Friday, February 22, 2013

GOP: First signs of a new life form?

EVEN WHILE we lament what seems to be a Republican Party in its death throes, there are signs that, a long and merciful distance from the Beltway, Republicans on the ground around America are beginning to embrace the idea of American government as an exercise in the kinetic — in getting things done on behalf of their constituents.

In recent weeks, a slow trickle of Republican governors has emerged, all of them taking a U-turn away from party orthodoxy, and taking stands supporting what can only be described as populist, progressive initiatives — the kind that dovetail with those of the Democratic president.

Rick Scott is the most recent. In news that exploded into the Thursday news cycle, the Republican governor of Florida announced an about face on his previous stand against Medicaid expansion in his state. Now, Scott has decided to allow the expansion of the federal program, an act that could bring health care to 1 million Floridians at minimal cost to the state.

“While the federal government is committed to pay 100 percent of the cost, I cannot, in good conscience, deny Floridians the needed access to health care,” Scott said Wednesday at a news conference at the Governor’s Mansion, as reported by the Miami Herald.

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Scott’s on some kinda reformist roll. On Jan. 17, he announced plans to change state election law, and to introduce a plan to grow the number of early voting locations and dates “to help reduce wait times, long lines, and to better convenience voters.”

“We need more early voting days, which should include an option of the Sunday before Election Day,” Scott said in a statement, making an oblique reference to an African American electoral tradition in Florida. The governor also proposes to cut the length of Florida’s historically voluminous ballots.

“Our ultimate goal must be to restore Floridians’ confidence in our election system,” Scott said. “I want to ensure we do whatever possible to improve our election system from the statewide level.”

Well, better late than never. In the runup to the November election, Scott effectively stood in the polling-place door, refusing to extend the Sunshine State’s early voting.

Early voters, some of whom reported waited as long as four hours, were only inconvenienced. On Election Day, Scott’s refusal to resolve the predicted high-turnout bottleneck by extending early voting led to polling places being swamped, with some voters reporting having to wait up to six hours. One report estimated that as many as 200,000 Floridians were disenfranchised in the 2012 election.

With Scott apparently set to work with the legislature to craft a bipartisan bill making changes, this kind of Election Day nightmare is apparently on its way to being a thing of the past in Florida.

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IN RECENT weeks, Jan Brewer of Arizona; John Kasich of Ohio, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Rick Snyder of Michigan have recanted their previous positions against the Medicaid expansion, accepting one of the central components of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — as maybe the right thing for their states after all.

And what’s not to like? Under provisions of the Medicaid expansion, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the costs for the first three years, then reduce payments to 90 percent starting in 2020. Under the expansion, for example, Ohio could realize an additional 600,000 people with health care, at no/low cost to the Buckeye State.

And so ... after all the Fox bait, all the partisan posturing and gnashing of teeth, for Brewer, Kasich, Martinez and Snyder, it comes down to the math. It comes down to certain Republicans finally owning that most willfully ignored of political commodities: practicality.

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Late last year, Scott Walker, the once-embattled Republican Wisconsin governor, pulled his own apostate switcheroo in announcing he won’t end same-day voter registration in the Badger State, after a report from the state Government Accountability Board determined that ending it would cost $5.2 million that the state has better things to do with.

"There is no way I'm signing a bill that costs that kind of money," Walker told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in December. He called for an end to same-day registration altogether just days after the November election.

Walker’s volte face may still be spongy; he’s said to be leaving the door open to a challenge of same-day registration. But his willingness to leave same-day registration intact, based as it is on dollars and cents, would suggest that practicality will win out. “I'm trying to save money, not spend money,” he said in December.

On Thursday, Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor and easily the most electable of GOP candidates in the 2012 primary season clown-car cavalcade, announced in The American Conservative that he supports gay marriage.

He wrote: “Marriage is not an issue that people rationalize through the abstract lens of the law; rather it is something understood emotionally through one’s own experience with family, neighbors, and friends. The party of Lincoln should stand with our best tradition of equality and support full civil marriage for all Americans.”

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IT’D BE a bit of a stretch to call this a trend. The power of conservative ideologues and their deep-pocketed supporters and right-wing media won’t be fading from the scene anytime soon. But there are precedent events enough to suggest that, here on earth, some Republican governors may be beginning to take back their party from the extremists and the Tea Party cabal, renouncing at least some conservative scorched-earth policies in recognition of the new post-election dynamic.

This is more political than altruistic (duh). But their motives beyond the political don’t really matter, anyway. Confronted with the results of the presidential election; the serial embarrassments of GOP and Tea Party leaders in Washington; and the fact of some of their own elections between now and 2014, they've seen the handwriting large on the wall — “ELECTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES” — and acted accordingly.

It’s safe to speculate that, as governors in states red and blue begin to rethink the reflexive antagonism toward all things Democratic, more and more GOP senators will likely jump on the change-agent bandwagon. Empowered by the mutual cover they’ll give each other, they’ll feel more and more politically comfortable embracing a populist pragmatism the closer they get to their respective Election Days.

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You can’t make reversals like this without being taken seriously. Whatever the political motivation for these road-to-Damascus moments, they have consequences beyond the immediate acts themselves.

These insurgent actions, as few as they are, signal a willingness to go against the gridlock diktat of Republicans on Capitol Hill. These changes are coming from the states, the grassroots and governors that Capitol Hill depends on to know what the hell is happening in the country they represent. That’s why these departures from the party script matter so much.

And they point to what we should have expected: a political party coming to grips with what it’s lately turned into, trying to retrieve some measure of the party’s historical integrity one measure, one law, one bolt from the herd at a time.

A lot’s being made of how to “fix” the Republican Party, with some in the mainstream media talking of the GOP almost ruefully, looking back on the hypothetical good old days and lamenting where the party went wrong. One’s not inclined to be that sentimental. It was bound to happen, sooner or later. No one fixes a car like the one who built the car in the first place. Job #1: Open the garage door.

The Grand Old Party has been in need of a retrofit for a long time; there's good reason to think we’re seeing the beginning of that, in fits and starts, right now.

Image credits: Scott: Steve Cannon/Associated Press. Walker: Associated Press. Huntsman: Adam Hunger/Reuters/Newscom.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Calhoun, Buckley and Weyrich:
The infernal golden braid

IF JOHN Caldwell Calhoun had a Twitter account, he’d be on fire right about now. The fierce, vaguely hysteric Vice President and South Carolina congressman whose pro-slavery passions and rhetorical skill helped fan the flames that led to the Civil War has lately enjoyed a re-emergence in national politics, as the media, the Democrats, the White House and everyone else tries to get a handle on conservative thinking. That includes conservatives trying to do the same thing.

Sam Tanenhaus, in The New Republic, observed this week: “Calhoun's innovation was to develop a radical theory of minority-interest democracy based on his mastery of the Constitution's quirky arithmetic, which often subordinated the will of the many to the settled prejudices of the few.”

This idea of a tyranny of the minority was maybe best distilled by Calhoun in July 1831, in his celebrated Fort Hill Address. He poses the issue in stark terms: “[T]he naked question is, whether ours is a federal or a consolidated government; a constitutional or absolute one; a government resting ultimately on the solid basis of the sovereignty of the States, or on the unrestrained will of a majority ...”

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For Calhoun, the United States Constitution was “a compact, to which each state is a party”; thus, “the several States, or parties, have a right to judge of its infractions. . . . State-right, veto, nullification or by any other name [it is] the fundamental principle of our system. ... [O]n its recognition depend the stability and safety of our political institutions.”

Today’s conservatives and Republicans are heir to Calhoun’s passion and his principles. Tanenhaus writes that, for modern conservatives (who may or may not even know who Calhoun was), “[a] politics of frustration and rage remains ... it is most evident within the GOP's dwindling base — its insurgents and anti-government crusaders, its ‘middle-aged white guys.’

“They now form the party's one solid bloc, its agitated concurrent voice, struggling not only against the facts of demography, but also with the country's developing ideas of democracy and governance. We are left with the profound historical irony that the party of Lincoln — of the Gettysburg Address, with its reiteration of the Declaration's assertion of equality and its vision of a ‘new birth of freedom’ — has found sustenance in Lincoln's principal intellectual and moral antagonist. It has become the party of Calhoun.”

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THE FOCUS on the seventh U.S. vice president is well-placed. But if Calhoun was the historical prime mover of conservative thought, it’s also taken other, more recent  figures to reanimate Calhoun’s ancient bones in the modern era.

William F. Buckley, patron saint of modern conservatism, had a role to play as well. In his August 1957 editorial, “Why the South Must Prevail,” Buckley defended voting restrictions — the antecedent of today’s voter ID laws — with an absurd states-rights argument written with a presumably straight face. “The central question that emerges . . . is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not prevail numerically? The sobering answer is Yes — the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.”

The 14th and 15th Amendments? We don’t need no stinkin’ 14th and 15th Amendments!

Others, from Newt Gingrich to Tom DeLay to Paul Ryan, from the conservative media ecosystem to the world-class obstructionists currently in the GOP-led House, have done what they could to keep Calhoun’s nullification idea legislatively alive and well, and to ensure that Buckley’s states-rights hosanna obtains in the body politic.

But as much as anyone else, it was Paul Weyrich who led conservatives forward into the past.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fox News raises Cain

APPARENTLY, ELECTIONS have more consequences than we already thought. The mantra you’ve heard for the last three years has again proven to be a pithy truth, one that the Republican Party and conservatives generally are on the pointy end of. The Big Decision Desk at Fox News conceded as much on Friday, when the network continued shuffling the deck of its reliably conservative on-air lineup — bringing back an old favorite.

Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and part of the comic-relief tag teams that comprised the 2012 field of Republican contenders for the presidency, joined the Fox News crew on Friday as a contributor for Fox News Channel and the Fox Business Network.

“Cain’s impressive resume makes him a valuable addition to the FOX News and FOX Business lineup,” Bill Shine, Fox News' executive vice president of programming, said in a statement. “As a political expert with business savvy, he brings an important voice to the nation’s debates.”

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Cain joins former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown as the latest addition to the network, which has shuffled its supporting cast in the wake of last year’s presidential election. ““Senator Brown’s dedication to out-of-the box thinking on key issues makes him an important voice in the country and we are looking forward to his contributions across all FOX News platforms,” Shine said in a Feb. 13 statement.

Brown, who got flattened in his senatorial reelection bid by Democrat Elizabeth Warren, debuted on Fox News’ “Hannity” program on Wednesday.

With Cain and Brown in the Foxhouse, the “fair and balanced” network has completed the latest shift in on-camera identities. Flawed election seer Dick Morris and political personality Sarah Palin® were kicked to the curb a few weeks back.

This may be the latest in Fox News’ bid to steal a march on the freewheeling program-hosting style of MSNBC — to, in effect, be the MSNBC for conservatives. The ratio of left-leaning and right-leaning commentators now on Fox is almost an identical reverse of that of MSNBC. Where Joe Scarborough and Michael Steele hold down the conservative fort on MSNBC, Dennis Kucinich does the same for liberal causes on Fox.

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PURE AND simple, this is a bid for relevance in post-election America. While Fox News still boasts the highest ratings of any cable news network — a position it’s held for 11 straight years — Fox has seen its lead deeply eroded since the 2012 election. The network experienced a decline in its viewers between 25 and 54, the gold standard of advertiser demographic cohorts. It was Fox’s worst prime-time showing in that coveted cohort since August 2001.

The runup to the election and the period just after that tell the story. Fox News suffered from its reflexive conservative associations with the Romney campaign; outrageous statements from rightward candidates like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock; and a nominating convention that was, to be charitable, dull as boiled potatoes. Morris’ breathtakingly inaccurate election forecast and the sad on-air antics of wannabe Republican kingmaker Karl Rove also contributed to a lot of those coveted viewers tuning out. Maybe for good.

Fox may be watching MSNBC closely for a more long-range, deep-bench strategy. The Huffington Post reported Jan. 29: “To a seasoned watcher of cable news ratings, there were other surprises. [MSNBC’s] Rachel Maddow, for instance, came in 10th, beating [Fox’s] ‘Studio B’ and the 11 p.m. repeat of ‘The O'Reilly Factor.’

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“In January 2012, she came in 14th,” HuffPost reported. “It may not seem like much, but the top of the cable news field has been extremely stable -- and if Maddow were to continue creeping up the list, it would mean a real sea change. Overall, MSNBC -- perhaps powered by liberal euphoria over President Barack Obama's inauguration -- was the only cable news channel to grow its ratings from 2012.”

Programming changes aren’t unusual for networks, of course. But what makes this transition at Fox so unusual is the apparent willingness to sideline a media star like Palin or a D.C. insider like Morris, in order to bring on Brown, who strategically made noises like a moderate Republican while in the Senate, and Kucinich, the fire-breathing lefty from central casting. Oh, Cain’ll give Fox viewers what they want: more of the conservative red meat he served up on platters during the primaries last year. That’s guaranteed. But the others are relative outliers likely to shake up Fox’s loyal viewers. Kucinich in particular.

With Rupert Murdoch, the über jefe of News Corporation (which owns Fox), recently tweeting in curiously moderate terms supporting some Obama White House initiatives since the election, it’s clear that Fox News is making second-term tweaks to better position itself amid a viewership, and in a nation, that’s more to the ideological left than it wanted to believe.

Image credits: Cain: Video grab from Cain 2012 Web site. Maddow: MSNBC. Murdoch tweet: Rupert Murdoch.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

L.A. story: Dorner, the LAPD and what comes next

THE CHRISTOPHER Dorner saga ended on Wednesday with a self-inflicted gunshot, one in the dome that was a ballistic exclamation point on a 6,000-word manifesto, four deaths and one of the strangest manhunts in southern California history.

“The information that we have right now seems to indicate that the wound that took Christopher Dorner's life was self-inflicted,” San Bernardino Sheriff's Capt. Kevin Lacy told reporters Friday at a news conference.

The search for Dorner, which spread across southern California and even briefly into Mexico, ended at a cabin-style condo within 100 yards of a law enforcement command post for the manhunt in the San Bernardino National Forest near Big Bear Lake.

Reacting to that disclosure, Ed Tatosian, a retired SWAT commander for the Sacramento Police Department, called it "chilling. That's the only word I could use for that. It's not an unfathomable oversight. We're human. It happens."

It’s not the first time a fugitive took to hiding in (almost) plain sight, and it sure as hell won’t be the last. But what’s also no longer in hiding is the suspicion that life for African Americans inside the LAPD can be as pressurized and bigoted, as fraught with bias and animosity as it is outside.

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Before Dorner was cornered in that cabin, former LAPD officer Joe Jones had something to get off his chest.

“The 1st thing I would say to [Dorner] is, I feel your pains!," Jones wrote in his own manifesto, which was posted to Jones' Facebook page and circulated by the group Anonymous on Feb. 12. “But you are going about this the wrong way. To take innocent lives could never be the answer to anything. I say this as a Man who experienced the same pain, betrayal, anger, suffering, litigation and agony that you did in many ways.”

Jones, who retired in 1998 after working in the LAPD's Wilshire, West Valley and West Los Angeles divisions, offers some specific examples:

“I had my Civil Rights violated on several occasions. I was falsely arrested at gunpoint by the Sheriffs as an Officer who ID'd himself and was conspired against by both LAPD and the Sheriffs when my Civil case went to Trial. ...

“I was falsely accused on more than one occasion and simply placed in a position that the trust was so compromised that I could no longer wear the Uniform. Also know there were many more episodes. All of these issues are well documented ...”

"Bro, Don't kill anymore Innocent people,” Jones writes. “Your point has been made. Clearly. They know you mean business, the whole world knows.”

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THE QUESTION is, now that the LAPD knows, what happens next? A Thursday story at the Time Web site indicates that, among black Angelenos, plus ça change is the order of the day.

Connie Rice, an attorney who has sued the department for misconduct and racial bias in the past, told Time that Dorner’s assertions “ “revived the ghosts” of the LAPD’s past. “This is on such a massive scale in terms of its impact, I’m quite sure there’s been damage.”

Despite the department’s tragic history, Rice conceded that the LAPD of old is no longer in effect. ““The old culture, in which the top command, from the chief all the way down to the lowest officer, condoned and approved of open racism — that LAPD is gone,” she told Time, adding the current LAPD “seeks the trust of the poor black and poor Latino communities.”

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No doubt eager to build on that historical momentum, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced last week, while Dorner was still on the run, that the department would reopen its inquiry into Dorner’s original accusations, outlined in detail in his manifesto.

In a statement, Beck said: “I am aware of the ghosts of the LAPD’s past and one of my biggest concerns is that they will be resurrected by Dorner’s allegations of racism within the Department.

“But, I also know that we are a better organization now than ever before; better but not perfect. Fairness and equality are now the cornerstones of our values and that is reflected by the present diversity of the department. We are a majority of minorities, almost exactly reflecting the ethnic makeup of Los Angeles.

“As hard as it has been to change the culture of the Los Angeles Police Department, it has been even more difficult to win and maintain the support of the public. ...

“Therefore I feel we need to also publicly address Dorner’s allegations regarding his termination of employment, and to do so I have directed our Professionals Standards Bureau and my Special Assistant for Constitutional Policing to completely review the Dorner complaint of 2007; to include a re-examination of all evidence and a re-interview of witnesses. We will also investigate any allegations made in his manifesto which were not included in his original complaint.

“I do this not to appease a murderer. I do it to reassure the public that their police department is transparent and fair in all the things we do.”

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However long it takes — there’s nothing in Beck’s statement about a timetable for getting it done — the city (and the nation) waits to hear how that re-examination plays out. If there’s any hope of keeping the ghosts of the LAPD’s past in the past, the sooner the better.

“The way [Dorner] responded to discrimination is not the correct way,” Donald Tibbs, a law professor at Drexel University, told Time.

“At the same time, his accusations seem to take us back and remind us of the days of old — maybe they’re not so old.”

Image credits: Dorner manhunt screenshot: KABC-TV. Dorner, Jones: LAPD. Beck: via

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dorner’s other high-value target: The NRA

ONE OF the so-far under-examined aspects of the Christopher Dorner manifesto and the killings it rationalizes will shortly give the current gun-law reform debate a whole new twist. Among the hundred rhetorical targets of opportunity Dorner exploits in his letter of intent, there’s also a shot at an unlikely high-value target: The National Rifle Association.

In the scattershot statement he released online, Dorner calls for a new assault weapons ban (acronymed as “AWB”) and explodes the organization’s laissez-faire reasoning in ways that NRA director Wayne LaPierre and his supporters should find concerning. Excerpts follow:

“If you had a well regulated AWB, this would not happen. The time is now to reinstitute a ban that will save lives. Why does any sportsman need a 30 round magazine for hunting? Why does anyone need a suppressor? Why does anyone need a AR-15 rifle? This is the same small arms weapons system utilized in eradicating Al Qaeda, Taliban, and every enemy combatant since the Vietnam war.

“Don't give me that crap that its not a select fire or full auto rifle like the DoD uses. That's bullshit because troops who carry the M-4/M-16 weapon system for combat ops outside the wire rarely utilize the select fire function when in contact with enemy combatants. The use of select fire probably isn't even 1% in combat. So in essence, the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle is the same as the M-4/M-16.

“These do not need to be purchased as easily as walking to your local Walmart or striking the enter key on your keyboard to ‘add to cart.’ All the firearms utilized in my activities are registered to me and were legally purchased at gun stores and private party transfers. All concealable weapons (pistols) were also legally register[ed] in my name at police stations or FFL's [federal firearms license].

“Unfortunately, are you aware that I obtained class III weapons (suppressors) without a background check thru NICS or DROS completely LEGALLY several times? I was able to use a trust account that I created on quicken will maker and a $10 notary charge at a mailbox etc. to obtain them legally. ... I can buy any firearm I want, but should I be able to purchase these class III weapons (SBR's and suppressors) without a background check and just a $10 notary signature on a quicken will maker program? The answer is NO. I'm not even a resident of the state I purchased them in.”

Dorner calls out a particular Las Vegas gun store: “Lock n Load just wanted money so they allow you to purchase class III weapons with just a notarized trust, military ID. Shame on you, Lock n Load. NFA and ATF need new laws and policies that do not allow loopholes such as this.

“In the end, I hope that you will realize that the small arms I utilize should not be accessed with the ease that I obtained them. Who in there right mind needs a fucking silencer!!! who needs a freaking SBR AR-15? No one.

“No more Virginia Tech, Columbine HS, Wisconsin temple, Aurora theatre, Portland malls, Tucson rally, Newtown Sandy Hook. Whether by executive order or thru a bi-partisan congress an assault weapons ban needs to be re-instituted. Period!!!”

Image credits: NRA logo: © 2013 National Rifle Association. Dorner: LAPD. Lock N Load logo: © 2013 Lock N Load Gun Store.

The equal opportunity avenging angel

SOMEWHERE IN Hollywood right now, a screenwriter is writing a treatment for a feature film whose central character would have seemed too unbelievable for words (or film) if not for the fact of his frightening, dangerous existence in real life. But the best writers in the movie capital of America will be stymied (for now) by the third act playing itself out somewhere, everywhere in California. And possibly beyond.

Christopher Jordan Dorner, this is your life.

Over the last seven days, the search for Dorner, a suspect in three murders has widened beyond the immediate region of Los Angeles and its immediate environs. Authorities are unsure where he is, even as the city of Los Angeles announced on Sunday a $1 million reward for his capture.

But for law enforcement officers in the state, and especially the Los Angeles Police Department, Dorner, 33, is a special problem. A product of the paramilitary experience of three years in the LAPD, and, earlier, more than a decade in the fully military experience of the United States Navy in wartime, Dorner was one of their own.

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His targeted killings; his rationale for murder; his expertise in weapons training, tactics and technology, intelligence and survival skills; and a vendetta against the LAPD for what he calls an unjust dismissal from the force — all of it’s been brought to light in what’s being called “the Dorner manifesto,” a long, sporadically focused but passionately delivered and supremely self-confident statement widely available online.

By turns autobiography and treasure trove of military terminology, expansive rant and statement of principles, music appreciation and last will and testament, the manifesto is chilling in its objectives. One of them is now impossible to achieve: the restoration of Dorner’s good name.

He writes: “A name is more than just a noun, verb, or adjective. It’s your life, your legacy, your journey, sacrifices, and everything you’ve worked hard for every day of your life as and adolescent, young adult and adult. Don’t let anybody tarnish it when you know you’ve live up to your own set of ethics and personal ethos.”

BY NOW the story has become Internet legend: Dorner, a deeply experienced Navy reservist and LAPD officer, notified the department of an improper use-of-force incident he witnessed. Dorner returned to the LAPD in July 2007 after a deployment to Bahrain, and worked at the department’s Harbor division. In August 2007, Dorner, accused his training officer, Teresa Evans, of kicking a schizophrenic man three times, once in the face, during an arrest in San Pedro. After reporting the incident, Dorner said, “nothing was done.”

Dorner continues: “10 months later on 6/25/08, after already successfully completing probation, acquiring a basic Post Certificate, and Intermediate Post Certificate, I was relieved of duty by the LAPD while assigned to patrol at Southwest division. It is clear as day that the department retaliated toward me for reporting Evans for kicking Mr. Christopher Gettler. The department stated that I had lied and made up the report that Evans had kicked the suspect.”

Subsequent appeals went nowhere. That frustration with “the thin blue line” and the code of silence within the storied department lit the fuse that exploded on Feb. 4, when Dorner allegedly killed two people in Irvine, one of them the daughter of Randal Quan, the former LAPD officer who represented Dorner in the disciplinary hearings that led to his dismissal.

Dorner allegedly shot and killed a Riverside police officer early on Feb. 7. Chief Sergio Diaz of the Riverside Police Department said Dorner pulled up alongside a patrol car idling at a traffic light in Riverside and shot them, killing one officer and injuring the other seated beside him.

Since then California authorities have been consumed with finding Dorner, looking in an area in the mountains around Big Bear Lake, about 80 miles east of Los Angeles. “He could be anywhere at this point, and that's why we're searching door to door,” San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon told The Associated Press.

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DORNER’S MANIFESTO has harsh words for his former department, a harsh analysis that dovetails with a view of the LAPD that prevailed in minority communities not so long ago.

“The department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days. It has gotten worse. The consent decree should never have been lifted. The only thing that has evolved from the consent decree is those officers involved in the Rampart scandal and Rodney King incidents have since promoted to supervisor, commanders, and command staff, and executive positions. ...”

“This department has not changed from the Daryl Gates and Mark Fuhrman days. Those officers are still employed and have all promoted to Command staff and supervisory positions. I will correct this error. Are you aware that an officer (a rookie/probationer at the time) seen on the Rodney King videotape striking Mr. King multiple times with a baton on 3/3/91 is still employed by the LAPD and is now a Captain on the police department?

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“No one is saying you can’t be prejudiced or a bigot,” he writes. “We are all human and hold prejudices. If you state that you don’t have prejudices, your lying! But, when you act on it and victimize innocent citizens and fellow innocent officers, than that is a concern.”

Dorner offers a chillingly practical perspective of police work. He suggests that even the grisly work is all about the Benjamins: “I’ve heard many officers who state they see dead victims as ATV’s, Waverunners, RV’s and new clothes for their kids. Why would you shed a tear for them when they in return crack a smile for your loss because of the impending extra money they will receive in their next paycheck for sitting at your loved ones crime scene of 6 hours because of the overtime they will accrue.

“They take photos of your loved ones' recently deceased bodies with their cellphones and play a game of who has the most graphic dead body of the night with officers from other divisions. This isn’t just the 20-something-year-old officers, this is the 50-year-old officers with significant time on the job as well who participate.”

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DORNER’S ultimate gauntlet throwdown is chilling in its implications. The language in the following excerpts is protracted, convoluted but clear: Bring it on:

“The attacks will stop when the department states the truth about my innocence, PUBLICLY!!! I will not accept any type of currency/goods in exchange for the attacks to stop, nor do i want it. I want my name back, period. There is no negotiation. ...

“I know your TTP’s, (techniques, tactics, and procedures). Any threat assessments you generate will be useless. ... I will mitigate any of your attempts at preservation. ORM [Operational Risk Management] is my friend. I will mitigate all risks, threats and hazards. I assure you that Incident Command Posts will be target rich environments. KMA-367 license plate frames are great target indicators and make target selection even easier. [KMA-367 was for decades the FCC call sign for LAPD radio transmissions.] ... I have nothing to lose. My personal casualty means nothing. ... [Y]ou can not prevail against an enemy combatant who has no fear of death. An enemy who embraces death is a lose, lose situation for their enemy combatants. Hopefully you analyst[s] have done your homework. ...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weighing Christie’s options

IF YOU’VE been wondering where the real Chris Christie was and what they’d done with him — witness his recent peace-making tour with President Obama, which required a hurricane on steroids to make both possible and necessary — you can relax now. The brittle, mercurial Republican governor of New Jersey is back in his old familiar form.

It took a nasty dressing down of a former White House physician who made recent comments about Christie’s sorest spot — his weight — to bring back the Chris Christie we remember. The governor’s still in the public eye as his state and others recover from Hurricane Sandy. A sitdown with Letterman and a cover story in Time Magazine, the last newsweekly standing, are keeping alive Republican hopes of his viability as a presidential contender in 2016.

But it’s time to say it plain: The White House doctor’s comments about his weight and his flinty, defensive reaction to them point to an issue that will follow him from now until 2016. And as his political star and his profile rise, Christie’s none-of-your-business shoutdowns won’t matter. If he seeks the presidency of the United States, he’d better get used to this. Or do something about it. His viability, the real kind, may depend on it.

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Last week, in an interview, Connie Mariano, the former White House physician to Bill Clinton and both Bushes, told CNN she feared that Christie’s weight may herald health problems such as diabetes and sleep apnea if left unchecked. “I'm worried he may have a heart attack. I'm worried he may have a stroke... It's almost a like a time bomb waiting to happen unless he addresses those issues before running for office.”

“I'm a Republican. I like Chris Christie. I want him to run. I just want him to lose weight," Mariano said. "I'm a physician more than I'm a Democrat or Republican. And I'm worried about this man dying in office.”

In an interview with the Newark Star-Ledger, she said: “He can feel compassion, but he can also be a great example for people to conquer this. There are ways to do it. … And if he can overcome this disease, he deserves the White House... He’s a tough SOB. And all of us really like him because he’s refreshingly honest.”

Mariano would soon discover just how “refreshingly honest” Christie can be. On a tour of Sandy storm recovery efforts in Sea Girt, N.J., Christie called Mariano "just another hack who wants five minutes on TV. ... If she wants to get on a plane and come here to New Jersey and ask me if she wants to examine me and review my medical history, I will have a conversation with her about that," Christie said.

"Until that time she should shut up."

Not the governor’s smoothest move.

Bryan Monroe thinks so. “Governor, you might not want to dismiss her so quickly,” said Monroe, the editor of, and a former National Association of Black Journalists president, in a Friday piece on CNN’s Web site. “Yes, she has never examined you and maybe it's not her job to be pointing out the obvious: that morbidly obese men have a significantly higher chance of dying early than the population at large. But, still, she was probably doing you a favor. How do I know? Seven years ago, governor, I was you.”

Monroe went on to note how “at 6 feet 4 inches tall and 441 pounds, I was morbidly obese ...”

Joe Madison, talk-show host on SiriusXM radio, told Richard Prince’s Journal-isms blog on Friday: “It's not a political issue, it's a matter of health,” said Madison, who underwent his own battle with obesity a few years back. “Stress and being president of the United States do not mix. Stress and being overweight do not mix.”

◊ ◊ ◊

C HRISTIE, 50, is reportedly 5’11” tall. The ideal body mass index (BMI) for a man of his height and age is 25 or less. The ideal weight for a man of his height and age is 180 pounds or less, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control.

If images from his recent appearances in public are any indication, a charitable crowd-sourced assessment in round numbers would put the governor’s weight at 300 pounds. Assuming that’s true, Christie’s BMI would be about 41.8. If his weight’s higher, say 350 pounds, Christie’s BMI checks in at an astronomical 48.8.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

‘The distance we’ve traveled’:
Hillary stands down at State

YOU’D have thought it was a rock star showing up at the C Street lobby of the State Department on Friday. And maybe it was. When Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared at the top of the stairs, she was greeted by a raucous but respectful crowd more off the chain than you’d expect from State Department operatives.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done to elevate diplomacy and development, to serve the nation we all love; to understand the challenges, the threats and the opportunities the United States, and to work with all our heart and all our might to make sure that America is secure, that our interests are promoted and that our values are respected.”

The modern world intruded to punctuate her valedictory at State. Underscoring the global dangers Clinton alluded to was a tragic coda to the Clinton diplomatic era: the suicide-bomber attack earlier that day at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, in which a Turkish national, working as embassy security, was killed.

“I know that the world we are trying to help bring into being in the 21st century will have many difficult days, but I am more optimistic today than I was when I stood here four years ago, because I have seen, day after day, the many contributions that our diplomats and development experts are making to help ensure that this century provides the kind of peace, progress, and prosperity that not just the United States, but the entire world, especially young people, so richly deserve. I am very proud to have been Secretary of State.”

The address to the troops was the last of a sparkling victory lap. Clinton spoke on Thursday at the Council on Foreign Relations, offering her final formal speech as the 67th U.S. Secretary of State, and the most traveled in the history of the United States.

She talked about “the distance we’ve traveled” since January 2009: “Two wars, an economy in free fall, traditional alliances framed, our diplomatic standing damaged and around the world people questioning America’s commitment to core values and our ability to maintain our global leadership. That was my in-box on day one ...”

“A lot has changed in the last four years. Under President Obama’s leadership we’ve ended the war in Iraq, begun a transition in Afghanistan and brought Osama bin Laden to justice. We have also revitalized American diplomacy and strengthened our alliances. And while our economic recovery is not yet complete, we are heading in the right direction.

“In short, America today is stronger at home and more respected in the world.”

◊ ◊ ◊

THERE WERE highs and lows, of course. And maybe even lower lows. Benghazi and Syria were certainly two of them, two proofs that, for all the legitimate advances in outreach and charitable toughness made by Clinton’s State Department, some situations were resistant to change, if not downright antagonistic to it.

At 6:25 p.m. on Sept. 11, a State Department spokeswoman confirmed that a protest in Libya had taken a violent turn with the death of John Christopher Stevens, U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and three other American citizens. What was originally characterized and communicated as a mob action at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi developed a life of its own, one interpreted through the lens of Washington politics at its most deeply partisan.

The State Department came under withering fire from Congressional Republicans, who took the State Department to task for ignoring requests (some from Stevens himself) for more guards and safety improvements. And a report from the independent Accountability Review Board said the State Department had "systemic failures" in responding to events in Benghazi, including a reliance on local militias for security instead of U.S. Marine guards.

The lows of the Syria situation are ably distilled in a story by Michael Gordon and Mark Landler of The New York Times.

The U.S. objective: Cultivate a Syrian opposition with the help of other actors in the region. The Times reports: “The plan that [then-CIA director David] Petraeus developed and Mrs. Clinton supported called for vetting rebels and establishing and arming a group of fighters with the assistance of some neighboring states. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta was said by some officials to be sympathetic to the idea. ...
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