Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Then Declare Victory

CNN reports

President Donald Trump said Monday he is willing to meet with Iran's leadership, without preconditions, "whenever they want," a sharp departure from his threats against the regime last week.

"I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet," Trump said during a joint news conference at the White House alongside Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. "I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet. I'm ready to meet whenever they want to."

"No preconditions," he added. "They want to meet, I'll meet, whenever they want."

 Linking (obviously) to the Wall Street Journal article on the same topic, Joe Scarborough tweets

It was less than a month ago that we read
There was little or no threat- for either the USA or South Korea- of war with North Korea before the President began his twitter war on January 2 by arguing about his humongous nuclear button.  But eventually things quieted down, Trump and Kim Jong-un met in Singapore, Kim cleaned Trump's clock, and now

U.S. spy satellites have detected renewed activity at the North Korean factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, a senior U.S. official said on Monday, in the midst of talks to compel Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arms.

Photos and infrared imaging indicate vehicles moving in and out of the facility at Sanumdong, but do not show how advanced any missile construction might be, the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity because the intelligence is classified.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that North Korea appeared to be building one or two new liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles at the large research facility on the outskirts of Pyongyang, citing unidentified officials familiar with intelligence reporting.

Trump could meet with Rouhani, sign a vague, meaningless deal (as he did with Kim), and pose as a peacemaker for awhile. Baghdad can put off Trump's belligerence temporarily while accelerating its nuclear program, as North Korea may be doing.

It would even divert attention- a favorite Trump device- from the Mueller investigation, child abduction by the President's border agents, and rising inflation. Everyone wins!

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Prices Soaring, Wages Down; Republicans Should Talk- Prosperity?

Maybe Donald J. Trump knows more than the rest of us.  However, Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, widely believed to have contacts within the Republican Party second to none, tweets
Obviously, Trump's secondary motive in criticizing the Special Counsel's investigation is to discredit and delegitimize it so that if the President is unable to end the probe, Mueller's eventual report detailing multiple high crimes and misdemeanors is unconvincing.

Yet Trump's emphasis on the investigation and immigration rather than on tax legislation and the economy may even help the GOP retain its House majority in the November elections.

Costa isn't alone in implying that the GOP should focus on economic issues. It's conventional wisdom among Joe Scarborough and other anti-Trump Republicans that gosh darn, if only Trump would lay aside his bigotry and paranoia, Republican orthodoxy would carry the day.

There are three ideas which unite Republicans: tax cuts are good; tax cuts are good; tax cuts are good. Trump and his Party would benefit, the reasoning goes, from pointing out that jobs are increasing and the economy currently is growing rapidly, at the annual rate of 4%.

However, June's bump means very little because the numbers were buoyed by accelerated export of soybeans to avoid the impact of expected tariffs. Moreover, much of it was fueled by deficit spending, which is unlikely to sustain growth.

Nor are most Americans interested in the quarterly growth rate. Admittedly, they do care about whether they have a job, and the number of jobs is up, as it was once President Obama helped pull the nation out of recession.

Additionally, despite the absolute wage increase, real wages are down. They have declined because of inflation, which has been fueled by a rise in gas prices as well as housing and medical costs. Voters do care about the cost of living, and the price at the gas pump is a visceral reminder of increased prices.

Gasoline prices, vulnerable to changes in global politics, can go down as well as up.  However, interest rates have risen lately and they're likely to go up further.

And so President Trump may know more than  (alert: demagogic observation ahead) journalists and other media types, perhaps trapped in their bubble.

If Republicans want to pound the notion that Americans are swimming in an ocean of wealth with the tax cut, Democrats can emphasis that the cost of living is up and wages are down. Hillary Clinton noted during her campaign that the economy was improving, especially with stock market and job gains- much as is the situation now. Thereafter, many pundits attributed her loss to "economic discontent."

The Washington Post noted that one non-partisan analysis of the GOP tax law passed at the end of 2016 gives "the richest 1 percent of Americans an average personal income tax break of about $33,000, while the poorest Americans will receive an average personal income tax break of $40."  Or as Democrats running this year could say, "Republicans are giving billionaires a new BMW; you're getting a new bicycle."

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Sunday, July 29, 2018

No Gun Debate Forthcoming

At a Circle A Food convenience store in Clearwater, Florida on July 19, Markeis

McGlockton's girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, parked in a handicapped-accessible spot while McGlockton and their 5-year-old son went inside. (Michael) Drejka approached the vehicle and began a heated argument with Jacobs over parking in the spot without a permit.

Surveillance video shows McGlockton leaving the store, walking up to Drejka and shoving him to the ground. Just seconds later, Drejka, who has a conceal-carry permit, pulled out a gun and fired one shot at McGlockton, killing him.

Two days later, Michael Smerconish- who as a lawyer is a fine radio and television talk show host- spoke to Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of Trayvon Martin and now the family of Markeis McGlockton.

Immediately afterward, Smerconish talked to Mark O'Mara, who famously represented George Zimmerman, acquitted in the shooting death of young Mr. Martin. The old joke runs "What happens when you put 10 economists in a room? You'll get 11 opinions." In this case, the joke could be "What happens when you get two lawyers talking to each other? You'll get two opinions, they'll agree with each, and both be wrong."

It's not pithy enough to be funny, but it applies. O'Mara stated

I think that if you're going to exercise the Second Amendment rights and we have them- we'll always have them- but you have to do it responsibly and here's the problem: someone like Drejka who used their weapon in my opinion unreasonably really affects the rest of us in our abilty to utilize our Second Amendment rights because he used it inappropriately and now the focus is again on that.

"Great observation," Smerconish responded.

It wasn't. No one will deny that fatally shooting someone over a parking space is "inappropriate." However, O'Mara  argued also a) the response to the killing  will focus on Second Amendment rights; b) said response will be misplaced. (Smerconish seconded his statement.)

No, and no. Though noting "we have all these laws for gun rights in the State of Florida," Benjamin Crump a moment earlier was not emphasizing gun safety when he contended

You know, that's troubling for many in communities of color, that you can pick a confrontation, you can be the initial aggressor, you kill the unarmed black person that you say it was self-defense, I was standing my ground, and you get to go home and sleep in your bed at night.

We think it's a bad law. It encourages people to take the law into their own hands. It's a license to kill black people and people of color because many times when black people make the stand your ground argument, it's behind the bars of a jail cell. But white people make their stand our ground arguments a week later after they've been  in their bed comfortably. So the law has been applied racially and calculated, we believe it's a terrible law that Florida needs to address...

It's likely that Crump's focus is common in Florida. He did not indicate whether there has been a comparison of the outcome when a white kills a black (as in this case) and when a black kills a white, but nevertheless emphasized the notion that the law has been applied in a racially discriminatory manner.  It's not clear whether he would be opposed to a stand your ground law which protect black assailants as much as it does white assailants or what he thinks of what he benevolently labels "gun rights."

O'Mara- and Smerconish, who agreed with him- likely will be proven wrong that this will spark a debate on alleged "Second Amendment rights."  But he's wrong, additionally, in believing that debate would "unreasonably" affect those highly misunderstood privileges.

That's a diversion, though. Central to the confrontation in Clearwater was that Drejka, with or without Second Amendment rights, did not pull out a knife. If he had, McGlockton (and Drejka) would in all likelihood now be alive. Yet, O'Mara seems to believe that Drejka's possession of the firearm and even his decision to threaten the victim with it can be cleanly separated from his unreasonable decision to fire it.

Drejka is a mere civilian, who may not understand that one does not draw a weapon without a willingness to use it if necessary.  Were he a firearms instructor, law enforcement employee, or trained in the use of a firearm, he would realize that if appearance of the weapon does not have the desired deterrent effect, the desire to fire it might overtake common sense.

Drejka did not understand the implication of drawing the weapon or even of possessing it for a routine trip to a store. That's understandable- neither do lawyers Mark O'Mara or Michael Smerconish.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Not Quite Ridded

It was less than four months ago when we were told

A news reporter fairly uncontroversially responded "ISIS was defeated in war-ravaged Syria and Iraq with the help of military support from a US-led coalition of forces including Britain, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and Denmark." Even now: "President Bashar Assad has gone on to crush the last remaining rebel enclaves near the cities of Damascus and Homs and swept rebels from the southwest."

Not so fast, Skippy.  On Wednesday, Reuters reported

Daesh (ISIS) militants killed about 100 people in a series of attacks on government-held parts of southwestern Syria Wednesday, including multiple suicide blasts in Swaida city, official sources said.

The coordinated attacks were the deadliest to hit government territory in many months. Some 96 people were killed and 176 wounded in total, the head of the Swaida health authority told the pro-Damascus Sham FM radio.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based activist group, said at least 100 people were killed. Daesh said in a statement that it had carried out the attacks.

Northeast of Swaida city, the jihadists launched simultaneous attacks on several villages where they clashed with government forces, state media and the Observatory said.

In the city itself, at least two attackers blew themselves up, one near a marketplace and the second in another district, state television said. State news agency SANA said two other Daesh militants were killed before they could detonate their bombs.

The Observatory said jihadists seized hostages from the villages they had attacked. It said the dead included at least 35 civilians.

Swaida Governor Amer al-Eshi said authorities also arrested another attacker. "The city of Swaida is secure and calm now," he told state-run Ikhbariyah TV.

The man who once bragged "I alone can fix it" asked "Where is our 'thank you, America?"" He might even deserve that, despite ISIL still being in business, once he says "thank you, Britain," "thank you, Australia," "thank you, Canada," "thank you, France: and "thank you, Germany."

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Taking Offense, Once Again

Following removal of Roseanne from "Roseanne," President Trump responded not by honestly defending Ms. Barr but by proposing Samantha Bee be fired. "But," Bill Maher remarked soon afterward, "fat Donnie is not the only one that demands everyone be fired all the time."

"For free speech," Maher stated, "this has become a terrifying time in human history." He added "conservatives govern without shame and liberals shame without governing."

It's not only conservatives, though. as demonstrated by executives at New Jersey 101.5 FM, a radio station never confused with liberalism. We learn

It took just hours for a conservative radio station in New Jersey to suspend two of its most prominent talk-show hosts after the pair repeatedly referred to state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, a practicing Sikh, as “Turban Man.”

“The guy with the turban,” New Jersey 101.5 host Dennis Malloy said on the air Wednesday, referring to Grewal. He then declared he would never learn the name of the state’s top prosecutor, a key foe of President Donald Trump.

Turban Man,” his co-host, Judi Franco, replied in a sing-song voice during a broader discussion about a recent action taken by the attorney general.

“Listen, and if that offends you, then don't wear the turban and maybe I'll remember your name,” Malloy said. “If you called me ‘Baseball Hat Man’ and I was in a culture where no one wore baseball hats … should I be offended?”....

But this latest incident, which gained widespread public attention after audio of the show was shared on Twitter Wednesday evening, was met with swift anger and, to the surprise of some, an apology and action by the station. The reaction seemed to highlight how quickly public outcry can can grow over insensitive comments in an age in which the level of political discourse has shifted dramatically since Trump became president.

Perhaps this overreaction results from an under-reaction to the President of the United States of America, who routinely ridicules andpersonally condemns individuals and faces no penalty, ever.

Nonetheless, a "that's just Trump being Trump" attitude does not justify what Maher refers to as "making every offense a hanging offense" (though unfortunately he blames liberals for an affliction spread throughout society).  While neither Mr. Malloy nor Ms. Franco was charged with a "hanging offense," they were charged with a lesser felony, for what context would suggest should have been viewed as a mere disorderly persons offense. 

 When Mr. Grewal was nominated by the govenor, Politico had reported

“Throughout the campaign, I made it clear that in selecting the best and the brightest to serve in our administration, I also would strive to ensure that our cabinet reflected our tremendous diversity,” Murphy said.

The 44-year old Grewal

is both the state’s first Sikh county prosecutor and the first county prosecutor of South Asian descent.

The Glen Rock resident said he abandoned his work in private practice several years ago to pursue a career as a prosecutor, viewing it as a way to “give back” and also to send a message.

“I wanted to give back to a country that has given us and other immigrant families like us so much,” he said, standing beside Murphy. “And, in the process, I wanted to perhaps show people that, while I and others like me may look different, or worship differently, that we too are committed to this country.”

The governor vowed to "strive to ensure that our cabinet reflected our tremendous diversity" and the then-nominee "wanted to perhaps show people that, while I and others like me may look different, or worship differently..."

The personalities at the New Jersey radio station did not identify Mr. Grewal by his ethnicity or religion- the latter and the governor already had already played the identity politics card, several months earlier. As if to confirm Maher's critique six weeks earlier of politics exquisite, un-liberal sensitivity, Governor Murphy

released a statement calling the comments “abhorrent and xenophobic” and urged New Jersey 101.5 to “hold the hosts accountable for these intolerant and racist comments.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) tweeted that the “hateful rhetoric doesn’t reduce Gurbir,” but rather “reduces and disgraces the one who uses it.” He called on all to “denounce this ignorant and outrageous attack.”

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, also a Sikh American, tweeted, “Hey Racist Man,” at the Dennis and Judi show’s account.

A flood of condemnations from civil rights groups and politicians from both major political parties spilled into Thursday, when state lawmakers spoke out on the Senate floor.

Grewal has sent a message- that religion is synonymous with national descent. When the Hoboken mayor tweeted "hey racist man," he was making the same mistake as did the Attorney General, who carelessly declared "I'm a Sikh American."

Well, no. Grewal is an American of Asian descent or, as he prefers, an American of Indian descent. His religion is Sikh. He is no more a "Sikh American" than your neighbor is a "Protestant American." She is an American Protestant (alternatively, a Protestant) and he is an American Sikh. This is not insignificant, given the importance of both religion and ethnicity in the USA.

We  have become too discomfited by insensitive speech and demand a pound of flesh, in this instance a ten-day suspension and an apology. In a rebuke to the importance of free expression, the bounds of acceptable discourse (except in the case of D. Trump) have been continually narrowed while- not coincidentally- those of action have been widened.

"Yes, you disappeared Roseanne," Maher noted in June before sarcastically adding "and that sent a strong message to all the other racist Republican TV stars who suffer from multiple personality disorder." Democrats Murphy, Bhalla, and Booker (joined by spineless Republicans) may believe the action taken by 101.5 FM may change things, but it will have little impact. It will slightly increase bias- at least that which is driven underground- while we continue to be (in Maher's observation) "too comfortable with the clean out your desk card."

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Civility, Trump Division

Although twenty-four year old Austin Clay has turned himself into Beverly Hills police and as of this writing, is being held on $20,000 bail,this is bad:

President Donald Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was destroyed Wednesday morning by a man with a pickax that witnesses say he concealed in a guitar case, police said.

Officers were called around 3:30 a.m. to the star's location on Hollywood Boulevard near Highland Avenue, where they found a small pile of rubble in place of the star that Trump received in January 2007 for his role in the NBC show "The Apprentice."

This, however, is much worse:
Twitter wasn't impressed, with one person noting Donald Trump has "said multiple times he doesn't want to be associated with the 'Hollywood elites.'" Another remarked (including my slight adjustment) "I’m sure Crooked Hillary, Cryin’ Chuck, Pocahontas, Low IQ Maxine, Kenyan born Obama, and the journalists at CNN would disagree."  But the best by far.... I'll leave to the end.

Nonetheless, arguably Trump is at this worst when he inspires similar behavior as his own in other people, which occurs daily, as understood by Rick Wilson, who has written "Everything TrumpTouches, Dies," subtitled "A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever." That nearly inevitable effect was demonstrated the other day when at a speech at a prominent Washington, D.C. university, Attorney General Jeff

Sessions criticized universities for "coddling our young people" and "actively preventing them from scrutinizing the validity of their beliefs."

"After the 2016 election, for example, they held a 'cry-in' at Cornell. I hope they had plenty of tissues for 'em to cry on," he said. "They had therapy dogs at the University of Kansas. Play-Doh and coloring books at the University of Michigan for heaven's sakes. You know, give me a break. Students at Tufts were encouraged to 'draw about their feelings.'"

"Well I can tell this group isn't going to have to have Play-Doh when you get attacked in college and you get involved in a debate," Sessions told the crowd attending Turning Point USA's High School Leadership Summit at George Washington University. "I like this bunch, I gotta tell you. You're not going to be backing down. Go get 'em. Go get 'em."

Then chants of "Lock her up" broke out.

"Lock her up," Sessions said, chuckling at the brief interruption from the audience as the chant then grew louder.

"I heard that a long time over the last campaign," he said before continuing with his prepared speech.

Interpretations of Sessions' response vary, and I believe he was merely trying to get beyond the moment so he could make his point(s), sure to be popular with a right-wing college crowd.  (He famously has recused himself from the Mueller probe, a decision which has made himself very unpopular with the President.) But "lock her up."

"Some would say," as Trump would say, that these are vile, detestable Trump fans. However, "childish" and "immature" probably would be more apt. Traditions like rule of law and crazy constitutional provisions like due process mean very little to individuals caught up in a personality cult. Consorting with La Cosa Nostra, turning the presidency into Trump, Inc., or paying off sex workers to shut them up are irrelevant because "Hillary" or "Obama" or "Democrats."

All of the above, however, is a mere prelude to repeating the best response of all to the tweet by Ronna McDaniel, daughter-in-law of a recent, unsuccessful Republican presidential nominee:

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Lie Of The Day (July 24, 2018)

Maybe call it a "double lie with a backflip." Our President, the leader of the free world, non-European division, on Monday morning remarked

"Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming election" is coming from a President who still is denying that Russia even interfered in the 2016 election cycle, let alone had an influence. Below is a video in which he is asked "is Russia still targeting the U.S.?" to which he responds "thank you very much, no," remaining in his seat and turning left to await the next question.

So Russia will interfere with an election and may have an impact even though it hasn't done so in recent memory. 

It makes perfect sense when your name is "Donald Trump" and you know there are so many contradictions or lies there will be something else within 24 hours to focus on.

Or in the same tweet.  "Based on the fact that no president has been tougher on Russia than me," this President claims, "they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!"

After the first, supremely disingenuous, remark, President Trump manages to lie twice in one sentence.

It is not "they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats," because it is possible- albeit very unlikely- that the Kremlin will.  But unless intelligence agencies have told Trump that the Russians "definitely" don't want him in the White House, he could not believe "they definitely don't want Trump."

We know he hasn't been told because if he had, he would have tweeted it out immediately. Further, there would be a tragedy worse than Cincinnati in December 1979 as Republicans trampled each other rushing to a microphone to point fingers at the Democratic Party as a Putin fifth column.

But there is a far more important lie, which the media generally accepts. In the mainstream media, Chris Cuomo has been a notable exception, as has Yastreyblyanski, who tackled this days ago.

In Syria, President Trump barely inconvenienced Russia inasmuch as the roughly 200-300 Russian mercenaries and other pro-government fighters were killed and the airstrikes on Syrian airbases killed no one.Economic sanctions against Russia were mandated by Congress and delayed by the Administration. Trump, first as a candidate and then as President, has suggested that Crimea belongs to Russia.

And Ukraine.  The Trump forces squelched at the Republican National Convention a proposal to provide weapons to Ukraine to fight pro-Russian forces. As President, Trump stalled on supplying Javelin anti-tank missiles to the the Ukrainian government, which was investigating former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort. After Kiev ceased investigating Manafort, the White House approvedthe weapons sale in a happy coincidence.

That's not to say the tweet wasn't brilliant strategically. Arguing that "Russians" will be helping Democrats gives Trump an excuse if Democrats retake the House in November.  It alleges, dishonestly, that he has been "tough" on Russia, received favorably by anti-Kremlin voters and those who think or feel they are.  It also allows the GOP to claim that Trump is accepting the reality that Putin has been involved, though he doesn't explicitly say so and cleverly avoids use of the word "Putin."

Tuesday's big lie was classic Trump: clever, brazen, and transparently specious.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Anti-Gun Tool

Snowfall is heaviest in regions in the USA in which the average daily temperature in winter is lower than in other regions.

That seems obvious and unnecessary to point out. However, in matters of race- or perhaps crime prevention- we sometimes suspend common sense.

Credit Phillip Jackson of the Philadelphia Tribune, described by Wikipedia as "the oldest continuously published African-American newspaper in the United States," for reporting last January

The American Civil Liberties Union of PA (ACLU) and the city are still in disagreement over the use of stop and frisk tactics by the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD).

The city filed their report on stops done in the city on Monday after the ACLU filed theirs earlier this month showing that rates are still high for people of color getting stopped by police.

The city refuted the ACLU’s numbers after Robert Taylor, the city’s expert in social psychology and quantitative criminology, conducted an analysis that did not match the same numbers given.

The ACLU’s report noted that racial disparities still remain with African-Americans accounting for 69 percent of stops from January to June in a city in which they are 48 percent of the population according to the press release.

“Professor Taylor’s statistical analysis showed that race did not play a factor in whether a stop and frisk was more a less likely to be premised on legally articulable constitutional grounds,” the document read in the seventh report to the court and monitor.

“The parties however are in disagreement on whether the data shows that race plays a factor in the stop rates of Blacks and Hispanics city-wide. Professor Taylor reports that Plaintiffs method for calculating stop rates are inflated.”

“We continue to see the total number of pedestrian stops performed by the PPD drop, resulting in significantly fewer numbers of stops without reasonable suspicion,” said Mike Dunn, deputy communications director. “Further, the city’s expert has concluded that the racial differences seen among stop rates is the result of factors other than race. We are confident that the measures implemented by the PPD are moving the city in the right direction.”

The ACLU, Jackson explained, believes that blacks are being stopped disproportionately and that a large minority of stops is made without "reasonable suspicion"- the legal standard.

The threshhold for determining a neighborhood is sufficiently dangerous to warrant  this police activity may be lower in black, thanin white, neighborhoods, which would suggest not only racial bias but ineffective policing. 

Nonetheless, one cannot justifiably conclude that a greater proportion of blacks than of white being frisked is in and of itself conclusive evidence of racial profiling.  Nor should it be considered prima facie evidence of discrimination or racial bias.

Stop-and-frisk in a search for illegal weapons should take place in neighborhoods, irrespective of ethnicity, which experience a higher rate of violent crime. However, the rate of stops will reflect the higher rate of violent crime in predominantly black neighborhoods than in predominantly white neighborhoods.

It's critical that the Philadelphia Police Department get stop-and-frisk right (unenlightening video from 1/18 in west Philadelphia, below). It must do so in order to pass constitutional muster, and because the safety of city residents demands it. A week ago we learned

Tyree Bates, 14, was killed when two people, possibly including a fellow teenager, opened fire late Monday night in what investigators are calling a likely North Philadelphia neighborhood dispute.

Gunfire rang out just before midnight along North 4th Street near Susquehanna Avenue striking a group of people outside on the sidewalk and some cars parked on the block, Philadelphia police said.

Tyree Bates was shot in the head and died hours later at the hospital. Bullets also struck 11-year-old, 14-year-old and 15-year-old boys and a 24-year-old man, Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small said. All those victims were listed in stable condition with gunshot wounds to various parts of the body.

All the boys live within a block of where the shooting took place.

 "It was probably related to some sort of neighborhood dispute," Philadelphia Police Homicide Capt. Jack Ryan said.

The 24-year-old didn't appear to be the target, Ryan said.

 The two shooters worked with each other as they fired at least 21 shots from opposite sides of the street, according to Ryan.

One of the shooters could be a teenager who is 15 or 16 years old, witnesses and victims told investigators. Police were in contact with the teen’s family in hopes of tracking him down.

Effective gun control laws are needed, a reality that the right and even the left are loathe to admit.  (Give the left a sometimes competing cause- race, immigrant rights, rights of sexual minorities, virtually anything- and the importance of gun safety legislation fades.)  And so individuals and groups who march against the proliferation of firearms should be lauded.

Yet, urban neighborhoods with serious violent crime cannot wait for political officials to buck the gun lobby and prioritize the safety of its citizens. Legal and effective stop-and-frisk programs are essential.

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Monday, July 23, 2018


It was August 8, 2017 when Pyongyang and Washington were playing a game of chicken and President Trump took a break from golf in the suburbs of New Jersey and declared

North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.... he has been very threatening beyond a normal state. They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.

Little would Donald Trump understand "a normal state," but never mind.  Three days later he would tweet "Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely.  Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!"

At the United Nations on September 19, he boasted "The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself." (Such allies evidently would not include Montenegro.)

On January 2, 2018 he tweeted

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!

No Russian prostitute has yet stood up and disputed that claim, so score one point for Trump.

There were other ostensibly angry and/or insulting remarks made between the two, including (at the UN speech) "If the righteous many do notconfront the wicked few, then evil will triumph," demonstrating yet again that Trump either doesn't understand Scripture or is as in the past telegraphing to his evangelical base that he doesn't care.  However, these were the most provocative.

And then there was this, in which President Trump gave to arguably the most brutal dictator in the world the credibility he could only dream of being given by any other USA president:

Once they signed a meaningless document, Trump spun the summit in Singapore as a huge success and North Korea went on its merry way continuing its nuclear program

Only this past Sunday, there was....

Relax, everyone. Trump- and the GOP generally- seem to have a special contempt for Tehran, and the President terminated the agreement made by the Obama Administration with Iran. However, that was because it was Obama-made, and because it was working.

President Trump would like nothing more than eventually to schedule a summit with Hassan Rouhani. His surrogates could claim that Iran was intimidated into it by a President willing to talk "tough." Trump would get a lovely photo-op out of it, could make one of his classic bad deals and call it a "win." 

We've been down this road before. Trump always surprises, me especially. Still, he likes to defuse dangerous situations which he himself made dangerous, then declare victory, and this is a more likely scenario than nuclear war.

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Saturday, July 21, 2018


On Thursday, Politico's Eliana Johnson reported

President Donald Trump’s disastrous performance since his news conference alongside Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has sent West Wing morale to its lowest level since the Charlottesville fiasco almost a year ago.

As happened last August, when the president refused to condemn neo-Nazi demonstrators, Trump’s attempts to tamp down outrage have backfired. Stilted statements followed by ad-libbed remarks left even his allies feeling that while the president was technically acknowledging a mistake, he actually meant what he’d said on the first go-round — that he believed Putin’s denials of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“People are just depressed,” said one Republican close to the White House. “Nobody wants to take on the public heat of resigning right now, but there are a bunch of people who were thinking maybe they’d leave after the midterms who are very seriously starting to consider accelerating their timetable.

There always is a "however" with this group of guys and gals, and so we learn

But the president’s usual defenders, many of whom have been critical of him in public and almost all of whom are privately disappointed by his performance, say the following: While Trump’s statements are regrettable, they have few if any policy consequences. And it’s for that reason that senior-level officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton — those with the most impact on policy — are unlikely to step down...

President Trump has been encouraging hatred and violence since before he was "President Trump." Johnson continues

Last summer, days after sparking a media conflagration for condemning people on “both sides” of the rally in Charlottesville, the president emerged at Trump Tower for a press conference ostensibly intended to tout his infrastructure agenda and declared, “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

Behind him, his newly appointed chief of staff, John Kelly, could be seen rubbing his temples with a look of misery that ping-ponged across the Internet. Cohn, then Trump’s chief economic adviser, drafted a resignation letter. But not a single member of the White House staff resigned over it — though Cohn eventually left, amid a fight over tariffs.

Monday’s events have sparked renewed demands for resignations-en-masse from presidential aides.

“Assuming Mike Pompeo and John Bolton still have their own senses intact, they ... should resign following the epic disgrace of the U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki on Monday. So should their senior staff,” wrote New York Times columnist Bret Stephens on Thursday, noting that he knows and respects both men.

Nonetheless, they won't, and here comes the rationalization:

But others have called for those already inside to stay. “Please don’t resign,” wrote Kori Schake, head of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in the Atlantic. “We should not want the moral satisfaction and practical devastation of clearing out people of conscience and allow the president to replace them with more malleable or compromised people.”

"People of conscience?" They have forfeited that description by their continuing service to an individual who consistently makes clear his authoritarian impulses and intend. They lend their credibility and prestige to an Administration which should have neither and which rules by threat and intimidation.

Possibly replaced by "more malleable or compromised people? Their very presence assisting a demagogue demonstrates they are "malleable and compromised."

They may be frightened by the prospect of being twitterized by Donald Trump is they leave. However, the aforementioned Gary Cohn left the Administration unscathed and has not been reduced to a pillar of salt.

Pompeo, Kelly, Bolton, and the others remain serving the regime because they want to be there.  They are careerists who assume there will be professional benefits once they leave. Meanwhile, they bask in their prestige.

Yet, the period between this date and November 6, 2018 is put up or shut up time. "Better to have him inside the tent pissing out,than outside pissing in," President Lyndon B. Johnson once said of J. Edgar Hoover.

Though Hoover was a really bad guy, the analogy holds, wherein an agency head or adviser inside the tent may have little effect. Once outside the tent, the individual is unleashed and can oppose the President with virtual impunity.

They can remain and continue to enable a President who puts the interests of his country last. Or they can leave, sending Trump and voters a message, and help lead their party and the country away from its destructive path (video from late June).

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Two-Nation Solution

In April, President Donald Trump asked French President Emanuel Macron "why don't you leave the EU?"  The same month, he complained "the European Union, of course, was set up to take advantage of the United States, to attack our piggy bank." 

Shortly before, he reportedly had told the Group of Seven leaders "NATO is as bad as NAFTA," implied to Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven that Sweden should leave NATO, and suggested regime change to the German people.

In an interview with a British tabloid, Trump praised Theresa May's rival Boris Johnson and criticized her handling of Brexit.  A few days later, the Prime Minister revealed that Trump had recommended that she sue the European Union.  He suggested regime change to the German people and a few weeks later charged that Germany is "totally controlled" and "held captive" by Russia.

That did not amuse Prime Minister Merkel, who grew up in East Germany and thus knows much more about being controlled by Russia than does Donald Trump (or maybe not).

Two days before he met Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Trump labeled the EU as a trade "foe" of the USA.

And on and on and on- we get the message, and know on whose behalf President Trump is delivering it. 

When we learned that President Trump repeatedly asked his advisers last August about overthrowing Venezuelan President Maduro, it may have seemed completely unrelated to Trump's determination to destroy the Trans-Atlantic alliance.

However, it may not have been. Last Tuesday, Masha Gessen was asked on "Morning Joe" about what Vladimir Putin wants, and is getting, from the USA.   She replied

He's getting exactly what he wants. Putin does not actually want sanctions lifted. Putin does not necessarily want the United States to recognize the Russian occupation of Crimea, although that would be nice. He's perfectly happy with things as they are. A lot of his legitimacy in Russia is actually based on the image of the United States as an enemy. 

But what he really needs to project is something that he has been striving for for the last eighteen years that he has been in power, which is to recreate the sense of a bi-polar world where the United States and Russia sit down to sort of divvy up the world and he achieved so much toward that goal yesterday. Just having that press conference where he is so clearly in control of a conversation with the American president demonstrated to Russians that he has made Russia great again.

Dividing the globe into two spheres of influence, one of Russia and one of the United States, is no overnight project.  It would require a Congress of Stepford Wives- which Trump currently has- and re-election of the President.  But it's in the works.

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Friday, July 20, 2018

NRA Hell

The Associated Press reports

Eight people were injured in an attack on a busy bus in the northern German city of Luebeck, and a suspect has been arrested, police said Friday. Local daily Luebecker Nachrichten reported, without giving a source, that a suspect had attacked passengers with a knife.

Police spokesman Duerk Duerbrook said the attack occurred in the Kuecknitz district of Luebeck, northeast of Hamburg. He told The Associated Press that authorities were still trying to determine the circumstances of the attack.

German news agency dpa quoted police as saying that three people received "medium serious" injuries in the incident, while five others received minor injuries.

"The passengers jumped out of the bus and screamed," another eyewitness told LN. "It was terrible, and then the injured were taken away.”

The suspect, believed to be in his 30s, fled the bus, but was soon arrested by police.

There was a violent attack upon a mass of people in Germany today, and "state police tweeted: “Nobody was killed. The perpetrator was overpowered and is now in police custody.” It does not happen this way in the USA, and we know why.

Trailing only the USA, Switzerland, and Finland, Germany has the fourth highest rate of gun ownership per capita in the world. However, the nation has unusually strict gun control laws, in which residents

do not have fundamental rights to bear arms, unlike Americans do under the Second Amendment, and the country’s violent past including the Nazi era has certainly helped to shape the current strict regulations.

To get a gun, Germans must first obtain a firearms ownership license (Waffenbesitzkarte) - and you may need a different one for each weapon you buy - or a license to carry (Waffenschein).

Applicants for a license must be at least 18 years old and undergo what’s called a reliability check, which includes checking for criminal records, whether the person is an alcohol or drug addict, whether they have mental illness or any other attributes that might make them questionable to authorities.

And so eight people in Germany were injured in an incident which, had it occurred in the USA, probably would have been far more lethal- especially if "a good guy with a gun" had been there.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

This Guy Is Good.

We knew Donald J. Trump lies almost as often as a normal person winks. Moreover, we now have been informed by the New York Times' Sanger and Rosenberg

Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

At the meeting at Trump Tower, Trump

was briefed that day by John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director; James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and the commander of United States Cyber Command....

According to nearly a dozen people who either attended the meeting with the president-elect or were later briefed on it, the four primary intelligence officials described the streams of intelligence that convinced them of Mr. Putin’s role in the election interference.

They included stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee that had been seen in Russian military intelligence networks by the British, Dutch and American intelligence services. Officers of the Russian intelligence agency formerly known as the G.R.U. had plotted with groups like WikiLeaks on how to release the email stash.

And ultimately, several human sources had confirmed Mr. Putin’s own role....

The same Russian groups had been involved in cyberattacks on the State Department and White House unclassified email systems in 2014 and 2015, and in an attack on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They had aggressively fought the N.S.A. against being ejected from the White House system, engaging in what the deputy director of the agency later called “hand-to-hand combat” to dig in.

The pattern of the D.N.C. hacks, and the theft of emails from John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, fit the same pattern.

The disinformation from the election victor began even before he took office. Sanger/Rosenberg note

After the briefings, Mr. Trump issued a statement later that day that sought to spread the blame for the meddling. He said “Russia, China and other countries, outside groups and countries” were launching cyberattacks against American government, businesses and political organizations — including the D.N.C.

Still, Mr. Trump said in his statement, “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

There is unintentional humor in the article:

In the run-up to this week’s ducking and weaving, Mr. Trump has done all he can to suggest other possible explanations for the hacks into the American political system. His fear, according to one of his closest aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity, is that any admission of even an unsuccessful Russian attempt to influence the 2016 vote raises questions about the legitimacy of his presidency.

This is not the reason Donald Trump has implicitly denied that Russia interfered with the election. Charlie Pierce argues that it comes down to the business empire:

I don’t know if I buy this entirely, although it seems to be the spin du jour from the anonymous voices inside the West Wing. I don’t think the president* gives a damn about the legitimacy of his presidency. I don’t think he’s given it a second thought. I certainly don’t think he’s afraid of it. He’s grabbing all he can for as long as he can and the Constitution be damned.

He might care about the legitimacy of his victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton. I could believe that—Winning!—but, even if I did, I can’t see that as motive enough to sell out to Putin and Russia as obviously as he has. No, there’s still something in Putin’s whip hand that the president* fears. As always, I think it’s something to do with the Russian money that’s kept his empire afloat, and his reputation as a shrewd businessman from going completely to tatters.

Realistically, it probably is, though we won't know for sure until and unless the tax returns probably possessed by Special Counsel Mueller are released.  Still, refutation of the notion that Trump is worried about the perception of the legitimacy of his election victory is not dependent upon his financial entanglements with Russians.

It may be simply that once voters uniformly recognize that the Kremlin interfered with the election, they will believe that Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government, though absent hard evidence indicating election results were changed, the election was legitimate.

Moreover, even if the election is widely considered illegitimate, the President is still President, and the election will not be redone. However, if there was conspiracy between the campaign and outside actors, there are serious legal ramifications extending all the way to the White House.

The notion "that any admission of even an unsuccessful Russian attempt to influence the 2016 vote raises questions about the legitimacy of his presidency" is a diversion. It may be, as Pierce suggests, the spin du jour; it may even be the spin de la mite or the spin dela'nnee. Having in general circulation the notion that Trump worries that his election will be viewed as illegitimate is critical to the "the Democrats are trying to take the election away from us" whine.

But aides may even believe that this is Trump's motivation because he may be telling them this, and they may be buying it.   Consider that Sanger/Rosenberg write

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

This may be yet another example of Donald Trump conning the people he speaks with, insofar as intelligence officials left confident not only that the President-elect believed them, but also that he would act accordingly. He is very persuasive- and would be consistently believed were that much of what he says is objectively and undeniable false.

When the video below was aired, few voters believed Donald Trump would be spending most of his weekends playing golf.

Now ignore facts well known and all common sense.  Pretend you're a "make America great again" kind of guy or gal and make of your mind a blank slate. Watch candidate Donald Trump, serious and focused, explain that he has someone investigating the birthplace of Barack H. Obama. In retrospect, it's hard to believe that seven years later he is yet to have produced the super sleuth he claimed to have sent to Hawaii.

The star of "The Apprentice," who spent years playing to an audience convinced that he was a successful, resolute businessman who could fire someone without blinking an eye, is an exceedingly good actor.  Having fooled his old fans and enough others to become President, the actor is now embarked on another difficult- but winnable in the short term- campaign to convince people that his apparent stubborness about Russian election interference has a benign motivation.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Catch Me If You Can

Look carefully at the posted time: July 17, 2018 at 11:00 a.m.

The time is critical because it would have been easy for Amanda Marcotte to write "Donald Trump wants you to know he's getting away with it: Helsinki gloating fits a long pattern" after President Trump's hostage tape seen in the afternoon of July 17.

Marcotte could have left it at recounting events of the past few days in which Trump has been seen "defiantly rubbing our noses in his undeniable support for Vladimir Putin's efforts to undermine democratic states and international peacekeeping efforts."   Instead, she reminds us

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters," Trump gloated on the campaign trail.

"My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy," Trump exalted at another campaign event. "I’ve grabbed all the money I could get."

During a presidential debate, when Hillary Clinton accused Trump of hiding his history of not paying taxes, he sneered, "That makes me smart."

Marcotte noted there are "hundreds of other examples" in which Trump makes little effort to conceal "unethical and criminal behavior" or, as I've noted, an offensive religious perspective.

There was the time in the summer of 2015 that he told Iowa evangelicals “When I drink my little wine … and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of ‘Let’s go on and let’s make it right.’ ” In the space of two sentences, he succeeded in ridiculing communion and displaying ignorance about sacrament.

At a church in Council Bluffs, Iowa the following January he "dug several bills out of  his pocket when the communion plate was passed." Everyone loses attention from time to time, even at church, arguably especially at church.  But instead of invoking that inoffensive explanation to which most people could relate, the candidate laughed and claimed "I thought it was for offering."  (That must have been some awfully expensive bread.)

Two weeks earlier, he had been asked about forgiveness and replied "I like to be good. I don't like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good. I don't do a lot of things that are bad. I try to do nothing that is bad."

Ask the next 100 people at your church- Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox- about forgiveness and it's unlikely any will respond in the same manner. 

But Trump knew that, just as he knew it was ridiculous to refer to the elements as "little," to suggest communion pertains to forgiveness, or to brag to Christians that he is "good" and doesn't need to ask God for forgiveness.

Still, evangelicals stood by him, even becoming enthusiastic, whether because he hates liberals or abortion rights or because they can't take a hint (several hints).

And then there was Tuesday afternoon, hours after Amanda Marcotte's argument, when Donald J. Trump, an Academy Award-caliber actor, chose to stare uncomfortably at a handwritten statement and haltingly say

So I'll begin by stating that I have full faith and support for America's great intelligence agencies. Always have. And I have felt very strongly that, while Russia's actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying that -- and I've said this many times -- I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also; there's a lot of people out there.

Could be other people also; there's a lot of people out there. Hit by criticism for his support the previous day of Putin over intelligence agencies, he did not say he agreed with the intelligence community's conclusion but merely "accept(s)" it- and there "could be other people also; there's a lot of people out there." 

Easily debunked, the President couldn't have been more obvious had he been holding a sign reading "I'm trying to put one over on you."  Donald Trump is similar to the individual who commits one or a string of horrific crimes and taunts police, daring them to put together the evidence he has left them.  In most cases, the offender is eventually caught but until he is, he harbors a sense of invincibility. Marcotte on Trump:

His feeling of invincibility is backed up by a Republican party that will, indeed, reject any real accountability for Trump no matter what he does. Sure, a few Republican politicians have offered mealy-mouthed expressions of disappointment that the president is openly siding with a man accused of subverting American democracy. Is there any doubt that they will turn around and reward his gloating betrayal by supporting his agenda while refusing to take any actions against him? Their party has sold the country out to American billionaires for so long that selling out to Russian oligarchs isn't really much of a leap, it appears.


Literally big, a former New York Giants offensive tackle is coming up big figuratively : So theres an active shooter and trump tells h...