Saturday, June 12, 2021

Unnecessarily Inflammatory

It was a shoddy bit of bothsiderism. However, it still would have been a fairly innocuous, even forgettable question of a Secretary of State about domestic courts and the International Criminal Court.

Instead of passing harmlessly into history

Tensions among Democrats over Israel grew Thursday after a group of 12 Jewish Democratic lawmakers criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) over a tweet she wrote that seemed to equate the actions of the United States and Israel with those of Hamas and the Taliban, calling it “offensive” and demanding she “clarify” her words.

Omar said her comments were misconstrued and that she was not suggesting a moral equivalency. She and other Democratic women of color in the House accused their colleagues of advancing Islamophobia and, in one case, “anti-blackness” in their public chastising of the lawmaker.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and her Democratic leadership team addressed Omar’s comments in a joint statement, saying that equating the United States and Israel and terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Taliban “foments prejudice.” They said they welcomed Omar’s clarification.....

"Clarification" seems to have replaced "walk back" in instances in  such instances, though Omar's statement was no clarification. Prior to Omar amending her original statement

The Jewish Democrats, led by Rep. Bradley Schneider of Illinois, released a joint statement late Wednesday denouncing Omar’s tweet.

“Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided,” they wrote. “Ignoring the differences between democracies governed by the rule of law and contemptible organizations that engage in terrorism at best discredits one’s intended argument and at worst reflects deep-seated prejudice.

“The United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, at times deserving of critique, but false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups. We urge Congresswoman Omar to clarify her words placing the US and Israel in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban.”

Later, Omar did offer a clarification, saying she was not making “a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.”

If Wikipedia is accurate, there actually are 21 Jewish members of the House of Representatives, which suggests that there are several who curiously believe the USA and Israel act in a similar fashion to Hamas and the Taliban. Or they feared criticizing a colleague.

The questioning of the Secretary Blinken by Representative Omar probably would have gone unnoticed and not become an incident if the congresswoman had not unwisely issued the tweet. It was there, and only there, that she reprehensibly stated "We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban. " Notwithstanding Omar's claim, that is making "a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel." Failure to substantiate a comparison does not obviate the effort.

Ilhan Omar isn't the first politician to express on Twitter something stupid, bigoted, or untethered to reality. Some public figures evidently think that Twitter is a platform upon which their most unacceptable thoughts can be harmlessly disclosed.

Presumably, most politicians have a social media director responsible for posting tweets. However, they need to realize that  what's posted there is there, and is there until and unless it's deleted, which will not be before a critic(s) takes a screenshot. Individuals are accountable for their use of social media.and ultimately their remarks may expose they themselves as loathsome. Of this, someone as acquainted with anti-Semitism as Ilhan Omar should be keenly aware.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, And Reality

Four months after the murder of George Floyd, Jasmine Vaughn-Hall, whose parents and stepparents all were police officers, in an opinion piece in the York (Pa.) Daily Record wrote

Ironically, even though I am proud of what my parents did for a living, I cannot get on board with the Blue Lives Matter signs I see protruding from grassy lawns. That phrase has evolved into a defensive jab at Black Lives Matters. And some people who refuse to acknowledge their racial biases use the slogan to falsely affiliate themselves with patriotism.

That was, and dangerously, remains the narrative- black lives matter or blue lives matter.  Opponents of the black lives matter movement (or of Black Lives Matter, logically a larger group) were steadfastly pro-police in the face of criticism of common tactics employed against blacks.

While black lives matter activists and their supporters would not deny that police misconduct sometimes extends to non-black individuals, their emphasis, enthusiasm, and energy (it's alliteration day!) have been constantly and consistently focused on racial bias in policing.

Obviously, we muct condemn racist police or racist law enforcement policies or instead support local police wholeheartedly because there never could be any abuse by police which is not racially- motivated.

Guess again. We now learn 

An Arkansas woman is suing an Arkansas State Police officer who she says "negligently performed" a Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) maneuver that resulted in her car flipping over on the highway at 60 miles per hour in July 2020.

Nicole Harper, who was pregnant at the time, was clocked going 84 mph in a 70 mph zone last summer, according to the lawsuit. Within seconds of Arkansas State Police Officer Rodney Dunn turning on his patrol cruiser's overhead lights, Harper pulled over to the right lane, turned on her emergency blinkers, and slowed to 60 mph.

She was "unable to safely stop her vehicle on the right or left shoulder due to concrete barriers and a reduced shoulder being on both sides of the road… leaving [her] with no room to safely pull over her car," the lawsuit states....

Dashcam video of the incident shows that about two minutes after turning on his lights, Dunn hit the pregnant mother's back left bumper, sending her car crashing into a concrete barrier and flipping over.

"I thought it would be safer to wait until the exit," Harper can be heard telling Dunn while upside down in her car.

"No ma'am, you should pull over when law enforcement stops you," Dunn replied as he tried to help Harper out of the car. "We call that a PIT maneuver. When people flee from us… that's what happens."

"I wasn't fleeing," Harper responded.

Dunn charged Harper with failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.

The police officer wanted Ms. Harper to yield by pulling over a little closer to the shoulder, which would have left a healthy (unhealthy) portion of her car still in the roadway, in the right lane.  If she had done so, a motorist traveling- legally- in the right lane could have slammed into the police car, which then would have slammed into Harper's car.  Apparently, that would not be unprecedented because

A FOX16 investigation last month revealed that PIT maneuvers are increasingly being used by the Arkansas State Police. Between January 2017 and December 2020, PIT maneuvers were used 306 times, with half of those happening in 2020, according to the local news outlet.

At least 30 people have died and hundreds more have been injured since 2016 from PIT maneuvers, according to The Washington Post. Eighteen of those deaths occurred after police attempted to stop a person for speeding or another minor traffic violation.

Evidently, Harper also was complying with guidance from Arkansas State Police when she responded, she maintains, as

she learned to do in driver's education when being stopped by a police officer.

"Pull over to the right side of the road – activate your turn signal or emergency flashers to indicate to the officer that you are seeking a safe place to stop," the Arkansas Driver License Study Guide reads.

Thus, Arkansas state police  have been routinely conducting a dangerous maneuver against motorists of all ethnic groups.  If the driver acts according to the advice the state police itself gives in its study guide, he or she receives a motor vehicle summons. Endanger your life or be charged.

Ms. Harper is white, a fact omitted from all the reports I've read of the incident.

A year ago, reporting the race of an individual in an altercation with a police officer would have been superflous at best. But the world- or at least the perception of law enforcement in this country- has changed since then. The premise of Vaughn-Hall's article, as with so much of punditry, straight news reporting, and resulting popular opinion is either that police are actively involved in reinforcing institutions of white supremacy- or can do no wrong.

And then you have PIT maneuvers in Arkansas. There likely are very few police organizations in the nation which follow a similar procedure. But we don't know, or at least haven't known until now. And in other states there undoubtedly are unwise practices which, like PIT maneuvers, do not discriminate.

However, these don't fit our narrative. They don't fit the narrative that police perform a very difficult job punctuated by random- or worse yet, regular and pervasive- acts of brutality motivated by racial bias. If news outlets cared to look beyond the "black lives matter" or "blue lives matter" slogans, they probably would find a reality that would shatter their preconceived notions.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Tweet Of The Day: Barr To Garland

Shaub is probably referring to the likes of senators Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and possibly Jacky Rosen.  But someone closer to President Biden should be included among the "institutionalists in DC who think things worked before Trump (and) the cure for his abuses is to behave according to pre-Trump norms," thus "showing up to a 21st century battle with muskets."

The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department on May 28 asked

a federal judge to dismiss lawsuits against former president Donald Trump, former attorney general William P. Barr and other officials for last June’s violent clearing of demonstrators from Lafayette Square by U.S. military and police....

Lawyers for the ACLU said that despite legal precedents, the government’s defense would “authorize brutality with impunity” in the heart of Washington at one of the most symbolic spaces within the seat of the federal government.

Protesters in Lafayette Square, we may recall, were violently removed as Donald Trump staged a photo-op while holding a Bible, awkwardly and uncomfortably, in front of a church. Former federal prosecutor Paul Butler recently explained that the action was vigorously defended by then-Attorney General Bill Barr who, approximately thirteen months earlier, had

prepared a four-page letter purportedly describing the report’s “principal conclusions” that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia and that Mueller would not charge Trump with obstruction of justice. Barr added that the facts contained in the report provided insufficient evidence of obstruction, and that in reaching this conclusion he had consulted with DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking the materials that Barr relied on, federal District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued an opinion finding that Barr had been “disingenuous” when describing Mueller’s findings and ordered the release of the Office of Legal Counsel memo. Justice Department lawyers, under Barr, had objected to releasing the document on the basis of attorney-client privilege, but Jackson found that memo contained “strategic, as opposed to legal advice,” designed to support Barr’s determination to absolve Trump.

The judge characterized the Justice Department arguments against release as “so inconsistent with evidence in the record, they are not worthy of credence.” That’s actually a cogent description of the Trump administration’s approach to many issues; one might have expected the new sheriff in town to support the judge’s rebuke of the corrupt old regime. But Garland’s DOJ is standing by Barr’s DOJ — it released a heavily redacted version of the memo and is appealing Jackson’s order to provide the entire document to the public

And two days ago, The Daily Beast reported

In June 2019, New York magazine published an excerpt of (E. Jean) Carroll’s book in which she accused Trump of raping her inside a dressing room at the high-end Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan sometime around 1995. Trump denied ever meeting Carroll, then later told The Hill: “Number one, she’s not my type. Number two, it never happened.” Carroll sued for defamation in New York state court.

The Justice Department, then led by Trump loyalist Bill Barr, moved the case to federal court, where it tried to push a legal theory arguing that the government can’t be sued for libel or slander and that therefore Trump is shielded because he’s a government employee—and was speaking out against Carroll in his official capacity as president.

In a filing with the Second Circuit Court on Monday, the Justice Department argued

Speaking to the public and the press on matters of public concern is undoubtedly part of an elected official’s job... the specific conduct need not constitute an act of ‘public service’ to be within scope” of employment that would grant him the federal government’s protection.

In her statement on Monday night, Carroll's attorney, Roberta Kaplan, noted

The DOJ’s position is not only legally wrong, it is morally wrong since it would give federal officials free license to cover up private sexual misconduct by publicly brutalizing any woman who has the courage to come forward.

Moreover, Trump's denials should not be legally protected because, as Kaplan recognized, they were "not the official act of an American President."


A few years after Richard Nixon in disgrace resigned the presidency because of the Watergate scandal, he told interviewer David Frost "when the President does it, that means it's not illegal." Decades later, Will Bunch would remind us "Those words were largely seen by the American public -- which continued to hold the ex-president in low esteem -- as a symbol of his unbowed arrogance."


Nowadays, a President doesn't himself have to claim unlimited power. He has attorneys for the Department of Justice to do it for him. William Barr fulfilled that role aggressively. Merrick Garland does it somewhat more subtly and respectably. Nonetheless, President Biden thus far seems to have the kind of Attorney General who will find no action he takes to be indefensible.


Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Tweet Of The Day: Freedom

But of course, no abortions once a fetal heartbeat has been detected, given that Governor Abbot on Wedsnesday signed

a measure that would prohibit in Texas abortions as early as six weeks — before some women know they are pregnant — and open the door for almost any private citizen to sue abortion providers and others....

Abortion rights advocates have promised to challenge the new law, which they consider one of the most extreme nationwide and the strictest in Texas since the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. It would amount to an outright ban on abortions, as the six-week cutoff is two weeks after a missed menstrual cycle, opponents say.

That's Greg Abbott's "freedom without restrictions."

God's Choice?

Unfortunately, one of the leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York City, has a self-esteem problem.

Former NYPD captain Eric Adams has an excess of self-esteem.  A month ago, The New York Times reported

During an Easter Sunday visit to the Church of God of East Flatbush, Mr. Adams cited a biblical passage that describes a test of courage under duress.

“I believe in all my heart that this is an Esther 4:14 moment,” Mr. Adams, 60, told the parishioners. “God made me for such a time as this.”

Uh, no, God didn't. Or at least Mr. Adams has no evidence that God has determined that he should be the next mayor of the city of New York, which the winner of the Democratic primary on June 22 will almost surely become. If Adams knows that God has made him for this moment, he should be pressed for the evidence.

We've had enough of this in politics. A President a few years ago looked skyward and boasted "I am the Chosen One." Fortunately, God did not choose him for a second term and he will spend most, if not all, of his remaining years on planet Earth dodging or fighting legal charges.

But it is unfortunate that Adams has determined that he and he alone has obtained God's endorsement. As (bad) luck would have it, he is the candidate who dares to say what must be said about stop and frisk, probably the most controversial policy of the city in the past decade.

As part of its series on the mayoral candidates, CBS News in NYC presented in late February a segment on Mr. Adams.  In her interview with the candidate, Marcia Kramer (referring first to the viewers, then to the candidate) stated

In fact, you may not realize it but "stop and frisk" is still being used to get guns off the street. NYPD stops increased 22% last year. When you walk down the streeet as a police officer and you saw somebody with gun or with a bulge in their pocket, what was your reaction?

Adams responded

That's what the stop and frisk tools allowed you to do. It allowed you to speak to that person and you was (sic) able to touch that area, not search unless you felt and it escalated to another level.

So Kramer explained "the policy got out of hand, Adams said, when cops started arresting kids and making them empty their pockets and if they found marijuana, charging them with illegal possession."

There also was a constitutional issue, in which police were credibly accused of stopping and frisking a disproportionate number of minorities.  The procedure was ruled unconstitutional but later resumed, at a much lower frequency.

But the problem of ethnic inequity is one which could be successfully addressed, were there an actual commitment in the USA to reducing the proliferation of illegal firearms.  In any one neighborhood- one in which the possession of handguns is a serious problem- individuals can be searched in a manner which isn't discriminatory. Every individual in a short period of time can be stopped and, rather relying upon the subjective impression of whether there is a bulge, each could be searched. By contrast, randomness is subject to ethnic bias.

Adams and Kramer are correct. Police often used stop and frisk as an excuse to have the individual empty his pockets, then arrest him for possession of marijuana, which possession was legal under New York law if kept out of view. That undermined the stated, and vital, purpose- to get firearms off the street of stop and frisk.

If only Eric Adams didn't mistake himself for Jesus Christ, or believe that he and he alone has been tapped by the Almighty to lead the nation's largest city, New York City might have a seriously good option for mayor.


Sunday, June 06, 2021

And Start With The Man At The Top

In contrast to the situation in September, 2020, Democrats now control (at least the agenda of) the House of Representatives.  But that should not preclude hearings into the origins of SARS-CoV-2 and, as President Trump's former Chief of Staff advocates, the federal government's response to the pandemic. They should include Dr. Fauci and Mark Italygate Meadows  And others.

Add to all that

After President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus a national emergency in March, he instructed governors to order their own ventilators and other PPE, saying the federal government is “not a shipping clerk.” Trump added the administration will “help out wherever we can,” but state leaders say that current efforts aren’t enough — and that the Trump administration’s refusal to coordinate PPE distribution has forced them to compete with one another for supplies.

“It’s like being on eBay with 50 other states, bidding on a ventilator,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a press briefing on March 31.

“We the states are trying to actively get every piece of PPE that we can. We’re bidding against one another, and in some cases, the federal government is taking priority,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said on CNN’s State of the Union.

A number of governors — including Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker — have said they’ve seen orders for masks and other needed equipment canceled because the federal government outbid them. This has led to some finding creative ways to disguise their orders to mask them from the Trump administration.

Baker’s administration worked with Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the Chinese UN ambassador, and other Chinese officials to secure a shipment of 1.2 million face masks to the state. The governor told reporters Thursday he worked with the Kraft family to create a “‘private humanitarian mission’ to keep the Feds from finding out” about the mask shipment and seizing it, according to reporter Adam Gaffin — and the masks came to the state on the Patriots’ team plane.

Trump administration policy has left other states having to make similar extraordinary efforts to obtain PPE — for example, Illinois legislators rushed to deliver a $3.4 million check to a middleman at a McDonald’s parking lot so that the supplier he represented wouldn’t cancel the deal in favor of other, potentially more lucrative offers. They successfully handed off the check, and secured a shipment of 1.5 million N95 respirators from China.

The goods states have received from the Trump administration haven’t always been helpful. Local governments, in some cases, have received broken or damaged PPE. Montgomery County, Alabama’s shipment of 5,880 masks had dry rot and were expired, although the county later received a replacement order. The city of Los Angeles was also given 170 broken ventilators, which had to be repaired before use.

And distribution of medical supplies from the stockpile also appears to be uneven, the Washington Post reported in late March. Massachusetts officials said the city of Boston has received 17 percent of the protective gear it requested, while the state of Maine got a shipment of 25,558 N95 respirators, or 5 percent of what it sought. On the other hand, Florida has received all the supplies it requested — two shipments for 430,000 surgical masks, 180,000 N95 respirators, 82,000 face shields, and 238,000 gloves.

The amount of supplies left in the federal stockpile is dwindling, and as Recode’s Adam Clark Estes reported, it appears that what the US currently has on hand isn’t close to meeting the overall demand that’s expected to last through the coronavirus pandemic.

Critical medical supplies are being produced in the US, but instructions as to who will receive the products haven’t been made clear to suppliers — a situation that has reportedly left badly needed supplies sitting in warehouses. Manufacturers who are making PPE at the request of the Trump administration told CNN recently they have not yet heard whether they should ship their products to states, to FEMA for distribution, or elsewhere.

Let the games begin! Let's have it out- a full and comprehensive investigation into the federal government's response to SARS-CoV-2. We can include sworn, public testimony from Donald John Trump, at the time one of the three most powerful individuals in the world. He can appear voluntarily or by subpoena, though his voluntary appearance probably could not be secured absent the threat of death by firing squad. It must begin with him because  he might agree, or be summoned, and flat-out refuse after testimony by other individuals.

Any investigation not including President Trump would be incomplete and shallow. Already there are signs the Merrick Garland Justice Department wants to gloss over crimes perpetrated by the former President. If he skates on this, it will be a stain on the country and an insult to the loved ones of nearly 600,000 Americans.


Friday, June 04, 2021

A Mere Extremist Among Extreme Extremists

Axios' Hans Nichols reports

President Joe Biden has proposed focusing on a minimum corporate tax rate of 15%, as well as increased Internal Revenue Service funding, as a way to to pay for a possible infrastructure package, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Thursday.

Driving the news: The proposal could could help negotiations with Senate Republicans. Biden made the offer in his meeting yesterday with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R- W.Va.) who is leading a group of GOP centrists trying to find a compromise on infrastructure spending.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) who is leading a group of GOP centrists.  Her voting record includes opposition to President Biden's $1.2 trillion coronavirus relief package despite inclusion in the bill of one amendment sponsored, and two amendments co-sponsored, by Senator Capito herself.

Capito did not consider the legislation "fiscally responsible," though in December 2017 she had voted for President Trump's tax cut for corporations and the wealthy, though (perhaps partly because) it was expected to add approximately $1 trillion to the deficit in the following ten years. (Even her West Virginia colleague, the center-right Joe Manchin, voted against this giveaway to the most fortunate.) No Senate Republican voted against the Trump income tax cut and none voted for President Biden's bill to help people through the pandemic. Of course.

Senator Capito did vote for certifying the 2020 presidential election, which should not qualify her for sainthood. She voted to oppose the January 6 commission, proposed to investigate the attempted coup which would have overturned the presidential election.  The vast majority of GOP senators had voted twice to acquit Donald Trump after he was impeached, as did Senator Capito. Of course.

In January, 2018 Senate Capito voted in favor of moving to the the floor a bill plainly unconstitutionally criminalizing performance of an abortion "probably" 20 or more weeks post-fertilization. The woman who requested and paid for the procedure would have been held blameless because, well, to do otherwise would lay bare the intent of the legislation, to deny women reproductive rights.  Though there was only one vote because the move to invoke cloture failed 51-48, only two Republicans (Maine's Collins and Alaska's Murkowski) voted against bringing it to the floor for a vote. Of course.

Senator Capito has a more moderate voting record than do most of her GOP colleagues. But that doesn't make her a centrist. In July, 2017, shortly before all but three Republicans voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and send health care spiraling downward, Bernie Sanders reminded Chris Hayes (video below) that the GOP is "a right-wing extremist party."  It was more reasonable then.



Unnecessarily Inflammatory

It was a shoddy bit of bothsiderism. However, it still would have been a fairly innocuous, even forgettable question of a Secretary of Stat...