15 people and things I’m thankful for

    On this holiday eve, I am thankful for…

    Robert McCulloch, for reminding us (as if we needed reminding) that institutional racism is alive and well. The St. Louis County prosecutor, who could’ve easily put the white cop on trial and at minimum exposed him to rigorous cross-examination, instead rigged the game by passing the buck to a grand jury. Behind closed doors he put the cop on the stand, and treated him gently. The cop claimed that the black “demon” was beating on him – yet the hospital records showed “no bleeding, no laceration, no ecchymosis (bruises).” In a trial setting, prosecutors could’ve queried the cop about stuff like that. The parents of the unarmed dead kid deserved that opportunity.

    The good economic news, which broke yesterday. Over the last six months, the GDP has posted its best performance in more than a decade – powered by growing consumer confidence and a better-than-expected burst in consumer spending. Analysts also cited our economy as one of the few bright stops worldwide. Imagine what Republicans would be saying today if Mitt Romney were in the White House: “Thanks to this president’s business acumen and support for our free enterprise system, our economic engine is strong once again, gas prices at the pump our falling, the Dow is at a record high, and the Obama recession is a distant memory.”

    Social media, for finally putting “national treasure” Bill Cosby on the public’s radar. (Ask yourself whether nearly two dozen women would concoct drug-and-rape claims and willingly expose themselves to abuse from Cosby’s lawyer-and-PR machine.) Special thanks to Philadelphia magazine, for posting the video of black comic Hannibal Buress’ withering denunciation of Cosby; that video kick-started the long-overdue scrutiny. And does Temple University, which is under investigation for sexual violence complaints, really intend to keep “the Cos” on its board?

    The 14th Amendment to the U.S Constitution, which guarantees equal protection of the laws, and which this year has prompted federal judges to decree marriage equality even in a slew of red states. At last check, 64 percent of the U.S. population now lives in states where gays are legally permitted to practice the family values that cultural conservatives purportedly hold dear.

    Rand Paul (seriously), for his willingness to break the Republican mold and shake up the traditional party paradigm. This summer, referring to Ferguson, he said: “If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But I wouldn’t have expected to be shot….Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.” And this week, he’s saying that Congress should reassert its authority in the international realm by formally declaring war on ISIS (Congress hasn’t declared war on anyone since World War II) – thus challenging GOP colleagues who’d rather keep their hands clean in case things go wrong.

    Jonathan Turley, the George Washington University law professor, for agreeing to become John Boehner’s lawyer in the House GOP’s farcical lawsuit against Obama. Two other lawyers had already dropped out. Thanks to Turley (assuming he stays in), we’ll get more comic relief as the GOP seeks to fault Obama in court for failing to speedily implement provisions of Obamacare – the same law that the GOP has voted to repeal 50 times.

    Marijuana, for living up to its billing as lucrative tax revenue. According to the latest evidence from Colorado, legal weed – in just the first nine months of this year – pumped $45 million into the state kitty. Ask yourself whether Pennsylvania, with its urban school funding crisis, could use an extra $45 million and counting. I’m sure the Harrisburg legislature will get right on it.

    John Oliver, for taking the mock-news show format to a new level. On HBO, he ignores the 24/7 news cycle and drills deep into important stuff that’s often overlooked: the bought-and-sold state legislatures, the corporate plot to undermine net neutrality, and on and on. His mockery is all the more withering because it’s so puckishly cheerful. And his evisceration of climate-change deniers…you have to see for yourself how he manhandled those clowns.

    Sarah Palin, for her new website. When you’re hungry for humor, it’s always a kick to feast on her word salad. Not long ago, for instance, she rebuked Elizabeth Warren for supporting underpaid fast food workers. Here’s Sarah, verbatim: “Wait, I thought fast food joints, humph. Don’t you guys think that they’re like of the Devil or somethin’ I was. Liberals, you want to send those evil employees who would dare work at a fast food joint then ya just don’t believe in, thought you wanted to, I dunno, send them to Purgatory or somethin’ so they all go vegan and, uh, wages and picket lines I dunno they’re not often discussed in Purgatory, are they? I dunno why are you even worried about fast food wages because nuhha.” By the way, her site’s annual subscription fee is higher than Netflix.

    Nazi-hunters, for sustaining their commitment and seeking to remove every last criminal from American soil. The federal Office of Special Investigations, an arm of the Justice Department, has been doing this noble work since 1979, and this summer it reached into Northeast Philadelphia to pluck ex-SS Auschwitz guard Johann Breyer from our midst. Breyer died before he could be deported, oh well. But thanks, OSI, it’s the thought that counts.

    Trolls, for being so hilariously naive, for being so easy to punk. They went nuts this summer when a website announced that Obama would visit a mosque on the Fourth of July. (It was a satirical site, which three seconds of keyboarding would have revealed.) They went nuts this month when a website announced that Obama’s choice for attorney general, Loretta Lynch, had represented the Clintons during the Whitewater probe. (A conservative site had gotten the wrong Loretta Lynch.) They’re probably going nuts right now, insisting that the new bullish economic stats are a fiction concocted by the government….oh wait, they tried that in autumn ’12, when the jobless rate inched downward.

    Hillary Clinton, for making us all feel better about our own economic straits. She said recently that she and Bill left the White House “not only dead broke, but in debt.” Wow! Now we can say to ourselves, “Gee, even the Clintons have felt the same pinch that we sometimes feel.” And hey, if we simply ignore all their book advances and speaking fees, we can still feel their pain.

    Ray LaHood, former Secretary of Transportation (a Republican in Obama’s cabinet), for spotlighting our unsafe roads and bridges – a crisis that all too often gets ignored. On 60 Minutes last weekend, he rightly warned: “Our infrastructure is on life support right now.” Nearly 70,000 bridges in America are now considered structurally deficient, and Pennsylvania ranks with the worst. As LaHood pointed out, Congress needs to step up and spend the necessary money. I’m sure the House Republicans will get right on it.

    Lindsey Graham, for being our most reliable quote machine – way better than Palin, because his sentences have a beginning, middle, and end. From his recent rant about ISIS (we gotta fight them over there, “before we all get killed back here at home”) to his denunciation of the two-years-in-the making House GOP report that absolves Obama of a Benghazi coverup (“full of crap”) to his rebuke of Obamacare (it’s being “pushed on the American people,” yet he signs up for it himself), the senator is always disgorging new material. Plus, his overlord John McCain reportedly wants him to run for president, which would be the only way John McCain ever gets to be president.

    American voters, because at least some of them showed up for the midterms. Granted, 64 percent of eligible voters didn’t bother, but let’s go with the half-full glass: 36 percent braved the sour political climate, the non-competitive races, and the scabrous TV ads, and still did their citizen duty. That’s 82 million people! So let us all be thankful that the light bulb of democracy still flickers.



    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.


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