How Did I Miss That? Legacy of Jack Abramoff; Granny the Orca RIP

The legacy of Jack Abramoff is revealed with the recent restructuring of the Office of Congressional Ethics.
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The name Jack Abramoff should ring a bell among Indians—an alarm bell. The Abramoff scandals sent 21 people to the Club Fed, two from the Bush 43 White House and Republican congressional staffers from Alaska, Arkansas, California, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

Most of the time was for bribery or fraud or tax evasion. When I practiced criminal law, I warned any clients I thought were engaged in illegal activities for profit to pay federal income tax on the profit. This was often shocking news, and I had to remind them that Al Capone may have been a murderer but he went down for tax evasion. See Form 1040, line 21.

Tribal leaders dealing with Abramoff did not come off well. Backstabbers hired Jack Abramoff to kneecap other tribal casinos. Some tribes paid Jack Abramoff to lobby in favor of gaming when he had already been lobbying against on behalf of religious right organizations.

Many who avoided prison still came up smelling bad. The major reform that came out of the widespread corruption revealed in the Jack Abramoff scandals was the Office of Congressional Ethics, created with enough independence that Congress did not appear to be investigating itself—something it can be trusted to do just as much as other foxen set to watch other henhouses.

My Republican cousin Ray Sixkiller broke in: “It’s foxes, but it’s not oxes? And are you going to tell me the plural of ‘blouse’ is not ‘blice?’”

Ragging on me about illogical English is his way of bragging about logical Cherokee.

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To gig him back, I will point out that the Republican majority in the House of Representatives met without advance notice to “drain the swamp” in Washington.

What they drained was the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics, subordinating the office to the House Ethics Committee and making the investigated the boss of the investigators. The OCE was also banned from considering anonymous complaints or turning over misconduct allegations to law enforcement without specific permission from Congress.

The OCE is sort of a child of Indian country, because most of the Abramoff scandal was Republicans ripping off Indians, and now the OCE was having its fangs pulled by alleged reformers betting that the people who elected them are deaf, dumb and blind.

“Or maybe just dumb,” Cousin Ray muttered.

In defense of the GOP leadership, they were opposed to neutering the OCE. Nobody listens to them.

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The President-elect then took them to the Twitter woodshed by disagreeing with the timing rather than the action:

With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority?

This is how the first act of the new majority was to back off what they really wanted to do.

That whole deal was so depressing that I put the column aside and started looking for animal items the next day to take my mind off stupid human tricks.

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Great Big Story featured Charles, a San Esteban chuckwalla, in a story about the danger to his species in competition from invasive species that eat chuckwalla eggs. Charles is related to iguanas, and his species can exceed two and a half feet in length.

When I tried to talk to Cousin Ray about chuckwalla eggs, he was not quite awake yet but in a good mood, because he said, “over easy or scrambled—either is fine.”

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KOIN in Portland, Oregon, reported that The Center for Whale Research has changed the status of J2 Granny from “missing” to “presumed dead.” Granny was the oldest Orca known to science, believed to be 105. If she was at the bottom of her estimated age bracket then she could have been a spry 90.

Two animal stories and both bummers. Might as well turn back to humans. Surely there’s something going on in the two-legged world that’s not stupid?

Or maybe there isn’t.

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KFVS aired a report reminding people in Missouri that after January 1, they no longer need a permit to carry a concealed weapon nor do they have to know the law on deadly force or even how to use the weapon.

“What,” Cousin Ray wanted to know, “could possibly go wrong?”

KXAN reported that Victoria Rocha, 35, was wounded by a .45 caliber bullet within minutes of Happy New Year! Austin police believe the bullet had just been fired into the air in celebration.

“To get a Texas gun permit,” Cousin Ray asked, “do you have to know that what goes up must come down?”

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Morning Joe was reporting on the controversy touched off among Roman Catholic traditionalists by the prospect of opening a Mickey D’s in Vatican City. Mike Barnicle said he was OK with the burgers but not sure about “that drive-through in the Sistine Chapel.”

The burger chain settled in a Church-owned building about 100 yards from Vatican soil.

Cousin Ray said we should go over there and claim Vatican City “by right of pagan discovery” and then we could re-bid the contract.

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The New York Times reported the Staten Island Motor Lodge reopened. It had been a notorious hot sheet joint for years, but the evidence to shut it down came with the prosecution of New York City police officer Eduardo Cornejo, who had a part time pimping gig that made heavy use of the venue.

The motel was allowed to reopen after paying a $10,000 fine, installing a new security system, and posting signs warning that prostitution would be reported.

Oh, and the new rule is that you have to rent a room all night rather than for an hour.

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Prostitution brings us back to politics, and the guy the President-elect called Lyin’ Ted Cruz has introduced a constitutional amendment to enact term limits on Congress. I guess his admiration for the wisdom, foresight, and perspicuity of the Founders has limits even if Congressional terms do not.

Term limits shift power from elected crooks to the unelected bureaucracy and term limits already exist. They are called elections.

Cousin Ray said there’s a reason to cool my jets about term limits: “Ted Cruz’s record of legislating.”

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Last year was particularly nasty for politics. This year, the bad feelings seem to be starting out in sports.

Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame Quarterback Terry Bradshaw did a number on Steelers’ current coach Mike Tomlin, opining far beyond anything that was asked on Speak for Yourself:

I don’t think he’s a great coach at all. He’s a nice coach. To me, I’ve said this, he’s really a great cheerleader guy. I don’t know what he does. I don’t think he is a great coach at all. His name never even pops in my mind when we think about great coaches in the NFL.

Bradshaw went even further, comparing Tomlin unfavorably to the man he replaced, Bill Cowher.

To compare Cowher and Tomlin requires a deep dive into counterfactuals. The numbers favor Tomlin but the rebuttal is that Tomlin inherited a better team from Cowher than Cowher inherited from the legendary Chuck Noll.

Tomlin wisely decided not to urinate loudly on Bradshaw’s shoes. His response was subtle:

What do I know? I grew up a Dallas fan. Particularly a Hollywood Henderson fan.

Prior to the 1978 Super Bowl, Cowboy linebacker Henderson famously said of Bradshaw that he was “so dumb, he couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if you spotted him a C and an A.”

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The other Hall of Fame quarterback who had a hostility eruption was former Dolphins QB Bob Griese, and his seemed worse because it involved family. Griese visited the booth were his son Brian was calling the Orange Bowl game, and shook hands with the other broadcaster, Steve Levy.

When Brian Griese stuck out his hand, his father went into bizarre contortions to avoid the handshake. It was more than awkward; it was hard to witness. Whatever is going on there, I know it’s none of my business.

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When I was an active judge, I sometimes wondered at the kinds of things people would steal. For example, a woman was caught on video driving a Caddy in a part of town with lots of Caddies and stopping to steal various items from the St. Vincent de Paul charity box outside a church.

The Washington Post shared a Reuters video showing a man in Manhattan walking past the back of an open armored car. He does a double take at a five gallon bucket with a lid on it sitting just inside the tailgate. Spur of the moment, he steals it.

He is surprised by the weight but he manages to manhandle it off down the street. I could see nothing to indicate the contents, but he had just stolen a bucket of gold flakes with an estimated value of $1.6 million.

That was two months ago, but the video has a good shot of his face, so he’ll probably be caught. But what was he thinking?