Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pensacola Prediction

So, it seems Pensacola city voters have approved a new municipal charter authorizing a "strong mayor" system. Now, let's see if they have the brains to elect one who's intelligent and honest.

Don't count on it. We fervently wish them well, but we've seen this movie before. Voters who find themselves incapable of electing a city council majority with brains and integrity are unlikely to smarten-up and suddenly elect anything better as mayor.

Save this prediction on the front of your refrigerator: Sooner or later -- probably sooner -- a "strong mayor" elected by the people of Pensacola will be indicted on corruption charges. And, he'll go to jail, just as so many county commissioners have in the past.

Unless, that is, his criminal defense lawyer succeeds in empaneling a jury made up of the same kind of dummies that voted for him.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rolltide Symphony in J Minor

We have a good friend who can be seen all over Pensacola this time of year, embarrassing herself by waving crimson flags and shouting, "Rolltide, Rolltide." Check out any sports bar that may be showing Alabama football. You'll be forgiven if you mistake her for a crazy tea bagger.

The other day, she sent us a film clip, seen below. Either she was trying to convey her condolences or she was rubbing salt in our wounds. Alabama is still in the hunt for a national college football championship while the Iowa Hawkeyes aren't.

It's as if our friend were saying, "Sure, Alabama is No. 1. But Iowa can do something, too. Looky here, the Hawkeyes are a winner in farm machinery music!"

If she were sneering as she said it, then she was rubbing in the salt. The film our friend sent purports to show an --
incredible machine ... built as a collaborative effort between the Robert M. Trammell Music Conservatory and the Sharon Wick School of Engineering at the University of Iowa. Amazingly, 97% of the machine's components came from John Deere Industries and Irrigation Equipment of Bancroft Iowa , yes farm equipment.

It is now on display in the Matthew Gerhard Alumni Hall at the University and is already slated to be donated to the Smithsonian.
The problem is, the entire story -- and the machine -- is a hoax.
  • There is no "Robert M. Trammell Music Conservatory" at the University of Iowa.
  • There is no "Sharon Wick School of Engineering."
  • There is no "Matthew Gerhard Alumni Hall" in Iowa City, or anywhere else for that matter.
  • John Deere Co. has nothing to do with any of them.
  • The machine is not on its way to the Smithsonian Museum.
  • The reason is, as the Smithsonian patiently explains,"The Institution cannot accept a donation of something that doesn't exist."
As it happens, there is a Bancroft, Iowa (pop. 808). In case you're wondering, it's just twelve miles due west of Titonka (pop. 574). Even people in Iowa don't know these towns exist.

As for the University of Alabama, we'll put the U. of I's Bill LaRue Jones up against Alabama's Nick Saban any ol' time.

Charlie Crist's Options

The Republican Governor of Florida is in deep political trouble. He's the latest target of the tea bagger crazies. Or, as the Urban Dictionary now has it, he's being scozzafavaed.

According to recent polling, right-winger Mario Rubio is on track to defeat Charlie Crist in next year's Republican primary for the U.S. Senate nomination. The really bad news for Crist is, "The crazier the Republican, the better Rubio does." And, Florida has a lot of crazy Republicans.

Steve Benen surveys Crist's options:
  • Crist can try to out-crazy Rubio, but that would put him somewhere to right of Attila the Hun.
  • Once he loses the primary, he could do a Lieberman and run as an Independent, possibly tying the major party candidates.
  • He could change parties and become a Democrat, in which case poll data analysis show he probably would win.
Adam Smith, the fortuitously-named political reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, has an even more outlandish suggestion: Crist could discover some lofty principle he actually believes in. Then, he'd stand for something other than his own political advancement.

Novel idea, eh?

The Wait of Evidence in Pensacola

A man with a criminal record who is a serial liar is arrested for a bar heist that went so bad a patron was shot and killed. The man then tells Escambia County sheriff's deputies the trigger man actually was a black man with the supposed nickname "Black By Day." He claims he doesn't know his supposed accomplice's real name.

So, Escambia County deputies arrest a black man, now known to be entirely innocent of any crime --
on the word of Brandon Davis, 20, who admitted robbing the bar in the 3900 block of Fairfiield Drive on Oct. 23. Davis also told officers that Gilchrist was with him and fired the fatal shot that knocked Jared Ortiz, 25, from a bar stool.
The innocent man arrested happens to have a similar-sounding nickname, "Day Day." That's the only so-called evidence linking him to the crime. A bar full of employees and patrons, and no one else could corroborate the innocent black man's involvement. Yet, he is charged with murder and sits in jail awaiting trial. In the meantime, what does the sheriff's investigators do? Nothing. Nothing!

Why? Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ted Roy explains: "I don't know if you watch a lot of TV, but in real life, other evidence does come forward all the time."

Arrest first, wait for the evidence to walk in your door later? Wasn't there a revolution fought over that kind of conduct?

The only evidence that finally came forward? The original crook recanted his "his allegation that Gilchrist was involved... ." There being no other evidence against him, Gilcrist was finally released.

Think about that for a moment. The cops rely on one man's word and arrest someone, then sit around wolfing down donuts and waiting while drawing their salaries as 'homicide detectives.' But for the rare happenstance that the crook finally 'fessed up, an innocent man almost assuredly would have been tried, convicted, and executed in Florida.

We don't watch much TV, so we can't be sure what Sgt. Ted Roy is referring to. Does he mean to imply that in Pensacola, the sheriff's deputies don't look for fingerprints from the gun or gunpowder residue on the suspect? They can't bother to interview victims in the bar?

Now, in all fairness the PNJ may not have the whole story. After all, the absence of evidence in itself is evidence. And, it may be the product of some kind of investigation, even if after-the-fact. Nor are we persuaded by some of the boo-birds who infect the PNJ message boards that this is all the fault of the current sheriff. After all, he inherited a deputy force that doubtless has some lousy, hard-to-fire detectives along with some good ones.

But, doesn't the law require probable cause before arrest? Or, in Escambia County is it the case that to know his race is to know enough?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Beach Life List

Today's edition of the Pensacola Newsletter editorializes by asking the question, How different should beach life be? Curiously, the editorial wimps out on offering an answer.

What the newspaper is talking about is the latest scam by real estate gamblers to try to recoup their underwater investments: McMansion "houses" built in single-family residential neighborhoods to function like party hotels so they can host raucous beach bashes 24/7. Today, it's large wedding parties. Tomorrow, the editorial points out it could be "weekend flea markets," dining for the masses al fresca, or porch concerts by electrified rock bands.

That's not helpful. It just gives the speculators more ideas. To sentient human beings, suggesting that Pensacola Beach might become home to trashy flea markets and ear-splitting rock concerts sounds like a nightmare. To the repulsive mercenaries trying to game the zoning laws, the newspaper's short list of horribles will sound like great ideas.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Using Too Much Health Insurance

If those pesky blogs would just stop reporting on lazy, good-for- nothing people like this kid who want to use too much health insurance, Blue Cross could make more money. It's a "non-profit," after all.

The latest House Republican Plan would fix all this by making it possible for health insurance companies just like this one to sell their crappy policies everywhere across state lines without worrying over whether some states have more consumer-friendly laws.

Obama in China

James Fallows translates for us.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Marriage Mill Beach

"Pensacola Beach needs an identity to make it stick out from the pack of destination resorts dotting the Northern Gulf Coast from Gulf Shores to Destin."

Who needs a consultant and workshops to come up with an "identity" for Pensacola Beach when there are quick-buck real estate artists, developers, stock brokers, and rental agents ready to turn the beach into "Marriage-Mill Party Town?" We have no doubt that a majority of the real estate gamblers on the beach privately thinks gay marriage is immoral and irreligious and all of that. But if it makes them a buck, they'd probably vote for a county ordinance allowing people to marry animals on Pensacola Beach every hour of the day ... and night.

Dept. of Amplification
11-15 pm

You can follow the issue through the Gulf Breeze News. They not only scooped the PNJ early last week, they didn't send a "fashion magazine" writer to cover it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lonesome Road to Ft. Pickens

As tame as Tropical Storm Ida was as it came ashore over Mobile, it's no surprise that the road to Ft. Pickens is closed once again. "About 80 percent of Fort Pickens Road between the entrance station and ranger station is covered with 500,000 to 750,000 cubic yards of sand," chief Park Ranger Clayton Jordan told the PNJ.
The closure of Fort Pickens Road marks the fourth time since the road reopened in May that it has been closed for weather-related reasons, Jordan said. The road was washed out by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. It was rebuilt but then destroyed by Tropical Storm Arlene and hurricanes Cindy and Dennis in 2005.
In fact, there is a saltwater and sand overwash of a stretch of road nearly a half-mile long during just about every rain storm and many high tides. We happened to be visiting the fort a week or so before Ida. It was about two weeks after a seasonal rain storm not much worse than Ida. Evidence of overwash was visible all along that portion of the road.

What's happening, as Barrier Island Girl helped us point out last May, is that the western end of Santa Rosa Island is gradually breaking off. It's a slow process, to be sure. Mother Nature is in no hurry. But it's as inevitable as the division of East Ship and West Ship islands.

So, enjoy Fort Pickens when and as you can. Your grandchildren will have to boat there, for sure.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Charlie Crist's Coast-to-Coast Charter

After chasing the wind-blown pages of our daily Pensacola Newsletter all over the neighborhood this morning, because once again it's lighter than air, we wound up with some sort of sports half-page, a few classified ads, and the front page. That's it. Here's hoping the fishes enjoy the Local News and Editorial sections, if there are any.

What we're left with is just enough to know that the PNJ is linking Governor Crist to an accused big-time drug dealer, Pedro "Pete" Benevides. Kris Wernowksy reports that Benevides is a Brazilian-born Orlando multi-millionaire currently residing in a jail cell in Pensacola. (See his federal mug shot, left).

The governor's connection is through Benevides' "Skyview Aviation," a charter jet company. Last year it "ferried Gov. Charlie Crist to a climate-change conference hosted by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Beverly Hills."

Apparently, Charlie rode in style. It was a $60,000 per round-trip style of flying, free of charge.

What kind of airplane ride this side of low earth orbit costs $60,000? Regular people can catch a roundtrip from Tallahassee to L.A. for under $400. Coast-to-coast charters cost around $6,000 to $10,000. So, what could possibly justify a price like sixty grand?

"It's like driving a Bentley," a Skyview spokesman told Wernowsky. "Fourteen seats with a bed in the back, plasma TVs. ... It's a nice plane. Real nice."

Somehow, we think that "real nice" remark needed italics for emphasis, so we added them. It looks to us like someone is sending a signal to someone else. What could it be? The cabin meals came with a side dish of white powder? The in-flight movie was being filmed as everyone partied?

The charter ride was so nice, apparently, that "the company received other requests from the Governor's Office to fly the governor." But Florida state Republican Party chairman Jim Greer is eagerly telling the press, these days, that Skyview turned the governor down when he begged for a repeat.

We'll soon see about that. We're guessing Skyview's reservation requests, flight book, and other files soon will be revealed. If Benevides didn't have a cabin-cam recording everything that went on, he deserves to go to jail. He's too stupid to be bribing politicians.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hannity Hilarity

Faux News, at it again:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Sean Hannity Uses Glenn Beck's Protest Footage
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Celebrating Veterans

Bryan at Why Now? celebrates Veterans' Day with the hope "there will be no need for another generation to put on uniforms and march to war."

We revert to weather history to remember a time, unlike now, when Americans were tough enough to celebrate Armistice Day despite inclement weather:
A Texas ‘Norther’ that swooped down the Gulf last night had no terrors for the crowd which invaded Brownsville from the whole of the lower Rio Grande Valley and even from Mexico across the river. Thirty thousand people swept into this city of 6,000 on a threefold celebration, that of Armistice Day, that of honoring the President-elect and jubilation over the closing of the subscription for railroad and harbor improvement that valley residents are confident will make Brownsville and its port at Point Isabel eclipse Galveston in commercial importance.”
“Harding Days War Was for Our Rights: Denies that America Fought to Make the World Safe for Democracy,” New York Times, Nov. 12, 1920 at 1.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

G.O.P. Talking Points

Did Michael Steele send this out to us?

Convenient Closings

Thursday's annual veterans' day parade in Pensacola has been canceled. It was that terrible storm, don't you know.

The suspicion lingers that a lot of those closings -- schools, speeches, sporting events, meetings, government offices, courts, etc. etc. -- were announced because people just plain need a break. That's jake with us. After all, America remains the "no vacation nation" -- and if it takes a little tropical hysteria to change that, so be it.

Ida Idles Over Mobile Bay


Florida Governor Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency yesterday as Tropical Storm Ida slowly approached the Panhandle, the Miami Herald reports. The storm "was downgraded... moments after Crist issued the declaration."

The poor guy can't catch a break. Not only are the lunatic teabaggers after his scalp, Mother Nature is making him look as foolish as Bobby Jindal.

After all the media hysteria, school closings, cancellations and the like, Ida "made its first landfall about 5:40 CST on Dauphin Island, with the center of the storm about 25 miles south of Mobile." The storm was described as "slow, wet, weak."

In a disturbing sign of the times, the Destin Log covered the storm by reporting on tweets, or twitters, or whatever they're called. Our favorite breathless news report:
"BushWilliams: LOL just talked to my Dad who is in Destin, FL and fairly trashed at a hurricane party. Sounds like a good time."

Monday, November 09, 2009

Ida - Now They Tell Us

NHC, Monday 9 pm:
THE LOCATION AND TIMING OF IDA'S LANDFALL WILL HAVE LITTLE SIGNIFICANCE SINCE THE TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS COVER A LARGE AREA AND MOST OF THE HEAVIER RAINFALL IS ALREADY SPREADING ONSHORE.
Well, at least The Weather Channel got a spike in ratings.

More Closings as Ida Grows Weaker

Santa Rosa County schools and courts will be closed Tuesday, in light of Tropical Storm Ida, which is growing weaker even as you read this. S.R. county government offices will be closed until Thursday.

The center of the storm is a little more than a hundred miles off shore as of 4 pm CST. It's expected to speed up, weaken even more, and make landfall some time after midnight. Total rainfall accumulations, when it's all over, are expected to be "3 to 6 inches" with isolated exceptions as high as 8 inches.

Lord help us if the Florida Panhandle ever gets a half inch of snow.

Ida Radar Over Pensacola Beach



CLICK THIS FOR CURRENT CONDITIONS

The Republi-Bluedem White Male Party

While we were busy watching Ida, the Republi-Bluedem White Male Party was deciding for all women in America what to do with their bodies and how they should procreate. Dr. Nancy finds it "Outrageous. Just outrageous."

Ida Goes Extra-Tropical

That was quick. Here's the meteorological explanation:
THE SATELLITE PRESENTATION OF IDA HAS BEEN STEADILY DETERIORATING DURING THE MORNING. MOST OF THE DEEP CONVECTION HAS BEEN SHEARED OFF WELL TO THE NORTHEAST OF THE CENTER...

WITH IDA MOVING THROUGH AN ENVIRONMENT OF COOLER WATERS AND INCREASING SHEAR...CONTINUED WEAKENING IS EXPECTED. THE GLOBAL MODELS DO NOT SHOW MUCH IN THE WAY OF BAROCLINIC RE-INTENSIFICATION PRIOR TO LANDFALL...SO THE HURRICANE WARNINGS AND WATCHES ARE BEING DISCONTINUED...LEAVING ONLY TROPICAL STORM WARNINGS IN PLACE.
The plain English version: Ida is "extra-tropical," just like great-great-great grandpa. We might have a rainy couple of days.

Ida - Monday Morning Update

NPR has a useful and fairly comprehensive update this morning on Hurricane Ida. The short of it is this --
  • Ida is weakening. It's a category 1 storm, and expected to weaken further before landfall.
  • The center of the storm is expected to hit the shore late tonight, well after dark.
  • "Hurricane warnings remained in effect from Pascagoula, Miss., east to Indian Pass, Fla."
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency (which means he is demanding more of that federal stimulus money he so likes to criticize.)
  • Dauphin Island and Mobile look to be in the bullseye.
  • "Residents of Pensacola Beach, Fla., and nearby Perdido Key were encouraged to leave, as were people farther inland who live in mobile homes... ."
  • Two hours east of Pensacola, at Point Marina in Panama City, Steve Arndt's gut is telling him "it probably won't be that bad." But there's not much of a gut on that guy, so it's hard to tell if he knows what his stomach is rumbling.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Hurricane Ida Closings and Twitters in Pensacola

By the numbers:
  1. All local Gulf Power linemen and other emergency repair workers were alerted Sunday afternoon they will be called in for extra duty Monday afternoon.
  2. Local news sources are reporting Escambia county public schools, pre-schools, and county offices will be closed all day Monday and Tuesday.
  3. Most private schools are closing as well.
  4. Santa Rosa schools, as of Sunday evening, plan to remain open Monday. Stay tuned about Tuesday.
  5. The county is twittering that "Residents of low-lying areas, Pensacola Beach, Perdido Key and mobile home residents are urged to evacuate." Local TV scrolls claim evacuation should begin at 7 am Monday.
  6. The main web site for Escambia County's Emergency Management, as of 9 pm Sunday evening, remains unchanged. Lame. Very lame. They may wake up by 9 am Monday.
  7. Get the latest county twitter here.

Ida in the Gulf

NHC English translation:
  • Ida is in the Gulf of Mexico, rapidly heading north with a target anywhere within a hundred miles either side of Mobile-Pensacola.
  • The inner center of the storm remains modest in size, but tropical-force winds could extend up to a radius of fifty miles from the center.
  • Ida is likely to weaken quickly as it encounters colder waters and air temperatures over the next 36 hours.
  • It might or might not be a hurricane when it makes landfall, but it's sure to be very wet, windy, and accompanied by a storm surge and damaging waves along the coast.

What Can Jeff Miller Say?

Steve Benen:
For all the talk about vulnerable Democrats having to defend their support for reform, let's not overlook the fact that GOP incumbents are likely to hear more about their vote supporting their version of reform again. After all, the Republican plan was pretty ridiculous -- the GOP alternative did nothing for the uninsured, nothing for those with pre-existing conditions, and nothing for those worried about losing coverage when it's needed most. * * * The GOP proposal sought to create a system that "works better for people who don't need health care services, and much worse for people who actually are sick or who become sick in the future. It's basically a health un-insurance policy."

And as we learned yesterday, the plan included provisions that "mirror the suggestions put forth by the lobbying entity of the private insurance industry way back in December 2008."

Expect this vote to come up quite a bit next year.
What can Jeff Miller say to Northwest Floridians? How about, 'I voted for the bill drafted by the health insurance industry because I want you to go away.'

Ida Calling in 36-48 Hours

Ida at present is a Cat 2 hurricane. NHC Advisory: "A hurricane watch has been issued east of the Mississippi/Alabama border to Mexico Beach, Florida."

Highlights from the 11:00 am NHC discussion:
  • Hurricane Ida is moving a little faster than projected earlier.
  • This means it will reach the northern Gulf Coast a little quicker than previously believed, and the likelihood of a sudden turn to the East before landfall has diminished.
  • "The center of Ida" will make landfall in 38-48 hours.
  • That center, however, could well have deteriorated to something less than a hurricane.
  • Pensacola Beach remains near the center of projected landfall.
Rain, wind, and some beach erosion. That much looks unavoidable.

Hurricane Ida on Track for Pensacola-Mobile

Ida became a Category 1 hurricane overnight, moved a little closer to the Yucatan peninsula, and is expected to strengthen to a Cat 2 before entering the Gulf of Mexico. She is expected to make landfall somewhere along the "East-Central Gulf Coast in 48 to 72 hours." At 7:50 am this morning, Weather Channel hurricane guru Steve Lyons was predicting a "Pensacola-Mobile" landfall Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

One good thing: the storm is smaller than your average bear. Hurricane force winds have a radius of only 15 miles from the center. Another good thing: The storm is expected to begin weakening Monday evening, well before landfall.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

T.S. Ida Threatens Pensacola

Believe it. A named tropical storm -- Ida -- has been born off the Yucatan Peninsula and current forecasts have it becoming a hurricane later tonight, then entering the Gulf of Mexico and heading north. It is expected to make landfall somewhere along the central Gulf Coast on Tuesday.

As of early Saturday evening, Pensacola is the bulls-eye. That's the bad news.

The good news is the storm may encounter a "mid- to upper-level trough" of cold air that could weaken it.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Fast History

Say what you will about Wikipedia, this was fast -- and accurate!

"Tancredo Walks Off MSNBC Set" - Friday, Nov. 6, 7:00 pm CDT:

As a Republican student activist, Tancredo spoke out in favor of the Vietnam War but did not serve. After graduating from college in June 1969, he became eligible to serve in Vietnam. Tancredo said he went for his physical, telling doctors he'd been treated for depression, and eventually got a deferment.

Wikipedia edit - Friday Nov. 6, 10:21 pm CDT:
On November 6, 2009 , Tancredo walked out in the middle of an interview on [[The Ed Show]] because he was called out by Daily Kos founder and US Army veteran Markos Moulitsas for avoiding service in Vietnam by obtaining a diagnosis of depression. Tancredo said he did not have to be insulted in that way but made no denial of Moulitsas' charge.

Back Asswards Rescue

Harvard Prof. Elizabeth Warren:
"Let's face it. This is sort of how we went about the rescue -- we rescued at the top and we left the bottom to kind of fend for itself -- and that's showing up in the unemployment numbers."


As we have said before, "FDR's New Deal program was designed mainly to help the little guy get on his feet. George Bush's program, which Obama has left essentially in place, was aimed at helping the rich get richer." That's why we now have nearly eleven percent unemployment.

The Greatest Divide

House G.O.P Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) doesn't know the difference between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. And he's the G.O.P.'s top lawmaker, for gawd's sake? There's a rather large difference between the two.

Another Republican congressman, Todd Aiken (R-OH) can't remember the words to the Pledge of Allegiance. Truly, the greatest divide in politics is between people who know what they're talking about and those who don't.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Reconstructing Afghanistan

U. of Texas Law Professor Sandy Levinson:
"Anyone who believes in the fantasy of nation building in Afghanistan should, at the very least, read about the failure of Reconstruction in the South, where the local insurgency, led by the Ku Klux Klan, prevailed over the Union forces led by now-President Ulysses Grant."
Here in Northwest Florida, we know something about that. There are days when it seems Civil War never ended.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Pensacola Beach Tax Omens

WEAR-TV in Pensacola admittedly is far from the most reliable news source. For what it's worth, however, it has been reporting this past news cycle that Escambia County Circuit Court Judge Michael Jones "began working" on his long-overdue Pensacola Beach ruling "this week."

Very odd, that. We can't recall the last time a judge at any level in the common law world publicly disclosed to a TV personality his library research and writing schedule. Here's the Tee-Vee news script:
PENSACOLA BEACH, FL - A ruling on whether Pensacola Beach residents will have to pay property taxes is now imminent.

That's according to the Assistant to First Circuit Court Judge Michael Jones, who began working on his ruling this week.

The lawsuit was filed by Pensacola Beach residents in 2004 to challenge Escambia Property Appraiser Chris Jones' decision to put beach properties on the county tax rolls.

Beach residents argued that when they bought property, they were told they would only have to pay lease fees and not taxes.

But [Chris] Jones argued that guarantee was never in any of type of legal contract.

A similar lawsuit filed by owners at Portofino Condominiums was rejected by the First Circuit Court Of Appeals last August.

There's another oddity, with dark portents for beach leaseholders. The station's web site links to its news video with this headline: "Pensacola Beach Residents Will Pay Property Tax." Here's the screenshot (click to enlarge):

Frankly, we doubt either the reporter or the headline writer know what they're broadcasting about. Even so, if you engage in magical thinking you might see these as bad omens.

The thing is, with the Florida courts now having ruled against beach condo owners and businesses, who needs magical thinking to know what Judge Jones' ruling about leasehold residents likely will be? The law of Florida is well established: when Escambia County lies to you, you have absolutely no remedy at law.

Torture in Brief Form

Arar vs. Ashcroft
"This is precisely how the character of a country becomes fundamentally degraded when it becomes a state in permanent war."
Facts (HT Amy Goodman):
Arar’s life-altering odyssey is one of the best known and best investigated of those victimized by U.S. extraordinary rendition. After vacationing with his family in Tunisia, Arar attempted to fly home to Canada. On Sept. 26, 2002, while changing planes at JFK Airport, Arar was pulled aside for questioning. He was fingerprinted and searched by the FBI and the New York Police Department. He asked for a lawyer and was told he had no rights. He was then taken to another location and subjected to two days of aggressive interrogations, with no access to phone, food or a lawyer. He was asked about his membership with various terrorist groups, about Osama bin Laden, Iraq, Palestine and more. Shackled, he was then moved to a maximum-security federal detention center in Brooklyn, strip-searched and threatened with deportation to Syria.
* * *
For nearly two weeks, the U.S. authorities held the Syria threat over his head. Still, he denied any involvement with terrorism. So in the middle of the night, over a weekend, without normal immigration proceedings—without telling his lawyer or the Canadian Consulate—he was dragged in chains to a private jet contracted by the CIA and flown to Jordan, where he was then handed over to the Syrians.

For 10 months and 10 days, Maher was held in a dark, damp, cold cell, measuring 6 feet by 3 feet by 7 feet high, the size of a grave. He was beaten repeatedly with a thick electrical cable all over his body, punched, made to listen to the torture of others, denied food and threatened with electrical shock and an array of more horrors. To stop the torture, he falsely confessed to attending terrorist training in Afghanistan. Then, after nearly a year, he was abruptly released to Canada, 40 pounds lighter and emotionally destroyed.

Procedure (HT Scott Horton):
The United States tenaciously refused to acknowledge ever having made any mistakes—even after its own sources did so. It stonewalled Congressional probes and issued a travel ban to stop Arar from testifying before Congress. The Bush Justice Department made aggressive representations to the courts in response to Arar’s suit that strained credulity at almost every step. As in other cases, their trump card was simple: when caught with pants down, shout “state secrets!”

When the two inspectors general, Richard L. Skinner and Clark Kent Ervin, appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to testify on the matter * * * [b]oth inspectors general concurred that a criminal investigation was now warranted. Their own report produced ample evidence of gross departures from established procedures, as well as evidence that the entire case was being politically micromanaged by political figures in the attorney general’s office and in the White House, who repeatedly overrode the decisions of the professional staff. Attorney General Mukasey, however, subsequently declined to direct the investigation. It’s noteworthy that the investigation would have focused on the attorney general’s own office, which raises fair questions about why the attorney general would be the person making this decision.

Decision (HT Glenn Greenwald):
Yesterday, the Second Circuit -- by a vote of 7-4 -- agreed with the government and dismissed Arar's case in its entirety. It held that even if the government violated Arar's Constitutional rights as well as statutes banning participation in torture, he still has no right to sue for what was done to him. Why? Because "providing a damages remedy against senior officials who implement an extraordinary rendition policy would enmesh the courts ineluctably in an assessment of the validity of the rationale of that policy and its implementation in this particular case, matters that directly affect significant diplomatic and national security concerns" (p. 39). In other words, government officials are free to do anything they want in the national security context -- even violate the law and purposely cause someone to be tortured -- and courts should honor and defer to their actions by refusing to scrutinize them.
Dissent (HT Scott Horton):
[S]tate secrecy claims are preposterous because the diplomatic and intelligence relationship that would supposedly have been compromised was that with Canada, and the Canadians had already come clean about what had happened and confessed to their own part in it, publishing a report as thick as two Manhattan telephone books. In this process, the Canadians behaved just like a modern democracy should. So it is not damage to relations with our neighbor to the North that is a concern. Rather, it is embarrassment of political figures in Washington.

Calabresi generously accepts the suggestion that the Second Circuit acted out of concern for national security. Still, he delivers an appropriate lashing. The majority, Calabresi charges, “engaged in extraordinary judicial activism.” Its activism was aimed at extricating political actors from a precarious predicament and keeping the door firmly shut on what may well be the darkest chapter in the entire history of the Justice Department. In so doing, the court’s majority delivered an example of timidity in the face of government misconduct the likes of which have not been seen since the darkest days of the Cold War.

When the history of the Second Circuit is written, the Arar decision will have a prominent place. It offers all the historical foresight of Dred Scott, in which the Court rallied to the cause of slavery, and all the commitment to constitutional principle of the Slaughter-House Cases, in which the Fourteenth Amendment was eviscerated. The Court that once affirmed that those who torture are the “enemies of all mankind” now tells us that U.S. government officials can torture without worry, because the security of our state might some day depend upon it. [emphasis added]
The author of the majority opinion is Dennis Jacobs, who spent a lifetime as a complete nonentity before being appointed chief justice of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals by George W. Bush in 2006. He now joins Roger Taney (1777-1864) as one of the absolute worst judges in United States history.

Comment (HT Glenn Greenwald):
This is precisely how the character of a country becomes fundamentally degraded when it becomes a state in permanent war. So continuous are the inhumane and brutal acts of government leaders that the citizens completely lose the capacity for moral outrage and horror.

A Book By its Cover

Yes, yes, we know. Don't judge a book by its cover... it's not the beauty outside, but the beauty inside... there's no such thing as an ugly male... all of that.

But, seriously, take a look at any photo of the defeated "Conservative Party" candidate for congress, Douglas Hoffman. Bad smile, lousy teeth, crooked witch's nose, dead eyes. And underneath the makeup, the sallow pallor of someone taking stelazine.

It's a face no mother could love. Only Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, and the pharmaceutical industry.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Tricare Lie Crawls Out of Its Grave

Like a lot of other blogs, we've been spammed today by an anti-Health Care Reform prevarication. We offer no opinion on whether it was posted by an uneducated fool or a deliberate liar. Both kinds of people disgrace democracy. What you are seeing here and here and here is a very old (Bush era) lie, updated. See for yourself by clicking on this:



Pensacola Political Logic

Pensacola Beach people can have no more than the idle curiosity of friendly neighbors about today's referendum inside the limits of the City of Pensacola itself. We don't even get to vote for a majority to govern us on the beach, much less do we have a voice on the mainland.

Nevertheless, if you want to know more about the proposed switcheroo from a Council-City Manager form of government to a "strong mayor" system, Progressive Pensacola has the low-down. Or, you could bone up on the city's history, which shows the "strong mayor" system has been tried several times before, and never lasted.

The Pensacola Newsletter last Sunday came out in mealy-mouth fashion for trying something -- anything -- to shake up the city. Its editorial argument for a new charter essentially comes down to this: Pensacola voters can do better than the city manager and council we have now:
It's a profoundly pessimistic view that essentially argues that Pensacola dare not dream bigger, because the city and its people are not capable of it. * * * What we like most about the new charter is that creates a true leadership position accountable to voters."
Not to be pessimistic or anything, but who was it who elected the council they have now? And, what kind of 'accountability to voters' is it when you embed term limits for city officials in a proposed organic city charter?

Pensacola logic apparently goes something like this:
  • Pensacola city voters are perfectly capable of electing intelligent, dedicated, honest leaders.
  • Pensacola city voters are not capable of voting stupid, crooked, or ineffectual officials out of office, so we have to make sure they can't run for reelection too many times.
It seems to us the root problem in Pensacola, if there is one, is not the form of government. It's the abundance of stupid voters. Apparently, the writers of the proposed new city charter agree, or they wouldn't have provided for term limits in language that amounts to, 'Stop us before we reelect you again.'

Monday, November 02, 2009

Pensacola Beach Tax Lawsuit Update

Pensacola lawyer Danny Kepner gave beach residents an update last week on the still-pending residents' tax lawsuit. In short:
The law suit involving most of the residential leases on the Pensacola Beach (approximately 2400 parcels) was argued by Danny Kepner on May 2, 2008 before Judge Michael Jones. It has been nearly 18 months and the judge has not yet issued a ruling on this case.
Attorney Kepner is very much alive. As for Judge Jones, who knows? Has anyone checked his pulse?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Lieberman Goes All-In

President-in-His-Own-Mind, Joe Lieberman, Sunday, Nov. 1, on the Tee-Vee: "The government going into the health insurance business -- I think it's such a mistake that I would use the power I have as a single senator to stop a final vote."

Steven Benen, before Lieberman went all-in: "Some of these center-right skeptics are excessively concerned about shielding insurance companies from competition; some are worried about public misperceptions; and some just aren't committed to reform. But as much as I'd love to believe a presentation of facts and reason will turn them around, it's likely to take a lot more than a compelling sales pitch."

In Lieberman's case, nothing will satisfy his permanently-bruised ego except the death of many children.

Standard Warning