Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stop the Insanity - Take 657

I don't know why the Shirley Sherrod saga has struck such a chord in the chattering class.  Like Diane Keaton in The Godfather, "This Must End," they say, without really adequately defining what "This" is. 

The whole episode is just the latest in the right-wing war against Truth and Obama, taking surreptitious statements by obscure fourth-level non-entities out of context so that they can play their favorite game: Six Degrees of Obama.  Van Jones said this, you see, five years ago, and ran into Bill Ayers in a parking lot at the University of Chicago and Valerie Jarrett had lunch with someone who invited Jones to join the White House and, of course, that means that President Obama is a communist.  You can see this little game played every day on the Glenn Beck radio and TV programs, where the manipulative little prick draws arrows on chalkboards to "prove" the grand designs of UW professor Joel Rogers (the "Wizard", according to Beck) and Obama  to take over the world.

Literally every blogger and MSM commenter, left and right and Broder, in the universe has had something to say about the Sherrod story, saying it very quickly within the 24-hour news cycle, which is now more like a 3-hour cycle. Not only that; they had to blab about it twice -- both before and after the purposefully-edited version was exposed to be the deliberate and predictable Breitbart lie that it was.  At his point and before, anyone who takes anything Breitbart or Fox News spews out at face value -- including the apparent buffoons at the Ag Department -- is an idiot.  And anyone who is surprised that the entirety of the recording not only exonerates Sherrod, but practically qualifies her for racial-understanding sainthood is just not paying attention to the entirely dishonest way the right-wing media machine operates.

May I offer a couple of angles on this sad story that I haven't read in other places, although I can't say I've looked that hard:
  • The entire thing was a set-up to embarrass the Obama administration -- no matter how they responded -- from the start.  Breitbart and Fox News knew about the whole context and predicted that the administration would over react to their dishonest redaction.  That's why, the day after Sherrod was fired, she was on the mouthpiece of the alternative-reality right-wing universe -- Fox News -- with the strangely outraged Megyn Kelly, complaining about her firing.  What now? I thought. What does wing-nut Barbie-doll Kelly care about this supposedly reprehensible "racist" getting the ax she deserved?  Something smelled fishy.  Sure enough, Fox News soon had possession of the magically-redeeming part of the same tape. Now it was Obama-ites who had sinned and thrown this poor woman under the bus.  Just another day (or, in this case, week) in the life of Fox News, which exists only to provide fake facts for right-wing talking points. 
  • If the Ag Dept. had not immediately sacked the poor Sherrod, the right-wing media would have gone Van Jones on Obama's ass and squawked for weeks about how he was allowing this unreconstructed reverse-racist to remain employed, looking down her nose at poor white farmers while heaping undeserved services on the privileged blacks of the rural south.  If the contents of the entire tape were ever revealed (I'm sure Breitbart thought he had the only copy) or Sherrod managed to get the story out of what she really said, the phony Obama-as-anti-white-racist smear would have already worked its twisted magic, adding another notch on the belt of the right-wing campaign to convince (or, really, allow) white America to think the worst about their first black president.
  • Compared to the vicious and deliberate sins of the right-wing media whores in this debacle, the clumsy overreaction of the Ag Department is small potatoes (although the consensus of the MSM commmentariat employs far too much of a plague-on-both-their-houses meme).  However, was there not one person within the Ag Dept. bureaucracy who, when the frantic wheels are churning on Monday, couldn't have grabbed the organizational megaphone and say, wait a minute, that ain't Shirley?  Who knew that Sherrod could not possibly have said such a stupid thing as presented by Beitbart, who may have even heard her tell the same story (these kind of stories are never told only once on the rubber-chicken circuit)? It wasn't necessarily Vilsack who failed her and us as much as it was whoever her immediate supervisor was, who knew her work and her disposition directly, who didn't move to protect her from the headlong political imperative.
This kind of nonsense will go on as long as those who drive the national conversation allow Fox News and the right-wing media establishment to be the tail wagging the dog.  Treating Fox News, Andrew Breitbart, or any other of these lying bastards like legitimate sources for any kind of useful information is just the kind of journalistic malpractice that will get bozos like Ron Paul and Ron Johnson elected to high office.  "This Must End" is right, but "it" never will as long as the MSM continues to patronize the right-wing media by offering it even faint legitimacy and refuses to call it out as the democracy-killer it is.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Deputy Dawg Goes to Boot Camp

When I was in Texas last week – even in mellow, musical Austin – you could buy and there were all these people wearing cowboy hats. Very few of them were cowboys, but, for many, it’s part of the mystique and the lies of the “tough guys” of the Southwest – you and me against the world; the Marlboro Man, gun at his side; ain’t take no shit from no one; gristled, unshaven macho bravado covering the pain of impotence against a dry, ugly world. Peering from under the brim of his weather-beaten chapeau, the Southwest man can pretend he’s anyone from Matt Dillon to Toy Story’s Woody – and just as oblivious to pain and feeling. “Reach for the sky!” he shouts, as the Masters of the Economic Universe continue to piss on his head. The sun always sets on his knowing frown as he flops on his canvass cot, boots still on his dusty feet, to await the first light of the new, desperate day.

Milwaukee has its own walking fraud in a cowboy hat. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke can be seen some days strolling the Courthouse with the most ridiculous, ill-formed, straw cowboy hat you can imagine on his head and a constant scowl on his face. Although he is too wimpy to run for office as the tea-bagging Republican he is, Clarke wants you to know he is one tough hombre. And if he needs to pile on some extra bullshit to help his nut-right fellow traveler, Scott Walker, gain some tough-on-crime street cred, he’s more than willing to assist.  As he cranks up another campaign as a phony Democrat (the most blatant lie ever foisted on a Milwaukee County ballot), Clake is all pose and little substance -- a cartoon sheriff so self-serious one can only laugh.

Clarke’s newest bright idea is to run a boot-camp operation, adding a little pretend-tough correction in what used to be called the House of Corrections (until Clarke decided not to call it that). It’s a ludicrous idea; a meaningless show that is totally inappropriate for the kinds of prisoners held at the facility. But if there is a way to make those in his charge even more miserable than the mystery meat that they serve as “food” on a regular basis, he’ll do it. Sadly, the Journal Sentinel weighed in in favor of this charade in an editorial on Wednesday. Joel NcNally, still shackled to the dead weight of the Shepherd Express, makes the primary points against the expensive stunt in his column this week better than I ever could, as usual.

One point that hasn’t been explored, however, is how, of the several ways to land in the House of Correction, none of them make the typical prisoner very appropriate – much less receptive – to a dose of Clarke’s fantasy version of Tough Love. Among the various reasons for a temporary residence in Franklin:

  • Held on Cash Bail: There are many in the House who are held on cash bail while a case in pending. Surely, Clarke can’t think that someone, presumed innocent, sitting waiting for their case to be resolved, should be thrown into boot camp to sing for their meager supper. Hah! Of course he could. He said the program will eventually extend to the whole facility. Waiting for a little technicality like a conviction is for pussies.
  • Drunk Drivers: Spurred by dramatic news coverage, their own guidelines and a brand new toughening of state law, Milwaukee County judges have been handing down huge chunks of jail time for second, third and fourth drunk drivers (fifth and up -- and, as of July 1st, fourth -- face state prison). You might think that such offenders might benefit from a little rigid correction. But the fact is that drunk driving is one of the few crimes regularly committed by middle-class people. They had jobs before their arrest and they’ll have jobs after they are convicted and during their incarceration. These days (since the demise of the roach-infested CCC), the work-release prisoners stay in the downtown jail. The work they have to do to stay productive in the real world would seem to get in the way of Clarke’s phoney tough-guy play-acting.
  • Revoked Probationers: Judges don’t want to put guys in the House if they can just behave during a year or two of probation. Alas, that proves too much for some, who can’t keep their often-overbearing probation agents happy. If they can’t follow the (relatively) light structure on the street, what makes anyone think they would respond to having Clarke in his face, yelling about what a scumbag he is? What do you think the punishment would be for laughing at such ridiculous histrionics?
  • Chronic Petty Offenders: Pop Quiz – how do you manage to get a month or more in jail for petty offenses like retail theft, prostitution and disorderly conduct? Answer – get caught doing it ten or fifteen times. If I had a nickel for every time I heard a judge say “well, I gave you [fill in the blank] days last time, now I guess you need [blank] more days until you get the message”, I’d have a whole bunch of nickels. There people might not do it any more often than some other people, but they are extraordinarily bad at it. So, what would Sheriff Clarke’s School of Hard Knocks do for the kind of poor, often homeless people who find themselves desperate for food, clothing, money and attention? You can see him or his deputy, screaming in the face of the poor, incompetent thief. “You don’t want that loaf of bread, do you? You want to work to buy some food, don’t you? You looove paying for your food, don’t you? Now drop and give me 20!” Yeah. That’ll work.
  • Non-payment of Forfeitures: This is less of a reason for lock-ups than it used to be, but too many are still locked up for weeks at a time for failure to pay non-criminal forfeitures (it’s only called a fine in criminal cases. Your welcome.) So, how tough are we going to be on the loiterer, the speeder, the first-time weed possessor, the driving-while-revoked?
And so on. As McNally points out, there are some things the jailers can do in Franklin to make the time being served less than dead, such as education, AODA treatment and other real forms of rehabilitation -- programs like the CJRC that Clarke and Walker have tried to stop. The good judges of Milwaukee County would have to sign on to Clarke’s scheme to make it work – why cooperate with the silly program unless the judge says you are able to shave some time off for putting up with it?  Having helped save the CJRC, the judges have shown they have more sense than that.  Then Clarke will have to find some other way to grandstand.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Real Independence Day

One of Ken’s teammates reported that the Bat Bridge experience left much to be desired last night. “Only, like, five of them came out,” he complained, of the million advertised. Relieved, I came out from under the bed where I was hiding and the speculation began why that might be. They are all pregnant, someone had heard (all of them? Then who got them pregnant?). The rain over the last couple of days cuts the mosquito population, which is why they come out in the first place, said another. In any event, at dusk tonight, all eyes will be looking west of the Bat Bridge, where Austin will celebrate Independence Day with a giant fireworks display on the same lake. And, somewhere near there, Willie Nelson is having his Picnic.

Meanwhile, the right-wing nut-o-sphere has already spent much of the day calling for a renewed Independence from the Tyranny of the elected president and Congress, who dare to threaten our Freedom and Liberty, and blah de blah blah. There is no success or tragedy that the wing-nuts won’t try to use for their own nefarious purposes – from the brave, dramatic, irreversible decision of the original (real) Patriots to take the fight to King George to the continuing BP oil disaster (whatever it is, it’s not a “spill”) in the Gulf. They live to fight reality and (through Fox News and mainstream talk-radio) to construct their own in the interests of returning the justly-shamed Republican party to power by any means necessary. And, if that means trivializing the events of July 4, 1776, so be it.

“Happy Independence Day, not Dependence Day. And here's to a speedy recovery for our nation to a return to the founders' roots,” says a badly-deluded friend. This is standard right-wing hooey these days, wherein the predictable results of the routing of the Republicans in the last two election cycles combined with the reasonable actions necessary to recover from the 8-year Bush Disaster is cause for Great Alarm. Such over-the-top comments by him and more prominent loopy-right figures on the radio and elsewhere are par for the course of people couldn’t care less about solving the nation's problems and only want only to return to power to wreak more Bushian havoc. But we are used to these kind of paternalistic sops to the more stupid part of the right-wing’s base. Some poll somewhere tells them this kind of stuff works; otherwise they would never get out on such a ridiculous limb.

It has gotten so bad that these people can’t even appear in polite company. Imagine one of these clowns showing up on a TV show not on their Fox News home base. “You know,” Bozo T. Wingnut tells Chris Matthews, “Obama is a socialist who wants the economy to fail so that he can impose martial law.” You could hear the jaws of Matthews and the rest of the panel drop for miles as the sense of the legitimate meets the lunacy of the absurd. That’s why they never show up in public to debate with anyone other than washed-up whores like Bob Bechtel, Pat Caddell and Doug Shoen – Democrats In Name Only who have sold their souls to Rupert Murdoch for a little cable news face-time with putrid slime like Sean Hannity.

Only in the wet dreams of would-be, two-bit right-wing message managers is this “Dependence Day”. It is a celebration of a real Independence Day; a blow struck against real Tyranny, which resulted in the kind of real Liberty and Freedom where a black man can rise to the presidency and lead a solid Democratic majority to try to solve the nation’s problems and meet the unforseen challenges of the age. The Republicans have absented themselves from the process, which is their choice. What they don’t have the right to do is hijack our history and holidays to make cheap political points against a president who is trying in good and bipartisan faith to fix the problems mostly left behind by the worst president in our nation’s history. The Bush legacy is going to take longer to clean up than even the BP oil disaster. And that’s really saying something.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Live from the Bat Cave

With four days in here in Austin, Texas to watch my boy play in a national volleyball tournament (go NSMVC 16 White!). As I write, I am looking out from the balcony of the outdoor pool at the Radisson to the Bat Bridge, that extends over (no kidding) Lady Bird Lake (more like a river) . Apparently, at dusk every day, “1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats” come out from under the bridge and fly around for their own nourishment and our entertainment. This draws a crowd every night, it says here. No thanks. Except for Adam West and Christian Bale (sort of) I’m not much for bats. There was one flying around my house once, and my reaction is still a source of amusement for those who shared that magical moment. As Joni Mitchell once sang, “If you want me/I’ll be in the bar”.

I thought this little trip away from all the distractions and prerogatives of my own personal Bat Cave might be a good time to get this damn dormant blog going again. Actually, I had better incentive for that earlier this week when I got a press pass for President Obama’s town-hall in Racine this week. Alas, the imperatives of my busy practice (for experienced, affordable criminal defense representation, call 414-223-4133) intruded to keep me in court all that afternoon, so I missed that apparently very effective appearance (Kringle!). It would have been interesting to compare that visit with the health-care one I covered last year in Green Bay, one year in time and but light years away from now, where his presidency is consumed with unprecedented crisis (none of his own making) and outrageous automatic opposition by the Party of No.

In any event, the news cycle hurtling ever-forward as it will, does it matter if I review what I would have written if I would have written it? Is a prediction related three months after the fact still prophetic, even if the only other person I shared it with in real time was my own inner child? Actually, I have spent much of this year fascinated with the lies and histrionics of Fox News generally, and Glen Beck and Megyn Kelly specifically.

It’s an amazing development, really. In Fox News, the alternate-universe right wing has a pretend-reality “news” outlet that does nothing but try to spin small nuggets of random events and stupid comments developed by Rovian talking-point-memo drafters into major controversies and calls to outrage. Every day for lunch, I try to be in front of a TV to watch Megyn Kelly conduct what Fox News contends is part of the “fair-and-balanced” part of its programming.

Kelly – a lawyer, as she reminds us regularly, who nevertheless gleefully submits to the glammy hair-and-makeup regime that Fox imposes on all the women it puts before the camera – plays the part of the beautiful right-wing EveryWoman, who can’t believe this or that is happening or (as in rigid, heavily-armed border enforcement) not happening. I’ve been trying to identify the look she has on her face as she expresses her frequent sense of outrage. Let’s say, for instance, the reprehensible Dick “Dick” Morris emerges from his smarmy swamp underneath the Fox studios to discuss the obvious danger to Freedom and Liberty represented by, say, the Obama administration’s position on credit-swaps, derivatives, or some such thing. As if on cue (because it is), Kelly’s carefully-drawn eyebrows arch and her eyes express the fire of the hatred she shares for What Is Happening To Our Country. It’s as if someone just told her that the War of the Worlds aliens have hit town and she must head for the root cellar to await Certain Death. No, we must Stand and Fight, her face retorts. Or, maybe not. Next, another in our week-long discussion of Joe Biden’s ‘smart-ass’ remark at Kopp’s. Only on Fox – Fair and Balanced.

And then there is Glen Beck. But the wonders of Austin await.