Dave Stancliff 2014-10-12 blogarama.com

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Judicial elections are already on shakey ground and they are about to get worse!

Good Day World!

Any observer of politics can see the corruption endemic to the profession. Pick up a newspaper or read a news blog on any given day, and you’ll find plenty of examples.

It’s only going to get worse. The last bastion of a democratic government, the judicial system, is going to be up for sale to the highest bidder soon. 

You can thank Citizens United—and its progeny, SpeechNow and McCutcheon for a new regime of campaign spending that dramatically enhances corruption in politics and government by forcing lawmakers to spend more and more of their precious time making fundraising calls, raising money for their own campaigns and their parties, and getting insurance against a last-minute blitz of "independent" spending that trashes them when they have no time to raise money to defend themselves.

It also gives added traction to extreme groups threatening lawmakers with primary devastation unless they toe the ideological line.

Many legislators have had an experience something like this: A lobbyist visits and says,

"I am working with Americans for a Better America. They have more money than God.

Giving $10 million in the last two weeks of a campaign to trash somebody's reputation would be nothing to them. They really, really want this amendment.

I don't know what they would do if someone opposed them, but …"

The result will be more amendments, or more amendments blocked, without the money being spent and without anyone even knowing what is going on. And every time the money is spent, and someone loses, the lesson will not be lost on those still in office.

If judges have to raise millions for reelection campaigns, who will contribute? Of course, those who practice in front of the judges will.

At the same time, the desperation to raise money means lawmakers pandering to big donors or shaking them down—trading access for favors, or threatening retribution. And it means more vicious ads, done by anonymous groups, which only enhance the corrosive cynicism voters have toward all politicians.

And it means more sham independence and blockage of disclosure, without any enforcement of existing laws by the outrageously lawless Federal Election Commission, led by Caroline Hunter and Lee Goodman.

But that is not the worst of the new world of campaign finance post-Citizens United. The worst comes with judicial elections—and that worst could be worsened by a pending Supreme Court case that may allow sitting judges actively to solicit campaign funds for their own elections.

Loads of money—mostly conservative—went into judicial-retention elections in the last cycle in Florida, following a similar experience in 2010 in Iowa and Illinois. We saw similar efforts on a smaller scale in other states, including Wisconsin and Michigan.

All had a ton of attack ads. Those efforts have exploded in the 2014 elections.

In North Carolina, where repeal of the state's Judicial Campaign Reform Act by the right-wing legislature opened the door to a further explosion of campaign spending, and where the GOP sees retaining a majority on the court (ostensibly, but risibly, nonpartisan) as a key to their continued hegemony in politics, the Republican State Leadership Committee spent $900,000 on an unsuccessful primary campaign to unseat Justice Robin Hudson, and will target Court of Appeals Judge Sam Ervin IV in his second attempt to move to the Supreme Court (the first one, in 2012, cost $4.5 million or more).

Much of the spending will come in the next month, and will total many millions, most of it from outside groups. The Republican State Leadership Committee is targeting judges in Ohio, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Texas.

It is true that the politicization and increasing partisanship of the courts has paralleled, or followed, the tribalism in the political process. And it is true that a sharper tone in judicial elections preceded Citizens United.

But the concerted efforts by activist James Bopp to go state by state and remove all restrictions on how judicial elections are run—making them just like political campaigns—combined with the effective elimination of boundaries on funding and the blockage of disclosure, have dramatically changed judicial elections.

Vicious attacks on the integrity of judges themselves undermine confidence in the judiciary, but that is not the major problem.

If judges fear multimillion-dollar campaigns against them, they will have to raise millions themselves, or quietly engineer campaigns by others to do so. Who will contribute, or lead those efforts?

Of course, those who practice in front of the judges will, creating an unhealthy dynamic of gratitude and dependency. Worse, imagine what happens when judges are deciding cases in which the stakes are high, and well-heeled individuals or corporations will be helped or damaged by the rulings.

The judges know that an adverse decision now will trigger a multimillion-dollar campaign against them the next time, both for retribution and to replace them with more friendly judges. Will that affect some rulings? Of course.

Judicial elections in general are an abomination.

They are no way to select impartial and high-quality jurists. But judicial elections in the age of Citizens United make it so much worse. This will ultimately undermine the whole idea of an independent judiciary, which is the single most significant bedrock of a functioning democratic political system.

This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/10/courting-corruption-the-auctioning-of-the-judicial-system/381524/

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Friday, October 17, 2014

No more apologies: Officials better wise up fast on how to stop the spread of the Ebola virus

                               Good Day World!

What a sorry state of affairs.

Sometimes being sorry doesn’t exonerate a person. Lately there’s been a lot of sorry government officials responding to the Ebola crisis like slugs with salt poured on them!

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director Thomas Frieden is sorry that a second Texas health care worker infected with the deadly disease was allowed to board a commercial flight despite reporting a low-grade fever.

Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer of Texas Health Resources which runs the hospital where Thomas Eric Duncan (a Liberian national) was treated is sorry that they didn’t respond correctly when he first came to the hospital.

Whoever advised Nina Pham, first person to contract Ebola in the United States, to go ahead and take a commercial flight to Cleveland with a low grade fever, better be sorry!

Hospital administrators across the country are telling staffs they’re sorry for not having any plans (or equipment) for treating Ebola when it first became an issue. Those same administrators can thank Frieden – it was his job to guide the U.S. response to the Ebola virus outbreak.

A nurse who treated one of the sick caregivers accused Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of failing to adequately prepare staff for handling Ebola cases prior to Duncan's arrival. She described a confused response at the hospital, inadequate protective gear and careless treatment of hazardous waste.

US authorities belatedly began screening for Ebola on Thursday at the Washington area Dulles airport, Chicago's O'Hare, Newark and Atlanta airports, after New York's JFK began screening last week.

During a House committee hearing Frieden warned that Ebola “could spread more widely in Africa,” and if that happened, it would present a threat to the American health care system “for a long time to come.”

America's Ebola Command: Just Who's In Charge Here?

I hope there’s no more after the fact – “I’m sorry” stories. The American public is already showing signs of mass paranoia over the spread of the Ebola virus. No amount of apologies would be acceptable if there’s another major breakdown. 

Related News:

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dig into the world’s most expensive burger & Man willing to trade his house for an iPhone

Expensive burger

Good Day World!

Are you a hamburger fan?

I’ve got a buddy who really believes hamburgers are the staff of life, as it were.

He says they have everything you need on the food chart: meat, bread, lettuce, ketchup, and cheese. However, he’s picky and will only eat a classic burger with the ingredients I just mentioned.

He would be horrified to see what may, or may not be, the world’s most expensive burger.

Meet the $1,768 Glamburger. (photo above)

The burger is made with 220 grams of Kobe Wagyu beef minced with 60 grams of New Zealand venison. It's made with Canadian lobster poached in Iranian saffron. It's got Beluga caviar and hickory smoked duck egg covered in an edible, gold leaf.

Oh, did I forget to mention the champagne jus and grated white truffle?

Big Mac, it's not.

What it is: an outside-the-box publicity ploy by Groupon UK in celebration of its 5 millionth food and drink voucher. It's also a contest that Groupon is sponsoring. The winner not only gets to chow down on the burger, but the winner also is awarded round-trip cost of travel to the restaurant.

The burger was created by head chef Chris Large at the Honky Tonk restaurant in London.

One PR guru says the stunt may have some serious bite. "It's successful in a world in which the unique and bizarre often attract interest," says David Nevins, president of Nevins and Associates. "I don't think, however, that Groupon would sell too many of these burgers with their traditional 2 for 1 offering."

An outfit called Record Setters has certified it as The Most Expensive Burger in the World.

But, it appears Guinness World Records says otherwise.

Way back in 2000, it says, a $5,000 burger was produced by Juicys Outlaw Grill in Corvallis, Ore, a food concession specialist, that created a burger that tipped the scales at more than 777 pounds. Juicys claims, on its website, that it will prepare and deliver the $5,000 burger to you with just 48 hours notice.

As for the Glamburger, well, it took three weeks to develop, says chef Large, who, in a statement, suggests, "The winner will certainly have a dinner to remember." (Originally ran AZCentral 10/9/14)

Detroit home

MAN WILLING TO TRADE DETROIT HOME FOR iPhone

A man who has had trouble selling a Detroit home is willing to trade it for an iPhone 6 or and iPad, according to video from geobeats.

The owner, who lives in Austria, initially put the home on the market for $5,000. However, with the home in poor shape and $6,000 in back taxes owed, it has not had any takers.

The homeowner was reportedly scammed into buying the property in 2012 for $41,000, believing he could rent it out. He was unaware that the previous owner had purchased it two weeks earlier for $10,000, geobeats says.  (Source)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fear This! Republican Candidates Say the Sky is Falling

Good Day World!

There’s nothing like good old fashioned fear to get a person’s vote.

Republicans are warning voters that the sky is falling and the only way to stop it is to vote for a Republican in November.

Be afraid, very afraid. Americans aren’t safe anymore — from disease, terrorism or something unspoken and perhaps more ominous — Republicans are counting on sheer (senseless) fear to carry them into office.

Their message: President Obama and the Democratic Party run a government that is so fundamentally broken it cannot offer its people the most basic protection from harm,” as the New York Times puts it.

But these advertisements we’re seeing (here, here, and here) go well beyond faith in institutions or government competence. They’re all about fear mongering.

And frankly, they come when there’s no evidence of ISIS coming across the border.

Some of these candidates are walking a fine line; there is a Chicken Little aspect here regarding Ebola and it can border on the irresponsible. But hey, if it gets votes, go for it.

Remember Hunter Thompson’s famous book on political campaigning – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? I think GOP campaign planners took a few pages from it and ran!

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Have a Gun, There a Gun, Everywhere a Gun

Good Day World!

On occasion, I like to share articles written by other bloggers that I believe have done an excellent job expressing their opinion on tough societal issues.

Todays blogger is PAUL WALDMAN, a daily blogger for The American Prospect.

Waldman writes about how our society is divided by two visions for America. One, has all Americans packing guns, all the time. The other, a world without guns on display everywhere.

Which one is your vision?

One of the things that makes a society work is that people have rights that are protected in the law, but they also exercise those rights with consideration for the society's other members.

For instance, we have a strong commitment to freedom of expression, such that many things that would be deemed obscene and get you tossed in jail in other countries are tolerated here.

So if I want do a performance art piece that involves lots of cursing and tossing about bodily fluids, I can do it. But I'm not going to do it on the sidewalk in front of your house during dinner time, not because I don't have the right, but because that would make me an asshole.

In the exercising of my rights, I'd be changing the conditions of your existence, even for a brief time, in a way that you'd find unpleasant. So because I value having a society where we all live together, I'll choose to find a theater to put on my performance, and you can choose to come see it or not.

In the same way, if you choose to have a gun in your home because you think it protects you, that's your right. I'm going to choose not to let my kid come play with your kid at your house, and we can all get along.

Our liberty is protected by our laws and institutions, not by our ability to wage war on our government. Canadians and Britons and French people aren't any less free than we are because they are less able to start killing cops and soldiers when they decide the time for insurrection has come.

Nevertheless, that basic right exists and it isn't going to be taken away. But the rest of us should also be able to say that there are limits to how far your exercising that right should be allowed to change the rest of our lives, and if necessary the law should enforce those limits.

The goal of many gun advocates, particularly those who promote concealed carry, is that we make it so as many people as possible take as many guns as possible into as many places as possible.

That's been the focus of their legislative efforts in recent years, not only passing concealed carry laws nearly everywhere, but also passing laws to make you able to take guns into bars, schools, government buildings, houses of worship, and so on, and also advocating for laws that would let you take your guns to communities where it would be otherwise illegal to carry them.

Which would mean that your right to carry your gun trumps the right of everyone else to say, this is a place where we've decided we don't want people bringing guns.

Is it possible that on my next visit to the local coffee place, a madman might come and shoot the place up? Yes, it's possible. And is it possible that if half the patrons were armed, one of them might be able to take him down and limit the number of people he killed?

Yes, it's possible. It's also possible that I'll win the next Powerball. But if holding out that infinitesimal possibility means that every time I go down for a coffee, I'm entering a place full of guns, it's not a price I'm willing to pay.

But gun advocates want to create a society governed by fear, or at the very least, make sure that everyone feels the same fear they feel. "An armed society is a polite society," they like to say, and it's polite because we're all terrified of each other.

They genuinely believe that that the price of safety is that there should be no place where guns, and the fear and violence they embody, are not present. Not your home, not your kids' school, not your supermarket, not your church, no place.

But for many of us—probably for most of us—that vision of society is nothing short of horrifying. (Condensed from “Here a Gun, There a Gun, Everywhere a Gun -JANUARY 18, 2013)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Monday, October 13, 2014

Child abuse, witchcraft practiced in Fundamentalist Christian Churches in London

Image: Kristy Bamu, left, and Victoria Climbie

Kristy Bamu, left, was killed after what a prosecutor described as "a staggering act of depravity and cruelty." Victoria Climbie, right, was murdered in one of Britain's worst cases of child abuse.

                                            Good Day World!

My travels in search of stories to share brings me to London today. I have one that’s about bizarre religious practices that will shock you. It did me. I had no idea.

This is modern London, mind you.

“London's Metropolitan Police announced this week that reports of abuse where the child is accused of being a witch or possessed by an evil spirit are on the rise. Fourteen years after the force recorded its first allegation of such an incident, there have been at least 27 cases during in 2014 alone.” (source)

What’s happening, according to authorities, is there’s a version of fundamentalist Christianity practiced in London that believes in witches – and worse – tortures their own children to get rid of alleged demons. 

Most of the cases involve pastors or religious leaders in African communities who have incorporated elements of witchcraft or spirit possession into their version of fundamentalist Christianity.

These "rogue pastors" often tell families that a period of bad luck or even an illness has been caused by a child being possessed.

What motivates these religious leaders?

Power, money, greed and control. Many people who go to these churches are vulnerable and are looking for something to hold onto.

For example: There was a four-year-old old boy who was brought to the church attended by his mother because he was playing too rough with his brother. The pastor told her (the behavior) was the result of him being possessed and that he was a witch.

Shades of the Inquisition…

The boy endured a four-day "deliverance," in which he was starved, forced to drink hot palm oil and prevented from using the bathroom.

“The adults were actually laughing. They were stepping on his little body, his stomach, saying they were stepping on the spirits." - Testimony from Kevani Kanda who was accused of being a witch at six years old.

In the past decade and a half, London's most high-profile cases have been linked to Christian groups with roots in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa. But cases involving other faiths, such as Islam and Hinduism, have emerged more recently as authorities have delved deeper.

“Authorities say part of the problem with trying to combat abuse linked to witchcraft has been that officers have been wary of being branded racist in the past.” (Condensed version – full story here)

I wonder when saving these children will become more of a priority, transcending arguments over race? Hopefully, very soon.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hypocritial Help: Fracking Company & Susan G. Komen Foundation Equals Controversary


                                    Good Day World!
It’s been encouraging seeing all the support for breast cancer research this month. It’s a subject close to my heart. I lost one of my sisters to breast cancer years ago.
As a football fan, I couldn’t help notice the NFL’s massive support, with pink items ranging from gloves to shoes, to huge halftime displays supporting breast cancer research.
But there’s one donation coming at the close of the NFL’s pink-hued celebration of national Breast Cancer Awareness Month, that I’m not looking forward to:
That’s when the chairman of Houston-based Baker Hughes Inc., will hand a check to Komen founder Nancy Brinker at Pittsburgh’s Heinz field on Oct. 26, before the Steelers play the Indianapolis Colts.
Why, you ask, is that a problem?

Here’s why:
“The Susan G. Komen Foundation has, once more, riled some of its base — breast-cancer activists, survivors and their families — this time by accepting $100,000 from an oil and fracking company that, in turn, produced 1,000 pink drill bits.
Some advocates are furious because some scientists have linked chemicals used in fracking to cancer.
The fact that Komen is partnering with a company that shoves chemicals into the earth that contain known carcinogens is ludicrous and preposterous,” said Angela Wall, communications director for Breast Cancer Action, a national advocacy group based in San Francisco. “It’s hypocritical, and it needs to be called out.”
Companies that swath their brands in pink, claiming to care about breast cancer while producing or selling products that expose people to chemicals linked to the disease, are doing untold damage to efforts to prevent breast cancer.
In fracking operations, highly pressurized chemicals and liquids are delivered to deep, underground rock formations in order to crack them to extract natural gas.
A compendium on fracking findings and studies, issued in July by an affiliation of New York scientists and medical groups who oppose fracking, reported: "25 percent of chemicals known to be used in fracking fluids are implicated in cancer.” (condensed version-read full story here)

Time for me to walk on down the road…