RICH BULEY: A look into Montana’s future

Another day, another fracking disaster. It must be a day ending in “y”. In Ohio, families had to flee their homes because of an out of control natural gas leak at a fracking well that can’t be stopped. sounds to me like the problem is obviously too much onerous regulation.

This is hardly the first fracking accident in Ohio. In May, a spill at a fracking well sent 1600 gallons of toxic lubricant into the Ohio River. In June, a fire at a Halliburton fracking site sent many thousands of gallons of toxins into a tributary of the Ohio River, killing at least 70,000 fish. Then, in October, 400 families were forced to evacuate their homes because of an uncontrolled release of methane gas from a fracking well rupture.

Ohio is a look into the future for Montana. The Republican controlled Legislature and the Republican Governor in Ohio passed in 2012, laws written by energy companies to deregulate the industry. Republicans In the Montana Legislature have made it very clear that they intend to do the same thing to Montana the has been done in Ohio. Should be a blast!

RICH BULEY: Your Congress at work

Mitch McConnell has said that the first vote the new Republican senate will have in January is one to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. I guess it doesn’t matter how many catastrophic Canadian pipeline leaks occur. Mitch and the rest of the oil company toadies are willing to sell out the United States for the right price. Canadian oil companies make all the money and the U.S. takes all the risk. Your Congress at work.

RICH BULEY: Torture is torture

I know I said I wasn’t going to comment much about the torture revelations, but as the architects of the war crimes hit the talk show circuit to defend themselves, I just can’t stand it anymore.

Past CIA Director Michael Hayden has been going around saying that rectal feeding and rectal rehydration are “medical procedure(s) that were done because of detainee health.” Actually, it is most commonly known as anal rape. But, Hayden’s attempt to cover this up as some sort of “medical procedure” is nothing but another ludicrous lie. The digestive system is a one way street. Let an actual physician explain rectal feeding and hydration to Mr. Hayden:
“This is a variation on a medieval form of torture in which the intestines were swollen up with fluid in order to cause pain,” said Dr. Steven Miles, a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School and board member of the Center for Victims of Torture, both of which are in Minneapolis. “You can’t feed somebody this way. And so, for the U.S. government to claim that this is some sort of feeding technique, that’s just totally bizarre,” he said. “Because there is no physiological way for any nutrients to be absorbed in the colon, any medical participation in this rectal feeding procedure is medical participation in torture.”

Meanwhile, Karl Rove showed up on Fox News (where else can torturers go?) to not only spout the same lie as Hayden about rectal feeding, but to also come up with this whopper:
“Take, for example, waterboarding,” Rove continued. “In waterboarding — unlike World War II, where the Japanese attempted to drown people by basically pouring water in their mouths — here the feet were elevated so there’s little or no chance of any fluid getting into the lungs. And very careful standards set in place so these would help break the the resistance of the detainee without placing their life in danger.”

No, Karl. When the Japanese were waterboarding Americans, it wasn’t to drown them (they could have just killed them in many more efficient ways if that was their purpose), it was to torture them, just like the good ol’ CIA. The position of the legs is irrelevant.

Over on Meet the Press, America’s psychopath in chief, the man who obtained five deferments to avoid actual service, Dick Cheney, once again said that waterboarding and rectal rape were not torture. I would really love to see Dick try that defense at the Hague some day. I mean, it might be a tough sell, since both were used by the Spanish Inquisition in the 1500s. Oh, and an actual member of the Armed Services who was actually tortured, John McCain, has stated numerous times that it is torture.

RICH BULEY: Another Wall Street bailout

My hope that the Senate would do something to hold back the Wall Street Welfare Bill (aka the omnibus spending bill) was dashed this weekend. 32 Democratic Senators sold out their alleged constituency, the working people in America, in voting to pass the bill.

Montana’s Senators split, with Jon Tester voting against it, and John Walsh voting in favor. I really don’t understand Walsh’s vote. He’s done in the Senate. He has nothing to lose politically, so why not do the right thing? My guess is that Walsh, with his political career destroyed, is angling to get some lobbyist job. Since Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan personally called Senators, lobbying for their vote, maybe he promised Walsh a nice little retirement gift.

The bill doesn’t just put taxpayers on the hook for paying for Wall Street’s gambling losses, it also screws retirees on pensions. The bill overturns 40 years of federal law which had demanded that workers who had labored for years with the promise that they would receive a defined pension would actually receive that which they were promised. But now, pension funds will be allowed to reduce payments up to 30% to their elderly retirees. Of course, this is also a Wall Street bail out.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Wait, What?” You see, pension funds were hit hard by the 2008 recession when the fraudulent mortgage backed securities sold to them by Wall Street imploded. So, who pays for the fraud? Well, certainly not the guys who made the billions selling the fraudulent crap. No, it easier to hide something in a “must pass” bill and make retirees take the hit.

This is our government, a subsidiary of Wall Street. Both political parties are totally on the take. So, what can be done? There are a few brave souls out there like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and our own Jon Tester. But, we obviously need more. Montana had a chance this past election to send a real champion of the working folks, Amanda Curtis, to Washington, but chose instead to elevate “business as usual” Steve Daines to the Senate. Unless the working class across the country wakes up and demands that their representatives actually work as their representatives, I’m afraid things are only going to get a whole lot worse.

 

RICH BULEY: New bill is an abomination

As I said in my last post, it is a bad week to have given up sniffing glue. The House of Representatives just passed a spending bill that will be taken up by the Senate. Both the Republican leadership and the Obama White House are lobbying hard to get the bill passed. Since it is the spending bill to keep the government operating for the next year, it is seen as a “must pass” bill. And, as usual when there is a “must pass” bill, it is loaded up with all kinds of special interest stuff that probably wouldn’t pass otherwise.

For example, Montana’s wilderness and logging legislation is attached. So are a lot of other things that are not in the state’s or country’s best interest. The absolute worst part of the bill is a provision to repeal the legislation designed to keep taxpayers from bailing out Wall Street’s losing gambles again. The Wall Street give away was actually written by CitiGroup. This legislation was attached to the bill during secret negotiations so that no Congressman has to take responsibility for sponsoring the legislation to sell out the tax payers.

I would imagine that if the U.S. population was polled about whether it is a good idea to put the tax payers on the hook to bail out Wall Street’s gambling schemes again, conservatives and liberals would overwhelmingly shout, “NO!”.

But, you see, this is another prime example of who Congress works for. It ain’t you or me, its the guys with the fat wallets. Another example of terrible crap crammed into the spending bill is $479 million for 4 more F-35 fighter jets ,that the Pentagon didn’t even ask for. I’ve written in the past about this boondoggle to exceed all boondoggles. Despite giving hundreds of billions of dollars to Lockheed to build the jet, it STILL doesn’t work.

When you’re throwing away half a billion dollars to military contractors, that money has to come from somewhere. And, of course, the money comes from the mouths of the hungry, in the form of a $91million cut to WIC, which is used to feed low income mothers and children. I guess those kids should hire better lobbyists or make bigger campaign contributions. Also taking it in the chops to help out Lockheed are Montana counties. Sorry rural Montana counties, you lost $20 million. Time to pull those boot straps up and accept personal responsibility for your own roads and schools.

And speaking of campaign donations, the bill even includes a provision allowing rich people to spend more to gain even more influence in Congress. Under this provision, a single donor will be able to contribute up to $324,000 a year. Of course, this does nothing to help the 99.99% of the people who don’t have that kind of cash laying around, But, it sure helps out the incumbents in Congress and those that have the ability to buy even more Congressmen.

Our only hope now is that liberals like Elizabeth Warren in the Senate can put together enough senators to block this abomination.

 

RICH BULEY: The depravity of the CIA and the Bush Administration

Well, as the old joke goes; boy, did I pick the wrong week to stop sniffing glue. Of course, the news this week has been dominated by the release of the senate torture report. I’m wading through the report in my spare time and I don’t have much to write about since there are plenty of places where better writers than I have commented.

But, one thing really points out to me the utter depravity of the CIA and the Bush Administration. Before the CIA had tortured anyone, or even had any reasonable expectation that torture would lead to helpful information, the CIA decided that it wanted to torture prisoners. Why it came to that decision is unknown, because as the report details, the CIA already knew, from its own experience, that torture doesn’t lead to any reliable intelligence.

The CIA also knew that torture was illegal under both international and United States law. So, the CIA’s lawyers came up with a necessity defense. That is to say, before anyone was tortured, the defense for torturing was going to be that the torture was necessary because it saved many lives. The necessity defense is a recognized defense to criminal conduct if it is necessary to save a person from harm. For example, a person speeding down the highway to get a critically injured person to a hospital is breaking the speed laws to help someone.

But, in an actual necessity case, the emergency is apparent and known, and the person breaking the law reasonably knows it is necessary to break a law to protect a life. In the CIA’s case, they came up with the rationalization before they even knew it was necessary.

That is why, over the last decade, we have heard from those who devised the criminal torture plan that it was necessary to thwart further plots and save countless lives. The report, however, shows the defense to be nothing but lies. It is well known that those who are tortured will say whatever the person believes the torturers want to hear. That is how one gets the fabricated story highlighted in the Missoulian about terrorist recruitment in Montana.

So, when you see Dick Cheney and George Tenet go on the talk shows and assert that torture saved lives remember that there is not a single piece of evidence supporting them, and remember that this was their cover story before they even began the nation’s descent into hell.

RICH BULEY: Good news for Daines

Good news for Steve Daines! Once he moves from the House of Representatives, he will get yet another chance to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Mitch McConnell has said the first thing he will do as Senate Majority Leader is to hold a vote to repeal the ACA.. Of course, he also acknowledges that it will only be a “show” vote  because President Obama will certainly veto any attempt to repeal the law.

Of course, the Republicans can’t wait to repeal a law that 57% of Americans support. New reports show that the ACA has dramatically slowed the rise in health care costs just as it was intended to do. But, the new Republican Senate just can’t wait to get in there and waste more time.

RICH BULEY: What I think of the Ferguson case

In my real life, I’m a trial attorney who has spent over 30 years as a criminal defense and plaintiff’s injury attorney. Not surprisingly, I get asked a lot, “What do you think of the Ferguson case?” So, out of professional curiosity, I have spent many hours reading over the grand jury transcripts as well as the autopsy reports, witness statements, and other materials to educate myself. I thought I would set forth my conclusions here.

The function of a grand jury is not to decide guilt or innocence. The purpose of the grand jury is only to decide if there exists probable cause to charge a person with a crime. The “probable cause” standard of proof is much lower than that of “beyond a reasonable doubt” which is necessary for a conviction at trial. In Missouri, a grand jury is composed of twelve people. To obtain an indictment, at least 9 must agree. That means that if only 4 of the twelve vote not to indict, no charge is brought. because of grand jury secrecy rules, we will never know what the actual vote was.

So, let’s examine the evidence. I read the grand jury documents at The Guardian website. I am not going to be commenting upon the various eye witnesses, since their perceptions are widely divergent. That is actually to be expected when a sudden traumatic event occurs. Numerous studies have shown eye witness testimony to be very flawed in those situations. Rather, I will focus on the versions given by the officer, Darren Wilson, and Michael Brown’s companion, Dorian Johnson and compare them to the physical evidence.

Dorian Johnson’s testimony is contained in Volume 4. According to Johnson, he and Brown were walking down the middle of the street when a police vehicle pulled up and told them to walk on the sidewalk. Shortly thereafter, Officer Wilson became angry and began wrestling with Brown, trying to pull Brown’s arms in through he open driver’s side window. Brown resisted and tried to pull away, his hands never entering the vehicle. Then Johnson heard Wilson shout, “I’ll shoot” and saw the pistol outside the window. The gun went off while Brown was outside the vehicle. (pgs 101-106). This shot hit Brown in the right upper chest or arm area as Johnson saw blood there.(pg. 106).

In contrast, Wilson testified that after he stopped the two, the 6’5″, 289 pound (see autopsy report) Brown, with out any provocation, leaned into the driver window and started punching Wilson numerous times. (vol.5, pg. 214). Wilson unholstered his pistol, which was then grabbed by Brown. Brown’s hand was well into the vehicle forcing Wilson’s hand holding the gun down towards Wilson’s hip. Wilson told the FBI that with Brown keeping his hand on the gun, that Wilson couldn’t raise the gun to window height so he shot at the door. (there was a bullet hole in the door handle, but the bullet never exited, Vol.2 pg114). Wilson then saw blood on his hand which he said must have come from Brown’s hand. Wilson contends that Brown became even more enraged and came back through the window and started punching Wilson again. Wilson, who was covering his face from the blows, blindly fired again, missing Brown (because Wilson saw a cloud of dust kick up. pg 163) and Brown ran away. How Wilson could see dust kick up behind Brown as Brown is leaning through the window punching Wilson is not explained, nor does anyone ever ask. Nor is it ever explained how that shot would have a downward angle to hit the ground if Wilson was firing up at Brown who was beating him up.

The physical evidence proves that Wilson’s version cannot be true. The autopsy report details a grazing bullet wound Brown’s right hand. The wound contained soot which means that the hand was six to nine inches from the barrel.The most critical fact is that flesh from the wound was found on the EXTERIOR of the vehicle door.(Vol.2, pg 104). The flesh was positively identified in the Microscopic Report as being Brown’s  No similar flesh was found on the interior. This definitively proves that Brown was not struggling with Wilson over the gun inside the vehicle. Rather, Brown’s hand was outside the vehicle when the shot was fired just as Dorian Johnson testified.

The autopsy report also notes a wound to the upper right arm in the shoulder area.(wound #6). The path of the wound is upward. This wound correlates with Dorian Johnson’s testimony that the first shot hit Brown in the arm or chest because he saw blood seeping in that area. On the other hand, Wilson’s story is that Brown was only hit once, presumably in the hand while struggling for the gun. I believe that there was one shot that grazed Brown’s right hand while his hand was in a defensive posture, with the bullet then passing into and through Brown’s right arm. To understand this, simply hold your hand out at about a 90 degree angle from your elbow.

The next piece of physical evidence disproving Wilson’s story and corroborating Johnson’s is the location of the shell casings from Wilson’s gun. Two casings were found on the ground OUTSIDE the vehicle.(Vol.2 pg 93) NO casings were found inside the vehicle. (Vol.2 pg150) This strongly suggests that the gun was outside the vehicle when the shots were fired and the casings ejected from the gun. This is especially true since it seems highly unlikely that the shells could be ejected through the window since Brown was supposedly leaning inside the vehicle punching Wilson.

But, what about the shot into the door which didn’t exit? I believe that shot occurred accidentally while Wilson was exiting the vehicle to chase Brown. I believe this for a couple of reasons. First, Johnson heard only one shot before he and Brown ran. Secondly, the shot to the door simply could not have happened as described by Wilson. Third, it would explain why both shell casings were found outside the vehicle. I believe Wilson made up the highly improbable story about the second shot missing Brown and seeing it hit in the adjoining field. That story is improbable for a number of reasons. Brown was supposedly leaning into the window pounding on Wilson. Brown was almost 300 pounds and 6′ 5″. How could that shot miss Brown when he must have been filling up the entire window space? And how could Wilson see the bullet hit if he was shielding his face, firing blindly, and Brown was filling up that window space?

There is further evidence corroborating that the struggle took place outside the vehicle rather than inside. Two bracelets, presumably Brown’s since they were never identified as Wilson’s, were found on the ground outside the vehicle.(Vol.2 pg 92). This would be consistent with Brown trying to get away from Wilson rather than Wilson being punched inside the vehicle. Brown’s cap was also found outside the vehicle. (Id.). In fact, other than some minor blood splatter (presumably from the first shot), no physical evidence was found inside the vehicle.

Dorian Johnson testified that after they took off running, he heard a shot and it appeared o hit Brown as he stumbled somewhat and turned around (Vol.4 pg 120). Johnson could then hear Brown say that he didn’t have a gun before Wilson then shot him numerous times (Vol.2 pg 124).

Wilson gave a recorded statement to St. Louis County detectives one day after the shooting. Wilson told the detectives that Brown ran away about 30 feet. Wilson said he hadn’t yet fired any shots except the two in the vehicle. He said Brown began charging at him with his left hand in a fist and his right hand in his waist band and under his shirt, implying that Wilson believed that Brown may have been reaching for a weapon. After firing a number of shots, Brown kept coming with his right hand still in his waist band, Wilson retreated at least ten feet , fired some more, before Brown went down about 8 to 10 feet from him, his right hand still in his waist band under his body.

The autopsy describes an entrance wound to the dorsal right forearm.(wound #8) The dorsal part of forearm is the side which has the most hair. The bullet went through the forearm exiting on the ventral side, or the side without hair. This wound could have happened as Brown was running away, pumping his arms as he ran. The wound also proves that Wilson’s story is impossible. In his grand jury testimony (vol 5 pgs 227-229) Wilson describes being fixated on Brown’s right hand in his waist band. The reason for Wilson saying this is obvious. He had to come up with some reason to use deadly force. However, the autopsy disproves all this.

Put your hand in your waist band or on your belt buckle. The ventral, or hairy part of your forearm is exposed toward the front. At first glance, this would seem to fit Wilson’s story that he fired only after Brown started charging him with his right arm in his waist band. In that situation, an entrance wound would be on the side exposed toward Wilson. But, the bullet EXITED the other side of the forearm (wound #9), which means the bullet would have had to cause an entrance wound in Brown’s abdomen! There is no wound to the abdomen.

There is other evidence which is inconsistent with Wilson’s story. In his statement the day after the shooting he said that Brown was 8-10 feet from him when he fell face first with his right hand still in his waist band under his body. The medical examiner, though, stated that Brown’s right arm and hand were extended upward away from his body.(vol.1). Wilson stated that Brown ran two car lengths or 30 feet before he stopped and turned around. The crime scene investigator measured the distance from Wilson’s vehicle to Brown’s body at 153 feet, or 51 yards.

Wilson testified that he was rapidly backpedaling as he was firing because he was scared of Brown charging at him. (vol 5, pgs 228-29). But, acoustic evidence proves that all ten rounds were shot from the same spot. the acoustic evidence was never presented to the Grand Jury. Further, 6.5 seconds elapsed from the time of the first shot outside the vehicle to the last shot. Even a very slow person can run much further than 30 feet in 6.5 seconds.

In Wilson’s statement the day after, he describes the shooting as occurring as Brown rushed straight at him with his right hand in the waist band until he was shot in the head and collapsed. In his grand jury testimony a month later, Wilson changed his narrative to Brown, as he got to within 10 feet bending down as if he was going to tackle Wilson, but with his right hand in his waist band. Let’s put aside the obvious question about why Brown would keep his right hand in his waist band since he had no weapon and that seems like an extremely awkward way to charge someone. What changed between the time of the shooting and the grand jury testimony where Wilson now says Brown was trying to tackle him, apparently with one arm since his right was still in his pants?

What changed was the autopsy had been performed. The autopsy showed that a shot had entered the top of Brown’s skull and traveled downward. Since Brown was 6’5″, that was a problem. It would certainly seem that Brown was on his knees or on the ground when Wilson shot him in the top of the head. So, Wilson changed his story to allege that Brown was bent over trying to tackle him. Ask yourself, isn’t that an important detail to leave out of your recorded statement, that Brown was so close he tried to tackle him?

There are a lot more inconsistencies in Wilson’s statements, but I’m confining this post to the physical evidence. The physical evidence conclusively proves that Wilson’s story of the shooting is not possible.

RICH BULEY: Discrimination is alive and well

Back in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Shelby County vs Holder, gutted part of the Voting Rights Act upon the basis that racial discrimination in the South no longer existed. Not surprisingly, immediately following the decision, numerous states enacted laws designed to inhibit minority voting.

One of the states where racism supposedly no longer exists is the great state of Texas. Apparently, a Texas school Board member didn’t get the memo because he posted a photo of a Ku Klux Klansman with the heading “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” on his Facebook page. If that wasn’t racist enough, he then posted an “apology” writing, “Last night I posted something as a joke and I now realize it offended people and I realize it was inappropriate but by no means is that what I intended.”

Let’s dissect that “apology ” a bit. It was a “joke”. Okay, what was the joke? He only realizes “NOW” that it offended people? How hard core racist are you if you don’t understand that the photo is racist? Then he says he didn’t intend to offend anyone. What other purpose could the photo possibly have? Once again, this is a School Board member! Yep, no racism in Texas.

RICH BULEY: Cast out the demons

Well, this should make things interesting. The Republican leadership of the Montana House has named 23 year old Sarah Laszloffy (R Laurel) as chairperson of the Education Committee. Ms. Laszloffy is pretty special even for the Republican Party. Not only is she an advocate for public funding of home schooling, she is an alumnus of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. What is the Bethel school of Supernatural Ministry? I’m glad you asked. Here is (and I am not making this up) an ACTUAL quote from their website: “BSSM students learn how to read, understand, and “do” the Bible- how to … heal the sick…cast out demons, and much more.”

I wonder if the Republican House will come up with a bill to put demon outcasting into the high school curriculum. This could be pretty entertaining in the coming months if it wasn’t for the actual effects it will have on education in  Montana.