|April 17, 2014||"Where Law Ends": Fox News||1 comments|
|April 10, 2014||Moral paragon or 'most corrupt'?||1 comments|
|April 02, 2014||Cleanse the temple||1 comments|
|March 26, 2014||‘Lone Survivor’ politicizes tale of heroism||7 comments|
|March 20, 2014||Refugees? How about state's poor?||3 comments|
|March 07, 2014||Issa's Nazi-like behavior||10 comments|
|March 03, 2014||Trust us!||7 comments|
|February 24, 2014||Billionaire fears Holocaust||10 comments|
|February 17, 2014||Bigots target gays in Kansas||4 comments|
|February 10, 2014||Debt ceiling chicken||6 comments|
My novel, "Where Law Ends," is a re-telling of the legend of the Montana Vigilantes. If you aren't familiar with the story I'll give you the Reader's Digest version here:
Henry Plummer was a real life figure who migrated from California to the gold fields of southwestern Montana in 1862. He was elected sheriff and, with the help of just one deputy, enforced the law in a place inclined to rampant lawlessness.
Meantime, a group of "respectable citizens" accused Plummer of masterminding a nefarious gang of "road agents" and took the law into their own hands. (Buy the book at Amazon and find out what happened. Send it to me care of the MDJ and I'll autograph it for you).
As you will discover, I take a dim view of vigilantism. People who appoint themselves judge and jury are dangerous criminals as Henry Plummer discovered.
America is a nation of laws, thank God in heaven. We have due process for all, exceptionally trained police to investigate violations, learned attorneys serving as defenders and prosecutors to apply the law, and other learned attorneys serving as judges to rule on the law, case by case. We have appellate courts to rule on the judges' rulings. If punishment is imposed, we have a legal system for that, too.
Law is what makes America special. No one is above it.
I got to thinking about the Montana Vigilantes after watching Sean Hannity inciting a Mesquite, Nevada rancher to take up arms against federal employees.
Why was a Fox News' employee (Fox itself is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission) declaring Cliven Bundy and his goofball adult kids within their rights to aim loaded weapons at Bureau of Land Management agents who came around last week to confiscate their cattle under a lawful court order?
Bundy has, for 20 years, allowed his 500 or so cows to graze on public lands, which is perfectly alright. The only stipulation is he must pay a fee of $1.35 per head per day for that privilege, a bargain compared to the cost of grazing cows on private lands.
Most every rancher in the West abides by this reasonable pricing structure, with the BLM lawfully administering compliance.
Except Cliven Bundy, a citizen of the United States, protected by its armed forces and police, and a user of its public facilities like roads and bridges, doesn't "recognize" the authority of the federal government so he hasn't paid his grazing bill.
Imagine, you Cobb County residents, declaring you don't recognize the lawful authority of the county government and not paying your property taxes. In very short order, my friends, your mattresses, TVs and furniture would be on the curb and there would no Sean Hannity to applaud your "patriotic" pluck live, coast-to-coast.
Leave it to a little SOB like Sean Hannity to make a hero out of Bundy the Deadbeat Rancher. Nowadays, the federal "gubmint" means Barack Hussein Obama, and we ain't obeyin' no laws so long as that damn (fill in the blank) is in the White House!
"We have interviewed neighbors and people in and around Mesquite and they have said that (Bundy) is breaking the law," said Chuck Meyer, news director at CBS' KXNT Radio in Las Vegas. "When it comes to the matter of the law, Mr. Bundy is clearly wrong."
The confiscation of cattle came because Bundy ran up a $1 million tab with the feds. Last year a court ordered Bundy to remove his cattle or they would be confiscated and sold to pay what Bundy owed.
He deliberately disobeyed the order and the BLM began confiscation. When armed vigilantes showed up to defend Bundy, several aiming their assault weapons at the BLM agents, the feds released the cattle out of "serious concerns about the safety of employees and members of the public."
Now Hannity is trying to coax Bundy and his vigilante buddies into pulling the trigger so Fox News has a Waco or Ruby Ridge-style shoot-out it can sensationalize, one for which Hannity can take full credit.
Accept Hannity will never accept responsibility. He'll say it was Obama's fault.
The St. George (UT) News editorialized: "The Bundy Range War was perpetuated by an irresponsible media vying for nothing more than ratings and an ill-informed and willfully ignorant public who, much like a NASCAR fan, come to the race simply in hopes of seeing a crash."
Rep. Paul Broun, M.D., bills himself as a paragon of Christian virtue. Before the Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Athens votes on any legislation, Broun claims he asks four questions: is it right/moral, is it Constitutional, is it necessary, is it affordable.
Unfortunately, the first question appears not to apply to Broun personally.
In 2007 and again in 2013, the non-partisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) ranked him among the most corrupt members of Congress.
"While he was running for Congress in 2007," says the CREW report, "Rep. Broun made several loans to his campaign that he said were made from his personal funds and carried no interest. Years later, after the campaign was caught making suspect 'interest' payments to Rep. Broun, he amended his Federal Election Commission reports to say two of the loans came from a home equity line of credit — which still left many questions unanswered."
Now Broun faces more questions.
The congressman would have us believe he is a fiscal conservative loathe to waste a single taxpayer penny on unnecessary things like food stamps, healthcare, or welfare for poor, elderly or disabled Americans.
But In March we learned he did spend more than $33,000 of taxpayer money hiring a debate coach for his Senate campaign.
WSB-TV reported last month Broun used the funds to hire O'Donnell and Associates, a firm run by Brett O'Donnell, a fellow evangelical Christian. O'Donnell advised Rep. Michele Bachmann, another evangelical who joined Broun on CREW's 2013 most corrupt list, during her failed 2012 presidential run (pattern here?).
When a WSB reporter attempted to talk to Broun about the spending, the congressman slammed his office door in the reporter's face. You can see it here:
According to Peter Waldron, who coordinated Bachmann's campaign in Iowa, O'Donnell, "...exercised ‘Rasputin-like control over Michele. More than one staffer was grateful to God that she didn’t win the nomination because of the influence that Brett had over her.”
“If somebody is advertising themselves as a campaign consultant, what are they doing on the taxpayer dime?” asked Kathy Keily with the Sunlight Foundation during a WSB interview. “These lawmakers can raise plenty of money to fund their campaigns. They really don't need the taxpayers to chip in as well."
Rep. Paul Ryan, the failed Republican vice presidential candidate, wants to balance the budget by 2024.
The way he proposes doing that is by making life even more miserable for the poor and sick.
Of course Ryan asks nothing of America's wealthiest citizens or Fortune 500 corporations who would continue to enjoy their lavish tax breaks and generous loopholes.
Pope Francis insists politicians must address society's neediest. But Ryan, who claims to be a devout Roman Catholic, ignores his church's leader and proposes huge cuts in Medicaid and food stamps along with full repeal of Obamacare to reach his goal.
His budget would even voucherize Medicare, a plan enthusiastically embraced by U.S. Senate candidates Representatives Paul Broun, Jack Kingston and Phil Gingrey. Seniors would be left on their own to buy health insurance with a subsidy of a few thousand dollars. Good luck.
Ryan stereotypes those who rely on Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps as worthless leeches, never mind that they include the elderly, the disabled, unemployed veterans, and children. His plan, says Ryan, “empowers recipients to get off the aid rolls and back on the payrolls.”
So much for Christian charity.
Along with his wealthy beneficiaries, Ryan's budget would increase defense spending, much of which is little more than corporate welfare.
"Affluent Americans would do quite well," said Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "But for tens of millions of others, the Ryan plan is a path to more adversity."
Just as millions of Americans are enjoying healthcare coverage, many for the first time, Ryan would do away with the Affordable Care Act to save $2 trillion over the next ten years.
He would have you believe Republicans will tell millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions who now have insurance they're no longer covered.
What we do learn from conservative hypocrites like Paul Ryan is that Koch money talks, the vulnerable walk. Any lip service Ryan pays to the teachings of Christ is belied by his money changer mentality.
Perhaps Pope Francis should start preaching about cleansing the temple.
I haven’t seen the movie “Lone Survivor,” but I recently picked up the 2007 book on which the film is based. The story chronicles the tragic fate of four Navy SEALS, outgunned by more than one hundred Taliban fighters on a remote Afghan mountain in 2005.
The title of the book is the spoiler. Its author, Marcus Luttrell, is the lone survivor after fighting a desperate 24-hour running gun battle with Taliban fanatics.
But here’s the surprise: it wasn’t Afghan insurgents who killed his three comrades. No, American “liberals” were responsible for their deaths, says Luttrell.
My family has strong ties to the U.S. Navy, so I have enormous respect for the men of the Navy SEALS. They are the best of the best.
Luttrell tells of his training, a fearsomely brutal regimen designed to weed out not only the physically unfit but those lacking the mental and emotional toughness necessary to carry out highly classified missions behind enemy lines.
I'd never make it. Neither would you.
As Luttrell repeatedly reminds us in his book, no other American military unit can do what the SEALS do. They are rigorously trained to fight our enemies on the land or sea in small, cohesive teams that move fast and silently, as they did the night President Obama dispatched SEAL Team Six to call on Osama bin Laden.
Luttrell reveals his dislike for liberals early on. He wonders why (liberal) “politicians” have set up rules of engagement that forbid him from shooting first and asking questions later, apparently unaware he is fighting an pernicious enemy that hides among innocent civilians.
He also doesn’t seem to know that the Afghanistan ROE were handed down by the Pentagon under the direction of the Bush White House when his story takes place.
Luttrell says the secular Saddam was aiding the fanatically religious al Qaeda, a long-debunked Bush administration lie. The sun rises out of the Pacific Ocean, according to Luttrell, and later he tells the reader Afghanistan is in Southeast Asia.
Adm. Mike Mullen personally promotes Luttrell but the author misspells the admiral's name. Twice.
The ex-SEAL also states soldiers accused of crimes are tried in “civilian” courts when, in fact, all servicemen and women are subject the Uniform Military Code of Justice.
The SEALs worry about firing weapons because they will make too much noise. Later, Luttrell says his rifle has a silencer.
Did anyone proof read or fact check this book? It doesn't matter, the inconsistencies and errors set up the improbable events Luttrell claims took place on that lonely Afghan mountain top.
The four SEALS take up a position that hides them from their quarry, a Taliban honcho they’re out to kill or capture. Then three unarmed Afghanis stumble across them, presenting the Americans with a “conundrum,” as Luttrell describes it; kill the Afghanis or let them go?
Up to now, Luttrell has told us how smart, tough and resourceful the SEALs are; how self-sufficient, decisive and cold-blooded they can be in life or death situations. So what do these particular SEALs do?
According to Luttrell, their officer, Lt. Mike Murphy, held an election on the Afghanis’ fate.
I have read a lot of military literature but nowhere, ever can I recall a commander polling his subordinates about what to do in such a dire combat situation.
If they shot the three Afghans, Murphy incredulously warned the SEALs, “the liberal media will attack us without mercy…we will be charged with murder,” according to Luttrell who says the deciding vote fell to him.
“But my trouble is, I have another soul. A Christian soul,” writes the ex-SEAL. “I looked Mikey right in the eye, and said, ‘We gotta let ‘em go…I’d turned into a (expletive) liberal….’”
Thus, the Afghanis went free and liberals (or Jesus?) killed three brave Navy SEALs.
Luttrell’s implausible version of events serve only to reinforce the polarizing and utterly absurd notion that only conservatives love America and are capable of being patriots.
It’s very sad that Luttrell chose to politicize this otherwise inspiring story of selfless heroism.
I wish Rev. Bryant Wright was as concerned about Georgia's poor as he is about foreign refugees entering the state.
"(W)e support refugees because of our faith, knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to love the foreigner, even those who come from cultures and religions that may be very different than our own," said Wright in a recent MDJ guest op-ed.
The Gospels also compel us to love the poor and the sick in our backyard.
So why aren't Rev. Wright and other Cobb County Christian leaders demanding Gov. Nathan Deal expand Medicaid to cover Georgia's 650,000 uninsured? Their voices, joined by other Christian leaders around Georgia, would undoubtedly force Deal and the state legislature to accept Medicaid expansion under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
"These are not numbers," said Ebenezer Baptist Church pastor Raphael Warnock. "These are our neighbors."
Warnock was among the Moral Monday Georgia protesters at the state capital Monday, there to demand the Senate not pass House Bill 707, which would prevent any state official from implementing Obamacare.
I have asked a number of local Christian ministers, including Rev. Wright, why they remain silent on Medicaid expansion, a program that would help so many people with so little effort. Rev. Wright didn't respond to my e-mail, and the only minister who did told me Christ's admonition to care for the sick and poor didn't mean governments should help.
This is why I don't worship at a church. The hypocrisy of this crowd is simply too profound.
Rather than offend the Obama-hating right wingers in their pews, Rev. Wright and the others point at their various charitable ministries with smug satisfaction as if all of these charities combined could come close to meeting the needs of Georgia's poor and sick.
If they went public and insisted Medicaid be expanded, these ministers and pastors know they might be looking at fewer faces next Sunday when they preach; that the collection plates might be a little less full.
And that appears to be more important than taking a moral stand like Pastor Warnock.
"(N)early all funding allocated for refugee programs is direct federal funding, some of which flows through the state of Georgia, sometimes creating the mistaken impression that Georgia tax dollars fund these programs," Wright says.
Well, guess what, Reverend? Those 650,000 poor and sick Georgians - many of them children - would receive preventative and critical healthcare, the cost of which would be borne by the federal government in the first three years and 90 percent thereafter. States can opt out if the feds don't meet their obligation.
In addition, a study conducted by the state's leading healthcare economist, Dr. Bill Custer, says expansion would create 70,000 good paying healthcare industry jobs in a state with 7.3 percent unemployment.
"Annually these additional jobs would add an average $8.2 billion to statewide economic output. This additional economic activity would generate increased state and local tax revenue, which was estimated to be on average $276.5 million annually," says Custer.
Meantime, Georgia's federal tax dollars are making a one-way trip to pay for Medicaid expansion in states like New York, California and Illinois. If for no other reason, it simply makes economic sense to get some of our dollars back here to Georgia.
Even ultra-conservative Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer sees the wisdom of expanding Medicaid in her state.
"I encourage anyone who is skeptical of this program to get to know these (refugees) and welcome our new neighbors. There is a very good chance you will be blessed if you do," Rev. Wright concludes.
The very same thing can be said for Georgia's poor, Reverend Wright.
I just read Erik Larson's remarkable book, "In the Garden of Beasts." Through contemporary letters and other sources, it chronicles the experiences of American Ambassador William Dodd and his family in Nazi Germany from 1933-1937, as Hitler tightened his grip on the German people.
While Dodd looked on helplessly, Hitler ruthlessly silenced all opposing political voices, passing laws forbidding opposition newspapers, for example, and imprisoning, torturing and killing those who spoke out against him.
Thankfully, Hitler and his hideous regime were crushed. Today in America we rejoice that our robust democracy thrives, opposition voices are always heard, and differing opinions considered.
Unless you are Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, that is.
After acknowledging his year-long, multi-million dollar, partisan "investigation" into the IRS had reached its predictable dead end, Issa hastily adjourned his House Oversight Committee hearing on March 5.
But Democratic committee member Rep. Elijay Cummings had an important question about Issa's management of the investigation: why did the chairman supply evidence to Fox News Sunday but refuse to give the same evidence to Cummings and the rest of the House committee after it was requested?
In a shocking scene reminiscent of the1934 Reichstag, Issa shut off Cummings' microphone, dismissed Republicans members and left the hearing. His mike turned off, Cummings expressed his outrage at Issa and the way he wiped his feed on the democratic process. You can watched the entire travesty here:
Thanks to a transcript of Cummings' remarks posted on-line, the following is what Issa didn't want Americans to hear:
"(When Issa appeared on Fox News Sunday he) claim(ed) that (IRS official Lois) Lerner was quote, at the center of this effort to, quote, target conservative groups. Although he provided a copy of his report to Fox. He refused my request to provide it to the members of the committee.
"He cannot support these claims," Cummings continued. "We have now interviewed 38 employees, who have all told us the same thing. That the White House did not direct this or even know about it at the time it was occurring. And none of the witnesses have provided any political motivation. The (IRS) Inspector General, Russell George, told us the same thing. He found no evidence of any White House involvement, or political motivation."
Like Hitler, political retribution and hiding his lies are more important to Issa than the truth. I'm sure if Issa had his way, the Gestapo would have picked up Cummings on his way home.
Millions of Americans have given their lives defending our democratic principles. We don't shut off microphones when when a duly elected representative of the American people wants answers or wishes to make a statement on behalf of his or her constituents.
Of all the low points for Republicans over the last five years - and there have been too many to count - this may be lowest.
Why is it important to shield private contractors and subcontractors doing government business from Georgia’s Sunshine Laws as House Bill 976 sought to do?
Why did its sponsors, Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) and Rep. John Carson (R-northeast Cobb), not want us to see what those contractors and subs are doing with our money?
It's moot - for now. The legislation was tabled. But it’s instructive to study what was going on here because Cobb County and state elected officials will be working closely with contractors over the next several years.
“My understanding is people are beginning to use open records requests for the sole purpose of gaining records of … private businesses' payroll records,” Ehrhart told the MDJ’s Nikki Wiley.
Ehrhart declined to provide Ms. Wiley with any examples of people poking their noses into private records but he did say, “I can’t imagine that this is even controversial…I think (those questioning the bill) need to readjust their tin foil hat.”
So Ehrhart thinks Cobb taxpayers like me who worry about a giant pile of tax dollars attended by an invisible and unaccountable few are wild eyed conspiracy theorists lacking faith in our fellow man?
No, Rep. Ehrhart, we have a healthy skepticism that politicians can always be trusted to do the right thing.
Many of us are also concerned about the $300 million the Cobb County Commission gave the $16 BILLION Liberty Media Corporation to build the new Braves stadium so a bunch of their millionaire employees can play baseball here.
Recall that at the behest of Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee the stadium deal was rammed through with speed, stealth and no real public comment two days before the Thanksgiving holiday last year.
Why was this haste necessary? Why did Cobb County Commission Lee cloak the stadium proceedings with secrecy? Why did the Commission ignore the many loud Cobb County voices raised in protest?
And why House Bill 976, the timing of which stinks to high heaven?
I know this sounds crazy, but very often when the financial records of contractors working on public projects are closed to third party scrutiny, criminality can and often does occur.
That’s especially true when we’re talking about hundreds of millions of tax dollars and the prevailing wisdom among the feloniously inclined that nobody will miss a slice from a cut loaf.
Hypothetically, let’s say some influential politician’s brother-in-law has a "consulting firm" whose sole client is the general contractor on a big ticket public project, a new baseball stadium, for instance.
The brother-in-law sends the general contractor a bill for “consulting services” that are never performed and, by pre-arranged agreement with the contractor, the bother-in-law receives a fat payment.
Then that fat payment miraculously ends up in some influential politician’s pocket, minus a small commission for said brother-in-law.
Such a scam constitutes conspiracy and either wire or mail fraud, all serious felonies that can result in a lengthy stay as a guest of the federal or state government.
That hypothetical scenario and others like it happen all the time when public dollars, politicians, and private contractors get together, so it’s not my tin foil hat talking.
As reported by Ms. Wiley, here’s what I and others find so curious about Ehrhart’s and Carson’s sudden interest in confidential government contracting:
“(I)t was Ehrhart who first connected Cobb Chairman Tim Lee with Atlanta Braves executives before the $672 million stadium deal was hatched using $300 million in public dollars.”
As my sister likes to say, “Things that make you go hmmmmm.”
The Holocaust should remain forever seared into the collective conscience of mankind. The systematic slaughter of six million men, women and children must also never be trivialized.
So it was repulsive that a Harvard-educated billionaire would compare the national conversation about income inequality to Hitler’s persecution of the Jews.
“Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich,’” Perkins wrote to the Wall Street Journal.
“This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?” Perkins asked.
Income inequality is an undeniable economic trend that can be traced back 30 years to the Reagan tax cuts. So asking what can be done to correct the disparity is the same as Kristallnacht?
Oh, you’re not familiar with Kristallnacht?
On the night of November 9-10, 1938, Hitler unleashed his jack booted storm troopers on Jews throughout Germany and Austria. As police looked on, they murdered 91 innocent people, destroyed thousands of Jewish homes and businesses, and burned more than 1,000 synagogues before sending 30,000 Jews to concentration camps.
Kristallnacht – crystal night – is named for the broken glass littering German and Austrian streets in the aftermath of the atrocity. It was the horrific, inhuman first act of the Holocaust that was soon to follow.
Perkin’s comparison of progressives to Nazis is by now threadbare. Almost from the moment he took office, right wingers portrayed President Obama as Hitler, revealing their ignorance over who Hitler was and the monstrosity he fathered.
That’s what you do when you can’t debate rationally; call your opponent Hitler and the argument is over.
Tom Perkins is in no danger of progressives confiscating his personal submarine (yes, personal submarine). His many homes aren’t going to be burned to the ground.
He and his family won’t be gassed because progressives ask why the manifold economic benefits Perkins enjoys have never trickled down to the middle class and working poor as promised by conservatives.
Perkins specious letter is not only an obscene affront to the memory of those millions murdered in the Holocaust, it’s a slap in the face to Americans who work hard, follow the rules, and yet see almost no economic progress.
While 82-year-old Tom Perkins agonizes over which Swiss bank he’ll use to stash his excess cash (somebody should tell this guy there are no luggage racks on hearses), you might be worried about making your next car payment.
Perkins has his defenders among the highly-paid right wing media shills who dependably lay down a steady barrage of lies, misinformation and distortions to make sure middle class Americans stay confused, scared and angry at the wrong people.
“Perkins barely scratched the surface of the War on Wealth that has spread under the Obama regime,” screeched MDJ columnist Michelle Malkin, amplifying Perkins’ shameful Nazi canard.
Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum, who presumably has only one job, chirped that working “two and three jobs to make ends meet” is “uniquely American.”
So pity the sad plight of billionaire Tom Perkins.
But save your tears for the 50-something Marietta executive who’s been out of work for two years and just lost his unemployment check thanks to the GOP; or the single Kennesaw mother who’s trying to raise two children on a fulltime minimum wage of $15,080 per year; or the disabled veteran in Powder Springs whose food stamp benefits were cut off by Republicans.
The problem with those folks, says Perkins' fellow billionaire Sam Zell, is that they're just plain lazy. "The 1 percent work harder," Zell declared recently, "the 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society."
Not all billionaires share Perkins’ paranoid delusions.
Warren Buffet agrees class warfare is being waged, “…but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning,” said the Oracle of Omaha.
There is a great scene in the classic movie "Rebel Without a Cause" in which Jim Stark, played by hyper cool James Dean, and his not so cool nemesis Buzz play a game of chicken. You can watch it here:
The idea is to race their cars side by side to a cliff edge and the guy who jumps out first is a chicken.
This teenage test of manhood doesn't work out very well for the uncool Buzz who gets his jacket sleeve tangled up with the car door and plummets off the cliff to his fiery death.
Jim, not a hair out of place, survives.
Cut to modern day Washington, D.C., where the hyper cool Barack Obama has been challenged once again to a game of chicken by the not so cool John Boehner.
The metaphorical cliff edge is the debt ceiling, which needs to be raised by the end of the month or the nation's full faith and credit will plummet off the cliff.
Boehner demands something in return from Obama for paying the bills Congress has already racked up.
Wearing a bemused smile, Barry says no way. Let's race.
Boehner, comb in his teeth, revs up the Tea Party caucus and puts the pedal to the Fox News metal, demanding concessions for not letting the American economy crash and burn.
As the deadline for the ceiling vote approaches, Boehner frantically tries to jump before it's too late. But he gets tangled up in his hysterically uncool rhetoric.
The president slides out, does a nifty shoulder roll, and watches in disbelief as Boehner and his GOP minions in the House go off the cliff.
The debt ceiling is raised and the GOP gets nothing.
I've seen this movie before.