Thursday Reads: We Have Entered The Twilight Zone.

twilight_zone

Good Morning!!

Yesterday JJ posted a link to this brief post by Melissa McEwan:

I was managing to keep a lid on the bitterness about Hillary Clinton not being our president until I saw Donald Trump start to govern.

It’s going precisely the way I thought it would, so it’s not like I’m surprised.

It’s just that seeing it actually begin to unfold is triggering a deep well of resentment, and a profound grief, that I was only able to keep at bay until he was sworn in.

And now I cannot contain it. I am angry and resentful and grief-stricken in a way I have never felt before.

That’s exactly how I feel. The time from the election to the inauguration was bad enough, but now everything feels unreal and frightening. Last night on Rachel Maddow’s show, Dan Rather called it a “Twilight Zone feeling.” I think it’s likely that a majority of Americans feel this way. A man with the temperament and personality of a 6-year-old–sometimes a 3-year-old–is sitting in the White House watching Fox News and plotting the destruction of our country. And even more horrifying, he has the power to blow up the entire world if he so chooses.

I recall feeling desperate and enraged after the Supreme Court handed the presidency to George W. Bush, but this is so much worse. I feel anxious and on-edge all the time. I’m afraid to get too far from my news sources for fear that he will do something drastic; and even if I try to escape into a book or TV show or video game I just can’t shake this feeling of everything being out-of-kilter. The only difference I can see between tRump and a dictator like Kim Jong Un is that we have a few checks and balances in place–for now–to keep our child-leader from killing or jailing his critics.

Did the photographer put that shadow "mustache" in deliberately?

Did the photographer put that shadow “mustache” in deliberately?

Apparently the DC police feel empowered to arrest and charge journalists now. The New York Times reports: Felony Charges for Journalists Arrested at Inauguration Protests Raise Fears for Press Freedom.

At least six journalists were charged with felony rioting after they were arrested while covering the violent protests that took place just blocks from President Trump’s inauguration parade in Washington on Friday, according to police reports and court documents.

The journalists were among 230 people detained in the anti-Trump demonstrations, during which protesters smashed the glass of commercial buildings and lit a limousine on fire.

The charges against the jouMexirnalists — Evan Engel, Alexander Rubinstein, Jack Keller, Matthew Hopard, Shay Horse and Aaron Cantu — have been denounced by organizations dedicated to press freedom. All of those arrested have denied participating in the violence.

“These felony charges are bizarre and essentially unheard of when it comes to journalists here in America who were simply doing their job,” said Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Pen America. “They weren’t even in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were in the right place.”

Carlos Lauria, a spokesman and senior program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, called the charges “completely inappropriate and excessive,” and the organization has asked that they be dropped immediately.

“Our concern is that these arrests could send a chilling message to journalists that cover future protests,” Mr. Lauria added.

Witnesses reported that sweeping arrests during the parade targeted rioters, protesters and journalists indiscriminately. A lawyer representing dozens of people arrested, Mark Goldstone, told The Associated Press that the police had “basically identified a location that had problems and arrested everyone in that location.”

WTF?!

Yesterday, tRump began pressing forward with his promised Muslim ban, his fantasy border wall, and his threat to “defund” sanctuary cities by issuing a series of executive orders. He also threatened to reopen CIA “black sites” and reinstate Bush-era torture techniques. On Twitter, he even threatened to send Federal troops into Chicago to crack down on crime!

This isn’t creeping fascism; it’s galloping fascism.

The good news is that the White House and government agencies are leaking like crazy. Vox obtained leaked copies of draft executive orders: Read leaked drafts of 4 White House executive orders on Muslim ban, end to DREAMer program, and more. Yesterday the White House released two of the orders that were exactly like the drafts; therefore Vox decided to report on the others.

The two orders released today by the Trump administration, and delivered yesterday by our source, start the process of building President Trump’s famous “wall,” and make it easier for immigration agents to arrest, detain, and deport unauthorized immigrants at the border and in the US. Those policies are explained in detail here.

The four remaining draft orders obtained by Vox focus on immigration, terrorism, and refugee policy. They wouldn’t ban all Muslim immigration to the US, breaking a Trump promise from early in his campaign, but they would temporarily ban entries from seven majority-Muslim countries and bar all refugees from coming to the US for several months. They would make it harder for immigrants to come to the US to work, make it easier to deport them if they use public services, and put an end to the Obama administration program that protected young “DREAMer” immigrants from deportation.

 In all, the combined documents would represent one of the harshest crackdowns on immigrants — both those here and those who want to come here — in memory.

Read the rest at Vox.

trump_ban_muslims_from_u_s-vi-3

Last night, ABC News ran an interview with tRump conducted by David Muir. I haven’t watched the whole thing yet, but the clips I’ve seen are terrifying. The interview confirmed what we already know–that tRump is a childish, ignorant buffoon who is clearly incompetent to hold any public office, much less be POTUS.

The Washington Post has published the entire interview with annotations by Aaron Blake. I can’t bring myself to post excerpts, but please read the whole thing at the Post. You watch the video there too if you can stand it.

tRump is running around saying dangerous things, apparently without even consulting the Cabinet members who would be charged with carrying out his orders.

Politico: Mattis, Pompeo stunned by CIA ‘black sites’ report.

Two of the officials who will be in charge of carrying out President Donald Trump’s terrorism detainee policies, Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, were “blindsided” by reports of a draft executive order that would require the CIA to reconsider using interrogation techniques that some consider torture, according to sources with knowledge of their thinking.

Lawmakers in both parties denounced the draft order on Wednesday even as White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he had “no idea where it came from” and that it is “not a White House document.”

It’s unclear who wrote the draft order or whether Trump will sign it, though members of Congress in both parties were taking that prospect seriously on Wednesday.

Some members of Congress said the document raised the specter of Trump following through on campaign vows to bring back waterboarding and other George W. Bush-era torture practices, which many lawmakers consider a shameful chapter of U.S. history.

The document, obtained and published by The New York Times and Washington Post, calls for the director of national intelligence to review whether to bring back the CIA’s infamous black-site prisons. Those were secret overseas facilities where the CIA carried out brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects from 2001 to 2006, as documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2014 investigation into the issue.

The draft order says terrorism suspects in U.S. custody will not be subject to “torture” or “degrading treatment.” But it characterizes a 2016 law barring torture as “a significant statutory barrier” and would revoke an executive order signed by President Barack Obama stating that suspects must be treated in compliance with international law.

Unbelievable.

Ku Klux Klan on a Ferris Wheel--a metaphor for tRump World?

Ku Klux Klan on a Ferris Wheel–a metaphor for tRump World?

I’m going to give you the rest of the news in a link dump, because I’m just too traumatized to do more.

Vox: The best theory for why Trump tells such obvious lies.Tru

WaPo: People were taking Trump seriously. Now they’re starting to take him literally.

WaPo: Maybe Trump isn’t ‘lying’. Jennifer Rubin suggests that Trump may not be able to tell truth from fantasy.

WaPo: In his first major TV interview as president, Trump is endlessly obsessed with his popularity.

NYT: Clinics for World’s Vulnerable Brace for Trump’s Anti-Abortion Cuts.

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman asks “Is Donald Trump’s War With CNN Personal?”

Nina Burleigh at Newsweek: Trump White House Senior Staff Have Private RNC Email Accounts.

NYT: As Trump Orders Wall, Mexico’s President Considers Canceling U.S. Trip.

CNN: Trump to Mexican president: Better to cancel our meeting.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and try to stay calm just for today. I love you all.


Tuesday Reads: We’re Approaching a Constitutional Crisis

trump_twitter_4

Good Morning!!

It’s been two weeks since the election, and I think we’re already very close to a constitutional crisis. Each day we wake up to new insanity from the “president elect.” And yes, I do believe that he is insane. Something needs to be done very quickly and I’m not sure anyone in authority is going to act. As Matthew Yglesias wrote recently, we only have until noon on January 20, 2017 to stop Donald Trump from systemically corrupting our institutions. We’ve posted this article before, but everyone should save it and refer to it often.

The legal responsibilities of what is a body corporate do not change with the appointment of a manager. The corporation must still have a Presiding Officer, a Secretary and a Treasurer, who must all be members of the corporation, and it is still legally liable for decisions made on its behalf.

 

The country has entered a dangerous period. The president-elect is the least qualified man to ever hold high office. He also operated the least transparent campaign of the modern era. He gave succor and voice to bigoted elements on a scale not seen in two generations. He openly praised dictators — not as allies but as dictators — and threatened to use the powers of his office to discipline the media.

He also has a long history of corrupt behavior, and his business holdings pose staggering conflicts of interest that are exacerbated by his lack of financial disclosure. But while most journalists and members of the opposition party think they understand the threat of Trump-era corruption, they are in fact drastically underestimating it. When we talk about corruption in the modern United States, we have in mind what Andrei Shleifer and Robert Vishnydefine as “the sale by government officials of government property for personal gain.”

This is the classic worry about campaign contributions or revolving doors — the fear that wealthy interests can give money to public officials and in exchange receive favorable treatment from the political system. But in a classic essay on “The Concept of Systemic Corruption in American History,” the economist John Joseph Wallis repminds us that in the Revolutionary Era and during the founding of the republic, Americans worried about something different. Not the venal corruption we are accustomed to thinking about, but what he calls systemic corruption. He writes that 18th-century thinkers “worried much more that the king and his ministers were manipulating grants of economic privileges to secure political support for a corrupt and unconstitutional usurpation of government powers.”

We are used to corruption in which the rich buy political favor. What we need to learn to fear is corruption in which political favor becomes the primary driver of economic success.

swamp

Donald Trump is more dangerous than any potential president in history, because he is a sociopath with zero empathy for anyone but himself and he seems to be incapable of feeling shame.

Past presidents have been restrained from behaving in such a manner by institutional checks and balances that are eroding under the pressure of rising partisan polarization.

But most of all, past presidents have simply been restrained by restraint. By a belief that there are certain things one simply cannot try or do. Yet Trump has repeatedly triumphed in circumstances that most predicted were impossible. As Ezra Klein has written, he operates entirely without shame:

It’s easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery. Most people feel shame when they’re exposed as liars, when they’re seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.

Trump doesn’t. He has the reality television star’s ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint. It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won’t, to say what others can’t, to do what others wouldn’t.

Trump lives by the reality television trope that he’s not here to make friends. But the reason reality television villains always say they’re not there to make friends is because it sets them apart, makes them unpredictable and fun to watch. “I’m not here to make friends” is another way of saying, “I’m not bound by the social conventions of normal people.” The rest of us are here to make friends, and it makes us boring, gentle, kind.

Trump does not care if normally conservative newspapers’ editorial pages denounce him, if media fact-checkers slam him, if GOP operatives furiously tweet against him, or anything else.

TV journalists and execs at Trump Tower yesterday

TV journalists and execs at Trump Tower yesterday

Since the publication of that piece on November 17, the situation has gotten more and more grave. It seems Trump does care what newspapers and TV networks say about him, but his response will be to try to control what they write and broadcast, not reverse his own corrupt behavior. As we all know, Trump called some broadcast media representatives into an off-the-record meeting yesterday. These craven executives and reporters attended the meeting and were treated to a “dressing down” by a screaming Trump. The story first leaked out to the right-wing, Trump-favoring New York Post.

“It was like a f−−−ing firing squad,” one source said of the encounter.

“Trump started with [CNN chief] Jeff Zucker and said, ‘I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed,’ ” the source said.

“The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing-down,” the source added.

A second source confirmed the fireworks.

“The meeting took place in a big boardroom and there were about 30 or 40 people, including the big news anchors from all the networks,” the other source said.

“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room, calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars. He called out Jeff Zucker by name and said everyone at CNN was a liar, and CNN was [a] network of liars,” the source said.

“Trump didn’t say [NBC reporter] Katy Tur by name, but talked about an NBC female correspondent who got it wrong, then he referred to a horrible network correspondent who cried when Hillary lost who hosted a debate — which was Martha Raddatz, who was also in the room.”

More TV bigshots summoned by Trump yesterday

More TV bigshots summoned by Trump yesterday

I guess it wasn’t enough that CNN paid multiple Trump supporters to defend him against any criticism. Here’s a more staid version of the story from The New York Times. And there’s this one from David Remnick at The New Yorker: Donald Trump Personally Blasts the Press.

First came the obsessive Twitter rants directed at “Hamilton” and “Saturday Night Live.” Then came Monday’s astonishing aria of invective and resentment aimed at the media, delivered in a conference room on the twenty-fifth floor of Trump Tower. In the presence of television executives and anchors, Trump whined about everything from NBC News reporter Katy Tur’s coverage of him to a photograph the news network has used that shows him with a double chin. Why didn’t they use “nicer” pictures?

For more than twenty minutes, Trump railed about “outrageous” and “dishonest” coverage. When he was asked about the sort of “fake news” that now clogs social media, Trump replied that it was the networks that were guilty of spreading fake news. The “worst,” he said, were CNN (“liars!”) and NBC.

This is where we are. The President-elect does not care who knows how unforgiving or vain or distracted he is. This is who he is, and this is who will be running the executive branch of the United States government for four years.

The overall impression of the meeting from the attendees I spoke with was that Trump showed no signs of having been sobered or changed by his elevation to the country’s highest office. Rather, said one, “He is the same kind of blustering, bluffing, blowhard as he was during the campaign.”

Another participant at the meeting said that Trump’s behavior was “totally inappropriate” and “fucking outrageous.” The television people thought that they were being summoned to ask questions; Trump has not held a press conference since late July. Instead, they were subjected to a stream of insults and complaints—and not everyone absorbed it with pleasure.

“I have to tell you, I am emotionally fucking pissed,” another participant said. “How can this not influence coverage? I am being totally honest with you. Toward the end of the campaign, it got to a point where I thought that the coverage was all about [Trump’s] flaws and problems. And that’s legit. But, I thought, O.K., let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. After the meeting today, though—and I am being human with you here—I think, Fuck him! I know I am being emotional about it. And I know I will get over it in a couple of days after Thanksgiving. But I really am offended. This was unprecedented. Outrageous!”

Let’s hope none of them “get over it.”

This morning Trump cancelled a scheduled meeting with The New York Times, claiming the newspaper tried to “change the ground rules.” The New York Times responded that that did not happen.

Supposedly the meet has been rescheduled now.

This is all so unbelievable, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg of Trump insanity this country is going to be dealing with. In just a few days we’ve seen that the level of storage facilities westminster co is comparable to what has happened in the worst dictatorships around the globe. Dakinikat wrote about this yesterday, and there’s already more corruption in the news today.

The New York Times: With a Meeting, Trump Renewed a British Wind Farm Fight.

When President-elect Donald J. Trumpmet with the British politician Nigel Farage in recent days, he encouraged Mr. Farage and his entourage to oppose the kind of offshore wind farms that Mr. Trump believes will mar the pristine view from one of his two Scottish golf courses, according to one person present.

The meeting, held shortly after the presidential election, raises new questions about Mr. Trump’s willingness to use the power of the presidency to advance his business interests. Mr. Trump has long opposed a wind farm planned near his course in Aberdeenshire, and he previously fought unsuccessfully all the way to Britain’s highest court to block it.

The group that met with Mr. Trump in New York was led by Mr. Farage, the head of the U.K. Independence Party and a member of the European Parliament. Mr. Farage, who was a leading voice advocating Britain’s exit from the European Union, or Brexit, campaigned with Mr. Trump during the election. Arron Banks, an insurance executive who was a major financier of the Brexit campaign, was also in attendance.

“He did not say he hated wind farms as a concept; he just did not like them spoiling the views,” said Andy Wigmore, the media consultant who was present at the meeting and was photographed with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Wigmore headed communications for Leave.EU, one of the two groups that led the Brexit effort. He said in an email that he and Mr. Banks would be “campaigning against wind farms in England, Scotland and Wales.”

This morning Trump tweeted that he wants Great Britain to appoint Nigel Farage as ambassador to the U.S.!

British Prime Minister Teresa May told CNN that’s not going to happen. But this is just one more breach of protocol by the out-of-control “president elect.”

I haven’t even scratched the surface of this morning’s shocking news. I have an important appointment this afternoon, but I’ll post more links when I can. 

Now it’s your turn. Have at it.


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump “Values” Are Not American Values

postcard

Good Afternoon!!

Here’s something we can do right away to let the PEOTUS know how we feel about his decision to install a white supremacist in the White House. A friend invited me to join this Facebook group that is asking people to send postcards from their states to Trump Tower between November 26 and 28. I sent invitations to my Facebook friends, so many of you will be getting them. Here’s the plan:

**IMPORTANT: Please do not send your postcard until NOV 26th**

**PUBLIC PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/235432800204102/

Instructions to participate:

1. Get a postcard from your state – any picture that represents your state.
2. In the message section, write this simple message: NOT BANNON!
3. Sign your name if you wish
4. Address it as follows:
Donald Trump
c/o The Trump Organization
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022
5. Affix a stamp – you can use a 35 cent postcard stamp, or a normal letter stamp.
6. Take a picture of your postcard that you can share on social media using the hashtag #stopbannon #postcardavalanche
7. Drop it in the mail between Saturday, Nov 26th and Monday, Nov. 28th to create a concentrated avalanche of postcards.

If you can’t send yours until later, don’t let that stop you.

**IF YOU CANT INVITE, WE RECOMMEND USING THE PUBLIC PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/235432800204102/

boston-postcard

Now invite, invite, invite! The more voices we can get in the mail, from the more states, the better. To make it go viral we will all need to share the details with our sphere of influence in whatever ways we feel comfortable. Feel free to copy and paste the details or even post your own public event. The more the merrier!

If you are unfamiliar with Steve Bannon, he is a white supremacist who is also the head of a factoring companies that proliferates misogynistic, homophobic, and xenophobic views. The Donald is about to make him chief White House strategist. We have to stand up for American values against this man!

Let’s go national and send a message the old fashioned way!

Here’s something else people are doing. From the Indianapolis Star: 46,000 people have donated to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name since the election.

People on social media, ranging from regular Janes to celebrities, have been passing around Mike Pence’s official contact information.

Why?

To encourage others to make a donation to Planned Parenthood in Pence’s name and send him a notification of the gift.

Planned Parenthood confirmed that people are putting their money where their tweets are. Of more than 200,000 donations made to Planned Parenthood since the election, 46,000 have been made in the vice president-elect’s name, according to the organization.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about what happened to VP elect Pence last night. From the LA Times: Mike Pence gets booed as he arrives for performance of ‘Hamilton.’

Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, took a break from planning the next administration on Friday night by attending the popular Broadway show “Hamilton.”

Though Pence received a smattering of applause when he arrived, the New York audience mostly greeted the Indiana governor with boos….

The hip-hop musical about one of the country’s founding fathers, with its multicultural cast and tale of immigrant pride, has been a favorite of liberals. One of its songs was first performed at the White House when creator Lin-Manuel Miranda was a guest of President Obama.

From Rolling Stone: Watch ‘Hamilton’ Cast’s Powerful Plea to Mike Pence.

Pence had initially received an icy reception from the New York audience, with video of the Indiana governor being roundly booedupon entering the Richard Rodgers Theater quickly circulating on social media.

However, upon the show’s curtain call, the cast and crew of Hamilton, led by actor Brandon Victor Dixon, had a strong message to deliver to the VP-elect. “There’s nothing to boo here, we’re all here sharing a story of love,” Dixon said. “We have a message for you, sir.”

“Vice President-elect Pence, welcome. Thank you for joining us at Hamilton – An American Musical. We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values, and work on behalf of ALL of us,” Dixon said.

Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr in the production, then again thanked Pence for attending a show featuring a “diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.” “We don’t have to fight one another. The beautiful part of this country is… we don’t have to agree, but we gotta live here, baby, and share with one another,” Dixon added.

Watch the video at the LA Times or Rolling Stone link.

PEOTUS has already sent two whiny tweets claiming that Pence was “harassed.”

PEOTUS is not a fan of the first amendment to the Constitution. I wonder if he realizes how millions of people are going to greet his inauguration? He is going to hear a lot of boos in the next four years–if he lasts that long. He’d better get used to it. This isn’t Venezuela or Nazi Germany yet.

Meanwhile, the Trump organization is already well on the way to turning the U.S. Government into a kleptocracy. You probably saw that photo of Ivanka Trump sitting in on a meeting between her father and the Japanese Prime Minister. Ivanka’s husband was there for part of the meeting too.

Think Progress: This isn’t just a photo of Ivanka Trump. It’s a middle finger to democracy.

1-tgf7tn3xx-wkkggswq3avq

Donald Trump is leveraging his new position as president-elect to empower his business empire — and he’s doing it publicly.

We’ve known for some time that Trump didn’t plan to actually resolve the unprecedented conflicts his far-flung business interests presented.

Instead of liquidating his assets and placing them in a Qualified Diversified Trust, as President Bush did, or investing in index funds and government bonds, as President Obama did, Trump has done nothing.

He’s waved away concerns about conflicts-of-interest, saying that he would just hand over control of his business interests to his children.

He called this a “blind trust” but it is actually the opposite. A blind trust is when you hand marketable assets over to a neutral third party to control. The contents of the trust, since they can be traded at any time by the administrator, are soon unknown to you. Trump knows what his assets are and says he is handing them to his children.

Immediately after Trump’s election, he named three of his adult children — Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr. — to his transition team. This means the same people running the Trump Organization will also be choosing the top officials in the Trump administration.

Now he is taking things a step further. In his first meeting with a head of state, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump invited his daughter Ivanka — who will likely serve as acting CEO of his companies — to participate.

Trump could have kept Ivanka’s participation private. Instead, his team handed out a photo featuring Ivanka.

Please go read the rest. They are thumbing their noses at all that is decent and ethical.

And remember that Trump hotel in Washington DC–right near the White House? Foreign leaders and diplomats will soon be able to bribe the President of the U.S. by staying in that hotel on their official visits. They will be able to do the same by staying in other Trump branded hotels and patronizing his golf courses and other businesses.

Washington Post: For foreign diplomats, Trump hotel is place to be.

Trump International Hotel, Washington DC

Trump International Hotel, Washington DC

About 100 foreign diplomats, from Brazil to Turkey, gathered at the Trump International Hotel this week to sip Trump-branded champagne, dine on sliders and hear a sales pitch about the U.S. president-elect’s newest hotel.

The event for the diplomatic community, held one week after the election, was in the Lincoln Library, a junior ballroom with 16-foot ceilings and velvet drapes that is also available for rent.

Some attendees won raffle prizes — among them overnight stays at other Trump properties around the world — allowing them to become better acquainted with the business holdings of the new commander in chief.

“The place was packed,” said Lynn Van Fleit, founder of the nonprofit Diplomacy Matters Institute, which organizes programs for foreign diplomats and government officials. She said much of the discussion among Washington-based diplomats is over “how are we going to build ties with the new administration.”

Back when many expected Trump to lose the election, speculation was rife that business would suffer at the hotels, condos and golf courses that bear his name. Now, those venues offer the prospect of something else: a chance to curry favor or access with the next president.

Perhaps nowhere is that possibility more obvious than Trump’s newly renovated hotel a few blocks from the White House, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Rooms sold out quickly for the inauguration, many for five-night minimums priced at five times the normal rate, according to the hotel’s manager.

Read more at the link, but prepare to be nauseated.

That’s all I have the strength for today. Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread, have courage and hold onto your values for dear life.


Monday Reads: and the beat goes on

5a07c9c80ea19b926bd8bac117a57dbbWhat can be said about the violence erupting around the country and around the world these days?  Words can fail us. We’re losing hearts and minds along with lives.  How did we get here?  I hope we don’t have to wait on historians to deconstruct the causes because we’re careening towards a future that seems better imagined by George Miller and Byron Kennedy of Mad Max fame.  Dystopian fiction should not actually portend reality. It should be a harbinger of possibilities we can avoid; not outcomes we bring on to ourselves.

Today will be another reminder that one of the two major parties has completely lost its ability to govern and is stuck some where  we should not be.  We have the Republicans about ready to nominate a dude that reminds me of the Dennis Hopper character in Water World.   Trump sounds as crazy as that character.  I’m waiting to hear his big convention floor speech and wondering if he’ll be waving a cigar and a bottle of Jack and be wearing an eye patch, frankly.  We’re losing our sense of community and our sense of responsibility as members of community.

Our sense of alienation perhaps comes from  a world where we are more likely to connect with technology than with a human being and where our jobs are continually dehumanizing us. This generally makes us susceptible to folks that play on our anger. We’ve had two very angry pseudo populists on the national stage who really represent privilege that have done a great job of stirring up resentment.   They’ve also stirred up some insane reaction to that visible resentment.  I personally am watching my neighborhood be torn apart by already rich people looking to make more money by dismantling everything and every one deemed unprofitable.  I feel like I only exist to many of them as a possible source of monetization although I can tell I’ve outlived my usefulness for that as an aging woman of little means these days.

How did we get to a point where one of the two major parties is actually going to nominate a man whose speeches call for the dismantling of the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth amendments to our Constitution? Are we so far down the rabbit hole that we’ll actually sell out the rule of law for guns and anger?

Trump has from the start of his campaign sparked controversy with statements, actions, and proposals that disregard the First Amendment. He and his aides have created blacklists of journalists, and the candidate has expressed an interest inrewriting libel laws in order to intimidate, punish, and potentially silence critics of powerful individuals and interests. Trump has, as well, proposed schemes to discriminate against Muslims and to spy on mosques and neighborhoods where Muslims live—with steady disregard for the amendment’s guarantee of protection for America’s diverse religious communities.

But that’s just the beginning of Trump’s assaults on the Constitution. Trump has encouraged the use of torture and blatantly disregarded privacy protections that have been enshrined in the founding document since the 18th century. He has attacked the basic premises of a constitutionally defined separation of powers, with rhetorical assaults on individual jurists and the federal judiciary so extreme that House Speaker Paul Ryan described one such attack as  “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” He has proposed instituting religious tests. He has shown open and consistent disregard for the promise that all Americans will receive equal protection under the law.

Many of us have long harbored the idea that today’s Republican Party only cares about the idea of a Second Amendment on steroids and Waterworld-Hopperthe rest of our civil liberties and rights should be damned.  The realities of what I used to believe were brief moments of paranoia are just on full display this week.  Have you seen the pictures of the up-armored bicycle police in Cleveland?  I mean, how Clockwork Orange is that? Don’t even get me started on the entire idea of letting folks with assault rifles into the protest pits to strut around like dildo-toting S&M bondage RPers who are likely trigger happy. We just had three police officers ambushed and killed in Baton Rouge and the response is to let more crazies out on the streets with guns?  Really?  Really?

Hours after the head of Cleveland’s police union pleaded with the governorto suspend Ohio’s open-carry laws during the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump’s spokesperson told ThinkProgress she is “not nervous at all” that people are walking around the city with assault weapons.

“I am recommending that people follow the law,” Katrina Pierson said Sunday when asked whether she believes people should arm themselves in the convention zone. Under Ohio law, residents over 21 years old who legally own a firearm can openly carry it in public.

In light of the shooting and death of three police officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday, the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association asked for an emergency suspension of the state’s open-carry law for the duration of the Republican National Convention.

“We are sending a letter to Gov. [John] Kasich requesting assistance from him,” union president Stephen Loomis told CNN. “He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point.” Kasich denied the union’s request.

The violence in Louisiana on Sunday was only the latest in a series of deadly clashes between police and civilians over the past few weeks. When an angry, heavily-armed civilian began shooting at police during a Dallas Black Lives Matter protest earlier this month, the state’s open-carry law made it difficult for police to track down the assailant. Officers mistook at least one legally armed resident for a suspect, and the proliferation of guns made it more difficult for them to determine who posed a threat.

In the weeks leading up to the RNC, Cleveland officials expressed concern that Ohio’s law, like Texas’, would create a dangerous and hectic environment outside the convention.

2002-British-TVI’m going to put up a few links about what’s been going down in my state but I really have gone past words at some level. I have a few scattered thoughts. First, the two most recent shooters–while being black men–remind me more of Timothy McVeigh than anything coming from BLM.   These recent institutional shooters all have a military background and appear to have spent extensive time in theater over in the Middle East.

The Dallas police shooter was an army Vet and a “loner”.   The Baton Rouge Shooter was a former Marine.   Here’s a list of 22 serial killers with military backgrounds.  Are we really doing a good job of identifying vets with problems and helping them before setting them loose on society again?  Don’t we owe them and ourselves something at all?  If we broke them, shouldn’t we fix them or at least help them in some way to cope with their experiences?

There’s a lot of studies and work that’s been done that show PTSD contributes to violence. Are we just beginning to see some more of the real costs of invading Iraq and Afghanistan and sustaining a brutal ground war?

At the end of their 15-month tour in Iraq, the Lethal Warriors returned to Fort Carson with an impressive battlefield record, having cleared one of the worst parts of Baghdad, in some cases digging up IEDs with little more than screwdrivers and tire irons. Unfortunately, the Lethal Warriors achieved a kind of notoriety that was less for their battlefield exploits than for the battalion’s connection to a string of murders. In December 2007 two soldiers from the unit, Robert James and Kevin Shields, were killed, and three fellow soldiers were charged with murder. The killings were part of a larger pattern of violence extending back to 2005, including 11 murders, in what was the largest killing spree involving a single army base in modern U.S. history.

The increased violence around Fort Carson began at the start of the Iraq war. A 126-page Army report known as an “Epidemiological Consultation” released in 2009 found that the murder rate around the Army’s third-largest post had doubled and that the number of rape arrests had tripled. As David Philipps wrote in Lethal Warriors, his 2010 book about the crime spree, “In the year after the battalion returned from Iraq, the per-capita murder rate for this small group of soldiers was a hundred times greater than the national average.” Tellingly, 2-12’s post-traumatic stress disorder rate was more than three times that of an equivalent unit that had served in a less violent part of Iraq. The EPICON summarized all this in classic bureaucratic language, noting dully that there was “a possible association between increasing levels of combat exposure and risk for negative behavioral outcomes.”

Put another way, war has a way of bringing out the dark side in people.

Road-WarriorOur institutions seem to do be doing that to a lot of people.  Combine that with easy access to military grade weapons and candidates whose stump speeches bring on anger and resentment and you’ve just got some kind of accelerant to death and violence imho anyway.  Mother Jones has started to keep a database on mass shootings and the profiles of the perpetrators is really quite enlightening. This is from 2012 to get you situated.   Here’s the list of the deadliest Mass shootings from 1984 to 2016.  The US is resplendent with well-armed rampage killers. Many of them are trained and experienced killers, quite damaged, and have easy access to weapons.

This is a 2013 Wired article that shows that a lot of the killings at that time were associated with folks with no military experience at all.  A lot of these killers have a fascination with military life styles but that is more along the lines of militias rather than the US military.

The basic pattern found by the New Jersey DHS fusion center, and obtained by Public Intelligence (.PDF), is one of a killer who lashes out at his co-workers. Thirteen out of the 29 observed cases “occurred at the workplace and were conducted by either a former employee or relative of an employee,” the November report finds. His “weapon of choice” is a semiautomatic handgun, rather than the rifles that garnered so much attention after Newtown. The infamous Columbine school slaying of 1999 is the only case in which killers worked in teams: they’re almost always solo acts — and one-off affairs. In every single one of them, the killer was male, between the age of 17 and 49.

They also don’t have military training. Veterans are justifiably angered by the Hollywood-driven meme of the unhinged vet who takes out his battlefield stress on his fellow Americans. (Thanks, Rambo.) In only four of the 29 cases did the shooter have any affiliation with the U.S. military, either active or prior at the time of the slaying, and the fusion center doesn’t mention any wartime experience of the killers. Yet the Army still feels the need to email reporters after each shooting to explain that the killer never served.

How will these recent, targeted shootings of police change our ideas of mass, rampage shooters?  The Baton Rouge shooter has left a huge manifesto on various social media outlets that will likely be analyzed by crime profilers  and psychologists for some time.

Long posted dozens of videos and podcasts on his webpage “Convos With Cosmo” in addition to regularly tweeting and posting on Twitter and Instagram under the pseudonym “Cosmo Setepenra.”

In a video titled “Convos With Cosmo on Protesting, Oppression, and how to deal with Bullies” that was posted a week before Sunday’s shooting, he rants about “fighting back” against “bullies” and discussed the killings of black men at the hands of the police, referencing the death of Sterling, who was shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge earlier this month.

No matter what kinds of lessons we learn about motives or triggers to these kinds of horrible shootings, the one thing we do know is that we have scads of damaged men that have easy access to incredibly powerful weapons wrecking havoc on our communities.  We also know that there is a hard core group of gun fetishists and profiteers that don’t give a damn about that.  While ignoring the perpetual drip drip drip of lost rights from other amendments, the second amendment is being hyped, dosed, and morphed into something that it was never meant to be.  The Republican party is complicit to each and every murder victim.  Machine Guns are not protected by the Second Amendment.

A Texas man who sued the federal government because it wouldn’t approve his application to manufacture a machine gun doesn’t have a constitutional right to possess the automatic weapon, an appeals court ruled.

Jay Hollis sought permission to convert his AR-15, a popular semi-automatic firearm, into an M16 — an automatic firearm that is banned under federal law, except for official use or lawfully obtained pre-1986 models.

After he was rejected, Hollis mounted a constitutional challenge to the Gun Control Act of 1968 — which Congress amended in 1986 to make it illegal to possess or transfer newly manufactured machine guns. Among other things, he argued that an “M-16 is the quintessential militia-styled arm for the modern day.”

In a unanimous ruling issued Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit rejected Hollis’ arguments, categorically noting that “machine guns are not protected arms under the Second Amendment.”

The court explained that the leading Supreme Court precedent on the right to keep and bear arms, 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller, only protected individual handgun possession for “defense of hearth and home.”

“Today … ordinary military weaponry is far more advanced than the weapons typically found at home and used for (self)-defense,” the court said, adding that machine guns are “dangerous and unusual,” and nothing like what militias might have used at the founding of the republic.

“Heller rejected a functionalist interpretation of the Second Amendment premised on the effectiveness of militia service,” the court of appeals said.

Aided by a number of gun rights groups, Hollis had pressed a number of other arguments — that anything that is “ordinary military equipment” is protected, that the Second Amendment really exists to allow a rebellion against the government, and that machine guns aren’t really “dangerous and unusual.”

The 5th Circuit was largely unimpressed, calling the last argument “tantamount to asking us to overrule the Supreme Court.”

We’ve got some major dysfunction in this country that can’t be more clearly represented than by the toxic Trump/Pence ticket.The problem is that a huge portion of our citizenship feels so disenfranchised that they seem to be in search of the end times.  Their viewpoints appear to be funded and shaped by the very folks that are making this happen.  The one thing that’s discouraged me most is that leftists are playing into a similar narrative.

Title: BLADE RUNNER ¥ Pers: SANDERSON, WILLIAM / HANNAH, DARYL ¥ Year: 1982 ¥ Dir: SCOTT, RIDLEY ¥ Ref: BLA040BT ¥ Credit: [ LADD COMPANY/WARNER BROS / THE KOBAL COLLECTION ]

It seems unlikely that Trump will be president.  I’d like to think that Hillary Clinton will be our shero. But, without a full functioning set of government institutions, how are we going to get beyond the Thunderdome? Why are we electing officials whose goal in life appear to be sabotaging our country?  If most people reject Donald Trump, why do we have a Speaker Paul Fucking Ryan whose favorite dystopian fiction writer has an overwhelmingly negative impact our US Policy?

As the GOP convention gets underway in Cleveland today, three national polls released over the weekend showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump: A CNN poll putting Clinton up by 49-42; an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll putting her up by 46-41; and a Washington Post/ABC News poll putting her up by 47-43.

But buried beneath the toplines is evidence of another dynamic that gets at something important about the state of this race: While both Clinton and Trump are very unpopular, large majorities in two of these polls believe that only one of them is qualified for the presidency, and equally large majorities believe that the other one is not.

The new WaPo poll finds, for instance, that Americans say by 59-39 that Clinton is “qualified to serve as president,” but they also say by 60-37 that Trump is “not qualified to serve as president.”

Paul Ryan :: Ayn Désastre :: The Sinking of the S.S. Prospérité

Paul Ryan :: Ayn Désastre :: The Sinking of the S.S. Prospérité

Again, my hope is that Trump/Pence go down yugely and take the likes of Paul Ryan with them. You can’t have one set of them without the others who basically feel the same way but signal their intent with weasel words.

So, obviously, we down here in Louisiana are reeling from all the recent killings.  I think some of the policy prescriptions are obvious otherwise it will be upward and onward with “a bit of the old ultraviolence.”

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Thursday Reads: Ferguson, Missouri is a War Zone

Ferguson2

Good Morning!!

I spent most of the day and night yesterday following the shocking events in Ferguson, Missouri. As I read articles and tweets and studied violent images of police dressed as soldiers and riding in military vehicles, I had repeated flashbacks to the Civil Rights era. Except in those days, police weren’t outfitted with surplus military equipment provided by the Federal government. Back then, the cops had to resort to fire hoses to force people off the streets; but in Ferguson, St. Louis police are equipped with MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles) and LRADs (long-range acoustic devices).

Ferguson isn’t a large city, and reporters on the ground estimated the size of the “crowd” at somewhere between 150 and 250 people, who were largely protesting peacefully by holding their hands in the air and chanting “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” It’s long past time for Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (a Democrat) to step in and tell the cops to calm down and put away their military toys. If he won’t take action, then President Obama should instruct Attorney General Holder to do it.

The protests follow the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a still-unnamed Ferguson policeman last Saturday afternoon. Brown “had no criminal background,” according to KDSK.com. Police claim that Brown struggled with the officer and tried to grab his gun. But that makes no sense. Why did the officer choose to stop Brown as he peacefully walked down the street with a friend? That friend, Dorian Johnson tells a different version of events.

From USA Today: Witness to Michael Brown shooting comes forward.

Dorian Johnson said he was standing inches from Brown when the shooting occurred around 1:40 p.m. Saturday. He gave his account of the shooting to KSDK-TV.

“The officer is approaching us and as he pulled up on the side of us, he didn’t say freeze, halt or anything like we were committing a crime. He said, ‘Get the F on the sidewalk.’

After Johnson said the officer thrust open the door of his patrol car, hitting the pair, Johnson said the officer grabbed Brown around the neck and tried to pull him through the window. He said Brown never tried to reach for the officer’s weapon.

“The second time he says, ‘I’ll shoot,’ a second later the gun went off and he let go,” Johnson said. “That’s how we were able to run at the same time. The first car I see, I ducked behind for because I fear for my life. I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t understand why this officer is shooting his weapon at us.”

According to Johnson, the officer pursued Brown and fired another shot. which struck Brown in the back. He said Brown turned and faced the officer with his hands raised.

“My friend started to tell the officer that he was unarmed and that he could stop shooting (him),” Johnson said. “Before he could get his second sentence out, the officer fired several more shots into his head and chest area. He fell dramatically into the fatal position. I did not hear once he yell freeze, stop or halt. it was just horrible to watch.”

Unfortunately for the officer who killed Brown, two more witnesses have now come forward. From CNN:

While Michael Brown appeared to tussle with an officer before he was shot dead, he didn’t enter the police cruiser as authorities claim he did, two witnesses told CNN.

The women’s accounts corroborate that of a previous witness, all three of whom said the officer fatally shot the unarmed teen.

Police have said the black 18-year-old died in a dangerous struggle after trying to grab the officer’s weapon. Not so, say the witnesses.

“It looked as if Michael was pushing off and the cop was trying to pull him in,” Tiffany Mitchell told CNN on Wednesday night.

Mitchell had driven to Ferguson to pick up another woman Piaget Crenshaw. The two women witnessed the shooting from two different angles–Mitchell from her car and Crenshaw from a building nearby.

Neither woman, who gave their statements to St. Louis County police, say they saw Brown enter the vehicle.

Instead, a shot went off, then the teen broke free, and the officer got out of the vehicle in pursuit, the women said.

“I saw the police chase him … down the street and shoot him down,” Crenshaw said. Brown ran about 20 feet.

“Michael jerks his body, as if he’s been hit,” Mitchell said.

Then he faced the officer and put his hands in the air, but the officer kept firing, both women said. He sank to the pavement.

The protests in Ferguson, a town in which the population is 2/3 black but the political leadership and police force are overwhelmingly white, are largely driven by the fact that police will not name the shooter or released the results of Brown’s autopsy, despite Missouri’s sunshine law.

August 13, 2014: A device deployed by police goes off in the street as police and protesters clash in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

August 13, 2014: A device deployed by police goes off in the street as police and protesters clash in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

From The New York Times: Anonymity in Missouri Police Shooting Fuels Frustration.

FERGUSON, Mo. — In the five days since an unarmed young black man was fatally shot by a police officer here, the selective release of information about the shooting, and especially the anonymity granted to the officer, has stoked frustrations in this largely African-American community north of St. Louis, where residents describe increasingly tense relations with the police.

The police chief, Thomas Jackson, has repeatedly declined to identify the officer, who has been put on administrative leave. But on Wednesday, the chief did offer a new detail about the shooting, which has kindled nights of racial unrest and an unyielding police response with tear gas, rubber bullets and arrests.

Jackson claims there have been threats against the police officer and he needs protection. So why not simply arrest him for murder and send his family to a safer location? Instead, Wilson called in law enforcement support from St. Louis and enabled an incredible overreaction to largely peaceful protests. From the Times article:

On Wednesday night, scores of police officers in riot gear and in armored trucks showed up to disperse protesters who had gathered on the streets near the scene of the shooting. Some officers perched atop the vehicles with their guns trained on the crowds while protesters chanted, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” A police spokesman said that some demonstrators had thrown Molotov cocktails at officers and that some had tried to set fires. The police used tear gas on demonstrators, and some protesters said rubber bullets had been fired at them. Police said one officer appeared to have suffered a broken ankle after being hit by a brick.

The police made more than 10 arrests. Among those arrested was Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman, who had been documenting the protests on social media, his wife said on Twitter.

Two reporters covering the protests also said they had been arrested inside a McDonald’s for trespassing and later released without charges or an explanation. The reporters, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post, both said they had been handled roughly by the police.

If you don’t read anything else on the events in Ferguson, read this article and look at the photos.

ferguson_5-600x390

More recommended stories:

Mashable: Ferguson or Iraq? Photos Unmask the Militarization of America’s Police.

As America scaled back its presence in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2012, military gear — amphibious tanks, weapons, uniforms and drones — spilled into local police arsenals. In June, an ACLU report warned of the “excessive militarization” of local law enforcement. “This has the effect of terrifying people, destroying communities and actually undermining public safety,” Kara Dansky, ACLU senior counsel, told Mashable in June.

The photos below show the heavily armed Ferguson police officers, dressed in camouflaged uniforms. They are set side-by-side with images of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One of the photo comparisons below. Which was taken in Ferguson and which in Iraq?

Militarization of Police 02

 

NBC News: Michael Brown Killing: Missouri Governor to Visit as Unrest Grows in Ferguson.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said he would visit the St. Louis suburbs Thursday after police fired tear gas to break up crowds in a fourth night of civil unrest over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager.

Sixteen people were arrested, including two reporters, on Wednesday night in the suburb of Ferguson, and police said that two officers were injured, one hit by a brick, NBC affiliate KSDK reported….

Nixon said in a statement that the worsening situation in Ferguson was “deeply troubling.” He canceled a planned visit to the state fair. “While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern,” he said.

Too little, too late, IMHO.

The Baltimore Sun: Riots in Ferguson and what they mean, by Leonard Pitts.

To believe that this carnage — the windows smashed, the buildings torched, the tear gas wafting — is all about the killing of Michael Brown is to miss the point….

Because, again, this is not just about Brown. It’s about Eric Garner, choked to death in a confrontation with New York City Police. It’s about Jordan Davis, shot to death in Jacksonville, Florida, because he played his music too loud. It’s about Trayvon Martin, shot to death in Sanford, Florida, because a self-appointed neighborhood guardian judged him a thug. It’s about Oscar Grant, shot by a police officer in an Oakland, California, subway station as cellphone cameras watched. It’s about Amadou Diallo, executed in that vestibule and Abner Louima, sodomized with that broomstick. It’s about Rodney King.

And it is about the bitter sense of siege that lives in African-American men, a sense that it is perpetually open season on us.

And that too few people outside of African America really notice, much less care. People who look like you are every day deprived of health, wealth, freedom, opportunity, education, the benefit of the doubt, the presumption of innocence, life itself — and when you try to say this, even when you document it with academic studies and buttress it with witness testimony, people don’t want to hear it, people dismiss you, deny you, lecture you about white victimhood, chastise you for playing a so-called “race card.”

They choke off avenues of protest, prizing silence over justice, mistaking silence for peace. And never mind that sometimes, silence simmers like water in a closed pot on a high flame….the anger we see in Ferguson did not spring from nowhere, nor arrive, fully-formed, when Michael Brown was shot. It is the anger of people who are, as Fannie Lou Hamer famously said, sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Silence imposed on pain cannot indefinitely endure. People who are hurting will always, eventually, make themselves heard.

The only problem with Pitts’ column is that there haven’t been any actual “riots” in Ferguson yet–unless you count what the police are doing as rioting.

Riverfront Times: Watch Police in Ferguson Arrest, Tear Gas Journalists [VIDEO]

Police actions against press seem to be part of the reason Governor Jay Nixon finally decided to cut his Missouri State Fair trip short. The governor says he’ll arrive in St. Louis County Thursday morning to manage what’s increasingly becoming a volatile, violent and devastating time in St. Louis history.

SWAT officers arrested Wesley Lowery, a political reporter at TheWashington Post, and Ryan Reilly, a Huffington Post justice reporter, shortly before 7 p.m. while clearing out a McDonalds near the protests where they were working. The reporters say police asked for their identification and eventually arrested them when they weren’t leaving quickly enough.

The journalists say they were arrested without being read their Miranda writes and eventually released with nothing — no charges, no police report, no names of arresting officers. The Los Angeles Times says police only released them after their reporter alerted the chief of Ferguson Police (His response: “Oh, god,”), who then called St. Louis County Police.

Late last night, police in Ferguson also tried to order the media to shut off their cameras, and they attacked journalists from Al Jazeera and confiscated their equipment. 

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill decided last night that it was time for her to take some action, since Governor Nixon wasn’t doing it. She will meet with Eric Holder today to discuss the Ferguson situation.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) says she has a phone call planned with Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday to discuss the situation in Ferguson, Mo., where an apparently unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a police officer last weekend.

Amid clashes in the St. Louis suburb Wednesday night, the senator tweeted that she’s been working the phones to try to deescalate the “tense and unacceptable situation.” ….

Holder and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett briefed President Obama Wednesday and the president will receive another briefing Thursday.

I’ll have to end there, because this post is getting way too long. I’ll post more important links in the comments. I’ll leave it to you Sky Dancers to update me on the rest of the news. I’ve been too focuses on Ferguson to pay attention to anything else. See you in the comment thread.


Tuesday Evening Reads

Good Evening. I’m filling in for Minkoff Minx tonight, as she prepares for her surgery tomorrow.

I just heard on MSNBC that NBC News has already called the DC and Maryland primaries for Mitt Romney. The polls close in Wisconsin at 9PM Eastern, but Romney is expected to win there also.

As I wrote this morning, folks in Wisconsin are much more excited about the vote to recall Governor Scott Walker, which takes place in June, than they are about today’s Republican primary. Along those lines, John Nichols has an interesting piece in The Nation about why Walker has been avoiding talking about or being seen with the Republican candidates, despite the fact that Romney and Santorum have been praising Walker’s anti-labor agenda to the skies in hopes of gaining votes.

Romney’s major appearance in the vicinity of the state’s second largest city, Madison, was on Saturday at a suburban call center where Walker backers are trying—in preparation for the recall race—to identify supporters of the governor. Romney used the event, as he has others across the state, to hail Walker as a “hero.”

Santorum, who actually made calls at a Walker office last week, has been even more effusive in his praise of the embattled governor, telling crowds they have to work to prevent the recalls of Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. “Please continue to lead and defend these two great public officials,” he told the crowd in Waukesha County.

But you won’t hear Walker thanking the presidential candidates for their support. Even when the governor is in the vicinity of the GOP contenders—at party functions, for instance—he leaves a good distance between himself and Romney and Santorum. And as the primary approaches, Walker is scheduling himself away from the candidates.

Why? Because the governor recognizes that he is in the fight of his political life, and the last thing he wants is to reemphasize why that fight has developed by appearing with Republican presidential candidates who are highlighting precisely the policies that got Walker in political hot water.

Also in Wisconsin, police have identified a suspect in the yesterday’s Planned Parenthood bombing attempt, but they aren’t naming him yet.

Police say they have arrested the person they think placed a homemade explosive device that went off Sunday and damaged Planned Parenthood’s Gillett Street clinic.

Police said today they identified the man after reviewing surveillance footage.

The 50-year-old man Brillion man was jailed early Tuesday for violating his probation, though police haven’t yet sought charges stemming from placement of the explosive and subsequent fire at the clinic. The man has a lengthy criminal history that includes cocaine possession and delivery, resisting or obstructing police, bail jumping and disorderly conduct.

“The focus today is to determine what else we can discover that might link this person to the situation,” said Grand Chute Police Chief Greg Peterson.

There were some terrible tornadoes in the the Dallas, Texas area this afternoon.

Tornadoes and violent storms raked through the Dallas area Tuesday, crumbling the wing of a nursing home, peeling roofs from dozens of homes and spiraling big-rig trailers into the air like footballs. More than a dozen injuries were reported.

Overturned cars left streets unnavigable and flattened trucks clogged highway shoulders. Preliminary estimates were that six to 12 tornadoes had touched down in North Texas, senior National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Martello said. But firm numbers would only come after survey teams checked damage Wednesday, he said.

In suburban Dallas, Lancaster Police officer Paul Beck said 10 people were injured, two of them severely. Three people were injured in Arlington, including two residents of a nursing home who were taken to a hospital with minor injuries after swirling winds clipped the building, city assistant fire chief Jim Self said.

“Of course the windows were flying out, and my sister is paralyzed, so I had to get someone to help me get her in a wheelchair to get her out of the room,” said Joy Johnston, who was visiting her 79-year-old sister at the Green Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “It was terribly loud.”

It sounds pretty bad, but so far no deaths have been reported. I sure hope it stays that way.

Can the judicial branch “order” the executive branch to do something? According to a Fox News headline, they can: Judges order Justice Department to clarify Obama remarks on health law case. Funny, I thought the three branches of government were independent of each other.

A federal appeals court is striking back after President Obama cautioned the Supreme Court against overturning the health care overhaul and warned that such an act would be “unprecedented.”

A three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to explain by Thursday whether the administration believes judges have the power to strike down a federal law.

One justice in particular chided the administration for what he said was being perceived as a “challenge” to judicial authority — referring directly to Obama’s latest comments about the Supreme Court’s review of the health care case….

“Does the Department of Justice recognize that federal courts have the authority in appropriate circumstances to strike federal statutes because of one or more constitutional infirmities?” Judge Jerry Smith asked at the hearing.

Justice Department attorney Dana Lydia Kaersvang answered “yes” to that question.

Fine, but the President has the same first amendment rights as any citizen, and judges can’t tell him what to say or not say. These “conservative” justices are getting too big for their britches, if you ask me.

I wrote this morning that Florida states attorney Norman Wolfinger had accused Trayvon Martin’s parent of “outright lies” in their request for help from the Justice Department. Today the parents and their attorneys struck back: This family deserves answers.

[Natalie Jackson, a lawyer for Trayvon’s parents] said the family is “asking the same questions that the American people are asking.” She added, in a pointed rebuke of Wolfinger, who, an anonymous source told theGrio, personally met with the chief on the night of the shooting, February 26th, after which the decision to release Zimmerman was made: “the family is getting the same information the public is getting, through the media, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be. They should be getting it from the source.”

Jackson said Wolfinger’s office failed to keep the family informed when he had the case, and added, “the only source who can get answers for this family at this point, is the Justice Department.”

Jackson said Trayvon’s parents have a core question: “why was George Zimmerman not arrested that night? Why did [Wolfinger’s office and Sanford police] say there was no probable cause? We as Americans see there was probable cause. That is the core of the problem. If the state attorney had answered that question, we wouldn’t be here. But it’s not acceptable to ignore the family. So let’s not attack these parents when all they want to know is what happened to their dead child. Because no matter what, their child was walking home from the store. If George Zimmerman had stayed in his car, we wouldn’t be here. The lead homicide detective believed there should be an arrest. Why wasn’t [Zimmerman] arrested?”

Jackson said that since no local law enforcement representatives will answer the family’s questions, they don’t see any other way to get answers than through the Justice Department. MSNBC reported that FBI agents were interviewing witnesses today. I have a strong feeling that Sanford police and Wolfinger are going to get their comeuppance eventually.

Zimmerman’s strongest defender in the neighborhood, Frank Taaffee, isn’t doing his pal George any favors. He went on a “rant” about “young black males” in an interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien.

“Neighbor-hood, that’s a great word,” Taaffe said, chuckling. “We had eight burglaries in our neighborhood, all perpetrated by young black males in the 15 months prior to Trayvon being shot.”

O’Brien asked how many arrests and convictions there were, and Taffee said there was only one. So how does he know the burglaries were all committed by “young black males?” But despite the lack of arrests, Taffee claims to know.

“It sounds like you are saying that it made sense to you that George Zimmerman would be fearful of young black men,” O’Brien observed.

“No, it would be consistent that the perpetrators were all of the young black male ID,” Taaffe explained. “All of the perpetrators of the prior burglaries were young black males. … You know, there’s an old saying that if you plant corn, you get corn.”

“If you plant corn, you get corn. What does that mean?” O’Brien wondered.

“It is what it is,” Taaffe replied. “I would go on record stating, of the eight prior burglaries in the 15 months prior to the Trayvon Martin shooting, all of the perpetrators were young black males. … No disrespect to George Clooney, but it was a perfect storm. All the ingredients were set up. You know, the prior burglaries were committed or perpetrated by young black males, George was on his [neighborhood watch] rounds.”

Interestingly, Taaffe has a criminal history similar to Zimmerman’s. Taffee has been arrested for violating protective order against him for domestic violence.

Someone at DU posted Taafee’s full criminal record. He was arrested for beating up his wife (now ex-wife) in 1999, 2000, and 2008 and for harassing his children in 2002. They also got a restraining order against him. He was convicted of criminal trespass and petty theft in 2000 and sentenced to 9 months in jail. And he was charged with failure to pay child support in 1999. Nice guy, huh?

This will give you some news to chew on. The Wisconsin results should be coming in a few minutes.


Left Out of the “Furor” over the Contraception Rule: WOMEN

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says it very well. Surprise!! She’s a woman! She knows whereof she speaks. From Care 2:

Sens. Gillibrand and Boxer, along with seven Democratic senators and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are appealing to backers on all of their websites to sign on to the “One Million Strong For Women” in hopes of harnessing this energy and using it to make a strong defense for women’s rights.

Sen. Gillibrand made the pitch to supporters in an email. “Our opponents tried to defund Planned Parenthood, in the federal budget and in many states. They tried to destroy our Medicare and Medicaid lifelines, which would be particularly devastating to women,” the email says. “They tried to get the Susan G. Komen Foundation to cut off support for Planned Parenthood.”

Two male Senators, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut joined with Gillibrand, Boxer, and Patty Murray to stand up for women’s autonomy and control over their own bodies.

Weighing in the side of those who know nothing about being a woman and fighting for the freedom to decide when and how to have children, Vice President Joe Biden:

In his first public comments on the decision, Biden told Cincinnati radio station WLW that he is “determined to see that this gets worked out, and I believe we can work it out.”

Biden, the nation’s first Catholic vice president, was among the top aides who had warned President Barack Obama that the decision could be politically explosive, particularly with Catholics, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

“As a practicing Catholic, I am of the view that this can be worked out and should be worked out. And I know the president feels the same way,” Biden said.

Work what out Joe? A way to let Catholic Bishops control American women’s choices about their own bodies? STFU, Joe. You have no idea what you’re talking about.

John Boehner opened his big fat mouth too:

“If the president does not reverse the [Health and Human Services] Department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must,” Boehner said in a rare floor speech.

“In imposing this requirement, the federal government is violating a First Amendment right that has stood for more than two centuries. And it is doing so in a manner that affects millions of Americans and harms some of our nation’s most vital institutions.”

Oh really? Well, you are full of sh&t, John. You have no idea what you’re talking about. This is not about the First Amendment. It’s about women’s access to health care. STFU, John.

The same goes for Chris Matthews, Mark Shields, E.J. Dionne, Mike Barnicle, Joe Scarborough, and all the rest of the male punditry who seem to believe they have the right to control women’s choices and their access to basic health care. STFU!! Go find something useful to do and butt out of American women’s lives!

Most of all, the Catholic Bishops and the other fundamentalist religious fanatics who insist on pontificating on issues that affect women’s bodies need to STFU! Hey, I have an idea! How about doing something about the abuse of children by the clergy?

It’s time for women and the men who support them to do the talking. It’s time for men who think they own women and rule their health care choices to listen for a change.