07/31/2015 archive

Mainly Maine

When you think of the state of Maine, you usually think of woods, camping, vacations, rocky beaches, sailing and, maybe, the Bush crime family or where Tom Clancy hid a stolen Russian submarine in his novel, “Hunt for the Red October.” You don’t think of it as one of the crazy states like Kansas, Texas or Oklahoma but since Republican Governor Paul LePage was reelected in November, Maine is now up there at the top of the crazy list.

The Tea Party Republican governor has been in a veto war with the state’s two house legislature over taxes, spending, health care, the state budget just to name a few. The Republicans, who are mostly moderates, hold the majority in the Senate and the House majority is Democratic. They work fairly well together and have been successful in overriding the governor’s vetoes that would have crippled the state. The dispute came to a head in July when the Gov. LePage tried to use a the parliamentary procedure known as the pocket veto on 19 bills. But the clerk of the Maine House says that the vetoes were not valid under the state’s constitution. Talking Points Memo has been following this wish relish

By not signing the bills and “pocketing” them, LePage could under some circumstances have effectively vetoed them. In theory, that would have allowed the proposals to die without legislators having a chance to override his veto. But the pocket veto only works if the legislature has adjourned after the end of the second regular session. And there is the rub.

The clerk of the Maine House told TPM Wednesday morning that the legislature, which is nearing the end of the first regular session, has not adjourned. By not vetoing the bills within the required 10-day period, LePage allowed the bills he opposed — some ferociously — to become law.

But LePage’s office is now claiming the legislature did adjourn. [..]

Here’s what Article IV, Section 2 of the Maine Constitution says on the subject:

   If the bill or resolution shall not be returned by the Governor within 10 days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to the Governor, it shall have the same force and effect as if the Governor had signed it unless the Legislature by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall have such force and effect, unless returned within 3 days after the next meeting of the same Legislature which enacted the bill or resolution; if there is no such next meeting of the Legislature which enacted the bill or resolution, the bill or resolution shall not be a law.

Both Hunt and Suzanne Gresser, the reviser of statutes, are acting as if the usual 10-day period for the governor to veto the bills has passed and are now on their way to becoming law.

Things went downhill from there. The governor then threw a temper tantrum, refused to concede to the bipartisan interpretation of the constitution and put a hold on another 51 bills

LePage’s office is saying that he will sit on another 51 bills passed by the state legislature. Those are in addition to the 19 bills he previously failed to act on. He plans to send them all back to the legislature with a veto when lawmakers return to Augusta July 16, the Bangor Daily News reported.

Democratic lawmakers and the clerk of the state House contend — and history and custom tend to support their view — that LePage missed the 10-day deadline he had to veto those 19 bills. Under Maine’s constitution, the bills automatically become law if the governor doesn’t act within that 10-day window.

LePage contends that the legislature adjourned June 30, which triggers another section of the state constitution that gives him additional time to act. But lawmakers claim they never took the kind of “adjournment” required by the constitution to allow LePage to wait to act on the bills, and they become law when he didn’t return them in the 10-day period.

Needless to say the Democrats and the Republicans refused to accept his vetoes, stating the governor had missed the 10 day deadline. Gov. LePage then took the disagreement to the Maine Supreme Court asking them to decide if he botched the vetoes. To add insult to injury, the Democratic House and Republican Senate leadership refused House Minority Leader Ken Fredette’s request to use public money to underwrite the associated legal costs.

The court fast-tracked the request, briefs were filed last Friday and oral arguments began today

The discussion revolved around thorny, complex issues of procedural mechanics and constitutional balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. Over the course of about 45 minutes, LePage’s counsel Cynthia Montgomery and the attorney representing Maine’s House and Senate each had 15 minutes each for their opposing arguments, with Montgomery given the opportunity for rebuttal at the end. Additionally, an attorney representing a few House Republicans as well as counsel for the attorney general each had a few minutes to make their cases, with the former favoring LePage’s view and the latter challenging it.

The justices were clearly seeking to streamline the arguments being presented in front of them, perhaps knowing both the short-term impact of their decision on dozens of pieces of legislation, as well as the long-term precedent they could set in navigating what has become a constitutional crisis. Their questions touched on both broad understanding of the executive branch’s veto powers and LePage’s specific motivations in waiting to submit his vetoes. They were mostly patient to weed through the convoluted specifics of the case, but at times were willing to call out what appeared to be suspicious reasoning.

To make matters worse for Gov. LePage, he being now sued for abuse of power. Steve Brennan, at MSNBC’s Maddowblog, reported this yesterday:

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is caught up in a doozy of a controversy. As regular readers know, a Maine charter school recently hired state House Speaker Mark Eves (D), but LePage, a fierce opponent of Democratic legislators, threatened the school – either fire Eves or the governor would cut off the school’s state funding. In effect, LePage played the role of a mobster saying, “It’s a nice school you have there; it’d be a shame if something happened to it.”

The school, left with no options, reluctantly acquiesced. The problem, of course, is that governors are not supposed to use state resources to punish people they don’t like. By most measures, it’s an impeachable offense.

As of today, as the Portland Press Herald [reported http://www.pressherald.com/201… it’s also the basis for a civil suit.

   Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves will file a civil lawsuit Thursday against Gov. Paul LePage, alleging that the governor used taxpayer money and the power of his office to prevent his hiring at a private school in Fairfield.

   The lawsuit, to be filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, has been anticipated ever since the board of directors at Good Will-Hinckley voted to rescind its offer to pay Eves $150,000 a year to become the organization’s next president. Eves said that the board told him before his contract was terminated that LePage threatened to eliminate $530,000 in annual state funding for the school unless it removed him from the job.

“Acting out of personal rage, vindictiveness and partisan malice, Gov. Paul LePage blackmailed a private school that serves at-risk children into firing its president, the Speaker of Maine’s House of Representatives,” the complaint reads.

The governor hasn’t denied the allegations and is now facing possible impeachment

Even Politico has called LePage “America’s Craziest Governor” and questioned if he is “playing with a full deck.”

Maine may be be this Summer’s best entertainment. Get the popcorn.

I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!

U. Of Cincinnati Shooting Puts Spotlight on Campus Police

Associated Press

JULY 31, 2015, 3:58 P.M. E.D.T.

It would be a mistake to shutter the university police department, Ono said.

“You need to have a knowledge of how to interact with students. There are many different issues and federal guidelines that have to be followed that are very specific to campus policing,” he said in an interview, adding that municipal and campus police work closely together. “Sometimes UC police and Cincinnati police ride together in a car. They collaborate to help each other out. It really brings crime down generally.”

There’s also an expectation among parents and students that university police should be responsible for safety off campus.

“We’re getting pushed to ignore those imaginary lines on the map,” Jeff Corcoran, then the interim chief of the University of Cincinnati police, told The Associated Press in an interview last year.

12 Angry Men.

I’ve been on a jury.

Someone claimed someone else had run their truck up and down the side of their car, which was parked, and had not only damaged the car but also injured them (because they were in the car at the time) and left them with a permanent disability for which they were seeking damages from the insurance company of the truck driver.

I have never before (and never since) been treated to a fantasy based on such a transparently thin tissue of lies.

Oh, this is definitely one of those ‘both sides do it’ real life experiences that have no satisfactory resolutions.  Both the injured party and truck driver claimed they were ‘inspecting a construction site’.  At 1 am.  In a section of town notorious for street drug dealing.  Right.  I was born, but it wasn’t yesterday.

While the plaintiff (the injured party seeking damages) set out to confuse us with photos of the damaged car artfully posed between 2 total wrecks that had absolutely no relation to the case at all, they did in fact show tire marks that clearly matched the tires on the truck in question (which were not common).

The defendant claimed, of course, that it wasn’t him and besides he had taken off from the encounter in the 180 degree opposite direction than the plaintiff said.  This was indisputably contradicted by the pictures which definitively showed the direction of the impact (tire marks, duh).

To counter this the defense, which is to say the insurance company, brought in an ‘expert’- a retired State Police Officer who had been in charge of Accident Investigation for (mumblety) years.

And he flat out lied to us on the jury.

I glanced around at my fellows and found no indication that it had even registered which I soon found was entirely true.

We had sat on this case for 3 weeks which is unusually long in a civil action for damages and when we got to the jury room I was the lone hold out for the plaintiff.

‘But he lied,’ said I.  ‘Look, I can prove it!’

Nope.  They bought it hook line and sinker.  The Officer was an expert, and who was I?  Just some guy prolonging the agony in a forgone conclusion.

It’s not exactly my finest hour or twelve.  I held out for a day and a half, but the truth was that the plaintiff’s case fell completely apart on it’s second leg- damages.  There was no proof at all that he had actually been in the car when it was struck AND, since he was already 30% permanently disabled, it was hard to argue based on a shyster (made their living by testifying) Chiropractor’s (on my list of Voodoo right after Economics, Mormonism, and Scientology) testimony that there had been an increase.

So I relented with conditions that I’m sure were promptly ignored but it reinforced a lesson I’d learned a long, long time ago-

Policemen lie, under oath, as easily as they breathe.  How can you tell?  Their lips are moving.

What brings this up?

Officers at Sam DuBose scene involved in death of another unarmed black man

by Ryan Felton and Oliver Laughland, The Guardian

Friday 31 July 2015 15.22 EDT

In court documents obtained by the Guardian and filed by Brinson’s family in a civil suit against UC police and the hospital, all seven officers are accused of using excessive force and “acted with deliberate indifference to the serious medical and security needs of Mr Brinson”.

According to the lawsuit, before Brinson was placed in restraints he “repeatedly yelled that slavery was over and he repeatedly pleaded not to be shackled and not to be treated like a slave”.

The documents named University of Cincinnati officers Eric Weibel and Phillip Kidd – the same men who, in a formal report, supported officer Ray Tensing’s claim that he was “dragged” by DuBose’s vehicle on 19 July.

Tensing’s account that he was “dragged” was used as justification for the lethal use of force. It was later dismissed as an attempt to mislead investigators and as “making an excuse for the purposeful killing of another person” by the Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph Deters, who charged Tensing with murder on Wednesday.

Weibel and Kidd?  Do you really need to ask?

No charges for additional Cincinnati police officers

By Amanda Sakuma, MSNBC

07/31/15 01:53 PM

A grand jury has decided to not indict additional Cincinnati police officers involved in the investigation into the death of an unarmed black man who was shot in the head during a routine traffic stop earlier this month, Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters announced Friday.

Kidd and Lindenschmidt were on the scene moments later, guns drawn as Tensing reaches into the car to kill the engine. In additional body camera footage, the officers are heard claiming they saw Tensing be pulled by the car.

“Did you see him being dragged?” a responding officer asks.

“Yes,” University of Cincinnati officer Phillip Kidd says.

In the incident report, Officer Eric Weibel wrote that “Officer Kidd told me that he witnessed the Honda Accord drag Officer Tensing, and that he witnessed Officer Tensing fire a single shot.”

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial: Obama Administration Ignores Malaysia’s Trafficking Record

After one year on the State Department’s list of countries that are failing to combat modern-day slavery, Malaysia has been upgraded to a higher category. That judgment, part of an annual evaluation of how 188 countries deal with human trafficking, strains credulity, given how little Malaysia has done to address the problem.

The decision has raised suspicions that Malaysia’s status was changed to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade deal, although the Obama administration denied that was the case. [..]

In June, Congress approved legislation giving Mr. Obama fast-track trade negotiating powers, but prohibited deals with Tier 3 countries. Although American officials denied the trade pact was a factor in the trafficking rankings, leaving Malaysia on the Tier 3 list would disqualify it from negotiating with the United States on the trade pact, which is a critical part of President Obama’s agenda.

Honest appraisals of countries’ records on trafficking are vital to the integrity of a process that is meant to hold nations accountable. That is put at risk by decisions made for political reasons.

Paul Krugman: China’s Naked Emperors

Politicians who preside over economic booms often develop delusions of competence. You can see this domestically: Jeb Bush imagines that he knows the secrets of economic growth because he happened to be governor when Florida was experiencing a giant housing bubble, and he had the good luck to leave office just before it burst. We’ve seen it in many countries: I still remember the omniscience and omnipotence ascribed to Japanese bureaucrats in the 1980s, before the long stagnation set in.

This is the context in which you need to understand the strange goings-on in China’s stock market. In and of itself, the price of Chinese equities shouldn’t matter all that much. But the authorities have chosen to put their credibility on the line by trying to control that market – and are in the process of demonstrating that, China’s remarkable success over the past 25 years notwithstanding, the nation’s rulers have no idea what they’re doing.

Jessica Valenti: The latest anti-choice move: try to take custody of a woman’s fetus

States have tried all sorts of things to prevent women from having abortions. They’ve enacted waiting periods, ultrasound laws and parental notifications. They’ve passed laws that force doctors to lie to women and force women to visit with ideological zealots. Some legislators have even attempted to make women get a man’s consent before obtaining the procedure – a paternalistic permission slip to access their legal rights.

But Alabama has brought efforts to restrict abortion to a whole new level, as the state tried this week to stop a woman from getting an abortion by terminating her parental rights… to her fetus. [..]

Baffling legal maneuvering aside, what’s worst in cases like this one in Alabama – where the state focuses its misogynist ire on the most marginalized women – is that they’re commonplace. Women in prison, women who use drugs, women of color and low-income women have long been targets for anti-choice legislators, not just because they have less support to fight back, but because the people attacking them believe that no one will care. It’s nastiness of the worst sort.

Abortion is legal. And while I’d like to say that no amount of strange, overreaching and insulting litigation or legislation will change that, it has, and it still could. And if it does, we know who will be penalized most.

David Cay Johnston: Blame government policies for the economic slowdown

Our economy is promoting the hoarding of cash and assets at the top

Around the world, financial pages report that the global economy is slowing and might even contract.

Prices of commodities are falling, with copper, cotton, grains and oil all down by about half in the last five years – a strong signal of slowing growth.

Companies are tightening their belts, with fewer perks and fringe benefits. An inadvertently leaked report showed that staff economists at the Federal Reserve are more pessimistic about the near future than the official Fed positions. And big companies with nowhere else to put their piles of cash are buying back their stock or buying up competitors, which means fewer well-paying management jobs.

Yet hardly any of these reports citing official sources and economic data connect the dots to outline what’s behind this unwelcome trend in the U.S.: government policies.

Governments are helping big industries by diminishing competition, providing abundant cheap credit for speculation rather than investment and failing to rein in price gouging. In turn, these policies produce a growing concentration of income and wealth at the top while the vast majority struggle with falling wages, flat incomes, job insecurity and a shrinking slice of investment assets.

Steven W. Thrasher: Samuel DuBose’s killing is a dark cloud with a grim silver lining

There is nothing good, but there is much bad and ugly, about the fact that Samuel DuBose’s killing at the hands of University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing was caught on video by a body camera. He is still needlessly dead.

But there is a silver lining in what it can mean going forward, as Aubrey DuBose, Samuel’s brother, articulated at a press conference on Wednesday. It’s a silver lining when a white prosecutor, Joe Deters, got up in front of the Cincinnati press and unequivocally denounced the “unnecessary” but “purposeful” killing of DuBose as “murder” – without any of the usual equivocation which makes black victims have to defend themselves from beyond the grave. There’s a lining in Deters, the representative of his city, saying that he feels “sorry for his family” and not expressing something crude like, say, blaming him for his death, as the City of Cleveland did with Tamir Rice. There’s a lining in that, unlike Ferguson Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, Deters seemed to want an indictment, got one from a grand jury and swiftly had Tensing in custody. [..]

I feel far more angry than celebratory by this video. I am angered that without the video, DuBose would have been written off as a murderous thug who deserved to die. I am angered that Cincinnati officials placed suspicion on black people citywide for the actions of a police officer. And most of all, I am angry that even wearing a body cam did not stop Tensing from shooting DuBose in the head.

Sen. Jeff Merkley: It’s Time for Shell to Abandon Its Irresponsible Arctic Drilling Plans

At this moment, the damaged Fennica icebreaker is entering the water in my home of Portland, OR, in what could be a make-or-break moment for our environment and our future climate. [..]

Drilling in the Arctic is the height of irresponsibility. If the Chukchi leases are developed and Shell begins operations, a major oil spill is extremely likely. We all remember the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which resulted in billions of dollars in economic damage to coastal communities and devastating pollution from the 4.9 million barrels of oil that were dumped into the warm Gulf waters. The harsh climate and remote location of the Arctic would make cleanup of a comparable spill nearly impossible, and if a spill happens during the winter, months could pass before a well could be plugged.

Additionally, we should not be investing in infrastructure that will lock in decades of production — and carbon pollution — from previously unexploited fossil fuel reserves. The science is clear that we have already discovered five times as much fossil fuel as we can afford to burn if we hope to avert catastrophic climate change. Human civilization already faces enormous challenges from climate change.

The Breakfast Club (Our Times Have Come)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Ranger 7 beams lunar pictures; France’s Marquis de Lafayette makes his name in the American Revolution; Thomas Eagleton withdraws as George McGovern’s running mate; Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

If the liberties of the American people are ever destroyed, they will fall by the hands of the clergy.

Marquis de Lafayette

On This Day In History July 31

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 31 is the 212th day of the year (213th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 153 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1948, the Broadway musical “Brigadoon” closed after 581 performances. It originally opened on March 13, 1947 at the Ziegfeld Theater. It was directed by Robert Lewis and choreographed by Agnes de Mille. Ms. De Mille won the Tony Award for Best Choreography. The show was had several revival and the movie starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse premiered in 1954.

Brigadoon is a musical with a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. Songs from the musical, such as “Almost Like Being in Love” have become standards.

It tells the story of a mysterious Scottish village that appears for only one day every hundred years, though to the villagers, the passing of each century seems no longer than one night. The enchantment is viewed by them as a blessing rather than a curse, for it saved the village from destruction. According to their covenant with God, no one from Brigadoon may ever leave, or the enchantment will be broken and the site and all its inhabitants will disappear into the mist forever. Two American tourists, lost in the Scottish Highlands, stumble upon the village just as a wedding is about to be celebrated, and their arrival has serious implications for the village’s inhabitants.

The Daily/Nightly Show (The Force Awakens)


Reagan’s Eyesocket

Gay Eureka Springs

Next week’s guests-

Thursday is of course Jon Stewart’s last episode as host.

There is a near certain probability J.J. Abrams will be on to talk about Mission Impossible which if I haven’t mentioned it before I find entirely derivative and uninspired, the acting terrible and wooden, and the action sequences cliched and boring; only some of which was true about the original TV version.

Now I’d be just as happy if J.J. would talk about his uncredited writing for the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode, The Drill, but I suspect most of you would find the topic a little arcane.  What I would like to find out about (and I suspect most of you also) is the Disney reboot of Star Wars due for ek’smas, The Force Awakens.

Thinning the Herd

Tonightly we will be talking about Sam DuBose and Plantation Weddings with our panel Robin Thede, Ed Helms, and BIG K.R.I.T..

You stop being racist and I’ll stop talking about it.

The real news below.