Archive for the ‘Things That Tick Me Off’ Category

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

No Quartering Association LogoA controversy is developing in Cornwallis, Washington where residents of a neighborhood bordering the army’s Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) say the city council’s latest ordinance is yet another example of an overreaching government.

During the Christmas recess the mayor called a midnight city council meeting, with no public notice, and reportedly of all places in a Seattle pub. After seven exhausting hours the council voted 5 to 4 to enact a law that was purportedly intended to ease the severe traffic jams along Interstate 5 which runs through JBLM. But these intentions some believe were not so benevolent.

The law allocated nine tracts of park land to build high density housing for military personnel and their families. The land is just west of the Berkeley Bridge and soldiers going to and from the base would not need to use I-5. However the land is platted within the realm of the Lafayette neighborhood and its homeowner’s association. Residents angrily objected to their former park being taken over by the city, and in response turned to a relatively unknown civil rights advocacy group, the No Quartering Association, (NQA) to seek redress for the city violating the Third Amendment’s prohibition of quartering soldiers in citizens’ homes. Unfortunately for them, the worst was yet to come.
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By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Mary RootIn an outrageous lack of discretion,  some members in the animal control and court system in Havre de Grace, Maryland put 81 year old great grandmother Mary Root through a harrowing ordeal.

Mary Root says her pets somehow got loose from her yard several times. A neighbor took pictures of the dogs running down the street and reported her to Animal Control.
The agency slapped Root with a $7,000 fine or she could spend nearly a year in jail.

“I’m struggling to pay my house taxes. I couldn’t pay it. It’s a different thing when you leave your dogs out and you don’t care. But I do care,” Root said. But when the cancer survivor failed to show up at court on her doctor’s orders, a judge had Root arrested.

She was booked, fingerprinted and issued a striped jumpsuit. She waited to see a judge in a cell without her cancer medication.
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Entreating the Godfather

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Due to the close of the legislative session, the various families in the legislature were not able to agree how to put the Medical Marijuana industry out of business. Bosses at the Liquor Control Board and the two prominent political families worked all session to preserve the state’s business interests in the Recreational Marijuana Racket, with its excessive taxation and protection.

This had the potential to force medical marijuana patients to give up their medical privacy, pay more for their medicine, and force the medical dispensaries out of business. This in the hope of shunting people in to the state sponsored highly taxed recreational marijuana racket. Luckily for now, the bill is dead.
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Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Blogger
215px-UWO_logoIn accordance of a new strategy to protect the citizens from bad things happening, London Police Services has instigated last fall Project L.E.A.R.N. Quoting from the police website:

“Successive L.E.A.R.N. Projects have addressed quality of life issues and targeted specific geographic areas traditionally plagued with nuisance type behaviours. L.E.A.R.N project members have provided strict but fair enforcement of by-laws related to parties, parking, open fires, noise, litter and public urination. Provincial offences were strictly enforced in relation to excess alcohol consumption, open alcoholic containers in public, public intoxication, illegal sale of alcohol and any related offences. The most severe behaviours warranted criminal charges such as causing a disturbance and mischief.”

Well it seems that this includes now such broken windows type nuisances as the University’s Cheerleading Squad on its way to the game.
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Submitted by Charlton Stanley (Otteray Scribe) guest blogger

cbpThis has not gotten much national press….yet. I had been hearing of these events through the aviation grapevine, but did not know for sure it was actually happening until the story of Gabriel Silverstein broke on the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) news web page. Mr. Silverstein is a New Jersey businessperson who was returning from a business trip to California with his husband. He had filed a flight plan, and landed his Cirrus SR22, a small private aircraft, in Oklahoma for a fuel stop. At that time, he was subjected to a ramp check.  By Federal Air Regulations, a ramp check is supposed to be done only by an FAA official. On a standard ramp check, the pilot has to produce documents showing the airplane is airworthy, is registered, and has the paperwork on board as required under Part 91 of the Federal Air Regulations. The pilot must show his or her pilot’s license and medical certificate.  The Oklahoma ramp check was brief, and he went on his way. He had to stop for fuel again in Iowa City. Upon arrival, he went into the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) office to pay for his gas, take a break and file a new flight plan. When he returned to his plane, he found it surrounded by officers, being searched without his permission, and with no explanation. The officers said “Probable Cause” was the K-9 dog had “hit” on the baggage compartment. The officers ordered him to be quiet, and if he asked any more questions, he would spend the rest of the day in the back of a police cruiser in handcuffs.

?????????????

CPB stock photo by Gerald L Nino
CPB captions this as being at their Air and Marine Operations Center

One officer handed Mr. Silverstein a business card identifying him as being with the Department of Customs and Border Protection.  Mr. Silverstein says the brown uniforms and shoulder patches he saw that day were identical to the one worn by the officer on the right in this stock CPB photo. On their web page, the CPB identifies this location as being at their Air and Marine Operations Center. I think we can safely assume this is not the main operations room, but only part of the operation.

Geography was not my favorite subject in school, but last time I looked, both Oklahoma and Iowa are a long way from any international border.

More Border Patrol and Homeland Security goodness over the jump, including a video interview with Mr. Silverstein.

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apple logoI have previously written about the deteriorating level of support at Apple Computer and the shocking treatment of customers who fell victim to a defect in the iPhone. This week, I had the third power cord for my MacBook Pro fail. Every cord has developed exposed wires due to common bending with the machine. In seeking to remedy the situation, I ran again into the same customer service wall that I experienced earlier with the defective iPhone. In order to get a new cord (under warranty), I had to see a “genius” as opposed to the dozen “specialists” standing around. But before I see a “genius” I had to have an appointment and there were no appointments available for hours. I stopped there before I was told that I also had to bring them the ruby slippers to gain entry to the “genius.”

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img_0415This weekend, my dog Molly was hit by a car in McLean, Virginia. Molly (shown here after teaching one of my classes) is still in intensive care but is expected to survive. However, it will take a while for me to get over my anger toward the driver who left my son on the side of the road after hitting our dog.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

I guess it should not come as a surprise to me anymore. However, it still upsets me to see a military defense contractor trying to deflect blame for the damages its negligence caused to members of our military while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.  In a news item that I didn’t notice until a few days after it broke, Huffington Post reported that the defense contractor, KBR, was found negligent and responsible for the poisoning of a dozen soldiers in Iraq in 2003.  Over 800 members of both regular and reserve units were stationed at an Iraqi water treatment plant to secure it and they were exposed regularly to a dangerous carcinogen called Sodium Dichromate.  The impact on the soldiers and Guardsmen’s negligent exposure to that “extreme carcinogen” was both devastating and deadly.

“Sodium dichromate is an orange-yellowish substance containing hexavalent chromium, an anti-corrosion chemical. To Lt. Col. James Gentry of the Indiana National Guard, who was stationed at the Qarmat Ali water treatment center in Iraq just after the 2003 U.S. invasion, it was “just different-colored sand.” In their first few months at the base, soldiers were told by KBR contractors running the facility the substance was no worse than a mild irritant.  Gentry was one of approximately 830 service members, including active-duty soldiers and members of the National Guard and reserve units from Indiana, South Carolina, West Virginia and Oregon, assigned to secure the water treatment plant, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sodium dichromate is not a mild irritant. It is an extreme carcinogen. In November 2009, at age 52, Gentry died of cancer. The VA affirmed two months later that his death was service-related.  In November, a jury found KBR, the military’s largest contractor, guilty of negligence in the poisoning of a dozen soldiers, and ordered the company to pay $85 million in damages. Jurors found KBR knew both of the presence and toxicity of the chemical. Other lawsuits against KBR are pending.” Huffington Post   (more…)

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Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

gold-dollar-signI don’t know about you but I was certainly happy that I woke up this morning. For a few years now there has been great speculation that the world was going to end yesterday. As I fell asleep about 1:00pm last night it was with knowing that in Mexico it was three hours earlier and so that the dread prediction of the world’s end by the Mayan Calendar still may have been possible. The whole idea was a blatant misrepresentation of Mayan belief and hoax-like, yet that didn’t prevent many from making this non-story into yet another way to frighten people. Frightening people with made-up nonsense seems to be a human trait and certainly has been exploited throughout history for one sort of gain or another.

Fear not though, because just as the collective We has just bitten one bullet, another comes along to frighten us once again with disaster and that “disaster” will occur on December 31, 2012, as we come to the end of another turmoil ridden year in societal intercourse. I’m writing, of course, about the “Looming Fiscal Cliff” that has been so very prominent in what our mainstream media calls “news and commentary” and our leaders of both parties call governance. My opinion and that of many others with far more economic expertise than myself, is that the “Fiscal Cliff” is a mere “bogeyman”, used by those politicians on the Right and the Left as leverage to accomplish their particular political agendas.

Since one of the interests of this blog is the Constitution and the consequent Rule of Law that should be its’ result, this comes within our purview because serious issues of national interest are being driven by false mythology grown to myth like proportion. Let’s look at what is behind this mythology and its propaganda. (more…)

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The ABA Journal has released its list of the top 100 legal blogs in the world and we are once again in this august group of blogs. Congratulations to all of our regulars contributors and weekend bloggers. We have previously taken the top spot under the opinion category in the past but the ABA has now eliminated that category. Even more ominous was the decision to put the largest blogs in direct competition under an expanded “News/Analysis” category. This includes the long dominant “Above the Law” site. We would have to punch considerably above our weight to beat “Above the Law,” which is ranking regularly in the top two most visited legal sites in the world. Frankly, it is like a dingy going up against a battleship. However, we have never flinched in the face of superior numbers. So it is time to vote! It takes a very quick registration. Just click here and cast your vote today!

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Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. This is my favorite holiday with all of the essential elements of joy: food, friends, and football. (more…)

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Newly elected Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has a radical idea — words should mean what they mean. Take for example the word “filibuster.” Most of  us have the quaint notion that a filibuster is a rarely used exhausting  oration  by a  principled senator to stop devastatingly wrongheaded or corrupt legislation in its tracks.  From the time of Cato, the legislative maneuver was used as the last gasp effort to do the right thing even as the forces of corruption were circling.  It was essentially a plea for good men and women to think long and hard before passing ill-considered law. Think Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger

I was struck by a news story earlier this week, not only because of its importance, but because of how little air time it received in the mass media.  Earlier this week, the victims of the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona had a chance to speak to the man responsible for those hideous acts.  One statement was especially powerful and it was from the husband of Gabby Giffords, now a former Congresswoman from Arizona.  I apologize for the length of the following quotations, but I think it is important to read most of what Gabby’s husband said to Mr. Jared Loughner, who perpetrated the crime.  (more…)

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Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

Normally, when I work on a guest blog it takes me some hours of research and writing since I type slowly and try to be as accurate as I can be. This one will be a little different because it is written mainly to refer you to the transcript and/or podcast of a fantastic interview with the investigative journalists Donald L.Bartlett and James B. Steele. The interview was conducted by Rob Kall, whose OpEdNews website http://www.opednews.com/   is one that I look to for interesting insight into the political issues of the day. The interview deals with these authors’s current book which is called: The Betrayal of the American Dream”.

Rob Kall’s interview with the author’s is lengthy and so rather than my usual effort to provide a synopsis and relevant quotes of a position that I endorse, I’m going to give you a hint of what this interview contains and the provide you the links so that you can make your decision on the author’s thesis and hopefully be informed on some very important issues for all of us. Readers here know I supported President Obama for re-election, but have been critical of many of his policies. This interview and the book that it is about, demonstrate that the forces at play in the rapid decline of the American Middle Class seem beyond the power of our government to control, simply because they are backed by an elite that not only finances election campaigns, but that has also dominated the discussion with so much false propaganda, that today’s politicians who were born later than 1960 are not even familiar with the reality of how much our economic landscape has changed. Because of this unfamiliarity many don’t even have the conceptualization that things used to be different and why they’ve changed so drastically. In that sense this is less about conspiracy and more about the effect poor education, corporate media and propaganda can accomplish. When I say that the problem is beyond government’s power to fix, it is with the caveat that if the issues presented here were first understood, then maybe we could combat them. In some sense we are all blind men, hypothesizing the nature of an elephant by touching different parts. This interview and the book it is about can miraculously cure the blindness and start the discussion on how we can deal with this 3,000 pound elephant in the room we call America.

I will mention two, among many, of the major factors in the decline of the American Middle Class laid out by the authors. The first is that until the 1970’s our Income Tax was really graduated to the point that government had ample revenue to do its job. The second is that one of the major revenue sources for the Federal Government was tariffs. It was the dismantling of the graduated Income Tax and the proliferation of trade agreements reducing tariffs (and tariff revenue) that have been major pieces in the shipping of jobs overseas, increasing our national debt and destroying what was the greatest industrial economy in the World. For me, a child born to politically aware parents, before the end of World War II, I’ve lived through this history and watched in dismay as these changes took effect. Most Americans though, except for those most prescient, have no idea of what was done, simply because these changes took effect before they were born, or in their early youth. This election past and the polling of attitudes that went with it, show that the majority of Americans perceive that they are being cheated, but often their perception of how, has been skewed by the disinformation that is rampant to the extent that they blame it on the wrong source. If you read either the transcript of this article: “The Selling Out of the Middle Class is No Accident” at this link: http://www.opednews.com/articles/1/The-Selling-Out-of-the-Mid-by-Rob-Kall-121017-79.html or listen to the interview at this podcast: http://www.opednews.com/Podcast/Applying-Investigative-Jou-by-Rob-Kall-120915-680.html

I deeply believe that it will be time well spent.

 

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Once again, U.S. airlines remain the most common source for outrageous acts and policies that populate this category on the blog — reserved for the irritations and insults of daily life. Today’s subject is USAIR. I am in New Orleans for a speech trying to get home. Travelers to the Northeast have been instructed to call USAIR on their flights in light of Hurricane Sandy. However, I have literally tried for ten hours to try to reach a live USAIR representative. Instead, you are forced to go through various steps before the line is cut off with a message that you should call back later. It may be the worst level of customer support I have ever witnessed by a major airline.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger

If he said it once, Mitt Romney has said it a thousand times.  President Obama should have let GM and Chrysler go bankrupt instead of “bailing” them out. (paraphrased)  Of course, the discussion usually revolves around how Unions allegedly made out like bandits in the bailout to the detriment of the country and our economy.  What has been selectively left out of the discussion was the role played in the bailout by vulture capitalists in reaping an enormous profit from the bailout.  According to Greg Palast, the bailout created an opportunity for the vultures to swoop in and make huge profits.   All at tax payer expense! (more…)

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Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

The two major themes that run through most of my guest blogs here are the idea that we are being manipulated by a Corporate Oligarchy, whose aim is to re-establish Feudalism in an American format. The second theme is my belief that their method of control is perpetrating this revision of America through manipulation of the National myths to which we have all been exposed. They have worked hard and somewhat successfully to take the myths and turn them into memes. One myth that I’ve recently written about is the “American Dream” that all of us have an equal chance of fulfilling all our aspirations based on our innate abilities and hard work alone. One meme that has been developed from this is that our Elite 1% are entrepreneurial heroes, who are the only “job creators” worth mentioning. The truth is that most of the 1% inherited their wealth, like the Koch Brothers or Donald Trump, while many others were born in privileged settings and rose in the world through their contacts with others from the same background.

Gene Howington, a friend and another guest blogger, has approached the same territory with his four part series of discussions of propaganda methodology. Gene and I are running on parallel tracks getting at the same thing and interestingly both of us set out on our parallel paths independent of discussion with the other. Gene and I have both touched on the mechanisms that are being used and in Gene’s case eve the science of the manipulation, but I think both of us have missed the specific science that has been adopted by corporations and used to perform this attempt to control. Today I came across an article at Alternet.org http://www.alternet.org/  that flashed the proverbial light bulb in my brain. When I read it my thought was, of course……. .Why haven’t I as someone trained in mental health seen this connection before? I will present extensive quotes from the article and then link it. I think it is important enough that everyone who visits here should read this article through.

“The corporatization of society requires a population that accepts control by authorities, and so when psychologists and psychiatrists began providing techniques that could control people, the corporatocracy embraced mental health professionals. In psychologist B.F. Skinner’s best-selling book  Beyond Freedom and Dignity  (1971), he argued that freedom and dignity are illusions that hinder the science of behavior modification, which he claimed could create a better-organized and happier society.”

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I have of course been basking in the warm glow of the ascension of the Chicago Bears, who are now tied for first in the NFC North (a position solidified not only with the 41-3 blowout yesterday against the Jaguars but the loss of the Packers to the Colts). However, nothing quite matches the final play in the game of Trinity against Millsaps College on Saturday, October 27, 2007. The play by play coverage by the announcers is enough to make this worth the watch. The two announcers appear to have a joint aneurysm at the end.

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Respectfully Submitted by Lawrence Rafferty-(rafflaw)- Guest Blogger

A short time ago, our country and its military reached a sad milestone in the war in Afghanistan. We have now lost 2,000 members of our military during our almost 12 year war in Afghanistan.  In light of that sad news, a Republican Congressman, Rep. Bill Young of Florida, received a letter from an Army soldier on his third tour in Afghanistan that caused him to change his mind about our continuing involvement in Afghanistan.  That soldier, Staff Sgt. Matthew Sitton wrote the letter to the congressman, shortly before he and a comrade were killed by an IED that journalist Bill Moyers recently discussed. (more…)

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Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

In my Social Work career I spent 37 years working primarily with people in poverty, whether from Race, ethnicity, economic situations, criminal history and/or addiction. In my Psychotherapy practice (part time) my patients were middle to upper class economically and yet as the years have passed my memory of them has faded. Still remaining though, burned into my memory, are the lives of those I met who lived in poverty. We see in this current Presidential election a sharp contrast between the philosophies of the two candidates. One believing in lowering peoples expectations for and the receipt of, what he deems “entitlements”. The other who defends what he calls self-funded programs and championing the Federal Government’s intervention to make health care more accessible. There is, however, one economic/social area where both candidates fully agree and this agreement represents exactly what is wrong with our country.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, by their words and deeds, both believe fervently in the notion of the “American Dream”. If we look at the history of their lives we can understand how from their perspective, their lives have typified the “America Dream”. Romney was born wealthy, went to the best schools and came from a family that was highly prominent in his community. Obama, though born the child of an unwed mother, had the benefit of her intelligence, in addition to Maternal Grandparents who were relatively well to do. Their lives, though having different arcs, led them both to the point where they are competing for the highest office in the land. Neither man is lying when they extol America as the world’s shining light of opportunity for all, because their own lives bear that out. To me the problem is that reality shows that they are wrong in their belief and in their clinging to the myth of the “American Dream”, they ignore the most important issue of our time, American inequality of opportunity. (more…)

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Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

I’m a fan of professional football and I’ve followed it for almost 60 years. Many of those who come to this site, especially our Proprietor, are football fans as well. The game is exciting to watch lending itself perfectly to television viewing, as compared to the other professional sports. However, this is not a post about the sport, the players, its violence or its merits. This is a critical look with the overarching corporate structure of the National Football League. The NFL has become the most lucrative sports business organization in the United States, receiving approximately $8 or $9 Billion a year from TV networks and its revenue from all other sources, including licensing, radio and satellite TV. On average each of the NFL’s 32 teams earns an average of $175 million per year which includes ticket sales. Under the collective bargaining agreement, won after a threatened “player lockout” in 2011, each team has what is known as a “hard salary cap”, which means that the total each team pays to its players is capped at a fixed amount which cannot be exceeded. Currently the cap per each team is about $130 Million per year. Therefore the average NFL team probably makes a profit of at least $30 Million per year after other expenses. Given the state of business, any corporation of medium size that would receive a guaranteed net profit of $30 Million yearly must be considered very fortunate.

The NFL has a rule barring corporations from team ownership:

“Ownership groups must contain twenty-four or fewer individuals, and at least one partner must hold a thirty percent or greater share of the team. The Green Bay Packers are an exemption to the current policy, since they have been a publicly owned stock corporation since before the rule was in place.”

At first glance this may seem a salutary policy, but in operation the League’s ownership consists mainly of billionaires, who are either football fans, publicity seekers and/or both. In fairness I must admit that some of the current owners are descendants of their teams’ founders, such as the Rooney’s in Pittsburgh, the Mara’s in New York and the Halas family owners of Professor Turley’s beloved Bears. Mainly the teams are run by people who made their money in other professions and decided that a football team would make a great hobby. The problem is that the “hobbyists” have and are exhibiting the type of business philosophy that seems to have taken hold in America, which is a ruthless model, in which their employees and even their customers, the fans, are merely pawns to be run over roughshod as they satisfy their egos and their greed. After the break I’ll explain my thinking on this and show why I see the NFL as a metaphor of what’s wrong with our country. (more…)

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I have repeatedly taken to this blog to complain about wi-fi charges and other added fees placed on travelers today by hotels, airlines, and other companies (here and here and here). Now the New York Times has run an excellent Sunday article written by Stephanie Rosenbloom. Rosenbloom, who has a wry sense of humor, interviewed me for the article and details how passengers are fleeced while traveling today.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

I have to admit that I do not shock too easily.  However, when I read an article this morning in the New York Times, I was taken back by the news.  It seems that private debt collection companies across the United States have partnered with District Attorneys offices, to use the threat of criminal charges being filed against consumers in attempts to collect on alleged bounced checks to merchants.  The fact that people were being threatened by collection companies did not surprise me.  It was the fact that the veiled threats to the consumers were sent on District Attorney or Prosecutor letterhead that amazed me!  (more…)

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It is time for another addition to my list of “Things That Tick Me Off” — an occasional ranting about something I encounter that drives me to distraction or dismay in everyday life. This week’s cathartic event was a trip on Sunday to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia to celebrate the birthday of one of my kids. Around four, the park experienced bad weather. The rejection of the park however proved as unpredictable as the storm.

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Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

When I was young I would religiously watch the Sunday morning news shows, especially NBC’s Meet the Press. Beginning in 1947, MTP is the longest running show in television history. While the other networks had comparable shows, clearly MTP with its longevity was seen as the show of record.

“The show’s format consists of an extended one-on-one interview with the host and is sometimes followed by a roundtable discussion or one-on-two interview with figures in adversarial positions, either Congress members from opposite sides of the aisle or political commentators. The show expanded to 60 minutes starting with the September 20, 1992 broadcasthttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meet_the_Press#Moderators

Face the Nation, premiering in 1954 is considered to be the other Sunday morning News show of record. FTN’s format is:

“The moderator interviews newsmakers on the latest issues and delivers a short topical commentary at the end of the broadcast. The program broadcasts from Washington, D.C. Guests include government leaders, politicians, and international figures in the news. CBS News correspondents and other contributors engage the guests in a roundtable discussion focusing on current topics.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Face_the_Nation

What all of these shows have in common is that they are repeatedly populated by the same people, whether politicians, journalists, economists or political operators. This link gives the background of the truth of Sunday morning “journalism”. http://mediamatters.org/search/index?qstring=Sunday+Morning+Talk+Shows&x=9&y=6  The casts rarely change and in all but the rarest of cases these guests make up what could be called our nation’s “Pundit Class”. They are seen as the “Serious People”, who lead America’s national debate on vital issues. I’ve been a “political junkie” since the age of ten. For many years I was misled into believing that these “Serious People” were really my intellectual betters when it came to public affairs and that political discussion must only exist within the ground rules of debate established by our “Pundit Class”. Beginning with the murder of JFK and in the ensuing disillusionment of the Sixties I’ve come to see that not only is this  “Pundit Class” inherently corrupt, but only a rare few can barely be called intellectually informative. This group is in reality the paid propagandists of the elite 1% that rule this country and their main task is to limit the scope of our national debate.

In the last two weeks one of the most heard and most esteemed members of the Pundit Class, Fareed Zakaria, has been suspended from Time Magazine and CNN due to the discovery of plagiarism in one of his columns. Zacharia is also a Yale University Trustee and there is talk that his removal from that august position is under consideration. I’ve never particularly cared for Mr. Zakaria, but I was surprised by his plagiarism, more so by the fact he admitted it so readily and so abjectly. An article in the Huffington Post provided an explanation of Mr. Zakaria’s actions with a surprising explanation that I hadn’t expected and yet one that in retrospect makes perfect sense. (more…)

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Rosa Hernandez

The Dominican Republic’s church-inspired ban on all abortions has cost the life of a pregnant 16-year-old according to her mother, Rosa Hernandez. The teen, who suffered from leukemia, was unable to undergo life-saving chemotherapy until it was too late. The DR’s ban prevented a therapeutic abortion of the 13 week fetus as doctors were unwilling to make an exception.

A blood transfusion on Thursday was unsuccessful, and the postponed chemotherapy was likewise ineffective. The teen miscarried on Friday but died from complications including cardiac arrest.

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We returned from Chicago last night after a wonderful visit to my home town to celebrate my mother’s 85th birthday. On the way back, I found another entry in my list of “things that tick me off” – list of those things everything in life that I find extraordinary frustrating or moronic. I created this list as a cathartic exercise to keep me from spontaneous explosions or psychotic episodes. When I encounter something like this, I simply say “I’ll add it to the list.” This week’s addition is Breezewood, Pennsylvania.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger

It seems that almost everywhere you look, some State is trying to reduce the number of early voting days, purging the voting rolls and making it harder for citizens to cast their votes.  The State of Florida has recently attempted to remove legitimate voters off its voter rolls and the State of Georgia recently attempted to restrict the time when a military absentee ballot can be counted as I wrote about earlier on this blog. Georgia  Now, we have some hard evidence of just who is getting removed or impacted by the various State’s attempts to cure the imagined Voter fraud problem! (more…)

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Author note: This is the fifth in a series about the child sexual abuse scandal at The Pennsylvania State University that helped bring down iconic football coach Joe Paterno and three top officials at the premier public college in Pennsylvania.  

The Magician

Penn State’s ousted president and amateur magician, Graham Spanier, enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for secrecy while leading the state’s flagship public university. In one instance, Spanier became incensed when he learned that the Harrisburg Patriot-News had obtained the salaries of the top PSU officials –  including Joe Paterno  – from the state pension board.  (Paterno had consistently made mention of the fact that he received around $500,000 per year as a coach, donating much of it back to PSU. Many prominent FBS football coaches make up to ten times that amount and it appears Paterno was fudging a bit on his salary.) Spanier embarked on a five-year fight to block publication of the salaries, taking the case through the entire appeals process and up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Spanier lost at every level. Undaunted and against the odds, he successfully lobbied Pennsylvania state lawmakers to reject closing the loophole which exempted college employees salaries from the state’s “right-to-know” law. With that legislative prestidigitation, he just made the problem disappear.

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Around the mid 19th Century, Southern separatists coined a name for the commodity that guaranteed their region’s prosperity and defiantly signaled their immunity from the control of the despised central government controlled by Northern industrialists – “King Cotton.” “King Cotton” became a reason and a battle cry, emboldening the separatists to strike out at Fort Sumter against perceived injustices. The slogan served as a wedge between two regions whose cooperation just two generations earlier had forged a new nation. King Cotton was deposed at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865 and the country was spared his influence for the time being.

A new king arose on those same Southern cotton fields,  now perfectly re-invented as measured, marked, and manicured line-bound rectangles with iron posts commemorating each end.   King Cotton was replaced in the Southern psyche with a sport borrowed from the ivy-covered walls of the Northeast colleges. In places like  Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge and Knoxville and Athens, a new king was born, and his open-air castles holding 75,000+ subjects spread through the “fly-over states,” into towns with funny names, and even to the tiny central Pennsylvania town of State College. King Football reigns supreme in the minds of  many today — it’s the nation’s most popular and lucrative sport, if combined with the professional ranks, or merely in second place if you’re talking about the game played on the campuses.

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

One of the most enduring questions of the child rape scandal  at Penn State is what role did head football coach Joe Paterno play in the decision to grant his ex-right-hand man, Jerry Sandusky, carte blanche to prey on children. In a statement immediately after the scandal broke last November, Joe Paterno claimed that he reported what little he knew, did what he could, and that he wasn’t fully aware of the gruesome particulars:

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

The conviction of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of child molestation and abuse seemed like the worst storm residents of Happy Valley could have endured. Now it seems that was just the opening gust of the hurricane. A series of emails recently turned over to investigators from a secret file in AD Tim Curley’s office suggests that university president, Graham Spanier, was more involved in the cover-up that previously thought and that former PSU head coach, Joe Paterno, was just as involved as many of us thought. Just 16 days after grad student, Mike McQueary, walked into the showers at the Penn State’s football temple athletic facility to find Sandusky behind a ten-year-old making “slapping noises,” an email issued from university vice president, Gary Shultz, to Spanier setting forth the agreement to report Sandusky’s actions. On February 26, 2001, Shultz wrote the three-part plan was to “talk with the subject [Sandusky]… contact the charitable organization [Second Mile]… and contacting the Department of Welfare.” In Pennsylvania, the Department of Welfare is required to investigate all allegations of child abuse. It works hand-in-glove with the law that requires educators and those working with children to report allegations of child abuse.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger

With apologies to the writers of the famous song by the same title, I came across a small news item that didn’t make the big headlines this past week.  Our friends in Georgia just don’t seem to get the idea that their citizen soldiers deserve the same right to vote that on military members enjoy.  In the upcoming primary elections and general election cycle, Georgia has violated the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) by not providing military members the minimum amount of time between elections in order to assure that their absentee ballots arrive in time to actually be counted in the respective elections.  At least the Justice Department thinks Georgia does not have the military on its mind! (more…)

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

We have discussed the alleged War on Women in past blog articles here on Prof. Turley’s blog, as well as the Roman Catholic Church’s attempts to silence the Nuns over their support of Obamacare.  The Vatican is now battling the good Sisters over the alleged evilness of Masturbation!  The Vatican’s watchdog office called “The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith” has come out against a book written by Sister Margaret Farley’s  in 2006 titled, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, because, among other evil statements,  the female author states that masturbation never hurt anyone.  Such heresy! (more…)

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It is time for another addition of “Things That Tick Me Off”– the category that allows me to regain my composure by venting at annoying things in life. (It is far cheaper than therapy). This week’s winner is water billboards. I am in Ocean City, Maryland to speak on the Supreme Court as part of the Maryland State Bar Association‘s annual meeting. The conference is being held at the Clarion Resort on the beach. I arrive last night and took the kids to the beach. It was an amazing scene with huge waves and blue skies. As we took in the beauty, we were suddenly on confronted by a massive water billboard that moves slowly across the beach front, blocking the view and destroying the enjoyment of the beach. I must confess that this is the first time I have seen one of these monstrosities up close and I was appalled.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

I am sure you have all seen the comments and political advertisements and articles calling President Obama a Communist, a Socialist, a Kenyan citizen and various attempts to claim that he is a secret Muslim. I had thought I had seen them all when I came across the latest affront to reality.  A Gannet newspaper in Louisiana has agreed to run an “interesting” advertisement from an organization calling itself the SOAR Project.  SOAR stands for Save Our American Republic.

In my humble opinion, this advertisement goes far beyond any level of reasonableness when it leads with the question, “Will Obama and the Democrats Shoot Catholics and Christians “?  (more…)

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Well, Sally Field must be aghast. How could even her bird’s-eye view have predicted the over the top report from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? Once the province of current Pope Benedict, the watchdog of orthodoxy that took such a hands-off approach to the child sexual molestation within the priesthood, has issued a stinging reprimand to all American nuns for “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Headed by American Cardinal William Levada, the crowd that  gave us the Inquisition and who tried Galileo,  has ordered a crackdown on all U.S. nuns.  Overseen by three middle-aged white men American bishops, the Vatican wants the good sisters to toe the Vatican’s increasingly fundamentalist line. And what was the doctrinal crime that got the nuns in trouble? Why, their apparent heretical support for such outlandish positions  as supporting universal health care under Obama’s plan, sensitivity to marriage rights for gays, and –God forbid it — advocating females for admission to the priesthood. They are even under scrutiny for praying for Girl Scouts.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

As a die-hard White Sox fan (sorry Professor Turley!), it was nice to see the White Sox beat the Cubs in the first two games of the 3 game series at Wrigley Field.  Now, I am not writing this article to rub Cub fan’s noses in it, but rather to discuss one of the Cub’s owners Super Pac political activities and the Cubs ownership that is looking for corporate welfare to help renovate venerable Wrigley Field.  I understand that many ball parks are subsidized by the voters, including beautiful Cellular Field on the South Side of Chicago.  However, there is a big difference in what the Cubs organization wants to do and how they are going about it. (more…)

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

We haven’t heard his name for quite some time now, but former Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel attorney, John Yoo is in the news again.  The United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out an appeal by convicted terrorist, Jose Padilla attempting to hold Yoo liable for the torture used on Padilla while in U.S. detention centers.

Believe it or not, the Justices stated that the law on what constituted torture was not clear when Padilla endured the Bush Enhanced Interrogation methods. “A three-judge panel of the court said laws governing combatants and the definition of torture were unclear during the years policies were crafted.  Padilla alleged he was subjected to death threats, given psychotropic drugs, shackled and manacled for hours at a time, denied contact with family or a lawyer for 21 months and refused medical care for potentially life-threatening conditions. “That such treatment was torture was not clearly established in 2001-03,” Judge Raymond C. Fisher, a Clinton appointee, wrote for the court.” LA Times (more…)

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It is time again to vent as part of the “Things That Tick Me Off” series — an arbitrary list that helps keep me sane by periodically raving at the world. This week’s addition is wi-fi charges, particularly at high-end hotels (though this remains the case with some mid-range hotel chains as well) I am staying this week at the Waldorf-Astoria while I speak at the ABA’s Legal Malpractice conference. Not only does the hotel charge $15 bucks for wi-fi in the rooms but $15 for each and every device such as iPads. The Waldorf-Astoria is a beautiful and historic hotel and it is certainly not alone in this practice. However, it is irritating to be clipped for such costs after checking in. This is less common in Canada and Europe hotels.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger

As one who was taught by Benedictine nuns in a Catholic elementary school, I grew up with some strange and possibly severe restrictions on what the nuns called “mixing” the boys and girls. More recently, when my adult children were in school, the Diocese of Rockford forbade Altar boys being on the altar at the same time as Altar girls!  With that background, I thought I had seen it all.  However, the State of Tennessee has just beaten that sorry record of over restrictive rules for school children.  It seems that Tennessee state senators, in their infinite wisdom have updated their already suspect abstinence based sex education law by suggesting that holding hands is a gateway to sex.  (more…)

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

On this Easter weekend, I was dismayed when I learned that the Roman Catholic Church recently decided that helping the poor in Colorado obtain health care is fine, as long as the organizations assisting these needy folks were not gay or “hanging out” with the Gays. (more…)

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

With leaders from all sides of the political spectrum coming together and calling for a Grand Jury investigation into the senseless slaying of teenager Trayvon Martin, surely there has to be one wacky voice. And who better than Fox & Friends contributor, Geraldo Rivera. On the show, (more…)

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It is time again for me to vent and add another item to my “Things That Tick Me Off” list. Today’s gripe is excessive celebration. I started thinking about this recently as the father to two fencers. In attending fencing competitions, I have been shocked by the practice of some to scream after scoring a point. I will return to that practice is a second. Then I saw this click of Pete Weber winning his fifth PBA U.S. open title — screaming at the crowd. I realize that this is (hopefully) an unguarded moment of someone caught in the euphoria of his win. However, it raised again for me the concept of excessive celebration in football (my favorite sport) and the need for such a rule in fencing (below). I believe all sports should have rules like the NFL’s, but fencing (with so many young players) should make it a priority to establish a rule against screaming celebrations as shown below.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

When the Patriot Act was signed into law back in 2001, there was significant discussion about and distrust in the broad powers granted to the FBI and other intelligence gathering agencies. I won’t go into the uproar that ensued back then, but I do want to discuss the latest events pertaining to the infamous Section 215 of the Patriot Act.  Section 215 of the Patriot Act is the section that has been dubbed as the “business records” provision of the Act.  In the last few days, two United States Senators reconfirmed their concern over the possible misuse of the broad powers granted to the government in Section 215.  Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Mark Udall have made public their recent letter to Attorney General Holder expressing their grave concerns on just how Section 215 is being interpreted and used to spy on Americans. (more…)

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

It seems that you can’t go anywhere on the Internet and not read an attack on the EPA by a Republican member of Congress. The HillMcClatchey    Unfortunately, I was not surprised how many of the Republican Congressmen were attacking the EPA and its attempts to control and eliminate air pollution.  However, I was surprised by how many of those Congressmen were physicians.

“What would you think if your physician told you, “Keep smoking because quitting would kill tobacco and health care jobs.” Or, “Don’t take your high blood pressure medicine, you can’t afford it.” And, “Don’t lose weight, no one has proven obesity is bad for you.”  That’s exactly the quality of medical advice we are getting from the 18 Republican physicians currently serving in Congress. Some of the most well known are the father and son team of Rep. Ron Paul and Sen. Rand Paul, and Sen. Tom Coburn. Almost all of these physician/Congressmen have been key soldiers in the Republican war on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling it a “job killer,” pronouncing relevant health science “unproven,” claiming we “can’t afford” their regulations.”  Truthout  (more…)

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

While we have discussed the fairness of the taxes paid and not paid by large corporations in the past, the alleged high corporate tax rate is once again in the news.  It seems that after contraception the Right’s most consistent accusation is that the corporate tax rate is way too high for corporations to compete in the world market. The facts seem to differ from those claims however.

“Corporations are lobbying for lower corporate rates and an exemption for profits they shift offshore. McIntyre, however, says “Our study provides proof that too many corporations are already being coddled by our tax system.” Findings in the report include:
 The average effective tax rate for all 280 companies in the study over the three year period was 18.5 percent; for the period 2009-2010 it was 17.3 percent, less than half the statutory rate of 35 percent.
 78 of the companies enjoyed at least one year in which their federal income tax was zero or less.
 30 companies enjoyed a negative income tax rate over the entire three year period on their combined pre-tax profits of $160 billion.
 Total tax subsidies given to all 280 profitable corporations amounted to $222.7 billion from 2008-2010.
 Wells Fargo tops the list of 280 U.S. corporations receiving the most in tax subsidies, getting nearly $18 billion in tax breaks from the U.S. treasury in the last three years.
 Pepco Holdings had the lowest effective tax rate of all the companies in the study, at negative 57.6 percent over the three year period.”  Citizens for Tax Justice  (more…)

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Cardinal Bevilacqua Whom Prosecutors Deemed An "Unindicted Co-Conspirator" Testified Before the Grand Jury 10 Times

For the first time, law enforcement officials are taking aim at not just child abusing priests but those who enabled the crimes by covering up. And what a cesspool they’ve uncovered.  Monsignor William Lynn, on trial in Philadelphia on charges of conspiracy and child endangerment has filed a novel motion seeking to dismiss all charges. Lynn alleges that Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, a long-time pillar in the American Catholic Church, destroyed a memorandum written by Lynn’s superior detailing the abuse and the priests who perpetrated it.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

Just the other day we learned of the proposed foreclosure abuse settlement between the Attorney Generals of almost all 50 states and the Big Banks.  In that pending settlement, the Banks will be depositing up to $26 Billion dollars into a fund designed to help homeowners whose homes are under water and who have been foreclosed upon.  “Federal and state officials today will finally announce that they’ve reached a settlement with the nation’s biggest banks over the banks’ various foreclosure fraud abuses, such as “robo-signing” foreclosure documents and submitting falsely notarized documents to courts. The settlement has been in the works for several months, as a few key states — most notably California and New York — were holding out for tougher terms against the banks.”  Think Progress  While some still think the settlement does not go far enough, there is evidence that the settlement could provide real relief for homeowners and for the real estate market.  But the concept of helping the market and homeowners gets lost, at least in the mind of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin! (more…)

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I have a new addition to our series, “Things That Tick Me Off,” encounters and experiences that go beyond the usual level of inconvenience or stupidity in everyday life. This weekend, we took the kids to the D.C. Chinese Lunar New Year parade in Chinatown with another family. It was not just the worst experience we have had in an outing with the kids, we felt fortunate to leave the parade without injury. It was nothing short of unbelievable.

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