CALAMITY

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The greatest calamity to befall America in the 21st Century was not 9/11 but the collapse of the world economy in 2008, a collapse instigated by outright criminality, blatant fraud, on the part of Wall Street financial institutions. This calamity ruined the lives and brought misery to millions of people around the world. In terms of scale, the depredations of al-Qaeda pale by comparison.

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The perpetrators of this calamity not only acted with impunity but received remarkable rewards for their infamy. They made money from their crimes, some of it at the expense of American taxpayers, the victims of their outrages. It was one of the greatest scams in human history, almost beyond imagination.

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Obama’s unwillingness to bring the Wall Street criminals to justice, or even to enact measures to prevent similar crimes in the future, represents the second greatest failure in American Presidential history — the greatest being James Buchanan’s failure to deal in a meaningful way with the issues that led to the Civil War.

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Both Obama and Buchanan can be described as decent, weak, cowardly men whose dearest wish was to kick the can of disaster on to the next resident of the White House. We’ll be lucky if another Lincoln arises to fill the moral vacuum Obama, like Buchanan before him, created.

THE SPEECH

This speech given by Elizabeth Warren recently on the floor of the Senate has been compared to Barack Obama’s speech to the Democratic Convention in 2004 in its potential to influence her future political prospects.

In retrospect, Obama’s 2004 speech was fluff — feel-good stuff that showcased his eloquence, his supposed ability to bring America into a new unity of purpose by rhetoric alone.  It was long on vision, short on practicalities.

Warren’s speech, by contrast, was pure brass tacks.  It more resembles Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech of 1860, the speech that made him a national and not just a regional phenomenon.  Lincoln was not a candidate for the Presidency when he made the speech, but the speech in some ways made his candidacy inevitable.

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Lincoln’s speech was long and minutely technical, touching on the Federal right to regulate slavery in Federal Territories.  Warren’s was short but equally practical.  She reminded us of irrefutable facts — that Americans of both parties resent the bail-outs of Wall Street firms in 2008, necessary, so we were told, because these firms were “too big to fail” . . . that these same firms are bigger now than they were in 2008, just as capable of crashing the world economy again, and that Americans will still be on the hook if they do so.

Warren’s speech is less than ten minutes long — listen to it.  It’s important.  It may be the only important political speech delivered in America this year.  One thing is certain — if malfeasance on Wall Street crashes the world economy again, this speech will be remembered, and those who didn’t listen to it will rue their recklessness.

WAR CRIMES

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I understand that Bush and Obama and their CIA teams were working under extraordinary and in some ways unprecedented pressures when they committed war crimes.  A case can be made that they should receive pardons after their convictions for those crimes, and I’d be more than willing to listen to it — but first, the convictions.

A LIBRARY

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I spent some of the happiest times of my youth in public libraries.  I loved books, and I never lost my wonder over the fact that I could go someplace and find hundreds of books to browse through and the even more amazing fact that I could take any of them I wanted home to read.

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Above is one I spent many hours in when I was a kid in Washington, D. C., in the Cleveland Park section of the city.

The public libraries were open to all but I felt totally at home in them, as much as I felt at home in my family’s living room.  I felt as though they existed just for me.  As civic institutions go, it just doesn’t get much better than public libraries.

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I went to a prep school with high academic standards but I got half my education, at least, at the excellent school library (above, with the red roofs), checking out and reading whatever I wanted to read.

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The Ferguson Public Library, which has stayed open through the troubles there, gives me hope — a center of quiet and peace and reflection and inquiry and knowledge in a town wracked with grief and rage and plain bewilderment.  The library has been on the news a lot and it has been deluged with contributions — so many that it may be able to hire a second full-time staff member.  It currently has one, plus a lot of volunteers.

I just sent a small contribution myself, and you should, too, here:

Ferguson Municipal Public Library

It’s not much to do, in the big picture of things, but it’s something, and it’s real.

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I don’t know where we’re going to find the keystone to finish the arch above, but I’m sure we’ll find some clues about it down at the library.

FICTION

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O. k., I’m a fiction writer.  When presented with disassociated but intriguing facts I have an irresistible urge to turn them into stories.  This is my story about the Michael Brown shooting:

Brown (above), feeling insecure and powerless, for whatever reasons, robbed a convenience store, violently assaulting the convenience store clerk in the process.  This made him feel powerful, virtually invincible, after the fashion of 18 year-olds.

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Ten minutes later, he and his accomplice in the robbery, Dorian Johnson (above), were walking home down the middle of a street, defying convention, feeling like the lords of the earth.  A nerdy cop drove up to them and dissed them, telling them to “get the fuck onto the sidewalk”.  He used the tone that white cops with guns often use towards uppity black men.

Brown snapped, either scared that he was about to be arrested for the convenience store robbery or unable to come down from his high derived from the robbery.  He swore at the cop, punched him, then, when the cop drew his gun, Brown tried to get the gun away from the cop.

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Brown failed, was shot, and ran.  The cop, feeling humiliated by Brown’s assault, pursued.  Brown stopped eventually, severely wounded, and turned back towards the cop, maybe took a step or two towards him, hardly able to think clearly at this point.

The cop, enraged, feeling violated and afraid, wanted to kill Brown, needed to kill Brown.  The step towards him gave him, in his mind, legal authority to kill Brown.  He did it to preserve, not his life, but his dignity as a competent male.

It was a confrontation between two people howling on the margins of nonentity — two boys uncertain of their own identity as men.

GRAND JURY

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The grand jury proceedings in the Michael Brown shooting case were highly unusual, to put it mildly.  Prosecutors normally present their best evidence for an indictment to a grand jury, which normally returns the indictment the prosecutor wants.  Though nominally independent, grand juries generally act as a rubber stamp for prosecutorial decisions.

St. Louis prosecutor Robert McCulloch (above) departed radically from precedent by presenting the Michael Brown grand jury with every single bit of evidence in the case, making no prosecutorial recommendation himself and letting the grand jury make its own judgement about it.  When they failed to return an indictment against Officer Wilson, McCulloch then released to the public all the evidence the grand jury had reviewed, again a highly unusual move.

Why would McCulloch handle the case this way?

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My guess is that McCulloch took a look at the evidence and decided in his own mind that it wasn’t sufficient for a successful prosecution of Wilson (above) — didn’t warrant putting Wilson through the ordeal of a trial or justify the expense of a trial to the state.

But this was problematic.  McCulloch didn’t have the trust of the black community in Ferguson, was seen as biased in favor of the police, which is why many in the community had called for a special prosecutor to be appointed.  McCulloch had refused to step aside.  Now, if he exercised his independent judgement not to prosecute Wilson, he would be vilified by many.

So he threw it all into the lap of the grand jury, and ultimately the public, asking them on the basis of the evidence to decide if justice had been done.  It probably seemed like a reasonable course to him.  But it wasn’t.

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If he wasn’t willing to make his own independent judgement about prosecuting Wilson, and take the heat for it personally, he should have recused himself from the case.  Giving the case unusual treatment only reinforced the community’s belief that police shootings always get unusual treatment, that the standards applied to other suspected citizens don’t apply to police officers.

McCulloch tried to have it both ways.  Recusing himself would have implied that he couldn’t deal with the case impartially.  Isolating himself from the ultimate disposition of the case, via the grand jury, implied that he didn’t want to take responsibility for the disposition of the case.

One can feel a certain amount of sympathy for his predicament — but only up to a point.  The very nature of the predicament suggests that appointing a special prosecutor was from the outset the only reasonable course.  Justice must be done but justice must also be seen to be done, and the oddness of the proceedings in this case insured that this wouldn’t happen.

COMMON SENSE

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I’m someone who believes Obama should be impeached for his crimes against The Constitution — specifically in regards to the Fourth Amendment and habeas corpus.  If I could add his recent executive orders on immigration to the list of such crimes I would happily do so, but a rational case can’t be made for it.

Unless you insist that Obama deport 11 million illegals tomorrow you are conceding his right — and indeed highlighting his obligation as chief executive — to prioritize deportations.  It is not reasonable to suggest that he should create arbitrary priorities — devoting the same resources to deporting working mothers with American children that he devotes to deporting illegals with felony convictions or gang connections.

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It is not reasonable to say that, having created rational priorities, he should keep them secret, when stating them could bring real (though temporary) relief and comfort to those who are low-priority.

It is not reasonable to say that Obama should prevent low-priority illegals from working until their cases are disposed of, since this would create potential burdens for the state which are totally unnecessary.

Finally you can’t argue, based on the record, that Obama is using his recent orders to avoid executing the immigration laws currently on the books.  Deportation is no longer a term used in those laws — the terms “removal” and “return” having replaced it — but if you define deportation as most people do, to mean getting illegals out of the country, Obama has been busy at it, busier than any President in recent history.

He has presided over the “removal” of nearly 2 million illegals and the “return” of about 1.6 million more.  If not The Deporter In Chief, as some have called him, he is certainly The Remover and Returner In Chief.

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The Republican hysteria over Obama’s executive orders is simply irrational — a tempest in a teapot.  Obama’s executive orders, like the Emancipation Proclamation before them, are largely symbolic — articulating enforcement policies that are already in effect and the only enforcement policies that are rational under the circumstances.  They don’t grant citizenship, or a path to citizenship, to anybody, they don’t grant permanent amnesty to anybody, just as The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free a single slave, much less abolish slavery.

Obama and the Democrats will of course exploit the symbolism of the orders for political gain, and this is what is causing Republicans such distress, primarily because of the symbolism that will also be contained in fighting the orders — a symbolism that will drive Hispanics in particular away from The Republican Party for generations to come . . . not all of them, of course, but enough to decide elections in battleground states.

Like The Emancipation Proclamation, Obama’s orders create a moral rallying point without actually changing anything — it is a political masterstroke that is probably unanswerable but hardly a violation of The Constitution.

THE ELEVEN MILLION

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Republican arguments against Obama’s recent executive orders on immigration are silly and getting sillier.

There are about eleven million people living in America illegally.  We have three choices about how to deal with them.

1) Deport them all immediately.  This could probably be done by mobilizing the armed forces and all state National Guard units and sending them door to door with broad NSA-type search warrants and authority to arrest those who can’t produce proof of citizenship.  They could then be detained in massive camps while we arranged transportation for them out of the country.

2) Deport them on a more relaxed schedule but still indiscriminately, devoting the same resources to expelling working mothers with American children that we devote to expelling illegals with felony arrest records or gang connections.

3) Deport them according to rational and humane priorities, allowing the un-deported to work while waiting for the final disposition of their cases so they don’t place unnecessary burdens on the state.

That’s it, folks.  Any President charged under The Constitution with enforcing the immigration laws must choose one of the above.  If you don’t like choice 3, please state which of the first two you prefer, and why.

Choosing to wait for Congress to express a preference is not a viable alternative — the laws already on the books have to be enforced somehow in the meantime.

GRACIAS

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. . . señor Presidente — on behalf of myself and all my countrymen and countrywomen, documented and undocumented

My forebears arrived in this country, at the James River in the Virginia Colony, in 1690, without papers or permission.  In the intervening years we’ve done all right for ourselves.

May this uniquely American story go on, as long as rivers roll.

Look at the picture of the Rio Bravo above and tell me which side is the “American” and which side is the “Mexican”. The lord of creation didn’t really have the time or the inclination to make it clear.

Click on the image to enlarge.

THE PRESIDENT

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Has Obama suddenly grown a pair?  Republicans have been punking him for six years, opposing and viciously criticizing every policy he’s enacted or proposed while at the same time refusing to enact or propose any practical alternatives.  They’ve been like fans in the bleachers thinking they’re players because they’ve thrown beer bottles at the center fielder.

Now the do-nothing Republicans in Congress have grown hysterical at the prospect of Obama using executive orders to try and make some repairs to the broken immigration system — which they think they have a moral right to ignore.

Senate Republicans Address The Press After Weekly Policy Luncheon

They’re squealing like stuck pigs at the very idea that Obama might take action on an issue that they don’t have the guts or common decency to address themselves.  They’re talking about impeaching him — talking about shutting down the government again or refusing to pay America’s debts in retaliation.

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Obama has always bent over backwards to avoid projecting an image of “angry young black man”, and with the Republican gains in the recent midterms they seem to have thought they could get him go even further and address them as “massa”.  But if there was ever a time for the young black man to get angry, it’s now, when he has nothing left to lose.

All he has to do is say “Bring it on, eunuchs” to collapse their whole house of cards, to reveal them as the drunken irresponsible bleacher bums they are.  What fun it would be to watch that happen.

I hate Obama and look forward cheerfully to the day he leaves office forever, but I’d sure love to see him kick some flabby white Republican ass on his way out.