Musings, 12/02/2019 – Our witness tampering president

Is Donald Trump’s Tweet About Roger Stone Witness Tampering?
We all know that one of the worst things about Donald Trump’s presidency is the tweets. Presidential policy dispensed in 280 characters. Even Republicans in rural states who strongly support Trump have told the media they wish the president would lay off Twitter for a while.

Well, it turns out the tweets are not only annoying, but they may also be illegal. In this interesting piece written by Lawfair, a legal blog, the writers examine the issue of whether or not Trump’s tweets in August about Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen and his tweet earlier this week about Roger Stone amount to witness tampering. They present a pretty strong case that it does. They also point out that the later comments by Roger Stone that Trump’s tweets don’t amount to witness tampering are in fact mistaken. And when it comes to legal matters, I wouldn’t trust Roger Stone or Donald Trump as far as I could throw them.

Facebook Lets Users Post About Killing Immigrants and Minorities

As you know I going through the final stages of leaving Facebook. While I appreciate the opportunity to reach out to friends and to speedily post articles about which I think are important for people to read, I could no longer justify continuing to support a company that engaged in so many possibly illegal and certainly distasteful practices.

And here is just one more example. Lots of far-right supporters of Donald Trump calling for his opponents to be shot or for members of the caravan approaching the US border to be shot. It’s not just that Facebook allows these hateful posts in to be made and remain online (so much for its new anti-hate speech technology) what really bothers me is that many of these posts are not being made by stereotypical right-wing weirdos but by police officers and people in positions of authority. And these cretins know Facebook won’t do much of anything to stop them from posting their vile and evil sentiments. Especially if they are white.

Like the Texas man, many of the hateful and violent comments came from white users. In 2017, ProPublica reported on internal Facebook documents that showed the company had an apparent bias toward protecting the speech of whites while flagging posts by black and other minority users.

Time to give up on Facebook. folks. The only way that Facebook will change is if millions of people leave.

Senior aides push back on Trump’s claim that China agreed to cut auto tariffs

It must be difficult to be an aide to Donald Trump in any capacity. Part of the job description has to include undoing presidential lies and overstatements. Because almost nothing Donald Trump says is actually true. Certainly not of the time that he says it.

Take, for example, his boast on Twitter that China was going to remove all tariffs on American auto imports. If it was true it would be quite an accomplishment. China imposes a 40% import duty on American autos. But sadly, as has been the case so many times in the past, it is not true.

Many of Trump’s top economic aides spent yesterday “pulling back” the president’s statement because no such agreement exists at the present time. And while these advisors tried to be as optimistic as possible and say it might happen, no one bothered to consult the Chinese who haven’t said anything about any kind of an auto agreement.

All politicians polish the apple a bit when it comes to their accomplishments. Trump polishes it so hard he makes it too slippery to pick up. In fact, most of the time he is trying to polish it when there’s no apple at all.

Canada punches ticket to 2019 FIBA World Cup with rout of Brazil

Well, a Canadian invented basketball. Why shouldn’t we be good at it?

So Canadians are responsible for two of the four major North American sports, hockey and basketball. And Canada’s McGill University is probably responsible for the beginnings of American football that we see today. While the first sort of football match was played between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869, it wasn’t until Harvard played McGill in 1874, and then adopted McGill’s rugby-style rules that football as we know it began to take shape. The first Harvard-Yale game was in 1875, and after that game, Yale and Princeton both decided to switch to the McGill rules. It was then the great Walter Camp at Yale who improved on these rugby-style rules and introduced the notion of downs, the quarterback and the 11-man team.

But it was those crazy Canucks who laid the groundwork.

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Musings for November 30, 2018

Why America doesn’t win wars anymore (4:39 p.m.)

Dominic Tierney, a professor at Swarthmore College and the author of multiple books about how America wages war, may know the reason why.

“We’re still stuck in this view that war is like the Super Bowl: We meet on the field, both sides have uniforms, we score points, someone wins, and when the game ends you go home,” he told me. “That’s not what war is like now.”

Vladimir Putin And Saudi Crown Prince Pal Around At G20 Summit(4:13 p.m.)

How murderers greet each other.

Three Remarkable Things About Michael Cohen’s Plea (10:06 a.m.)
As the rest of the headline says, “These developments would, under normal circumstances, end a presidency.” Maybe it will. Maybe it will.

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)

The Costs of the Confederacy

An intriguing piece by of all people Smithsonian magazine on how much the Confederacy continues to cost the taxpayers of the United States. Tax dollars continue to support shrines, monuments, parks, and historical sites that honor these losers to the tune of over $40 million a year. And often at many of the sites, the people involved continue to spread the lie that the main cause of the Civil War was not slavery. It’s time we cut funding to these places and that school boards in the South stop using them to take schoolchildren on “educational” visits. I’m tired of this whole “heritage” argument. Honoring the Confederacy, and that pile of propagandistic rubbish known as “The Lost Cause,” is just another way of honoring white supremacy.

First, far from simply being markers of historic events and people, as proponents argue, these memorials were created and funded by Jim Crow governments to pay homage to a slave-owning society and to serve as blunt assertions of dominance over African-Americans.

Second, contrary to the claim that today’s objections to the monuments are merely the product of contemporary political correctness, they were actively opposed at the time, often by African-Americans, as instruments of white power.

Finally, Confederate monuments aren’t just heirlooms, the artifacts of a bygone era. Instead, American taxpayers are still heavily investing in these tributes today. We have found that, over the past ten years, taxpayers have directed at least $40 million to Confederate monuments—statues, homes, parks, museums, libraries and cemeteries—and to Confederate heritage organizations.

‘White supremacy’ is really about white degeneracy

From the Guardian, a piece on how far right white supremacists are reveling in the fact that they can be as morally contemptible as they want to be and yet still prevail. And as long as Donald Trump is president of the United States, and people like the Republican Steve Bannon are roaming the world spreading racism and bigotry, this attitude will probably continue to motivate those who believe in white supremacy. It’s why the rest of us who see these liars and racists as the phonies that they are need to speak out strongly every chance we get to shut them down.

But for millions of Americans to choose Trump and to continue to support him cannot simply be dismissed as voters “holding their noses” and selecting the individual who could best forward their agenda, regardless of his personal qualities. For a significant proportion of his supporters, it was a deliberate choice for moral degeneracy, even a celebration of it. It is also a reproach to the Obama years and to Obama personally. A bad white man will always be better than a good black man, regardless of the political platforms they support.

Trump is a moral degenerate in every sense of the word. And we need to call him on it at every opportunity.

‘They got me. I’m afraid.’: Swastikas spray-painted on a Jewish professor’s office at Columbia

You can look in any corner of America and see how the racism and bigotry of Donald Trump are infecting and inspiring anti-Semites and white supremacists to engage in acts that once would’ve been thought unthinkable. But it’s not just Trump. The entire Republican establishment has for years undermined any efforts by law enforcement or other groups to bring attention to the activities of these people. Republican politicians would hide behind “oh they’re picking on us” and refused to fund investigations by departments like Homeland Security into areas of domestic terrorism and white supremacist violence. And you know why? Because if these governmental organizations were allowed to investigate these people, we would find nothing but far-right Republicans, Trump supporters, and members of the NRA.

Black People Don’t Get To Be ‘Good Guys With Guns’

In the past month, police murdered two African-Americans who were legally carrying handguns and attempting to help in troubling situations. That’s because for too many police in this country their first thought when they see an African-American with a gun is “shoot to kill.” Nevermind the situation, never mind trying to find out what’s going on, never mind if the African-American question is not pointing the gun at a police officer, never mind if the individual involved is actually following the orders of the police. Just shoot. And then issued a mealy-mouthed apology later that totally glosses over the blatant racism of the police officers involved.

There is no place in this country, no place, where African-Americans are safe from the brutality of the police.

GOP moves to dilute power of governor, AG, secretary of state

Yet one more sign that Republicans really don’t care about the will of the people, they just want power. Plain pure and simple. And they will do anything from changing laws, to suppressing voters, to putting their thumbs on the scales to make sure that they what the people want is ignored.

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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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