Posted: January 16, 2013 Filed under: 2014 elections, American Gun Fetish, Congress, Domestic Policy, Gun Control, morning reads, open thread, Political Affective Disorder, Politics as Usual, Psychopaths in charge, the GOP, U.S. Politics | Tags: Democrats, NRA, Senate
Another day under the belt for 2013, and it seems like things are never going to change.
I caught a quick interview on CNN Tuesday, Dana Bash was interviewing some Congressman…I don’t remember who…but he was a Republican from Colorado. She asked him point-blank if he was going to do anything in his power to stop Obama from passing new gun control laws. Of course, he hedged and then said the usual.
(I just updated this post, I found the segment I was watching on CNN: CNN: Not Enough Support For New Gun Laws In Democratic-Controlled Senate
It was Cory Gardner, the GOP Rep from Colorado that Dana Bash was interviewing.)
At the same time this CNN interview was going on, I was engaged in a heated conversation with my husband over the government control of bullets. He was against it, flatly. His loyalty to the GOP is really something to see. After everything he has been through and all the personal miseries we have endured because of the Republicans’ ridiculous positions on everything that would help us, he still will agree with them.
Why be against controls on ammunition? If we must show our drivers license, have it recorded in a database to keep track of our purchases and even place our signature…swearing we are who we are….just to buy the over-the-counter cold medicine Sudafed, why not make folks do the same for bullets?
Well, the response I got was typical. It would be inconvenient, take too long, etc. WTF?
After that comment, and listening to some asshole from a state who has had more than their share of mass shootings give Dana Bash the typical GOP answer to any reasonable question about changing gun laws that do not follow the powerful gun lobby’s agenda, I lost it. I turned the TV off and have not looked at any of news since.
The reason I am going on about this is simple, PAD…political affective disorder strikes again.
So, if these links are repeats, I apologize.
Nothing ever changes.
NRA airs new TV ad criticizing Obama on eve of White House gun announcement
Rand Paul: Obama acting ‘like a king’ on guns, vows to fight executive actions
Edwin Meese: Obama Can Be Impeached Over Guns
Rep. Steve Stockman threatens to impeach Obama over guns
Little-known laws shed light on NRA influence
Want more crazy?
Louisiana Governor’s New Plan Would Raise Taxes On Bottom 80 Percent Of Residents
This man helped save six children, is now getting harassed for it
Former Aide: Michele Bachmann Had “Unnatural Relationship” With Debate Coach
I’ve got a headache, and two sick kids to deal with…this is an open thread.
Posted: June 11, 2011 Filed under: Democratic Politics, Surreality, The DNC, U.S. Politics | Tags: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrats, Facebook, internet, politics, rehab, Rep. Anthony Weiner, sex scandals, sexual addiction, Twitter
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY)
The New York Times is reporting that Rep. Anthony Weiner is going to go into rehab for his alleged Twitter/Facebook/texting compulsion.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Weiner said he would request a leave of absence from the House and seek treatment, but provided no further details.
“Congressman Weiner departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,” said the spokeswoman, Risa Heller. “In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well.
“Congressman Weiner takes the views of his colleagues very seriously and has determined that he needs this time to get healthy and make the best decision possible for himself, his family and his constituents.”
I’m sure Weiner could use some therapy, but I still don’t get why he is being singled out for this kind of public outrage when David Vitter wasn’t. As far as we know Weiner didn’t act out any of his fantasies with these women. I would think that hiring prostitutes to spank you when you’re wearing diapers would elicit more calls for “treatment” than Twitter and Facebook flirtations. But what do I know? Maybe a lot of Congressman like to wear diapers and have sex with prostitutes.
Apparently, the final straw for Democrats was the revelation that Weiner tweeted a 17-year-old Delaware girl, even though the girl’s mother said Weiner had not said anything inappropriate in these Twitter messages.
Delaware police said Friday they were investigating the reported communications, had interviewed the teen, and that “she has made no disclosure of criminal activity nor inappropriate contact by the Congressman.”
Neverthless Weiner’s colleagues in Congress are horrified and outraged. Here is what DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz had to say:
“It is with great disappointment that I call on Representative Anthony Weiner to resign,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement issued by the Democratic National Committee, which she has led since the beginning of May. She’s President Barack Obama’s representative as DNC chairwoman.
“The behavior he has exhibited is indefensible and Representative Weiner’s continued service in Congress is untenable.
“This sordid affair has become an unacceptable distraction for Representative Weiner, his family, his constituents and the House – and for the good of all, he should step aside and address those things that should be most important: his and his family’s well-being.”
According to Fox News, the police in Delaware are still investigating. The girls parents have turned her laptop over for inspection, but their attorney says there’s nothing to find.
“The Tweets in question between the student in question and the congressman were not salacious or in any manner inappropriate, said Daniel McElhatton, the attorney representing the girl’s family. “No photographs were ever sent to her or from her.”
Weiner spokeswoman Risa Heller also said that Weiner’s interactions with the girl “were neither explicit nor indecent.”
The police are trying to verify that, McElhatton said.
Fox News claims to have been told by “sources” that much of the interchange between the girl and Weiner had been deleted from her computer. Fox is obviously hoping the police can find something salacious on the girl’s hard drive. I sure hope Weiner didn’t send anything sexual or suggestive to her.
The girl’s high school posted on her now defunct Tumblr blog a quote that appears to be from her direct messages with Weiner.
“I came back strong. Large. In charge. Tights and cape s—… My favorite congressman,” she wrote, adding a heart emoticon after “congressman.”
Seven days earlier, she posted a YouTube video of Weiner giving a speech and wrote, “My true love.”
Poor kid. It’s a shame she had to get dragged into this.
As an antidote to having to watch politicians call for their smelling salts and fainting couches, I recommend this story from NPR’s Weekend Edition: Zombies Walk the Halls of Congress.
NPR can now confirm that there are zombies in the U.S. Capitol.
OK, not the kind that pop out of graves and eat brains, but a different kind of undead — the undead political career. This week New York Rep. Anthony Weiner said he is staying put, even though some top Democrats have publicly called for him to resign.
He’s not the first one to stay in politics after serious ethics violations, trying to revive a seemingly lifeless career.
In this contrived scenario, there are three categories of Congressional Zombies:
— those who survived a scandal to live again,
— those who are wounded by scandal but stay in Congress (the real zombies),
— and those who hung on for a while but eventually got buried.
According to NPR, both Charlie Rangel and David Vitter are real zombies.
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who was a client of a Washington prostitution ring. He was never charged because the news came out after the statute of limitations had expired. Two of Vitter’s calls to the madam were made during votes on the floor.
He apologized in 2007 — “I want to again offer my deep sincere apologies to all those who I’ve let down and disappointed with these actions from my past” — and neatly won a second term in the Senate.
Good grief! Vitter called the DC Madam from the Senate floor? Did he get a sudden urge for punishment? Please explain to me why he didn’t need to enter a treatment facility after his colleagues learned about his illegal behavior?
I’m pretty disgusted by Weiner’s behavior at this point, but I still wish I never had had to find out about it. I still don’t see any reason why it needed to be revealed either. Sure the guy acted like a silly adolescent, but how many of us would look dignified if our sexual fantasies were spread all over the internet and the media? I think this kind of scandal-mongering has gone way too far, and I’d like to see a lot more approbation about Andrew Breitbart’s repulsive behavior. I’d also like to see similar outrage against Congresspeople who take money from lobbyists and vote accordingly.
This scandal appears to be setting a whole new precedent for the kinds of activities that can get a politician in trouble. As far as we know, Weiner’s activities were all in cyberspace. Now if it turns out he behaved inappropriately with an underage girl, I’ll have to revise my opinion.
Posted: May 18, 2011 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, SDB Evening News Reads, Syria, We are so F'd | Tags: Democrats, ER closures, GOP, Newt Gingrich, Obamabots, Ted Rall
Good Evening, hope everyone has had a good Wednesday. Here are your news updates for this late afternoon. A quick round-up of a few things that caught my eye…
Finally, the White House has taken action on the terrifying state of affairs in Syria. US to freeze assets of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and senior officials | World news | guardian.co.uk
Bashar al-Assad is to have his personal assets in the US frozen as part of sanctions against his regime. Photograph: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters
The US is to impose sanctions on the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for human rights abuses in an escalation of international pressure on his regime.
The penalties announced by the US treasury mark the first time that Assad has been targeted personally by the international community for his government’s crackdown on protesters.
The move freezes any assets of Assad and six senior Syrian officials that are in the United States or otherwise fall within US jurisdiction, and generally bars US citizens and companies from dealing with them.
“The actions the administration has taken today send an unequivocal message to President Assad, the Syrian leadership, and regime insiders that they will be held accountable for the ongoing violence and repression in Syria,” said David S Cohen, the acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
What took them so long? (I felt the same way about Libya as well…it took long enough to get involved.)
This next link made me cringe…but then I caught myself and realized my frustration is pointless. We’re all f’d anyway…
ThinkProgress » EXCLUSIVE: Eric Cantor Promises Oil Speculators That Republicans Will Block Financial Regulations
Yesterday morning, House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) visited the Chicago headquarters of the CME Group, “the world’s largest owner and operator” of private exchanges for derivatives products. CME Group specializes in a number of markets, including trading futures contracts for various blends of crude oil and food commodities. Cantor met with executives, and at one point, gave brief remarks before CME Group employees and various commodity speculators.
Cantor told the audience of speculators that his Republican caucus would “do our part” to block the implementation of financial reforms passed last year as part of the sweeping Dodd-Frank law. He even called out the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the regulators in charge of overseeing derivatives and energy speculation, and promised to stop regulations from going online:
Click that link to ThinkProgress if you want to read and watch the video of Cantor’s speech. I don’t know if it is my incredibly stuffed up allergy head, but damn I just don’t understand why there aren’t massive riots in the streets.
If there were riots, with the cuts that have been imposed on many hospitals, the emergency rooms you once could count on…aren’t necessarily there. Emergency departments are closing their doors: Why? – HealthPop – CBS News
A new study shows that from 1990 to 2009, the number of emergency rooms in the U.S. plummeted from 2,446 to 1,779 – a 27-percent decline. That number includes only ERs in non-rural areas, since rural ERs typically receive federal funding that keeps them open.
What’s killing off America’s emergency rooms? Tight money and a changing marketplace.
For-profit hospitals that aren’t making enough cash and serve patients below the poverty line – with less generous forms of insurance like Medicaid – were the ones most likely to shut their doors, the study showed.
But the poor aren’t the only ones at risk. When emergency rooms close, experts say, it’s a problem for everyone.
Oh…okay. Let’s get vocal about these particular cuts because the poor aren’t the only ones at risk. If you want to read the report about this in JAMA, click here
Mike Luckovich on Newt Gingrich
Well this next link is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, that Gingrich is again walking back to appease the extreme right-wing sect that is the GOP. Two, that Gingrich actually thinks he can say, don’t use my own words against me in this political climate. Hell, if the Dems don’t use the gifts that Newt bestows on them…then there is something wrong in swampland.
Schumer: You’re damn right we’ll use Gingrich’s criticism of Ryan against the GOP – The Plum Line – The Washington Post
On a conference call just now, Dem messaging chief Chuck Schumer vowed that Dems would aggressively highlight Gingrich’s attacks on the Ryan proposal — and the subsequent backlash it provoked from Republicans — to paint the GOP as hostage to extremists and ideologically hell bent on ending Medicare.
“Newt and I are considered political opposites, but I couldn’t agree more with what he said Sunday about the plan to end Medicare,” Schumer said. “He acknowledged that it is right wing social engineering.”
“It was refreshing to hear such candor from a top Republican,” Schumer continued. “Gingrich was saying what everyone knows to be true: The plan is extreme.”
Schumer added that the fact that Republicans turned so aggressively on Gingrich proves that they have become far more extreme than they were in Gingrich’s heyday — and vowed that Dems would continue pounding away at this theme.
Schumer called Newt a “Republican canary in a coal mine.” Further saying that when a “canary speaks truth, he is snuffed out.” Well, that goes for the left Democrat canaries as well. Just ask Cornel West.
The next opinion piece is from Politico: Opinion: Cancer cuts save money, cost lives – Nancy G. Brinker –
For the past two decades, since the launch of the National Breast and Cervical Early Detection Program, a federal/state partnership to provide screening for working-class, poor and minority women who are uninsured or lack adequate insurance, we have made a real impact on detecting cancers early — which means increasing survival rates. Unfortunately, much of that progress is now at risk.
The struggling economy has created two unfortunate trends that directly affect the women we fight for every day. First, because of high unemployment, many women are now without insurance and must rely on government programs for cancer screenings and other care.
Second, large budget deficits are forcing state and federal policymakers to cut numerous programs — reducing access to critical services when they are needed most.
And third (my addition to this opinion link) the outright attack against women by the PLUBs and Religious Right, Brinker didn’t mention that one.
She goes on to say that many states are cutting funding for screening services offered to women. Her response:
While we may not be in a position to add funds to this vital program, at the very least we must protect and maintain our current commitment. How can we possibly ask the women in our lives to accept anything less?
Accept anything less? WTF…get a bit more pissed off already. Why take this crap with an attitude of “we aren’t in a position to demand it,” I think it is this mindset that is making all these laws against women’s health and women’s rights even more maddening to me. If I could get out and physically organize a group of women to stand up and fight for themselves I would. I would pluck these oppressed women from the population and set them up on the steps of the Capitol and make the assholes who are waging this war against women realize we aren’t going to take it. But when the head of organizations like Susan G. Komen are this cowardly, what the hell kind of message does that send to all those women that are willing to take this protest to the next level.
Suzie Madrak has a quick post that you should check out here: Suburban Guerrilla » Blog Archive » Glenzilla
As many of you know, Sky Dancing is not one to blow off any criticism of Obama just because he is who he is. So with that in mind this next link bothered me. White House shuts out Herald scribe – BostonHerald.com
The White House Press Office has refused to give the Boston Herald full access to President Obama’s Boston fund-raiser today, in e-mails objecting to the newspaper’s front page placement of a Mitt Romney op-ed, saying pool reporters are chosen based on whether they cover the news “fairly.”
“I tend to consider the degree to which papers have demonstrated to covering the White House regularly and fairly in determining local pool reporters,” White House spokesman Matt Lehrich wrote in response to a Herald request for full access to the presidential visit.
“My point about the op-ed was not that you ran it but that it was the full front page, which excluded any coverage of the visit of a sitting US President to Boston. I think that raises a fair question about whether the paper is unbiased in its coverage of the President’s visits,” Lehrich wrote.
You know, the actions of this administration are really disgusting. And I know that this issue is lighting up the right-wing blogs, but dammit. You can’t ridicule Newt for asking not to quote his statements, and then keep the press that is critical of you out of the press pool.
Which leads me to my last link. A big H/T to pdgrey for this link in the comments section of today’s morning reads. It is written by Ted Rall, and I think it is marvelous. Mr. Rall states that he was optimistic when Obama took office, being a liberal cartoonist, he figured he would be able to get a regular gig, like he had before 9/11. However, as he puts it:
I didn’t count on the cult of personality around Barack Obama.
If I could reprint the entire article I would. Just go and read the whole thing…go on, do it!
RISE OF THE OBAMABOTS – Yahoo! News
Rall is my new hero! And if I could say one thing to him, it would be this phrase, said with a large dose of approval…Que cojones!
Posted: April 10, 2011 Filed under: Crime, Media, New Orleans, POTUS, Psychopaths in charge, U.S. Politics | Tags: broken government, crime, Death Penalty Information Center, death row, Democrats, executive, Harry Connick Sr., John Thompson, judicial, legislative, murder, New Orleans, racial inequality, Republicans, Supreme Court, The Innocence Project, U.S. Politics
Over the past 2-1/2 years, we’ve seen how broken the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government are. We have a president who refused to stand up to the minority party while his party had historic majorities in both houses of Congress. Thanks to this president’s weak-kneed fealty to “bi-partisanship” and his predictable willingness to cave to the Republicans on just about any issue, he no longer has a supermajority in Congress.
Blue Texan at FDL makes a very good case for why Obama and the Democrats lost in 2010.
Democrats lost because they lost independents by 15 points, and independents don’t care what liberals think.
So why did Democrats lose independents?
Because the economy hadn’t improved enough because the stimulus bill was inadequate. It didn’t help matters that the Affordable Care Act was stripped of its most popular feature [a public option] or that HAMP was a total failure or that the Democrats punted on immigration and host of other progressive goals — but it was mostly about the economy.
The lesson, then, is…that Democrats need to deliver — especially when they promised CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN — and when they don’t, they lose elections.
For the past few weeks, we’ve seen the House Republicans and the White House bicker over cutting the budget when what we really need to do is raise taxes on the richest Americans. If Obama had any guts at all, he would have refused to extend the Bush tax cuts period. But, because he’s a lily livered wimp, he caved.
Today, Nicholas Kristof said the Congresspeople are acting like junior high school children.
It’s unclear where the adults are, but they don’t seem to be in Washington. Beyond the malice of the threat to shut down the federal government, averted only at the last minute on Friday night, it’s painful how vapid the discourse is and how incompetent and cowardly our leaders have proved to be.
Kristof doesn’t specifically chide Obama, but come on. If he weren’t so focused on getting “bipartisan support” for every initiative, he could have accomplished much more and gotten more respect from the Republicans at the same time. He was and is still simply too inexperienced to do the job of POTUS.
Tonight I want to put the spotlight on the third branch of government. Our judicial system is broken too. We have an epidemic of wrongful convictions in our justice system, and we have an ultra-right wing majority in the Supreme Court that refuses to do anything about it.
As of February 4, 2011, 250 wrongly convicted people had been exonerated by DNA testing, according to The Innocence Project,
There have been 268 post-conviction DNA exonerations in United States history. These stories are becoming more familiar as more innocent people gain their freedom through postconviction testing. They are not proof, however, that our system is righting itself.
The common themes that run through these cases — from global problems like poverty and racial issues to criminal justice issues like eyewitness misidentification, invalid or improper forensic science, overzealous police and prosecutors and inept defense counsel — cannot be ignored and continue to plague our criminal justice system.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, more than 130 people have been released from death row because they were exonerated based on evidence that proved they were innocent. The chart below shows those exonerations state by state. The chart comes from a fact sheet (PDF) produced by the Death Penalty Information Center.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that about 70% of the people who have been exonerated are members of minority groups–mostly African Americans. One of the most frequent causes of false convictions is prosecutorial misconduct. For more information on this problem, see this report (PDF) by the Innocence Project. In late March, the Supreme Court basically gave carte blanche to dishonest prosecutors by deciding that a wrongfully convicted man who had spent 14 years on death row has no right to sue for damages. From the LA Times:
A bitterly divided Supreme Court on Tuesday tossed out a jury verdict won by a New Orleans man who spent 14 years on death row and came within weeks of execution because prosecutors had hidden a blood test and other evidence that would have proven his innocence.
The 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas shielded the New Orleans district attorney’s office from being held liable for the mistakes of its prosecutors. The evidence of their misconduct did not prove “deliberate indifference” on the part of then-Dist. Atty. Harry Connick Sr., Thomas said.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg emphasized her disapproval by reading her dissent in the courtroom, saying the court was shielding a city and its prosecutors from “flagrant” misconduct that nearly cost an innocent man his life.
“John Thompson spent 14 years isolated on death row before the truth came to light,” she said. He was innocent of the crimes that sent him to prison and prosecutors had “dishonored” their obligation to present the true facts to the jury, she said.
Besides Justice Ginsburg, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan also dissented from the majority opinion.
The Supreme Court has consistently shielded prosecutors from accountability for misconduct in the past, but Thompson had sued the New Orleans District Attorney’s office, claiming the office had demonstrated a “pattern of wrongdoing” and had failed to ensure that its attorneys obeyed the law. Now the Supremes have eliminated another check against willful misconduct by prosecutors.
Here from NPR is a brief summary of the case against Thompson:
In December of 1984, Raymond Liuzza Jr., the son of a prominent New Orleans business executive, was shot to death in front of his home. Police, acting on a tip, picked up two men, Kevin Freeman and John Thompson.
Thompson denied knowing anything about the shooting, but Freeman, in exchange for a one-year prison sentence, agreed to testify that he saw Thompson commit the crime.
Prosecutors wanted to seek the death penalty, but Thompson had no record of violent felonies. Then, a citizen saw his photo in the newspaper and implicated him in an attempted carjacking — and prosecutors saw a way to solve their problem. John Hollway, who wrote a book about the case, said the solution was to try the carjacking case first.
A conviction in the carjacking case would yield additional benefits in the subsequent murder trial, Hollway observes. It would discredit Thompson if he took the stand in his own defense at the murder trial, so he didn’t. And the carjacking would be used against him during the punishment phase of the murder trial.
It all worked like a charm. Thompson was convicted of both crimes and sentenced to death for murder.
Harry Connick, Sr.
Ten years later, after Thompson’s appeals were exhausted and he was days from be executed, an investigator for his attorneys found that the blood of the perpetrator had been left at the scene of the murder. The lab report showed that Thompson had a different blood type than the person who committed the crime. The DA had deliberately concealed this information from the defense.
At a new trial, more exculpatory evidence that had been suppressed by the DA was presented–10 pieces of evidence in all–and the jury acquitted Thompson in half-an-hour. Thompson then sued and won a $14 million judgment against Connick and the NOLA DA’s office. But, now the right wingers on the Court have nullified that judgement.
On March 31, the editors of The New York Times wrote that a lack of empathy led to this injustice.
The important thing about empathy that gets overlooked is that it bolsters legal analysis. That is clear in the dissent by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her empathy for Mr. Thompson as a defendant without means or power is affecting. But it is her understanding of the prosecutors’ brazen ambition to win the case, at all costs, that is key.
After detailing the “flagrant indifference” of the prosecutors to Mr. Thompson’s rights, she makes clear how critically they needed training in their duty to turn over evidence and why “the failure to train amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights” of defendants.
The district attorney, Harry Connick Sr., acknowledged the need for this training but said he had long since “stopped reading law books” so he didn’t understand the duty he was supposed to impart. The result, Justice Ginsburg writes, was an office with “one of the worst” records in America for failing to turn over evidence that “never disciplined or fired a single prosecutor” for a violation.
One thing about conservatives, they rarely show any empathy or compassion for anyone who isn’t just like them.
Today John Thompson himself contributed an op-ed to the NYT. Please read the whole thing, but here is just a bit.
I SPENT 18 years in prison for robbery and murder, 14 of them on death row. I’ve been free since 2003, exonerated after evidence covered up by prosecutors surfaced just weeks before my execution date. Those prosecutors were never punished. Last month, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 to overturn a case I’d won against them and the district attorney who oversaw my case, ruling that they were not liable for the failure to turn over that evidence — which included proof that blood at the robbery scene wasn’t mine.
Because of that, prosecutors are free to do the same thing to someone else today.
The prosecutors involved in my two cases, from the office of the Orleans Parish district attorney, Harry Connick Sr., helped to cover up 10 separate pieces of evidence. And most of them are still able to practice law today.
Why weren’t they punished for what they did? When the hidden evidence first surfaced, Mr. Connick announced that his office would hold a grand jury investigation. But once it became clear how many people had been involved, he called it off.
According to NPR, former DA Harry Connick Sr. “feels vindicated” by the SCOTUS decision.
“I think that he committed … a murder, and I think that obviously we thought we had enough evidence to gain a conviction,” he says. “So I was delighted that the Supreme Court ruled in our favor.”
Never mind the ten pieces of exculpatory evidence that his prosecutor covered up in order to convict Thompson. And, by the way, the prosecutor confessed what he had done to a friend, so it was no accident. Relatives of the murdered man, Ray Liuzza, still believe Thompson is guilty. Liuzza’s sister
Maurine Liuzza said she has reviewed all of the evidence in the case and still believes that Thompson is guilty.
“Just because you are found not guilty does not make you innocent,” she said.
It’s time for radical change in all three branches of our broken government.