Sunday, May 11, 2014

Eagerly Paying the Ultimate Price for the Two Party System

"A Well Informed Electorate" -- Then and Now
Read Thomas Jefferson's tweets @ hash tag "#TJEFF."

During the time that the United States' "founding papers" -- the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights -- were being painfully composed, most of those present were "on board" with the idea that all the citizens should be able to elect who was going to run things for the next few years.  Of course there were a few "gaps" -- for example, slavery -- in the plan, but most of those can be very comfortably attributed to the established social-cultural norms of the times. [late 1700's]

Although more than a few of the "founding fathers" were rapidly becoming the "wealthy elite" in the British colonial economy, none of them were particularly "just being mean."  Likewise, there were those in that crowd who were quite ambitious for "idealist goals" while others were, predictably, mainly thinking of how a successful revolution might make them even richer.

However, roaming around loose in the "soon to be" representative democracy was a sort of "Constitutional wild card." We can be sure that it was the topic of plenty "heated discussions" not only with the leaders in Philadelphia but, most likely, also in pubs, parlors and road houses all across the colonies.

The exact question which was driving that "wild card" was the very understandable skepticism about whether or not "simple citizens" would know enough about the proposed, elected government to make good decisions at the ballot.

As a result we see a significant reference to the prescient conclusions drawn on this matter by the founders. Perhaps most telling is the direct reference to an "informed electorate." We get an idea of what Jefferson was thinking from his letter to Richard Price.

Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price

Paris Jan. 8. 1789.

Dear Sir

I was favoured with your letter of Oct. 26. and far from finding any of it's subjects uninteresting as you apprehend, they were to me, as every thing which comes from you, pleasing and instructive. I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism & demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians. your opinions and writings will have effect in bringing others to reason on this subject. our new constitution, of which you speak also, has succeeded beyond what I apprehended it would have done. I did not at first believe that 11. states of 13. would have consented to a plan consolidating them as much into one. a change in their dispositions, which had taken place since I left them, had rendered this consolidation necessary, that is to say, had called for a federal government which could walk upon it's own legs, without leaning for support on the state legislatures. a sense of this necessity, and a submission to it, is to me a new and consolatory proof that wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.

We must be careful to avoid the presumption that the "free press" driving this "informed electorate" is merely a passive thing.  Quite the contrary, the reason that a "free press" might, eventually, result in an "informed electorate" cannot be limited to simply having an unfettered, more or less "patriotic" and otherwise generally "honorable," media.  The other side of that question requires that media to confront an actively inquisitive electorate.  Only when both elements are present should we expect what Jefferson was describing to be an existential possibility.

All the parts have to not only be present but also functional, operational and demanded by those responsible for the decisions which will direct the government.

Contrary to what many contemporary Americans might think, the colonials were surprisingly literate.  Historical estimates suggest around 60% of [white] women were literate with a slightly lower rate among men.  However, our modern ideas of an "informing media" are, well, unfortunately  quite modern.

During the late colonial and early revolutionary periods, taverns became increasingly popular throughout colonial America, especially in New England. The tavern was a place to gather, have 
a pint of stout, share a newspaper, peruse the latest broadside or pamphlet, and engage in friendly — or not so friendly — banter concerning the latest news and gossip. Here oral and print culture collided. Newspapers were delivered by post to taverns, and the literate patrons eagerly read them aloud to their illiterate neighbors. Dr. Alexander Hamilton states that he “returned to my lodgings at eight o’clock, and the post being arrived, I found a numerous company at Slater’s [tavern] reading the news … [and their] chit-chat kept me awake three hours after I went to bed.” In a time when news traveled slowly, all were eager for its arrival, literate or not. 

"Informed Electorate" - 
Just a Few "Moving Parts"
Not too complicated, but very important.

The founders clearly understood the importance of guaranteeing a free and robust Fourth Estate. By the time the Bill of Rights' amendments were being formulated, we can assume that the First Amendment pretty much "eased" its way to inclusion without much contention.  When Madison made the proposal to US House during the 1st Session of the 1st Federal Congress, the whole room apparently thought it was a good idea.

The very existence of the First Amendment is evidence that the "threat" those founders were concerned about was the government.  Of course, we can now see that the actual threat wasn't, it turns out, emerging from the government at all. Instead, the origin of that threat was the very predictable, rolling "coup" of the avaricial US billionaires -- merely one mechanism among many -- in their "wet dream" of peacefully transforming the old democracy they hate so much into a bright, shiny, new oligarchy.

Subsequently, however, any hope of an enduring free media began to evaporate almost immediately when the latest crop of modern billionaires had amassed enough cash to buy the networks -- and hire some craven "psych-tech" think tanks to start pouring out propaganda.  

The founders had the idea that the media would be driven by "market forces" enforced by the market demand of "media consumers" seeking news which was useful and accurate.  Those "media consumers" would do this as they sought to fulfill their Constitutional responsibility of "being a well informed electorate."

In fact, it was the presumption in those old Philadelphia rooms that credibility seeking, free market "media consuming," future Americans would pursue this quite energetically to sustain and protect their democracy.

That was the idea in the 1700's.

That is not the idea in 2014.

In 2014 roughly 40% of the registered American voters will very comfortably identify themselves as "really savvy individuals who no longer 'soil' themselves with the nastiness of politics." [NBC: Why 40% of Americans Won't Vote] They consider it quite beneath them, and, in any event, they are quite busy.

Is this another exaggeration roaring out of the geezer?  Hardly.

So, we can see the paradox.  With 60% of voters actually voting, and with 40% of voters not bothering to vote, we would normally assume that around 60% of Americans are generally satisfied with the democratic process, and the other 40% are not particularly strongly dissatisfied with the process  which attracted the 60%.  If the other 40% had been strongly dissatisfied instead  of "not particularly strongly dissatisfied," they would have actually voted.  But, wait.

DAILY KOS: Headlines for FOX Pundits
It gets even crazier.  30% of voters who actually voted should, theoretically, be absolutely delighted with the government they elected. But, get real.  They clearly still hate it.

Does this seem to describe the government's "approval rating?" Thanks to the oligarchs' fact twisting media corporations, no one is at all satisfied -- not even the 30% who actually voted for the candidates who won!

The government of United States is now "acceptable" to 30% of the registered voters. This is, of course, the 2014 version of the old Philadelphia "majority rule" idea from the Bill of Rights days. As far as the "heavy lift" facing the "take over scheme" of the oligarchs and their propaganda tanks, completely inebriating only 30% of the electorate is incredibly easier and cheaper than man handling 50% of all voters into the pit.

Heh, heh.  Quiet down.  We have to figure that the 30% who are calling the shots are probably doing the best they can.

How in the world did the "Philadelphia dream" become something like this?

Don't bite your tongue, but just remember that most of the USA still imagines the country as the "shining city on the hill" with respect to being the world's "ideal example of representative democracy."

Exhausted, Uninformed and Uninterested
No dreaming allowed.

For years after the founders set our course in the 1700's, Americans were able to quite reasonably consider the performance of politicians on an individual basis.  Of course, all the folks elected to go to Washington and run things were, after a while, "connected" to political parties, but success in campaigns and elections continued to be very dependent on what voters thought about candidates as individuals.

After all, it was that specific, individual candidate who had stood before constituent assemblies, communicating what his [or, later, her...] positions were on the country's issues.  Those campaign speeches usually included a few of the inevitable "detail free, big picture" positions such as "strong national defense," "small government" or "lower taxes," and the like -- many of which gradually became "foundation blocks" demonstrating party unity but only as general background for party identities.

So deep went the fear that post-Revolutionary party politics would again degenerate into civil warfare that the Founding Fathers understandably shunned the word party, much less the idea. Scottish philosopher David Hume, learning that his old friend, Benjamin Franklin, was armpit deep in American political intrigues, recoiled in horror. "I am surprised to learn our friend, Dr. Franklin, is a man of faction. Faction, above all, is a dangerous thing.''
Even when, in 1787, the thorniest political questions of a new nation were thrashed out in secret during the Constitutional Convention, there was no provision for a two-party system. Opposition to the new Constitution, while strong in many states, was so disorganized that it was expected to be short lived.
Away in France during this reform convention, Thomas Jefferson objected to the lack of any formal provision for a two-party system. "Men are naturally divided into two parties,'' he wrote, "those who fear and distrust the people and wish to draw all power from them into the hands of the higher classes [and] those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise, depository of the public interests.''
However, when the ballots were being cast, the decisions were based much more on the positions of the individual candidate than on such political generalities.  Further, in those old elections voting decisions were originally more likely to be determined by regional interests -- new schools, property taxes and only gradually, matters affecting larger or national constituencies such as foreign policy or Federal policies directly relating to constituent issues.

There was little "raw ideology" in campaign positions primarily because such indulgences would have distracted voters from the more direct local issues which candidates considered more effective and persuasive platforms.  Understandably, as Federal programs such as Social Security, defense spending, education subsidies or nation wide infrastructure projects became more common, the campaign focus in local or state elections began to include such matters as relevant local issues useful in persuading local constituencies.

Because national policy on such matters was increasingly handled at the Federal Congressional level, the importance of party affiliation grew more important. The Federal Congress was much more inclined to function in ways consistent with party lines. Voters began to view decisions made in Washington as "party driven" more than as the exclusive results of an individual Legislator's political philosophy.  Still, for years Federal policies attributed to the "mixed responsibility" between individual and party remained generally workable.

The "Citizen Soup" of the New Democracy
The 1800's United States after the war ended.

So far, this post has "bounced along" as it passed through an unlikely variety of topics like an old buck board wagon bumping down an isolated dirt trail. Happily, the horse isn't really tired yet, but, still, it's clearly time to tie all this stuff together.

Let's take a closer look at exactly what kind of "price" MeanMesa is seeing here.

Following the Revolution the nation's founders found themselves with a remarkably different electorate of citizens compared to what we find around us today.  The country during the Revolutionary period was hardly populated by Constitutional academics.  It was populated by literate colonists of every ilk, all of whom still had the bruises and burns from the war with England.

Adding to the dynamism of the moment, hardly anyone among the Americans was more than a raw amateur with respect to the "ins and outs" of operating a representative government responsibly.  Still, what was understandably lacking in experience was replaced by a rather "dreadful obsession" to protect what had been won.  While there wasn't an over abundance of trust in the Revolutionary government, there was no shortage in the determined exuberance eagerly provided to make it work -- a demand that it in fact, be representative.

Although we can't accurately refer to "universal suffrage" -- women, slaves and the indentured weren't voters, and even their citizenship status was shaky -- the Jeffersonian idea was in place so far as the culture of the time would allow. Still, the exceptional part of the revolutionary transformation was in place.  To the extent possible, the United States government was under the control of most of the common people who were living here. That was new.

This meant that the alternative of the European nobility government model had been dislodged and discarded.  Oligarch-wise, there were, indeed, wealthy colonials, and their wealth was certainly attached to increased influence in the representational system, but the newly enfranchised citizens were wary and stubborn, and the rich ones knew it.

The resulting democracy was dynamic.  Notably, both within the government and amid the citizens new and innovative ideas were everywhere.  This was partly because "new and innovative" problems were "popping up" right and left, but it was also the result of hundreds of thousands of Americans patiently pondering the solutions to the challenges arising from the new democracy.

One way to characterize the prevailing conditions would be "individual democracy."  Political majorities strong enough to prevail in an election were collections of individuals holding common opinions on enough of the momentary issues to congeal and exert political power.  The political landscape was remarkably free of "packaged positions" to which one might blindly adhere and thus avoid the tedious "considering phase" which was part of the democratic responsibility.

There were indeed "labels."  There were Royalists, Isolationists, Mercantilists and so on, and individual citizens were called by those names, but within the entire group of those labeled as, for example, Royalists, one would find a wide variation of other positions.  There were plenty of cases of "common cause," but there were no lockstep march of political party members holding nominating conventions, publishing blanketing party platforms or daring to identify themselves nonchalantly with a "defining letter" in parentheses [such as an (R..) or (D...)] following their name, state and title.

Politicians were expected to campaign -- and govern -- as individuals. It made them into statesmen, complete with individual nuance potentially either hated and admired. This was the plan.

This, perhaps more than any other contemporary "political condition," provides the salient difference between the founders' country and the contemporary paralysis in terms of the electorate, the government, the parties, the media and the ideologies. The modern United States has rushed headlong to the literal opposite of this earlier environment.

This dynamic individualism was extinguished as political parties became more strongly established.  Those individual political positions became both awkward and unnecessary.  The individual elements in a candidate became no more than the superfluous "icing and decoration" on a gaudily disguised, not particularly delicious, cake representing stolid party platforms.

Political Parties: Suffocating the Dynamic Democracy
The price we pay for limiting all solutions to two choices.

Amid the stiff chaos of the party system, the "informed electorate" encounters something dismally akin to an "economy priced, low grade truck stop" which advertises "quick, convenient food" rather than anything exciting, appetizing or nutritious.

Inside they find a buffet offering a small assortment of "suspiciously oxidized" meals. Even more discouraging, the cafe has taken no effort whatsoever to foster the idea that what's spread out before them is actually comprised of the same food items which are insinuated by the menu.

There is, indeed, food to be had by the weary, hungry traveler, but he will face the inescapable prospect of dining on one of the casseroles presented. Beyond this, all the dinner choices have already been made by the morning cook [who has already had a "good morning bracer" financed by the grocery money he saved by shopping the day old meat counter...].  Anyone desiring dinner will eat one of the choices he has dutifully patched together for the buffet.

Eventually, what had begun as a forlorn, "one star" diner with "pretty good parking but an not particularly satisfying menu with almost no real variety" becomes a grotesque "norm."  You know, the sort of place usually described as "well, not that bad."

Once everyone gets used to it, the place's business lurches along "just swimmingly."  After a while, there are no longer any complaints.  At home when the trip has ended, the children ask their mother for entrees "like what we had at that truck stop."

Let's just say that the new reason for the "informed electorate's" importance is to be informed enough to select the correct party.

Was Ted Cruz elected because he had a good idea?
All the "good ideas" are day old "party ideas."  Platforms.  Innuendo. Punditry.  Not ideas,  Not solutions.

Rather than being living, breathing, thoughtful people honestly aspiring to become statesmen, politicians have become little more than unreconciled shades of dystopian party politics tastefully disguised with a "person-like" mask. The electorate has, apparently, permanently mistaken complaining for demanding.

Was this man elected as a Senator because he had this idea?  Really?

Friday, May 9, 2014

MeanMesa to the Rescue: Randi Rhodes' Golden Parachute

[A note for MeanMesa's international visitors:  Randi Rhodes is one of the finest progressive talk radio hosts ever to grace the AM air waves in the United States.  Very sadly -- but understandably -- she has announced that she will be leaving the air waves in a few days. You can visit Randi's FaceBook page at this link:]

A Glimpse at Randi's Record

Due diligence for this post requires that everyone must understand the extremely close relation between Randi and MeanMesa.  Her progressive radio show was broadcast every weekday here in Albuquerque [The Randi Rhodes Show, AM 1350, KABQ, Albuquerque, 4-7 PM  week days], and Randi's voice was a daily visitor to MeanMesa's kitchen here at Galactic HeadQuarters. If you happen to be out of country, visit Randi's Face Book page to get acquainted with her.

Quite a lot has been published about her plans to leave the air.  Sample of few of the following links to get the story.  Naturally, there are "two views" of Randi, so MeanMesa has separated the links below between more or less "regular" articles and right wing conservative "wing nut" articles.

Regular articles:

Wing Nut articles:

Here, mention should also be made that pretty much all through Rhodes' career she has been relentlessly hammered by the servants of the oligarchs she so energetically exposed.  The mega-rich own and control around 95%+ of the broadcast media available on US radio.  Predictably, billionaires exerted their reactionary financial "editorial prerogatives" in these attacks without any guise whatsoever of restraint of pretending to honor media responsibility or even the fundamental democracy.

These miscreants have spent literally hundreds of millions to keep every hill billy in America "juiced to the gills" with hate radio -- always accompanied with and unending flow of fear and loathing of Randi.

[image source]

Every "mean trick" which could be fabricated by the always ready oligarchic think tanks and implemented amid the lubricating luxury of oodles of billionaire money has landed on Randi Rhodes through the years.  Although she has never so much as blinked in her constant commitment to illuminate the oligarchic coup attempt, she has now, sadly, taken this decision for her own, personal well being and peace.

She will be a fond and enduring presence in the mind and heart of MeanMesa to the day these old bones say good bye to this world.

Rescuing Randi

While all of her fans would naturally hope that Randi might just whisk from the door of her studio to a lavish limousine, disappearing into the horizon to a secure, comfortable -- and much deserved -- wonderful retirement, this may not be the case.  With all this in mind, MeanMesa's thoughts predictably wander immediately toward possible solutions for Randi's more or less unavoidable "golden age cash flow challenges."

So, what kind of plan could possibly be cooked up by a geriatric, heart broken high desert blogger?

Re-establishing this old codger's peace of mind will clearly require "cooking up" a nice "golden parachute" scheme for the Queen of Progressive Radio. It may not be as complicated as it looks.

Here's the plan.

After a couple of months for rest and relaxation, Randi should begin a very aggressive medication regime of huge daily doses of massive amounts of tranquilizers, sedatives, mood stabilizers and the like.  After she has reached a nearly comatose state, a quiet proposal can be pitched to FOX.

See, FOX has a closet filled with gutless progressives which provides the network's "bite and snatch" punditry schedulers with a string of unconvincing dolts which are intended to reinforce the "two sides" disguise of the network's rancid "fair and balanced" nonsense.  Of course, none of these "toothless wonders" would ever fool anyone besides those denizens of FOX's base, but their tedious presence provides a perpetually safe "punching ball" target for the necessary audio sadism of the likes of Hannity or O'Reilly.

Obviously, the entire current cast of these FOX "theoretical progressives" has become rather thread bare, you know, utterly lack luster after literally years of dutifully losing every argument with Murdoch's Sunday School crowd.

Of course this is depressing, but in Randi's case, it is precisely the unlikely opening which offers all the financial security which could ever be required for our heroine's "happy ever after."

Randi's "quiet proposal" to insert herself into service as one of these FOX "punching ball" roles would inevitably lead to some sort of interview with Murdoch's management minions.  Now, although we would all normally assume that such an interview would become an almost instant, violent disaster, in her deeply sedated state, Randi would appear quite manageable and, hence, useful to the FOX programming manager interviewing her.

Further, the prospect of contracting the exact woman who, only a few months before, had been literally the Queen of Progressive Broadcast Radio into the role of a confused, submissive "token liberal" eye candy on FOX hate shows would be irresistible.  The million dollar contract could be prepared immediately.  It would, of course, include a very punitive "early termination" clause should the FOX folks, however unlikely, ever wanted to get rid of Randi before the term had been completed.

With all this hand, Randi could instantly cease all the medication.  Within a few days she would still be ushered into the daily "killing ground" of the chair to the left of the FOX broadcast "mouth junk" pundit, but -- instead of being the heavily sedated, passive, dithering wreck of a woman who had appeared for the interview -- it would be the old Randi!

MeanMesa assumes that after cashing out that big FOX "early contract termination" check, Randi and Howard would, this time for real, be slowly disappearing into the sunset -- aboard their new yacht -- on the way to their new beach front mansion in the Bahamas.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Plan to Stop Red State Election Crimes

Facing a Few Facts About Voter Suppression

Now, one might be thinking, the old geezer has careened off to another ranting and raving session, calling nice, legal, totally innocent, red state voter suppression an "election crime."  Well now, let's see.

In complicity with billionaire funded gerrymandering, the weird red state penchant for "voter ID" requirements seems to have sprung straight from the pages of a Kafka novel.  Of course, the "elephant in the living" sized missing piece is the essential absence of voter fraud, voter ID fraud, voters with more than on ballot or any of the other dismal litany of make believe horror stories the oligarch think tanks have cooked up to justify the legislation legalizing the "election crime" of voter suppression.

Only one possibility threatens the oligarchs current ownership of these red states.  The conditions which could materialize that possibility can be expressed quite elegantly in two words: "losing elections."  So, it's no surprise that these "hard working money men" are absolutely infatuated with the prospect of rigging synthetic voter ID laws which serve to exclude most of the voters who would ever actually vote against any of their hand picked candidates.

MeanMesa isn't exaggerating. Current estimates suggest that as many as four million legally registered voters have been booted out of the polls by one means or another.  In case you haven't been watching, four million is more than enough to swing the ownership of the House or the Senate -- or the Presidency.

The oligarchs' scheme is, of course, multi-faceted.  An obedient Supreme Court has legalized endless loop holes in campaign contribution law.  The old limits on amount and requirements for transparency are long gone.  Their ownership of the editorial boards of what used to be the Fourth Estate is unquestioned.  Their "hearts and minds" campaign has reduced the country to anxiety ridden, mistrustful, stoic "democracy end timers."  Their think tanks miss no opening to promote violence, glaring misinformation, unchecked bigotry or any other form of simple, out right stupidity.

With all of these oligarch funded anti-democracy schemes at play, we find ourselves in 2014 with a US House controlled by Republicans even though most Americans voted for Democratic House candidates.  This is not just the opinion of a cranky old blogger, either.

Hoyer spokeswoman Stephanie Young directed us to a December 2012 analysis by the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan, Washington, D.C. publication that analyzes and handicaps congressional and gubernatorial races, with the headline "House GOP Won 49 Percent of Votes, 54 Percent of Seats."

Read the entire POLITIFACT article here:  Politifact: House Democrats Won Majority in 2012

This is the picture of an illegitimate minority government in a nation which imagines itself as a "bastion of representative democracy."  The House Republicans in this illicit, un-elected "majority"have generated an endless wave of mayhem and destruction which began the day that John Boehner took the gavel.

However, this particular post is all about permanently solving the voter suppression problem.  Of course, all these "election crimes" dove tail in the near distance, but we need to consider them individually if we intend to make any progress on the problem.

Red State Voter Suppression
How big is the problem?

It's big.

The very creepy legislatures in the red states the oligarchs presently own have been tutored in ways to suppress voting opportunities for registered voters by anti-democracy organizations such as state level ALEC along with a few others.  A consensus of estimates of how many registered, legal voters were denied access to vote in 2012 runs around the 5 million level. 

The crafty means red state legislatures employ to disenfranchise voters vary, but the aggregate effect remains disturbing.  Five million votes nationwide is enough to elect a President. Links to two interesting articles on this matter are:

The US Department of Justice has made a determined, respectable effort to enforce what's left of the tattered voters rights laws, but the oligarchs' Supreme Court has been obliterating the same laws as fast as their old bones can chortle out "unconstitutional."  

Southern states, already a dismal wasteland of democracy for decades, have usually been the first to rush in with new, reprehensible "voter ID" laws [most composed for the illiterate Republican "legislators" by ALEC] and other disenfranchising legislation.  But in the 2014 political environment, otherwise somewhat civilized northern red states have eagerly jumped on the band wagon.  With these sold out state governments when the oligarchs call, the phone gets answered.

So what can be done?

Should we simply steel ourselves to watch the American democracy be fed through the meat grinder of the monied interests?

Maybe not.

Why Red States Look Like "Lolly Pops" to Oligarchs
Why would someone who already lives in a East Coast mansion 
want to own a bunch of smelly, obedient hill billies?

We need to look at just why oligarchs like to own red state governments.  

Probably the first and foremost reason -- and not irrelevant to this post -- when they can control state governments, they can probably also control the Federal Congressional delegation from that state. Now, we might like to say that all of this "happens" because the voters in that state "elected" both the state government and the state's federal delegation of House members and Senators, but in red states with aggressive voter suppression laws that "election" was very likely "decided" by only part of the electorate.  Further, the candidates for that "election" were ushered into place by millions of dollars worth of campaign contributions long before the state primaries even took place.

Of course even the "slowest" oligarchs know this. [Although it's possible these slow ones still paid their think tanks to explain it to them.]

The second reason "wholly owned" red states are so attractive to oligarchs is that the bought and sold legislators in those states are always more than happy to trash expensive environmental laws and the like.  The cash saved rushes right into the corporate pockets of the oligarchs.

And the third reason explaining this rather grotesque interest is because of states' rights, the old Southern plantation owners' "pay back" when the Civil War had ended and slaves were freed. States' rights becomes profitable when Federal dollars allocated for some Federal program are distributed to states to implement.  

This third reason is exactly why red state governors refused the wholly subsidized Medicaid expansion feature of the ACA.  It was a "business decision."  The Medicaid money came with significant Federal "program strings" attached, making the usual task of "states' rights looting" too tedious and risky for the local hill billies.

The basic idea here becomes clear enough when we look at a little research. [The following screen shot was taken from a Huffington Post article on the subject. Visit the original Huffington Post article here: Huffington Post You can also link to another interesting article here: MOTHER JONES]

Green states pay more in tax revenues than they receive from Washington
In the chart, the brighter the red color of a state, the greater the disparity between tax revenue sent to Washing D.C. and the amount of Federal subsidies returned.  The greener the green states are, the same disparity is shown only in the opposite direction.

Green states pay more in taxes than they receive in Federal allotments.

[Interestingly, the article cites New Mexico as a Republican state, and the bright red chart color for the state reflects, accurately, that New Mexico receives lots more from Washington than it send in tax money.

MeanMesa will explain New Mexico's bright red color this way.  New Mexico [home of MeanMesa's Galactic HeadQuarters] is the poorest state in the union. This "aggravates" the chart's ratio. Although New Mexico gets PLENTY of Federal money, we are so poor that the ratio between that amount and the paltry amount of taxes we send to Washington is "sky high."

Although all of this would be interesting enough all by itself, the "solution" to voter suppression promised in this post's title relies on a careful understanding of the facts presented in the chart.]

We should take a look at two more state maps. The first shows states under one-party GOP control [2013]. Voter suppression is found exclusively in these "red states."

Locating voter suppression [Source: MSNBC]
The second shows a US map cartogram of 2012 Presidential election data "weighted" to show population density. We can see approximately the same pattern as in the map shown above. This consideration is much more important with respect to control of the House of Representatives. All the states have two US Senators.

2012 Presidential election weighted for population [map source]
The conclusions emerging from considering these US maps reveals the oligarchs' strategy to insinuate themselves into Congressional power.  Voter suppression is one of the most important parts of this plan.  [The third map would offer even more compelling evidence if it showed 2012 election results for state legislatures. MeanMesa couldn't find that one.]

The MeanMesa Solution
Stopping Red State "Election Crimes"

Of course, if the Americans still had anything resembling a functioning government it would be -- at least, theoretically -- possible that the Congress would step right up and reaffirm the fundamental right to vote, but...really? The tea bags in the House and Senate would willingly "take a slice" out of their Congressional "career opportunities" for anything as flimsy and meaningless to them as the American democracy?

Ferengi [WIKI Ferengi]
Happily, we have just what we need.  We can appeal to their greed!

For voter suppressing red states to ever participate in a plan to re-enfranchise all the voters they've thrown off the registration list, there simply must be an incentive.  Given the "Ferengi-like" nature of the denizens of those red state legislatures, the rest of us will need to make it "worth their while" to have as many people as possible show up for their elections.

Right here, we'll need to stop for a moment and take time to look at the way municipalities fund their public school system.

School districts allocate public education funding based on the number of students in each specific school.  This makes sense, but the real point is what school boards don't do.  What they don't do is allocate public education money based solely on the total population of the respective districts.

On the other hand, the representative body of US House members theoretically allocates Federal money to states based on population.


MeanMesa can assume that the ratio between total populations and legal voters is essentially uniform across the states.  It's possible that some states have more children per voter than others, but that variance would never amount to much.

The data in the charts [above] presents an interesting anomaly between the general pattern of Federal disbursements to states and the varying degrees of state participation in elections.  That disbursement calculation is currently based on  raw state population, but it could be based on the number of ballots cast in that state's elections --  in both state and Federal elections.

Based on this simple premise, the allocation of Federal money to states should logically be based on the number of votes cast in elections.

If the GOP crackers in red state legislatures who have been so busy disenfranchising voters were to suddenly realize that every vote they have suppressed means a reduction in Federal money disbursed to their state, they might adopt a much more "democratic" idea of how important it is to encourage high voter turn out instead of sabotaging it.

Now, that wasn't so complicated after all, was it?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Confused Oklahoma's "French Connection"

Just the Facts, Ma'am
What happened in Oklahoma?

For any MeanMesa visitors who haven't heard the shocking story from Oklahoma, a brief recount is provided here.  Naturally, the news coverage of this event contains the understandable amount of emotional "additives," so MeanMesa will supply the "official version" which comes "right from the horse's mouth."  The following is the account of the "incident" provided to Oklahoma Governess Fallin [R - of course...] by the Director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Mr. Robert Patton. [Letter image and quoted material NPR blog: Oklahoma Botched Execution ]

Oklahoma Issues Timeline Of Botched Execution


May 01, 2014 6:04 PM ET

Clayton Lockett died during a botched execution on Tuesday.AP

Robert Patton, the chief of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, offered a detailed timeline on Thursday of the botched execution of Clayton D. Lockett.

It reveals that on the morning of the execution, Lockett refused to be restrained, so officers administered an electronic shock with a Taser. Once they removed him from his cell at around 5:30 a.m. CT, officers noticed that he had self-inflicted wounds to his right arm.

After a day of constant observation, Lockett was escorted to the execution table at 5:22 p.m. CT. It took a phlebotomist 51 minutes to find a vein, before settling on one in his groin.

We'll let Patton take it from here:

Patton goes on to call for an indefinite stay of other executions and an external investigation into Lockett's execution.

"While I have complete confidence in the abilities and integrity of my Inspector General and his staff, I believe the report will be perceived as more credible if conducted by an external entity," Patton wrote.

As we reported Wednesday, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin tasked the state's Department of Public Safety commissioner with investigating both this execution and the state's execution procedures.

Madeline Cohen, who represents death row inmate Charles Warner — who was also scheduled to be executed on Tuesday — called the execution "excruciatingly inhumane."

"This most recent information about the tortuous death of Mr. Lockett, and the State's efforts to whitewash the situation, only intensifies the need for transparency," Cohen said in a statement.

Now, although we can probably all agree that this story represents an absolutely toxic PR problem for Oklahoma, the account of how this pious, church loving bunch stumbled into such a mess is even more interesting.  In general while the process of killing a convicted inmate is hardly ever much more than a gruesome manifestation of Christian vengeance [Old Testament style], it isn't rocket science.

The complicating factors in this instance arise from policy mandates created far away in the US Supreme Court.

A Quick Lethal Injection Primer

Here are a couple of articles from the GOOGLE which may help "fill in" more details than anyone would probably ever want to know about lethal injection executions.

Constitutionality in the United States

In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in Hill v. McDonough that death-row inmates in the United States could challenge the constitutionality of states' lethal injection procedures through a federal civil rights lawsuit. Since then, numerous death-row inmates have brought such challenges in the lower courts, claiming that lethal injection as currently practiced violates the ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" found in the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Lower courts evaluating these challenges have reached opposing conclusions. For example, courts have found that lethal injection as practiced in California, Florida, and Tennessee is unconstitutional. On the other hand, courts have found that lethal injection as practiced in Missouri, Arizona, and Oklahoma is constitutionally acceptable.

As of 2014, California has nearly 750 prisoners condemned to death by lethal injection despite the moratorium imposed when in 2006 a federal court found California's lethal injection procedures to be unconstitutional. A newer lethal injection facility has been constructed at San Quentin State Prison which cost over $800,000, but it has yet to be used because a state court found that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation violated theCalifornia Administrative Procedure Act by attempting to prevent public oversight when new injection procedures were being created.

On September 25, 2007, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a lethal injection challenge arising from Kentucky, Baze v. Rees. In Baze, the Supreme Court addressed whether Kentucky's particular lethal injection procedure comports with the Eighth Amendment and will determine the proper legal standard by which lethal injection challenges in general should be judged, all in an effort to bring some uniformity to how these claims are handled by the lower courts. Although uncertainty over whether executions in the United States would be put on hold during the period in which the United States Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of lethal injection initially arose after the court agreed to hear Baze, no executions took place during the period between when the court agreed to hear the case and when its ruling was announced, with the exception of one lethal injection in Texas hours after the court made its announcement.

On April 16, 2008, the Supreme Court rejected Baze v. Rees thereby upholding Kentucky's method of lethal injection in a majority 7–2 decision. Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented. Several states immediately indicated plans to proceed with executions.

The US Supreme Court actually spelled out the exact process for lethal inject executions -- even including the drugs to be used to provide an execution not violating the Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibiting "cruel and unusual punishment."  What follows is an excerpt of that decision.


certiorari to the supreme court of kentucky

No. 07–5439. Argued January 7, 2008—Decided April 16, 2008

Lethal injection is used for capital punishment by the Federal Government and 36 States, at least 30 of which (including Kentucky) use the same combination of three drugs: The first, sodium thiopental, induces unconsciousness when given in the specified amounts and thereby ensures that the prisoner does not experience any pain associated with the paralysis and cardiac arrest caused by the second and third drugs, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Among other things, Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol reserves to qualified personnel having at least one year’s professional experience the responsibility for inserting the intravenous (IV) catheters into the prisoner, leaving it to others to mix the drugs and load them into syringes; specifies that the warden and deputy warden will remain in the execution chamber to observe the prisoner and watch for any IV problems while the execution team administers the drugs from another room; and mandates that if, as determined by the warden and deputy, the prisoner is not unconscious within 60 seconds after the sodium thiopental’s delivery, a new dose will be given at a secondary injection site before the second and third drugs are administered.

The Court's majority opinion on the matter turned out to be an over night "marketing masterpiece."  There would be no more eye balls popping out or faces burning away as inmates sitting on electric chairs were slowly dispatched.  There would be no more accidental decapitations with poorly engineered hangings.  In fact, American children could now watch fictional depictions of executions on their television without vomiting, screaming or even having night mares.

This was important.  Folks were obviously really getting off on the killing idea, but the blood and guts weren't so much of an "additional turn on" as they once had been.

An Oklahoma inmate who was supposed to be executed Tuesday instead died of a heart attack after the execution was botched, state officials said.

Clayton Lockett’s execution Tuesday night was halted after about 20 minutes due to an issue with a vein, the Associated Press reported. Not long after Lockett was deemed unconscious from the first of three drugs, he began “writhing on the gurney,” according to the Associated Press. He was declared dead 43 minutes after the execution began.

“If that were happening regularly, this whole thing might unravel,” Dieter said. “The public does not like that. It supports the death penalty, but it has to be massaged or covered…with some veil of humaneness.”

[Richard C. Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said shortly after the botched Ohio execution that similar executions could shock the public.]   Washington Post: Oklahoma Execution Botched

Even though the condemned inmate appeared to be simply "drifting off for a nap," even the vengeance loving spectators could engage in a subdued biblical chortle as they mumbled "Yessiree. Old Smith got his."

Well, with this Supreme Court decision in hand states all across the country began the institutional killing of inmates with the complete tranquility of a calm only possible with a process already approved by the highest court in the land. In fact, the killing went along "absolutely swimmingly" until a "fly appeared in the ointment."

Oklahoma's Problem and Oklahoma's Solution

That "fly" began in Europe but eventually also began "buzzing around" in the United States, too.

For a variety of reasons mild mannered Europeans had developed a rather stubborn distaste for institutional executions.  At first this was merely a troublesome "public opinion" which could be overlooked quite comfortably, but, as time wore on, that "public opinion" became a "meat handed poker player" in the high stakes game of corporate image management, and, predictably, hence, in corporate marketing strategies, that is, especially in corporate marketing strategies for corporate pharmaceutical manufacturing corporations.

The European pharmaceutical corporations which had been selling the execution drugs to US penitentiaries decided that the "image price" was simply too high, so they quit.  In no time the US pharmaceutical corporations which stepped in to "fill the 'free market' void" also began to feel the "public image" problem, so they also quit.  Worse, many of the "executing states" had abandoned the ridiculously expensive option altogether by this time.

However, those states left -- the ones with voting blocks still salivating for more Christian vengeance -- the ones with plenty of "dirty shirt preachers" still smarting after watching their previously obedient congregations emerge from the Dark Ages -- the ones still filled with eager inmate killers --  were in a pickle.  What happened in Oklahoma demonstrates the "depth and width" of the supply problem they were facing.

The precise drugs mentioned in the Supreme's "go ahead" verdict were no longer available.

The solution took form in two parts.  First, possibly for patent reason or maybe just manufacturing complexity, the "approved list" of killing drugs was set aside.  Doctors around Oklahoma and the other remaining execution states began busily formulating list of alternate, "stand in" killing drugs.  Naturally, there really wasn't any way to test their hypotheses other than to try out the mix on actual prisoners during execution.  You know, experimentation.

Second, even providing the "stand in" drugs on the doctors' lists still carried that stubborn public image problem.  Since these drugs couldn't simply be purchased on the open market, penitentiary officials made their way to "compounding pharmacies" for them.

A "compounding pharmacy" -- unlike a regular pharmacy which simply buys drugs and then sells them to you -- makes its own drugs in its own kitchen.

To mitigate the bad PR which even a compounding pharmacy might expect if the word got out, the Oklahoma Republican legislature eventually passed a law making the identity and the source of the killing drugs a secret.

Not even this went smoothly for the vengeance loving Oklahomans.  The detestable "liberal lawyers" for the inmates scheduled to be executed had the audacity to file a lawsuit to force the Oklahoma prison authorities to disclose the names of the drugs chosen for the job.  Although that lawsuit was supported by an Oklahoma Court with jurisdiction [maybe...], it was, well, as an Oklahoma varmint hunter might say, "anything BUT a clean shot."

Oklahoma just neutered its state Supreme Court
Goodbye, judicial independence

The sorry story began on Monday, April 21, when the Oklahoma Supreme Court stayed the execution of two convicted murderers so that the justices could evaluate the legality of the state's injection secrecy law. That law had allowed state officials to prevent the disclosure of basic information about the drugs used in lethal injections, and was declared unconstitutional late last month by a trial judge who said, "I do not think this is even a close call."
Things got complicated because there are two high courts in Oklahoma — one that focuses on "criminal" matters and one that focuses on "civil" matters. The criminal court, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, said it had no jurisdiction to look at the injection secrecy matter. The civil court, the Oklahoma Supreme Court, said that the Court of Criminal Appeals did have jurisdiction.
There was open conflict between the courts. The state Supreme Court criticized the Court of Criminal Appeals for not accepting the appeal and for not halting the executions. The criminal appeals court criticized the state Supreme Court for intruding upon what its judges considered the purely "criminal" matter of execution protocols.
The open warfare within the state judiciary — unseemly, in particular, in the context of capital cases — surely contributed to the chaos that came next.
Before the sun had set Monday, just hours after the Oklahoma Supreme Court halted the executions, the Republican governor of the state, Mary Fallin, proclaimed that the executive branch would not honor the judicial stay preventing the executions. The Supreme Court's "attempted stay of execution is outside the constitutional authority of that body," she declared, so "I cannot give effect to the order by that honorable court."
Gov. Fallin then said she would recognize only the power of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to guide her in proceeding with the execution of one of the prisoners, Clayton Lockett, on April 29. In other words, the head of the executive branch of state government had just proclaimed that she would not recognize a duly issued order by the state Supreme Court because she did not agree with it and because the other high court in the state, which did not favor a stay of execution to fully evaluate the injection secrecy issues, stood ready to implement her will.
The story gets worse.
On Tuesday, the day after Gov. Fallin went rogue, a Republican state lawmaker, Rep. Mike Christian, introduced impeachment proceedings against the five state Supreme Court justices who had voted for the stays of execution. In Christian's view, the justices had used "unsupportable arguments regarding constitutional rights" in a way that "should be considered a violation of the oath of office because it constitutes a willful neglect of duty and incompetence." In other words, one day after the executive branch violated separation of powers principles, and overtly threatened the judiciary for an unpopular decision, the legislative branch did as well.
And that's when the Oklahoma Supreme Court simply, tragically, caved in to the political pressure.
[Read the entire article in THE at this link The article]

The rest of the story is history.

Incompetence Leads to 43 Minutes of Medieval Torture
The "executed" inmate said "This isn't working."

Now, MeanMesa is always reluctant to rattle out such a sordid tale without offering some sort of imminently practical solution. The title of this post was, after all, Confused Oklahoma's French Connection.  So, let's take a look at what's available to the Oklahoma killers that can still satisfy their appetite for blood and corpses, "throw a few crumbs" to Oklahoma's biblical vengeance fans and still somehow fit within the general boundaries of that pesky old Supreme Court decision.

While listening to this sad tale on Dr. Rachel Maddow's show, MeanMesa was impressed with the similarity between the laments of the rather amateurish Oklahoma State Corrections Department and an interesting proposal made by Dr. Joseph Ignance Guillotine to the French Assembly a few centuries ago in 1789.  [Joseph didn't actually invent the Guillotine, but it was named after him because he was the lobbyist who finally got the Revolutionary government of France to adopt the practice.]

The problem Dr. Guillotine wanted to solve dealt with the bloody public spectacles being conducted daily as the French patiently tortured their old nobility to death in the streets.  Have a look at the Doctor's 1789 proposal.

The History of the Guillotine
[Cited from The Guillotine Headquarters - attribution link below]

10/10/1789 On the second day of the Assembly debate about the Penal Code, Dr. Guillotin submitted a proposition in six articles which included a recommendation that death, without the accompaniment of torture and by means of decapitation, should become the sole and standard form of capital punishment in France.

1/12/1789 Dr. Guillotin present his six articles for the second time.

1. Offences of the same kind will be punished by the same kind of penalty.

2. In all cases where the law imposes the death penalty on an accused person, the punishment shall be the same, whatever the nature of the offence of which he is guilty; the criminal shall be decapitated; this will be done solely by means of a simple mechanism.

3. In view of the personal character of crime, no punishment of a guilty person shall involve and discredit to his family. The honour of those belonging to him shall be in no way soiled, and they shall continue to be no less admissible to any kind of profession, employment and public function.

4. No one shall reproach a citizen with any punishment imposed on one of his relatives. 
Whosoever ventures to do so shall be publicly reprimanded by the judge. The sentence imposed on him shall be written up on the offender's door. Moreover, it shall be written up on the pillory and remain there for a period of three months.

5. Confiscation of the condemned person's property shall in no case be imposed.

6. The corpse of an executed man shall be handed over to his family on their request. In every case, he shall be allowed normal burial and no reference shall be made on the register to the nature of his death.

3/6/1791 The Assembly approved a text providing that "Every person condemned to the death penalty shall have his head severed.”

10/4/1792 Roederer (Procureur général syndic) and Tobias Schmidt (a German harpsichord maker) reached a happy accord: 960 francs was to cover the cost of manufacturing the machine, the sum moreover providing for a leather bag in which to dispose of the severed head.

11/4/1792 It was on this Friday afternoon, the first real guillotine was set up, in the Cour du Commerce, rue Saint-André-des-Arts. It was tried out on sheep and calves. The blade was not the oblique one yet. It may have been curved like that of an axe, or even straight. Tobias Schmidt the maker of this prototype, had his workshop there, just opposite the printing office in number 8, where Marat had Ami du Peuple printed.

15/4/1792 The first test on human corpses at a combined hospital, prison and old peoples home, at Bicêtre. 3 cadavers were beheaded successfully.

19/4/1792  Guidon went out to Bicêtre to fix the newly conceived blade in position.

21/4/1792 The improved machine was again tried out at Bicêtre. Three corpses were carefully selected from the military hospital in order to obtain, if possible, well-built men who had died in an accident or of some short illness which had not caused them to grow thin.

25/4/1792 Nicolas-Jacques Pelletier was executed on the place de Grève. Sanson operated the machine in dead earnest for the first time. It was not well received by the crowd who called for the return of the gallows.

5/6/1792 The architect Giraud submitted his report requested by Roederer. The report said: "Although well conceived in itself, it has not been perfected to the fullest possible extent. The grooves, the tongues and the gudgeons are of wood;the first should be made of brass, the others of iron; the hooks to which are attached the cords holding up the mouton are only fixed with round-headed nails; they should be fixed with strong nuts and bolts."

21/8/1792 The guillotine was installed at the place du Carroussel, where it stayed until May 7th 1793 with some interruptions, such as the execution of the king, which took place at Place de la Révolution.

Naturally, curious Frenchmen began to wonder if the process were really as "clean and painless" as the Doctor had promised.  That "curiosity" was finally addressed in 1905 [The French continued using the Guillotine until the late 1970's.] with the following report by Dr. Bruneaux who "examined" the decapitated head of an executed criminal.

Does the Head Survive?
[Cited from The Guillotine Headquarters - attribution link below]

Read this report from 1905. The report is written by Dr Beaurieux, who under perfect circumstances experimented with the head of Languille, guillotined at 5.30 a.m. on June 28th, 1905

" I consider it essential for you to know that Languille displayed an extraordinary sang-froid and even courage from the moment when he was told, that his last hour had come, until the moment when he walked firmly to the scaffold. It may well be, in fact, that the conditions for observation, and consequently the phenomena, differ greatly according to whether the condemned persons retain all their sang-froid and are fully in control of themselves, or whether they are in such state of physical and mental prostration that they have to be carried to the place of execution, and are already half-dead, and as though paralysed by the appalling anguish of the fatal instant.

"The head fell on the severed surface of the neck and I did not therefor have to take it up in my hands, as all the newspapers have vied with each other in repeating; I was not obliged even to touch it in order to set it upright. Chance served me well for the observation, which I wished to make.

"Here, then, is what I was able to note immediately after the decapitation: the eyelids and lips of the guillotined man worked in irregularly rhythmic contractions for about five or six seconds. This phenomenon has been remarked by all those finding themselves in the same conditions as myself for observing what happens after the severing of the neck...

"I waited for several seconds. The spasmodic movements ceased. The face relaxed, the lids half closed on the eyeballs, leaving only the white of the conjunctiva visible, exactly as in the dying whom we have occasion to see every day in the exercise of our profession, or as in those just dead. It was then that I called in a strong, sharp voice: "Languille!" I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions – I insist advisedly on this peculiarity – but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts.

Next Languille's eyes very definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused themselves. I was not, then, dealing with the sort of vague dull look without any expression, that can be observed any day in dying people to whom one speaks: I was dealing with undeniably living eyes which were looking at me. "After several seconds, the eyelids closed again, slowly and evenly, and the head took on the same appearance as it had had before I called out.

"It was at that point that I called out again and, once more, without any spasm, slowly, the eyelids lifted and undeniably living eyes fixed themselves on mine with perhaps even more penetration than the first time. The there was a further closing of the eyelids, but now less complete. I attempted the effect of a third call; there was no further movement – and the eyes took on the glazed look which they have in the dead.

"I have just recounted to you with rigorous exactness what I was able to observe. The whole thing had lasted twenty-five to thirty seconds.

Perhaps the most relevant part of the Doctor's account is at the very end.  He describes the entire execution as "complete" with the complete death of the prisoner in "25-30 seconds."

Now, now.  Doesn't this meet the Supreme Court's standard for "not cruel and unusual?"

Come on, Oklahoma.  The Dark Ages weren't THAT long ago.