Sunday, November 11, 2018

My Sunday Feeling

I'm not usually one for political theatre.  However, it's not every day that professing Nazis hold a rally on the Capitol steps.  And so why heck yeah I had to go.  

My initial thought when I saw the battalion of police in riot gear separating the Boys in Black from the protestors that had gathered to scream invective at them was that the First Amendment to the Constitution that guarantees free speech and the right to peaceably assemble to petition for redress of grievances can be a problematic thing under circumstances such as these. 

My second thought as I blew into my hands to ward off the cold was that if I were to choose between right wing nutbar extremist groups, I would choose to be a Klansman on a day like yesterday.  After all, the KKK gets to wear robes and hoods and they burn crosses.  That would provide some warmth at least.

So what happened?  Not much and that was undoubtedly due to the overwhelming presence of law enforcement.  There would be no repeat of Charlottesville on their watch.  And thank God for that.  Because I got the distinct impression that both sides were trying to incite the other to do something stupid.  

The Nazis-all 13 of them-mocked the protestors as Communists and crazies who were out to deny them their rights of free speech.  They reminded me for all the world of the mouthy clown at the fair who sits in the chair over a vat of water while he insults the contestants who are throwing baseballs at the bullseye that will cause the trap door to open beneath him.  The discourse was about as sophisticated.

So what were the Nazis protesting?  There were speeches about Afrikaners losing their farmland which I wouldn't think would be much of a hot button topic around these parts.  But their main beef, as far as I could tell, was how the two party system in this country was rigged against the working man.  Indeed, they referred to both Hillary and Trump as products of the bourgeoisie.  They used that word.  I don't rightly know if anybody else there was fascinated at the notion of Nazis spouting Marxist rhetoric.  But I was.

As far as the opposition went, they just hated the Nazis.  They were mostly young folks.  Their signage was all over the place.  Rights for Immigrants.  Down with hate.  Feminists.  LGTBQ.  Remember the Holocaust.  One thing you can say about the other guys.  They don't have focus issues.

And the things the guys at the barricades yelled at the guys on the steps caused me to blush.  And I have a pretty high threshold for what I consider to be the unspeakably vile .  I felt sorry for the cops that had to listen to it.  Not because the insults were directed at them but because some things ain't worth it even at time and a half.

A fellow civilian who joined me there for a bit said she saw some Antifa flags.  Maybe so.  I wouldn't know Antifa from Auntie Mame.  But if they were there they are idiots.  And the Nazis that graced our town yesterday were a bunch of punks with a confused ideology who probably couldn't be counted on to knock over a lemonade stand.

I call it a draw.  

Somebody asked me last night if I felt as if I were in any danger while I was out there exercising my 1st Amendment rights to take pictures and to generally make a nuisance of myself.  

"Yes," I said. "These young kids chain smoke like crazy.  I didn't think I would get my ass kicked.  But I thought I might asphyxiate. Or acquire second hand lung cancer." 

The Nazis likely convinced nobody to join their team.  The Antifa types didn't scare them off.  It was pointless political theatre fought to a draw under the adult supervision of the LRPD and Capitol Police.

Just sound and fuhrer signifying nothing you might say.  

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

So. What now?

In what can only be considered by reasonably sane observers to be a referendum on the first two years of the Trump Administration, the Democrats were actually able to screw it together well enough to take back control of the House of Representatives last night.  

It must be surmised that Donald Trump has had better nights. And I'm not even thinking about Stormy Daniels.  After all, the Dems now have control of the the very same apparatus that the Republicans used to make their lives miserable the last 8 years.  But if the flaxen haired winner of the electoral college (WOTEC) was remotely concerned by the prospect of the Democrats having the power to make subpoenas rain down from the sky come January he didn't let on during today's news conference.

"But they can play that game, but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate..." and "They can look at us, they can look at us, then we can look at them and it'll go back and forth."

Not exactly reminiscent of Lincoln's "We must be friends" speech, non?

I'm not one to give political advice.  Or golf or relationship advice.  But here's what I would advise my donkey friends.

I know that some of you are itching to haul Jared and Junior in front of a committee.  I know you have got Articles of Impeachment ready to go.  Your chief counsel on the Intelligence Committee has the Commissioner of the IRS on his speed dial.  This is the moment you have lived for.

You need to cool your jets.

You won control of the House because your message of medicaid expansion, coverage for preexisting conditions, tax relief for the middle class and job creation resonated with voters, many of whom voted for WOTEC 2 years ago.  You need to keep your eye on the ball.  

And get this.  In today's presser WOTEC semi-offered you guys an olive branch today when he said he wanted to work with you on infrastructure.  As we have discovered in the last two years there are many things Donald Trump knows absolutely nothing about.  Things like American history, the 14th Amendment, and how to run casinos for profit.

But the man knows how to build stuff.  You might ought to take him up on his offer before TASS, I mean FOX News, mystically instructs him over the airwaves to pull it off the table.

Besides, unless the Special Counsel has video of Putin handing Trump a briefcase full of money along with the key to a hotel room occupied by a 17 year old hooker there is absolutely no way that the Republican controlled Senate will convict him of having committed "high crimes and misdemeanors."  Revisit what happened when the Republicans tried to do that to Bill Clinton.  The votes aren't there and will likely never be there.  At least based on what we know now.  You guys are pols.  You know how to count votes. Give it up for now.

Keep your eye on the ball. You want to get even with Trump?  Fine.  

Roll up your collective sleeves and do government for the greater good of all Americans.  

That's really what you were sent there to do.  Don't foment a Constitutional crisis until it is goddamn time to do so.  

Good luck.

Thus endeth the sermon.  

Sunday, November 04, 2018

My Sunday Feeling

Hello again.  

It's me.  I'm back for the first time since May of 2017.  For the mathematically disinclined that's over a year.  

Where have I been?  Nowhere and everywhere all at the same time.  Or so it has seemed to me.  Since you last heard from me, I've gotten married, bought a house, fixed mine up to put on the market, moved a family from Conway to the People's Republic of Hillcrest and probably other stuff that I can't recall off the top of my head.

Of course, the most convenient excuse for my radio silence is that the planning for all of these matters took up a good bit of my time.  And that would be true.  But it's not like I've been working 8 to 5 during that period of time.  And even at that, when I think back on it I did a lot of my blogging back when I was under a lot of stress at work.  I guess it was therapeutic. Probably not for the general readership, but for me.

No it was something else.  Something that I can't quite give a name to.  But if you were to put a gun to my head-and I would appreciate it if you wouldn't-I would have to say that I was, for lack of a better word, disheartened.  

The last entry on these immortal scrolls was May 1, 2017.  The President had just floated the breathtakingly preposterous notion that "[H]ad Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn't have had the Civil War." It was as depressing now as it was then that any American President could be so ignorant of history.  And that he would give voice to it.

 But as Dilbert's boss said the other day, "Did you know that some idiots think they're smart?" Most idiots do.  And unfortunately, my own painful experience with malignant narcissists led me to ruefully predict at that time of my last post that there would be no end to other inane and wrongheaded pronouncements from the idiot in the Oval Office who thinks he's smart and who is oblivious to the fact that his every utterance in front of a microphone or note pad is a matter of public record.  That or he doesn't care.

So I did the manly thing and ran away.  I was disheartened.

And recent events haven't eased that any.  With the mid-terms coming up, Trump has decided to put more red meat on the grill to get the base hungry for dinner.  He promised a tax cut for the middle class before the mid-terms which would be quite the trick seeing as how Congress isn't in session.  He has stated that he can-basically-amend the Constitution of the United States by Executive Order which is indeed a legal theory floating around out there.  However, it is one that is basically subscribed to by crackpots.  And we are sending troops to the border to repulse a "caravan" of immigrants who won't likely be within spitting distance of Arizona for at least a couple of months.

Now Andrew Jackson might have approved of that.

So why crank up the old blog again?  Have I recently become "heartened?"  Hardly.

I don't know.  

Maybe it's this.  As I type this I am looking out the window at the green space of the park across the street.  I have been practicing law a little bit recently from this spot in my new house.  It is quiet and peaceful here in the early mornings.  Sometime I see deer in those woods just off my new lawn.  

My books and my camera stuff are in here.  A lot of my stuff is up on the wall. The desk and chair from the old house are here against the window.  It kinda looks like me in here.

I'm not real thrilled with the way the world is going.  But I feel like this is a good place to take up writing again.

And so I am back.  Let's see what happens.  

Friday, November 02, 2018

Overtaken By Events

OK.  Maybe not Sunday.  Had to wear the lawyer hat longer than expected today and got a million things going tomorrow as well.

So maybe not Sunday. But soon....

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Fair Warning

TMFW is returning to the Internets on Sunday.

We are fit, tan, well-rested and living with somebody who is on our ass about taking up the pen (or keyboard as the case may be) again.

So we are coming back.  And we will lose the "editorial we."

Monday, May 01, 2017

Why the Civil War? Here's Why.

"People don't realize, you know the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not been worked out?"

"I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn't have had the Civil War.  He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart.  He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, 'There's no reason for this.' "

                                               Historian in Chief Donald J. Trump

It's fun to the play the "what if" game.  My guy friends tend to all be big sports fans and every now and again we will waste the breath God hath lent us pondering such weighty issues as whether Pete Maravich could play in today's NBA.  Or whether Pete Rose was overrated.  The "what if" game is fun when confined to sports.  Because it doesn't much matter.  

And I suppose it doesn't much matter when you do it with history.  Except that we expect certain people to be reasonably conversant with historical facts before they play the "what if" game.  Like maybe the President of the United States.  

It is hard to parse Trump's stream of consciousness verbage at times.  Indeed, the more I listen to Trump speak off the cuff about just about anything more complicated than what he is having for lunch, the more George W. Bush's mangled speech begins to sound like unto Winston Churchill.  But this is what I think Trump is trying to say.  I think he is trying to say that had his idol Old Hickory been in charge instead of Lincoln we "wouldn't have had the Civil War."

This is, of course, nonsense. Here's the Reader's Digest condensed version of why we "had" the Civil War. It was the inability of the political and legal system of the young country to deal with the expansion of slavery into the western territories.

The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was the attempt on the part of the Congress to preserve the Union by kicking the question of expansion of slavery into the west down the road a little for someone else to deal with it. Which is an irresponsible tactic completely unheard of in our present and more enlightened day.

It agreed to let Missouri in as a slave state while Maine could come in as a "free" state thereby maintaining the status quo in the Senate at 50-50 on the issue. The compromise also implied a little too strongly for the fire eaters in the south that expansion of slavery was subject to regulation by what passed for a national government at that time.  

What happens next in the run-up to war?  The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Dred Scott v. Sanford.  Mr. Scott, a slave owned by an Army surgeon had the temerity to sue for his freedom.  His theory (basically) was that  the two years (as I recall) that he was with his owner in a "free" state meant that he was emancipated as a matter of law. 

The SCOTUS did not agree.  It ruled that Mr. Scott did not (basically) have standing to sue as a former slave because he was not part of the original class of citizens contemplated by the Founding Fathers.  Or some shit.  But the Court also ruled that Congress did not have the authority to regulate the expansion of slavery into the west.  So much for the Missouri Compromise.  

As I told the history boys, the decision in Dred Scott (considered by sane legal scholars to be the worst decision ever rendered by SCOTUS) meant that the United States government had completely failed, on every level, to peacefully resolve the most burning issue of the day.  An issue upon which an entire region's financial system was based.  

So what the hell does Andrew Jackson have to do with this?  Not much.  Except that in 1830 or so Jackson threatened to send troops into South Carolina (why is it always South Carolina?) after it based a law "nullifying" a federal law imposing a tariff.  Look it up.  It's boring.  Also, just for fun look up "nullification" as a legal theory.  The solons in the Texas legislature are trying what South Carolina attempted way back when. Old times there are not forgotten either after all.

So, Jackson was a stout Unionist, and one who also recognized that the Jeffersonian-agrarian model of governance in the south was an "alarm bell" representing trouble down the road.  He was also a southerner who owned slaves.  And he displaced entire tribes of Native-Americans to the west along the "Trail of Tears."

Sometimes historical interpretation is a matter of nuance.  Trump doesn't do nuance.  But to me the better question, since we are playing the "what if" game, is whether ardent Unionist Andrew Jackson, who made at least part of his considerable fortune from the sweat of the brows of men he owned, would have either supported the Missouri Compromise or would have gone to war to preserve the Union against former states that formed their own nation and fired upon a Union fort.  

Who knows?  But I think I know this.  Andrew Jackson was not a super-hero who would have magically "made a deal" to preserve a Union that even Mr. Lincoln said that he would have fought to hold together even if it meant not freeing the slaves. It was complicated.  History is complicated.  The election of 2016 proved that.

As for me, I am confining my "what if" fantasies to sports.  The fantasies of the Historian in Chief in which he fancies himself as some kind of heir apparent to an Andrew Jackson that did not exist in history, on the other hand, might not be.  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

My Sunday Feeling

It is Holy Saturday as I type this.  And all hell has broken loose in Arkansas.  

Let me state at the outset that I am somewhat conflicted about capital punishment.  As a matter of law, I believe that capital punishment is one of the penalties that a society may legitimately impose upon conviction of the most heinous of offenses.  I also would tend to agree that capital punishment, in and of itself, is probably not "cruel and unusual punishment" that is barred by the 8th Amendment to the Constitution.  After all, capital punishment existed during the time of the framing of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers could have banned it if they had wanted to.

The 8 individuals pictured above were scheduled to be executed by the State of Arkansas.  7 of them were scheduled to be put to death over the next 11 days.   "What's the rush?" one might ask.  Because the state's supply of midazolam, the sedative used as part of the 3 injection regimen, expires on April 30th.  In other words, it is not safe to use beyond that date.  

If this were not sufficiently perverse, yesterday McKesson Medical- Surgical Inc. filed suit in state court seeking injunctive relief against the use of the 100 vials of vecromium bromide it sold to the State.  It said that the State failed to disclose that the chemicals were to be used in executions.  McKesson is the distributor of the drug.  It said the manufacturer of the drug opposes its use in executions.  The state court judge granted an injunction.  I forgot to mention that this judge was also part of a protest rally against the scheduled executions thereby putting his impartiality to extreme question.  

I also forgot to mention that while all of this was going on, US District Judge Kristine Baker held 4 days of hearings last week concerning whether the drug regimen proposed by Arkansas constituted "cruel and unusual punishment." Last night she issued a 100 page decision enjoining the executions which got filed this morning.

Oh and McKesson filed a "friend of the court" brief in Judge Baker's court reciting its objection to the use of vecromium bromide for this purpose.  An employee of the Department of Corrections said it pretty much knew the McKesson employee that sold the State the vials in question was not authorized to sell it for use in executions.  And when asked by reporters where the State got the chemicals it proposed to use, a spokesperson said they were "donated."

Donated?  The hell she said. The State of Arkansas is accepting donated goods to execute people?  

Look, I have no sympathy for these defendants.  They were all convicted of the most heinous of crimes involving murder and sex offenses. They are not entitled to mercy as most of us define it.  

But even the worst among us-and these guys amply qualify-have constitutional rights.  And this fiasco proves that Arkansas is not capable of carrying out the maximum punishment in a dignified and orderly fashion consistent with the rule of law.  If we must execute prisoners it cannot be done in a circus atmosphere with chemicals ostensibly obtained by ruse.  We shouldn't execute people in an assembly line fashion because the expiration date of one of the drugs is coming up.  And why is this latter consideration an issue?  Because states that use lethal injection to administer capital punishment are finding it hard to obtain these drugs as many companies-like McKesson who may have gotten snookered here-refuse to allow their products to be used for this purpose. This is ridiculous and macabre.  

And, as has been proven time and again, it would be infinitely cheaper to confine them for life than to pay the cost of the seemingly infinite rounds of appeals available to death row litigants in both the State and Federal system.  But what about closure for the victims?  Good point.  I can't imagine what it must be like to have a loved one taken from you under such violent and horrible circumstances.  But again, like it or not, these inmates have rights.  What about the victims you may ask?  What about their rights? I am sympathetic.  Really I am.  What happened to the victims in these cases was beyond evil.  But in the criminal justice system you have to dot every "i" and cross every "t."  That's the way it is.

I say lock 'em up and throw away the key.  Case closed. The very definition of closure.  You say you don't want to use your tax dollars for their care and feeding for life?  Fine.  If you think it is a better use of your tax dollars to pay attorneys fees and courts costs for the average 20 years these appeals ten to take for an uncertain end, then we can continue on our current path.

Executions are no longer practical from a strictly utilitarian and economic perspective.  

This is not about mercy for these guys.  This is about the rule of law.

 And swift and sure punishment.  Which the families of the victims, and the taxpayers who are footing the bill for the criminal justice system, deserve.