Don’t Forget Your Sam’s Card And Your Pistol

Last post from PHOENIX, AZ:  While most of the attention lately has been on the reactionary immigration law passed by the legislature, another unfortunate and reactionary Arizona law went into effect yesterday.

From the Arizona Republic:

Arizona is now the third state, behind Alaska and Vermont, to allow people to carry a concealed weapon without having to get a permit.

And not needing permits means no background checks or gun-safety classes.

Get that? In Phoenix, a massive metropolitan area, folks with varying degrees of mental stability and spotty obeisance to the law can hide weapons in their pockets and purses and head to Sam’s Club for a 30-pack of very expensive Keystone Light, and you, a connoisseur of that fine, if pedestrian, brew, would never know they were packing.

Unless, of course, you grabbed the last available copy of Glenn Beck’s latest book (I think it’s called, “How I Made Millions Peddling Paranoia,” or something like that.) and pissed off a pistol-packing paranoiac.

Or maybe while rushing for the sample cart, featuring the latest incarnation of chicken-on-a-stick, you accidentally brushed up against Arizona’s version of Sarah Palin, knocking her loaded-but-not-locked piece onto the floor, discharging it in the direction of that 50-inch flat screen you had your eye on.

In any case, there is a serious lesson to be learned here.  Politics—more specifically, political philosophy—can very quickly change the landscape of any city, state, or nation.  When President Obama selected Democrat Governor Janet Napolitano for his cabinet, a Republican took over, and with her came a certain political philosophy.

From yesterday’s concealed-weapon story in the Arizona Republic:

During her time as governor, Janet Napolitano vetoed at least a dozen different weapons bills – several similar to the law going into effect today – that would have eased restrictions on gun owners.

But Napolitano’s departure and the appointment of Gov. Jan Brewer in January 2009 gave the Legislature and gun-rights groups an ally in the executive office. Brewer signed the law April 16.

Like the governor switch in Arizona, the election this November and in 2012 could have major consequences for America. The worst of those consequences could be the restoration of a failed political and economic philosophy, still advocated by right-wing zealots hell-bent on crystallizing the economic inequities exacerbated by the Bush years.

Such a philosophy, like that which led to unfettered gun-toting in Arizona, will eventually move us back to the 19th century, a time in which guns were necessary for survival, and a time in which there wasn’t much of a middle in the middle class. 

This Is America, I Keep Thinking

SAN DIEGO, CA:  Traveling here by SUV from Phoenix gave me a chance to see the Border Patrol hard at work.  Well, let me explain. 

On the six-hour trip to San Diego, we encountered three checkpoints set up along the highway so the Border Patrol could “search” the cars for illegal immigrants. 

I say “search” but I wouldn’t exactly call it a search.  Here’s pretty much the way two of the encounters went: 

Border Patrol: Is everyone in your car an American citizen? 

Us: Yes. 

Border Patrol: Have a nice day

In the other encounter, the officer didn’t even ask us a question.  He just looked at us and waved us on.

Now, it must have been obvious that we were all pale-faced tourists; otherwise I can’t explain the short encounter and lack of interest in our cargo.  For all the officer knew, we could have been smuggling in half a dozen Mexicans in our rented Chevy Tahoe, using clever Midwest redneck disguises. 

We saw only one car pulled over, presumably so the Border Patrol could get a closer look.  And guess what the folks in that car looked like?

Yep. You got it on the first guess. 

There was something disturbing about the whole thing.  This is America, I kept thinking.  What the hell is going on? 

At each checkpoint, there appeared to be between eight and twelve officers, a couple of tents, several official looking SUVs, and lots of hot sun. In one case, traffic was backed up about a mile.  It’s not clear to me what they expect to accomplish by these checkpoints, accept to make the public believe something important is going on.  

In advance of each checkpoint were signs indicating it was coming up, and any illegal smarter than Sarah Palin could figure out that Uncle Sam was mad as hell and not going to take in any more escapees from the economic prison that is Mexico, at least those dumb enough to travel on the nation’s interstate highways with all that checkpointin’ goin’ on.

Two things became crystal clear to me after our encounters with the Border Patrol in the middle of the desert on the way to San Diego: Such stuff is a big waste of money.  And it clearly involved the use of racial profiling. 

This is America, I keep thinking.  What the hell is going on?

Phoenix Heats Up On Immigration Law

PHOENIX, AZ:  Naturally, much of the news down here is beginning once again to focus on the immigration issue, particularly the controversial state law that is due to go into effect this coming week.

Yesterday, I talked about the law with a Hispanic man who is close to retirement from his job with the city of Scottsdale.  I think what he told me probably reflects the opinion of those who are not part of either extreme on this issue.

Both sides aren’t telling the whole story,” he said.  “There are lies on each side.”

Although he admits he doesn’t have an answer to the problem, he believes that part of any solution has to involve making it less difficult to become a citizen of this country.

“I know a guy who took eight years to become legal,” he told me. “That’s way too long.”

In any case, not all folks down here have such moderate opinions. Saturday’s Arizona Republic published this letter to the editor:

Arizona Inherited White bigots

Yes, we have an immigrant problem that did not exist when I was growing up in the 1920s and 1930s.

We went to school with “Mexicans” and lived and worked with them. Our current immigrant problem is with all the White bigots we inherited from the rest of the United States. We have all the hateful talk and racial profiling by our “tough” sheriff and his supporters and a mediocre clerk for a governor who embarrasses us every time she has to make an ad hoc comment. No wonder we are viewed as such racists by many other people. Yes, I long for the good old days.

—William Johnson,  Phoenix

OLIVIA RUTH SMITH

Birthday Number One

The Globe Gets It Right, And Both Candidates Are Wrong For Joplin

The Joplin Globe has done the right thing and corrected an earlier story on the issue involving Shelly Dreyer and the lawsuit brought by her former partner, Charlie James:

A story in Saturday’s editions incorrectly reported that a deposition in the lawsuit showed that the firm’s majority partner, Charles James, knew about the case referral.

James said that Dreyer while a partner referred a personal injury case to a Chicago attorney and did not keep appropriate records. After she left that firm, Dreyer accepted the direct payment of a fee of more than $35,500 that James contends should have gone to the firm to be reconciled with the division of property due all the lawyers as a result of Dreyer’s departure.

So, now we await both the voters’ decision in the August primary between Dreyer and Bill White and the decision of a court (or negotiated settlement) in the dispute over attorney’s fees.

Which leads me to what I intend as my final word on both Shelly Dreyer and Bill White.

As I have acknowledged, I do not and cannot support either candidate for obvious reasons.  When you put an “R” beside your name, especially these days, you are making a statement about your political philosophy that I cannot accept as my representative in the Missouri legislature.

Bill White built a new 7,500-square-foot house outside of the 129th District (in the Wildwood Ranch Estates) that he intends to live in—unless voters elect him.  And even if it’s true, as Mr. White says, that the house, contrary to rumors, is not a multi-million dollar house, or “not even a million dollar house,” it is more than a little troubling that a man who wants to be our representative built a house outside our district that is many times more expensive than most of us, who will likely live here long after Mr. White moves on, could possibly afford.

But, to me, that’s not as troubling as his politics, which besides the standard pro-life, pro-gun rights stuff, includes the following statement, which I found on a flyer his campaign left on my door not long ago. It said:

Bill opposes tax increases.

Since Mr. White has already decided that no matter what, and despite the fact that Missouri’s budget is being cut dramatically and the tax burden in Missouri is near the bottom in the country, he is opposed to raising the money to pay for the services Missouri offers, that statement alone should disqualify him from becoming ours or anyone’s state representative.

As for Shelly Dreyer, that fateful day she dropped by my neighborhood campaigning, she left a printout of what looked like a page from her campaign website, “My Pledge To You.”

I happened to compare the page she had prepared to hand out to my neighbors with the one on her website and I noticed the following website “pledge” missing from the one left on my door:

Require random drug testing for anyone receiving Welfare benefits and stop benefits for those found using illegal drugs.

At least three things disgust me—besides the obvious assumption regarding people on welfare—about this pledge to require “anyone” receiving welfare benefits to be tested for illegal drugs. 

One is that “anyone” usually means women with children, and Ms. Dreyer doesn’t explain what happens to those children when she callously cuts off the mothers’ benefits. 

The second disgusting thing is that Ms. Dreyer doesn’t have a similar pledge to test randomly for illegal drugs the management of businesses who receive tax breaks, farmers who receive subsidies, and other examples of corporate welfare.  Or how about politicians who take taxpayer money in the form of salaries?

The third disgusting thing about Ms. Dreyer’s disgustingly disgusting pledge is that she didn’t have the courage to put it on the flyer she distributed to my neighbors, some of whom just might be on welfare, given the times we’re in.  Despite the fact that the flyer was almost an identical reprint of her campaign webpage, she, for obvious reasons, left her nasty appeal to class politics out.

I don’t know, but maybe the campaign has a flyer designed for Snob Hill, which does include the missing pledge to test those drug-doing welfare moms.  In any case, I hope I’ve made it clear that such a policy—apparently designed to appeal to at least some residents of the 129th District—is as disgusting as it can be.

And that’s why, despite all the other associated issues, I could not support either of these Republican candidates.

Here is a screenshot of the offensive pledge:

Obama Needs To Apologize To Shirley Sherrod

It seemed like a perfect storm.  A black Obama official discriminating against a poor white Georgia farmer.

Nothing illustrates more the power of god-awful right-wing media than what Andrew Breitbart, Fox “News” Channel, and talk radio did to Shirley Sherrod, President Obama’s now former USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development.

Nothing, that is, except how the NAACP and then the White House reacted to the smears generated by those god-awful right-wing media.

Shame on both of them, but particular shame goes out to the White House, who without knowing the facts, reportedly forced Sherrod to resign, for fear that she would be an item on a disturbed conspiracist’s Fox program, Glenn Beck’s daily presentation of his many delusions.

Breitbart used a short clip of a 24-year old speech Shirley Sherrod gave to “what appears to be an all-black audience,” the clip being used to expose “Sherrod’s racist tale” of her reluctance to help a white farmer.  Breitbart also presented the clip as “conveying a present tense of racism” from an Obama official.

The only problem is that the white farmer and his wife consider Sherrod a friend to this day for helping them keep their farm, and that a look at the full video Breitbart’s “source” clipped reveals that Sherrod was really making the point that despite the fact that the farmer was white and she was black, working with him made her realize that the real problems she needed to work on were a result of “those that have versus those that don’t” and had nothing to do with race.

In other words, the entire video makes the opposite point that Breitbart was trying to make.

President Obama himself should—today—ask Shirley Sherrod to come to the White House for a personal apology and to ask her to come back to work.  And the President should find and fire whoever it was that rushed to judgment and forced her to resign, all on the basis of the right-wing smear machine. 

What this episode shows about Breitbart and the race-baiting tendencies of the extreme right-wing media we already knew, but what it shows about the fear of right-wing media in the Obama administration is disturbing.

Now that the White House is scrambling to make amends, Sherrod is naturally a little reluctant to get back on board.  I don’t blame her one bit. Which is why Obama should intervene and apologize on behalf of his administration.

Here is a clip from the Today show this morning:

The Real 100 Words Project

Since it appears the Joplin Globe has seen fit to reject my original question suggestions for its 100 Words Project, “How old is the earth?” or “Were Adam and Eve real people who lived less than 10,000 years ago?”  I have suggested an alternative to fellow blogger Jim Wheeler: “Is evolution a fact?” 

Now, Jim wasn’t too keen on it, believing it would be considered “impertinent,” so that tells me that once again my question suggestion likely will not be presented to our gallant field of congressional candidates.

But nevertheless, based on the candidates’ previous answers to other more pertinent questions, I was able to determine how the top three Republican candidates would answer my question, and I also included Joplin’s own entertaining Steve Hunter as a bonus.  Miraculously, each answer is exactly 100 words long:

JOPLIN GLOBE:  The Erstwhile Conservative wants to know what you all think about our origins, how we came to be or how long we’ve been around.  He asked, “Do you believe evolution is a fact?”

BILLY LONG: The people I talk to are fed up with career politicians who answer dumb questions like that. I mean, who the heck knows how old the earth is or how we got here? God put us here to make money, through the private sector I might add, and that’s all that matters.  Those kinds of questions are just the kind of questions that elitists who love big government would ask.  Do you know we have over 2 million federal employees?  And I bet every single one of them sit around on taxpayers’ money and think of stupid questions like that.

JACK GOODMAN: I am running for Congress for one reason: To fight with everything in me to save the greatness of America for future generations. Our generation must fight for what our Founders created, so our kids and grandkids will have the freedoms and opportunities we have enjoyed. I doubt very much that our Founders believed in evolution, and since they didn’t, neither should we. I will work to reduce the federal government’s intrusive role in understanding our origins.  Whether evolution is a fact is a matter for the states to decide.  When I abolish the Department of Education, goodbye to Darwin.

GARY NODLER:  My experience in my many years in government did not prepare me to answer authoritatively such an important question for many of my constituents.  If you would have asked me a budget question, like should the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy be made permanent, I could give you a positive yes on that one. But as to whether evolution is a fact or simply a theory I would say it is a little of both.  It’s kind of like the trouble I had trying to figure out whether the old 80s rocker, Boy George, was a boy or girl.

STEVE HUNTER: First, I would cut every government program by 10 percent, then grow the economy through various tax cuts. I would eliminate the federal system where money is created out of thin air. Which leads me to my evolution position. If the feds can create money out of thin air, what makes you think God couldn’t create Adam and Eve out of thin air? Just like I said I would do if you elect me, God cut out early after reaching his goal of creating Adam and Eve.  I have pledged to leave Congress early should I accomplish my 10 goals.

JOPLIN GLOBE: Thank you everyone. And may the best Republican win.

[Hunter image from a video on The Turner Report]

Bill White Campaign Responds

I requested a comment from the Bill White campaign on the issues raised about Shelly Dreyer’s campaign on my blog.  Since I requested it, I thought it only fair to present the entire statement from White’s campaign manager, Jimmy Morris:

If the allegations made by Charles and Lynne James are true, it is a sad day in Missouri politics. Unfortunately, instances like this only serve to reinforce the cynicism many voters have about candidates for elected office. The good news is that voters in the 129th legislative district do have a proven conservative candidate in William “Bill” White, who has lived, worked, and volunteered alongside many in this community over the past 18 years, and whose high standard of honesty and integrity qualify him as an excellent choice in the Republican primary.

Now, obviously, regular readers of this blog know that I cannot support either Shelly Dreyer or Bill White, both of them way too conservative for my tastes.  But, I do agree that all this stuff does “reinforce the cynicism” of voters.

As for me, what I find dismaying is that there is no viable Democratic alternative to the Republican candidate who emerges with a win in the upcoming primary.

Roy Blunt Links Carnahan To Obama In New Ad

Chuck Todd, NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent and political director, pointed out this morning that the following ad, newly released by the Roy Blunt campaign, is a “significant development in the national electoral landscape.”  Here’s why, he says:

It’s the most direct anti-Obama message we’ve seen made by a Republican running in a general election in a swing state. Now, that said, Blunt is trying to appeal to primary voters a tad right now. But if this ad against Carnahan, using Obama, does raise the Democrat’s negatives, don’t be surprised if it gets copied by GOP candidates across the country. This is an interesting test to keep an eye on.

The ad is very good, in terms of its potential effectiveness, and it shows that Carnahan will need to get better organized and employ some gifted media folks to combat the attacks coming her way.

Rare Praise For The Tea Party

Since I have been more than a little critical of the Tea Party folks for tolerating and in some cases promoting racist elements associated with their rush to take us back to the 18th century, it’s only fair to praise them when they at least attempt to act like they live in the 21st.

Something called the National Tea Party Federation, which is trying to exert some leadership over the disparate groups of disgruntled people who have raised the temperature of our national politics, has kicked out one of the worst among them:  Mark Williams and the Tea Party Express.

Mr. Williams was the head of Tea Party Express, which as Politico pointed out, “has organized some of the movement’s biggest events, including rallies with former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin.” 

The Tea Party Express has also been closely tied to Sharron Angle’s campaign in Nevada, which, fortunately, has given Sen. Harry Reid new life out there.  In other words, the Tea Party Express is (was?) a big bleeping deal.

The NAACP had earlier urged Tea Party “leaders” to purge their ranks of those “who use racist language in their signs and speeches,” to which Williams replied with what he called a “satirical” letter that began:

Dear Mr. Lincoln

We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!

He continued with this:

Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government ‘stop raising our taxes.’ That is outrageous! How will we coloreds ever get a wide-screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society? Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.

Believe it or not, that is just a sampling of the worst of Mr. Williams’ performances.  Check here for a rundown of the dumb stuff he has said, including calling the President of the United States an, “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief.”

But despite the fact that it is a little tardy, the booting of Mark Williams and Tea Party Express is welcome news.  Someday, it may be possible to focus only on the misguided political philosophy animating the movement and not on the white angst that fuels so much of the anger behind it.

Voodoo Redo

Supply-side economics—essentially giving tax cuts disproportionately to the wealthy and claiming it will magically multiply economic growth and miraculously increase revenues to the government—is all the rage right now on the right, including here in Southwest Missouri, where even the Democrats wrestling Republicans for our seat in the U.S. Congress can’t help but join in. 

Supply-side economics was famously characterized by Bush The Elder a long time ago, when he was running in the Republican primary against Ronaldus Magnus, but I’ll let Saint Rachel take it from here:

How Safe Are We? Nobody Knows

Morning Joe this morning featured a segment with Dana Priest, who co-authored a Washington Post article on our nation’s intelligence apparatus.

As Morning Joe‘s Mike Barnicle remarked, the Post article is why we have newspapers and why they are indispensable—this was a two-year investigation. 

The opening paragraph of the Post‘s story, “Top Secret America grows out of control,” began like this:

The top secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

Now, whether you are a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, that is scary stuff.

The key part of the story is this line:

…the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

As the article pointed out and Dana Priest reiterated this morning, since there are so many government organizations (1,271) and so many private companies (1,931) and an estimated 854,000 people working on “programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in some 10,000 locations across the United States,” the responsibility for keeping us safe has been so diffused “that it’s impossible to tell whether the country is safer because of all this spending and all these activities.”

Army Lt. General John Vines, who conducted a review last year of “the method for tracking the Defense Department’s most sensitive programs,” said this:

I’m not aware of any agency with the authority, responsibility or a process in place to coordinate all these interagency and commercial activities. The complexity of this system defies description.

Because it lacks a synchronizing process, it inevitably results in message dissonance, reduced effectiveness and waste. We consequently can’t effectively assess whether it is making us more safe.

The inability to assess its effectiveness, and not the size or cost (the “publicly announced” budget is 2 ½ times the cost prior to 9/11) of our intelligence apparatus is the point.  If its size is making it less effective, it should be streamlined; if the newly created Office of the Director of National Intelligence needs Congress to give it “clear legal or budgetary authority over intelligence matters,” then Congress needs to do so.

But the Post article points out that intelligence collection systems “intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications,” and at the heart of analyzing all these data “are low-paid employees carrying their lunches to save money“:

They are the analysts, the 20- and 30-year-olds making $41,000 to $65,000 a year, whose job is at the core of everything Top Secret America tries to do.

Half of these critical analysts are “relatively inexperienced,” says the Post:

Contract analysts are often straight out of college. When hired, a typical analyst knows very little about the priority countries — Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan — and is not fluent in their languages. Still, the number of intelligence reports they produce on these key countries is overwhelming, say current and former intelligence officials who try to cull them everyday.

Whatever the reason for the inability to gauge the effectiveness of our intelligence capabilities, this should be something that Democrats and Republicans can jointly agree to fix.

After all, terrorists don’t care whether they kill “liberals” or “conservatives.”

Joplin Globe Errs In Shelly Dreyer Reporting

Perhaps this is my final post on the Republican candidate for the 129th Missouri House seat, Shelly Dreyer, since the Republican primary is coming up very soon and since I am going on vacation on Thursday and will have limited access to a computer.

So, here goes:

As many of you may know by now, the Joplin Globe carried a story on its front page on Saturday which briefly explored the “legal dispute” involving Shelly Dreyer and her former law partner, Charlie James.

And as many of you may know, Globe reporters—like reporters everywhere in my opinion—are an overworked, underpaid lot.   Debby Woodin, whom I don’t know, I am sure is no exception.  She probably has many, many assignments and not nearly enough time to get them all done the way she would like.

Having said that, I want to take issue with an important assertion made by Woodin in the article she wrote, “Candidate involved in legal dispute over ex-partnership.”  Here is the pertinent part:

Asked if the pending dispute could affect the outcome of the Aug. 3 primary, Dreyer said, “It shouldn’t. A lot of times when a law firm dissolves, you have to divide up cases and fees. We just haven’t been able to agree on that. It shouldn’t have anything to do with the candidacy.”

But Dreyer said someone has made comments directed at her character on political blogging websites.

“It’s nothing more than like a scorned ex-wife trying to bad-mouth somebody,” Dreyer said.

The comments allege that she hid her involvement in the case in which the fee is in question from her law partner and then arranged to collect after she left that firm.

However, depositions given in the lawsuit show that James was aware of the referral.

That reference to “political blogging websites,” of course, means this one, and that statement of fact by Woodin—that “depositions given in the lawsuit show that James was aware of the referral” is very much mistaken.

The fact is that the depositions do not show any such thing because depositions are recordings of testimony to be used later in court or for purposes of discovery, and they are not adjudications of fact. In other words, during her deposition, Dreyer claimed that she told Charlie James about the Lentz referral, but that doesn’t prove or in Woodin’s word, “show” that she did. 

But besides that misstatement of fact in Debby Woodin’s article, there are two more things about the referral issue that should be made clear:

First, there are actually two referral cases involved in the lawsuit, as I have pointed out previously: The Wohldmann case and the Lentz case.

Charlie James acknowledges that he was aware of the Wohldmann referral, which resulted in fees due to the referrer of $21,997.80. That money is being held by the court pending settlement of the lawsuit.

But Mr. James explicitly denies knowing about the Lentz referral and he denies knowing—until after the fact—about Dreyer’s subsequent claim to the attorney who settled that case that the attorney’s fees due the referrer go directly to her and not the James & Dreyer law firm, where Dreyer worked at the time of the referral.  Those fees, which amounted to $35,555.55, were paid to Shelly Dreyer, and Mr. James is seeking to recover that money.

That, you see, is the heart of the lawsuit and part of judging whether Shelly Dreyer is a worthy candidate for the 129th District seat.

Second,  it was not only on the comments to this blog that the allegation was made that Charlie James was unaware of the Lentz referral. It was also in a filing with the court, Petition For Declaratory Judgment:

5. Shelly Dreyer never informed her senior partner, Charlie James, that she had undertaken to represent Mr. Lentz, or that she was performing any services for him in connection with the wrongful death of his mother.

7.  Without informing Charlie James, and without his authority, consent, or knowledge, Shelly Dreyer, acting on behalf of James & Dreyer, referred Mr. Lentz to an Illinois attorney, Mr. Tom Dillon of  Konicek & Dillon.

11.  Tom Dillon [my note: the attorney to whom the case was referred] filed suit on the John Lentz case and eventually achieved a favorable settlement of Mr. Lent’s claim.

12.  In August of 2009, Plaintiffs learned of the existence of the John Lentz case and of the referral of that case to Mr. Tom Dillon.

13  Through further investigation, Charlie James learned that Shelly Dreyer in June of 2009 had contacted a Trish Burns in the bookkeeping department of Mr. Dillon’s law firm and had Ms. Burns send a check made payable to Shelly Dreyer for the $35,555.55 to her home in Joplin, Missouri.

14.   Trish Burns did mail to Shelly Dryer the check made payable to Shelly Dreyer for the sum of $35,555.55.

15.   Shelly Dreyer never disclosed to James Law Group LLC or to any person associated with Plaintiffs that she had received funds belonging to the law firm.

16.   Shelly Dreyer converted $35,555.55 belonging to James Law Group, LLC to her own use.

So, it’s just not accurate at all to say that “depositions…show that James was aware of the referral.” 

For your information, and because blogging permits such lengthy excursions into an issue, here are a few excerpts of the Dreyer deposition where the Lentz referral issue is discussed (Charlie James is the questioner). Pay close attention to the “don’t recalls” and the “don’t remembers“:

Q.  You state in one of your responses to discovery that you told me about the John Lentz case; correct?

A.  I did.

Q.  About the John Lentz wrongful death case?

A.  I did.

Q.  That you referred to a Chicago lawyer or Chicago area lawyer, a Mr. Tom Dillon?

 A.  Correct.

Q.  How did you tell me about that case, Miss Dreyer?

A.  I don’t recall whether it was orally or by e-mail but I would have discussed that with you before doing that.

Q.  Do you have a specific recollection of discussing that with me?

A.  The best I can recollect it was in person in your office but I don’t — I could have followed up with an e-mail, I don’t know.

Q.  Do you remember what you said to me in person in my office?

A.  I don’t remember the exact conversation,  that would have been years ago.  But it certainly was not a secret, it would have all been in Legal Files.

Q.  Did you ever consult with me about referring the John Lentz case to a Chicago lawyer?

A.  Yes.  The best I can recall we dismissed it.

Q.  I gave you permission to do that?

A.  Yes, the best I can recall you did.  What I can recall is we discussed it wasn’t a real strong case on liability, it had some issues, and because of the location of the venue being close to Chicago we felt that somebody up there would be better than us running up and for — back down the highway to handle it.

Q.  That was during the partnership time?

A.  During the LLC, correct.

Q.  No, it was before the LLC.

A.  Okay.  Maybe so.

Q.  It was 2005, was it not?

A.  I don’t recall the exact year.

_________________________

Q.  Do you — do you remember one in September perhaps in 2009 where I specifically said, How about the John Lentz case?  Do you remember that?

A.  I remember at that time saying I didn’t remember because at that time you — we had — were talking about something else, I was upset and then we had a subsequent conversation where we discussed it.

Q.  When did we have that subsequent conversation?

A.  I would say within a week maybe.  I don’t remember.

Q.  And what did we discuss about the Lentz case within a week?

A.  I said maybe a week, I don’t remember.

Q.  You said what?

A.  I said maybe a week, I don’t remember.  I do know we had a subsequent conversation, it also too got heated, and we talked about what was owed to me, we talked about the Wohldmann case, we talked about the Lentz case, you said send me a letter about your position and I did send you a letter.  You said to send you what I thought I was entitled to.

Q.  On the Lentz case?

A.  On everything.

Q.  And when did we have that conversation?

A.  I told you I don’t remember.  Perhaps a week later, perhaps two weeks later.  I don’t remember. This was a very, very busy time.  I had back to back trials, I was going back and forth to Arkansas.  I don’t remember.  Could have been a month.  I don’t know.

_________________________

Before Dreyer left James & Dreyer in March of 2008, she gave Charlie James a proposal  of “fee divisions”  in response to Mr. James request to “come up with a proposal” on the resolution of how the parties would handle what was due Ms. Dreyer after she left the partnership.  Here is Mr. James questioning Shelly Dreyer relative to that document and whether Ms. Dreyer could prove that the law firm knew of her referral of the Lentz case to an attorney in Illinois (Mr. Dillon):

Q.  (By Mr. James)  Now, in looking at that exhibit, Miss Dreyer, Exhibit 8, the proposed agreement that you generated on 3/27/08 — I believe you left — I believe 3/31/08 was your last day, wasn’t it?

A.  It was the end of March.  I don’t know if that fell on a weekend or not, but yeah, it was the end of March.

Q.  All right.  If you’d look on that you see the Wohldmann case on there, second from the bottom?

A.  I do.

Q.  Where’s the Lentz case?

A.  It’s not on here.

Q.  Why not?

A.  I don’t know.

_________________________

Q.  Is there — is there anything, to your  recollection, where you specifically told either myself or Mr. Marty, who was a member of the — of the corporation at the time, or anyone else that Mr. Dillon was handling the case pursuant to an agreement with you that he would pay us attorney fees?

A.  Yes, I believe there was a written agreement.

Q.  You believe there was a written agreement. Did you show that to anybody?

A.  I don’t recall.  But you knew that I was referring that case out.  I remember discussing it with you.

Q.  That’s what you say.  Do you have any evidence other than what you say that I knew about that?

A.  No.  I didn’t make notes of our conversation. Mr. Dillon came to this office and sat right in here.

Q.  Mr. Dillon did come to this office; right?

 A.  Yes, he did.

Q.  Did he sit here with you and Mr. Lentz?

A.  He did, in that first conference room.

Q.  Was I there?

A.  You were not at the meeting.  I don’t recall whether you were here that day or not but you were not in the meeting.

Q.  Was I in town, do you know that?

A.  I don’t know.

_________________________

Q.  (By Mr. James)  We had a — After — And we talked about this a little — this a little bit before, I want to talk to you a little bit more about it, but when Dwayne Johnson settled the Wohldmann case– and he settled that either at the end of August 2009 or in early September 2009.  Can we agree on that, close?

A.  Probably.

Q.  And in that conversation I asked you about the Lentz case and you said you didn’t remember.  Do you recall that?

A.  I may have.

Q.  That was in September that we had that conversation; correct?

A.  I don’t remember.  We –

Q.  You don’t –

A.  We spoke numerous times.  I don’t remember the dates.

Q.  You had just gotten a check for $35,555 at the end of June of that same year just two or three months previously and you didn’t remember the Lentz case?

A.  I don’t know whether I said that or not if I –

Q.  I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.

A.  I don’t re — I remember having a heated conversation with you and I remember subsequently discussing the Lentz case.  I don’t know — I could have said I don’t remember, I don’t know.

Q.  You believe you said that, don’t you?

A.  I don’t know.

Q.  Why would you have said you don’t remember?

A.  I don’t know.

Q.  Did you say I don’t remember or did you not?

A.  I don’t remember the conversation every word, Charlie.  Obviously you have recorded it so apparently you believe that.  If I did I may have. But I also remember our conversations being extremely heated.

Q.  That’s your recollection.

By now, it should be clear that the issue of whether Charlie James knew about Shelly Dreyer’s referral of the Lentz case—and the subsequent effort she made to get the attorney’s fees associated with the settling of that case sent to her—is at the center of both the lawsuit and Ms. Dreyer’s worthiness to represent us in the Missouri House.  It is by no means a settled issue.

Now, since this is a blog of opinion, on to my opinion:

By Shelly Dreyer’s own admission in the deposition for the lawsuit, Charlie James taught her how to handle personal injury cases and made her a junior partner in his law firm.  In other words, Shelly Dreyer owes the way she makes her living today at least in part to Charlie James.  

A reading of Shelly Dreyer’s own responses in her deposition reveals the following to me—I repeat, it reveals it to me: Shelly Dreyer, even if she had a legitimate legal reason to do so (which is the nature of the dispute, from her side), did not have a sound moral reason to attempt to take the attorney’s fees for the Wohldmann case or to keep all of the attorney’s fees she has already received in the Lentz case.  

When those cases were referred to outside attorneys, Dreyer was a partner in James & Dreyer, and notwithstanding her weak reliance on a legal doctrine known as quantum meruit, at best she is an ungrateful, avaricious lawyer and at worst she has intentionally deprived her former partner, Charlie James, of what is due him and his law firm.

That is my opinion based on what Shelly Dreyer admitted to in the deposition, and what she told Debby Woodin.

I have also previously expressed my opinion about Dreyer’s dubious claim that she knows what it’s like to be a small business owner and to be “her own boss.”   I am also still trying to obtain information relative to Lynne James’ claim that the Shelly Dreyer she knew (only two years ago and for ten years) was a liberal Democrat.  A commenter, Juan Don, raised the point of how easy it would be for Shelly Dreyer to disprove the liberal Democrat charge made by Lynne James by showing her Republican Party registration. That, of course, is up to her.

Finally, the issue arises as to the motivation of Lynne James in making Joplin people aware of the lawsuit against Shelly Dreyer and in making critical statements about her.

I can only refer you to Mrs. James’ previous comments (which can be found here and here) and forward on  part of her latest statement to me:

I just felt people should know about Shelly.  There are ongoing investigations regarding this matter…This is someone I thought was a friend, at one time.  This has been hard for me to realize [how] much I had misjudged someone I thought I knew for ten years.  This is not my character to bad mouth people.  I truly do not believe Shelly should be elected.  The people of the 129th will just have to decide for themselves what to do about her.

The people of the 129th will just have to decide for themselves what to do about her.” 

Amen.

Shelley Dreyer, What Say You?

I have heard from Lynne James regarding some questions I had asked her relative to questions surrounding the candidacy of Shelly Dreyer, who is running for the 129th District Missouri House seat.  Much of the following is based on information provided by Mrs. James.

I will address some of the issues raised previously:

Can Shelly Dreyer properly claim she was “a small business owner at the age of 30 as a partner in her own law firm”?

According to documents I have reviewed and statements made by Lynne James, who since 1980 worked as office administrator for her husband, Charlie James, who founded his law firm in 1977, Shelly Dreyer was hired by Charlie James of St. Charles County to practice law in 1998.   She was not yet a year out of law school.

In 2002, after she learned the trade of trying personal injury cases from Mr. James himself, she (at 32 years of age) became what he termed a “junior partner,” who was compensated initially by receiving 20% (later 25%) of the net proceeds or net earnings of the law firm.  By Dreyer’s own admission in a deposition, Charlie James was the “managing member” of the corporation.  

According to Lynne James, Charlie was the one “who hired and fired support staff and attorneys,” and Mrs. James herself would take care of shopping for and evaluating new equipment and furniture, which she would discuss with her husband, not Shelly Dreyer.  Lynne James also took care of things like researching health care plans for the firm, which I will get to shortly.

I can find no other example, unless one counts the fact that she incorporated herself as an attorney, of Ms. Dreyer’s small business experience.   She seems to be relying on her junior partnership in a law firm founded and managed by Charlie James, who taught her how to try personal injury cases shortly out of law school.  That’s all I could find.

Now, that’s important because on Shelly Dreyer’s website is a Questions and Answers page, which includes the following question:

What can you bring to the office that will help small business owners?

Here is a transcript of her answer:

Just like you said, an understanding of what small business owners face. You know people think that you go out and you start a small business in a particular trade—for me it was law. And then what you do is you go and you practice law.  Well, people don’t realize that as a small business owner there are so many things that go along with just owning the business that aren’t even related to the trade that you’re practicing. That you’re the one who, if the pipes freeze, that you have to be there Saturday morning at 4 a.m. to get a plumber in there to get it fixed.

Or there’s personnel issues. You’re the one—I remember sitting at the table going over and over all different health care plans to try to decide what was the best health care plan that I could afford as a small business owner for my employees. Those are issues that small business owners face and not just what it is their passion or their trade that they—that caused them to go into owning their own business in the first place.

The problem with all that is that it is not true, according to Lynne James, again, the wife of Charlie James and the office administrator for the firm. Here’s what she stated to me:

I was the one who gathered the information each year about various health care plans and reviewed them, not Shelly.  Shelly might be able to tell you that we had BCBS health insurance coverage but she would not even be able to tell you what independent health insurance company we used nor the agent’s name.  Shelly should know these things if she poured over various health care plans for days sitting at her kitchen table as she states in her website video.  Other than a meeting once a year that I had with Shelly and Charlie and another partner to tell them of the best health coverage I could find, that was the extent of her involvement in health care decisions. It was never Shelly’s decision on the final choice.  It was Charlie’s.

To be fair, during a deposition related to a lawsuit I will discuss below, Ms. Dreyer was asked about the health plan issue and claimed under oath that she had in fact been a part of going over the various plans and “what plan we were gonna have.”  So, that issue is in dispute.

What isn’t in dispute is the frozen pipes issue. Here’s a bit of that testimony:

Q.  Did you ever have to come to the office over  frozen pipes?

 A.  I think that was just an example if it’s in some sort of campaign thing.  Probably not frozen pipes but I come to the office for other matters.

Q.  Four o’clock in the morning for frozen  pipes?

A.  Probably not.  It’s an example.  Not literal.

I will leave it to the reader to go back and listen to the video answer on her website or review the transcript above and see if Ms. Dreyer wasn’t trying to imply that she “started” her small business, that she ran “her” own business, and that using the frozen pipe example was meant to enhance, shall we say, her small business bona fides.

Finally, Lynne James mentioned in the comments section of my blog the other day the issue of a lawsuit brought by the now titled, James Law Group, against Ms. Dreyer.  Here is a summary of the allegations related to that suit, which I have developed based on the documents I received and statements made by Mrs. James:

Before Shelly Dreyer left James & Dreyer (the name given to the new partnership in 2002) law firm in 2008, two of the firm’s cases were referred to outside law firms that eventually settled the cases, resulting in referral fees due to the James & Dreyer law firm.  By the time those fees were due to be paid, Shelly Dreyer had left James & Dreyer and became an employee of Hershewe Law Firm in Joplin.  That was in April of 2008.

The Two Cases

The Wohldmann Case

Charlie James, senior partner in the James & Dreyer law firm, for personal reasons, decided that James & Dreyer should not handle a personal injury case, which began in 2005, involving Tammy Wohldmann.  The case was referred to another firm and settled in September, 2009.

Shelly Dreyer, by then in Joplin, learned of the settlement of the Wohldmann case and told the attorney that settled the case she was entitled to all of the fees.  That attorney subsequently informed Dreyer’s former partner, Charlie James, that Shelly Dreyer was claiming rights to the fees. Thus, a dispute arose and still continues in court over entitlement to the fees, which in that case amounts to $21,997.80.  Charlie James is seeking payment of those fees.

The Lentz Case

In August of 2005, as a partner with Charlie James in the James & Dreyer law firm, Shelly Dreyer “undertook the representation of” John Lentz for the wrongful death of Mr. Lentz’ mother.  Dreyer never revealed to Charlie James that she had undertook the representation of Mr. Lentz  “or that she was performing any services for him in connection with the wrongful death of his mother.

Subsequently, and again without informing her partner, Shelly Dreyer referred the Lentz case to an attorney in Illinois, who agreed to pay a share of the attorney fees to James & Dreyer.  Eventually the case was settled, and Charlie James later learned—over a beer with a friend who had originally referred the case to him—that not only had his own firm referred the case to the Illinois attorney, but that Shelly Dreyer had contacted the Illinois attorney’s office and had them “send a check made payable to Shelly Dreyer for the $35,555.55 to her home in Joplin, Missouri.” 

The check was sent and Dreyer “converted” it to her own use, as the lawyers say.  All occurring without the prior knowledge of Charlie James, who was the primary owner and manager of James & Dreyer, and who claims that as his partner, Shelly Dreyer “was obligated to pay all revenue generated by any of the firm’s legal business into the firm’s trust account or into the firm’s general account.”

Again, Charlie James is seeking payment of the $35,555.55 to his law firm.

I caution that the above is a summary of the allegations involved in the lawsuit, and have yet to be adjudicated.

As for the issues raised relative to Shelly Dreyer’s prior political beliefs, I will save that for another day.

For now, there are some important questions that Ms. Dreyer, a candidate asking to be our representative in the Missouri House of Representatives, needs to answer.

“Hard Times Evoke Tribalized Fear”

In today’s Joplin Globe, columnist Gene Lyons scolded the Washington Post for publishing a column full of “downright delusional views” by Alabama tea partier (and now defeated candidate for Congress), Rick Barber. 

Barber is the guy who used George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in his campaign ads in such a way, as Lyons points out, that the ads were “a clear incitement to rebellion.”  I would post the ad videos here, but they are so embarrassingly bad, that I can’t bear to look at them again.

Oh, hell. Here is one of them:

Lyons says “there’s no excuse” for the Post‘s giving space to someone so far out of the mainstream and who also, according to Lyons, “doubled down on the crackpot rhetoric” in his column.

Now, I have often criticized the Globe for similar acts of what I consider to be journalistic malfeasance, publishing obviously false claims on its editorial pages, although in its defense, most—but not all—of those obviously false claims appear in letters to the editor.

From Lyon’s column, here is specifically what he objected to in Barber’s Washington Post column.  To regular readers of the Globe‘s editorial pages all of the following will sound depressingly familiar:

Over the past 18 months,” Barber wrote, “the federal government has sought to seize or has seized control of the health care industry, the financial industry, the mortgage industry, the automobile industry, student loans, broadband Internet and the energy sector through cap­and- trade legislation. With never a crisis going to waste, each new seizure is rationalized by some new emergency.”

“Totalitarianism,” he added “doesn’t come all at once.”

Typical stuff around these parts, isn’t it? Lyons points out that such opinions are formed by folks who, “Having lost an election, complain of tyranny. Hard times evoke tribalized fear.”

Lyons also quotes Steve Benen, a blogger for Washington Monthly:

These aren’t subjective questions, judgment calls or matters of opinion — the observations he states as fact are demonstrably false.

Here’s why, according to Lyons:

Specifically, the Bush administration bailed out Wall Street banks by lending them money they’re obliged to repay — no government takeover. The Obama administration passed a landmark private health insurance reform. Like it or not, “Obamacare” is less “socialist” than Medicare.

There’s been no “nationalization” of the mortgage industry. The auto industry wasn’t “seized.” The government bought stock in Chrysler and General Motors to save them from collapse; as the market recovers, those shares will be sold. GM has already begun repaying its loans. The Internet and “energy sector” are no closer to government ownership than under President Bush.

No doubt most Washington Post readers know all that. Even so, there’s no excuse — none — for such downright delusional views to appear seemingly unedited and unrebutted in so prominent a place.

I urge our own local paper to listen to the ending of Lyons column:

No, reasoned argument can’t easily conquer such irrational fears. Surrender, however, is intellectual cowardice.

A Quick Look At The Global Warming “Debate”

A quick word about the non-controversy, perpetuated by know-nothings on the right, surrounding the issue of global warming:

According to Scientific American, “a new analysis of expertise about global warming” finds that most of the PhD “climate deniers” are not climate scientists, but physicists or geologists or other scientists lacking the credentials to give expert opinions on “complex climatological issues.”

Here’s William Anderegg, lead author  of the new analysis, making a common-sense point:

Cardiologists, for example, don’t prescribe chemotherapies for cancer, nor do oncologists claim expertise at heart surgery—they are all doctors, of course, but not experts outside of a narrow specialty.

Mr. Anderegg did not say whether being a talk show host or an employee of Fox “News” qualifies one to be an expert on climate change, but I’m putting my money on Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity when it comes to understanding anthropogenic global warming.

How about you?

Why Liberals Don’t Trust Republican Economics

No matter your politics, you should watch this 15-minute segment (an eternity these days, I know, but stay with it) from St. Rachel’s show last night. It clearly outlines the objections that liberals have to the Republican stance on taxes and the economy. My point being that conservatives should know why liberals reject Republican solutions.

The upcoming congressional elections in both November 2010 and 2012, to the extent they are nationalized, will be a referendum on the very different visions each party has for our economic future.

Here is a tidy critique of the Republican vision, which at the end features one of the best and brightest senators in the U.S. Senate, Sherrod Brown of Ohio:

Will The Real Shelly Dreyer Please Stand Up!

Anyone who has read the comments on my post titled, The One And Probably Only Shelly Dreyer-Inspired Conservative Challenge, no doubt has questions about the candidacy of Shelly Dreyer, who is attempting to replace Ron Richard as representative from Missouri’s 129th House District.

A woman named Lynne James, whose husband’s law practice, the James Law Group, was associated with Shelly Dreyer for about a decade, wrote in to criticize Ms. Dreyer on a number of fronts. 

She said she worked with Ms. Dreyer for about 10 years and stated:

I really don’t think anyone in Joplin really knows the real Shelly Dreyer.

Well, let’s begin the process of getting to know her all over again:

First, a question arises as to whether Dreyer was a partner in the James Law Group,  just worked there, or had her own law firm independent of the St. Charles County firm.

From Dreyer’s Bio page on her website, we get this:

Shelly graduated from Missouri State University and earned her law degree from the University of Missouri. Shelly initially practiced law in the St. Charles area, and became a small business owner at the age of 30 as a partner in her own law firm.

The Issues page on her site also says this:

Shelly was a small business owner as a partner in her own firm and understands the burdens that come with the freedom of being your own boss.

Assuming Ms. Dryer was around 27 years old when she graduated from Mizzou in 1997, if her first job was with the James Law Group and she spent about 10 years there, it would suggest that her “small business owner” experience was with the James Law Group, since she claimed she became “a small business owner at the age of 30 as a partner in her own law firm.”

Lynne James, however, wrote this:

I was also shocked when I read that she purported to be a small business owner when discussing my husband’s law practice.

Now, if Ms. Dreyer was a partner in the James Law Group firm, it is hard to characterize that as being “a partner in my own law firm,” since that firm was established by Charlie James in 1977.

It’s also hard to see that such a partnership qualifies as a “small business owner” or “being your own boss” in the sense that most of us understand what that means.

During an interview with David Horton in April, Dreyer said this:

I have owned my own small business, and my husband owns his own small business.  So we know what the issues are facing small businesses.  

I’ll leave it to the reader to decide, but this is either downright dishonest or a case of  résumé enhancement.

Second, Ms. James, who serves as the office administrator for the James Law Group, also wrote this about Shelly Dreyer’s political views:

I worked with Shelly Dreyer for ten years in St. Charles County. The entire ten years she was a liberal Democrat. Also, I never knew her to belong to any church while she lived in St. Charles County. In the last year she worked in our office, she mentioned possibly joining a church so it would look good on her adoption applications. Anyone who knew Shelly in St. Charles County does not recognize the person she purports to be on her campaign website.

This characterization certainly conflicts with Dreyer’s website:

Faith is the cornerstone of Shelly’s life… Shelly is committed to not letting her duties to the state fracture her relationship with God and will work to defend faiths important place in our lives and government.

Now, it’s entirely possible that since the time Ms. James worked with Shelly Dreyer that our candidate experienced a dramatic religious conversion and, thus, an equally dramatic political transformation. But I can’t find anything in Dreyer’s bio that suggests such a dramatic conversion, nor anything that would explain such an allegedly comprehensive shift in her political views.

Ms. James also wrote this:

I became concerned about Shelly running for office last September when she e-mailed me to look at her campaign website and asked for a contribution to her campaign. I was shocked when I read her views on the issues which were outlined on the website. Her outlook on religion and government as stated on the website are so different from the Shelly Dreyer I knew for ten years that it would take a long time to list all the discrepancies.

My point here would be this: If Shelly Dreyer’s religious and political views underwent substantial changes—going from an alleged liberal Democrat to a bone-hard conservative—it would have served her well to come clean about that and make her appeal on that basis. It would have been a much more powerful campaign strategy in my view.

And while I initially found it odd that Ms. Dreyer would e-mail someone she worked with for 10 years asking for money—if she knew that person would be hostile to her campaign—the more I thought about it, the more I think I understand. 

Shelly Dreyer announced her candidacy for the 129th House seat in August of 2009.  In September she allegedly e-mailed Lynne James about her candidacy. In December of 2009, the James Law Group filed suit against Shelly Dreyer, according to Ms. James, “for taking $35,555.55 in fees.”

Perhaps in September of 2009, Dreyer assumed she and Lynne James were still on friendly terms and she was reaching out to someone who could help her campaign financially.

Boy, was that a mistake. Lynne James, who said she is “not involved whatsoever in politics in Joplin or in St. Charles County,” ended her last comment with this:

Although I felt last year that she should not be elected to any office after reading her website for the first time, I now feel even more strongly that she should not hold office and have decided to speak out. Hopefully, the citizens of the 129th district will come to realize the type of person that is running for the State Legislature and will decide that this is someone they do not want to represent their interests.

Certainly, Shelly Dreyer has some ‘splainin’ to do.

 ____________________________________

[photo credit: David Horton]

The Unemployed Held Hostage: Day 43

We are now 43 days into the Republican kidnapping of the unemployed.

Holding some 2 million folks hostage (another million will be abducted by July 31) by blocking an extension of unemployment benefits, most Republicans in the Senate have refused to accept even a scaled down, relatively paltry $34 billion package, which is not enough to adequately stimulate the economy, but will ease the pain for people trying to hold on to their houses and cars and mental health.

Oddly, Republicans feel no shame about their actions.  The shame should result from the fact that their economic and regulatory policies are largely responsible for the loss of some 7 million jobs.  Just prior to and after Obama took office, the economy was losing somewhere between 600,000 and 700,000 jobs every month.

So far this year, the economy has produced about 600,000 new jobs, which isn’t much, but it’s better than a year ago.

The fact is that the economy is not where it should be, or where it will be if we don’t give in to born-again deficit hawks, who after spending like drunken bloggers for so long, have suddenly been baptized in the waters of fiscal responsibility.

Only, it’s not fiscally responsible to hold back right now.  The sequence should be to get the economy up and running, then tackle the debt issue.

Reuters reported today:

Most economists argue that cutting benefits could slow recovery, describing benefits as direct economic stimulus because almost every penny of it gets spent. In a June 28 client note, Goldman Sachs said if all additional U.S. stimulus spending expires, it could slow the economy up to 1.5 percentage points from the fourth quarter 2010 to the second quarter of 2011.

Not so coincidentally, that potential economic slowdown covers the run-up to the November elections, when Republicans hope to get the keys to the Capitol restrooms back.

Funny thing: When Republicans should have been paying attention to the ballooning deficit, they gave the wealthy a couple of tax cuts, started a couple of Visa-funded wars, and made it rain money all over the drug companies via the Medicare Part D program, funded by, I think, MasterCard that time.  

But as if conservative malfeasance couldn’t get any worse, Republicans, while arguing that benefits for the unemployed “should be paid for,” are actually claiming Congress should not let the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year and that there is no need to offset with spending cuts an extension of that expensive benefit for the wealthy.

So, here you have it:

Republicans say an extension of unemployment benefits must be paid for.

Republicans say an extension of tax cuts for the wealthy should not.

If Democrats can’t make a tasty and fiery political chili out of those ingredients, then they should turn in their crock pots.

The Truth About The New Black Panthers Case That The Ku Fox Klan Won’t Report

Forget for a moment that the so-called whistleblower in the imaginary controversy over the Justice Department’s decision to drop the case against members of the New Black Panthers is none other than Bush hired hand and conservative activist, J. Christian Adams.  Adams hiring was part of a process that the Bush Justice Department’s own Inspector General determined was improperly politicized.

Forget for a moment that Adams had previously been a volunteer for the Republican National Committee’s “Republican National Lawyers Association,” which, according to Main Justice, “trains lawyers to fight on the often racially tinged frontlines of voting rights.”

Forget for a moment that the alleged intimidation occurred at 1221 Fairmount Street in Philadelphia, a majority black neighborhood (according to Main Justice, only 34 whites lived in the precinct, out of a total of 970) and forget that the incident was recorded by a “journalist” hired by the local Republican Party.

Forget for a moment that King Shamir Shabazz, one of the two men accused of voter intimidation in the almost all black precinct, was not an Obama supporter.  According to Politico, Shabazz said, “[Obama] is a puppet on a string. I don’t support no black man running for white politics. I will not vote for who will be the next slavemaster.”

Forget for a moment that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which conservatives point out is hot to trot over the phony controversy, is actually dominated by Republican appointees.

Forget for a moment that in terms of pure politics, the alleged motivation—protecting black activists—of the Justice Department is plain silly. The most politically prudent thing to do would be to prosecute the Panthers, even if the case was weak.

Forget for a moment that the guy holding the “deadly” weapon at the Philadelphia polling site—a baton—is now prohibited—through an injunction sought by the Obama Justice Department—from doing what he did in 2008, up to and including the election in 2012.

Forget for a moment that Bartle Bull, a civil rights attorney who worked for Bobby Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, and who Fox “News” conservatives trot out as “proof” that the charges against the Justice Department have merit, was a McCain supporter in 2008 and hated Barack Obama, saying,Obama’s notion of economic fairness is pure Karl Marx, plus a pocketful of Chicago-style ‘community organization.”  Sound familiar, Fox fans?*

Forget for a moment that as conservative writer Abigail Thernstrom pointed out, writing for National Review Online, where conservatives go for medication,  prosecution under the applicable provision in the Voting Rights Act—section 11 (b)—has only been successful three—(3)—times in the 45 years since the law was passed.  And forget, as she also pointed out, that, “after months of hearings, testimony and investigation—no one has produced actual evidence that any voters were too scared to cast their ballots.”

Forget for a moment that Fox “News” has been race-baiting, using the New Black Panthers to scare the bejesus out of its white viewers.

Forget all that (I bet you can’t) and then watch this video of Megyn Kelly, part of the Fox “News” lineup that claims to be real news and not conservative nuttery, as she goes completely berserk on one of Fox’s own contributors, who has the audacity to stray from the reservation of wing nuts:

__________________________________ 

*Also forget that Bartle Bull is part of a group itching to draft Rudy Giuliani for Governor of New York, which, if doesn’t call into question his Democratic bona fides, calls into question his aesthetic discernment.

Obama Outwits Jesus

Look.  Maybe I’ve been too hard on our guys. I mean, at least our 8 Republican candidates for a seat in Congress haven’t  yet said anything as dumb as this:

When you take a government and you impose, and take away all your choices, one of the choices you take away is to find the Lord. And to find your savior. 

And that’s one of the things that’s most destructive about the growth of government, is this taking away that freedom.  The freedom—the ultimate freedom—to find your salvation, to get your salvation. And to find Christ, for me and you.

And I think that’s one of the things that we have to be very, very aware of, that the Obama administration and Congressman Carnahan are doing to us.

That strange mixture of faith, stupidity, and poor syntax—which I just heard on Chris Matthew’s Hardball—originated in the mind of Ed Martin, who is running to unseat Democrat Russ Carnahan in the 3rd congressional district, which used to be Dick Gephardt’s old seat.

Martin was Governor Matt Blunt’s chief of staff, and I found out by peeking at FiredUp!Missouri that he is famous for saying of Robin Carnahan:

She is very, very devious. She does — with a, with a clever hand — she does the devil’s work [inaudible]. It is easy when you see someone who is a terribly unpleasant, you know, nasty, hateful person, you say, “Well the devil’s got a hold of that person.”

This woman, the devil, she’s figured out how to really damage our efforts to do amendments to the Constitution, to do initiatives for other conservative, good government things.  I mean, she will, she does everything for one thing in mind: politics of the left, and her own advancement.

So, based on this stuff, I promise I will be more careful in my criticisms of Nodler, Goodman, and Long.

Well, maybe not Billy Long. He’s capable of Ed Martin-like craziness.

Here is Martin’s “appearance” on Hardball:

Sean Hannity Is A Filthy Racist Pig

A short time ago, I went against my doctor’s orders and tuned in to Sean Hannity’s radio show while in the car. 

Not thirty seconds into my drive, a grandmother called in and expressed her concern over the New Black Panthers, which she no doubt heard about because Fox “News” has created and shamelessly promoted a phony controversy around the group,  and she informed the nation that her grandchildren were very “pale faced.”

Should I be worried?” she asked Mr. Hannity.

To which a normal, patriotic American with a relatively large national audience might respond with something like this:

Ma’am, you have nothing to worry about. I bet there aren’t a hundred authentic supporters of the New Black Panthers in the whole country, and I’m sure the FBI has its eye on every one of them.  This is America, ma’am. Black folks don’t want to harm your grandchildren any more than you want to harm their grandchildren. Like white people, black people want good jobs, nice homes, nice cars, good friends, and the freedom to pursue all those things.  So, don’t you worry about King Samir Shabazz or any other hatemonger.

But no, no, no.  Hannity, a hatemonger himself, responded to this woman’s inquiry with an attack on the Obama Justice Department.

Shameful stuff, but it is Hannity’s modus operandi: use smear and fear all the way to the bank.

And because I am so pissed off about what I just heard, and because I am so pissed off about the way the right wing has been race-baiting lately, likely stirring up more unhinged hatred of Barack Obama, and because our side has refused to fight back with fury, from now on—until Hannity repents of his sins—I will use Hannity’s own tactics of smear and fear and refer to him as a filthy racist pig.

There, I said it.  Sean Hannity is a filthy racist pig.

Doctor, I feel better now.

_____________________________

[photo actually from RadioLeft.com]

Our Kind Of Republicans

Our two Republican candidates for Missouri’s 129th District House seat spent a couple of hours with conservative Globeblogger Anson Burlingame, who wrote about it here.

While it is fairly clear that Anson has chosen Bill White over Shelly Dreyer, what is not so clear is why he would choose either one, given what he wrote about them:

…when pressed for specifics they both are somewhat vague or even shallow in solutions.  Neither had any thoughts of substance about how to reduce the cost of medical care as delivered and billed for example, which the CBO claims is the principle driver in both state and federal spending concerns.  Both want to “create jobs” but were short on the “hows”.  When asked what “the greatest failure was for the just past House session” neither came up with any real criticism.  Neither had a specific bill in mind to submit if elected to remedy any particular concern.

They were both simply politicians running for office with broad concerns and ideas but little to back them up with real solutions, at least in our one-on-one discussions.

The bottom line is these “vague and shallow” candidates have the one necessary credential to succeed in the Republican-addicted 129th District, but I’ll let Anson tell you what it is:

On any given issue(s) it is hard to drive a wedge between either candidate.  They have taken essentially identical positions that are demanded by the Republican majority in this area.  No tax increases, create jobs, get the economy going again, pro-life, anti-gun control or you name it.  They are both firmly Republican.

Vague. Shallow. And firmly Republican.

Yep. One of them will surely win in November.

BP’s Other Mess?

It may be harder for conservatives and Republicans to defend BP, if Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s suspicions are correct.

Lautenberg is requesting that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee open an investigation into the relationship between BP’s new oil drilling contracts in Libya and the release of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber responsible for the 1988 downing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people, 189 of them Americans.

From Lautenberg’s website:

Sen. Lautenberg believes more investigation is required on four specific points:

  • Whether oil and commercial interests led to the U.K’s. authorization to include al-Megrahi in the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) when it had previously sought to exclude him;
  • If the negotiated PTA and/or the August 20 release of al-Megrahi violated the international agreement between the U.S. and the U.K.;
  • Whether oil contracts played a role in the U.K. government’s actions leading up to the release of al-Megrahi, including the U.K.’s failure to object to al-Megrahi’s release; and
  • Whether commercial interests played a role in the decision to release al-Megrahi. 

I’m not sure even Konrad Heid can defend BP, if it turns out that the company was involved in the release of Megrahi. But I am sure he and other conservatives and Republicans will find a way to blame Obama for not bombing Libya or for not bombing Scotland or, hell, maybe Obama blew up the Pan Am plane in the first place and he should just bomb himself.

“Welcome To A Long, Hot Summer Of Right-Wing Race Baiting”

America’s Anchor, El Juan-bo, pointed me to an article, “Welcome to a long, hot summer of right-wing race baiting,” which nicely summarizes the recent race-baiting history of the far, and not so far, right as applied to Barack Obama.

I, for one, am grateful for the New Black Panther non-controversy because it confirms what some of us have claimed for a while now: there are prominent members of the right-wing who want to linguistically lynch the uppity negro in the White House.

From Glenn Beck calling the president a racist last year to Limbaugh’s recent, “If Obama weren’t black he’d be a tour guide in Honolulu,” there is no doubt that these people see Barack Obama as a threat to their comfortable white existence.

Sadly, as Eric Boehlert at Media Matters pointed out, the “Beltway press” has been missing in action, and he added:

I assume journalists are nervous about the blowback that would come with calling out the right-wing media for so blatantly playing the race card. So instead of doing their job, let alone stepping out on a limb and actually condemning the hate brigade, journalists mostly look away. Although honestly, if the White House were currently occupied by the first Jewish president, for instance, and his hardcore partisan critics spent their days and nights broadcasting trumped-up allegations about how the president hated Christians, it’s hard to imagine how the Beltway press corps wouldn’t considered that to be newsworthy, not to mention deplorable.

But today, it’s mostly crickets as the radical right engages in naked race-baiting — another reason the forecast calls for racial malice all summer long.

Finally and unfortunately, on cable television, instead of crickets we have a lot of crackers.  On MSNBC there is Pat Buchanan, who last week said President Obama didn’t have the kind of “gut patriotism” that conservatives had.  On CNN, there is Erick Erickson, editor of the rabidly right RedState.com, who defended Glenn Beck’s “Obama is a racist” rant by saying,

Given all the terrorists, thugs, and racists Barack Obama has chosen as close personal friends (see e.g. Rev. Wright), it’s not a stretch to say it.

And, of course, there is Fox “News.”

________________________________

* From HuffPo:

Erickson — whose list of inflammatory statements include comparing White House health care communications director Linda Douglass to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, calling Michelle Obama Barack’s “Marxist harpy wife,” and describing outgoing Supreme Court Justice David Souter as “the only goat f***ing child molester to ever serve on the Supreme Court…

 

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