Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Police Defunding Experiment

Peter Jamison of The Washington Post reports that in 2008, approximately an hour northeast of San Francisco

officials in Vallejo, Calif., reluctantly took a step that activists are now urging in cities across the country: They defunded their police department.

Unable to pay its bills after the 2008 financial crisis, Vallejo filed for bankruptcy and cut its police force nearly in half — to fewer than 80 officers, from a pre-recession high of more than 150. At the time, the working-class city of 122,000 north of San Francisco struggled with high rates of violent crime and simmering mistrust of its police department. It didn’t seem like things could get much worse.

You may remember when in 2016 Donald Trump made his pitch to the African-American community with "What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?"

Things can always get worse. And now that there are 127,000 deaths-disproportionately black- later, it's clear that African-Americans had quite a lot to lose. The residents of Vallejo, California thought that things couldn't get worse

And then they did. Far from ushering in a new era of harmony between police and the people they are sworn to protect, the budget cuts worsened tensions between the department and the community and were followed by a dramatic surge in officers’ use of deadly force. Since 2009 the police have killed 20 people, an extraordinarily high number for such a small city. In 2012 alone, officers fatally shot six suspects. Nearly a third of the city’s homicides that year were committed by law enforcement....

 Beyond the obvious consequences of fewer officers — such as fewer responses to burglaries, car thefts and other lower-priority offenses — this city has learned the hard way that a smaller police force is not necessarily a less deadly one....

It is very likely a more deadly one.  When there is a burglary, car theft, or other offenses, a public employee with a gun is the only option. So before the local economy declined in 1996 after closure of a naval base

Vallejo offered generous pay and benefits for public employees, particularly police officers and firefighters. When the economy crashed, the city’s decimated tax base forced it into bankruptcy. The police department, which accounted for much of Vallejo’s spending, was put on the chopping block.

Mayor Bob Sampayan said the cuts were felt immediately.

“We were in triage mode,” said Sampayan, himself a former police officer who retired in 2006. “We responded only to crimes in progress, and everything else was put on the back burner.”

Lt. Michael Nichelini, president of the Vallejo Police Officers’ Association, recalled watching as one division and program after another — traffic, narcotics, school resource officers, community policing — was cut so that the department could concentrate its remaining staff on patrol and investigations. Veteran officers fled, he said, and those who replaced them were often less-experienced cops willing to accept lower pay and rougher working conditions.

“It severely impacted our ability to provide not only top-notch police service but, I would say, even regular police service,” Nichelini said. In a city with high rates of violent crime, he added, the smaller number of officers found themselves repeatedly confronting dangerous situations.

Defunding the police- a big step further than taken by Vallejo- is suicidal. The city partially defunded its force, leading to less- rather than more- accountability.  If police departments are partially defunded, hence are smaller, accountability- a prime goal of the current movement- will decline, rather than rise: Alert Black Lives Matter, which is (insofar as it is sincere) completely unaware. Jamison continues

“If you have a guy who’s in a shooting, or uses a baton, or whatever,” Nichelini said, “that same officer is coming right back to work, because we don’t have anybody else to take their place.”

A virtually inevitable increase in the use of lethal and non-lethal force by police ahas ensued with the decline in personnel. Vallejo resident and former city attorney for Santa Rosa (CA) Brien Farrel

who in his old job frequently scrutinized police-misconduct complaints and defended accused officers, said the extent of police violence against citizens in Vallejo has become a major financial liability as well as a moral outrage.

“My estimate is that there are 20 to 30 misconduct suits pending against Vallejo. That’s an extraordinary number for a city of 120,000,” Farrell said. “I am an expert at assessing the civil liabilities of police officers in these incidents. And the city has major exposure.”

Alternatively, we could do away with publicly-funded police officers and replace them with privately funded employees whose misconduct (misbehavior being a human condition) would prompt many lawsuits. And then the business would declare bankruptcy. Black Lives Matter would surely fill the gap in funding.

Admittedly, if we don't defund police, we will never be able to grasp the utopia, such as when  

One teenager, 16, was fatally shot and died after being taken to hospital. The other victim, 14, is in intensive care.

The zone, initially known as Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (Chaz) and now called Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (Chop), was set up amid protests over the killing of George Floyd.

As it is part of a protest against police brutality, it is self-policing.

In a statement, Seattle hospital Harborview Medical Center said one of the boys was brought in by a private vehicle at 03:15 local time, while the other was driven in by the Fire Department's medical team at 03:30 on Monday.

"The male shooting victim who arrived to Harborview... at 03:30 from the Chop area on Capitol Hill in Seattle has unfortunately died," the statement added.

Although the site was initially occupied by hundreds of peaceful protesters, this is the fourth shooting within the boundaries of Chop in the last 10 days.

A land of self-policing: who knew anarchy could be dangerous?

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Sunday, June 28, 2020

When Race Is Just A Four-Letter Word

Good response to a tweet from the Obama Administration's ethics chief:

Trump long ago took off his hood... and put it back on, took it off and put it back on. He is impulsive and as he faces a daunting deficit against Joe Biden, he will continue to try one idea after another until he lands on what the believes is a winning theme. 

Call it "racist" or call it "racially tinged"; most voters already knew that Donald Trump is racist, racially tinged, bigoted, or whatever we might call it. Even many of his fans know that. The only controversy should be whether, as the media generally implies, he maintains considerable support despite that realization or because of it. I vote the latter.

Consequently, we shouldn't fall for any of his diversionary tactics. Nor should we believe the GOP is about nothing other than white power and corruption, though the former, and especially the latter, are involved.

Discussing with fellow Young Turk (no longer as young as they once were) Carly Fiorina's assertion that she will not vote to re-elect Donald Trump, Ana Kasparian can be seen beginning at approximately 5:34 of the video below going on a worthy rant about Fiorina and her Republican Party. She ends by stating, somewhat inconsistent with her message, "I really think Carly Fiorina needs to take a step back and really re-evaluate her own political ideology and whether she's in the right party."

Recognizing when he has been helpfully set up, Uygur responds

Yea, she's full of crap.... when she talks about corporate control, are you kidding me? So, Fiorina, do you disagree with the rule now? So this is, what they're doing is they're saying you're allowed to do derivative gambling again with customer money and without keeping enough reserves.

It is the riskiest gambling there is on the planet, they wind up gambling with trillions of dollars that isn't theirs and that they don't actually have the money to back up. That's how we collapsed the last time, in 2008. So Fiorina, are you in favor of that or against that?

I know, I don't even have to ask you,. Of course, you're in favor of (here the video is garbled, perhaps something about killing the Volcker Rule) and build more mansions and yachts until we collapse. And is any Republican against it?

.....Mitch McConnell, the dude's middle name is corporate control. What does Mitch McConnell stand for if he doesn't stand for corporate control? Lower taxes for corporations, more deregulation, crush the workers. That's Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party 101. So please spare me this about you're against Republicans, against corporate control. They're more for corporate control then they are racist and it's not even close. where as racist as they are, they would much, much rather have their corporate overloads rule over us all. They're their water boys.

So, yes, Walter Shaub, we can say that Republicans are about more than white power and corruption. They're about corporate control and corruption- but I repeat myself.

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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Bolton's Motive

The mystery of John Bolton's refusal to testify against Donald Trump in impeachment hearings earlier this year now has been solved- inadvertently, by Bolton himself.

In a column written earlier this month, never-Trumper Bill Kristol defended John Bolton's decision to criticize President Trump, characterized Bolton as scrupulously honest, and remarked

those who continue to support Trump need to accept that they’re supporting a man who has done what Bolton says Trump has done. And those who support a Trump second term need to accept that they are supporting four more years in office for a president who has done what Bolton says Trump has done.

And those who continue to keep silent are keeping silent from us, their fellow citizens, their judgment of a president who has done what Bolton says Trump has done.

Enough. Bolton has spoken. Surely there are others who will now dare to disturb the sound of silence.

Nonetheless, he didn't speak when his words would have made by far the greatest impact. Bolton hasn't leveled with us as to why- until he did so, by indirection, on Friday's Real Time with Bill Maher. President Trump's former National Security Adviser stated (beginning at 11:30 of the video below)

....  but I do think what I'm going to focus on is keeping Republicans in control of the Senate because if Biden does win, I think it's very important to make sure Republicans have at least one of the three elected entities.

Maher then commented

You took a lot of heat for not testifying in impeachment because you did call it a drug deal and you did say if you were a senator, you would have voted for impeachment, so you were on the Democrats' side on that but you said- and I thin I agree with you here- it wouldn't have changed the vote. I agree with that.

That's a safe bet. If Donald Trump had interrupted the impeachment trial by entering half-naked the Senate chamber, shooting a six shooter at the ceiling and yelling "yippee ki yay" before crawling out on all fours, Susan Collins would have pronounced herself "concerned."

Maher continued

But is the book going to change anybody's vote- I mean by coming out with a book instead of testifying? You think that's more influential that you have a book that says "Donald Trump is a narcissistic dunce who sides with dictators"? Didn't we know that?

Bolton responded

Well, look, the book is the most detailed I could make it and still get through the government's pre-publication review process. I do think that while it may not have taken a village, it does take a book. I don't think with all due respect, with a television interview or even testimony in Congress you can tell anything approaching the full story. I do think this is the best I could do.....

With all due respect, while "timing is everything" is trite and sometimes invalid, it is valid in this instance.  Had Bolton testified before Congress, Republicans still would have voted against impeachment, then against conviction. They're in too far, they can't go back, and they'll have to go down with the ship.

But it would have put those GOP representatives, then senators, on the spot. None could have said "I didn't know," as some Germans did following discovery of death camps at the close of World War II, because Donald Trump would have been (further) exposed.  It would have given ammunition to Democratic senate candidates running against incumbent Republicans in their drive to take control of the Senate and put a check on the President whom Bolton believes seriously jeopardizes national security. It could have been very, very bad for Republicans trying to hold on to their seats.

Kristol, again:
The rock-ribbed conservative pledged to fight a subpoena and kept his mouth shut when his voice was most needed to prevent that second Trump term.  He maintained silence because "what I'm going to focus on is keeping Republicans in control of the Senate."

That would dramatically embolden Trump in a second term.  Moreover, the failure to testify before the House enhanced Trump's re-election prospects by keeping vital information from the public. Because of his staunchly conservative and Republican pedigree, Bolton may have possessed with voters the credibility not possessed by truly patriotic Americans, those who spoke out and were smeared by Administration acolytes as part of the "deep state."

Bill Kristol is right.  John Bolton, who told Maher that he's unlikely to vote for either Trump or Joe Biden, is an honest right-winger. And if strengthening Donald Trump's hand and blocking the election of a Democratic President is the price to pay for keeping the US Senate in Republican hands, it's a price he'll gladly pay.

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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Everyone Wins

It was a big story over the weekend. However, now it’s little more than filler for cable news because

The FBI has determined that a noose found in NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace's garage at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday had been there since at least last year, according to the bureau.

A statement issued by U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town said that an investigation has concluded that no federal crime was committed.

"The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the noose was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week. The investigation also revealed evidence, including authentic video confirmed by NASCAR, that the noose found in garage number 4 was in that garage as early as October 2019," the bureau said. "Although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week."

Of course, no one could have. Yet, a crew member for Richard Petty Motorsports, IQ presumably at least in the double digits, found it and reported to the NASCAR, which notified the FBI. The league reported it despite a) the "noose" being situated in a likely place for a door handle; and b) the "noose" situated low to the ground, which would  make it difficult to hang someone over 24" tall.

Maybe the crew member merely and NASCAR used bad judgement. If so, at 6'1", 160 pounds, and a longtime member of the AARP, I am being recruited by the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks.

This was not mere error. Following the discovery of the door pull noose

NASCAR drivers, pit crew members and others on Monday marched in solidarity with Bubba Wallace, in the wake of a racist incident that targeted the only full-time Black driver in the sport’s elite Cup Series.

The moving moment occurred ahead of the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, which was broadcast Monday afternoon on Fox Sports.

Wallace hugged some of the drivers at the "momentous occasion." However, that "right side of history" turns out to have been misplaced outrage at an unknown someone who put up a door pull in Bubba Wallace's garage. Nonetheless, it did gain NASCAR great publicity in its effort to erase its past- and present- as a league dominated by very conservative white men and women, some with sympathies for the Confederacy. But good publicity is priceless and can overcome almost any inconvenient image. Let Bubba Wallace himself explain:

Report a rope pull to the FBI as racial intimidation, put on an inspiring demonstration, then congratulate yourself for "progress we've made as a sport to be a more welcoming environment for all."

Someone is pulling not only a door handle, but wool over our eyes.  People with a sense of humility would say "we're sorry, it was an honest mistake." The absence of humility suggests this was no blunder.  NASCAR and Bubba Wallace come out of this smelling like roses, the one as a subject of great sympathy, the other as a league devoted to the rights of black Americans at a time when sympathy for the Confederacy is bad business.

The NASCAR desperately needed an image makeover and Bubba Wallace was well-situated to assist the business and simultaneously elevate his own prominence. Nonetheless, this may be on the level, a reasonable response to a hostile, racist threat with everyone well-intentioned.  And I expect that call any day now from the Milwaukee Bucks.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Anti-Racists Now An Enemy

Born in 1829, he moved with his family to Wisconsin, USA in 1840. He later joined the 4th Wisconsin Militia and served as Wisconsin State Prison Commissioner.

As an anti-slavery activist, he joined the state chapter of Wide Awakes, reportedly "an anti-slave catcher militia." The governor appointed him colonel of the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment, the only all-Scandinavian regiment in the Union Army. He was wounded at the Battle of Perryville in Octobe , 1862 and a few months later commanded his regiment during the Battle of Stones River.

Consequently, he was placed in command of a newly-formed army brigade in May, 1863. However, he was killed four months later at the Battle of Chickamauga, becoming the highest-ranked Wisconsin soldier killed in combat during the Civil War.

Brave soldier, giving his life for his country in battle against enemy; anti-slavery activist; proud immigrant to the United States of America. The enemy he fought was the Confederate States of American, which advocated states rights in order to maintain its practice of slavery. And now:
This is no longer one or two lawbreakers or anarchists. This is now the movement.  This is the unsurprising, albeit not quite inevitable, evolution of a movement led by a group which promotes the hashtag DefundthePolice, "a national defunding of police." That is not defund racist or dysfunctional police departments, nor even the slightly vague "defund police." It is defund the police, nationally, in toto.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” declared Declaration of Independence author Thomas Jefferson, also a President.  On another day, in another city, his statue was torn down; also (George Washington, too).. No matter how many media anchors and pundits note “black lives matter” (which most of us already believed) and Democrats voice support for the “Black Lives Matter movement,” this is now less a movement than a crusade headed into Donald Trump’s wheelhouse.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Details To Be Determined

Back in the good old days- or at least what we thought were much better days, before most of us were aware of the looming pandemic- President Trump was impeached by the United States House of Representatives.  The Republican Senate preferred to remain deaf, dumb and blind and defiantly refused to hear any witnesses. But recognition that the GOP places party above country was enhanced by eloquent and piercing speeches of House impeachment manager Adam Schiff, including one which featured (beginning at :50 of the video below)

Can we be confident that he will not continue to try to cheat in that very election? Can we be confident that Americans and not foreign powers will get to decide and that the President will shun any further foreign interference in our democratic affairs? And the short, plain, incontrovertible answer is "no, you can't." You can't trust this President to do the right thing, not for one minute, not for one election, not for the sake of our country.

You just can't. He will not change and you know it....

What are the odds if left in office that he will continue to try to cheat? I will tell you:  100%, not five, not ten, not even fifty, but 100 percent. If yo have found him guilty and you do not remove him from office, he will continue to try to cheat until he success.

We don't know exactly how, when, and where Trump will try to cheat his way back into the Oval Office. However, we know more of how he has done so previously, aside from the deal he tried to work with Ukraine which prompted the impeachment hearings.  Last week we learned

During a one-on-one meeting at the June 2019 Group of 20 summit in Japan, Xi complained to Trump about China critics in the United States. But Bolton writes in a book scheduled to be released next week that “Trump immediately assumed Xi meant the Democrats. Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility among the Democrats.

“He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win,” Bolton writes. “He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome. I would print Trump’s exact words but the government’s pre-publication review process has decided otherwise.”

Republican senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who with 51 of his colleagues voted against conviction of the President, effectivelyacknowledged the President's guilt when he explained his  opposition to calling witnesses to testify at the trial.  "I don't need to hear any more evidence to decide that the president did what he's charged with doing," he maintained, "so if you've got eight witnesses saying that you left the scene of an accident, you don't need nine."

The vast majority of the US Senate realized that the President was guilty of abuse of power, obstruction of justice, or both.  We now know, almost for certain, that Donald J. Trump tried to put American democracy up for sale previously. As Adam Schiff warned us, he will do it again.

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Sunday, June 21, 2020

Director of the Office of Government Ethics in the Obama Administration:

 A prominent surgeon and researcher:

In early March, with the Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of San Francisco, President Trump appeared to be more concerned with numbers than with the coronavirus itself when he stated

I don't need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn't our fault. And it wasn't the fault of the people on the ship either, okay? It wasn't their fault either and they're mostly Americans. So, I can live either way with it. I'd rather have them stay on, personally.

Three months later, when the President spoke on Saturday night in Tulsa, we learned that he is in fact concerned with the coronavirus, only to encourage, rather than stem, its spread. He stated

When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people. You’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people slow the testing down please. They test and they test….

Gawande, who believes Trump is apathetic about the loss of American lives and Shaub, who thinks Trump is concerned only with his re-election, may be overly generous.
Shortly after Trump won the presidency, an Indiana University president wrote "The US may soon be facing the high noon of social Darwinism in the second decade of the 21st century." Seven months later, the President remarked of his granddaughter Arabella "she's unbelievable, huh? Good, smart, genes."

Who speaks like this? Someone who believes that only the strong will, and should, survive.   Someone whose family, as Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio warned us before the 2016  election, believes in the "racehorse theory of human development," wherein "there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring.”

This family of Drumpf gave birth to a man who may or may not believe that high numbers of casualties from Covid-19 will give him a leg up in the election. But it is a man who yet again has told us that he believes that more death from a pandemic is a benefit, not a bug, to the human race..

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

Show, No Show

The two cable news networks not Trump TV face a test Saturday evening. On the print end, CNN notes that President Trump

returns to the campaign trail Saturday in Tulsa with his first rally since the coronavirus pandemic began, looking to reignite support for his struggling reelection bid while sweeping aside concerns from his own health experts and continuing to stoke tensions by threatening protesters outside his Oklahoma spectacle.

Trump is eager to resume the boisterous rallies that he believes were key to his 2016 victory at a time when his reelection prospects have dimmed, in large part because many Americans disapprove of his handling of both the coronavirus and his response to calls for racial justice that are gripping this country.

His own plans for the rally -- originally scheduled for Friday, which was Juneteenth -- the day marking the end of slavery in the United States -- may have only deepened the sense that the President, who has a history of making racist remarks and is opposed to renaming military bases named for Confederate leaders, is out of touch with a county trying to reckon with its racially violent past. That past is especially painful in Tulsa, home to a 1921 massacre of hundreds of Black Americans who were attacked by a White mob in Greenwood, a neighborhood then known as "Black Wall Street" that was looted and burned....

by gathering his backers at Tulsa's Bank of Oklahoma Center arena -- an indoor venue that holds 19,000 people -- the President is zealously flouting nearly every one of the principles outlined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for gatherings of people, as CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta noted Friday.

Trump has long demonstrated his disdain for science, reason and the advice of experts, especially if it conflicts with his political goals. Even as he commands the highest office in the land, he has skillfully honed his image as an outsider operating from the inside in the eyes of his loyal base.

Stoking tensions? Out-of-touch? Zealously flouting nearly every one of the principles outlined by the CDC? As if to confirm fears:

If that's the case- and it definitivelyy is- the two cable networks not Trump TV have the opportunity to perform a public function when the Chosen One addresses his true believers in Oklahoma. Publicizing tweets from the President is relatively benign. They are not visual, and thus of limited effect; and most voters, including many Trump supporters find them not helpful.

But rallies are the President's bread-and-butter. They are where he shines, albeit in a belligerent, hateful, even cartoonish manner. His vile nature shines through and energizes his base. The media has enthusiastically published the anti-police brutality/defund the police protests also. However, it did not do so from beginning to end; face masks were worn at the largest of the demonstrations; and they were outdoors, significantly reducing exposure of participants to the coronavirus.

They were not held in any part to increase spread of the disease. By contrast, the Tulsa rally is to be held indoors, with air conditioning, which greatly increases the danger. That suits the President's interest in people dying, but there is no need for the responsible media to play along.

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Small Loss

Don't sweat it, Ottawa.  Canada has lost to Ireland and Norway its bid for one of the two rotating, temporary seats on the United Nations Security Council.  Canadian human rights activist Kaveh Sharouz, writing with unusual clarity and integrity, notes

notwithstanding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s sloganeering on international affairs, Canada isn’t back. With a humiliating loss in the UN Security Council election, we seem to be exactly where we were in 2010. Getting Canada back onto the Security Council had been a cornerstone of Trudeau’s foreign policy, if for no other reason than to succeed where Stephen Harper failed. And now, having won fewer votes than his predecessor, Trudeau has nothing to show for it....

While Trudeau did not spend as readily as our opponents Norway and Ireland (the latter even splurging on U2 tickets for 150 foreign diplomats), he sacrificed a lot in this quixotic quest. To win the votes of unsavoury regimes and their allies, Canada kept silent on China’s mass human rights abuses, said nothing about Bashar Assad’s butchery in Syria, refused to talk about gay rights in Senegal, and voted against an amendment calling on Cuba to release political prisoners. The list goes on.

He explains his country is now free to reclaim its "voice for democracy and human rights protections internationally" and can

begin by taking the battle to some of the worst global actors. China, surely, is at the top of that list. There’s strong evidence it runs horrifying concentration camps for its Uyghur minority. It has taken away what little independence Hong Kong had left. Its malfeasance led to a far greater pandemic than the world would have otherwise experienced. And it continues to unjustly imprison two Canadians. Unburdened by the need to win a UNSC seat, we should abandon what a former Canadian ambassador to China calls Canada’s “almost humiliating” posture towards Beijing.

The same should be done with Iran and Russia, two of the most malevolent regimes on the international scene. Compelled by the UNSC race, we have been eerily silent when those regimes take political prisoners or when they slaughter their citizens in the streets. Worse than silence, our prime minister has even periodically hobnobbed with officials of a regime responsible for killing dozens of our citizens in the skies.

Being rejected by the United Nations should be considered more a badge of honor than a badge of disgrace. It's not Iran and Russia which that body- or its human rights council- is concerned with:

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Friday, June 19, 2020

Dropping Out Of What She Was Never In

I am considering calling Commissioner Adam Silver of the National Basketball Association and advising him that I no longer want to be considered for the next NBA draft.

I'm too short to play professional basketball, maybe even as a point guard. And I run as fast as an average white man of 55 years of age, which is a little beneath my chronological age; but still. My jump shot never was very good. Nonetheless, I expect to be lauded because I stepped aside for the "many incredibly talented" young men whom teams could select.

If that seems a little silly- and it is- consider that, as Politico notes

Sen. Amy Klobuchar late Thursday said she personally called Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to advise he pick a woman of color as his running mate, effectively announcing the end of her vice presidential aspirations.

"I truly believe, as I actually told the vice president last night when I called him, that I think this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket," the Minnesota Democrat told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell. "And there is so many incredibly qualified women."

Prior to that call, Amy Klobuchar had as much chance of being selected as Joe Biden's running mate as did I- or that Klobuchar had of being the first selection in the NBA draft.

Moreover, the odds of Biden (who long ago had said it would be a woman) choosing a black woman is roughly the same as that the first pick in the next (presumably April) NBA draft will have spent some time in college- or in high school.

It was nearly that great four weeks ago, before the killing of George Floyd, a black man crudely slayed on the streets of Minneapolis by a white police officer,, sparking an unprecedented string of massive protests focused on racial bias in policing. Although someone progressive a heartbeat from the presidency would have served, and would serve, the country well, the first order of business is to defeat Donald Trump.

That priority was understood well before Klobuchar made her empty gesture, and it was understood by most experts that the greatest electoral benefit in a running mate would be in someone black, whatever her ideology.

Once Floyd was killed and widespread support for the protests became evident, selection of someone black became imperative. Whatever Klobuchar's chances- and they were somewhere between zero and one percent- they slid to zero because, as the Politico writers understand

as protests over police brutality against African Americans erupted across the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, the traditional running mate calculus was altered. Klobuchar's credentials as a former prosecutor with a tough-on-crime record didn't sit well as her home state became a locus among protests and calls for structural change in law enforcement.

 Two other potential Biden picks, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Florida Rep. Val Demings, also have law enforcement backgrounds. However, both are black women, have more support among African-American leaders and have been more comfortable discussing issues of race, inequality and police brutality.

There are two relevant points there: 1) Klobuchar was a prosecutor and this is a point in time, perhaps unprecedented in American history, that such a qualification diminishes, rather than enhances, appeal; 2) other v.p candidates "have been more comfortable discussing issues of race, inequality, and police brutality."

That probably is not because of Harris/Demings/Klobuchar. The views expressed on this issue (issues?) have been nearly identical across the Democratic Party, whatever the ethnicity of the individual. Yet, as we all have witnessed in the media recently, blacks simply have been more comfortable discussing these issues than have whites.

Whatever the reason(s), that is an inescapable observation.  Oh, and there is this: if it weren't for African-American voters, Joe Biden would be back in his mansion in Wilmington, Delaware wondering how he could have entered three Democratic presidential races in his long political career and won zero(0) primaries or caucuses.

"Payback is a bitch," many people have said. In this case, payback is no bitch- but vital, and inevitable, whatever Amy Klobuchar wants us to believe..

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Thursday, June 18, 2020

A Different Kind Of Leadership

Shortly after the protests over the killing by police in Minneapolis of George Floyd, syndicated columnist Paul Waldman remarked

We have now seen Trump tested twice in rapid succession, called upon to provide leadership that goes beyond the practical management of the federal government or the selection of policies that turn out to be wise. That leadership is spiritual and emotional, the kind that gives Americans hope that we can solve our problems and emerge from our current nightmare. And his failure worsens by the day.

Leadership, however, can take more than one form. It can mean leadership of a nation which, as Waldman outlines, the President has spectacularly failed at. Or it can mean leadership of a faction of the American people, of which Trump has been far more successful:
Are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives. A lesser leader might say "are inconsistent with strict constructionist principles" or "are at odds with the values of the American people."  He would be wrong, of course, nor would it be exercising leadership.

Instead, the President has chosen to encourage supporters, or would-be supporters, of his, such as the armed, right-wing Boogaloog Bois. He already has witnessed the impact of other armed, right-wing men in state capitols in Columbus, Lansing, and Albany, NY.

And now, he warns about losing an Amendment that nearly can't berevoked. We've been down this road before, with calls to "liberate Virginia," "liberate Michigan," and "liberate Minnestota." So encouraging an armed rebellion against the federal government or the Supreme Court is just another effort to provoke the individuals or groups who will be ready after the election, winor lose, to take up arms against their fellow Americans.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Not Summer Camps

File this one under good reporting. File also under "warning sign, flashing red." On June 15, 2020 Bloomberg News reported

Donald Trump has argued frequently of late that China is rooting for Joe Biden come November’s U.S. presidential election. In Beijing, however, officials have come around to support four more years of Trump.

Interviews with nine current and former Chinese officials point to a shift in sentiment in favor of the sitting president, even though he has spent much of the past four years blaming Beijing for everything from U.S. trade imbalances to Covid-19. The chief reason? A belief that the benefit of the erosion of America’s postwar alliance network would outweigh any damage to China from continued trade disputes and geopolitical instability.

While the officials shared concerns that U.S.-China tensions would rise regardless of who was in the White House, they broke largely into camps of those who emphasized geopolitical gains and those who were concerned about trade ties. Biden, the former vice president, was viewed as a traditional Democrat who would seek to shore up the U.S.’s tattered multilateral relationships and tamp down trade frictions.

“If Biden is elected, I think this could be more dangerous for China, because he will work with allies to target China, whereas Trump is destroying U.S. alliances,” said Zhou Xiaoming, a former Chinese trade negotiator and former deputy representative in Geneva. Four current officials echoed that sentiment, saying many in the Chinese government believed a Trump victory could help Beijing by weakening what they saw as Washington’s greatest asset for checking China’s widening influence.

While two days later summarizing John Bolton's upcoming book two days on June 17, Axios noted

"At the opening dinner of the Osaka G-20 meeting in June 2019, with only interpreters present, Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang," Bolton wrote. "According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do. The National Security Council’s top Asia staffer, Matthew Pottinger, told me that Trump said something very similar during his November 2017 trip to China."

Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.

Just a guess: President Trump wasn't thinking only about China.

It's not by indirection or implication anymore. The lights are flashing red for the second term.

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Don't make the same mistake, Joe.

It will be tempting for Joe Biden, concerned about Trump supporters accepting the legitimacy of a Biden victory in November, to make the same error Hillary Clinton made in 2016 when the Democratic nominee on November 2, 2016 decided to

swing through the usual key target states for any Democratic candidate: Ohio, Florida, North Carolina – and Arizona?

On Wednesday, Clinton will visit the Grand Canyon State for the first time since winning the Democratic nomination, a move that signals the campaign’s increasing confidence in her chances of turning a traditionally red state blue.

“This is very rare,” said Richard Herrera, an associate professor in the school of politics and global studies at Arizona State University, of a visit from a Democratic presidential nominee. Democrats have carried the state only once since Harry Truman was in office: Bill Clinton in 1996....

A number of polls in the past few months have shown Clinton slightly ahead or within striking distance of Trump in the Grand Canyon State. The RealClearPolitics polling average has Trump ahead by about one percentage point.

Clinton’s visit is a continuation of the campaign’s vigorous push in the state. Early last month, the campaign announced that it had ramped up its efforts in the state, investing another $2m to be spent on TV and digital advertising as well as voter registration efforts.

Ahead of her south-western swing, the campaign released on Wednesday a pair of Spanish- and English-language TV and radio ads aimed at mobilizing the Latino community against Trump. The ads are titled “27 million strong”, a reference to the estimated number of eligible Latino voters.

On Thursday, Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine will deliver a speech entirely in Spanish at a community center in Phoenix and will hold a rally at a high school in Tucson, a rare blue bastion in the state.

Last week, the campaign deployed top surrogates to rally troops in the state, including Senator Bernie Sanders, Chelsea Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama.

One extra day spent by the candidate in Wisconsin, Michigan, or Pennsylvania probably would not have turned the tide in any of those states. However, the campaign also had sent Kaine, Sanders, C. Clinton, and M. Obama there and had spent two million dollars on advertising and voter registration in Arizona.

If Clinton had spent those resources in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, she may very well have carried the day in those states and thereby won a majority in the Electoral College. (Clinton did hold a massive rally with Barack and Michelle Obama and Bruce Springsteen in Philadelphia, Pa., a state in which she was favored, the night before the election. She then lost.)

Hillary Clinton didn't want merely to win. She wanted a mandate- a mandate for her policies, but primarily a mandate to quell (she hoped) any complaint that she would not have won the election except for it being "rigged," as Donald Trump was charging. Nonetheless, no matter what the margin, Trump would have complained the results were illegitimate.

But for Joe Biden as for Hillary Clinton, the magic number is 270. (It's 269 for the Republican.) It's not 306 (Trump's number in 2016); not 300; nor even 271. It's 270.

That's one of the reasons there is no reason for thisexcitement:
There are now 119,000 record deaths in the USA from Covid-19.  The unemployment rate is over 13%. There have been protests, many of them punctuated by police violence, in nearly a thousand towns across the USA. The incumbent President signs an executive order on police reform and is surrounded by nine law enforcement officials- only one black and none female, not a good look. As of now- prior to rallies he intends to hold in the near future- President Trump has been largely tied down, mostly unable to strike back against his November opponent.

And he's behind by all of two points in Michigan, which Hillary Clinton lost by .4% and assumed she'd win.  

A poll is only a snapshot, and this one nearly five months out in a country which looks far different (and far worse) than it did five months ago.

Under the circumstances, strange and ever-changing circumstances, these are not good numbers for Joe Biden. Hopefully, though, by early October he will know what states he needs to win. And these are not those which, if won, would hand him a mandate. These are the states he needs to win to get to 270. That's 270, not one electoral vote lower or higher.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Fabricating Fauci

Surprise! You were conned- and so was I, by a con man from New York City. Whatever Trump touches, dies. So in this case it wasn't Donald Trump, or at least not only Donald Trump, who pulled the wool over our eyes.

In the video below, from 60 Minutes Overtime of March 8, 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci tells CBS' Jon LaPook

The masks are important for someone who is infected to prevent them from infecting someone else. Now, when you see people and look at the films in China and South Korea, where everybody's wearing a mask. Right now in the United States people should not be walking around with masks.

LaPook responds "You're sure of it, because people are listening really closely to this?" Fauci replies

Right now, people should not be- there's no reason to be walking around with a mask. When you're in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little better and it might even prevent a droplet but it's not providing the perfect protection people think that it is. And often, there are unintended consequences. People keep fiddling with their mask and touching their face.

If Joe Biden were ever willing to question a god, he would call this "malarkey." (He'd also not be Joe Biden.) The risk of transmission by touching touching a face, we now know, is extremely minimal and the risk from "fiddling with their mask" is infinitesimal.

But the money message is "right now in the United states, people should not be walking around with masks" because "there's no reason to be walking around with a mask."  That could be a simple error, a man with incomplete information pretending he has all the answers.

But it wasn't. We now know it was a lie, thanks to Katherine Ross (alas, not this Katharine Ross) of The National Review, who wrote on June 12

Dr. Fauci joined TheStreet to talk about why masks are important when you leave the house, and to better explain why there was back and forth in the beginning.

"Masks are not 100% protective. However, they certainly are better than not wearing a mask. Both to prevent you, if you happen to be a person who may feel well, but has an asymptomatic infection that you don't even know about, to prevent you from infecting someone else," said Fauci. "But also, it can protect you a certain degree, not a hundred percent, in protecting you from getting infected from someone who, either is breathing, or coughing, or sneezing, or singing or whatever it is in which the droplets or the aerosols go out. So masks work."

So, why weren't we told to wear masks in the beginning?

"Well, the reason for that is that we were concerned the public health community, and many people were saying this, were concerned that it was at a time when personal protective equipment, including the N95 masks and the surgical masks, were in very short supply. And we wanted to make sure that the people namely, the health care workers, who were brave enough to put themselves in a harm way, to take care of people who you know were infected with the coronavirus and the danger of them getting infected."

Dr. Fauci knew masks were effective, even crucial, but lied to the American people. He confidently asserted "there's no reason to be walking around with a mask" when he realized there was a very important reason.

Wearing a mask is more effective than social distancing, not touching a face, or resisting "fiddling" with a mask.  Yet many individuals, some of them skeptical of "experts," in Republican-dominated states are avoiding wearing them.  President Trump's lack of leadership- or leadership in discouraging mask use- has persuaded many individuals in Republican states to avoid masks. Some people, however, are skeptical of the expertise, or honesty, of "experts,"  including ones in the federal government. Fauci has given them good reason to be.

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Monday, June 15, 2020

Jonesing For A Scene

This interaction was important enough for a former ESPN host and current journalist at The Atlantic to post:
The police officer was calm, respectful and under control, unlike his questioner, who constantly interrupted him and clearly was looking to instigate a confrontation which would get even more likes and retweets than this one relatively uneventful one did. Though the officer identified himself, the questioner identified himself only as "good citizen," though he could have avoided using his last name by simply giving a first name. (Donald Trump take note: you now can use the moniker "honest broker.")

Perhaps Hill watched only the first 1:26 of the video because at 1:27 the supervisor on location uttered the money quote: "But it is abnormal for people to walk around a parking lot with an open-carry pistol." That was fundamental to the interaction.

This incident evidently occurred in South Carolina because of the reference to "You Tube Channel- News Now South Carolina." Open carry of a pistol is, notwithstanding the claim by Good Citizen, illegal in that state.

GC actually was breaking state law. However, even if he were not, he was walking in a public parking lot while he was brandishing a pistol. It would have been irresponsible for police officers to ignore someone walking around a parking lot with a firearm for no apparent reason.

It has become increasingly apparent that the left in this nation is only vaguely concerned about gun safety, which once appeared to be a significant issue. Nonetheless, it is so 2018, as Me Too is so 2017. You can figure out why.

Keeping it classy, GC concluded "and this di _ _, he was ready to shoot me. He's probably racist. That's probably his problem. But that's who tax dollars pay for. Bitch."

There is no reason to conclude the officer probably is racist, he wasn't ready to shoot the fellow, his name isn't Dick, and he's not a female dog. Other than that, our citizen of the year was spot-on.

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Sanctimony. Posturing. Speciousness.

A great crime caught on videotape and spread worldwide tends to focus the mind. In the present, it also has galvanized hypocrites.

And why not? Such a great cast of characters in this body!

There is in music history an unfortunate, decent historical analogy, rooted in fiction. Inspired by a song by crossover artist Bobby Gentry, written by Tom T. Hall, and converted into a movie, one song attempted to portray the hypocrisy of small town culture of the late 1960s. As Neuer's criticism indicates, the United Nations could use a little widow Johnson/Jeannie C. Riley (later an evangelical Christian) these days:

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Sunday, June 14, 2020

Careful Where They Tread

They look cowardly. And they look feckless. But it's Donald Trump's fault, and he's leaving them paralyzed.

Come for the tweet, stay for the thread:

It has been almost two weeks now, but you remember the scene, one of Federal Bureau of Prison Officers firing stinger ball grenades from  tear gas canisters into peaceful crowd outside of Lafayette Square Park in Washington, D.C. Crowd disperes amidst a frenzy of smoke, President walks with his escorts to a closed church with a window boarded up; uncomfortably fiddles with a Bible, offering no prayer, no Scripture passage, and no words of consolation to the nation. He then leaves with his entourage, including awkwardly posed members of his Administration.

This wasn't a good luck. Nor was the scene of fifteen Republican senators trailing Wisconsin's senator, each refusing to express any opinion of President Trump's behavior of the preceding evening.

Nonetheless, you can hardly blame them.  They've already made their bed, already decided figuratively to sleep there with Trump, and they can't criticize him. However, it would have been almost as perilous to support his actions.

That is not only because the gas in the park and the photo-op were nearly indefensible. It's never comfortable supporting a President who might be ready to whip out a pruner or looper and shear off that limb you're standing on. And he might have done so; he has done it before, recently. Only five weeks earlier Trump's

surprisingly public rebuke of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's reopening plans is still reverberating through state capitals across the country and is contributing to decisions by some governors to take a slower approach in opening businesses in their state, Republican officials in a half-dozen states told CNN.

"No governor wants to endure the same wrath as Brian Kemp," a top adviser to a Republican governor said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid drawing similar ire from the White House.

"We all watched that very carefully and no one wants to be called out like that by the President," another aide to a Republican governor said.

The President's conflicting guidance -- initially calling to "liberate" states, but then sharply criticizing Kemp for opening some businesses on Friday -- has led to an often confusing, messy patchwork of state-by-state rules.

GOP senators have been waiting out President Trump, who appears frozen in his response to protests. He has even been reticent to attack "Defund Police," hitting it a couple of times and then retreating.   He has been indecisive, perhaps confused, unable to decide on a theme he can emphasize.

Republican members of Congress are willing to be lemmings for President Trump. They will go where he leads them, if only he leads them.  But they are not going to spout Trump bigotry, Trump ignorance, or Trump lies until he goes first.  Otherwise, they could end up like Brian Kemp, watching powerlessly as Donald Trump saws off the end of that limb they're precariously perched upon.

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This  is a reasonable question. If going to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to harass and intimidate Jewish people at a synagogue is no...