How Did I Miss That? Fly Like an Eagle; Pander Like a Pol

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Mr. President and The First Lady are on the cutting edge of reality TV. No, Barack and Michelle have not gone over to the dark side. Mr. President and The First Lady are a mated pair of bald eagles. They are the stars of the Eaglecam, a production of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that broadcasts 24/7 from a nest high in a Tulip Poplar tree above the Azalea Collection at the National Arboretum. 

The sacred birds have nested in the Arboretum since 2014, but they made news recently because The First Lady has produced eggs. The whole world could watch as the eaglet named DC2 hatched at 8:27 a.m. on March 18. DC3 followed along at 3 a.m. on March 20.

Eaglecam was installed after Mr. President and The First Lady successfully raised their first offspring last year. Their adoring fans formed a 501(c)3 charitable organization, the American Eagle Foundation. The Foundation installed two solar powered high definition video cameras, a system designed and built by Alfred State College and partially funded by the Department of Energy and the Environment.

The TV star eaglets fascinated my cousin Ray Sixkiller. He put his feet up next to his computer hutch and was drinking coffee. “This is a different kind of reality TV,” he said between slurps. “Whether the new babies will survive is way more interesting than who Donald Trump is going to fire next.”

Trump made a slashing attack on President Obama because Raul Castro was not there to greet Air Force One when it landed at José Martí Airport. He pointed out that Castro had come out to meet the Pope. My Republican Cousin Ray was embarrassed again. “You gotta realize,” he snarked, “that Obama was not on a mission from God like the Pope and The Donald.”

Obama’s Cuba visit was the first by a U.S. POTUS since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. Back then, the trip had two major backdrops. Cuba was upset with U.S. trade because Cuban sugar was fenced out by tariffs and Cuban rum was fenced out by Prohibition. The other issue was the U.S. meddling in the affairs of Latin America, sending troops to Haiti, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.

The press corps covering the Coolidge trip allegedly consumed a lot of rum. Silent Cal himself perfected a maneuver of turning away every time a waiter approached with a tray of drinks so he did not have to reject the hospitality… or accept it.

It being 1928, drinking during the visit did not get explored until one of the reporters published a remembrance 30 years later. Cousin Ray was highly amused. “So those reporters were worried about the POTUS drinking Cuban rum and reporters today are worried about the POTUS drinking the Cuban Kool-Aid?”

Every coward in Congress has drunk the National Rifle Association Kool-Aid or pretends so. The worst of the NRA Kool-Aid was not bullets that penetrate police body armor or high capacity magazines. Nor was it opposition to universal background checks.

No, the worstest of the worstest has to do with how many people actually do defend themselves from criminals with a gun or which weapons are most associated with criminal activity or what can be done about suicide rates….all of these issues generate more heat than light because there’s a big hole in our research knowledge base about guns and crime.

In 1996, the NRA committed its worst sin against public policy and common sense when it engineered a ban on use of federal funds for any study that might produce data to “advocate or promote” gun control.

FairWarning reported that California State Sen. Lois Wolk (D) has introduced a bill to fund a firearm research center with state money at one of the University of California campuses. The NRA is horrified.

“I notice Sen. Wolk represents Davis,” Cousin Ray smirked. “I wonder which UC campus she has in mind?”

The New York Times reported that a jury awarded $115 million against Gawker for posting a sex tape of Hulk Hogan podgering the wife of his best friend, Bubba the Love Sponge. That’s $15 million more than the plaintiff asked for economic harm and emotional distress.

The jury then tacked on $25 million in punitive damages. It did not help Gawker’s case when Albert J. Daulerio, editor in chief at the time, testified that any sex tape involving a celebrity has news value.

Gawker said it was not a fair trial because the defense needed to cross-examine Bubba the Love Sponge about whether the Hulkster knew he was being recorded. The Love Sponge had testified both ways in the past and so took the Fifth because he feared a perjury rap.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Cousin Ray chuckled, “but who got the money?”

That’s not clear, because the plaintiff, Terry G. Bollea, testified that his alter ego Hulk Hogan is a grandstanding publicity hog who can’t be trusted to tell the truth and that Hogan even has a bigger male organ than Bollea.

“Oh, I get it.” Ray was ROFL. “That’s a profile of the winner, right? Donald Trump gets the money!”

President Obama’s nomination of centrist Merrick Garland to the SCOTUS has conservatives split over how to undermine Obama. It’s hard to attack Garland on the merits. He’s a distinguished judge who would help elevate the SCOTUS back above partisan politics, where it’s been mired since Bush v. Gore. GOP candidate John Kasich said he would consider appointing Garland if he were POTUS.

The Republican line appears to be that keeping the SCOTUS crippled until after the election is in the service of “letting the people decide.” The problem with that is the Constitution does not contemplate the people deciding what may be a political appointment but is fundamentally a technocratic one. “What’s next?” Cousin Ray was in a bad mood. “Shall we ask ‘the people’ to pick the Chair of the Federal Reserve? How about the Chief Flight Engineer at NASA?”

Having spent time in jail for conduct that was not a crime, I’m pretty disposed to granting bail in any case where it’s possible. I even granted a personal bond once in a homicide case. Still, I must agree with the U.S. Magistrate Judge who denied bail to Cliven Bundy, who denies the authority of the federal government represented by the court where he stands charged.

Bundy had been at the center of two armed confrontations, the one over the occupation by his “militia” supporters of Paiute land currently in use as Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and the one in 2014 over seizure of Bundy cattle for failure to pay 20 years of grazing fees.

Why would I deny bond? The judge cited Bundy’s slogan, “whatever it takes.” I would be concerned that if he would call out his personal militia to save his cattle from the feds, he would certainly do the same to save himself. That does not prove he had the required mental state and if HE challenges the accuracy of that stuff, the government still bears the burden of proving it.

Doesn’t that assume he’s guilty? Not at all. There are plenty of public statements by his supporters threatening federal officers and his own statements on television and on the Internet. The presumption of innocence does not require a judge to rule with a sack over his head. What Bundy did publicly, he did. The Washington Post reported that Stuart Dunnings III, a prosecutor in the Michigan capital of Lansing known for his crackdown on prostitution that over two years resulted in 19 felony charges and 53 vehicle seizures, has been patronizing some prostitutes while jailing others. Dunnings, a Democrat, is facing 15 prostitution related charges spanning two other Michigan counties in addition to the one where he was elected.

Reporting a fairly meaningless statistic common in crime stories, the Post noted he was facing a total of 20 years behind bars. Nobody gets convicted on every single charge or gets the maximum sentence for everything and every crime reporter knows that, but adding them all up makes an impressive sounding factoid.

Cousin Ray was shaking his head. “It makes you wonder if there’s something else in the Michigan drinking water besides lead.”

Ted Cruz did not stand out in his AIPAC speech for being in full pander mode, but his promise to shoot down every missile Iran tries to test moved him a notch forward, since that would be an act of war.

He also one-upped other pols in his promise to veto a Palestinian statehood resolution in the UN Security Council, a position expected from the U.S. no matter which party is in power. However, Cruz promised to fly to New York and cast the veto personally.

“But it’s not an act of war,” Cousin Ray reminded me, “and you are overlooking the upside to Cruz for POTUS.”

I had to ask what that was.

“Cruz is not Donald Trump.”