St.Gertrude herself and cats Zarathustra and David Bowie captured in stained glass
It’s been a long time since I posted Fat Cat Art by Svetlana Petrova & Zarathustra the Cat / FatCatArt.com. Dakinikat posted a comment on Thursday about St. Gertrude, the patron saint of cats, whose feast day is the same as St. Patrick’s day. I was looking for paintings of her when I came across this one at the Fat Cat Art site. The other images in this post are also by Petrova and her late beloved ginger cat Zarathustra.
The Ukraine war rages on, as Putin continues to commit ghastly war crimes by attacking civilians. Reading about what’s happening, let alone watching the images on TV is horrifying. It’s a terribly helpless feeling, and there’s a temptation to want the U.S. to get more actively involved, but that is simply impossible.
Last night on MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell gave a powerful explanation of what the U.S. trying to enforce a no fly zone over Ukraine would mean. You can watch it on The Last Word website. It lasts about 7 minutes. Basically, O’Donnell said that the very idea is a fantasy and that a no fly zone has never been enforced against a nuclear power. It would mean U.S. and Russian pilots being shot down and killed and would also involve U.S. planes flying over Russian territory. I recommend watching it if you didn’t see it last night.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiysays the time has come for peace talks, warning that it will otherwise take generations for Russia to recover from losses suffered during the war. He released a video address saying Ukraine wanted meaningful and honest negotiations with Moscow on peace and security without delay, Reuters reported. “The time has come for a meeting – it is time to talk.” Zelenskiy said Russian forces were deliberately blocking humanitarian supplies to cities under attack.
Russia says it has used a hypersonic weapon for the first time, to destroy an underground military depot in western Ukraine. Hypersonic missiles are fast weapons that can evade detection by missile defence systems. The defence ministry said it had destroyed a large underground depot for missiles and aircraft ammunition in the Ivano-Frankivsk region.
Ukraine’s interior minster told Associated Press it would take years to find and defuse all of the unexploded ordnance from the country. Denys Monastyrsky said: “A huge number of shells and mines have been fired at Ukraine and a large part haven’t exploded. They remain under the rubble and pose a real threat. It will take years, not months, to defuse them.”
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, praised Fox News for its coverage of the war in Ukraine during an in-studio interview with the Russian state-controlled RT network. “We know the manners and the tricks that are being used by the western countries to manipulate media … If you take the United States, only Fox News is trying to present some alternative point of view,” he said.
Click the link for more updates.
Boris Kustodiev. Merchant’s Wife at Cat’s Tea
In other news, Republicans are of course trying to smear Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson and it is sickening.
Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post: Opinion: How low will the GOP go in taking on Ketanji Brown Jackson? Josh Hawley lets us know.
“I’ve noticed an alarming pattern when it comes to Judge Jackson’s treatment of sex offenders, especially those preying on children,” Hawley tweeted. “I’m concerned that this [is] a record that endangers our children.” [….]
In the cherry-picked, context-free Hawley-verse, Jackson has been lying in wait to foist this child-endangerment scheme on the country since her law school days. Count one is her writing as a student editor on the Harvard Law Review, about sex-offender registries, DNA databanks and civil-commitment laws that states were busy enacting.
In her article, Jackson grappled with the tension between constitutional limits on permissible punishment and the community’s need for self-protection. Given conservatives’ focus on analyzing the text of a law rather than divining lawmakers’ intent, you might have thought that Hawley would cheer Jackson’s argument that in assessing the constitutionality of sex offender laws, “courts have relied too heavily on the legislatures’ intent.” But no.
Instead, Hawley wrenches a few lines out of context. “As far back as her time in law school, Judge Jackson has questioned making convicts register as sex offenders — saying it leads to ‘stigmatization and ostracism.’ ”
Hello, Senator? That is in a section headlined “The Critics” that outlines the views of the statute’s opponents. Hawley might just have easily quoted from the previous section — “commitment legislation literally immobilizes dangerous sexual deviants and, thus, presumably promotes both immediate and long-term public safety.”
And that’s just from Jackson’s law school days. Hawley also attacks Jackson for supporting a review of minimum sentencing guidelines for child porn along with every other member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Finally he criticizes her work as a judge:
Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, true version, aka The Furry Night
The final count against Jackson involves how she, in Hawley’s assessment, “put her troubling views into action. In every single child porn case for which we can find records, Judge Jackson deviated from the federal sentencing guidelines in favor of child porn offenders.”
Sounds terrible, right? Except because the guidelines are so outdated and therefore unfair, that’s what judges do in almost every case — 70 percent, according to the latest statistics.
According to data compiled by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, judges imposed below-guidelines sentences in nearly 80 percoent of child pornography cases in the District of Columbia, where Jackson was a trial court judge before being elevated to the appeals court. In Missouri, Hawley’s home state, judges imposed sentences below the guidelines in more than 77 percent of cases.
Following Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-MO) Twitter rant yesterday against Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a segment on OAN took his unfounded and misleading attacks against her record in a more deranged direction. The host and her guest falsely accused Jackson of being “kind” to pedophiles, echoing the long-running QAnon conspiracy theory accusing liberal elites of engaging in pedophilia.
During the March 17 segment on OAN’s Tipping Point, host Kara McKinney outlined the conspiratorial accusations against Jackson before RedState editor Brandon Morse immediately dove into QAnon-like commentary about what he described as “the pedophilia problem that is currently happening in the left”
Here’s what Morse had to say:
Andrew Wyeth, The Cat in Christina’s World
Morse claimed that the “corporate media” is ignoring this issue because of self-interest:
They have been doing their absolute best to try to eliminate any substantial talk about the pedophilia problem that is currently in the left and especially the radical left. They have been trying to make this almost a normal thing for some time. And if they come down hard on it, then it’ll reinforce the idea to society that pedophilia is a bad thing. And it is a very bad thing. It should be come down on hard. But they’re not.
And I’m afraid that the reason that they’re not doing this is because there’s probably more pedophiles, or at least people who are friendly to pedophiles out there, than we might think in positions of power, especially on the left. You know, you had a ton of people suddenly go into hiding or shut up, you know, once Jeffrey Epstein was back in the spotlight for this. And it’s scary to think that you have a lot of these leftists, these Democrats, politicians, activists, media figures who have been caught, or who have been trying to ease the pain of any of these pedophiles who are to be — who should be suffering for their crimes. You see this a lot, lately.
And it’s scary to think that this new judge that’s come up here is one of these people who is going to be very kind to them.
It sounds like the upcoming hearings on Jackson’s nomination are going to be an embarrassing clown show.
South Carolina has given the greenlight to firing-squad executions, a method codified into state law last year after a decade-long pause in carrying out death sentences because of the state’s inability to procure lethal injection drugs.
The state Corrections Department said Friday that renovations have been completed on the death chamber in Columbia and that the agency had notified Attorney General Alan Wilson that it was able to carry out a firing-squad execution.
Lawmakers set about tweaking state law to get around the lethal injection drug situation. Legislation that went into effect in May made the electric chair the state’s primary means of execution while giving inmates the option of choosing death by firing squad or lethal injection, if those methods are available.
During South Carolina’s lengthy debate, Democratic state Sen. Dick Harpootlian — a prosecutor-turned-criminal-defense lawyer — introduced the firing squad option. He argued that it presented “the least painful” execution method available.
Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer with the Cat
“The death penalty is going to stay the law here for a while,” Harpootlian said. “If we’re going to have it, it ought to be humane.”
According to officials, the death chamber now also includes a metal chair, with restraints, in the corner of the room in which inmates will sit if they choose execution by firing squad. That chair faces a wall with a rectangular opening, 15 feet away, through which the three shooters will fire their weapons.
State officials also have created protocols for carrying out the executions. The three shooters, all volunteers who are employees of the Corrections Department, will have rifles loaded with live ammunition, with their weapons trained on the inmate’s heart.
A hood will be placed over the head of the inmate, who will be given the opportunity to make a last statement.
The House is set to hit the snooze button on the Senate’s plan to permanently change the nation’s clocks.
“It could be weeks — or it could be months” before House Democratic leaders decide whether to tee up a vote on eliminating the biannual clock changes that have governed daily life in most states for decades, said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D.-N.J.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee that oversees time change policies. While the Sunshine Protection Act, which unanimously passed the Senate on Tuesday, would nationally shift clocks an hour later to maximize daylight, some doctors have argued that adopting permanent standard time would be a healthier option and better align with humans’ natural rhythms.
Pallone, who held a hearing last week on daylight saving time, said he shares the Senate’s goal to end the “spring forward” and “fall back” clock changes linked to more strokes, heart attacks and car accidents. But he wants to collect more information, asking for a long-delayed federal analysis on how time changes might affect productivity, traffic and energy costs, among other issues.
Pablo Picasso, Woman with a Fan and a Cat, having fun
“There isn’t a consensus, in my opinion in the House, or even generally at this point, about whether we should have standard versus daylight saving as the permanent time,” Pallone said. “Immediately after the Senate passed the bill, I had members come up to me on the floor and say, ‘Oh, don’t do that. I want the standard time,’ ” he added, declining to identify the lawmakers.
The White House also has not communicated its position on permanent daylight saving time, congressional aides said. While President Biden, as a freshman senator, voted for that in December 1973 — the last time that Congress attempted to institute the policy nationwide — he also witnessed the near-immediate collapse of support amid widespread reports that darker winter mornings were contributing to more car accidents and worsened moods. Members of Congress introduced nearly 100 pieces of legislation to change or do away with the law before it was finally repealed in October 1974.
Room with Curved Window Cat and Bird, by Paul Wonner
It’s great to finally have a normal president who actually cares about the American people and isn’t completely focused on his own needs. But it’s going to take a long time for the country to recover from four years of Trump. For one thing, Trumpism still controls the Republican Party. There is also the aftermath of Trump’s immigration and tax policies as well as his destructive influence on nearly every aspect of the Federal government, including the Departments of Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security and the intelligence community, as well as his efforts to corrupt U.S. elections. And of course Trump had a dramatic impact on the Supreme Court that will likely last for decades. In this post, I’m going to highlight some of the continuing influences of Trumpism in our politics and our justice system.
For 22 years, Ledell Lee maintained that he had been wrongly convicted of murder.
“My dying words will always be, as it has been, ‘I am an innocent man,’” he told the BBC in an interview published on April 19, 2017 — the day before officials in Arkansas administered the lethal injection.
Girl with a Cat, by Franz Marke
Four years later, lawyers affiliated with the Innocence Project and the American Civil Liberties Union say DNA testing has revealed that genetic material on the murder weapon — which was never previously tested — in fact belongs to another man. In a highly unusual development for a case in which a person has already been convicted and executed, the new genetic profile has been uploaded to a national criminal database in an attempt to identify the mystery man….
Mr. Lee’s execution, on April 20, 2017, was the first in Arkansas in more than a decade. Some accused the state of rushing Mr. Lee and several other prisoners to their deaths that month before the expiration of its supply of a lethal injection drug….
Mr. Lee’s execution, on April 20, 2017, was the first in Arkansas in more than a decade. Some accused the state of rushing Mr. Lee and several other prisoners to their deaths that month before the expiration of its supply of a lethal injection drug.
On Thursday night, Arkansas executed Ledell Lee—the state’s first execution in 12 years. Lee is one of eight men whom Arkansas originally planned to kill over 11 days before one drug in the three-drug lethal injection cocktail expires. Four of these men have received stays of execution, but Lee’s final plea to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected by a 5–4 vote. Justice Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote allowing Lee to die. It was his first recorded vote cast as a justice of the court….
with Gorsuch’s vote, the court’s conservatives were able to ignore their four liberal colleagues and permit the execution. Lee was given midazolam, then a drug to paralyze and suffocate him—which may have been purchased under false pretenses. Finally, the state administered a chemical to stop his heart. Lee was declared dead shortly before midnight, Central Time. Had one more justice voted in his favor, Lee would still be alive today.
Locked out of Facebook, marooned in Mar-a-Lago and mocked for an amateurish new website, Donald J. Trump remained largely out of public sight this week. Yet the Republican Party’s capitulation to the former president became clearer than ever, as did the damage to American politics he has caused with his lie that the election was stolen from him.
Painting by Jennifer Gennari
In Washington, Republicans moved to strip Representative Liz Cheney of her House leadership position, a punishment for denouncing Mr. Trump’s false claims of voter fraud as a threat to democracy. Lawmakers in Florida and Texas advanced sweeping new measures that would curtail voting, echoing the fictional narrative from Mr. Trump and his allies that the electoral system was rigged against him. And in Arizona, the state Republican Party started a bizarre re-examination of the November election results that involved searching for traces of bamboo in last year’s ballots.
The churning dramas cast into sharp relief the extent to which the nation, six months after the election, is still struggling with the consequences of an unprecedented assault by a losing presidential candidate on a bedrock principle of American democracy: that the nation’s elections are legitimate.
They also provided stark evidence that the former president has not only managed to squelch any dissent within his party but has also persuaded most of the G.O.P. to make a gigantic bet: that the surest way to regain power is to embrace his pugilistic style, racial divisiveness and beyond-the-pale conspiracy theories rather than to court the suburban swing voters who cost the party the White House and who might be looking for substantive policies on the pandemic, the economy, health care and other issues.
“We’ve just gotten so far afield from any sane construction,” said Barbara Comstock, a longtime party official who was swept out of her suburban Virginia congressional seat in the 2018 midterm backlash to Mr. Trump. “It’s a real sickness that is infecting the party at every level. We’re just going to say that black is white now.”
Six months after Trump was defeated in the US presidential election, no Republican can dispute his claim that Joe Biden stole it and expect to prosper among their peers. Facebook’s initial decision to suspend Trump’s account came after he had egged on the mob that assaulted Capitol Hill on January 6 in what was the most serious threat to American democracy since the civil war. Since then, Trump’s language has only grown more ominous. Republicans who think they can keep their head down and wait out the Trump era are probably deluding themselves. Trump is only consolidating his hold over their party — and shows every sign of planning a 2024 presidential run.
What should principled conservatives do? One option is to follow the example of Liz Cheney, the number three Republican in the House of Representatives, who correctly reminds her colleagues that last year’s election was legitimate and the assault on Congress was sedition. She will almost certainly be removed from her position next week.
Painting by August Macke
This is nothing to do with ideology. Cheney is among the most conservative figures in the House. Elise Stefanik, who is set to replace her, is more moderate. Stefanik, however, has an unblemished record of echoing whatever Trump says, including that America’s voting is rigged. Like any revolution, the demands on its children grow more outlandish. The more preposterous the conspiracy theory, the greater the demonstration of loyalty from those who embrace it. The downsides to Cheney’s act of courage are obvious. She will lose her influence and ultimately even her Wyoming district to a Trump loyalist. Others among the principled holdouts, including Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger, are also at risk.
A parallel line of attack would be to point out that Trump is already jeopardising his party’s hopes of regaining control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections, and the White House two years later. Trump lost the presidency, but his party did far better in non-presidential races. Millions of voters who endorsed Biden switched to Republicans down ballot. Not once in four years did Trump’s approval rating exceed 50 per cent. Biden’s has not yet fallen below that.
Trump can keep the party united through fear of defenestration but his grip will make the party less appealing to the larger electorate. Sadly, there is little hope right now of severing Trump’s bonds to a party that is now largely his — 70 per cent of its voters say the election was stolen.
Liz Cheney is getting a great deal of attention right now, and although I probably disagree with her on every political issue, I have to admire her principled stand against Trumpism. And now the GOP Trump cult is trying to excommunicate her.
Rep. Liz Cheney had been arguing for months that Republicans had to face the truth about former president Donald Trump — that he had lied about the 2020 election result and bore responsibility for the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — when the Wyoming Republican sat down at a party retreat in April to listen to a polling briefing.
The refusal to accept reality, she realized, went much deeper.
When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump’s support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.
Painting by Paul Wonner
Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.
Cheney was alarmed, she later told others, in part because Republican campaign officials had also left out bad Trump polling news at a March retreat for ranking committee chairs. Both instances, she concluded, demonstrated that party leadership was willing to hide information from their own members to avoid the truth about Trump and the possible damage he could do to Republican House members, even though the NRCC denied any such agenda.
Those behind-the-scenes episodes were part of a months-long dispute over Republican principles that has raged among House leaders and across the broader GOP landscape. That dispute is expected to culminate next week with a vote to remove Cheney from her position as the third-ranking House Republican.\At issue: Should the Republican Party continue to defend Trump’s actions and parrot his falsehoods, given his overwhelming support among GOP voters? Or does the party and its leaders need to directly confront the damage he has done?
I think we all know how that is going to turn out.
The Trump Justice Department secretly obtained Washington Post journalists’ phone records and tried to obtain their email records over reporting they did in the early months of the Trump administration on Russia’s role in the 2016 election, according to government letters and officials.
In three separate letters dated May 3 and addressed to Post reporters Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, and former Post reporter Adam Entous, the Justice Department wrote they were “hereby notified that pursuant to legal process the United States Department of Justice received toll records associated with the following telephone numbers for the period from April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017.” The letters listed work, home or cellphone numbers covering that three-and-a-half-month period.
Cameron Barr, The Post’s acting executive editor, said: “We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists. The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment.”
Cat on Green Pilllow, August Macke
News organizations and First Amendment advocates have long decried the government practice of seizing journalists’ records in an effort to identify the sources of leaks, saying it unjustly chills critical newsgathering. The last such high-profile seizure of reporters’ communications records came several years ago as part of an investigation into the source of stories by a reporter who worked at BuzzFeed, Politico and the New York Times. The stories at issue there also centered around 2017 reporting on the investigation into Russian election interference.
It is rare for the Justice Department to use subpoenas to get records of reporters in leak investigations, and such moves must be approved by the attorney general. The letters do not say precisely when the reporters’ records were taken and reviewed, but a department spokesman said the decision to do so came in 2020, during the Trump administration. William P. Barr, who served as Trump’s attorney general for nearly all of that year, before departing Dec. 23, declined to comment.
I’m still staying with my mother in Indiana. Her 90th birthday party was a huge success. Everyone that we expected showed up, and I got to talk to some cousins I haven’t seen in ages–except on Facebook. The weather sort of cooperated. It had been raining for days, but we just had intermittent showers on Saturday, the day of the party. We had the canopy set up over part of the driveway so the tables were on solid ground. We had too much food, so we donated some of it to a local homeless mission, ate some leftovers, and froze the rest. Since that day, we’ve had gorgeous sunny weather.
The image above of the first lighting strike of an Indiana thunderstorm comes from Schweiger Photo. I’m including other scenic photos of various parts of Indiana throughout this post.
Supreme Court Decisions and Reactions to Them
A country road in Randolph County, Indiana
The U.S. Supreme Court continues to dominate the news today. I know you have already heard about the terrible decision to allow Oklahoma to continue using drugs that cause intense, extended pain for their inhuman executions. The U.S. Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment, but Samuel Alito thinks it’s much more important to preserve the death penalty than to worry about whether the victims feel like they are being burned alive.
By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that the use of the lethal injection drug midazolam does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling comes more than a year after the botched executions of several inmates who remained conscious and experienced pain as they were put to death.
According to the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, “petitioners have failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the use of midazolam violates the Eighth Amendment. To succeed on an Eighth Amendment method-of execution claim, a prisoner must establish that the method creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain and that the risk is substantial when compared to the known and available alternatives. Petitioners failed to establish that any risk of harm was substantial when compared to a known and available alternative method of execution. Petitioners have suggested that Oklahoma could execute them using sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, but the District Court did not commit a clear error when it found that those drugs are unavailable to the State.”
In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor wrote, “as a result, [the Court] leaves petitioners exposed to what may well be the chemical equivalent of being burned at the stake.”
The Indiana Dunes at Lake Michigan
Alito’s “reasoning” is that since the death penalty is “settled” law, whatever drug is available must be used even if it causes extreme pain and does not cause unconsciousness. Remember when Clayton Lockett “gasped for 43 minutes” before he finally died?
Now we know why the Supreme Court left Glossip v. Gross—a contentious case about the constitutionality of lethal-injection protocols — for the very last day of its term. Four out of five justices who had something to say in the case announced their opinions from the bench — an extremely rare occurrence that the American public won’t get to hear for itself until audio of the session is released sometime in the fall.
In a 5-to-4 decision, the justices ruled that the death-row inmates in the case failed to establish that Oklahoma’s use of midazolam, a sedative they claimed was ineffective in preventing pain, violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The case’s various opinions and dissents run a whopping 127 pages — far longer than even the Obamacare and marriage-equality decisions. And they’re a sign that states’ methods of punishment are a major point of conflict at the court.
But Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the lead opinion, went further: He said it is up to the death-row inmates and their lawyers — and not up to Oklahoma — “to identify a known and available alternative method of execution that entails a lesser risk of pain,” which is “a requirement of all Eighth Amendment method-of-execution claims.” In other words, it is the responsibility of those condemned to death to plead and prove the best alternative method to execute them. They have to pick their poison — otherwise, no harm, no foul under the Constitution.
And just so that there aren’t any doubts, even though the case was not about the death penalty proper, Alito went out of his way to remind us that “we have time and again reaffirmed that capital punishment is not per seunconstitutional.”
Samuel Alito should never have been approved by the Senate. He’s a monster.
The Supreme Court issued a brief, two paragraph order on Monday permitting Texas abortion clinics that are endangered by state law requiring them to comply with onerous regulations or else shut down to remain open. The order stays a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which imposed broad limits on the women’s right to choose an abortion within that circuit.
The Court’s order is temporary and offers no direct insight into how the Court will decide this case on the merits. It provides that the clinics’ application for a stay of the Fifth Circuit’s decision is granted “pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition” asking the Court to review the case on the merits.
Ugh. I can hardly wait for the final decision./s
And then there’s the continuing unhinged right wing response to the Supremes’ decision on gay marriage. Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been in dangerous meltdown mode ever since the announcement on Friday.
“Those who are not parties to the suit are not bound by it,” the Texas Republican told NPR News’ Steve Inskeep in an interview published on Monday. Since only suits against the states of Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky were specifically considered in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which was handed down last Friday, Cruz — a former Supreme Court clerk — believes that other states with gay marriage bans need not comply, absent a judicial order.
“[O]n a great many issues, others have largely acquiesced, even if they were not parties to the case,” the 2016 presidential contender added, “but there’s no legal obligation to acquiesce to anything other than a court judgement.”
While Cruz’s statement may be technically true, federal district and circuit courts are obligated to follow the Supreme Court’s precedent and overrule all other states’ same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional.
The Texas senator then went on to suggest that Republicans who have called for following the court’s decision are members of a “Washington cartel” and are lying when they say they do not support same-sex marriage.
“[Republican Party leaders] agree with the rulings from last week, both the Obamacare ruling and the marriage ruling,” Cruz said. “[T]he biggest divide we have politically is not between Republicans and Democrats. It’s between career politicians in both parties and the American people.”
I guess Cruz hasn’t bothered to look at the polls that show most Americans support same sex marriage–or, more likely, he couldn’t care less what Americans think about it. Get over it, Ted. Marriage equality is “settled law” now.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Monday bashed “elites” on the Supreme Court for imposing their will on America’s heartland in its decision to legalize same-sex marriage.
“You’ve got nine lawyers, they are all from Harvard or Yale — there are no Protestants on the court, there are no evangelicals on the court,” the 2016 GOP presidential candidate said on NBC’s “Today,” echoing criticism from Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinion.
“The elites on the court look at much of this country as flyover country; they think that our views are simply parochial and don’t deserve to be respected.”
ROFLMAO! Earth to Ted: You graduated from Princeton and Harvard and worked under former Chief Justice Rehnquist. Obviously you think the inhabitants of “flyover country” are too stupid to know that.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least six predominantly black churches in four Southern states have been damaged or destroyed by fire in the past week. While some may have been accidental, at least three have been determined to be the result of arson.
The first arson fire was on Monday at the College Hills Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Knoxville fire department has said that the arsonist set multiple fires on the church’s property and the church’s van was also burned. On Tuesday, a fire in the sanctuary of God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia was also blamed on arson, although the investigation is ongoing. And on Wednesday, a fire at the Briar Creek Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina was determined to be caused by arson, destroying an education wing that was meant to house a summer program for children, impacting its sanctuary and gymnasium, and causing an estimated $250,000 in damage.
The cause of a fire that destroyed the Glover Grover Baptist Church in Warrenville, South Carolina on Friday is unknown, while lightning is suspected in a fire that destroyed the Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Gibson County, Tennessee on Wednesday and a tree limb that fell on electrical lines is suspected in a fire at the Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Florida on Friday that destroyed the church and caused an estimated $700,000 in damage.
That is truly frightening. Read more details at the link.
Over the weekend, a young freedom fighter and community organizer mounted an awe-inspiring campaign to bring down the Confederate battle flag. Brittany “Bree” Newsome, in a courageous act of civil disobedience, scaled a metal pole using a climbing harness, to remove the flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol. Her long dread locks danced in the wind as she descended to the ground while quoting scripture. She refused law enforcement commands to end her mission and was immediately arrested along with ally James Ian Tyson, who is also from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Read all about it and see photos at the link.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below and have a terrific Tuesday!
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BOSTON — Two years after the horrific bombing of this city’s famed marathon, a federal jury on Friday sentenced to death one of the young men responsible for the attack, turning away appeals for mercy from his attorneys and even some victims.
The jury of seven women and five men rendered its decision after deliberating for more than 14 hours. As the verdict was read, the bomber, 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, displayed no sign of emotion.
The outcome was a victory for prosecutors, who said the former college student worked in tandem with his older brother and carried out the attack in a “heinous, cruel and depraved manner.” Jurors rejected arguments that Tsarnaev had fallen under the sway of his brother, Tamerlan, and was remorseful over the suffering he caused.
Tsarnaev will be transferred to a federal prison, where he will remain until he is put to death by lethal injection. His attorneys did not comment after the verdict, but they are expected to appeal the sentence.
I was very disappointed in this decision. I strongly resent the Feds coming into Massachusetts, where we don’t have the death penalty and only 18% of citizens supported it for Tsarnaev, and forcing us to accept this barbaric practice against the public will. It also makes me feel sick at heart that the victims will now have to deal with years–probably decades–of appeals of the sentence. Tsarnaev should have been put away for life and left to fade into obscurity.
Tsarnaev showed no emotion as his death sentence was read.
An eerie quiet settled over the federal courthouse in Boston today as victims and relatives of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombing heard a jury ordered Dzhkohar Tsarnaev to be put to death.
Liz Norden, who wanted Tsarnaev to get the death penalty for detonating the bomb that left two of her sons amputees and their bodies forever burned and scarred, cried quietly when the jury decided that the 21-year-old should die for his crimes.
Bill and Denise Richard, who strongly advocated against capital punishment for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, sat stone faced as the verdict was read, even though it was their 8-year-old son Martin who was the youngest victim killed in the horrific attack….
Boston bombing victim Martin Richard.
Inside Courtroom 9 the jurors, seven women and five men, stood as the verdict slip was read, as did Tsarnaev. One male juror removed his eyeglasses and wiped his eyes with a tissue and leaned his body into the rail of the jury box as if to prop himself up. Two female jurors, their cheeks flushed red, sipped from water bottles. Another woman had her arms crossed in front of her.
Tsarnaev never looked toward the jury box, not even when it became clear that those men and women decided he should be put to death. One of his defense attorneys, Miriam Conrad, covered her mouth with her hand. Once the verdict was read, police in court including Watertown Police Chief Ed Deveau and Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans, who is personal friends with the Richard family, exchanged glances.
Throughout it all, the mood in the courtroom was heavy and subdued. The judge’s clerk Paul Lyness admonished those assembled inside before it began that “any outbursts” would be treated as contempt of court. There were none.
Tsarnaev will most like await his appeals at a Federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
According to an official at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Terre Haute is the only prison that has the special confinement unit that houses federal death row inmates. While the BOP could not go as far as to say that Terre Haute is the only prison where a federal inmate could be put to death, every federal execution has taken place at the facility since 2001.
Timothy McVeigh, Juan Raul Garza and Louis Jones Jr. were the last three inmates to be strapped to the table in the western Indiana prison and have a lethal drug cocktail run through their veins.
Tsarnaev may now face that same fate.
Larry A. Mackey, the attorney who tried both of the Oklahoma City bombing cases and delivered the prosecution’s closing argument in McVeigh’s, told The Indianapolis Star it’s “highly, highly unlikely” Tsarnaev will win his appeals.
“The judge has been very careful in protecting the defendant’s rights,” said Mackey, who has been following the case closely since it went to trial in March.
Sometime in the next 60 days, Mackey said a formal sentencing hearing will be held, and Tsarnaev will return to court with his council for the judge to impose the jury’s decision to put him to death.
Following the hearing, Tsarnaev will be transported to Terre Haute’s special confinement unit where he’ll wait out the exhaustion of his appeals, said Mackey.
The 1,400-inmate, all-male U.S. Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Ind., is the likely landing spot for the 21-year-old Tsarnaev, who would be housed at the prison’s “special confinement unit” with the other 50-plus inmates on federal death row.
Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, 74 federal convicts have been sentenced to die for their crimes, but just three have actually been executed and another 10 have been taken off death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Sampson, who has since had his death sentenced overturned, first went to Terre Haute following his 2003 conviction.
All three who have been put to death — Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, and Texans Juan Raul Garza and Louis Jones Jr. — were executed at Terre Haute’s in-house chamber.
Robert Nigh, who represented McVeigh, described the Indiana lock-up as a place where inmates “certainly had access to other inmates, commissary, reasonable opportunity for recreation, hygiene.”
The sight — and smells — of the prison’s “death house” still stick with him. “That was surreal,” he said. “When you walked into it, my recollection is (seeing) stark white walls, and it smelled and felt like a hospital or a clinic. It felt like a place where you go to get medical care. It had that feel to it. And it’s designed for the exact opposite.”
Mail must be screened, copied, and evaluated before being delivered to inmates. All conversations must be in English.
Sister Rita Clare Gerardot
According to Sister Rita Clare Gerardot, “a spiritual adviser to death-row inmates at Terre Haute,”
“They are in a small cell by themselves. All their meals are pushed through a slot. There is no recreation, but they can go out of their cells three times a week into cages,” Gerardot told The Tribune-Star, a newspaper in Terre Haute.
Inmates can speak to one another from the front of their cells, according to Gerardot, and have limited time to use a phone, e-mail, or a library.
“Truthfully, I don’t know how they keep their sanity. They have to be persons of great strength of will to get up every day, and know they have no choices,” Gerardot said.
Tsarnaev will likely wish he had died in the Watertown shootout like his older brother Tamerlan. And as the Boston Globe notes this morning “everything could have been different” for this young man.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could have been graduating from UMass Dartmouth this weekend. Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, Krystle Campbell, and Sean Collier could still be alive.
But everything changed when Tsarnaev, along with his older brother, detonated a pair of bombs near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon.
A 19-year-old sophomore at UMass Dartmouth at the time of the bombing, Tsarnaev was sentenced to death on Friday—while a commencement ceremony for the Class of 2015 was underway. He convicted in April on 17 capital charges and sentenced to death for six of them.
According to a UMass Dartmouth transcript introduced in court during the trial, Tsarnaev was an Engineering undergraduate with a mechanical engineering major during the Fall 2011 semester, his first in college. In the Spring 2013 semester, he was classified as a Arts & Sciences undergraduate with no declared major. The commencement ceremony for undergraduates in the College of Engineering was held Friday at the university’s Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial Amphitheater. The ceremony for undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences is scheduled for Saturday.
Tsarnaev may never have graduated, even had he and his brother not chosen to perpetrate one of the worst terrorsist acts on U.S. soil. At the time of his arrest, he had a cumulative GPA of 1.094.
But perhaps he could have been among those students celebrating a new a beginning this weekend instead of facing a death sentence.
And everything could have been different.
Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik in 1970
We’ve been hearing a lot about corruption at the Baltimore Police Department lately. Yesterday I read a fascinating story about a cold case that shows the corruption there has a long history. If you’re interested in true crime stories and corruption in the Catholic Church, I highly recommend this piece by Laura Bassett at The Huffington Post,
It’s the story of the murder of a nun who had tried to help girls who were being sexually abused by at least one priest at a Baltimore Catholic school in the late 1960s. Here’s the introduction. I hope it grabs you and you decide to read the entire long article.
On a frigid day in November 1969, Father Joseph Maskell, the chaplain of Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, called a student into his office and suggested they go for a drive. When the final bell rang at 2:40 p.m., Jean Hargadon Wehner, a 16-year-old junior at the all-girls Catholic school, followed the priest to the parking lot and climbed into the passenger seat of his light blue Buick Roadmaster.
It was not unusual for Maskell to give students rides home or take them to doctor’s appointments during the school day. The burly, charismatic priest, then 30 years old, had been the chief spiritual and psychological counselor at Keough for two years and was well-known in the community. Annual tuition at Keough was just $200, which attracted working-class families in deeply Catholic southwest Baltimore who couldn’t afford to send their daughters to fancier private schools. Many Keough parents had attended Maskell’s Sunday masses. He’d baptized their babies, and they trusted him implicitly.
This time, though, Maskell didn’t bring Wehner home. He navigated his car past the Catholic hospital and industrial buildings that surrounded Keough’s campus and drove toward the outskirts of the city. Eventually, he stopped at a garbage dump, far from any homes or businesses. Maskell stepped out of the car, and the blonde, freckled teenager followed him across a vast expanse of dirt toward a dark green dumpster.
It was then that she saw the body crumpled on the ground.
Father A. Joseph Maskell
The week prior, Sister Cathy Cesnik, a popular young nun who taught English and drama at Keough, had vanished while on a Friday-night shopping trip. Students, parents and the local media buzzed about the 26-year-old’s disappearance. People from all over Baltimore County helped the police comb local parks and wooded areas for any sign of her.
Wehner immediately recognized the lifeless body as her teacher. “I knew it was her,” she recalled recently. “She wasn’t that far gone that you couldn’t tell it was her.”
Cesnik was still clad in her aqua-colored coat, and maggots were crawling on her face. Wehner tried to brush them off with her bare hands. “Help me get these off of her!” she cried, turning to Maskell in a panic. Instead, she says, the priest leaned down behind her and whispered in her ear: “You see what happens when you say bad things about people?”
Maskell, Wehner understood, was threatening her. She decided not to tell anyone. “He terrified me to the point that I would never open my mouth,” she recalled.
Now, decades later, a group of women who attended Keogh back in those days are working together with a journalist and a former Baltimore police office to find out who killed Sister Cathy.
On Wednesday, April 15, Boston marked the second anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, now called “One Boston Day,” with a moment of silence at 2:49PM. That was the time that two bombs exploded about 12 seconds apart among crowds of people near the marathon finish line, leaving three people dead and 264 people injured–many of whom lost limbs.
(Reuters) – Boston marked the second anniversary of the deadly attack on its annual marathon on Wednesday with a quiet ceremony at the site where three died, unveiling a pair of banners marked with a heart.
Mayor Marty Walsh joined a group of survivors of the April 15, 2013, blasts, including Jane and Henry Richard, whose 8-year-old brother Martin was the youngest killed, as well as Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs. Some 264 people, including spectators, volunteers at runners at the Boston Marathon were injured.
At 2:49 p.m. ET (1849 GMT) New England’s largest city will observe a moment of silence to mark the time the first bomb went off.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, who seek to make sense of that awful day,” said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. “Those most affected by the events of two years ago have shown us all the way back with their courage, grace and determination.
Nearly a million people will line the streets to watch the Boston Marathon on Monday, and someone else will be watching them. Bill Ridge with the Boston Police says video surveillance is a big part of the security plan.
“We’ve got a lot of cameras out there,” he says. “We’re going to be watching the portions in Boston — particularly the routes along Boylston Street, the finish line.” …. Video footage helped identify the terrorists, and the number and quality of video cameras has gone up since then.
The extent of the surveillance of Boston described in the article is troubling. NPR talked to Mark Savage of Lan-Tel Communications, which is in charge of surveillance for the marathon.
“I’m zooming in on the infield of Fenway Park,” he says while maneuvering a camera. He uses a laptop to swivel and zoom the HD video camera on a building hundreds of yards away from the ballpark. The zoom is so powerful, Johnson says it could probably tell whether a Red Sox pitcher has thrown a strike or a ball.
In the same way that televisions have gotten higher resolutions through the years, so have video cameras — and Johnson says cheaper bandwidth and data storage make it easy to record more, better-quality video.
Flowers placed at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last week (from NPR).
Apparently the Boston Police have already installed a lot of surveillance equipment around the city.
Kade Crockford of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts says she understands the need for surveillance at a big public event like the Boston Marathon — but objects to expanding its use. While standing outside the Old State House, she points out four different surveillance cameras catching her every move.
“[A big event] doesn’t trigger privacy concerns,” she says. “What does trigger privacy concerns is the City of Boston installing a network of cameras — some in residential neighborhoods — that enable law enforcement to track individual people from the moment that we leave our homes in the morning until the moment we return at night, seeing basically everywhere we went and everything that we did.”
Boston Police won’t say how many cameras are already in the city’s network, or how many new ones are going up for the marathon. But some of them will stay online afterward.
The family of Boston Marathon bombing victim Martin Richard joins Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (R) at a ceremony at the site of the second bomb blast on the second anniversary of the bombings in Boston, Massachusetts April 15, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Kevin Cullen at The Boston Globe suggests other questions about the bombing that need to be answered.
A Boston cop I know, who was at the finish line when the bombs exploded and who saved lives that day, has a question.
“Who were the FBI agents who interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev after the Russians raised questions about him two years before the bombings, and why didn’t they recognize Tamerlan from the photos the FBI released?” he asked.
It’s a good question, one that the prosecution won’t want to ask, one that the defense needs to ask, if it isn’t deemed irrelevant by O’Toole.
The defense has argued all along that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was steered into the bombing plot by his older, domineering, more-radicalized brother. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, dead almost two years, will be mentioned as often as his little brother in this phase of the trial.
Cullen says the FBI did good work after the bombs went off, but . . . .
But that nagging question — why wasn’t Tamerlan Tsarnaev identified earlier — won’t go away. And it feeds the nagging sense that the FBI knows far more about Tamerlan Tsarnaev than it’s sharing.
Nor will questions about Tamerlan’s wife, Katherine, go away. The government broadly hinted but never came right out and said they believe the bombs or at least components for the bombs were assembled at the Cambridge apartment Katherine and Tamerlan shared with their daughter, a toddler.
The defense didn’t try to debunk the suggestion nearly as strongly as you might think because it allowed them to point out that the fingerprints on all the tools that might have been used to make the bombs were Tamerlan’s, not Dzhokhar’s.
Why wasn’t Katherine charged? Did she cooperate with investigators?
One of the other nagging questions is whether the Tsarnaev brothers had any accomplices in gathering all the gunpowder from fireworks they used in their bombs. Listening to testimony about how much powder was needed to make the bombs, it seemed like the Tsarnaev brothers would have to be doing nothing else but dismantling fireworks for months.
All good questions and there are more good ones at the link. Cullen notes that we particularly need answers about why the FBI shot and killed Ibragim Todashev, who was potentially their best source of information about Tamerlan and his motives.
The Feds are getting plenty of pushback here in the Boston area on their goal of putting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death. After all, Massachusetts does not have the death penalty. Victims families and survivors as well as citizens have expressed their wishes that Tsarnaev be allowed spend the rest of his life in prison.
The parents of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy killed in the Boston Marathon bombings two years ago, have writtten a plea to end the attention convicted killer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has received and spare him from the death penalty.
In an essay written for The Boston Globe, Bill and Denise Richard ask that the case come to a close, writing, “We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives.”
In a posting on Facebook and on her Twitter account, Jennifer L. Lemmerman wrote that she continues to mourn the loss of her younger brother, who was widely lauded after his murder.
Lemmerman, a graduate of Boston College School of Social Work and an alderwoman in Melrose, wrote that she will never forgive Tsarnaev for ending her brother’s life.
But, she also wrote, she does not believe in the death penalty even after what has happened to her and her family.
“Whenever someone speaks out against the death penalty, they are challenged to imagine how they would feel if someone they love were killed. I’ve been given that horrible perspective and I can say that my position has only strengthened,’’ she wrote on her Facebook account.
Obviously, I think killing Tsarnaev would be wrong and counterproductive. The death penalty would only turn him into a martyr anyway, and it would mean years, perhaps decades of court battles in which he would get unnecessary and undeserved public attention; and the victims families would be forced to relive their pain and loss again and again.
As always, this is an open thread. Please feel free to comment and post links on any topic.
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