The Widdershins

Happy Thanksgiving, Widdershins.

This is one of my favorite holidays, second only to Christmas.  It’s a nice, warm tradition – at least it’s warm down here – filled with good food, family friends and (yes, I know) football.  What more could I ask?  (A lot, actually, but that’s a tale for another time.)

Where ever you are going today, I hope it’s good.

Whomever you are with today, I hope that they are friends.

Whatever you’re eating today, I hope it’s great.

Whenever you get back here, leave a note, or just share some songs of you like  I’ll keep the porch light on for you.

(1) Thanksgiving Theme – Vince Guaraldi Trio

(2) The Thanksgiving Song – Mary Chapin Carpenter

(3) Our House – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

(4) Alice’s Restaurant – Arlo Guthrie

(5) Sweet Potato Pie – Ray Charles and James Taylor

(6) Mashed Potatoes – DeeDee Sharpe

(7) Turkey In the Straw – Appalachian Trad.

(8) Good Brown Gravy – Joe Diffee

 

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So the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Benghazi, after two years (and controlled by the Republicans mind you!), finished up its work and surprisingly found “that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.”.  Lets review all the allegations that came from the Right after the tragedy:

  • that a CIA response team was ordered to “stand down” after the State Department compound came under attack
  • that a military rescue was nixed
  • that officials intentionally downplayed the role of al-Qaida figures in the attack
  • that Stevens and the CIA were involved in a secret operation to spirit weapons out of Libya and into the hands of Syrian rebels

Eh…not so much said the committee.  Said the chairman of the committee, Mike Rogers, R-Mich. and the ranking member Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland:

“We spent thousands of hours asking questions, poring over documents, reviewing intelligence assessments, reading cables and emails, and held a total of 20 committee events and hearings…”

“We conducted detailed interviews with senior intelligence officials from Benghazi and Tripoli as well as eight security personnel on the ground in Benghazi that night. Based on the testimony and the documents we reviewed, we concluded that all the CIA officers in Benghazi were heroes. Their actions saved lives,” they said.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA NOT Law & Order district attorney) said:

“It’s my hope that this report will put to rest many of the questions that have been asked and answered yet again, and that the Benghazi Select Committee will accept these findings and instead focus its attention on the State Department’s progress in securing our facilities around the world and standing up our fast response capabilities.”

Sounds complete and that the committee did their job right?  Not so fast.  The Speaker is not so happy that the committee was unable to find anything to blame the Democrats or Hillary or the President for, in the investigation.

“On September 11, 2012, four Americans were killed in a brutal terrorist attack in Libya. Two years later, the American people still have far too many questions about what happened that night — and why,” Boehner said in the statement. “That’s why I will reappoint Rep. Trey Gowdy and the Republican members of the House Select Committee to investigate the events in Benghazi in the 114th Congress. I look forward to the definitive report Chairman Gowdy and the Select Committee will present to the American people.”

The problem though is that since the select committee was not a permanent committee, the House will have to vote to recreate and authorize the committee before it can even begin to start work on the eighth committee to look into Benghazi.

If the select committee were to be reauthorized and actually published its conclusions, that report would be the eighth formal investigation into the event.

I mean seriously folks…how many times do the Republicans need to be told nothing is there?

But never fear, our favorite Senator from South Carolina…the one who is a lawyer…the one who was/is aangry Lindsay lawyer in the Navy JAG Corps doesn’t buy it.  He says “it’s a bunch of crap”.  Yeah, I like that legal reasoning…uh-huh.  He believes that the Administration fudged the talking points after the attack.

“I’m saying that anybody who has followed Benghazi at all knows that the CIA deputy director did not come forward to tell Congress what role he played in changing the talking points,” he said. “And the only way we knew he was involved is when he told a representative at the White House, I’m going to do a hard review of this, a hard rewrite.”

I mean, he even got pouty and all when he was interviewed about it.  I’m not saying he needed the fainting couch but I hope one was nearby.  (clip below is 7+ mins. long.  watch however much you can stand and note the volume is loud on this one)

* * * * * *

Okay so enough of that.  It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and people are in traveling mode.  Here’s a hope that our Northeastern Widdershins do not get caught up in any snow storms, or travel delays, airport or otherwise.  I’m going to put in a little clip here with Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro doing a Thanksgiving commercial in 2001 after the attacks.  It was encouraging folks to come visit New York.  Everyone have a great Thanksgiving and be careful in your travels.  This is a completely open thread to discuss whatever you wish.

Enjoy  your turkey and goodies!

 

Just U Sit There, I Can Equivocate” is the bastardized form of justice masterminded by the prosecutor over the last ferguson missouri hands on headthree months in that St. Louis County grand jury room. Real justice has nothing to do whatsoever with what went on in this farcical parade of special privilege. The entire process has been nothing more than a march toward placing a ritualized, officious imprimatur upon a long procession of gut-wrenching mistakes.

Beginning with a lifeless eighteen-year old left to lay in the street for four and a half hours until his mother retrieved one of her own blankets to cover her dead son, the incompetence of everyone involved in this episode is either contrived or so convincing as to vitiate any semblance of respect for the judicial process. The indignities continued last night when that same mother was not given a courtesy call forewarning her of the “no true bill” grand jury outcome. Anyone with a whit of emotional intelligence would not have been so deaf to a grieving victim’s family.

After three months of choreographed leaks from the supposedly secret grand jury proceedings, to unveil the results of this marionette show in the evening after dark was to invite the response we saw last night. Inevitably the fires and protests also provided convenient cover as just more shiny things to divert attention and add an exclamation point to, “I told you so!”

ferguson seasons greetingsMost everything in the law can be divided into procedure and substance. Strategically, if the substance is uninviting for exploration then procedure is where the most energy is spent. After three months and a cavalcade of witnesses, served up and force fed to twelve lay citizens without the clarifying rules of evidence or judicial guidance, the grand jury members were led into a swamp of conflicting statements and left to drown in the murky legal miasma. Simply put, if you throw the whole pot of spaghetti against the wall you can rest assured there will never be enough to fill a plate.

Within the legal system the grand jury exists to determine if there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. Probable cause for ordinary humans can be as little as a furtive glance, walking too briskly, or audaciously sporting pigmentation in the wrong neighborhood. In terms of evidence, if there is a fifty/fifty split as to whether a crime has been committed — that is fifty percent saying it did occur and fifty percent saying it did not occur — you have yourself probable cause sufficient for an indictment.

This is not so in the world of Bob McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor. In his make-it-up-as-you-go-along world of zero indictments in five different police killings, he draped the grand jury room with a kaleidoscope of innuendo and insinuation so that the decision of no indictment was the only plausible one in a dizzying field of facts. This extraordinary departure from normal criminal procedure is nothing but favoritism and a police special interest “one off”. You can bet if you were a regular St. Louis citizen you won’t be afforded such special treatment.

This outcome will make it much easier and quite a bit more lucrative for police officer Darren Wilson. While I’m sure he no killer copsand his agents will claim it is nothing more than good fortune serendipity, he foresaw this favorable outcome last week as he began his opportunistic peddling of his story to ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN. With no indictment, now his media panhandling can pick up in earnest with no messy, pesky murder trial in the way.

I do not know what happened on August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri. Officer Wilson could have been legitimately entitled to use deadly force. But no one, not one person has explained how the lifeless body of an unarmed eighteen-year old, already shot at least once if not twice at Wilson’s police cruiser, ends with six bullet wounds 153 feet from that same police car.

Courtesy of Mr. McCulloch’s duplicity or his incompetence or his craven political spinelessness, we may never know.

This is an open thread.

From the screaming and fuaxrage from the Republicans in Congress, you would think that President Obama had personally legalized every illegal immigrant in the country with an autocratic sweep of the executive pen. But as usual, he didn’t do anything so definite. He merely lifted the threat of deportation from about 4.4 million, temporarily.

Obama announced on Thursday he was easing the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. His measures include allowing some 4.4 million people who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents and who have been in the country for five years to remain in the country temporarily, with the right to work.

John Boehner, whose spray tan must have temporarily erased his memory of all the times Bush used and abused his executive authority, claims Obama is “acting like an emperor.” For once, the President has a somewhat feisty response: “Then pass a bill.” But hahaha, that’s just what those evil Democrats WANT Republicans to do. They are too smart to fall for that! Shutting down the government, instead of addressing the important issues facing America with wimpy actions like writing and passing legislation, is clearly why they have been put in office.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said on “Fox News Sunday” his party should use spending bills to withhold funds to implement the order. That could force Obama to veto vital funding bills, sparking a government shutdown similar to the one last year.

Cruz, who led that shutdown fight in an effort to block funds for the Obamacare health plan, said the big Republican gains in the midterm elections showed the shutdown was not a political blunder. Republicans will control the Senate and have a bigger House majority in the new Congress that begins in January.

It’s going to be a rather entertaining couple of years.

Happy Thanksgiving, all! This is an open thread.

This begins the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Most of us will have lots to do next week, so I suggest that we spend this time thinking about the good things in life.  Heaven knows, there hasn’t been a lot of good news lately.  The latest election results were far from stellar, and they culminated one of the most vicious (Ebola, Ebola), contentious (ISIS, ISIS), and downright nasty (Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi) campaigns that I have ever witnessed.  Enough, already.

Let’s have some music that lets us breathe easily, and makes us feel as warm and comfortable as possible.  Try to select songs that remind us of good times, good friends, and good days.  I couldn’t care less about the era, the genre, the artists(s), or whether the tune hit the top forty or not.  Let’s just go with the flow in this absolutely open thread.

(1) Cool Change – Little River Band

(2) Southern Cross – Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

(3) The Way You Look Tonight – The Lettermen

(4) Clouds – Joni Mitchell

(5) God Only Knows – The Beach Boys

(6) The Sea – Rod McKuen

 

 

Good Thursday, Widdershins.  I’m finally back after a computer-enforced hiatus, thanks to my son-in-law who got this contraption up and running for me.  It is ultra-sensitive and there will be a rather precipitous learning curve, so bear with me while I try to figure things out.

As y’all well know, I live in warm,  sunny South Florida.  It has been neither sunny nor warm the past few days, but I’m pretty certain that my personal discomfiture with temperatures plummeting into the high fifties at night will not elicit much sympathy from those inhabiting much harsher climates.  For myself and the rest of the locals, this is pretty damned cold.  Fortunately for most of us, we have shelter and warm food that we can count on – sadly, the number of those who have neither is growing.

When we first moved down here (1982), the custom on holidays was to set aside some of your leftovers to be driven downtown to the park and passed out to the homeless.  Cars lined the street for blocks, and someone everyone there managed to get fed.  The City Council was horrified by the “message” that was being sent to the tourists, and got busy helping local agencies develop and implement homeless services, and things went along reasonable well for the next twenty years or so.  There was even money to expand and better the services during the Clinton Administration.  Life was good.

Even with the best of intentions, there are members of the homeless population that do not want to live in a shelter.  Many of them that I have met were simple schizophrenics who had at one time or another been institutionalized and truly feared confinement of any sort.  Ever since Reagan decentralized mental health care, things have been in a downward spiral as far as services go, and society is the worse for it.  I honestly believe that both homelessness and incarceration rates have skyrocketed as a result of these misguided policies, but this is a diatribe for another time.  Just suffice to say that a paucity of mental health services coupled with a weak economy has contributed heavily to our homeless population.  One of my friends teaches third grade, and has any number of children with no fixed address in her class.  As long as the child is reasonably clean and healthy, social services does not intervene. At least the child gets two meals per school day, and is better off than many.

Sunny Fort Lauderdale is preparing for tourist season.  To be fair, without tourists our economy would collapse,  After a late night session, the Ft. Lauderdale City Council decided to regulate feeding the homeless.  By a vote of 4-1, the Commission voted that any feeding station must be 500 feet from a residential area, have running water and bathroom facilities, and have consent of the property owner that he plans to occupy.  Yep, city property is likely off-limits.  Major Jack Seiler has become very defensive about the situation, and insists that the city is not banning feeding the hungry, just regulating it for the health and safety of all concerned parties.  He also states that there are “hundreds”, no make that “dozens” of community and religious groups that feed the hungry on an ongoing basis.

Unfortunately for Mayor Jack and the Ft. Lauderdale City Council, the situation has gone national thanks to one Arnold Abbot, a ninety year old WWII vet who has been feeding the hungry for the past decade or so, and does not see this piffling ordinance as any reason to change his ways at this late date.  He has tangled with Fort Lauderdale previously back in 1999 when they took exception to his holding picnics for the homeless on the beach.  He took them to court and claimed that he had a religious right to follow the biblical injunction to feed the hungry, and that the alternative site offered by the city was too remote and proved an undue burden.  Clearly, Arnold was ahead of the curve on this whole religious rights thing.

One would think that the city would steer clear of messing with Arnold, but one would be incorrect.  Ft. Lauderdale officers have arrested Arnold, fingerprinted him on the site, and stuffed a “PTA” (Promise to Appear) in his pocket.  I have lost count of the number of citations, but I think that we’re up to about 5 now.  Each citation carries a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.  He has also been joined by several members of the clergy and homeless advocates, who have received similar citations.  Mayor Jack claims that these are not arrests, but I assure you that they have exactly the same impact.  Should you not show up for court, the judge will issue a bench warrant and it’s off to jail you go.  Personally, I will support Arnold as best I can through his interfaith foundation Love Thy Neighbor.  I’ve placed the link so that you may send a contribution or an “attaboy”, should the spirit move you.

In the final touch of irony, the Ft. Lauderdale City Commission had a protesting homeless man removed from their chamber so that they could read aloud their proclamation of National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week.   The mayor then thanked all those who supported him in his efforts to rise and be applauded.  I don’t know about y’all, but I am speechless.

This is an open thread.

circular firing squad

Ladies and gents, the fun is just beginning and the new Congress hasn’t even been sworn in yet.  Yesterday we saw a vote fail on the Keystone XL Pipeline.  It was one vote shy of the required 60 and even that would not have been enough to override a Presidential veto.  I heard talk that Landrieu may try to get one more vote on it.  She’s not in a position to do a lot of arm-twisting because the odds are against her getting reelected.  That’s a shame because she has been a good Senator for Louisiana.  She was able to get billions in assistance for the state and SE La when the Federal levees failed and was even helpful in getting some of the FEMA loans to local governments forgiven.  Well that’s neither here nor there.  When I receive my absentee ballot I will vote for Landrieu and hope for the best.

But on to the fun in the title.  From an article in Tiger Beat On the Potomac I read that the Dems are going to be ready to fight and stand on the issues they hold dearly, like climate change.

Liberal Senate Democrats united to block the controversial project, even though their imperiled Democratic colleague Mary Landrieu of Louisiana begged them not to at a Democratic Caucus lunch on Tuesday afternoon.

It was a remarkable move for a group that has stood behind Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over the years, as he sought to protect vulnerable moderates, like Landrieu and some of her now-ousted colleagues, from taking tough votes on divisive environmental, health care and social issues.
Jeff Merkley of Oregon said: “I will use whatever tools I have as a senator to protect the environment,”

 
Sheldon Whitehouse a Senator from Rhode Island added:
“They actually want to tear down environmental protection and regulation in every public comment that I’ve heard a Republican make. Clearly, there’s a challenge coming. And we have to be prepared to meet that challenge,” Whitehouse said. “With respect to climate, you can’t just go back and fix it and make it right with whoever was hurt by some stupid policy.”
I’m not sure where the good Senator has been because going back to the time when Obama was first elected, we knew what the Republican actions and responses to the President and his agenda would be, because the then Senate Minority Leader told us.  So the good Senator should not expect the Majority Republicans in the Senate to stand idly by while some Democrats try to thwart their plans.  The Republicans do not play nicely and I expect we’ll see some bodies figuratively strewn around the Senate floor.  And I meant what I wrote when I wrote  “some Democrats” because the Dems in then Senate won’t be in lockstep with their leadership.  As the article says “the early battle lines appear increasingly drawn around environmental policy, where Democratic centrists may defect from leadership in next year’s Senate and help Republicans pass legislation strongly opposed by liberal senators.”

And speaking of the pipeline and the oil from the Canadian tar pits, do the environmental Democrats

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think that if they block the pipeline going to Texas that this will stop the use and refining of tar sands oils?  It won’t.  Either TransCanada will ship by rail to the refineries in the Gulf or they will use existing rail lines in Canada and ship to that country’s East Coast.

And we already know what has happened previously when trains were transporting oil in Canada. That was pretty disastrous.
 
Then the other thing the Canadians can do with their tar oil is to transport it west to British Columbia and they have a plan for that too.

Right click me to open in a new tab.

So you see, no matter if we stop the pipeline coming into the states, as long as it is economically feasible, this oil from the tar sands of Alberta is going to be refined.  And this isn’t something I am for.  It is a dirty, nasty operation to get the oil from the sands and then this is an extremely heavy crude oil and it takes a lot of energy to process and refine it.
 
And last, I wish the environmentalist Senators would get a little worked up about all the coal that is being transported by barge down the Mississippi to Plaquemines Parish to then be loaded onto ocean going vessels, taken to other countries and used there.  We may not be burning that coal here but since they are getting read to build the third transport facility in Plaquemines, they sure must be burning that stuff somewhere.  Imagine:  people in parts of southeast Louisiana are getting to experience the joys of having coal dust cover their cars, their houses and other properties.   Some links:
 
Okay Widdershins this is a completely open thread.  Comment as you wish about whatever you wish.  Sorry about the text color changing from gray to black and stuff.  Don’t know what happened and was too pooped to try to figure it out.  My bad.

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