The Local Crank

Musings & Sardonic Commentary on Politics, Religion, Culture & Native American Issues. Bringing you the finest in radioactive screeds since 2002! "The Local Crank" newspaper column is distributed by Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.

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Location: Cleburne, Texas, United States

Just a simple Cherokee trial lawyer, Barkman has been forcing his opinions on others in print since, for reasons that passeth understanding, he was an unsuccessful candidate for state representative in 2002. His philosophy: "If people had wanted me to be nice, they should've voted for me."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wow, Never Saw THAT Coming!

SCOTUS, continuing a 200 year-long trend, again limits tribal jurisdiction. As Justice Ginsburg noted in dissent, "Resolving this case on a ground neither argued nor addressed below, the court holds that a tribe may not impose any regulation -- not even a nondiscrimination requirement -- on a bank's dealings with tribal members regarding on-reservation fee lands." Or, as Turtle Talk succinctly puts it, "The Supreme Court has essentially declared Indian tribes to be nothing more than glorified country clubs, with their authority 'confined to managing tribal land, protect[ing] tribal self-government, and control[ling] internal relations.' Just like your local country club, tribes can only determine who can come on the property, who can be a member, and who can be in charge." As I have often said, if there's one constant in American Indian Law, it's that Indians always lose; precedent, logic, history and the Constitution be damned.

Now, let's wait for the howls of outrage from the major presidential candidates...

(cue chirping crickets)

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Today in History...

...the Battle of the Greasy Grass, where George Armstrong Custer got what was coming to him, ends when the victorious alliance of Northern Cheyenne, Lakota and Arapaho withdraw on the approach of General Alfred Terry's column (1876).


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Supreme Court Does...Something?

The US Supreme Court may or may not have held, in a case arising in Texas, that persons who are arrested have the right to an attorney at their bond hearing (known as an Article 15.17 hearing). Having only skimmed the ruling itself and discussed it with several other lawyers and judges, we have no idea what the hell it means or what effect, if any, it will have on the way things are currently done. Thanks, Souter! Right now, in Johnson County anyway, arrestees are advised by the magistrate judge that they have the right to an attorney and one is appointed as soon as they ask for one. In other counties, including apparently Gillespie, the county in the Supreme Court case, lawyers aren't appointed until indictment. Further updates as events warrant.

UPDATE: More on Rothgery, again from Grits.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

In Memorium (NSFW)

Thanks, George.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008


Congressional Democrats have, for all intents and purposes, completely capitulated to Bush's demands on FISA--his unfettered power to spy on American citizens. The "compromise" not only blesses the President's illegal actions, but also exempts the tele-com Quislings from the inconvenience of having to answer for their actions in court--the ONLY avenue by which the American public could ever have learned who in the government authorized this lawless action in the first place. I suspect, as other commenters have noted, that Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer were motivated by a combination of lust for tele-com campaign contributions and fear that another terrorist attack would be blamed on them; how else to account for abasing themselves to a wildly unpopular lame-duck President in an election year? Even more disappointing is that Barack Obama has signed off on this instrument of surrender.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In an Odd Bit of Synergistic Irony...

...the talk is now about Barack Obama running with Republican Chuck Hagel and John McCain running with (kinda sorta) Democrat Joe Lieberman. There's a certain amount of logic to both choices, in that they would boost each candidate's preferred brand image, Obama as a post-partisan agent of change and McCain as a "maverick" willing to buck the party line. Neither would likely directly affect the electoral landscape in the traditional sense; Nebraska is still likely to go red and Connecticut blue. And there's the risk to both men at the top of the ticket alienating their bases with ideologically "impure" running mates, though this seems less of a risk with Lieberman who is Republican in the only way that counts these days: slavish devotion to George W. Bush and the Iraq War.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Should He or Shouldn't He?

The case for and the case against an Obama/Clinton ticket. I continue to believe that Hillary will not be on the ticket for the simple reason that there is no compelling reason why she would want to be. Far better to serve as Majority Leader while waiting for John Paul Stevens to retire. And if Hillary isn't on the ticket, I don't think Obama will pick another woman. The only unanswered question is whether or not significant numbers of Hillary primary voters will stay home or (far less likely in my opinion) defect to McBush without her on the ticket. Almost certainly, Obama's people are furiously polling that very question as we speak, particularly in places like Florida and Ohio (which, signficantly, Obama's people now say he doesn't need to get to 270. You can play with a cool map here to see if you agree). If Hillary does end up on the ticket, you'll know the results of those polls.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hard For Me To Say I'm Sorry

A story I neglected to cover at the time. The government of Canada has officially apologized for its' dreadful, racist Indian residential schools policy. This policy, incidentally, was virtually identical to that of the United States ("kill the Indian; save the Man"). The United States, to date, has never once apologized for any of its policies designed to exterminate the indigenous population of this nation; policies which continue, in a more genteel form, to this very day.

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Column for 15 June, 2008

“Give me wisdom and knowledge that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of Yours?”
--2 Chronicles 1:10

Every two years, the bizarre, unwieldy, contradictory barking mess that is the Texas Democratic Party comes together for a weekend of barely-controlled chaos that is referred to rather hopefully as a “convention.” This year, buoyed by the unprecedented turnout for the presidential primary, some 14,000 delegates, alternates and guests descended on Austin’s Convention Center, which let me just begin by saying is absolutely the worst venue I have ever endured. It’s gigantic, the size of a zeppelin hangar, but laid out in a weird labyrinth color-coded maze of the sort that normally features cheese at the end. There are several banks of elevators, but none of them go to all the floors. Unaccountably, some genius had switched off the escalators, forcing hundreds of delegates to gingerly clamber up and down like an assault on Mount Everest. In order to get to the Native American Caucus, I literally had to climb up the fire escape; I was afraid I would have to rappel down. Only a couple of small double-door entrances were available to the main hall, so getting people in and out was reminiscent of stampeding for the lifeboats on the Titanic. Because of the huge number of people, entrance to the floor had to be strictly limited to those with credentials; otherwise the fire marshal would’ve shut the place down. Ironically, on Saturday just before the voting got underway in earnest, someone pulled a fire alarm and the entire building had to be evacuated. We all jammed the sidewalks, sweltering in the heat and rubbing elbows with the omnipresent Ron Paul and Lyndon LaRouche followers passing out flyers emblazoned with their preferred candidate’s favorite brand of paranoia. By the time everyone got out, the all-clear was given and we dutifully trooped back in. Several people asked if Tom DeLay had an alibi, a joke that is less funny in retrospect after fire gutted the magnificent old mansion that has housed Governors both great (Sam Houston) and pathetic (Rick Perry) for a century-and-a-half. For reasons still unclear to me, I was unanimously elected as chair of our senate district caucus, the kind of thankless job often bestowed on the gullible or those foolish enough to miss a meeting. Senate District 22 was divided almost exactly evenly between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton delegates, but for the most part, things went relatively smoothly. Well, smoothly for Democrats, anyway. Democrats are a lot like Southern Baptists; you can’t put more than two of them in the same room together without them splitting into at least three factions. So, of course, we did have some “drama,” as the kids say, but compared to most of the other senate districts (some of whom were at it past three in the morning), we were a machine of efficiency. Overall, I detected little of the bitterness and rancor the mainstream media has insisted exists between the Obama and Clinton camps. The Clinton delegates were, understandably, heartbroken, and this was only exacerbated by the technical gremlins that kept disrupting the satellite feed of Senator Clinton’s thoughtful and gracious concession speech. There was one delegate, described by a commenter on my blog as a “modern day Jeremiah,” carrying a sign that read, “Religious, gun-owning rural Democrat still bitter over Obama.” And it would be fair to say that several Clinton delegates grumbled that the Obama camp was too enthusiastic in their victory. Anytime you have a situation that requires one side to be generous winners and the other side to be gracious losers, it’s certain that there will be hurt feelings and bruised egos. This was amplified by the huge number of first-time convention-goers and a lack of organization and foresight by the two Presidential campaigns. Once it was clear there wasn’t going to be a fight, it seemed as though both campaigns, but particularly Obama’s, just wrote the whole event off. Senator Clinton sent Chelsea, who was wildly and enthusiastically received; Obama sent Tim Kaine, a governor virtually no one had ever heard of who delivered a speech about as exciting as cooling oatmeal. Of course, at the time the convention was being organized, no one had any way of knowing that it would occur literally at the same time the Democratic presidential race was ending; still, a little effort could’ve gone a long way to promoting the sense of unity that both Clinton and Obama are calling for. For example, if I was in charge of the Obama delegates, I would’ve arranged for a sustained demonstration saluting Hillary Clinton. I think that would’ve been very well received as a gesture of affection and respect. Water under the bridge now. It is possible, though unlikely, that by the time you read this Barack Obama will have announced his running mate. I will predict that whoever it is, it will not be Hillary Clinton, for a couple of reasons, the most important of which being that Hillary Clinton would have to give up far too much power to be vice president. It’s far more likely that she will become Senate Majority Leader, a welcome change from the often feckless Harry Reid. It also seems likely that a President Obama would name her to the first vacancy on the Supreme Court. As for Texas, I think it’s also likely that Obama will campaign here, not because he’s too terribly likely to actually carry the state, but to boost the chances of Democrats like senate candidate Rick Noriega (who is either breathing down John Cornyn’s neck or way behind depending on which Rasmussen poll you believe) and to make the morally and fiscally bankrupt Republicans sweat and spend money here that they would otherwise use in battleground states like Ohio and Michigan. So, are the Democrats “unified”? Well, sure; I mean, for Democrats. You have to keep in mind that Democrats have never and will never achieve the sort of ideological rigidity that has reduced the Republic Party to the sort of brainless cheering minions one often sees at rallies for Robert Mugabe or Hugo Chavez. If the GOP is a group of disparate interests united by fear (of communists, uppity women, brown people, homosexuals and the Enlightenment), then the Democratic Party is best understood as a (very) loose coalition of wildly divergent interests only vaguely united by a sense of outrage, less a electoral guided missile than a stampede or an avalanche; powerful only when pointed in the right direction, an often impossible task. If Barack Obama can use his undeniable powers of charm and persuasion to hold together his own party, then he will be the next President of the United States.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Supreme Court Accidentally Upholds Constitution

Apparently, there really is such a thing as habeas corpus after all. The talking heads seem happy, but I am left to ponder: is it really something to cheer about that the highest court in the land, by a 5-4 vote no less, has only grudgingly upheld what has been the fundamental basis of the rule of law since the Magna Carta? Is the bar really set that low now?
And to any Hillary Clinton supporters out there still contemplating either sitting this one out or supporting McBush, a point to consider: FIVE to FOUR.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

My Big Fat Democratic Convention

For reasons unclear to me, I was unanimously elected chair of the Senate District 22 caucus, divided almost exactly evenly between Clinton and Obama delegates. The two camps tried to cobble together a deal to divide the available committee positions between them, but it nearly foundered as many of the first-time delegates (probably a majority of the total) were understandably suspicious of "back room deals." In spite of that, and a brief bit of childish public tantrum-throwing by a delegate who didn't get what he thought he deserved, we actually finished far ahead of the other senate districts, some of which were at it all night long and well into the morning. I attended a hastily-organized Native American caucus and we elected a Navajo man and a Blackfoot/Lakota woman (I'm sorry, but I've blanked on their names) as our choices for at-large Native American delegate to the national convention. We also passed a resolution I authored calling for the repeal of the Major Crimes Act and reversal of Oliphant, though I never learned what happened to it after that. There was little actual drama on the convention floor compared to prior years; Boyd Ritchie was easily re-elected. The question of abolishing the "Texas Two-Step" Primary was fobbed off on a task force. The biggest excitement came when we had to evacuate the Austin Convention Center (which is easily the worst venue I have ever been trapped in; we practically had to rappel up the side of the building to get to some of the meeting rooms and the escalators were unaccountably turned off) due to a fire alarm. I heard but didn't get to see Chelsea Clinton's speech, and the entire convention was annoyed by the technical glitches that kept interrupting Hillary Clinton's concession speech. As for the much-hyped tension between Clinton & Obama supporters, I think there were actually more people worried about it than there were people who legitimately intend to vote for McCain unless Clinton is put on the ticket. Overall, my impression was that the Obama supporters could have been more gracious winners and the Clinton supporters could have been better losers. A few small symbolic gestures by either side would've gone a long way. For example, if I was in charge of the Obama delegates, I would have arranged for a "spontaneous" pro-Hillary demonstration after her speech. It would have cost the Obama side nothing, but would've helped mend fences. Actually, Texas would've been the perfect setting for a joint appearance, considering the huge turnout and the fact that Clinton won the primary while Obama won the caucus. Hopefully, the Texas Democratic Party will capitalize on the huge primary turnout and work to make sure that all the new people in the process stay excited and involved all the way to November and beyond.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Post Convention Stress Disorder

Still recovering from the Democratic State Convention. Longer post to come. While it's true that the Convention was interrupted by a fire alarm (and then, bizarrely, someone tried to burn down the Governor's Mansion), as I have often said, any Democratic meeting where no shots are fired, no blood is spilled and no police are called is a good meeting.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Candidate

Congratulations, Senator! Now the hard part begins. As for me, I'll be at the State Democratic Convention in Austin tomorrow through Saturday. I will attempt to post from there, but we all know how well technology and I get along.

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

It Gets Weirder

I, like nearly all lawyers, have had cases where judges made bad rulings. Bizarre rulings. Incomprehensible rulings. Rulings completely unmoored from either the facts or the law. But I can safely say that in nearly ten years of practice, I have never seen a judge stomp out of the courtroom and flat-out refuse to rule, as Judge Barbara Walther did Friday in the increasingly unhinged FLDS case. If you don't want to make the hard calls, especially when the heat is on, then don't run for judge. More from the Common Room.