may be exceptional cases in which, although all relevant public safety questions have been asked, agents nonetheless conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat, and that the government’s interest in obtaining this intelligence outweighs the disadvantages of proceeding with unwarned interrogation.

The old adage “the exception proves the rule” is both correct and adequate to confirm that the aberrant behavior itself demonstrates that there is a rule to which an exception is being made.

I fear that is one of the instances in which it appears the “exception BECOMES the rule”. Thus it is no longer an exception.

After all, there is no clear standard to determine when the government’s interest outweighs other considerations. Under the memo the DOJ and FBI, no one else, gets to decide.

Bazelon concludes her piece with this.

Whatever the FBI learns will be secret: We won’t know how far the interrogation went. And besides, no one is crying over the rights of the young man who is accused of killing innocent people, helping his brother set off bombs that were loaded to maim, and terrorizing Boston Thursday night and Friday. But the next time you read about an abusive interrogation, or a wrongful conviction that resulted from a false confession, think about why we have Miranda in the first place. It’s to stop law enforcement authorities from committing abuses. Because when they can make their own rules, sometime, somewhere, they inevitably will.

Ironically this all occurs against the backdrop of the failure of the Senate to pass a bill requiring background checks for gun purchases. Many Senators made their case for rejection claiming the law would be a violation of the 2nd Amendment.

Senator Lindsey Graham said, “I’ve always been confident if the Senate debated the Second Amendment, the Second Amendment would win.”

But this is what he said about Boston, “The last thing we may want to do is read Boston suspect Miranda Rights telling him to ‘remain silent” Of course Miranda Rights stem from the 5th Amendment.

Two facts stand out about Graham’s equivocation on Constitutional rights. He gets money from gun lobbyists but there are no equivalent 5th Amednments rights groups handing out cash. The Senate vote took place Wednesday. Tuesday night Graham was named Legislator of the Year by a gun rights group.

Why am I…and why should you be…outraged about this?

Because, when the law gets bent out of shape for one person, it’s easier to bend out of shape for the rest of us.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.