Musings for November 29, 2018

Donald Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior in regards to the Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation shows that he knows the jig is up. He has done everything he can to undermine this investigation, including behaving in a manner absolutely abhorrent for a president of the United States. I think that’s what bothers me the most. There has never been an individual to hold the highest office in the land who worked so hard to degraded it, to defame it and make it look ridiculous.

Yes, his election was the will of the people (not all the people, he lost the popular vote by a few million ballots) but he triumphed fairly under the ridiculous electoral system that exists in the United States. But you know what? Sometimes people make the wrong decision and American voters made the wrong decision electing Donald Trump. He is, without any doubt, the worst president in the history of this great country. Not even a close call.

Mueller’s Steady Stream of Russia Revelations Is Driving Trump Crazy (4:59 PM)

Canada imposes sanctions on 17 Saudis over killing of journalist Khashoggi (8:27 p.m.)

Cowards. The evidence is there to name MBS. And Trudeau runs away from it.No better than Trump.

Any day now, this house of cards will come tumbling down.

For those who are wondering why Trump doesn’t just go ahead and pardon Manafort and the rest, or have his new thug Attorney General Matthew Whi
taker shut down Mueller, I suggest the answer is simple: Someone has gotten it through Trump’s head that such blatant moves will not prevent Mueller’s stories from getting out, not successfully protect all the president’s guilty men (and possibly women) from criminal exposure, and not necessarily be constitutional if the aim is to exchange pardons for silence. What Trump would succeed in doing instead is adding another chapter or two to still another Mueller true-crime tale, the one about obstruction of justice.

Investigators Raid Offices of President of U.S. Catholic Bishops (4:50 pm)

The Catholic Church has finally run out its string. After decades of lying, coverups, and moving pedophile priests around from parish to parish – not just in the United States but all around the world – it’s time to pay the piper. Time for priests and cardinals and archbishops who have abused children, or who have a have hidden abusers, to go to jail. For a long time.

Trump Is Wrecking the Constitution, the Presidency—and Now, Romaine Lettuce, Too (6:48 a.m.)

The daily antics of Donald Trump constantly leaves people gasping “It can’t get worse.” But it does, of course.

What we are missing, however, is the way that the Trump administration is dismantling important regulations brought in by Pres. Obama and past administrations designed to protect the air quality, the water quality, and the food supply in order to protect the health of Americans. This Romaine lettuce outbreak can be directly traced to the policies of the Trump administration. They don’t care if there is crap all over your Romaine lettuce. They just want to save their friends in big Agri a few bucks. If a few people die because of inadequate food production, well, so be it. There’s money to be made.

Trump-led GOP grows increasingly tolerant of racially divisive politics

Let me translate that headline for you. The Republican Party is becoming a party of racists and bigots and they don’t care about trying to hide it anymore. It’s been moving that way for half a century, since the development of the southern strategy under Richard Nixon.

Five years after the GOP produced a self-examination that called for reconciliation with minority voters, the party has grown increasingly tolerant of racially divisive politics, making its support base even whiter as potential minority voters and candidates are driven away.

The shift has been led by a president who in the final days of the Mississippi Senate race said the Democratic candidate, an African American who was born here to a well-known family, doesn’t “fit in.”

These efforts of course are being led by a man who has a well-known history of racism and bigotry throughout his life and doesn’t seem to care if people know it. The GOP has become the party of less-educated white people, primarily white males. It’s a shame really. In about 20 years or so, less than 50% of the American population will be white. And as college-educated whites move increasingly towards the Democrats, the GOP’s base shrinks and shrinks. No doubt more than a few Republicans will deny this trend, but if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck. A racist and bigoted duck.

Redskins ignore Colin Kaepernick, sign Reuben Foster and remind us of who they are

If you want to know something about American football, this story kind of sums it all up. The NFL makes a big deal about “defending the shield” and being solid, upright citizens in their communities. Well, maybe some teams fit this description. The Washington team does not. (I will not use their racist last name.) In a sense, the move by the Washington team to ignore a talented quarterback who protested racial injustice by the police and instead select a linebacker who has been accused of domestic abuse more than once, is a great reflection on where we are as a country right now. Basically, it’s okay to beat your partner but don’t you dare say anything bad about how the police treat black people in this country.

The Algorithms of August

Very good piece by Foreign Policy about how the US is losing the artificial intelligence race to countries like China and Canada. I hate to keep bringing us up, but this is another place where racism and bigotry are keeping the best people away from United States. Countries like Canada, which have a much more open door policy towards immigrants, are actively recruiting scientists who specialize in artificial intelligence research. The government has actually allocated millions of dollars to do so.

Since Trump has become president, however, with his incessant wars on both legal and illegal immigrants, scientists who might once have come and settled in the United States are now looking in other directions. Americans, for their part, failed to understand how stories about racism and bigotry in the United States resonate around the world. The Indian engineer who was murdered by a white racist in Kansas sent a shiver through the scientific communities of other nations around the world. Why come to the United States when you can go to a country that appreciate your talents and want you to settle there?

NRATV: Boys Should Be Trained To Charge At Active Shooters

Fortunately for all of us, the NRA is doing its very best to reduce its membership even more than it has in the past two years. If you want to find the epicenter of so much of the darkness that threatens to engulf the United States in the 21st century, you can begin that search at the NRA headquarters just outside Washington DC.

MSNBC declines to allow Sarah Sanders to dictate its programming

I know, MSNBC is seen as the left-wing counterpart of Fox News. It’s a bit disingenuous. Fox News programs like “Fox and Friends” or Sean Hannity’s Trump love-in or Tucker Carlson’s snoozer of a program regularly just make stuff up out of whole cloth, have never missed a chance to promote every conspiracy theory possible no matter how ridiculous or untrue, misuse videos to underscore their lies and make absolutely no attempt at fairness. There are times when I would accuse MSNBC of leaning too hard towards a liberal viewpoint but I would never accuse them of making stuff up.

And that is why I totally agree with their decision not to carry the Sarah Sanders lie-a-thon formally known as the White House press briefing. Ms. Sanders (or as I affectionately refer to her, Baghdad Bobbi) would no sooner be truthful during the press briefing than you would expect the sun to rise in the west. Sanders spreads misinformation like a farmer in Iowa spreads fertilizer on a corn field. So why bother covering it when you know everything that’s going to be said by Sanders is not true? I applaud their decision and I hope other media outlets do the same.

CA Dem Party Chair Takes Leave Of Absence Amid Misconduct Allegations

I read the other day how New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is taking a lot of friendly fire because of her position on the Al Franken resignation. She was one of the most outspoken voices of the need for Franken to resign. I thought that was the right call then and I think is the right call now.

I think this guy also needs to resign. This “leave of absence” nonsense is just so much horse manure. We are not talking about one person making this complaint. At least 10 women have come forward to talk about this man’s behavior. And while the Republicans have no problem nominating men who abuse women to the Supreme Court, the Democrats absolutely have to send a different message. This guy needs to resign and he needs to resign now.

Finally, for fans of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”…

Margaret Atwood announces The Handmaid’s Tale sequel, The Testaments

The novel ambiguously ended with Offred being placed in a van that will possibly deliver her to freedom outside Gilead. The novel’s epilogue is narrated by an academic giving a lecture about the authenticity of Offred’s story decades later, based on cassette tapes he had discovered in Maine.

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American musings for November 28

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith won the Senate runoff in Mississippi last night but it was a heck of a lot closer than people thought it would be. The day when an African-American Democrat would lose to a Republican by single digits in the state that is so Republican and so racist that it still has the Confederate flag in its state flag portends greater changes down the road.

I will make a prediction right here and right now. In two years Texas will go blue. This is especially the case if Beto O’Rourke is the Democratic nominee for president. The solid South has become the Purple South.

Trump Says He’s ‘Far Greater’ Than Reagan

I know Donald Trump is an egomaniac in public. His accomplishments are far below what most other sitting presidents (Republican or Democrat) have accomplished by their first two years in office but that never stops him from saying everything is the greatest, or the biggest, the best, yada, yada, yada. But if you ever needed more proof that Trump has verbal diarrhea it is his claim that he is actually greater than Ronald Reagan. Now, I’m no Reagan fan (my last name was misspelled for eight years when he was president) but I know he had some fairly major accomplishments. I could sense true conservative across America cringing as they read this report. Every time Trump opens his mouth he just shows how much of a snake oil salesman he is.

The NRA Just Reported Losing $55 Million in Income

Boo-hoo. And they would’ve lost even more money except that a single donor gave them $19 million. Membership in this domestic terrorist organization is definitely down. Let’s hope they just keep doing what they been doing for the last two years and that one day, like a puff of smoke, the NRA will just fade away like a bad dream.

What To Know About New York Judge’s Ruling Against The Trump Foundation

This is a little time bomb that is ticking away in Donald Trump’s background. Basically, the judge in the case ruled that it is totally allowable for a sitting president to be sued for activities that have nothing to do with his conduct in office. Basically, the Trump Foundation, which more or less operated as a charity organization for the benefit of one person, namely Donald Trump, “willfully and intentionally” engaged in serious misconduct. I also like the attempt by Trump to get the case switch to a federal court. (Gee, I wonder why? You would almost think he had a ringer in the Atty. Gen.’s Department.) That didn’t work either. If you pardon my language, this is going to to to be a huge shitstorm for the Trumps.

A Shadow Over Europe

This is a very good report from CNN about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, provoked by the far-right. Memories of the Holocaust are slowly fading away and about 1/4 of Europeans believe that Jews play “too big a role” in the world.

Before the midterm elections in the United States, a friend of mine asked on Facebook what we needed to do if we didn’t get a blue wave. Although we did, my answer was that it didn’t matter. This is not a one-time thing. This is a struggle that goes on all the time. The forces that desire to pull us back into a darker human past are never quiet, never still. If we relax for a moment, they will take that moment to push their agenda that much farther. It is a struggle that will never end and we just might as well face it. Our children and our children’s children will be fighting many of the same battles a hundred years from now. While we may be making progress in areas like racism, bigotry, misogyny, or homophobia, the far-right will always push back and try to take it all away.

Maybe They’re Just Bad People

But Trump is unique as a magnet for grifters, climbers and self-promoters, in part because decent people won’t associate with him. With the exception of national security professionals sticking around to stop Trump from blowing up the world, there are two kinds of people in the president’s orbit — the immoral and the amoral.

I’m glad someone in the mainstream media has finally said this out loud. The people who surround Donald Trump reminded me of the Obi-Wan quote from the first Star Wars:”You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” And for me the biggest villain is Stephen Miller. Drones like Sanders, Conway or Kelly are little more than Trump puppets. But Miller…If I was casting a horror movie and I need someone to play a soulless demon without any conscience and totally capable of any evil, I would just give the part to Miller right away. Call it typecasting.

The Dangers Junk Science of Vocal Risk Assessment

A great piece by the Intercept on a company who is trying to persuade corporate leaders in Washington that their software allows them to listen to people’s voices and detect if they are possible troublemakers. Almost every expert on the subject calls a totally bogus and even a dangerously misleading practice. The Trump administration is, of course, interested because totally bogus and dangerous misleading practices are kind of their thing.

Chancellor admits UK will be worse off under all Brexit scenarios

There is no good Brexit for the UK. The United Kingdom loses under every single scenario. It’s what we’ve all known from that first night when Britons allow themselves to be misled by a band of lying miscreants. Brexit is the “New Coke”of British politics. Well, they asked for and boy are they going to get it.

And finally…

The World’s Highest-Paid TV Hosts 2018

It’s not Ellen. It’s not Dr. Phil. Definitely not Dr. Oz. Not Steve Harvey or Ryan Seacrest.

It’s Judge Judy! Last year Americans favorite cranky judge made $137 million. Not only that but she has three times the audience of Sean Hannity. I daresay that if Judge Judy promoted a presidential candidate on her show, he would always guarantee him or her election.

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What’s happening in the US, November 27, 2018

Morning all.

An interesting day yesterday. The biggest story was probably General Motors announcement that would be closing several US plants along with one in Canada, reducing its overall workforce by 15,000 and generally downsizing as it moves toward more electric and autonomous cars. There was a lot of brouhaha from both Republicans and Democrats in Ohio and Michigan, not to mention Donald Trump trying to sound like Kaiser Wilhelm in his talks with the head of General Motors. Only to be expected.

There will only be more new stories like this, however, in the future. Technology is driving many sectors in the American economy, like automobiles, to face new realities. One of those realities is that people are not buying as many gas-guzzling automobiles as they were in the past.

Let me give you a personal example. Every now and then my 14-year-old Subaru needs to go to the shop for yet another repair. My neighbor across the street lets me borrow her car, an electric/gas hybrid, if I need to make a run for groceries or to take one of my kids to the doctor. On a good day, my Subaru manages about 22 miles to the gallon. Meanwhile, my friend’s car gets 58 miles to the gallon. And her car is about four years old. Newer models of hybrids or electric cars have only gotten better.

That’s why General Motors is closing several plants. People want cars that will give them 58 miles to the gallon. Not to mention someday the phrase “to the gallon” will have the same kind of cultural relevance as “buggy whip.” And Trump’s tariffs have an effect that creates a tipping point. But it was going to happen sooner or later. General Motors decision to concentrate more on autonomous and electric cars is a smart one. Not for politicians, but for consumers. Technology is here to stay. As my mother used to say, “it is what it is.”

Democrats Learn a Big Lesson for 2020 Vote About Taking on Trump

This interesting piece from Bloomberg. The point of the article is that one of the main things the Democrats learned from the 2018 midterms is don’t talk about Donald Trump. Focus on local issues. Yes, Trump will be out there blowing his own horn, rallying his base. But as the midterms proved, Democrats and Independents want to focus on getting things done. I think this will play an enormous role in deciding who will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020.

The case for Beto O’Rourke

Can you win a presidential election after losing another election? It seems unlikely but it has been done before. Richard Nixon lost both the presidential election to Kennedy in 1960 and then the election for California governor 1962. By 1968 he was president. I think it all depends on if it’s your “moment.” Barack Obama knew it was his moment in 2008. America was ready for what he had to offer. Beta O’Rourke came within 2% of defeating an incumbent Republican senator in what is one of the most Republican states in the union. (Or was.) This piece by a former Obama official argues that it may also be O’Rourke’s moment. I think he might be right.

Trump Suggests U.S. Create Network to Take on CNN

Sounds of guffaws and muffled laughter.

Trump says he doesn’t believe his administration’s climate report

Trumpet doesn’t believe in climate change. Trump doesn’t believe his intelligence services. Trump doesn’t believe the teargas affects children. Trump doesn’t believe that his tariff policies had anything to do with the General Motors plant closures in Ohio and Michigan. Trump doesn’t believe that he had anything to do with the Democratic wave in the 2018 midterms.

On the other hand, Trump does believe that Vladimir Putin knew nothing about Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election. He believes that Mohammed bin Salmon, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, was “shocked, I say shocked” to hear the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. And Trump believes that he is the only source of truth in American politics.

Need one say more?

U.S. ambassador to Israel says peace plan will come at “appropriate time”

It’s a punchline, right? What he really meant to say was the first of never. This “peace plan” has about as much chance of being successful as the Cleveland Browns have of winning this year’s Super Bowl.

Voter Suppression During the 2018 Midterm Elections

This just in…

While more people voted in the 2018 midterms than any other midterm in recent elections, millions of other Americans were denied the right to vote because of blatant attempts by Republican politicians to suppress the votes of minorities, college students and anybody else was on their hit list. Their cries of voter fraud have about as much credibility as a Lindsay Graham statement about protecting Jeff Sessions as Atty. Gen.

This is one reason why the runoff election for Secretary of State in Georgia is so important. Georgia Gov. elect Brian Kemp had been Secretary of State and without a doubt put his thumb on the scales to help his own election. This needs to be an office the Democrats focus on in future elections to make sure that everyone has the right to vote.

Study: Concealed Carry Leads to 15% Increase in Violent Crime

And this is why that domestic terrorist organization known as the National Rifle Association doesn’t want anybody to do any studies on gun violence in the United States. Because when studies are carried out they show that more guns mean more violence and more violent deaths.

Researchers ran several regressions analyzing 14 years of data in 11 states that have “right-to-carry” laws, seeing whether there was any movement in crime statistics after the adoption of these laws.

Turns out being able to carry a handgun spikes up crime in states: By the tenth year of these laws, violent crime was up between 13 and 15 percent.

Here’s a statistic I always like to quote. When Canada brought in more extensive gun control in the early 2000s the cry from gun rights advocates was”this means only criminals will have guns!” Well, Statistics Canada, the government’s official statistics agency, found that in the first four years after the legislation was introduced, the number of gun crimes committed in Canada dropped by 25%. When you make guns hard to get for law-abiding citizens, you also make them harder for criminals to get them.

Alabama Mall Cops Blame Shooting Victim for Holding Gun While Fleeing Active Shooter

“If you’re black and you’re a good guy with a gun,” Crump added, “the police [don’t] see you as a good guy. They see you as a criminal and they shoot and kill you.”

And since I like to end the daily news update on a positive note…

The Proud Boys Are Imploding
It couldn’t happen to a creepier, more violent, Trump-loving, idiotic bunch of guys. What these morons represent will not go away, but every now and then is nice to see how their inherent stupidity is exposed. Racist are naturally stupid. It’s a universal fact, like the sun coming up every morning.

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America and the world on Monday, November 26

As I promised when I left Facebook, here are a few of the stories that I think are interesting and worth viewing and commenting on.

White House lacks lawyers to deal with empowered Democrats

I remember reading a few weeks ago how in early 2005 the Bush administration realized that the Democrats were going to take the House in 2006. They literally spent the next year preparing defenses against what they knew would be a tsunami of subpoenas and appearances in front of hostile Congressional committees.

Then there’s the Trump administration. Seemingly unable to believe that the Democratic wave actually happened (and it kind of happened like a tsunami – slow-moving building to a huge surge) this piece by Politico shows the Bush administration is completely unprepared for what is going to start to happen in January. Down to a skeleton staff and still without a permanent leader since October the office of the White House counsel is not prepared to defend President Trump. If you thought he was cranky before, wait until January…

Alan Dershowitz Predicts Mueller Report Will Be ‘Politically Very Devastating’ For Trump

I’m not a fan of Alan Dershowitz. Never have been, never will be. But this is an interesting take on the Mueller Report. While he doesn’t think it will lead to criminal charges against Trump, its effects will be “devastating” on the Trump administration. We can only keep our fingers crossed that he’s right.

Franklin Graham: Trump “defends the faith”

I’m not a Christian, but I know many good Christian people who live their lives in a meaningful Christian way. When I think of what a good Christian is I do not think of Franklin Graham. In this shining example of what it means to equivocate, Graham basically says Trump is a lousy Christian but he “defends the faith.” With friends like these…

The GOP is now the party of neo-Confederates

In this interesting column by neocon Max Boot I find his definition of neoconservatism to be a little…self-serving…but he makes a good point about who the neocons that can be found circling around Donald Trump-neo-Confederates. As he writes, “The neocons who are now in the ascendancy are the neo-Confederates who have been encouraged to come into the open by President Trump’s unabashed appeals to racist and xenophobic prejudices.”

“The neocons who are now in the ascendancy are the neo-Confederates who have been encouraged to come into the open by President Trump’s unabashed appeals to racist and xenophobic prejudices.”

How Southern politicians defended white supremacy — and made the South poorer

To go along with the above piece, here is another good story from the Washington Post about how Southern politicians (both Democratic and Republican) efforts to defend white supremacy ended up making the South the poorest region in the country.

Midterms reveal South split along urban, rural differences

And to go along with those two pieces above here is a Associated Press story on how there is no longer any such thing as the “Solid South.” The voting block that for decades supported Democrats, and then Republicans after the civil rights movement, has been blown up. Now you have an urban and rural split. Urban centers – home to minority voters and college-educated younger voters, while the suburbs that surround them, are filled in particular with college-educated women – are no longer a reliable voting block for the Republicans.

How climate change could be causing miscarriages in Bangladesh

While the Trump administration did their best to bury the US government report on climate change, this is an interesting BBC article that looks on how climate change is affecting women who live near increasingly rising waters in Bangladesh. Basically, the closer they live to the water, the more women suffer miscarriages.

I believe that the attempts by Trump, his administration and conservatives across the United States and the world to ignore the perils of climate change will ultimately be their undoing politically. As I heard discussed on Morning Joe today as increasing numbers of millennials vote (as they did in the last election in huge numbers) their number one issue is climate change followed closely by healthcare. While there are some members of the Republican Party who understand this peril, are reluctant to challenge Trump on the issue speaks to their cowardice. It will be their undoing.

More to come…

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The truth about the 2nd Amendment

West facade of the Supreme Court building in Washington.


by Tom Regan

It’s a pretty common refrain you’ll hear from gun rights activists: The 2nd Amendment gives them the right to own whatever kind of gun they desire and any attempts to place restrictions on ownership, or the size of ammunition clips, or how long you have to wait before you buy a gun, or any kind of a restriction at all, are unconstitutional.

It’s a go-to argument for the guns right movement, and one that is echoed by members of Congress and their pay master, the National Rifle Association. It’s too bad it’s completely bogus.

To get the real story, you need to go back to two Supreme Court cases: Heller vs DC in 2008 and MacDonald vs City of Chicago in 2010.

In 2008, DC had some pretty restrictive laws about handguns, the use of gun locks and keeping them in your home. A group of citizens, of whom Mr. Heller was one, decided to sue the city of DC, arguing that these restrictive bans were anti-2nd Amendment and therefore unconstitutional.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where in 5-4 ruling, the Court held the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to “ possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” But since DC was a federal district, the question was whether the 2nd Amendment protections outlined in Heller were guaranteed under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. This was decided in another 5-4 case, the above-mentioned MacDonald vs The City of Chicago. This ruling “incorporated” the 2nd Amendment.

At first glance, this would seem to back the claims of gun right activists that any restrictions placed on the 2nd Amendment are unconstitutional. Again, this is completely bogus.

In his majority decision in Heller vs DC, Justice Antonin Scalia also wrote that “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited [my emphasis]. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.” (Wikipedia summary)

More important, in the MacDonald vs The City of Chicago, the Supreme Court left this language intact.

Which brings us to today. In fact, it brings us to just yesterday. The Supreme Court passed on taking up a case challenging California’s mandatory 10-day waiting period to buy a gun, even if you had previously purchased a gun. It was the latest case of the Court refusing to hear a challenge to a law restricting gun rights.

These include the refusal in 2015 to hear a challenge to an ordinance in Highland Park, Ill. that banned the sale and possession of semi-automatic rifles. Eight other states have similar laws, none of which the Court has overturned.

In June of 2017, the Court did not take up a challenge to the constitutionality of a San Dingo ordinance about concealed weapons. The 9th Circuit Court ruled that “the 2nd Amendment does not preserve or protect a right of a member of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.”

In a February 2017 ruling, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, a much more conservative court, ruled en banc, 10-4, that Maryland’s ban on 45 different kinds of semi-automatic weapons and its limit of 10 rounds on gun magazines were both constitutional and that the 2nd Amendment doesn’t protect “weapons of war.” In November of 2017, the Supreme Court declined to heat the case.

What this tells us is that as far as the current justices are concerned, the matter is settled. It is lawful for people to keep a handgun or a shotgun in their homes for self-protection. The 2nd Amendment protects this right. But states are free to implement restrictions on “weapons of war” or on other aspects of gun rights.

If anyone tells you differently or you hear a politician or NRA official say different, it’s just B.S. Nothing more and nothing less.

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Follow the money


Since the Parkland shooting two days ago I’ve been thinking a lot about this bizarre dance that seems to happen after every mass shooting in the United States. And I believe I’ve come to understand that in the end it’s not about the rights of gun owners or the desires of those who want more gun regulations. To quote the song, it’s all about the Benjamins, and the various entities that use these situations for financial gain.

A young man walks into a school and killed 17 people. Several factors that influence the financial outcome of this tragedy kick into high gear. First is the media. Please make no mistake about it while I believe that the vast majority of journalists in this country have chosen the profession because they believe in the right of the American people to know all the facts and truths that they can provide them, they work for gigantic corporations for whom the bottom line is the most important line. (I say that after 40 years of working as a journalist.) Soon incidents like the one in Parkland are all about eyeballs. Endless loops of aggrieved mothers, helicopter shots of children with her arms in the air filing out of active shooter situations, breathless coverage of the funeral of those murdered, revolve endlessly on our TV screens. The cable news networks in particular will milk this coverage as long as they can. It makes money. It is the American way. (Less than a year ago we saw cable TV networks provide endless coverage of Donald Trump because “he was good for the bottom line,” a situation gleefully noted by several top broadcasts executives.)

Next come politicians, who offer “thoughts and prayers” as sacrificial examples of their politically impotency. And why are they politically impotent? Because they need the money from groups like the NRA and the Mercers and the Koch brothers in order to gain that most important thing of all – reelection. For them, mass shootings are also about the Benjamins. Political campaigns cost money. Standing up for principles is fine but it won’t get you the donations that you need especially if you find yourself being primaried by another candidate who cares less about principles and more about money. So they consistently misrepresent the views of their constituents, claiming they believe one thing when actually believe the opposite. These men and women are bought and paid for like trinkets in a gift shop. They will do what they’re told to do.

And then we have the NRA which is really little more than a puppet for the gun manufacturers it represents. It is the NRA who gives the money to the politicians to ensure their political impotency, money they get from the various gun manufacturers who profit wildly after every mass shooting. For it is well known how gun sales surge when innocent people are mowed down in these situations. One could almost argue that gun manufacturers survive on mass shootings and the resulting fear of gun owners that their weapons will be taken away from them. They play all of us for suckers. They love gun control debates because they drive gun sales. They make sure the fire and the tempers are hot to keep us from examining what is really going on, regardless of where we fall on the issue.

Follow the money. It always boils down to that. If we really want to find ways to bring in smarter gun regulations that don’t interfere with gun owners’ legitimate rights to own firearms we have to look at why we continue this sick and twisted dance every time this happens. Follow the money.

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Time for Confederate statues and holidays to go

Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis rising from smoke and ashes is depicted in this enormous carving “etched” into the side of Stone Mountain. (By Bryce Edwards, Creative Commons)

by Tom Regan

About 25 years ago I accompanied my then fiancé, and now wife, to visit friends in the small town she grew up in just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I had never really been in the South before, and so I was unprepared for what I found.

During our visit, one of the tourist attractions that she took me to see was Stone Mountain. In case you have no idea about what Stone Mountain is, it is the Confederacy’s equivalent of Mount Rushmore. In what is apparently the largest bas-relief carving in the world, three of the main figures of the Confederacy are carved into the north face of a huge granite outcropping: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davies.

What is also interesting about Stone Mountain are historical markers and plaques placed around the outcropping. In all these various bits of historical literature, not once was the Civil War mentioned. Instead, the great conflict that took place between 1861 and 1865 is referred to as “The War of Northern Aggression.” It’s also interesting to note that Stone Mountain was the initial meeting place of the second version of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915.

And I remember that my main thought that day was, “Wow. These people have a really problem with historical revisionism.”

It has always puzzled me why so many Southerners, and their sympathizers in other places around the country, are so intent on linking their “heritage” to a bunch of racist losers. Because that is what the Confederacy was. A group of racist losers. But the whole idea of racism, and the whole idea of losing, seems to have been vanished from this pro-Confederacy narrative, better known as the “Lost Cause.”

It has always puzzled me why so many Southerners, and their sympathizers in other places around the country, are so intent on linking their “heritage” to a bunch of racist losers.

The Lost Cause was one of the greatest propagandistic public relations efforts ever conducted. It did not begin until after the Civil War was over. The government in Washington, reeling from the loss of Abraham Lincoln and trying to deal with the inadequacies of his successor Andrew Johnson, was busy just trying to put things back together. Meanwhile southern supporters of the Confederacy saw their chance. They invented the story that went something like this: slavery was on its last legs anyways, it would’ve died of its own heavyweight, and the real fight was about states’ rights. All Conderate leaders were great men, who really didn’t believe in slavery. This is of course nonsense – any legitimate reading of history would show that. There are numerous statements by Confederate leaders made during the Civil War that document th Confederacy was fighting to retain the right to own slaves.

The numerous Confederate statues that sprung up in places like Richmond, Virginia and New Orleans, Louisiana are just one outcropping of this propaganda battle. But they’re more than that. I think New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu really hit the nail on the head in the speech he gave the other day after his city removed the last of four statues of Confederate figures.
The statues, he said, “were designed not to honor the men, not to honor Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis. They were put up to send a message [of] who were still in control, notwithstanding the fact the Confederacy lost the war. Now that’s intimidating, and the consequence of that was that people who didn’t feel comfortable here left.”

The message of who is still in control. And that is the real meaning of these monuments. It was a way for the racists who had lost the Civil War to ensure they would continue to terrorize the African-Americans they had fought to enslave. And they did so for almost another century.
But it’s time for them to go. All of them. Stone Mountain. Monument Alley in Richmond, all of the statues of all the Confederate figures scattered throughout the cities and towns of the South. And holidays that celebrate the Confederacy, like the one in Virginia known as Lee-Jackson day. Because it’s time people who claim that the statues and things like the Confederate battle flag are their “heritage” face the truth: they are honoring a group of men who fought to enslave other human beings for purely racist, monetary reasons. Plain, pure, and simple.

And by claiming this is your rightful “heritage” you make yourself no better than they were.

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Democrat establishment must pay more attention to grassroots

Democrats need to capitalize on what is happening at the grassroots level. [Illustration by DonkeyHotey, Creative Commons]

In the recent special election in Kansas to replace Rep. Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s pick to head the CIA, it looked like a cakewalk for the GOP. Pompeo had won the seat by 31 points in November, 2016, and Trump easily won the district. It has been called one of the safest Republican districts in the country.

The GOP ran Ron Estes, the state treasurer, a guy who had won two statewide elections in the past. The Democrats’ candidate, James Thompson, had never run for any office of any kind before. But it didn’t turn out to be a cakewalk. Democrats across the US have been energized by the election of Donald Trump, and this energy can be found at town meetings held by GOP reps across the country (at least those not afraid to hold them) or the many demonstrations in front of their offices, or in one of many protest marches. And in Kansas, there was another factor – the wild unpopularity of Governor Sam Brownback, probably the GOP governor with the worst chance of being re-elected in a solid GOP-controlled state in the country.

The GOP candidate won, but only 6.8 points, and only after a panicked GOP poured thousands of dollars and robocalls by prominent Republicans into the state. A win is still a win and a loss is still a loss, but it’s no secret to say that some loses are more meaningful than others. Whittling down the GOP margin of victory by more than 20% points in “one of the safest GOP ridings in the country” was a real lift to many Democrats across the country. Political pundits had said that if the GOP only won by single digits, it would be a problem for them.

So one has to wonder that if the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had paid more attention to the race who knows what might have happened. Its excuse for not getting more involved was, ‘well, if we paid attention to the race, it only would have hurt him,’ which is only so much horse manure. On the one hand, you might understand in the beginning that establishment Democrats were reluctant to get involved in Kansas. It’s a pretty red state. But on the other hand, the signs that something extra-ordinary was happening were seen by lots of people. But other than last-minute phone calls, the DNCC pretty much ignored what was happening. It didn’t even provide a link to Thompson’s website on its home page. And when the GOP launched wave after wave of negative ads against Thompson, he did not have the resources to respond.

If the DNCC had helped Thompson when it mattered, the result would have been even closer, or perhaps a totally unexpected victory. But the organization’s reluctance to throw its weight behind what grassroots Democrats across the country are doing, even in solid GOP districts, is a real mistake and if not corrected will come back to bite them. Right now, there is a real split in the Democrats between the Bernie Sanders “Build the party from the ground up” folks, and the Obama acolytes still running the party in DC who see the special election in Georgia 6th district as more of a target because it’s largely college-educated suburban area that they think will trend against Trump.

Yes, Georgia is promising. But here’s the problem with only that thinking way. When people work hard to make a difference, they need to see that what they do matters. They need small victories. If the Democratic establishment doesn’t help them find those small victories, they will become discouraged and stop what they are doing. They will stop coming out to town meetings and to protests. Even more important, they will stop donating money to the Democrats. Or instead donate it to the Green Party or something similar.

And the DNC can count on primary and convention fights in 2020 that will make what the GOP was afraid of happening in 2016 with Trump look like a slumber party. If the Democrat establishment does not find a way to work with what is happening at the grassroots level, they can forget about taking back the House, they will lose even more Senate seats in 2018 and will not win back the presidency in 2020.

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The problems with Trump’s strike on Syria

RED SEA (Sept. 23, 2014) The guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke launches a Tomahawk Cruise Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez II/Released)

By Tom Regan

If you want US talking heads, liberal or conservative, to hyper-ventilate for your presidency, it appears you just need to blow something up, preferably somewhere in the Arab world. Suddenly, you become “presidential” and every other misfire, error and mistake of the past few weeks is forgotten about.

Considering the horrific deaths suffered by the people of Khan Sheikhoun, and the images of dead and dying children broadcast around the world, you can understand that people were legitimately horrified when a Syrian (or Russian) jet dropped a deadly Sarin gas bomb on the town. Assad is a butcher and his regime does need to go. President Trump’s bombing of Syria looks like a winner for him on the surface level. But it doesn’t take much digging to find the cracks in its foundation.

1) Until Friday, the Trump administration’s ‘policy,’ if you can call it that, was totally hands off Syria. Trump wasn’t interested in replacing Assad and there had been no expression of horror at the almost half a million Syrians who had died in the preceding years, including ‘beautiful babies’ who had already perished in horrible bombings, or who had drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean to escape Assad. In the past, Trump had suggested that he believed many Syrian refugees were terrorists. While it’s interesting to think that Trump suddenly overwhelmed by a surge of humanitarianism, he hasn’t changed his position on his Muslim ban that includes Syrian refugees, many of whom currently live in abysmal conditions. It’s hard to see his concern as more than a hiccup in his emotional state.

2) Policy? What policy? The world is a complicated place. The leader of the world’s only superpower needs a plan to deal with those complicated matters. It is a somewhat disturbing idea that President Trump will jettison whatever policies he does have every time he sees horrible images on cable news. Did he think about how Russia would respond? Or Turkey or Egypt? Will one attack lead to more? The Syrians already have the base back in operation. Will he bomb it again to ensure it’s not used again for a similar kind of attack? If this attack hinted at more than ‘feel good’ retaliation, it might be more understandable. But it’s hard to see any master design behind the attack. And the sudden “guest” appearance by Rex Tillerson as the Secretary of State only seems to have confused the issue even more.

3) That creeping question of emoluments, domestic and foreign, that just never seems to go away with Trump. Trump ordered that 59 Tomahawk missiles be fired. Raytheon, the company that makes the missile, immediately saw its stock price go up. Guess who has stock in Raytheon – Trump the man who ordered they be used. By taking this action, Trump also made himself a bit of money. The Trump tendency to see the presidency as a cash cow – already under question because of his use of his own properties for cash-payer supported events at Mar-A-Lago, or having the taxpayers support his wife staying at Trump Towers in New York – seems to get worse and worse. Sooner or later, his blatant actions to make himself even richer than he is at the expense of the US taxpayer will blow up in his face.

4) In a different vein, the US media’s reactions were also problematic for the US and the world. In times of conflict, American editors and reporters grow epaulets. And the attack on the Syrian air base was deja vue all over again with the media. Across the board, media talking heads and experts fell over themselves to applaud Trump’s decision to bomb. Fareed Zakaria of CNN said this was the “start” of Trump’s presidency. David Ignatious of the Washington Post said Trump put “credibility” back into American power. And Brain Williams, of MSNBC, practically wrote a love poem on the air describing the beauty of the missiles as they were fired. It was as the American media had learned nothing from the long nightmare of their miscalculations and errors about the Gulf War. Years ago, I had a senior foreign editor at a national media outlet where I worked tell me to be careful of inside-the-beltway journalists. “They are just a pack of lemmings attracted by bright shiny things,” he said. He was right.

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The war to end all wars slowly disappears from history

World War 1 tanks and soldiers, probably British or American. [Great War Observer, Creative Commons]

by Tom Regan

For Canada and the United States, World War 1 has very different meanings.

In America, it is a barely remembered oddity. Very few Americans know that 100 years ago today, April 6, 1917, America entered the First World War. Buried under the tsunami of the Greatest Generation that won World War II, and wedged in between that war and the Civil War some 50 years beforehand, the war to end all wars rates barely a blip in a country that pays scanned attention to its history at the best of times.

It’s a completely different story in Canada. World War I is very much present in the minds of many older and younger Canadians. And that is primarily because of one battle – Vimy Ridge which started 100 years ago this coming Sunday, April 9. It was the first time that all four Canadian divisions in the war fought together. Both the British and the French tried to take Vimy Ridge but failed. In reality the repeated assaults on the Ridge were little more than diversionary tactics designed to draw German strength away from a more important battle, the battle of Arras. But that did not matter to Canadians, who stormed and captured Vimy Ridge in a battle that became mythologized, true or not, as the “moment” Canada became a country.

In America, World War I was seen as a problem that the United States needed to avoid. The imperial powers of Britain and France fought the imperial powers of Germany, Russia and Turkey for control of the European continent. Although Britain and France upheld democratic ideals that were very close to what Americans believed in, American politicians distrusted their long-term objectives and saw the war as a way for the countries involved merely to increase their territorial holdings. (And in some ways, this was very true, particularly in areas like the Middle East, where the Sykes-Picot agreement on how to divide up that part of the world between the imperial powers continues to haunt us to this day.)

Two events changed America’s perspective on the war. The first was the sinking of the British ship the Lusitania in 1915 where 128 Americans were killed when it was torpedoed in the Irish Sea by a German submarine. After this, American President Woodrow Wilson became much more vocal in his support of Britain and France, despite the attempts of German-Americans to keep America out of the war.

The final straw was the Zimmerman letter. Issued by the German Foreign Ministry in January 1917. The Zimmerman letter or telegram was sent to the government of Mexico and proposed a military alliance between the two countries and Japan if the United States entered the war. (Germany, which had decided to return to unrestricted submarine attacks on merchant shipping, anticipated this would draw in the US.) It called on Mexico to invade United States and Germany promised that it would help recapture and hold the land it had lost in the 1840s including Texas and Arizona and New Mexico. The letter created a firestorm in the United States and after that it was only a matter of time before the Americans went “over there.”

But despite its current low profile, World War I did affect America in many important ways. Perhaps the most important way was how many immigrants, who had always been viewed with suspicion by Anglo-Protestant Americans, came to be seen as “real” Americans for the first time because of their willingness to sign up and fight. It also promoted America’s move from a mostly rural culture to a much more urban one. For many of the thousands of troops who went to Britain and France this was the first time they had been more than 20 or 30 miles away from the spot on which they had been born. And, as the song says, “How ya going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris.”

A copy of the Vancouver Sun from April 10, 1917 celebrating Canada’s role at Vimy Ridge. [Vancouver Sun, Creative Commons]

Meanwhile Canada had been involved in the struggle from the very beginning, but always under the command of British officers. Which was what happened at Vimy Ridge was so important because the Canadians won that battle with minimal British help.

There were dark moments. In Newfoundland, which back then was in a colony of Britain and not yet a part of Canada, July 1 does not only mark the day Canada became a country in 1867. July 1 marks the day that 758 Newfoundlanders took the field at Beaumont-Hamel on the first day of the battle of the Somme in 1916. By the end of that day 90% of the Newfoundland Regiment were dead, dying, or wounded. At the next day’s roll call only 68 men were present. There was hardly a town or an outport in all of Newfoundland that was not touched by that day’s events.

For me, World War I is also very present. I was named after a great uncle, my grandmother’s brother, who was killed by a sniper during the war. I have very strong memories of watching First World War veterans taking part in ceremonies at the National Cenotaph in Ottawa when I was growing up. As a youngster, I met several men who had fought in the war. It does not seem like it was 100 years ago to me.

After the war, Canada was different. It no longer saw itself as a colony of Great Britain but as its own country and some 20 odd years later when World War II started, Canada did not declare war on Germany the same day as Great Britain but purposely waited several days before doing it on its own to make the point ‘we call our own shots from now on.’

Taking a more realistic view, World War I was an unnecessary slaughter ofmillions of men on both sides for reasons that are still not very clear. And while Vimy Ridge was an important moment for many Canadians, it’s fair to say that it means more to English Canada than to French Canada, so the claim that it is the moment that Canada became a country needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

I think that after this year’s anniversaries, World War I, the war to end all wars, will continue to disappear into the background, perhaps only commented on in British historical dramas, Canada’s National Film Board documentaries, and maybe some Ken Burns-like filmmaker in America deciding to do a series on PBS. For a war that meant led to so many changes for so many countries, I doubted 50 years from now it will be little more than a few paragraphs in high school history books.

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