Carly Fiorina is morally and ethically unfit for public office

September 19, 2015

Carly Fiorina is morally and ethically unfit to serve as President of the United States. At the Wednesday night debate between the candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, she said,

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

In her article titled, Debunking Five Absurd Comments About Planned Parenthood From the GOP Debate, Emily Crockett, the Federal Policy Reporter for RH Reality Check said,

This is also simply not true. The only thing that comes close to what Fiorina describes is in this video, but it’s not at all what she says it is.

There is talk about heart-beating and brain-harvesting in a first-person recollection by a disgruntled former tissue procurement technician—but there is no video and no other witness confirming her story. The technician also acknowledges that the “heartbeat” was just a response to a technician’s instrument, and nobody ever says anything about keeping a fetus alive in order to harvest the brain.

The “fully formed fetus” that illustrates the technician’s story is just a couple of edited-in stock images, not anything from the Planned Parenthood undercover footage. One video clip is labeled as coming from a group specializing in anti-choice shock imagery, and the other was a photo of a stllbirth taken from the Internet that the family did not consent to be shown in the video.

It seems that either Fiorina didn’t watch the tapes and had somebody describe them to her, she has false memories of what she saw, or she is lying.

Carly Fiorina wasn’t just another loudmouth drunk yammering from her perch on a barstool in a crowded whiskey bar at the last call. She was a candidate for President of the United States participating in a nationally televised debate watched by millions of people. She was sober and calculating. Her remarks were premeditated. She was not speaking informally with a confidant within range of a live mike that she believed to be muted. Under such circumstances, otherwise reasonable people have occasionally uttered some grossly inappropriate statements out of anger or frustration that they subsequently had reason to regret. Instead, she publicly dared Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on national television to watch a nightmare-inducing video with off-the-charts shock value.

Who would issue such a challenge without first verifying the truth of the statement? More important, who would issue that challenge knowing the statement was false and why would they do so?

I believe the answers are clear. She wants to be the first woman elected President of the United States. She was so far behind in the polls that she concluded she had to do something terribly dramatic to get attention. She must have assessed the risk that her statement would be exposed as false and decided to go ahead with it anyway.

Has not Donald Trump blazed that trail unscathed and surged ahead of the other GOP candidates for the Republican nomination? Why are Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee talking about a government war against Christianity?

Their crass use of dramatic false statements to appeal to fear, prejudice, hatred and religious belief detached from a duty or responsibility to speak the truth distinguishes this group of charlatans and convinces me beyond all doubt that they are unfit for public office.  They are not the only ones.

Despite the total debunking of the claim that Planned Parenthood sells aborted fetuses for profit, the Republicans in the House voted to cut-off all federal funding to Planned Parenthood. Senate Republicans are unlikely to overcome a Democratic filibuster against the bill (they need 60 votes), but if they do, President Obama is expected to veto it and they cannot muster enough votes to overcome it (they need 70 votes).

Led by Senator Ted Cruz, many Republicans are threatening a government shutdown by the end of this month, if the Senate does not pass the bill or the President vetoes it.

Is Oklahoma about to execute an innocent man?

September 13, 2015

Richard Glossip is scheduled to be executed by the State of Oklahoma on Wednesday. He was convicted of killing his boss, Barry Van Treese, who was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat at a Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City that Van Treese owned. The only witness against him was the person who confessed to the murder, a 19-year-old named Justin Sneed who worked as a maintenance man at the motel. The Guardian reports,

There is no DNA or nor any fingerprints linking him to the 1997 murder of Van Treese in the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City. His lawyers this week noted that the prosecutors themselves admitted in 2004 that “the physical evidence doesn’t directly implicate Mr Glossip”.

Rather, Glossip was convicted based on the testimony of Justin Sneed, a 19-year-old maintenance worker who, at various points during his police interrogation a week after the murder, said he didn’t know Van Treese, then that he didn’t kill van Treese, then that he had killed him accidentally, and then that he had killed him intentionally, under Glossip’s instruction. Eventually, Sneed agreed to a plea deal in which he would testify against Glossip to save himself from the death penalty.

Transcripts of the police interrogation show Sneed first denied any knowledge of the murder. “I don’t really know what to say about it,” he told investigators, stumbling over a story about his brother before admitting that he robbed Van Treese but “I only meant to knock him out”.

“The thing about it is, Justin, we think – we know that this involves more than just you, okay?” Detective Bob Bemo said to Sneed, later introducing Glossip as a snitch. “You know Rich is under arrest don’t you?… [H]e’s putting it on you the worst.”

Sneed’s story shifted.

“Actually, Rich asked me to kill Barry, that’s what he’d done,” Sneed said, and investigators took the conversation off-camera, where Sneed signed a plea deal.

This is an excellent example of how an innocent person can be wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. A few days ago, Barry Scheck, the co-director of the Innocence Project, wrote a letter to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin asking her to stop his execution. He asked the right question,

Why would anybody trust this testimony, given by a man like Sneed under the circumstances in which he gave it? But if Sneed was lying about Glossip’s involvement — as he unquestionably lied in his various contradictory statements–then Oklahoma is about to execute an innocent man.

The Death Penalty Information Center has the following update on Richard Glossip:

Former Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn (pictured), former Oklahoma Sooners and Dallas Cowboys football coach Barry Switzer, and John W. Raley, Jr., the former chief federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, have joined with innocence advocates Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, and Samuel Gross, editor of the National Registry of Exonerations, in a letter to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin urging her to stay the execution of Richard Glossip.

I have long argued that no conviction that is based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of a codefendant or jailhouse snitch should stand. Such a rule is a necessary part of any meaningful criminal justice reform.

Ignorance doesn’t mix with AK47s

September 11, 2015

The Oath Keepers are on their way to Kentucky to protect Kim Davis from United States District Court Judge David Bunning. When he released her from jail on Tuesday, he ordered her not to interfere with her deputy clerks issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. She said she would not do anything that would violate her conscience. She would be in compliance with his order if she does not do anything when a deputy clerk issues a marriage license to a same sex couple. Only she knows whether standing by and not doing anything, if a deputy clerk issues a license, would violate her conscience and cause her to act.

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of Oath Keepers, explains why he believes his group of armed former cops and military veterans should go to Rowan County to protect her. Raw Story reports,

In a press release published on their website, the group says they have been in contact with Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver, and are acting because Judge David Bunning “grossly overstepped his bounds and violated Mrs Davis’ due process rights, and in particular her right to a jury trial.”

Rhodes does not know what he is talking about. Davis did not have a right to a jury trial or any sort of trial because he held her in contempt for refusing to comply with his order to issue marriage licenses. She was accorded due process of law because she was given an opportunity to explain why she refused to issue the licenses pursuant to Obergefell v. Hodges and she was permitted to appeal his decision rejecting her argument to the Sixth Circuit and to the United States Supreme Court. After she lost those appeals and still refused to issue the licenses, he ordered her to show cause why he should not hold her in contempt of court. He held her in contempt when she presented the same lame losing argument. Freedom of religion is not a license for an elected official to discriminate against others in violation of their Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws.

He ordered her to jail until she or her deputy clerks issued the marriage licenses that the plaintiff couples had requested. He released her after those licenses were issued.

This situation is not complicated. If another same-sex couple applies for a marriage license and she refuses to permit her deputy clerks to issue them a license, she can reasonably expect Judge Bunning will again order her to appear in court to show cause why he should not hold her in contempt. If she offers the same lame excuse, he will order her back to jail until the license is issued. That is the nature of civil contempt and that is why judges and lawyers say that the person held in contempt has the key to the jailhouse door.

Rhodes and company want to ride to her rescue with AK47s and recreate a Bundy ranch standoff scenario. They would be better served if they put down their guns and read up on civil contempt.

We have to forgive to be forgiven

September 10, 2015

Let him who is without sin, throw the first stone.

As most of you know, I was a death penalty lawyer for many years. I discovered that no matter how many people my clients killed or how depraved their acts, there was something vulnerable, something human about them with which I could connect. Sometimes it took awhile to find it. Who are you is a wiser question to ask than why did you do it. Patience, openness and a willingness to listen without judging the answers are invaluable skills. Many clients told me that I was the first person in their lives who showed a genuine and nonjudgmental interest in getting to know them. They told me that answering my questions helped them to discover themselves. I know this to be true: Even though people may commit evil acts, no one is evil.

When we demonize others, we demonize ourselves.

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people during a Bible study meeting in the Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina. He is white and they were black. He entered the church with murder in mind and asked to attend the meeting. They welcomed him.

Last night, Lester Holt of NBC News interviewed Felicia Sanders, who was present and survived the shooting, together with her 11-year-old granddaughter. Her 26-year-old son, Tywanza, died while attempting to shield Susie, an elderly relative, with his body.

In a matter of seconds, a moment of quiet prayer turned into a massacre.

“We were just about to say the prayer to be released,” said Felicia Sanders, one of three people who survived when a gunman opened fire during Bible study at her Charleston, South Carolina, church on June 17.

“He caught us with our eyes closed. I never told nobody this.”

Roof allegedly committed the murders to retaliate against blacks to redress crimes that blacks had committed against whites. No, he did not know whether anyone he killed had committed any of those crimes.

This crime is difficult to comprehend and I am not aware of any evidence that Roof was psychotic or delusional when he opened fire.

I was struck by the friends and family members of the victims who appeared at Roof’s initial appearance in court and told him that they forgave him, despite their overwhelming grief.

Under similar circumstances, I believe most people would want revenge.

Felicia Sanders is an extraordinary human being. She said one more thing that all of us should take to heart and never forget.

“We must forgive to be forgiven.”

Prosecutors announced earlier this week that they intend to seek the death penalty if the jury convicts Mr. Roof of murder.

Felicia Sanders disagrees with that decision. She wants him to live a long time in prison and reflect on what he did and why he did it.


Kim Davis is not a hero; She is a disgrace

September 9, 2015

Yesterday, I watched a crowd of homophobic religious zealots celebrate the release of Kim Davis from jail. She is the elected public official who runs the Rowan County Circuit Court in Kentucky. A federal judge held her in contempt of court last week because she refused to issue marriage licenses to couples who had satisfied state requirements to obtain them. He lifted the contempt order yesterday because Davis’s assistants had completed issuing the licenses that Davis had refused to issue.

Lost in the hullabaloo over religious liberty is the reality that the decision to issue a marriage license merely requires checking to see if the applicants have completed the application and provided necessary documentation. A decision to issue a marriage license means that state requirements to obtain one have been satisfied. It does not mean that the clerk who issued it approves of the marriage. Indeed, the clerk’s opinion is irrelevant.

Kim Davis defended her decision to deny marriage licenses to qualified couples because she objects to same-sex marriages on religious grounds. Either she does not understand that signing off on an application for a marriage license is merely a ministerial duty that requires little thought, or she knows that and she decided to create a public spectacle to draw attention to her opposition to same-sex marriage. I think she saw an opportunity to seize her 15 minutes of fame.

The public celebration of her release from jail, accompanied by the tune Eye of the Tiger, was absurd theater. Had I not witnessed it, I would not have believed that it happened. People need to see her for what she is: a flawed human being prejudiced against homosexuals who attempts to justify her prejudice by hiding behind her religious beliefs.

Apparently, she does not see the irony in using her Christian faith to support hate instead of love and acceptance. She is not a hero or martyr. She is a disgrace.

Freedom of Religion is not a license to discriminate against others

September 4, 2015

I received the following comment regarding my article yesterday titled, Kim Davis, Clerk of the Rowan County Circuit Court, held in contempt and ordered into custody.

I mean is she really wrong? What im saying is , we tend to fall asleep until let’s say some stupid politician makes some law that insults or could harm our life or may be our children’s future. And like Kim, it awakes us. I mean let’s be real. I don’t trust politicians. But I understand her. It probably frighten her . to give or contribute to an abomination. Its frightening.

The comment posted to my pending file because the person had not previously posted a comment and been approved. For reasons that will become clear, the comment offended me and I felt compelled to respond to it. Here is my response.

I think your comment is offensive. I do not believe that same-sex marriage is an abomination, mostly because I have known many gay males and lesbian women during my adult life. For example, when I moved into Seattle to be closer to work in the early 80s, I rented an apartment on Capitol Hill that was within walking distance to downtown and the state and federal courthouses where I practiced law. I soon discovered that I was living in the heart of the gay and lesbian community. I was the only straight male in my apartment building. Over the next week or so, I ran into quite a few lawyers and several judges in the neighborhood whom I knew from work. They lived there. I suddenly realized they were homosexual. They weren’t quite sure what to make of me since I was obviously straight, but since I was on their turf by choice they figured I wasn’t prejudiced. They welcomed me to the neighborhood. They made no effort to pretend they were straight and within a short period of time they began to introduce me around to their friends. I was a little uncomfortable at first but I got over it quickly They were good people and they showed a genuine interest in getting to know me. I ended up forming many lasting friendships.

It didn’t take me very long to realize that gay males aren’t sexually interested in straight males, just as straight males aren’t sexually interested in gay males.

As time went by, I got to know their significant others, people they would have married. but for the fact that the law did not allow it. All of this was happening during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s. Several people I knew died of AIDS. This was a terrible time that I will never forget. Many of their families had long ago rejected them and they only had themselves to turn to for comfort. That really pissed me off. Often a sick and dying person’s partner could not even visit their dying partner in a hospital or obtain any information about their condition because the were not “family.” Eventually, hospices were created on Capitol Hill to permit them to pass in dignity with their partners and friends present.

As a result of these experiences, I have been a firm supporter of equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people for many years. Yes, indeed, I support same-sex marriage and proudly so. I celebrated and shed more than a few tears when the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided <em>Obergefell v. Hodges</em> back in June. At long last, the SCOTUS held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians. Therefore, laws that prohibit same-sex marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Freedom of Religion Clause of the First Amendment is misunderstood by most Americans. It prohibits Congress from making any law regarding the establishment of a religion. Many of our Founding Fathers were atheists who wanted a prohibition in the Constitution prohibiting the government from endorsing any religion or religious view. This prohibition is the basis for the doctrine of separation of church and state. People who claim nothing in the Constitution authorizes the separation of church and state are absolutely wrong.

Freedom of religion means that a person can hold any religious belief they desire. They can even claim a religious basis to hate on blacks, women, Muslims, lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, Latinos, the poor, and any other person or group they don’t like. However, that does not mean that they can assault, murder, enslave or discriminate against them, even if they can point to some passage in the Bible that approves of doing so. For example, the Bible says God told Moses and the Israelites to slaughter everyone in Jericho and all the Canaanites. A person in this country today is not going to be able to beat a murder charge for killing a Palestinian living here on the ground that the Bible condones what he did. Similarly, a person cannot claim a religious exemption to a murder charge because they believe in the Old Testament <em>lex talionis</em>, an eye for an eye and killed someone in an act of revenge.

Kim Davis is the elected Clerk of the Rowan County Circuit Court. Issuing marriage licenses is one of her duties. If she truly believes her religious beliefs won’t permit her to do that, then she should resign her position.

Instead, she claims a religious right to discriminate. As I said, the Freedom of Religion Clause only applies to beliefs. It cannot be used as a sword to justify doing something that the law prohibits or refusing to do something that the law requires. Therefore, she can’t discriminate against same-sex couples who want to get married by refusing to issue them a marriage license.

In addition, while I do not pretend to be a Biblical scholar, I do not believe homosexuality is forbidden. Homosexuality has been around forever and in ancient Egypt it was accepted. Same thing in Greece. Alexander the Great, a military genius and fierce warrior who conquered the known world (Egypt, Persia and India) around 330 BC was a homosexual and no one thought any less of him for that. Nevertheless, even if God supposedly called it a sin, which I seriously doubt, that still does not give any person a right to discriminate against gays.

She took her best shot at convincing a judge that she was right. She lost in the United States District Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The United States Supreme Court declined to consider her appeal. She has exhausted her legal options and now she is refusing to do her job while selfishly imposing her religious beliefs on other people. She also wants to become a martyr.

Kim Davis is not a hero and she is definitely not a martyr. She’s a bigot imposing her deeply held prejudices on others and for that reason she deserves no sympathy. She is literally contemptible and deserves to be exactly where she is: the Rowan County Jail.

Kim Davis, Clerk of the Rowan County Circuit Court, held in contempt and ordered into custody

September 3, 2015

Kim Davis is the Clerk of the Rowan County Circuit Court, an elected position. Despite taking an oath to enforce the Constitution and the laws of the United States and the State of Kentucky, which requires her to issue marriage licenses, she has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She claims that she would violate her religious beliefs, if she were to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. To avoid the appearance of discriminating against same-sex couples, she decided to refuse to issue any marriage licenses. No one has been fooled by this strategy.

In June the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) held that laws which prohibit same-sex marriage violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Obergefell v. Hodges, (June 16, 2015). Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy said,

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

Ms. Davis’s argument is ridiculous because she is claiming that, even though she is an elected public official, her First Amendment right to freedom of religion means she can discriminate against same-sex couples on religious grounds by refusing to issue them a marriage license despite her legal duty to so under Kentucky law and their Fourteenth Amendment right to get married under Obergefell. If public officials are free to discriminate against people on religious grounds, the Fourteenth Amendment would cease to have any meaning.

Moreover, she is out of options. She already lost this argument back in June after the SCOTUS decided Obergefell and a same-sex couple sued her in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky seeking an order directing her to issue them a marriage license. Judge David Bunning rejected her religious-freedom argument and ordered her to issue the license. She appealed to the Sixth Circuit and lost. Her application for review by the SCOTUS was rejected.

Now, she’s back in front of  Judge Bunning, who has ordered her to show cause why he shouldn’t hold her in contempt of court for continuing to refuse to obey his order to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples.

I do not believe there is any question that he is going to hold her in contempt. She is in contempt. The question is what is he going to do about it.

He can fine her a certain sum of money per day until she complies with his order or he could send her to jail where she would remain until she agrees to issue the licenses. Alternatively, she could resign.

I would send her to jail until she agrees to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, or she agrees to resign. I would not fine her because the fine probably would be paid by a right-wing GoFundMe internet site.

Meanwhile, at the hearing today, according to Matt Iglesias at Think Progress, her deputy clerks are willing to issue the licenses, but they are afraid to do so. As the County Attorney Cecil Watkins told Kentucky Court Trial Review, “Davis, does not represent” the county or its values, and he added that he told Davis that he “will not and cannot support” her in her refusal to obey the Constitution.

In an editorial note accompanying its reporting, the Trial Court Review paints a grim picture of life in the Rowan County courthouse after Davis began a symbol of anti-gay defiance. “The takeaways from the Watkins interview are clear. Davis is acting alone in her zealous mission. Her conduct has terrorized not just her staff but everyone that works in the courthouse. And all for a foolish mission aided by out of state charlatan lawyers trying to raise money for their ‘religious liberty’ mission.”

Former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, a candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 2016, announced yesterday that he supports Davis. He said the Bible is supreme to the SCOTUS,

Judge Bunning just held her in contempt and ordered her into federal custody where she will remain until she agrees to issue the marriage licenses. He rejected the idea of a fine in part because others would pay it for her.

In effect, she has the keys to the jailhouse door.




Accused killer of Deputy Darren Goforth has history of serious mental illness

September 1, 2015

Shannon J. Miles, 30, has been accused of killing Harris County Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth. Yesterday morning a judge reviewed the district attorney’s charging documents and found probable cause to believe that Mr. Miles committed the murder. The judge also denied bail which means Mr. Miles will continue to be held while the district attorney seeks a capital murder indictment from a grand jury. A capital murder charge means that Mr. Miles could potentially be sentenced to death if he is found guilty.

The Houston Chronicle is reporting today,

In 2012, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office charged Miles with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he got into a fight at a homeless shelter over a remote control, prosecutor Joe Frederick said. Miles was found to be mentally incompetent in October 2012 and he was sent to North Texas State Hospital in Vernon, Texas.

“From this case, you could never tell what would happen” in the future, Frederick said, adding that prosecutors treated the case as a “very serious offense” and had offered Miles a plea agreement of seven years in prison. Miles was declared mentally competent in February 2013, but the charge was dropped after the victim could not be located, Frederick said.

A person has to be legally competent in order to stand trial. The legal test for competency is whether a person understands what crime(s) he is charged with and the potential consequences he faces if convicted. He also must be able to communicate with his lawyer and assist him to prepare a defense. To be adjudicated incompetent to stand trial, a person must be so delusional and confused that he cannot distinguish between reality and illusion. In most cases an incompetent defendant can be restored to competency by administering anti-psychotic medication. We saw that happen with Jared Laughner (who shot and killed U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a federal judge at a meet-and-greet in Tucson, AZ) and James Holmes (who killed 12 and wounded 70 people at a movie theater in Aurora, CO). Laughner avoided a potential death penalty by pleading guilty and was sentenced to LWOP. Holmes was sentenced to LWOP by a jury after it rejected his insanity defense and convicted him of the 12 murders. The LWOP sentences in both cases reflect a reluctance to impose the death penalty on mentally ill defendants because, but for the mental illness that they did not choose to have, they would not have killed anyone.

I think it’s significant that Mr. Miles was adjudicated incompetent in 2012 and involuntarily committed to a mental hospital where it took four months to restore his competency. That suggests that Mr. Miles has a persistent, serious and probably incurable mental illness that requires a daily dose of an anti-psychotic drug to prevent psychotic breaks.

From the article in the Houston Chronicle:

Jon Evans, Miles’ attorney in the Austin case, said medical privacy laws prevent him from offering any details about Miles’ mental illness history. But he was told by Miles’ mother that her son had a lifelong history of mental illness.

In yesterday’s piece, I criticized Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman for blaming the Black Lives Matter movement for the murder of Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth. I am calling him out again today because his accusation was not based on any evidence. I rely on the statement by the Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson:

Anderson would not comment on a motive, saying investigators were still trying to figure that out. When asked if it might be connected to heightened tensions around the country between law enforcement and civilians, Anderson said: “I have no idea whether it does or not.”

Other Readings:

Black Lives Matter did not kill Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth

Time to end death penalty prosecutions of the mentally ill

Jury sentences James Holmes to Life Without Parole

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