Monthly Archives: January 2016

Unedited Video Of the Oregon Standoff and Arrest and Showdown

There have been conflicting stories about how militant LaVoy Finicum.  Occupants of Finicum’s car say he was “executed” with his hands up.  Law enforcement accounts say that he was reaching into his left jacket pocket and not keeping his hands up (and a loaded gun was found in that pocket later).

To me, in this video, a couple of things are quite clear:

(1)  Finicum’s car was trying to flee law enforcement after he was stopped.  This all happens within the first minute of the video

(2)  When the car goes into a snowbank, Finicum comes out and his hands are raised.  However, he is not standing still.

So clearly, he was not complying with the police officers.

But did he reach for the gun.  I see it in the video.  When the video is enlarged to fullscreen, I see his hands come down and toward his pocket and that’s when he gets shot by the federal agent behind him.

You be the judge. This is the complete video footage of a joint FBI and Oregon State Police traffic stop and OSP officer-involved shooting of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This footage, which has only been edited to blur out aircraft information, was taken by the FBI on 01/26/2016 and released by the FBI on 01/28/2016. Note regarding date/time stamp in the left corner of video: Pilots use Zulu Time, also known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), when they fly. Zulu time is eight hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (PST). Therefore, although this footage was taken on January 26, 2016 in Oregon, the date/time stamp on the video shows just after midnight January 27, 2016.

If the video provides some sense of how the shooting went down, it still doesn’t offer much indication of why. Did Finicum think he could make it through the snow? Was it his decision alone to drive ahead, or did the other passengers agree? Did he expect police would fire? (He’d previously said he would rather die than be arrested.) Why did all the other passengers in both cars surrender without incident? These questions seem likely to remain unanswered at least until the others describe the moment.

The shooting and arrests seem to have effectively sapped the occupation of its energy. Ammon Bundy, arrested in the Jeep behing Finicum’s truck,  made a statement through his lawyer, called on the remnant to leave, and police surrounded the refuge and threw up road blocks. Several militia members have been arrested as they leave. There are now just four people left, and they are demanding that police agree not to arrest them in exchange for leaving.

“We’re asking, just drop the charges and we’re willing to go. But if they’re not willing to do that, we’re all just willing to stay here and see what happens,” one man, tentatively identified as David Fry, says in a video from the refuge posted Thursday. Fry told the Los Angeles Times’ Matt Pearce that three of them have been told they’re free to go, but a fourth faces a criminal charge. They also don’t want authorities to check their guns. If it’s hard to imagine police agreeing to such an exchange, it’s also true that the occupation’s demands—including release of two men imprisoned for federal crimes and federal surrender of the refuge—also always seemed wildly unrealistic.

Oregon Standoff Loosing Steam

Kudos to law enforcement.  Looks like their tactic worked.  A lot of lefties, including me, thought they were ignoring the armed occupiers when this thing began, but the feds knew what they were doing:

The Mass Shooting You Didn’t Hear About

The FBI doesn’t take victory laps, but I think maybe it should. These stories happen all the time and they never get the same media attention as the stories in which people bleed. And that’s why so many Americans live in (and vote out of) fear. We’re doing okay against the bad guys — better than you might think.  This story isn’t featured in any of the national media:

A terrorist-style plot intended to kill dozens of people with automatic weapons at a Masonic center in Milwaukee was foiled this week by FBI agents, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Samy Mohamed Hamzeh discussed his plan to attack the center with two others, detailing how they would quickly and quietly kill the first people they saw and then methodically move through the building, “eliminating everyone” they encountered, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Hamzeh, 23, has been charged with possessing a machine gun and a silencer. Despite indications of an attempted act of terrorism, Hamzeh is not charged with any terrorism counts.

“We are Muslims, defending Muslim religion, we are on our own, my dear, we have organized our own group,” Hamzeh said, according to the criminal complaint, adding he was confident it would trigger more attacks in the United States.

“Such operations will increase in America, when they hear about it. The people will be scared and the operations will increase, and there will be problems all over,… this will lead to people clashing with each other. This way we will be igniting it. I mean we are marching at the front of the war,” he said, according to the complaint.

Acting U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad called it a “detailed plan to commit a mass shooting intended to kill dozens of people.”

Bravo, FBI.

The Blame Game Starts


With time running out until the first primary votes are cast, establishment Republicans have begun a ferocious round of finger-pointing over who is to blame for the party’s failure to stop Donald Trump.

The chiding, once limited to private conversations, is now erupting in public view — with campaigns, operatives, donors, party officials and conservative intellectuals arguing over why something hasn’t been done to stop the man who has been leading nearly every state and national poll since August. Trump, many in the GOP’s upper ranks are convinced, would lead the Republican Party to an epic defeat in November, with consequences all the way down the ballot.

“This whole thing is a disaster,” said Curt Anderson, a former Republican National Committee political director and veteran operative. “I think I’ll write a book about it.”

Receiving much of the blame is Right to Rise, the cash-flush super PAC that broke records when it announced last year that it had raised more than $100 million in support of Jeb Bush. The group has directed relatively little of that sum toward attacking Trump — instead focusing its efforts on taking down Bush’s establishment rivals, above all Marco Rubio. To date, the group has spent about $5 million on TV commercials going after Trump, while dropping four times as much in negative ads against Rubio.

Yeah.  The blame can be based on Bush’s PAC.

That’s crazy.

Here’s how Trump happened.

There was this political party, see, called the Republicans, and it embraced radical rhetoric from AM radio jocks and fire-and-brimstone preachers, all of whom showed a disdain for the government.  It started with the election of a very kind and genial man, who said that “government is the problem”, and continued deeper and deeper into the abyss with more radical anti-government rhetoric (all while wearing a flag for “patriotism”). That party’s base grew ever more hateful toward the mere idea of government, even the best one in the world.  To keep this base in line, and whipped into a foam, a strategy was developed — a strategy wherein people who had pale skin would be the good guys who loved America and hated the American government…. were pitted against the minorities of all types (women, gays, and anyone who did not have pale skin) who posed a threat to the good guys and would take their stuff and change their way of life.  From then on, the loudest and craziest candidate who spoke this nonsense would rise within the party, and even get elected to local or state positions.  Maybe even Senator.  This paved the way for Trump, who now can rise to great heights by mimicking the radical right rhetoric and anti-government stance whether he believes it or not.

Bush’s PAC.  Puh-lease.

Trump At War With Fox

This may be the point where the fracture in the Republican Party becomes unfixable.

You have a candidate who leads the GOP poll by double digits nationally, fighting with the media mouthpiece of the GOP in a bizarre carnival of testosterone.

It’s the climax of a bizarre confrontation between the candidate and the dominant conservative news outlet. The first debate the network hosted involved some tense moments between Trump and Megyn Kelly, one of Fox’s premier personalities. The aftermath was much uglier, with Trump making comments about Kelly that were acknowledged as misogynistic by pretty much everyone except, well, Trump.

Fox announced that Kelly would be moderating tomorrow’s debate, too, and Trump started making noises about a boycott.

Fox responded by mocking Trump: “We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president—a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.”

That was too much for Trump, who announced his intention to skip the debate. Since then, the two sides have engaged in continuing skirmishes. Trump called the ayatollah statement “a disgrace to good broadcasting and journalism. Who would ever say something so nasty & dumb.” Fox accused Trump’s campaign of threatening Kelly. Trump called Kelly a bimbo, while claiming he wouldn’t. Meanwhile, Ted Cruz—who’s been engaged in a tense struggle with his old pal Trump for dominance in Iowa—piped up to challenge Trump to an alternate, “mano-a-mano” debate.

Anyone who confidently predicts how this will shake out is either bluffing or employed by Trump or Fox. If Fox manages to get one up on Trump, it’d be a huge victory. Trump has consistently managed to marginalize conservative media outlets throughout the campaign, including, to a certain extent, Fox.

But Trump announced he wouldn’t be attending.  The gamble could pay off because it shows Trump marching to the beat of his own drum, a promise consistent with the message of his campaign that has caught on with voters.

It seems to me that GOP voters would be served by Trump NOT being there.  I think it opens up the other candidates to say what need to be said and (incredibly) still hasn’t been said on the right — that Trump is in this for Trump (not public service), that it is about extending the Trump brand (even while serving as President), and that when confronted with such daunting foes as Megyn Kelly, he whines like a four year old.

Hell, I’d watch that debate.

You Read Digby Now

She wrote about how Trump has revealed something very important about the conservative movement for Salon this morning. A good many of its believers have just been mouthing words all these years. They don’t care about their elaborate ideology. They just hate the other team…. a snippet:

The Republican establishment is under a tremendous amount of stress right now. Donald Trump has the party functionaries running around like his personal factotums and the elected officials are all figuring out the angles to ensure they come out on the Donald’s good side. It’s possible it may not survive in the form we’ve come to know it.

But the conservative movement is equally under pressure.  They thought their years of carefully growing and indoctrinating the right wing of the Republican Party had resulted in a common belief in a certain conservative ideology, strategic vision and commitment to a specific agenda.  It turns out that a good number of the people they thought had signed on to their program just wanted someone to stick it to ethnic and racial minorities and make sure America is the biggest bad ass on the planet — authoritarian, white nationalism. If you’ve got a man who will deliver that you don’t need ideology. And he doesn’t need democracy.

The mystery is why all these smart conservatives didn’t see this coming. They unleashed this beast a long time ago with the hate radio and the media propaganda and the ruthless politics. It was only a matter of time before it turned on them.

Oregon Standoff Has Arrests, A Shootout, and A Death

… but it continues.

There had been no visible law enforcement presence around the refuge as the situation stretched on for days and weeks, and occupiers came and went as they pleased, though they said they remained on guard. The group’s leaders had felt comfortable enough to move freely, leaving the refuge’s headquarters to attend meetings with residents and law enforcement officials.

On Tuesday afternoon, with the group’s leaders away from the refuge and traveling on a highway, FBI agents and the Oregon State Police moved to arrest them on federal charges. Five occupiers were arrested on the highway, including Ammon Bundy, the group’s leader. Three other people tied to the situation were later arrested in Oregon and Arizona.

All of the people arrested on the Oregon highway surrendered to authorities except for one man, later identified as LaVoy Finicum, a spokesman for the group who had previously said he would rather die than go to jail. Another official familiar with the encounter said Finicum refused to surrender and was fatally shot; authorities said Wednesday they were investigating the shooting.

The FBI and state police staked out a spot along the route to John Day to stop the caravan. At first, both vehicles complied with an order to pull over, but then the lead vehicle took off, the law enforcement official said.

It didn’t get very far, hitting a snow bank. Finicum, the official said, jumped out of that vehicle “brandishing a firearm.”

There are a couple of firsthand accounts of what happened yesterday out in Oregon and how Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum wound up getting shot and killed. The accounts differ substantially.

Finicum was a Mormon rancher with 11 children, 19 grandchildren and a wife of 23 years. He told NBC News three weeks ago that he would rather die than be taken into custody as part of the occupation.

It is unfortunate that that Mr. Finicum lost his life regardless of whether he’s wholly responsible for his death or not. I think the guy was disturbed and needed help. And I don’t think anyone was in a real position to give it to him except the other folks who were occupying the refuge with him, and they all seem to be nearly as far gone as he was.

Today, federal agents sealed off the Oregon wildlife refuge occupied by the remaining armed protesters. They up checkpoints and roadblocks around the refuge, saying that people who tried to travel inside would be arrested and calling for the armed people remaining there to leave. But also suggested that the situation at the refuge would not continue indefinitely and placed blame for the fatal encounter a day earlier on those occupying the refuge.

The bios of those arrested are here.

Lurking in the background since the beginning of the Oregon standoff was the possibility of violence and bloodshed, but the feds’ hands-off approach combined with the occupiers’ sometimes goofball circus antics helped keep that mostly below the surface. Last’s night violent confrontation has now changed the equation considerably, and the remaining occupiers are ramping up their rhetoric and are taking a more confrontational and aggressive pose, as is law enforcement.

The FBI has warned journalists this morning that it cannot guarantee their protection at the refuge, so many of them have gotten out of Dodge. Occupiers are issuing calls for supporters to rally to the refuge in their defense.

I don’t think this is over.  And already, it will be invoked by the rightwing extremists as another “Waco”.

How Flint Happened

It’s long and wonky, but Nate Silver’s 538 site looks at the Flint lead problem from a statistical standpoint.  Good stuff.  Some snippets:

Officials at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the agency in charge of making sure water is safe in the state, made a series of decisions that had disastrous consequences:

  • Against federal guidelines, they chose not to require the Flint water plant to use optimized corrosion control, despite telling the Environmental Protection Agency they were doing so in an email on Feb. 27, 2015.
  • They took few samples and took them from the wrong places, using a protocol known to miss important sources of lead, which some say didn’t comply with a 25-year-old law meant to prevent lead exposure in residential water.
  • They threw out two samples whose inclusion would have put more than 10 percent of the tests above what’s known as the “actionable level” of lead, 15 parts per billion. Had the DEQ not done so, the city would have been required to warn residents that there was a problem with lead in the water back in the summer of 2015, or possibly earlier.

The second bullet point caught my interest, and 538 expands on it.  The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality did water study samples, but too few.  When citizens conducted their own study, spreading out to a number of places and getting more samples, the results were very different:


That is simply amazing.  Bad science practice.

R.I.P. Abe Vigoda

The actor who never dies, has died:

180px-Abe_Vigoda_1975Legendary actor Abe Vigoda — who starred in “The Godfather” — died under hospice care at the age of 94 … TMZ has learned.

Abe’s death had been falsely reported countless times, dating all the way back to 1982.

Abe played Tessio in “The Godfather” and also “The Godfather Part II.” In fact, he was still doing the voice for Tessio in ‘Godfather’ video games as late as 2007.

His most famous role on TV was as Detective Phil Fish on the ’80s sitcom “Barney Miller” … which once worked the infamous hoax reports of Abe’s death into a storyline.

He’s been in my dead pool for many years, except this one I think.

Abe Vigoda was old when he starred in Barney Miller (which wasn’t a 1980s sitcom — it was the 1970s).  I mean, he seemed REALLY old, and he played a very old one-foot-in-the-grave character.

The website exists for one reason, and one reason only.  To report whether Abe Vigoda is dead or alive.  Looks like they need to do an update.  Here’s a screen cap:

abe vigoda status



“Good Guys With Guns” Will Be The Death Of Us

More so now that are allowed to carry guns anywhere and are easily spooked:

Police say the man suspected of accidentally shooting a stranger at a Renton movie theater told them he carried a firearm because he feared mass shootings.

Dane Gallion, 29, told officers he took the gun to Regal Cinemas 14 at the Landing on Thursday night because he was “concerned about recent mass shootings in public places,” according to a police account in a probable-cause statement released Saturday.

That same anxiety prompted him to keep the gun unholstered in his waistband, the statement says.

The shooting victim, a woman who was wounded in the shoulder, was in stable condition Saturday, according to a nursing supervisor at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.


This is unusual and uplifting:

A grand jury convened to investigate whether a Houston Planned Parenthood clinic had sold the organs of aborted fetuses on Monday cleared the clinic and instead indicted the undercover videographers behind the allegations, surprising the officials who called for the probe and delighting supporters of the women’s health organization.

The Harris County grand jury indicted David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, both of California, on charges of tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony with a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison. It also charged Daleiden, the leader of the videographers, with the same misdemeanor he had alleged – the purchase or sale of human organs, presumably because he had offered to buy in an attempt to provoke Planned Parenthood employees into saying they would sell.

“As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us,” said Anderson, a Republican. “All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”

This is a total win for Planned Parenthood.  Harris County, TX is the 12th state-level investigation to clear PP of all wrongdoing.  What is super remarkable is that this is almost unheard of — usually grand juries hand down the indictment that the prosecutor wants.  I’ve never heard them hand down an indictment against the accusers.

But it was not without losses: PP has faced defunding bills, interim charges, and Medicaid eviction.

It is unclear what federal document Daleiden alleged tampered with.

Daleiden’s opinion piece in USA TODAY yesterday made no mention of his impending arrest.

Daleiden and Merritt are also both named in a federal lawsuit filed earlier this month by Planned Parenthood.

The lawsuit accuses the Center for Medical Progress of engaging in illegal conduct in violation of the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) and engaging in wire fraud, mail fraud, invasion of privacy, illegal secret recording and trespassing, Planned Parenthood said in a press release.

“The people behind this fraud lied and broke the law in order to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president, said in a statement “This lawsuit exposes the elaborate, illegal conspiracy designed to block women’s access to safe and legal abortion, and we filed the case to hold them accountable.”

I Might Have Been Wrong

I used to think that Trump would lose steam after Iowa and New Hampshire.

But I’m beginning, like the GOP establishment itself, to swallow the possibility of the inevitability of a Trump victory in the GOP primaries.

Flint Water – What’s Up With That?

The Flint water story has been around for a few weeks, but it really hit national attention (finally) when Hillary Clinton raised in the Democratic debate last weekend.

Here’s a backgrounder.

The first thing to keep in mind is that Flint, Michigan is no longer the thriving city it once was.  As Michael Moore documented in “Roger and Me”, Flint once had almost 200,000 citizens, and about 80,000 of them worked for General Motors.  But GM closed its plants and moved them out of the country, and now Flint has about 100,000 (roughly 8,000 still working for GM). In 2013, Forbes voted it the 2nd worst city in the U.S., in part because of the 48 murders, 145 rapes, 447 robberies, and 1,267 assaults — a total of 1,907 violent crimes (that’s a violent crime rate of 1,876.1 crimes per 100K people).

But the crime was simplya by-product of the financial crisis spawned by a city with high unemployment, white flight, disinvestment, etc. and therefore no tax basis.  In some ways, it was worse than Detroit in that the size of Flint was much larger.

So Rick Snyder, Republican governor of the state of Michigan, comes along and enacts legislation — an “Emergency Financial Manager” law that allowed him to dismiss the democratically elected municipal government of any local government unit when “probable financial stress” was found and appoint an Emergency Manager. This law was fully and completely rejected by a referendum of the voters in Michigan. Subsequently the bill was re-introduced and passed in a form that was not subject to voter referendum. In practice what this has been is a usurpation of local control, and a disaster for local residents.

Detroit was having a water crisis of its own, and the Emergency Manager there decided that the way to raise revenues would be to privatize the water utility.  But how can you sell an asset that had 175 million dollars of uncollected and frankly uncollectable bills?  Well, the EM started off by shutting off the water to residents who were broke and raising its prices. Flint was getting its water from Detroit and was being choked financially by the prices, so the Flint City Council voted 7-1 to build a new water pipeline to Lake Huron, freeing us from exorbitant rates from Detroit. Emergency manager Ed Kurtz went along, happily claiming a mandate for a policy he supported. But until the pipeline was complete, the city of Flint had the option to pay more for water from Detroit, or use the water from the Flint River.  The same Flint River that was too corrosive for GM to use for washing auto parts:

The Flint River — that’s what the Emergency Manager of the city of Flint and Governor Rick Snyder thought was a better choice, and in April 2014, Flint was drawing water from Flint River Anyway, in December 2014, Flint sent out EPA-mandated notices because the city had violated the Safe Drinking Water Act due to high levels of total trihalomethanes, a suspected carcinogen. A few months later when rumors started to circulate about a new contaminant: lead.

But… Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality repeatedly said that the water was safe, and they had the test numbers to back it up. (Later investigation would suggest that some of those numbers had been doctored to maintain federal compliance.)

As late as July 2015 — 16 months after the switch had occurred — officials said that residents could “relax” about reports of lead in the water. Plus, the Department of Environmental Quality was monitored by the EPA, and they had made no official complaint. (Later investigation found that the EPA, too, knew of the presence of lead by mid-2015.)

But there clearly was something wrong. For many, the water just looked gross.  Others reported rashes, fatigue, and nausea. A person showering at the YMCA, started to bleed from her ear due to the abrasiveness of the water. Another man passed out in the showers there.  And so on.

In October 2015, the state finally confirmed the worst fears: There was lead in the water after all. The city switched back to Detroit water, but the damage had already been done.  But the people of Flint — and children — has already been poisoned. Alas for Flint (which is 57 percent African American), lead is measured in parts per billion, and it only takes a few of those for a child to suffer permanent neurological and sometimes physical damage. Points of IQ lost. Behavioral problems and learning disabilities.  Developmental delay. Damage to the nervous system. The discolored water is gross and sickening, and it makes for dramatic pictures, but much of the coloration actually comes from iron flaked off pipes and water mains.


Well, one the one hand, slow agencies like the EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  They didn’t do their job.

But the real culprit was Governor Snyder, who took control of the cities away from the people and put it in the hands of Emergency Managers with unchallenged authority.  An EM named Darnell Earley is getting the brunt of the blame, since he was in charge when the decision was made to get water from the Flint River.  But the decision to do that was actually made by his predecessor EM, the aforementioned Ed Kurtz, along with the city council and Mayor.

So… lots of blame everywhere.


But But But It’s 20 Degrees And Snow Is In The Forecast So How…

Welp, last year was the hottest year on record since they started keeping records:

Scientists reported Wednesday that 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history by far, breaking a record set only the year before — a burst of heat that has continued into the new year and is roiling weather patterns all over the world.

In the continental United States, the year was the second-warmest on record, punctuated by a December that was both the hottest and the wettest since record-keeping began. One result has been a wave of unusual winter floodscoursing down the Mississippi River watershed.

Scientists started predicting a global temperature record months ago, in part because an El Niño weather pattern, one of the largest in a century, is dumping an immense amount of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere. But the bulk of the record-setting heat, they say, is a consequence of the long-term planetary warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

“The whole system is warming up, relentlessly,” said Gerald A. Meehl, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

It will take a few more years to know for certain, but the back-to-back records of 2014 and 2015 may have put the world back onto a trajectory of rapid global warming, after period of relatively slow warming dating to the last powerful El Niño, in 1998.

Politicians attempting to claim that greenhouse gases are not a problem seized on that slow period to argue that “global warming stopped in 1998” and similar statements, with these claims reappearing recently on the Republican presidential campaign trail.

Statistical analysis suggested all along that the claims were false, and the slowdown was, at most, a minor blip in an inexorable trend, perhaps caused by a temporary increase in the absorption of heat by the Pacific Ocean.


The astronomical and weather organizations of Britain and Japan are expected to release similar findings.

Can we stop debating whether climate change is real now?

Reality TV Star Endorses Another Reality TV Star For President

…. and then gives a run-on sentence of word salad for an endorsement.  Seriously, this is messed up.  I have highlighted my favorite parts:

“Thank you so much. It’s so great to be here in Iowa. We’re here just thawing out. Todd and I and a couple of our friends here from Alaska, lending our support for the next president of our great United States of America, Donald J. Trump.

“Mr. Trump, you’re right, look back there in the press box. Heads are spinning, media heads are spinning. This is going to be so much fun.

“Are you ready to make America great again? We all have a part in this. We all have a responsibility. Looking around at all of you, you hard-working Iowa families. You farm families, and teachers, and teamsters, and cops, and cooks. You rockin’ rollers. And holy rollers! All of you who work so hard. You full-time moms. You with the hands that rock the cradle. You all make the world go round, and now our cause is one.

“When asked why I would jump into a primary — kind of stirring it up a little bit maybe — and choose one over some friends who are running and I’ve endorsed a couple others in their races before they decided to run for president, I was told left and right, “you are going to get so clobbered in the press. You are just going to get beat up, and chewed up, and spit out.” You know, I’m thinking, “and?” You know, like you guys haven’t tried to do that every day since that night in ‘08, when I was on stage nominated for VP, and I got to say, “yeah, I’ll go, send me, you betcha. I’ll serve.” And, like you all, I’m still standing. So those of us who’ve kind of gone through the ringer as Mr. Trump has, makes me respect you even more. That you’re here, and you’re putting your efforts, you’re putting reputations, you’re putting relationships on the line to do the right thing for this country. Because you are ready to make America great again.

“Well, I am here because like you I know that it is now or never. I’m in it to win it because we believe in America, and we love our freedom. And if you love your freedom, thank a vet. Thank a vet, and know that the United States military deserves a commander-in-chief that our country passionately, and will never apologize for this country. A new commander-in-chief who will never leave our men behind. A new commander-in-chief, one who will never lie to the families of the fallen. I’m in it, because just last week, we’re watching our sailors suffer and be humiliated on a world stage at the hands of Iranian captors in violation of international law, because a weak-kneed, capitulator-in-chief has decided America will lead from behind. And he, who would negotiate deals, kind of with the skills of a community organizer maybe organizing a neighborhood tea, well, he deciding that, “No, America would apologize as part of the deal,” as the enemy sends a message to the rest of the world that they capture and we kowtow, and we apologize, and then, we bend over and say, “Thank you, enemy.” We are ready for a change. We are ready and our troops deserve the best. A new commander-in-chief whose track record of success has proven he is the master at the art of the deal. He is one who would know to negotiate.

“Only one candidate’s record of success proves he is the master of the art of the deal. He is beholden to no one but we the people, how refreshing. He is perfectly positioned to let you make America great again. Are you ready for that, Iowa?

“No more pussy footin’ around! Our troops deserve the best, you deserve the best!

“He is from the private sector, not a politician, can I get a “Hallelujah!” Where, in the private sector, you actually have to balance budgets in order to prioritize, to keep the main thing, the main thing, and he knows the main thing: a president is to keep us safe economically and militarily. He knows the main thing, and he knows how to lead the charge. So troops, hang in there, because help’s on the way because he, better than anyone, isn’t he known for being able to command, fire! Are you ready for a commander-in-chief, you ready for a commander-in-chief who will let our warriors do their job and go kick ISIS ass? Ready for someone who will secure our borders, to secure our jobs, and to secure our homes? Ready to make America great again, are you ready to stump for Trump? I’m here to support the next president of the United States, Donald Trump.

“Now, eight years ago, I warned that Obama’s promised fundamental transformation of America. That is was going to take more from you, and leave America weaker on the world stage. And that we would soon be unrecognizable. Well, it’s the one promise that Obama kept. But he didn’t do it alone, and this is important to remember, especially those of you, like me, a member of the GOP, this is what we have to remember, in this very contested, competitive, great primary race.

Trump’s candidacy, it has exposed not just that tragic ramifications of that betrayal of the transformation of our country, but too, he has exposed the complicity on both sides of the aisle that has enabled it, okay? Well, Trump, what he’s been able to do, which is really ticking people off, which I’m glad about, he’s going rogue left and right, man, that’s why he’s doing so well. He’s been able to tear the veil off this idea of the system. The way that the system really works, and please hear me on this, I want you guys to understand more and more how the system, the establishment, works, and has gotten us into the troubles that we are in in America. The permanent political class has been doing the bidding of their campaign donor class, and that’s why you see that the borders are kept open. For them, for their cheap labor that they want to come in. That’s why they’ve been bloating budgets. It’s for crony capitalists to be able suck off of them. It’s why we see these lousy trade deals that gut our industry for special interests elsewhere. We need someone new, who has the power, and is in the position to bust up that establishment to make things great again. It’s part of the problem.

“His candidacy, which is a movement, it’s a force, it’s a strategy. It proves, as long as the politicos, they get to keep their titles, and their perks, and their media ratings, they don’t really care who wins elections. Believe me on this. And the proof of this? Look what’s happening today. Our own GOP machine, the establishment, they who would assemble the political landscape, they’re attacking their own frontrunner. Now would the Left ever, would the DNC ever come after their frontrunner and her supporters? No because they don’t eat their own, they don’t self-destruct. But for the GOP establishment to be coming after Donald Trump’s supporters even, with accusations that are so false. They are so busted, the way that this thing works.

We, you, a diverse, dynamic, needed support base that they would attack. And now, some of them even whispering, they’re ready to throw in for Hillary over Trump because they can’t afford to see the status quo go, otherwise, they won’t be able to be slurping off the gravy train that’s been feeding them all these years. They don’t want that to end.

Well, and then, funny, ha ha, not funny, but now, what they’re doing is wailing, “well, Trump and his, uh, uh, uh, Trumpeters, they’re not conservative enough.” Oh my goodness gracious. What the heck would the establishment know about conservatism? Tell me, is this conservative? GOP majorities handing over a blank check to fund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood and illegal immigration that competes for your jobs, and turning safety nets into hammocks, and all these new Democrat voters that are going to be coming on over border as we keep the borders open, and bequeathing our children millions in new debt, and refusing to fight back for our solvency, and our sovereignty, even though that’s why we elected them and sent them as a majority to DC. No! If they’re not willing to do that, then how are they to tell us that we’re not conservative enough in order to be able to make these changes in America that we know need to be…Now they’re concerned about this ideological purity? Give me a break! Who are they to say that? Oh tell somebody like, Phyllis Schlafly, she is the Republican, conservative movement icon and hero and a Trump supporter. Tell her she’s not conservative. How ‘bout the rest of us? Right wingin’, bitter clingin’, proud clingers of our guns, our god, and our religions, and our Constitution. Tell us that we’re not red enough? Yeah, coming from the establishment. Right.

Well, he being the only one who’s been willing, he’s got the guts to wear the issues that need to be spoken about and debate on his sleeve, where the rest of some of these establishment candidates, they just wanted to duck and hide. They didn’t want to talk about these issue until he brought ‘em up. In fact, they’ve been wearing a, this, political correctness kind of like a suicide vest. And enough is enough. These issues that Donald Trump talks about had to be debated. And he brought them to the forefront. And that’s why we are where we are today with good discussion. A good, heated, and very competitive primary is where we are. And now though, to be lectured that, “Well, you guys are all sounding kind of angry,” is what we’re hearing from the establishment. Doggone right we’re angry! Justifiably so! Yes! You know, they stomp on our neck, and then they tell us, “Just chill, okay just relax.” Well, look, we are mad, and we’ve been had. They need to get used to it.

“This election is more than just your basic ABCs, anybody but Clinton. It’s more than that this go-around. When we’re talking about a nation without borders. When we’re talking about bankruptcies in our federal government. Debt that our children and our grandchildren, they’ll never be able to pay off. When we’re talking about no more Reaganesque power that comes from strength. Power through strength. Well, then, we’re talking about our very existence, so no, we’re not going to chill. In fact it’s time to drill, baby, drill down, and hold these folks accountable. And we need to stop the self-sabotage and elect new, and independent, a candidate who represents that and represents America first, finally. Pro-Constitution, common-sense solutions, that he brings to the table. Yes the status quo has got to go. Otherwise we’re just going to get more of the same, and with their failed agenda, it can’t be salvaged. It must be savaged. And Donald Trump is the right one to do that.

“Are you ready for new? And are you ready for the leader who will let you make America great again? It’s gonna take a whole team. It’s gonna take a whole team. Fighters, all of us, in the private sector. Fighters in the House and the Senate. So, our friends, who are fighters in the House and the Senate today, they need to stay there and help out. They can help our new leader in the positions that they are in.

“Let me say something really positive about one of those individuals: Rand Paul. I’m going to tell you about that libertarian streak in him that is healthy, because he knows, you only go to war if you’re determined to win the war! And you quit footin’ the bill for these nations who are oil-rich, we’re paying for some of their squirmishes that have been going on for centuries. Where they’re fightin’ each other and yellin’ “Allah Akbar” calling Jihad on each other’s heads for ever and ever. Like I’ve said before, let them duke it out and let Allah sort it out. We’ll fight for American interests, and as Donald Trump has said, other nations where we have been footin’ the bill, but we haven’t prioritized our own domestic budgets well enough to be able to afford what we’re doing overseas. Things are gonna change under President Trump.

“So it can be an unbeatable team with fighters there in the House and the Senate. Yeah, our leader is a little bit different. He’s a multi-billionaire. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, it’s amazing, he is not elitist at all. Oh, I just hope you guys get to know him more and more as a person, and a family man. What he’s been able to accomplish, with his um, it’s kind of this quiet generosity. Yeah, maybe his largess kind of, I don’t know, some would say gets in the way of that quiet generosity, and, uh, his compassion, but if you know him as a person and you’ll get to know him more and more, you’ll have even more respect. Not just for his record of success, and the good intentions for America, but who he is as a person. He’s not an elitist. And yes, as a multi-billionaire, we still root him on, because he roots us on. And he has, he’s spent his life with the workin’ man. And he tells us Joe six packs, he said, “You know, I’ve worked very, very hard. And I’ve succeeded. Hugely I’ve succeeded,” he says. And he says, “I want you to succeed too.” And that is refreshing, because he, as he builds things, he builds big things, things that touch the sky, big infrastructure that puts other people to work. He has spent his life looking up and respecting the hard-hats and the steel-toed boots and the work ethic that you all have within you. He, being an optimist, passionate about equal-opportunity to work. The self-made success of his, you know that he doesn’t get his power, his high, off of OPM, other people’s money, like a lot of dopes in Washington do. They’re addicted to OPM, where they take other people’s money, and then their high is getting to redistribute it, right? And then they get to be really popular people when they get to give out your hard money. Well, he doesn’t do that. His power, his passion, is the fabric of America. And it’s woven by work ethic and dreams and drive and faith in the Almighty, what a combination.

Are you ready to share in that again, Iowa? Because that’s what’s going to let you make America great again. He’s going to be able to empower you to look out for one-another again instead of relying on bankrupt government to supposedly be looking out for you. No, and I think you’re ready for that. And Iowa, I believe too that you’re ready to see that our vets are treated better than illegal immigrants are treated in this country. And you’re ready for the tax reform he talks about to open up main street again. And you’re ready to stop the race-baiting and the division based on color and zip code, to unify around the right issues. The issues important to me, or I wouldn’t be endorsing him. Pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, strict constitutionality. Those things that are unifying values and their time-tested truths involved. These are unifying values from big cities to tiny towns, from big mountain states and the Big Apple, to the big, beautiful heartland that’s in between.

“Now, finally friends, I want you to try to picture this, it’s a nice thing to picture. Exactly one year from tomorrow, former President Barack Obama. He packs up the teleprompters and the selfie-sticks, and the Greek columns, and all that hopey, changey stuff and he heads on back to Chicago, where I’m sure he can find some community there to organize again. There, he can finally look up, President Obama will be able to look up, and there, over his head, he’ll be able to see that shining, towering, Trump tower. Yes, Barack, he built that, and that says a lot. Iowa, you say a lot, being here tonight, supporting the right man who will allow you to make America great again. God bless you! God bless the United States of America and our next president of the United States, Donald J. Trump!”

It’s like she tried to work in every political cliche and metaphor (even “drill baby drill”, which is over eight years old, good Lord) and threw it in a bowl and spilled it out.

Post Yet-Another-GOP-Debate Thoughts

(1)  I can’t hide my contempt for this party and those beholden to it.  Even the questions were horrible.  The moderators would mischaracterize what Obama has said and done, and then ask the candidates about it — like, “Last night in the State of the Union, Obama said that ISIS isn’t a problem.  Your thoughts on how we deal with ISIS?”  Which of course, Obama said no such thing.

(2)  The “news” to come out of the debate is how the “bromance” between Trump and Cruz is over, as they attacked each other.  Like who gives a damn.  Cruz went very low, saying that Trump had “New York values”.  This reminds me of the pilot episode of West Wing, where Josh, Toby, and CJ are having a summit with some rightwinger religious types, and one of them — Mary Marsh — makes a comment about Josh’s “New York sense of humor”.  Toby chimes, “She means ‘Jewish'”. [UPDATE: Found the video]

When asked what he meant by that, he said, “everyone knows”.  Jeez.  Talk about a dog whistle.  But then he talked a little about NYC’s liberalism.

But it was the first time that I can recall a presidential candidate dissing a part of the country intentionally.  Trump responded by saying William F Buckley came out of NYC and then pivoted to 9/11.  In doing so, he “won” the exchange, but I think he could have pounded Cruz at that point, but pointing out how Cruz voted against hurricane relief for NY and NJ (with Hurricane Sandy) but voted for hurricane relief for Texas (his home state).

(3)  Meanwhile, there was the debate within the debate, with Rubio, Bush, Christie, and Kasich battling for the mantle of the “establishment” candidate.  Bush did pretty well, but they all did in their own way.  Rubio I thought did not have his best night — he seemed a little shrill.   He and Christie really battled it out for who hated Obama/Clinton the most.  Christie actually may have gone to far by calling Obama a “child”.

(4)  Carson was there.

Can You Hear The Dog Whistles?


Yet Another GOP Debate Tonight

Tonight’s debate is the second-to-last one before Iowa, and the dynamics are a little different:

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are finally going after each other on the campaign trail, because they are running neck and neck in Iowa.  In Iowa, if the polls can be believed (and I’m not sure polls are as reliable this year), Trump has perhaps a slight edge, but Cruz is within the margins of error.  Trump still enjoys a 15 or so point lead in New Hampshire, although if Cruz does well tonight, the last debate, and in Iowa. that could change.  Expect the Fox Business Network moderators—who are on their second debate of the season — to draw the two of them into a fight onstage at the debate.  I don’t think Cruz will take the bait in a debate forum.  The issue of Cruz’s birthplace (a silly non-issue) as well as some filing/loan irregularities will be brought up.

With Trump and Cruz fighting for the outsider mantle, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Chris Christie are all trying to climb over one another to emerge as the establishment candidate.

The campaigns of both Rubio and Christie, but mostly Rubio, are a bit like an old car trying to start up.  The engine runs a little bit and dies.

Bush and Kasich, on the other hand, seem to have flooded their engine.  They just can’t get up there.

And then there’s Carson, once the poll leader ahead of Trump.  He’s plummeted and down there with Rubio and company.

Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina have been kicked down to the kiddie table debate, with Paul saying he won’t show up.

The Sad Story Of Christine Mumma

mummaThe North Carolina Bar just ruled that Christine Mumma violated professional conduct rules in her quest to free an innocent man from prison.

Mumma is an attorney for the North Carolina Innocence Project (actually, The NC Center on Actual Innocence)  She was trying to free Joseph Sledge, 71, who had spent more than three decades in prison for a double homicide he did not commit.  Mumma and Sledge are pictured at the right.

The prosecutor was reluctant to release Sledge unless Mumma could find DNA matching the suspect in the double murder.  So Mumma visited the home of Marie Andrus, the woman from whom she was trying to get DNA.  Ms. Andrus’ sons (one or both of them) were suspects in the crime.

Ms. Andrus refused to give any DNA, but Mumma left the house with a water bottle, thereby obtaining the DNA.  (The full complaint is below the fold).

Yeah, it was the wrong thing to do (and Ms. Andrus has forgiven Mumma and understands), and so the disciplinary panel ruled against Ms. Mumma.

As an aside,  I should mention that Sledge was later found innocent and released early last year.

I write this with sadness.  People like Mumma deserve medals.  I can’t help but wonder if a little of this was payback from the state of NC.  I hope the consequences of this ruling today are not too harsh.  There needs to be more like Mumma.

RIP Alan Rickman

Unbelievable.  Like David Bowie only a few days ago, Rickman was 69 and died from cancer.  Another great talent with a great legacy.

This is among my favorite Rickman things.

Squirrels Still After Us

Just because I don’t write about squirrels as much as I used to, doesn’t mean I have forgotten about them and their nefarious plans to take over the world.

Fortunately, the Washington Post is also keeping tabs on these furry rats, noting a map from a website which shows all the electrical outages caused by squirrels since 1987:

squirrel outages

It should be acknowledged that some squirrels even were willing to sacrifice their lives in order to shut down the grid.

One Last Time (Teach Them How To Say Goodbye)

Last night saw President Obama’s last State of the Union address, the first of many lasts to come this year.

In many ways, it was a typical SOTU address with a laundry list of things he wants to accomplish, but never will, because Republicans.

On the other hand, he spoke about the broken politics of Washington, and how it is natural for both sides to disagree, but they need to come together as they have done in the past.  My favorite moment was when he evoked the space race saying:

“Sixty years ago when the Russians beat us into space, we did not deny Sputnik was up there. We did not argue about the science or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and 12 years later we were walking on the moon.”

Republicans afterwards griped about what they saw as hypocrisy in the speech, essentially saying “Obama was telling us not to stop attacking each other…. and then he goes and attacks Republicans”.  What a bunch of whiners some of those Republicans are.

First of all, Obama didn’t say to stop attacking each other.  He said disagreement is to be expected. He just said those disagreements shouldn’t stand in the way of solutions.

Secondly, he didn’t call out Republicans by name.  But if the shoe fits…..

But last night was notable for something else.  The response speech from Governor Nikki Haley.

As with any SOTU response speech, she hastily dispenses with opposing views to Obama’s ideas (although to be honest, she was also hitting some of the same points, i.e., income equality).  But then she pivoted:

“Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”

It was clear to all that Governor Haley, herself a child of Indian immigrants, was making a pointed reference to Donald Trump and is bigoted xenophobic rhetoric.  President Obama did the same thing, talking about how we should not blame an entire religion (a religion held by many of our strategically important allies) for the acts of extremists.

Now, Haley’s response speech was not something she had a complete hand in.  You know that party insiders all contributed to it, or at least blessed it.  Which is why her veiled attack on Trump (or Trumpism, if you like) was remarkable.

She predictably got his by a backlash from the extreme edges of the party, starting with the disgusting Ann Coulter:

And they a virtually apoplectic over at Breitbart.  Rush Limbaugh thought that Haley’s rebuttal speech was “pandering to illegal minorities”.

Such is the strangeness of this election year.  Somehow, Trump has worked his way into everything.

P.S.  I almost forgot to mention the ambitious “moonshot to cure cancer” – a remarkable effort which Joe Biden is in charge of.  It’s a footnote in the headlines this morning, but I think it will have greater significance historically.

2016 Dead Pool

Link to 2015 Dead Pool

Link to 2014 Dead Pool

Link to 2013 Dead Pool

Link to 2012 Dead Pool

Link to 2011 Dead Pool

It is unfortunate to be doing this on the day that David Bowie’s death was announced, but this has to b done.

First, the usual blah-blahs.

There are two “dead pool” lists.  One is just a random list of people who I think will pass in the upcoming year. The other is a competitive list where you pick ten (and only ten) people-to-die, and you score your points by subtracting their age-at-death from 100.  For example, Amy Winehouse was in my 2011 Dead Pool list, and she indeed did die that year.  Since she was 27, I received 73 points (100 minus 27).

We’ll look at my competitive list.  First the scores from previous years:

2011: 113 (thanks to the deaths of Amy Winehouse and Jeff Conaway)
2012: 38
2013: 13
2014: 16

So, let’s see how I did with my 2015 Dead Pool(s).  First, my generic list of people who I thought might die in 2015:

  • Zsa-Zsa Gabor – still alive
  • Olivia de Havilland – still alive
  • Billy Graham – still alive
  • Leonard Nimoy – died 2/27/2015
  • Muhammad Ali – still alive
  • Fidel Castro – still alive
  • Nanette Fabray – still alive
  • Dick Cheney – still alive
  • Michael Douglas – still alive
  • Pele – still alive
  • Stephen Hawking – still alive
  • Dick Van Dyke – still alive

Wow.  I suck at this.  Dick Van Dyke was just on the Jimmy Fallon show singing and dancing.  He is NEVER dying.

And now for my 2015 Competitive Dead Pool list:

  1. Billy Graham (born 11/7/1918)
  2. Abe Vigoda (born 2/24/1921)
  3. George Bush (born 6/12/1924)
  4. Harper Lee (born 4/28/1926)
  5. Fidel Castro (born 8/13/1926)
  6. Roger Moore (born 10/14/1927)
  7. Jim Nabors (born 6/12/1930)
  8. Valerie Harper (born 8/22/1940)
  9. Pele (born 10/23/1940)
  10. Muhammad Ali (born 1/17/1942)

They are all still alive.  That’s right — none of them died in 2015. I scored zero.

So now it is time for my 2016 Dead Pool list.  I’m going to keep some of what I had:

I’m just going to keep what I had, minus a couple of names.  And this year, unlike other years, they can only be on ONE list.

  • Zsa-Zsa Gabor
  • Olivia de Havilland
  • Billy Graham
  • Nanette Fabray
  • Kirk Douglas
  • Pele
  • Stephen Hawking
  • Nancy Reagan

Now, as for my competitive list, I am taking some people off.  Yeah, sure Billy Graham is more likely to die than any of these others, but he’s only 2 points now.  After my humiliating zero of this year, I need a rebound.  Here are my picks — I’m sticking it to game show hosts this year:

  1. Abe Vigoda (born 2/24/1921)
  2. Monty Hall (born 8/25/1921)
  3. Bob Barker (born 12/12/1923)
  4. Harper Lee (born 4/28/1926)
  5. Fidel Castro (born 8/13/1926)
  6. Prunella Scales (born 9/22/1932)
  7. Glen Campbell (born 4/22/1936)
  8. Mary Tyler Moore (born 12/29/1936)
  9. Tommy Chong (born 5/24/1938)
  10. Roger Daltrey (born 3/01/1944)

RIP David Bowie

84892073Stunning news this morning.  The world is reacting to the news which came out only a few hours ago: David Bowie died yesterday at the age of 69 after an 18 month bout with cancer.  They’ll be a lot of talk and ink spilled about his flamboyant and “chameleon” looks, and how he was a pioneer of “glam rock”, but I prefer to think of him as the musician and singer over the past four decades.

His last album, “Lazarus”, which is also the name of his off-Broadway (and possibly Broadway bound) musical, was release just two days before his death and was an intentional goodbye to his fans, according to Bowie’s producer.  It opens with the lyrics: “Look up here, I’m in Heaven!”  The video (below) has him in a hospital bed and retreating into a dark closet.

His earlier albums, especially after his 1972 breakthrough “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” were treated as events. His songs, including “Changes,” “Fame,” “Heroes” “Modern Love,” “Golden Years,” “Under Pressure” (with Queen), “Let’s Dance”, “Blue Jean” and “Never Let Me Down.”were anthemic hits, played constantly on the radio and inspiring generations of musicians.

Then there was this:

… which, although strange, is somehow fitting within the Bowie canon.

Here’s his latest video, release a few days ago:

Even though the 80s were probably the best to Bowie, I remember him from the late 70s:

So long, Major Tom.

UPDATE:  His response to his first fan letter from America:


More Bowie:


This is today’s New York Times page C3, which obviously went to press before the news happened: “It’s a good time to be David Bowie.”


The Funny Thing About Abusive Relationships

The number of women in stand-up comedy who are coming out as being victims of abuse is alarming.  This is a must-read article.  An excerpt:

The experience is certainly not monolithic, but for many women who write and perform comedy, choosing this career path involves the cultivation of a chitinous exoskeleton, involuntary or not. It’s hard not to let it extend to your personal life. At work or onstage, you respond to trauma with a stupid joke. When my boyfriend texted that he was going to set my apartment on fire, I turned and asked my friend at the party, “What am I going to do? I’ll never find another place that close to the park.” And yes, I realize now in retrospect that, in addition to being wildly unhealthy, this wasn’t my best material.

When you’re in this kind of relationship, you’re as surprised as your best friend would be. You try to make something that doesn’t make sense for your personality make sense with your personality. I tried to spin it into another hilarious caper in the saga of My Terrible Taste in Men. I didn’t really let my friends have a chance to worry because I would just kind of do this show as a distraction: Hey, it’s another unhinged guy I’m trading mutual pity-oral with. Hand me my handbag, I’m going to walk down the street, swinging it to plucky music.

Original Intent

From The New Yorker:

December 5, 1791
James Madison
House of Representatives

Dear James,

How is it almost 1792?! Quick question on the right to bear arms thing in your “Bill of Rights”—the wording and punctuation are slightly confusing. Did you mean that the right of the people serving in the militia to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, or people in general? I’m assuming the former, but don’t want to make an ass of you and me! (Franklin made that up, but I’m using it everywhere!) Could you please send me a quick note whenever to clarify?


P.S. To be honest, I’m still meh about “Bill of Rights” as a name.

* * *

December 7, 1791
Thomas Jefferson
Office of the Secretary of State

Dear Tom,

I know, it’s so crazy how fast this year has gone—I just got used to writing 1791 on my deeds of purchase (of slaves)!

As far as the amendment, of course it’s the former. If every private citizen had the right to carry a musket, a thousand people would’ve shot Patrick Henry by now, am I right? Don’t worry about it. Everyone will know what it means.


P.S. You’re not back on “The Ten Amendments” are you? It’s trying way too hard to sound Biblical.

* * *

December 9, 1791
James Madison
House of Representatives

Dear James,

Hahaha re: Patrick Henry. And I agree it should be obvious. It’s just, why not make it so clear that even the biggest Anti-Federalist looney tune can’t misinterpret the meaning? I’d add “while serving in the militia” to line three. Also, not to be a grammar redcoat here, but the use and placement of the comma isn’t helping. Can we change it? It will take two seconds.

I know I’m being annoying!


P.S. How about “Constitution, Part Two?” (Not a serious pitch, unless you like it!)

* * *

December 11, 1791
Thomas Jefferson
Office of the Secretary of State

Dear Tom,

There is literally zero chance that anyone will misconstrue this, and the great news is that if someone actually does, the Supreme Court will set them straight. I don’t want to change it. It won’t take two seconds, because the addition would push a page and I’d have to do the whole rest of it over again and W. is breathing down my neck about it. Plus, I like the way my signature looks on the version I sent you, and you know I always hate the way it looks on important stuff.

Not trying to be snippy, but you’re worrying about nothing.


* * *

December 13, 1791
James Madison
House of Representatives

Dear James,

I know, I know—I’m the worst. Just hear me out. Imagine it’s some two hundred years from now. Musket makers have made new and more powerful muskets—ones that are capable of firing two or even three shots per minute—and, in an effort to sell more, they claim that every homeowner should have the right to own one, or two, or twenty. They bribe politicians to advance their cause, they stoke public fears of crime and federal tyranny, and they manage to exploit this slightly confusing language and comma placement to claim that we originally intended to give every private citizen the right to own as many muskets (and for that manner, cannons!) as they can get their hands on. And because in this version of the future (just bear with me here) we’ve had such a run of Anti-Federalist Presidents, the Court is packed with men who might agree. Isn’t there the slightest chance that this could happen?


* * *

December 15, 1791
Thomas Jefferson
Office of the Secretary of State

Dear Tom,

You know I love you, but we seriously need to get this ratified, like, today, or W. will have my ass. There is no way that what you’re talking about could come to pass. It’s too ridiculous. The amendment goes before Congress as written.

Besides, if anyone ever needs to confirm our intention two hundred years from now, they need only consult any decent spiritualist to communicate with our ghosts. If muskets can fire three shots per minute in your future, I’m sure mediums will have become even better at their jobs, too.


Y’All Queda: The Oregon Standoff – Day 5

First, this:

Ammon Bundy, a leader of the armed protesters who took over a federal building in Oregon, and his family are known for battling the federal government.

But Bundy told CNN on Tuesday that he’s not opposed to government and said that taking a six-figure loan from theSmall Business Administration doesn’t conflict with his political philosophy.

Bundy borrowed $530,000 in 2010 for his company, Valet Fleet Service LLC, according to public records on Valet Fleet Service is a truck maintenance company in Arizona.

“I am not anti-government,” he said when asked about the loan while standing outside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, adding that he thinks “there is a role for government and that the federal government’s role is to protect the states from the outside world.”

“And the state’s role is to protect the counties from the federal government — and the county’s role is to protect the people from the state so the people can go about freely using their lands and resources and their rights. … So there’s a role, but all government’s role is to serve the people. Whenever those governments step out, then that’s when we step in.”

Bundy denied he was being hypocritical about the loan because it “was an effort in assisting the people in using their rights.”

Well, I guess he’s not being hypocritical under his view of how our country is structured.  Which is 100% incorrect according to the U.S. Constitution.

Anyway, these guys are hunkering down for a long standoff:

Yet as the militia prepared for their fourth night on Tuesday, a tense energy infused the surrounding community, where federal agents set up office in the local school district headquarters and held courthouse meetings with US prosecutors and others on how to solve the lingering occupation.

Harney County sheriff David M Ward told reporters the FBI was pursuing trespassing charges against the protesters and implored residents not to offer militia members as much as “a Snickers bar”.

Despite that request, and after seemingly arriving with fewer supplies than might have been expected, it appears the militia are well-stocked and preparing for a long, cold winter.


Six lumbering men sat around a TV in an adjacent lounge room, jeering at a Fox News TV report on their standoff. They insisted that a federal government plan to cut power only steeled their resolve. They have enough propane and generators, they said, to last the winter.

Neil Wampler, a 68-year-old retired woodworker from central California, had been awake since 4am to help cook breakfast. After answering an internet call for support by the Bundy family, he said, he planned to stay here to the end.

“These are excellent conditions compared to other standoffs I’ve taken part in,” said Wampler, whose wool cap bore the slogan “State of Jefferson”, signifying a move for northern California and southern Oregon to secede and create a new state.

These hicks are more hicky than usual.

North Korea’s Got One Too (Just To Use On You Know Who)

There was a 5.1 magnitude earthquake yesterday in North Korea.

N Korea Earthquake

Except it wasn’t an earthquake.  North Korea announced that it had detonated a sophisticated hydrogen bomb. North Korea’s three previous nuclear tests since 2006 have been met with international condemnation, including resolutions and sanctions from the Security Council. But North Korea has ignored the U.N. on this.

The good news is this: as the UN Security Council held an emergency session on Wednesday to respond to North Korea’s action, the White House said that initial US findings were “not consistent with North Korean claims of a successful hydrogen bomb test”—something that would have represented a major ramp-up in North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said initial data from various monitoring sources were “not consistent with North Korean claims of a successful hydrogen bomb test.”

Nuclear monitors also said the magnitude of the blast suggested an atomic explosion rather than one produced by an exponentially more powerful hydrogen device — potentially more than 1,000 times more destructive than the bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima near the end of World War II.

But that’s not conclusive.  We (the United States) reportedly sent our WC-135 “sniffer plane” from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa on Wednesday, while Japan said it dispatched three aircraft. Gases can sometimes leak out for several weeks after a test, so it might take some time for this question to be answered.

After the 2006 test, a significant amount of gas was detected, enabling analysts to say it was a plutonium-based device, while in 2009, no gases were found. The residue from the 2013 test was very faint, meaning it was impossible to draw any conclusions, analysts say.

We’ll know more in a few weeks.

Does this mean the U.S. is at risk, if they have that technology?

Probably not.  They still need missiles that will get through our missile defense shield.  And miniaturization technology, which is huge (if you can’t get a bomb on a missile, there’s no point).

But a weaponized North Korea could spell trouble for our allies, particularly Japan and South Korea.  And Kim Jung Un is such a loony tunes, who knows what he might do.

RIP Elizabeth Swados

06swados-obit-1-master675Songstress and Broadway composer Elizabeth Swados died yesterday at the age of 64.  She was a bit of a hippie after the end of the hippies, or a new age artist before the advent of new age artists — depending on how you looked at it.

Swados first made a splash with  “Nightclub Cantata,” a revue produced at the Village Gate in 1977, based on texts by Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda and other poets. Clive Barnes, in his review for The Times, called it “the most original and perhaps the most pleasurable form of nightclub entertainment I have ever encountered.”

In 1978 she had a breakout hit with “Runaways,” a musical revue about runaway teenagers that originated at the Public Theater’s Cabaret and made the move to Broadway, personally earning four Tony nominations. Ms. Swados wrote and directed the play, whose cast was made up of 18 troubled young people she had interviewed while researching broken families. She also composed the music, contributed the lyrics and played guitar offstage.

After Runaways, she soured on Broadway as a welcoming place for her eclecticism, calling it “a museum that’s not moving forward.” And yet Swados as much as any theater artist helped lay the groundwork for such shows as Rent, Bring In ‘da Noise/Bring In ‘da Funk, Spring Awakening and Hamilton. She never stopped being a revolutionary.

She had a profound impact on me musically.  Not only what music could be, but what musicals could be.

Not for nothing, but a young actress named Meryl Streep first walked the New York stage in a Swados musical, Alice in Concert.

Emotional President Moves On Gun Control

White House insiders have long said that the worst day of Obama’s presidency was the day of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

What should have been a 9/11 moment for the whole nation turned out to be nothing — as in nothing changed.  Congress voted against reasonable laws like universal background checks.

It is clear that Obama, facing his last year as president, is not going to rest on his laurels.  Gun violence has killed 146 people in the United States this year.  And it is only January 5.  The Republican controlled Congress has passed nothing relating to gun control. Today he made a moving, and largely extemporaneous (in parts), speech announcing his intentions.

Here’s what the Obama administration plans to do:

  • The federal government will issue guidance that will narrow who can sell guns without a federal license, based on an evaluation of the circumstances surrounding individual gun sales. The idea is to reduce the number of for-profit dealers — as opposed to collectors or people who only give or sell guns to family members or friends — who avoid background checks, whether they’re at a store, at a gun show, on the internet, or anywhere else.
  • The FBI will hire more than 230 more people to help run background checks — an increase of more than 50 percent to the current staff. Lynch said this was in part needed to keep up with rising demand. “We’re looking to improve the efficiency and response time of the system,” she said.
  • The government will also require background checks for people who try to buy restricted firearms through a legal entity, such as a corporation or trust. People were able to avoid background checks in the past through these entities.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services will finalize a rule regarding health record privacy laws to remove barriers to states providing mental health records to the background check system.
  • The administration will enforce tighter rules for reporting guns that are lost or stolen on their way to the buyer to make it easier for law enforcement to track down missing firearms.
  • Federal agencies will encourage and fund more research into technologies that can make guns safer, largely to reduce the risk of accidents.

In addition to these measures, the administration will continue pushing Congress to pass tighter gun control laws, and to direct more funds to enforcing existing gun laws and to mental health treatment.

This last part is particularly good, because it addresses one aspect of gun control that is rarely discussed — suicides:

The reaction from the right and the NRA is predictable.  What Digby said:

As of this writing the proposal has not been formally announced but it’s reported that he will issue executive orders to close the “private seller” loophole, which would require everyone who sells a gun as a business transaction to submit a background check. (As it is now, only licensed dealers have to do this.) It’s also expected that he’ll issue an order requiring that licensed dealers report lost or stolen guns to the authorities. It’s hard for me to believe that these slight reinterpretations of the law are even controversial but apparently making gun ownership subject to any sort of oversight is tantamount to a coup.

There is little doubt the administration anticipated the furious reaction, so one assumes they are happy to draw attention to the issue. After all, polling shows that the vast majority of Americans — and gun owners — are in favor of such commonsense gun safety regulations. Nonetheless, this will likely end up in court with a number of legal issues at stake and the gun lobby dedicated to filling its coffers on the backs of gun owners who don’t actually need to worry about any of these very mild restrictions.

In today’s White House press conference, President Obama teared up as he spoke about the victims of gun violence, especially the children massacred at Newtown.

Many conservatives took this opportunity to show themselves once again as utterly heartless sociopaths.  Some are suggesting that Obama’s tears are fake.

Not just tears, but FASCIST tears.

The full Obama speech in below the fold.

Domestic Terrorism Update

Busy day today, so I have little commentary.  I recommend an article in The New Yorker for a slightly different, but valuable, perspective than mine:

American vigilantism is never racially innocent. Its two parents are self-mobilization on the frontier, usually against Native Americans at a time when homesteading was reserved to whites, and the racial terror of the Ku Klux Klan in the South during and after Reconstruction. It is too much to call the occupiers “domestic terrorists,” as the Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh or the Klan were, but it is also obtuse to ignore the special comfort that certain white men have using guns as props in their acts of not-quite-civil disobedience. After all, guns were how they acquired their special sense of entitlement to public lands in the first place.

The latest news seems to be that the “protesters” have said they will leave if the locals there want them to.  That’s good news.

A leader of the activists occupying a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon’s snowy back country said he and others would agree to stand down and leave if local residents ask them “directly” to end their campaign.

Ryan Bundy, who along with his brother has emerged as a leader of the activists and protesters holed up in a compound of federal buildings in southeastern Oregon, pledged to organize a meeting as early as Tuesday to let Harney County residents speak with them directly.

But on Tuesday, Bundy renewed his vow that there was no end in sight for the occupation.

Residents in the county’s largest towns – Burns and Hines – have said they agree with the activists’ message but take issue with their tactics, such as the armed occupation of government-owned buildings.

In Burns, signs have gone up asking the occupiers to leave. Some residents said they are fearful of a violent confrontation if federal agents were to descend on the refuge.

That sounds to me like Bundy thought he has the support of the local community when he said he would leave if the local residents wanted him to.  And now he’s finding out, uh, maybe not.  The article continues:

He said the occupying group has made “no direct demands,” but the participants have stated that they will leave if the federal government gives up control of the nearby Malheur National Forest.

Well, that’s not going to happen.

Armed Terrorists Seize Federal Property

You would think this would be 24/7 headline news, but it isn’t.  The terrorist takeover began Sunday morning, but the regular news outlets barely covered it.  Only on Twitter was it discussed at any length, thanks to the hashtag #OregonUnderAttack.

Now that it is a regular non-holiday workday, the media is starting to report it.  Before then, the only real outlet covering the story was The Oregonian.

What’s at the center of this issue is the federal land management, and two people: Dwight Hammond, age 73, and his son Steve Hammond, age 46.  These men are ranchers in Oregon.  Strap yourselves in.

Hammond Ranches owns about 12,000 acres in the Diamond-Frenchglen area. They use this ground to run cattle during the winter. Until two years ago the Hammonds used 26,420 acres of land belonging to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for summer grazing (the U.S. government gives out grazing permits).

Now, when it comes to ranching, fire is an important tool. It is used to burn invasive species that crowd out native grass and other plants.  Fire can kill those pests, leaving plenty of grazing (on the non-burned grass/plants) for the cattle.

The problem is, fire is also a threat. Recent wildfires have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres in this territory, putting the ground off limits for grazing. Cattle have been killed in the runaway blazes, and lives endangered.

In 1999, Dwight Hammond got a stern letter from the local manager for the federal land bureau saying that Steve Hammond had set a fire that spread to federal ground. The letter said Steve told officials in a subsequent meeting that he “did not believe there was any way to control fire behavior or where it would burn, and that he did not take any action to prevent the fire from burning.”  Nevertheless, the Hammonds got off with a warning.

The problem started with two more fires set by the Hammonds — one in 2001 and one in 2006.

The fire in 2001 was a simple prescribed burn.  According to Steve and Dwight Hammond, it was intended to take out invasive juniper.  But federal prosecutors said the men’s real motive for starting the blaze, which consumed 139 acres and forestalled grazing for two seasons, was to cover up evidence of an illegal slaughter of deer. The government presented evidence that Steven Hammond called an emergency dispatcher to ask if it was OK to burn — roughly two hours after they already lit the fire. His attorney said in court that Hammond called the land bureau beforehand.

The government acknowledged that the next fire, in 2006, was intended as a defensive move. Steve Hammond set backfires to keep a lightning-caused fire from burning onto the Hammonds’ ranch and hitting their winter feed.  But the government said Steve Hammond lit up on the flanks of a butte, despite a countywide burn ban and the knowledge that young part-time firefighters were camped up higher. Their crew boss spotted the fires, which were set at night, and moved the crew, but campers and others were in danger.

The two men were indicted and convicted in 2010 on federal arson charges. On top of sentencing for arson, they also faced sentencing under the federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which reads in pertinent part:


    (a) In General.--Section 844 of title 18, United States Code, is 
            (1) in subsection (e), by striking ``five'' and inserting 
            (2) by amending subsection (f) to read as follows:

    ``(f)(1) Whoever maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to 
damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, 
vehicle, or other personal or real property in whole or in part owned or 
possessed by, or leased to, the United States, or any department or 
agency thereof, shall be imprisoned for not less than 5 years and not 
more than 20 years, fined under this title, or both.

Hammonds’ lawyers argued that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 did not apply to the Hammonds — after all, they weren’t terrorists.

But the government argued that it didn’t matter.  The portion that dealt with enhanced penalties for explosion and arson crimes did not say the defendant HAD to be a “terrorist”.

You can understand why this was part of the law.  Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrow Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, including children.  The assumption behind Section 708 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (quoted above) was… well, if you are blowing up or setting fire to federal property, you must be a terrorist.

To his credit (in my opinion), U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan opined that although Section 708 applied to the crime committed by the Hammonds, Congress did not intend it to apply to people like the Hammonds.  A five year prison term would be unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment, the judge said.  “It would be a sentence which would shock the conscience,” Hogan added before sentencing Dwight to three months and Steve to one year.

The two men served their time, but the District Attorney appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit.  The Ninth Circuit reasonably ruled (in my opinion) that Section 708 set out a mandatory sentence of “not less than five years”.  The words “shall be” (which I emboldened above) are not “may be”.

So, the Hammonds were ordered back to prison to serve a five year sentence each.  They are supposed to start serving today.

But believe it or not, this has little to do with the Hammonds’ sentence.

Federal agencies own and regulate huge chunks of land in western states like Oregon and Nevada.  The United States of America holds deed to three-fourths of Harney County. Ranching done for a century and more is under pressure from environmentalists, recreationalists, and hunters.


As such, those with anti-government views, particularly in western states, often focus on the federal government ‘s land-use policies.  The plight of the Hammonds has become a rallying call for one militia and patriot group after another. Men who see tyranny in federal acts are standing for the two men.  The Hammonds’ case — and the change to their sentencing, just further fed into views of a tyrannical federal government out of control.

For example, the federal government sued the Hammonds for $1 million the costs of fighting the fires that they set.  In late 2014, the Hammonds settled the lawsuit, agreeing the federal government $400,000. That has been paid.

But the settlement also required the Hammonds to give the land bureau first chance at buying a particular ranch parcel adjacent to public land if they intended to sell. For some, this is evidence that the government was going after the Hammonds in order to increase its property holdings — a “land grab” the “militia” members would say.  There is little evidence to support that.

So how did the yahoos get involved?  Well, on Saturday, members of the militia attended a demonstration in Burns, Oregon.  The purpose was to protest the Hammonds’ case. After the protest, the militiamen drove to the wildlife refuge and took it over.

It seems that the militiamen may have initially planned to seize the wildlife refuge headquarters in order to establish a “sanctuary” where the Hammonds could go to evade prison.

One of the most outspoken of the militia-terrorists is Ammon Bundy, whose father Cliven Bundy became a Fox News star in 2014 for his armed standoff in Nevada with the federal government over cattle-grazing rights. (see earlier postings about that controversy).  His brother Ryan is another occupier.

What do they want?  Ammon talked to some press people:

The group is demanding that the Hammonds be released and that the federal government give up control of the Malheur National Forest.

As Ammon Bundy sees it, the locals are “not strong enough” to stand up for themselves, so the militia must act as the “tip of the spear” and lead the fight on behalf of the locals.

Thus, Bundy and his fellow militiamen have seized the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge — located in a remote area some 50 miles southeast of the city of Burns — in hopes of creating a “base” where “patriots” like themselves can come, with their guns, to live and make their stand against the “tyrannical” federal government.  Several pickup trucks blocked the entrance to the refuge Sunday, with armed men wearing camouflage and winter gear stationed outside.  The exact number of armed men is unknown. It’s worth nothing that the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge visitors’ center is probably one of the least critical spots to occupy in all of the United States.

So far, it’s not going well for these “patriots”.  It turns out that the Hammonds don’t actually want the militia’s help — or at least, not anymore.

At first, according to the Oregonian, the Hammonds “accepted the militia’s offer of help to avoid prison.” But they “changed their minds after being warned by federal prosecutors to stop communicating with the militia” and have now “professed through their attorneys that they had no interest in ignoring the order to report for prison.”

Ammon also tried to recruit residents from the surrounding area, reportedly meeting with 10 or so locals, but they all turned him down.

The Oregonian interviewed some locals who expressed sympathy for the Hammonds and for the militia’s “constitutional arguments” but ultimately rejected the militia for its extremism.

The militia, the local fire chief told the newspaper, “seems like a bunch of people ready to shoot. I don’t want that in my county.”

Chatter on right wing blogs about the story is muted.  Breitbart News hasn’t touched it, except for one transitional paragraph at the start of a story recapping the Cliven BBundy matter in Nevada.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he hoped that the protesters would step aside, adding that “our prayers right now are with everyone involved in what’s happening with Oregon, and especially those in law enforcement that are risking their lives.”

“Every one of us has a constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds. But we don’t have a constitutional right to use force and violence and to threaten force and violence on others,” he said. “And so it is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably, that there will not be a violent confrontation.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio decried the occupation as “lawless” and urged those involved in the standoff to pursue what they wanted through more lawful, constructive means.

But that’s not what they intend to do.  According to an Oregonian reporter…

Is the situation dangerous?  Not last night.  There was virtually no law enforcement presence of any sort.

But now, as the sun comes up, the FBI has arrived and set up a briefing center.  The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and local schools in the area are closed today.  I feel bad for The City of Burns Police Department which has three officers – the Chief and two officers – and an administrative assistant.

All told, this appears to be an act of terrorism.  When it comes to the Hammond arsons — yes, I can easily see why that was NOT terrorism.  But armed men taking over a federal building and demanding land — that’s insurrection, if not domestic terrorism.

And needless to say, the disparity in news coverage as well as law enforcement response, which compared to — say — Ferguson (where protesters had no guns and took no federal property) is astounding.  Also, they are being called “protesters”, rather than terrorists.

It is unclear how this will play out.  But soime people are serious.  Here’s one guy saying the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a tyrannical agency so he has made a suicide video and has promised to die for “the constitution.”

P.S.  Most of Oregon used to be Indian land.  Now we see a bunch of white guys complaining about a tyrannical oppressive government.  Irony.

To be continued….

UPDATE:  The terrorists want you to join them “to prevent bloodshed”…

UPDATE:  This is a slow-moving story.  I guess the government tactic is to wait them out until they get bored.  Which means no developments for days, weeks, or maybe even months.  But….

I guess “Patriots For God and Freedom’s Constitution of Citizens Together United for American’s Constitutional Second Amendment Crusaders and OathKeepers” was taken.

Anyway, the posted some signs and it looks like they are running low on the letter n.


ANOTHER UPDATE: HuffPo says the “militia” wants a standoff with the FBI, but the FBI isn’t taking the bait:

The FBI is working closely with state police, and FBI officials are busy establishing a public information office in Burns. But due to a number of factors — the crisis is unfolding in a remote part of Oregon; it doesn’t appear to be a life-or-death situation; and there are no hostages involved — law enforcement officials want to avoid unnecessarily escalating the standoff, the source said. The FBI instead hopes to get a better handle on the situation over the next few days.

The FBI will not be releasing specific information about law enforcement movements, but it is working with local law enforcement agencies to “bring a peaceful resolution to the situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” officials from the bureau said in a statement.


For now, there are no sirens, no police cars zooming to the seized building and no SWAT teams arriving in armored vehicles. In the parking lot of the refuge’s headquarters building, journalists mingle freely with activists. The 30-mile stretch of road between Burns and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where the militants are holed up, is snowy and barren.

Below the fold…. The Onion summarizes everything


The Dow starts the year in a plummet this morning.  Because Asian markets suck apparently.  Also international fears re: Middle East.  You know…. the usual.